April 13, 2011

An Open Letter to Sage Patanjali

Dear Sage Patanjali,

I know you’re thousands of years older than I, so I’m certain you have much more wisdom. But I’m confused about some things you’ve written. Because you are a yoga-head, I figure it will be okay for me to write this letter openly, and to share it with the LCY yoga community.

You see, for the last couple of months I’ve been working hard at trying to translate your aphorisms and share them with our readers. Yes, I’ve had a lot of help from great modern yogis such as Kofi Busia, B.K.S. Iyengar, Judith Lasater, Christopher Isherwood and Satchidananda, all whom have offered translations and commentary and in large part, helped me to make some sense out of your ancient teachings.

Still and yet, I don’t always get it. It’s difficult applying some of these principles. And honestly, some of your pearls of wisdom appear to be incomprehensible to my 21st century mind. Perhaps the disconnect lies in the fact that your teachings were transmitted orally. I question whether or not the integrity of your sapience has been compromised. Am I to believe that your original teachings, interpreted or re-interpreted by many over thousands of years, are in fact, still intact?  I can hear one of my yoga teachers saying to me right now, “You’re thinking too much, Leeann. Try not to have the answers to everything. Just try to conceptualize the message.” Her advice worked while I was learning Handstand, but when it comes to following principles in order to be free, shouldn’t I know exactly what you intended to convey? After all, this is my life we’re talking about here. I have given up a lot things for this yogi lifestyle. Okay, not that many things, but still, I did give up some things.

For example, in sutra 1:4, you say, “Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time.” Exactly how much time are you referring to? People are living very long lives these days. Heck, it took me years just to get my heels to touch the ground in Downward Facing Dog Pose. It appears to me that having a firmly established and uninterrupted yoga practice is going to take an entire lifetime, what with all the habits and responsibilities I have. If this is the case then may I at least hope to experience self realization in the after life?

And what about sutra 1:48 where you said, “In that state, there is truth-bearing wisdom.” I understand that when I am seeing things as they really are and not how I think they are, that I am seeing the wisdom of something. But you know well as I, that we are typically given only blinks of wisdom and for most of us, it doesn’t seem to have a long shelf life. What’s the point of having wisdom if it only has a 24-hour or less expiration date on it? I’m just sayin’….

Mostly, I take issue with the overall presentation. If only the one-pointed mind is a yogi-mind, and examining oneself involves such a mind, why have you defined yoga in one chapter and then used three additional chapters to instruct its pursuit? It would have been a lot easier, Mr. P,  if you used three chapters to define a yogi, followed by only one chapter of how to become one. Can’t I just make a few adjustments and we’ll call it a day in the life of a yogi?

Of course, none of this means I’m going to stop living an examined life. In fact, I’m more determined than ever. I just wish you were here to explain it all.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a “thank you”. Many of your aphorisms have informed and inspired my yoga studies and teaching. And I am grateful that the wisdom you have shared reminds me that yoga is alive. It is ever evolving and as such, helped me and hopefully my readers, understand that understanding itself is born out of seeing differences or imbalances in the body and mind, and taking the appropriate actions for reconciliation and integration. I think that’s pretty much what you’re trying to get at, isn’t it?

I think that’s the yogi’s way.

Namaste to you, Mr. P.

Your sincere and devoted yoga student,

Leeann Carey 🙂

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