Sex, Death, and Yoga – Part 2

In my last post I left you with a curious proposition based on truthy math: death may be overcome by abstention from sex. Not surprisingly, some of you questioned my conclusion. And why not? I’m sure such drastic notions sound like the dogmatic declamations of an anachronistic yoga fundamentalist. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Well, I don’t think of myself as a yoga fundamentalist, anachronistic or otherwise, and by the time I’m finished with this series I hope you won’t either. Be that as it may, traditional yoga texts are, in fact, where one will find support for my proposition. Patanjali’s yoga system is an unabashedly inward progression: a systematic retraction of the senses from the exterior world of sense objects into the interior realm of the self, wherein attachment to one’s body – to say nothing of other people’s bodies – is extinguished and the mind dissolves back into the primordial pradhāna from which it came.

Crossing over the ocean of repeated birth and death by means of detachment from material sense enjoyment is a recurring theme in the Bhagavad Gita as well. For example:

An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. Such pleasures have a beginning and an end, so those who are wise do not delight in them.

However counter-intuitive this verse (BG 5.22) may sound, there’s a certain logic to the idea that pursuing material sense pleasure, the acme of which is sexual pleasure, consigns one to a destiny of material miseries, the acme of which is death: indulgence in the pleasures of the body reinforces our identification with the body. The stronger our attachment to our bodies and the bodies of others, the greater the suffering we experience when our eternal adversary, time, eventually, but inevitably, severs our attachment. [Read more...]

Sex, Death, and Yoga – Part 1

deathandthemaiden1518_USESubmitted for your consideration: the most deeply entrenched and ubiquitous of all human convictions is the belief that we can attain happiness through the enjoyment of our senses. And why not? If human beings are just fortuitous fusions of stardust whose inexplicable sentience is a fleeting epiphenomenon sandwiched between two infinitudes of non-existence then we might as well devote ourselves to the accrual of as much sensual enjoyment as possible.

Right?

Modernity has endowed this proposition with the status of an a priori assumption: our ‘To-do’ lists are testimony to our unexamined preoccupation with fulfilling it. But there are inconvenient facts hiding in plain sight that, once recognized and acknowledged, irrevocably undermine this assumption. [Read more...]

Veganism, Cows, and Dharma

ElizabethAndCow_350x250In yoga, veganism is not an end unto itself: it’s a means to an end, an incremental step towards re-establishing the natural relationship between human beings and all other living beings, especially the natural, symbiotic relationship between humans and cows.

The idea that humans and cows have a naturally symbiotic relationship may strike some readers as anything but obvious. That’s understandable given the frame of reference most people associate with farm animals. Yoga asks us to radically re-frame the relationship, to think of cows not as consumable objects of our experience but as sentient subjects of their own experience. Cows have lives of their own and, like all living entities, find the fulfillment of their own lives through relationships with others.

[Read more...]

Bhakti, Others, Words, and Meaning

radha_feet_krishna_sOnce upon a time, words meant something. They came fully equipped with definitions. If you didn’t know what a word meant, you could look it up. We deferred to an authority on the word in question, learned the proper and appropriate usage of the word, and articulated coherent and consistent messages with them.

But that was then and this is now. Today words are meaningless because they can mean whatever you want them to mean. Words come to us open to interpretation, requiring extensive contextualization to know which variation of personalized meaning we’re working with. There’s no authority to defer to because we’re all our own ultimate authority on anything and everything; our personal truths are the only reality so our own definitions are the only ones that are real… for us. Identical sentences using the same words in the same order are no longer guaranteed to carry a consistent message. [Read more...]

Why Men Don’t Do Yoga

Russell Wilson July 29, 2013 Photographed by Peter yangAn article entitled “Why yoga is still dominated by women despite the medical benefits to both sexes” recently appeared in the Health & Science section of the Washington Post. The author’s overarching theory is that men shy away from yoga studios because they believe ‘myths’ about yoga such as “yoga isn’t a decent workout, that it’s too touchy-feely, that it’s not made for men’s bodies…” etc. The underlying premise of the article is that more men would do yoga if they just knew more about it.

I disagree. The reason more men aren’t going to yoga classes is not because they’re ignorant of yoga’s health and fitness benefits, it’s not because flaky New Age touchy-feely-woo-woo hasn’t been explained to them in a way that’s suitable for their understanding (good luck with that), and it’s not because they have misconceptions about yoga. On the contrary, men are reluctant to take yoga classes on account of a correct conception based on easily observable data: yoga is for women. [Read more...]