About this series:
The tradition of Buddhist Yoga is vast and wonderful. It is profound in its insights that we can discover for our own and others’ benefit, and rich in its variety of skillful methods that we can use to put it into practice. This seven-part serialization aims to present the key points of Buddhist Yoga in a way that Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike will find helpful and applicable to their own practices of yoga and meditation.
We will begin by looking at what the phrase “Buddhist Yoga” means, so that as we proceed to explore the practice of Buddhist Yoga, we will be well-equipped with a clear understanding of what Buddhist Yoga is all about. In the subsequent three pieces, we will examine the three qualities of mental outlook that form Buddhist Yoga’s foundation: renunciation, compassionate bodhichitta, and the profound view of the true nature of reality.
In the fifth piece, we will be ready to learn how to apply the principles of Buddhist Yoga in physical exercise and dance. Then, we will see how we can practice Buddhist Yoga when our bodies are afflicted by illness, and learn why the great masters have taught that being sick is actually a more conducive condition for practice than being healthy. In the last piece, we will explore how to practice Buddhist Yoga in the activities of daily life, so that no matter where we are or what we are doing, we can live fully and joyously as yogis and yoginis.
~ Ari and Rose
See here for Part I.
PART II: Buddhist Yoga: Joining with Naturalness
The Three Foundational Characteristics of Buddhist Yoga
Continuing from the first installment of this seven-part serialization on Buddhist Yoga, we will explore the three characteristics that define Buddhist practice: renunciation, compassionate bodhichitta and the view of the true nature of reality.
“Renunciation” can be a frightening word. In order to practice Buddhist Yoga, are we being told that we must renounce the people we love, the activities we enjoy, our work – our life as we have lived it?
The answer is no. Since Buddhism focuses on working with oneself from the inside out, rather than the outside in, its teachings do not command us to do anything. Rather, we are invited to investigate things for ourselves and to come to our own conclusion as to how to proceed, for that is the only way that our actions will be stable and confident.
What we are invited to explore in this instance is how happiness and suffering work. Our normal tendency is to try to find happiness in outer situations that we believe to truly exist. We view our bodies to be truly existent, and we want them to always be healthy; we view our friends and family to be truly existent, and we want them to always love us and treat us well; we view our livelihood to be truly existent and we want to be financially secure now and into the future. Most of all, we think that our minds are truly existent, and so we want our minds to be happy and free of any agitation, worry, or anguish.
The problem is that we have very little, if any, control over any of these things, so when they manifest or change in ways that we do not like, we suffer. We suffer from bodily aging and sickness, from conflict in our relationships, from uncertainty and downturns with regard to our work and livelihood.
But this suffering only comes from clinging to ourselves, and all these outer appearances as being truly existent. In this way, we suffer during the day for the same reason that we suffer in a dream when we do not know that we are dreaming. We may dream of getting physically sick or injured; of our friends and family doing hurtful things to us; or of having problems at work, and suffer in the dream the same way that we would during the day. But this suffering only comes from clinging to ourselves and all these outer appearances as being truly existent. In this way, we suffer during the day for the same reason that we suffer in a dream when we do not know that we are dreaming. We may dream of getting physically sick or injured; of our friends and family doing hurtful things to us; or of having problems at work, and suffer in the dream the same way that we would during the day. But we do not suffer because these appearances are truly existent; we suffer only because we mistakenly believe them to be so.
When we look at our own experiences, we should ask ourselves: “Has believing in the true existence of my body, mind, friends, family, and work ever brought me lasting happiness? Or has it just made me vulnerable to suffering?” If through this examination, we gain certainty that there is no happiness to be found in clinging to these things as truly existent, that is authentic renunciation. It does not mean that we have to disregard or abandon our bodies, material things, or people themselves; only our clinging to them as being solid, truly existent entities. As the great Indian master Tilopa sang to his disciple Naropa:
O son, appearances don’t bind you, it’s the clinging that binds you,
So cut through the clinging, Naropa.
When we cut through our clinging, and we interact with our bodies, people, and other things while we are informed by wisdom rather than ignorance, our relationships with them work much better and we are much happier. It is like a dream when we know we are dreaming—we do not cling to what appears to us as being truly existent, so our experiences of the world are open, spacious, and relaxed.
[to be continued here on elephant, next week]
Ari Goldfield’s Harvard Law School training led him to a six-month unillustrious career in corporate law before he set off for Asia to study Tibetan and find his Buddhist teacher. He went on to travel the world for thirteen years with his teacher, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, acting as Rinpoche’s translator and secretary. Rose Taylor Goldfield grew up in a Dharma household, where she learned meditation at a very young age, and progressed through the practice and study lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She received her masters from Naropa University in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies with Tibetan language. Ari and Rose translate and teach Buddhist philosophy, meditation, yogic exercise, and dance in their local San Francisco Bay Area and internationally. They are spiritual directors of the Wisdom Sun community. You can explore more about them and their offerings on their website.