purvesham api guruh kalena anavachchhedat
Bouanchaud: Unsubjected to time, God is the spiritual guide even for the ancients.
Desikachar: God is eternal. In fact he is the ultimate teacher. He is the source of guidance for all teachers: past, present and future.
Swami J: From that consciousness (ishvara) the ancient-most teachers were taught, since it is not limited by the constraint of time.
In the very best tradition of ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, I’ve got my sneakers laced up and am sprinting for the finish line. Once again, my task is to pound out a few hundred words on a topic I know nothing about and on a phenomenon that I can’t even imagine. Well, my motto for life has frequently been “If all else fails, go for the laughs”, so what the hell….
As I’m sitting here in the relatively security of my kitchen, looking out the window at the piles of melting snow, I’m keenly aware of how tied I am to the phenomenon we call time. This year, probably because I’m not working outside the home, I’m keenly aware of the passing and the change of the season. We moved into a period of great dark where sunlight became a little scarcer each day and now we’re moving away from that. The days are longer. The sun is stronger. The arrival of spring is evident in the world I can observe.
I have changed with this passage of time. My body has changed, my thoughts have changed. Hopefully, I’m tad wiser than I was a year ago, even though I’m without doubt a year closer to the date of my inevitable death. That is what it means to be a creature chained to the dictates of time. We are born. We die. Everything in its cycle has it rising and its falling. It is the nature of the world we live in.
Now, if you have a way better imagination than I do, you might be able to conceptualize what it would be like to live outside time – to be eternal. To have neither a beginning nor an end. Frankly, it’s beyond me and it makes my eyes cross just trying to wrap my synapses around it. Apparently, according the wisdom of the yoga teachers throughout time, there’s a lot I don’t understand about God.
In yoga, and Buddhism, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on ‘lineages’ of teachers. I study with Kathryn Downton who is a student of Claude Marechal, who is a student of Desikachar who was a student of Krishnamacharya who… and so on. A friend of mine who is a Buddhist can recite the linage of her teachers’ teachers’ teachers back to Siddhartha Gautama himself. The question arises, if one follows the chain long enough, who taught the first teachers?
The answer is God taught them. Okay, it’s not as crazy as it sounds at first hearing. Actually, it’s sort of the point of all of this. This is the “thing” with which we seek union: Direct, unfiltered, immediate, intimate, personal communication with Supreme Consciousness. Without speaking for the Buddhist traditions, I think this is what they mean by Enlightenment. For yogis, this is Samadhi. This is where and when we finally ‘get it’, on a cosmic scale.
If I understand things correctly on the intellectual plane, it’s not so much that we become or merge with God but we remember that we actually are God and have been all along.
If you’re like me and decidedly on the late train to Enlightenment, things aren’t a total bust here either. One, the avenue to direct learning that the ancients enjoyed isn’t closed. It’s still available to us – keep working. Persevering practice and, of course, let go of the results. In the meanwhile, there’s still work to do. Our job is to use wisdom and discernment when we seek out our Gurus, to make sure that they teach from a place of authenticity. We need to critically examine the quality of their message.
I think it was Darrell Littlejohn in his book, The 12-Step Buddha (great read, by the way), who said when you pick your Guru, you should watch their feet: Do they walk what they talk? The search for spiritual knowledge has often been exploited by unscrupulous and immoral people who have allowed the personal aggrandizement of their ego take over the show, sometimes to the death of those who believed them. Anyone can say they are enlightened. There is no Enlightenment Bar exam or government standards bureau. Certainly yoga has not been immune from those who can’t or won’t practice what they preach. They are also frequently surrounded by uncritical thinkers who …. well, let’s just say the word co-dependency pops into my head a lot when I review these cases.
It’s not even a case of ‘buyer beware’. Yes, there are the absolute charlatans who see religion and spirituality as a way to make a quick buck. More insidious are the ones who believe their own press. They really do believe that they were singled out, that they have an inside track to God, that their brand of “crazy wisdom” exempts them from the workings of karma. I have my doubts. It sounds a lot like addictive thinking to my ears but then, it takes one to know one.
The point is we need to use all of our rational and logical attributes when finding a teacher. Yes, faith enters into the picture but it’s not blind and unreasoned faith. I believe in yoga because I’ve seen how it changes my life for the better. Even if I never get ‘enlightened’, it’s not important. My life right here, right now, is better because I practice.
Good Lord, I’m typing this before my first cup of coffee and I think it’s making my head swim. The fact is that right now, I can’t imagine or conceptualize what it would be like to be working without kleshas, without karma and unbound by time. It’s okay – there’s no deadline imposed. I just have to practice.
This is the last of the “God” aphorisms, next week we’re onto Ohm and mantra. Actually, I ‘m going to try and make it later this week because I think somewhere in January I got a week behind.
In the meanwhile, thanks for reading and Namaste,