I have gotten different reactions from different friends about conference today. One said she felt it was a flub, another said he thought it was spot on, others failed to mention that it even happened. For me, it was middle of the road. Some good laughs, some dopey comments, some answered rhetorical questions (that made us all cringe at the attempt… word to the wise: don’t talk during your first month’s worth of conferences, you’ll only feel silly). But mostly, some obvious, yet eternally valuable reminders on what the heck we’re doing here (in Mysore, in the Shala, if not in this incarnation or plane of reality on the whole).
For me, the thing that stuck out was the result of a questions I had (somewhat arrogantly) scoffed at when posed to me before conference began. A newly found and freshly cherished Yogi of my Heart wanted to know Sharath’s take on sports playing and the like. I told him (quite confidently) that the Boss would say don’t do it and then tell a story about how he used to go running and lift weights and how all that makes you stiff. Now, while I was correct about the answer (“Can Yogi’s play sports?” “No.”) and close enough on the subsequent parable (cricket, rather than running and wieght lifting), I had missed the point.
so here it is: Sharath is a Yogi (a seeker, according to him, none of us are Yogi’s yet) and a teacher (a Guru, some claim) and he can turn even a simple question into a lesson.
“If you want to go deeper in this practice, you have to give up many things.”
Yeah, running and throwing and lifting and yadda yadda make you stiff. Sure.
But the important thing to take away is that (to really get somewhere) this practice requires us to let things go. to give things up. While it gives us the space to find balance between the life of a householder and a dedicated seeker, it also asks that we let go of the things (sometimes the joys) that aren’t really important, aren’t really productive.
This is something I have touched on in a couple of heavy-ish conversations lately (where I am relatively sure I have alienated some of my compatriots, alas).
Yes, this practice requires us to give things up. To really go as far as we can, we must give up on things that are fun or bring us that kind of (supposedly!) limited happiness that we get from the material plane. For some of us, it’s only worth giving up some things. and for some of us, we’re willing to give whatever it takes (whatever it asks for). Every person has their own limits. Their own attachments and samskaras and things to be worked through. We all have different things to give up and different things to hold on to.
I spent a couple years giving things up because I was told to. Because I was told that if I didn’t then I wasn’t dedicated, I wasn’t a good Yogi, I wouldn’t be a good teacher. Well, to that I say: bollux. I am not going to give anything up because someone else tells me to.
Nowadays, there are plenty of things I don’t do because I don’t want to, anymore. I don’t do them because the joy I get from my practice (free from these hindrances) is greater than the joy I get from these desired indulgences.
Sometimes I think about the things I am missing and it makes me sad. I spent last year retrying some of the things I was missing. I had a great time. It was a very positive experience. But now I am coming back to the simpler, more sattvic happiness that comes from “giving up” some things for the sake of practice. And you know what? That kind of happiness is pretty rockin. It’s not the same. I don’t know if it’s better. But I like it a little more than I like that rajasic happiness (and that tamasic happiness) that come from indulging in things that are a detriment to my practice.
So yes. I agree. We have to give up many things. But what we gain is so great! I have faith that what we gain is so much better, that it hardly seems like I’m giving up anything at all.
My advice, if you want it, is not to think too much about it. Play sports. Go running. Have a beer. Stay up late. When the time comes, your practice will give you more than those things give you (or it won’t, you’ve got as many lives as you need for that to happen). Don’t force austerity onto yourself. Make yourself available to the experiences this life, and more importantly this practice, have to offer and then do what’s right for you. Find your own balance.