“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.” (Hoff 15)
Yoga attracts some really smart people! In fact, part of the reason I love yoga is there is always something new to learn! There is even an entire path to yoga-Jnana yoga- that is all about knowledge! Knowledge means study, right? Study, research, synthesizing information… these yogis speak my language!
Indeed, with Yoga there is always something new to learn….
Because we’re not really getting the point, are we?
Jnana yoga is the Yoga of Knowledge. However, it is not a form of knowledge that we in the West would easily recognize. It is not something that can be studied and learned. It isn’t even revelation, because that would imply that there is something hidden that can be revealed. This Knowledge is union with something that simply Is. We just can’t see it because, as the Yoga Sutras say, “the fluctuations of the mind-stuff” get in the way.
Many of us have spent years-decades!-filling our heads with “knowledge”. We are self-starters, quick-thinkers, pull-ourselves-up-by-our-bootstraps intellectuals. We spent a small fortune on those letters we attach to our last name, so everyone around us best be using them! (Oh, did you not see? I’m a 500 RYT-E now, thank you very much!)
And we wonder why we would rather sweat it out in an hour long vinyasa class than sit for five flippin’ minutes of silence?
“The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.” (Yoga Sutras 1:2)
It isn’t that Yoga is anti-intellectual. It is just that Yoga doesn’t care one way or another about our intellectual prowess! Those of us who have the privilege of an education ought to recognize that we have spent a lot of time and effort filling our heads with vrittis (thoughts that we identify with and may even use to define who we think we are). Our education does not earn us brownie points with the Universe. In fact, it may even distract us from that which we are ultimately seeking!
Oh, what is a poor academic to do when the answer cannot be found in a book? Google searches do not work. Even Siri doesn’t know.
“These mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment.” (Yoga Sutras 1:12)
Yoga does not ask us to abstain from anything except violence, dishonesty, stealing, excess, and clinging. However, it does require non-attachment, even to our learning. This takes, well, practice.
In Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutras he indicates that, technically, some students may only need the first two verses of the entire book! The rest of us need practice. This is where the eight-limbs of yoga come in. We practice refraining from destructive behaviors and participating in constructive ones. We care for our physical bodies and minds through asana and pranayama. We practice withdrawing our senses, concentrating, and meditating. Finally, we begin to experience bliss, which is the Union with that which Is.
Note: That which Is cannot be found in a book.
There are many paths to union with that which Is: knowledge, devotion, sacred service, the list goes on and on. It can be found in the eyes of the people around us: all of them, any of them. Liking said people is not even a requirement! It can also be found in ourselves, if we but put aside our need for approval and worldly esteem, open ourselves to the vulnerability of radical presence, and realize the true Self within.
Hoff, Benjamin. The Tao of Pooh. Penguin Books, 1982.