Tag Archives: George Feuerstein

study + practice = balance


Prajnaparamita
(The Prajñāpāramitā Sutras are a genre of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures dealing with the subject of the Perfection of Wisdom.)

Brenda Feuerstein was kind enough to give me permission to publish this article by Georg Feuerstein. Georg has authored over forty books including The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, The Yoga Tradition, and Yoga Morality. You may also know Georg and Brenda from their Traditional Yoga Studies website: “Traditional Yoga Studies (TYS) is dedicated to promoting authentic yogic teachings based on scriptural and oral transmission, as well as solid research, and to bringing out their relevance at the present time of severe environmental and social crisis.” You can visit http://www.traditionalyogastudies.com for distance learning courses on:

1. 800-hour course on the history, philosophy, and literature of Yoga;
2. 250-hour course on Patanjali’s system of Classical Yoga;
3. 250-hour course on the Foundations of Yoga; and
4. 120-hour course on the Bhagavad-Gîtâ

Brenda also told me that they have received an anonymous donation and have decided to pay it forward and give away 10 partial scholarships for their 800-hour Philosophy, History and Literature of Yoga Course. Applications are due by the end of January 2010. If you interested in applying for the course scholarship program which is 50% off the regular price ($600.00 off), you can email Brenda the following information: full name and mailing address, email address, and tell them about yourself, why you want to study the course, and why you require a scholarship for the program.

In light of reader comments on my last post, I thought Georg’s article was especially timely.

Talk amongst yourselves!

Studying Yoga by Georg Feuerstein

Everybody talks about practicing Yoga. Few Westerners talk about studying it, and many believe that the study of Yoga is unnecessary and even a waste of time. They like to quote Sanskrit sayings about the uselessness of book learning. These are typically taken out of context, and other, more pertinent statements are either ignored or not even known.

Then, again, there are those who—like the majority of academics—maintain that one must understand Yoga objectively and that by practicing it, one automatically jettisons any claim to objectivity.

Both attitudes are wrong. The belief that studying Yoga is redundant is self-evidently mistaken, because unless we know what we are practicing, we cannot really hope to be successful in our practice. This is like wanting to build a computer without expert knowledge of its component parts and how they interact. Perhaps a more pertinent example would be to want to remove a brain tumor without any medical knowledge and surgical skill.

Thus, the Vishnu-Purâna (6.6.2), a medieval encyclopedic Sanskrit work, rightly and unequivocally states:

“From study one should proceed to practice (yoga), and from practice to study. The supreme Self is revealed through perfection in study and practice.”

The belief that objective knowledge is possible and highly desirable is just that: a belief. Philosophers have considered at great length whether the common ideal of scientific objectivity is in fact possible, and many have come to question this. Many have, in addition, expressed doubt about whether such objective knowledge, even if it were possible, would be desirable. Their thoughtful works are readily available, and so I won’t argue this point here.

My present focus of attention is on the study of Yoga, which tradition tells us is indeed essential to success in the practice of Yoga. Study is treated as an integral aspect of Yoga practice. Thus, Patanjali lists study as one of the five aspects of self-restraint (niyama), the second limb of his eightfold path.

The Sanskrit word for study is svādhyāya, which means literally “one’s own (sva) going into (adhyāya).” It stands for the serious and systematic study of both the Yoga tradition and oneself. Both knowledge of the tradition and self-knowledge go hand in hand.

The traditional scriptures contain the distilled wisdom of sages who have climbed to the pinnacle of self-knowledge, and therefore these texts can contribute to our own self-knowledge. Study, in the yogic sense, is always a journey of self-discovery, self-understanding, and self-transcendence.

Yoga does not call for blind faith, though it stresses the superlative importance of real, deep faith (shraddhā), or trust. Mere belief cannot help us realize that which abides beyond the conditional or egoic personality. Instead, Yoga has always been intensely experimental and experiential, and study is one aspect of this sound approach.

Many Western Yoga practitioners, especially those with a dominant right brain, shy away from study. They much rather polish their performance of this or that posture or, more rarely, learn a new breathing technique. Yet, it would seem they often miss the mark, because they do not know the proper context in which these techniques must be cultivated. The state of Hatha-Yoga practice and teaching in the Western hemisphere is a good case in point: What was once a profoundly spiritual discipline has been demoted to physical health and fitness training. [emphasis supplied.]

Often Western Yoga practitioners do not even have an accurate knowledge of the techniques themselves. They sometimes seek to compensate for their ignorance by trying to reinvent the wheel and by producing their own versions of yogic practices. While innovation is commendable — our whole civilizational adventure is based on it — in the case of Yoga, we would do well to be modest. After all, the Yoga tradition can look back upon the accumulated wisdom of at least 5,000 years of intense experimentation.

Just as a predominantly right-brain (action-driven) approach to Yoga has its pitfalls, a purely left-brained (thought-driven) approach is equally precarious, if not altogether futile. “Armchair Yoga” cannot replace actual experience.[emphasis supplied.] If our practice is merely nominal, so will be our attainments. In Yoga, both theory and practice form a continuum, like space-time. It requires from us a full engagement, as the Buddhists put it: with body, speech, and mind. Yoga, as the Bhagavad-Gītā (2.48) reminds us, is balance (samatva). Hence we ought to engage both cerebral hemispheres when applying ourselves to the yogic path. Let us also recall here that one of the meanings of the word yoga is “integration.”

An ancient scripture, the Shata-Patha-Brāhmana (11.5.7.1), declares that, for serious students, study is a source of joy. It focuses the student’s mind and allows him or her to sleep peacefully. It also yields insight and the capacity to master life. What more could one ask for?

Copyright ©2009 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.


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living tantra

I discovered a nice site called Living Tantra and I’ve linked it in the Cyberpals and Whatnot sidebar.

Some Western yogis mistakenly believe that tantra yoga only has to do with tantric sex. A long time ago I saw Sting and his wife talking about their relationship on Oprah (probably around the same time that she gave yoga its requisite 15 minutes of attention), so if it’s on Oprah you KNOW that tantra just HAS to be something we all MUST incorporate into our lives (insert rolling eyes and sarcastic smirk smiley here)…along with finding the right bra and those jeans that fit PERFECTLY! Anyway….

In his book Living Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide for Daily Life, Georg Feuerstein writes that “tantra yoga is the path of ritual…and sexual rituals form only a small part of this yogic orientation. Tantra yoga is about realizing that our personal creativity is rooted in, or derives from, cosmic creative potential itself. From the tantric perspective, creativity is a manifestation of the feminine principle of the universe, the Goddess, called shakti

Feuerstein also writes in his book Tantra: The Path of Ectasy that tantra emphasizes the cultivation of shakti as a path to infinite bliss. His says that tantric teachings are geared toward the attainment of enlightenment as well as spiritual power and are present not only in Hinduism but also in Vajrayana Buddhism.

In my my yoga training I learned that the word tantra in Sanskrit literally means “weave” thereby denoting that our yoga practices — and not just the physical aspect of yoga — are woven (or should be woven) into our daily lives as a beautiful mandala. Therefore, if we are living in a truly tantric manner, we are fully incorporating our yoga into our lives as a daily ritual, consciously taking it off the mat and into our lives.

The following ayurvedic practice/ritual is an excerpt from the Living Tantra website:

DINACHARYA: Daily Conduct

This is a short version of the practice of dinacharya. If you wish to fine tune this for your constitution (vatta, pitta, kapha), read more about the practice in one of the resources listed in the “Ayurveda” sidebar of Living Tantra.

VIEW

Dinacharya” means daily conduct. Appropriate patterning or ritual conduct is the foundation of a healthy life. Dinacharya is balancing for all of the doshas: vatta, pitta, and kapha. It promotes healthy organization of the energy channels and the seating of the pranas, or internal winds.

METHOD

Wake up by 6 a.m. Pitta and kapha types can wake up earlier. If you can’t manage this at first, work your way into it. You can train yourself to wake up at this time naturally. It helps to sleep in a room that is not totally dark—one that allows some natural light to enter.

1. Before opening your eyes or getting out of bed, sense the energy of the day. Spend a few moments connecting with the larger cosmos. Breath through the top of your head directly into your heart space (the center of your chest, not the physical heart). You can visualize a golden, luminous stream of compassion and love coming to you from all of your spiritual teachers, past, present, and future, and from all realized beings. Feel a sense of grace expanding throughout the body, and radiate this stream of light from the heart space back to your teachers and all beings….

Also courtesy of the Living Tantra website is Indian Music for Global Yogis. You will see a widget in the sidebar where you can search and download everything from South Indian carnatic music to Krishna Das to vedic chants.

om namah shivaya!

shanti