vastu-sāmye citta-bhedāt tayor vibhaktaḥ panthāḥ
Each individual person perceives the same object in a different way, according to their own state of mind and projections. Everything is empty from its own side and appears according to how you see it. (PYS IV.15)
This sutra says that we actually create our own reality. That is how powerful we are! Embracing the wisdom of this sutra involves taking responsibility for our life and the world we live in. It is only then that we can begin to consciously co-create with the universe the world we want to live in, as opposed to perceiving the world as coming at us, as something we have no control over.
This concept of shunyata, or emptiness, is incredibly liberating and empowering. It is only then that we can stop playing the blame game, that we can liberate ourselves from feeling like victims. Responsibility and freedom are two sides of the same coin—you can’t have one without the other. We are the ones who give the meaning to people, objects and situations. Knowing this we will do our best to project goodness and magnificence and extend love into the one world we share. It is what His Holiness the Dalai Lama calls "enlightened self-interest."
Yet could it be that our own power frightens us more than being powerless does? Is the fear of our own enlightened mind and actions preventing us from creating a more joyous, peaceful and healthy world to live in? To indulge this fear is to give our power away, to dishonor the gift of life. Enlightenment is the only remedy to the world’s despair. Shifting our perception from unconscious to conscious, from unenlightened to enlightened, is what will change the world, what will change our current highly self-destructive way of living on this planet. Through the Yoga practices our perceptions are refined: we learn to calm the fluctuations of the mind so that we can see objects, people and situations without the judgments, prejudices and conditioning that come from our past thoughts, words and actions. When we stop identifying with our thoughts and feelings, the fluctuations of the mind, or citta vrittis, we can experience clarity of mind, enlightenment.
An enlightened mind recognizes the Oneness of Being—how deeply interconnected everything is. We see en-light, i.e., clearly. We see the true, eternal connecting essence of everything and everyOne, which is pure consciousness and pure bliss. We are not separate from one another or from Mother Earth. Thus, everything we think, say or do (or not think, say or do) makes a difference and has an impact on the world we all share. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
Opening ourselves to the concept that everything we think, say and do has an impact on the greater whole changes our reality. It changes the way we show up and act in the world. We start making more conscious choices, having more conscious relationships; we begin making connections where we perhaps haven’t seen them before: between a paper napkin and a tree, a plastic bag and oil drills, a hamburger and another living being. We begin to ask ourselves whether the choice we’re making or the action we’re taking is going to perpetuate the disconnect in the world or bring the world closer together. By healing our own torn relationships we help heal the world.
If our intention is to live by the principles of love and compassion, we will choose the truth instead of the illusion of separateness, the enlightened mind-set instead of judgment.
Here are some ideas for how to utilize this focus in your classes:
- Point out the connection between different elements in the asana practice and how they affect one another, although we may experience them separately: between the breath and the mind in pranayama or meditation, between the breath and the body during a vinyasa sequence between one body part and another in various asanas.
- Teach inversions, emphasizing how perspective shifts.
- Talk about illusions people have about asanas—that some may be easy or difficult. If one asana is inherently difficult, then it would so for everybody. But that is not the case. Some people are at ease in a certain asana, while others find it challenging, according to their state of body, mind and projections. The same applies to how we see people.
- Setting the intention at the beginning of class to positively affect the way of seeing a particular person/situation/object: “I want to see ... [name and visualize the person/situation] differently.’’ By wanting to see this person/situation differently you are making a commitment to withdraw your preconceived ideas about her/him/it and open your mind to what it really is and what it is for you. You are letting its purpose be revealed to you, instead of placing your judgment upon it. You are not defining it in past terms or through your sentiments. You may also choose to say more concretely: “I want to see ... [name and visualize the person/situation] through the eyes of compassion and love,” or, "As my teacher, I want to see his/her/its real purpose of helping me to heal and grow, etc."
- Talk about en-lightenment as in the literal meaning of the word, not just in a spiritual context. According to Webster’s dictionary, light means making something visible, appearing in truth; not heavy; containing less than the standard, or usual weight, i.e., light-footed; i.e., light in personal carbon footprint. You will find parallels in many different languages.
- Ask students to commit to not using cups for to-go coffees that can’t be composted or recycled, to not buying clothes from companies that use sweatshop labor or to being vegan for a week or the whole month.