Recently we were blessed with a visit from Swami Jasraj Puri.
Swami Jasraji, who grew up in Sydney has spent the past 18 years living in India, devoting his life to the study and practice of Yoga. And I’m not just talking about sun salutes and headstands!
What is Yoga Anyway?
Before I go on let’s detour briefly into the term ‘Yoga’. For many its definition is understood as asanas (poses, stretches etc). If you look up the word ‘Yoga’ you’ll see that it’s literal meaning is ‘unity’. Unity of the individual with the Whole, the Universe, the Absolute, the Divine, the God principle… It has many terms.
So from this you’ll start to appreciate that the physical practices are just the tip of the iceberg. And becoming ‘self realised’ is realising the Self in the self; the universe inside all. So Sw Jasraji hasn’t just been refining his headstand in India, he’s been observing his mind, learning to control his senses and maintaining his calm inner centre in the midst of the chaos of life… And we are all on the same journey so it’s wonderful to receive the wisdom that comes from experience and practice from one further along the journey than us.
Back to the Story
For an entire weekend Sw Jasraji took us on a journey into the heart – into Anahata Chakra, the Bhagavad Gita and Bhakti Yoga – the path of love and devotion.
Anahata Chakra – Located in the region of our physical heart, anahata chakra is an energy centre containing the qualities of compassion, unconditional love, empathy, joy and bliss.
Bhagavad Gita – Is a section of the Hindu epic The Mahabarata. It is a discourse between an archer named Arjuna and Krishna. It is guidance for life, through a metaphorical battle – a symbol of our inner battle. Sw Jasraji drew inspiration from Chapter 12, which concerns the concept of devotion.
Bhakti Yoga – Is one of the four main Yoga paths. It is the path of love and devotion. The other paths are: Karma Yoga – selfless service, Raja Yoga – self discipline and Gyana Yoga – Knowledge.
The workshop included asanas (physical poses for strong, flexible, healthy bodies), pranayama (breath exercises), yoga nidra (deep, guided relaxation), meditation, satsang (the company of other seekers), bhajans (devotional songs) and some very yummy vegetarian food!
Recall that our topic was how to have a happy, healthy heart? We weren’t talking about controlling cholesterol or getting enough cardio exercise! From a yoga perspective we discussed concepts of universal love and compassion, selflessness, balance, harmony, peace… All aspects of anahata chakra.
Cut with the Philosophy
At this point you’re either loving the philosophical discussion and terminology, or you’re wondering when I’m going to cut with the philosophy and actually tell you about the workshop.
So, how about I tell you about the questions and challenges I had in mind during the weekend and how these were answered and advice given…
This, in my experience is HARD. Sure, towards someone you’re in a new relationship with, your children, or those moments when a stranger smiles at you or you experience a random act of kindness. Easy.
But what about when someone’s done something to hurt you, you’ve been unfairly treated, or when someone has done something horrible to someone you care about… Or all the terrible stuff going on in the world all the time… How do you have love for the perpetrator in that case? See HARD hey… Lucky I wasn’t leading the workshop!
Answer: Don’t concentrate on the bad, and look for the good. Easier said than done, I know – but that’s Yoga, that’s the journey. But it is great advice for us to take home, into our lives and apply. Something to slowly chip away at the rock with. I thought about this in my own life and could see that I do have a habit of concentrating on what’s not right, fair or nice… All subjective judgements by the way! And I spend a lot more time doing this than looking for the good.
And related to this Sw Jasraji discussed ‘detachment’… Not in an apathetic way, in order to remain inwardly calm, retain that connection with the divine… So in practice what this looks like is the same calm contentment and love in the face of praise or criticism, friend or foe.
Ego – Can’t go under it, can’t go over it, can’t go round it… Got to go through it!
So how to be happier? Well, essentially get over yourself! I don’t mean that in the Aussie tall poppy syndrome, you’ve got tickets on yourself way. I mean that the Yoga way – realize that you aren’t separate, that we’re all one. It’s esoteric, and lofty I know, but when you leave life on simmer and reduce to a smooth, even, purified sauce, that’s what you’ll see.
Remember those times when you’ve done something nice for someone, just because. When you’ve donated your time or money to a cause you believe in. When you’ve wiped away someone’s tears, been a shoulder to cry on? That’s Bhakti Yoga. That’s letting go of your separate Ego. That warm inner glow is bliss in your anahata chakra.
How can we retain our calm, contented centres? Be still, do nothing.
Wow, this was a revelation to me… I am an action taker. (Read: often reactive and overly confrontational.) And how does that work out for me? Not always so well!
Life is happening, changing, fluxing, dancing, pulsating, shifting. But inside, if you can only find it, there is peace and stillness. By sometimes doing nothing, the thing will often resolve itself, and you will remain more at peace... I can report back that field experiments have returned excellent results!
There was so much more wisdom gleaned from the weekend with Sw Jasraji but I am already over the recommended length for a blog post, so there is a high probability you won’t read any further. If you are still with me and you’re in the minority statistics for readers wanting more information, make sure to go back and click on the links included throughout.