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The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are:

1) suffering, or dissatisfaction;

2) the causes of suffering;

3) the cessation of suffering; and

4) the path leading to that cessation.

四聖諦

When the leaves are changing colour, mid-autumn has already passed. I came out from the plane and felt I was standing on top of the world. The tiny airport was surrounded by peaks dotted with trees in red and yellow, the beginning of this ten-day retreat sounded very promising.

The retreat house was located atop the hill. At one o’clock sharp, the manager arrived for a briefing. The check-in happened in an efficient way, we handed in our registration form, chose our room, picked up keys and blanket, received our karma yoga job and deposited our valuables including all electronic and communication devices in a small bag. All these took place in a quiet manner within a few minutes per person.

The main theme of this retreat was Introduction to Buddhism – The Four Noble Truths. Every day of the retreat started with a forty-five minutes mindulness meditation followed by a hot breakfast with porridge and hot bread. There are two teaching sessions in the morning in which Glen, the lead teacher, explained the foundations of Buddhism. During the retreat Glen has covered topics like the Four Noble Truths, renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness, the Six Perfections, the Five Paths, samsara and samatha. Lunch, group discussion and tea break filled most of the afternoon, though we had plenty of time to sit on the terrace or on the steps of the lecture hall to contemplate, meditate, relax or simply enjoy the purest air that this planet could offer.

The day after the tea break became more practical. There was one teaching session and two guided meditation sessions. Maya took over the practical sessions and we practised analytical and stabilizing meditation techniques. Silence, concentration, single-pointedness, forgiveness and emptiness were some of the key words.

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Ultimate aim of yoga

Yoga is the master key to reopen secret realms of eternal bliss and peace. The highest steps of yoga doubtlessly transmute the keen aspirant into a divine personality. The ultimate aim of yoga is the spiritual union between the individual soul and the supreme Self. And thereby even the law of karma is transcended. As a huge pile of fuel wood brought into contact with fire is reduced to ashes, similarly all the karmas and errors of the aspirant are reduced to ashes by the fire of knowledge.

Knowledge liberates the aspirant.
Selfless action leads to this knowledge.

~SWAMI RAMA, Life Here and Hereafter, p. 60.

Yoga of Synthesis

Some maintain that the practice of Karma Yoga alone is the only means for salvation. Some others hold that devotion to the Lord is the only way to release. Some believe that the path of wisdom is the sole way to attain the final beatitude. There are still others who hold that all the three paths are equally efficacious to bring about perfection and freedom.

Man is a strange, complex mixture of will, feeling and thought. He wills to possess the objects of his desires. He has emotion and so he feels. He has reason and so he thinks and ratiocinates. In some, the emotional element may preponderate, while in some others, the rational element may dominate. Just as will, feeling and thought are not distinct and separate, so also work, devotion and knowledge are not exclusive of one another.

The Yoga of Synthesis is the most suitable and potent form of Sadhana. In the mind there are three defects, viz., Mala or impurity, Vikshepa or tossing and Avarana or veil. The impurity should be removed by the practice of Karma Yoga. The tossing should be removed by worship or Upasana. The veil should be torn down by the practice of Jnana Yoga. Then only is Self-realisation possible. If you want to see your face clearly in a mirror, you must remove the dirt in the mirror, keep it steady and remove the covering also. You can see your face clearly in the bottom of the lake only if the turbidity is removed, if the water that is agitated by the wind is rendered still, and if the moss that is lying on the surface is removed. So too is the case with Self-realisation.

The Yoga of Synthesis alone will bring about integral development. The Yoga of Synthesis alone will develop the head, heart and hand and lead one to perfection. To become harmoniously balanced in all directions is the ideal of religion. This can be achieved by the practice of the Yoga of Synthesis.

To behold the one Universal Self in all beings is Jnana, wisdom; to love this Self is Bhakti, devotion; and to serve this Self is Karma, action. When the Jnana-Yogin attains wisdom, he is endowed with devotion and selfless activity. Karma Yoga is for him a spontaneous expression of his spiritual nature, as he sees the one Self in all. When the devotee attains perfection in devotion, he is possessed of wisdom and activity. For him also, Karma Yoga is a spontaneous expression of his divine nature, as he beholds the one Lord everywhere. The Karma-Yogin attains wisdom and devotion when his actions are wholly selfless. The three paths are in fact one in which the three different temperaments emphasise one or the other of its inseparable constituents. Yoga supplies the method by which the Self can be seen, loved and served.

~This is not Sivananda Yoga, but the Yoga of Synthesis according to Swami Sivananda.

From sadhana to tapasya

Quietude is a word that comes uppermost to one’s mind in experiencing the Himalayas. In the constant chatter and hustle bustle of daily life, we accumulate a lot of what one call baggage. If the system has to be cleansed, mouna tapasya is a great tool. A sadhana is gentle but tapasya is rigourous. The fundamental quality of fire is transofrm and that is what mouna tapasya is largely about. Mouna tapasya is also a means to first person research into consciousness. Yogic practices have signifcant benefits but they have to be constantly fine-tuned to reach that level of perfection. Just as a laboratory is used to fine tune the results of an experiment, mouna tapasya can be used to fine tune yogic experiments.

– Written by Aparna Sridhar

Author

A canon lawyer by profession, chado/sado (Japanese tea ceremony) by passion and yoga sadhaka by conviction.

Here is a blog where I share my interests and thoughts in chado and yoga with the public. Comments and exchanges are more than welcome.

Tell you more :

  • Since 2001 I have been learning and practising chado/sado. Having studied with three different schools and several teachers in France, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan and China. Lately I have been sharing the tea experience in China and the Indian sub-continent.
  • My trip to experience ayurveda in India turned out to become an unexpected discovery of meditation and therefore of yoga lato sensu. I am following the teachings of Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh and Swami Rama of the Himalayan Tradition.

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