It is then that one understands the self and gradually clears inner obstacles.
– YSP I:29 — Bouanchaud translation
In our last discussions, we were talking about Om and the repetition of mantra as a means of tuning ourselves to God and a sense of higher purpose. These conversations have been interesting because I find myself in a state of low faith these days. Perhaps it’s just my general state of energy, always low at this time of the year, so I found the questions Bouanchaud poses at the start of the section to be a good place to take my thinking on this sutra.
Bouanchaud starts the discussion with “Am I able to accept that all issues forth from God’s will and that God dwells in me?” Excellent question – I haven’t got a clue. The jury is still out on God for me. I have no idea if God exists, ever existed or if He/She did the creation thing and wandered to more interesting projects. At the same time, I’m not willing to throw my vote in with the atheists. Firstly, their general rudeness and sneering contempt at people who have religious faith is sufficient to convince me I’d rather not be one of them. Secondly, I flatly don’t know. Does God exist, let alone dwell within me? Haven’t got a clue and frankly, I’m good with this state of affairs.
Either way, let’s take as a working hypothesis that God does exist. Bouanchaud asks yet another excellent question: “How can I attain inner consciousness without flying in the face of external or psychological reality?” This is something I come back to time and again. Even if I do hear the voice of God, how do I know it’s not my imaginings, the machinations of my ego? On many occasions in my line of work, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss things at length with people who believe God talks to them directly. God tells them this and God tells them that. They’re absolutely sincere. They’re also completely off the rails mentally and my next course of action is usually having a nice police officer escort them to the local hospital.
Trust me, I’m not laughing at these people. They are absolutely 100% sincere and absolutely convinced that what they hear is the voice of God. Maybe it is. Who am I to say… I just know that they’re not very functional and in an incredible amount of suffering by the time I talk to them on the end of a 9-1-1 emergency line.
So this is always my dilemma when I start straying into these realms. How do I know I’m not crazy? How do I know that the little voice is actually a sense of inner wisdom? How do I know it’s not a projection of my ego? How can assure myself that it’s not a manifestation of my fears and ‘need to be special’? I have no answers for these questions and they bother me.
Lucky for us, yoga works even when we don’t get it. Let’s face it, yoga is an incredible act of faith. I put my feet on the mat with no clear idea of why it works, how it works or when it works. What I do know is that I’ve experienced change in my mental and emotional state and to some degree my physical state, since I started my practice.
I’ve come to the realization I’m probably NEVER going to understand it. I’m never going to see auras and chakras. I don’t detect energy fields. I don’t have any special sensory powers. In short, I’m just like about 99.995% of the planet’s population. The nice thing about yoga is you don’t have to be anything other than what you are. Yoga is just fine with the fact I don’t know, don’t understand, and have no insight into the mysteries of the physical universe.
What yoga does promise me is that if I attend to my practice and persevere, I will understand myself on a much more intimate and practical level. And that, from my perspective, is most important of all. Yoga is for all of us. [Jenni’s commentary is here]