Although the commonly held belief is that we are all separate individuals, navigating our lives like kayaks down a winding stretch of river, this is not the case. At the heart of existence lies a Great Oneness, a merging of opposites, in which all distinction vanishes. Cognition of this state is known as Enlightenment and it marks the end of all seeking, the cessation of suffering, and it is the true goal of Yoga.
In the great marketplace of Western spirituality, we’ve got lost somehow, however. Yoga seems to promise us an opportunity to become limber, beautiful, to become still. We’re there to quieten our minds and settle a restive ego, we’re there to becomesomething, to reach a place where everything is going to be OK. As a practice yoga seems to offer a marriage of body-conscious Western keep-fit, with an Eastern psycho-therapeutic palliative, a sense that all this sweating and breathing is going to tune us up to become better human beings, even closer to God.
But none of that is the case.
The hardest truth of yoga, and one which should be engraved on the walls of shalas throughout the Western world, is that we are already what we seek. By this I mean that the state of Great Oneness is already here, utterly perfect, only we just can’t see it.
No matter how much asana and meditation we do, we will never draw a millimeter closer to it.
Whether we choose to drink tequila shots in seedy bars from sunup to sundown, we will never draw a millimeter further away from it.
This is the starting point, to be known before the first inbreath. Tat Tvam Asi says the Chandogya Upanishad. Thou Art That. You, the individual, are identical with Brahman, the Absolute. Only right now you just can’t see it.
From this mystical starting point, yoga takes on a very different meaning. It is not a practice for the perfection of the individual. Asana or pranayama are not going to lead ‘you’ or ‘me’ to enlightenment. Yoga, rather, is the means to end delusion, the nature of which is the perceived existence of an individual self. Yoga is an ancient system to uncover the nature of our confusion and to realign our body/minds with Absolute Reality.
One of the most common reactions when this reality is perceived is laughter. Why? Because it’s always been here, every single moment of our lives, and even in the moment of recognition remains exactly as it was.