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To Have Peace In the World… November 7, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Poetry, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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[My apologies for not sorting out today’s technical difficulties in time to post before the class. I believe I’ve worked some of it out so that tomorrow is better.

You can request an audio recording of Saturday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible, class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

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“History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”

– The Greek Chorus in The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney

Like some of you – and like the Irish poet, playwright, translator, and 1995 Nobel Laureate in Literature Seamus Heaney – I like to know the origins of things. We can call them the beginnings, the foundations, the roots… But, for the sake of today’s practice, let’s call them the seats of words.

As some of you know, I’ve studied bits and pieces of a variety of languages, including a little Irish Gaelic years and years and years ago. However, my teacher Sean was from Galway (nowhere near the province of Ulster) and I can’t honestly say that I ever had anything close to the wealth of knowledge and vocabulary contained inside of his self’s own head (meaning the brain of Sean or Seamus Heaney). So, I have to give credit to Darach Ó Séaghdha for pointing out that in Ulster Irish (which has more common threads with several Scottish dialects than what I learned), the words hope and trust can be translated to dóchas “(pronounced duh, hass…),” while the word for heritage or ancestral claim (i.e., history) is dúchas “(pronounced doo, hass….).” Even if you only speak one language and can’t tell an Irish accent from an Australian accent (or a Brooklyn accent from a New Orleans accent), you can see how the words of the Greek Chorus in Heaney’s play The Cure At Troy (a translation of Philoctetes by Sophocles) rhyme… in Ulster Irish.

dóchas / dúchas / dúchas / dóchas

But, in English… not so much.

True story, as if they are in a twisted version of the Buddha’s poisoned arrow parable, the Greek Chorus in the play is giving advice to an archer (Philoctetes) who has been bitten by a poisoned snake. Philoctetes must decide if he will use his skill (not to mention his magic bow) to help Odysseus win the Trojan War – or if he’s going to continue suffering, caterwauling, and blaming other people for his state. Just like the person in the Buddha’s story, Philoctetes is firmly established in his pain, suffering, and righteous indignation. Included in his deliberations, however, is the knowledge that he will be healed if he goes to Troy. The message from the Greek Chorus is clear: When you are given the means and opportunity to do something that will make a difference, do it!

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”

– quoted from an 1853 sermon by Theodore Parker

Seamus Heaney’s translation includes allusion to political problems around 1990 and is often quoted by politicians and other leaders faced with troubling times. It’s a reminder that, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who was paraphrasing Theodore Parker) we have to do something to keep the arc of the moral universe bending towards justice.

Similarly, the U2’s song “Peace on Earth,” which includes a reference to the Greek Chorus message, is a reminder of what happens when we do nothing – or do the wrong thing. The song is about a bombing that took place August 15, 1998 in Omagh, Northern Ireland (in Ulster province). The bombing injured 220 people and killed 29 (including children – some of whom are mentioned in the song, a couple of Spanish tourists, and a 30-year old woman, Avril Monaghan, who was pregnant with twins). Part of the reason Bono sings, “But hope and history won’t rhyme” is because of what people didn’t do when given the chance. Despite telephone warnings intended to alert officials about the bombing – with the appropriate code words for authentication, cause that’s a thing they did/do in Northern Ireland – no one took immediate action. Even worse, once officials did start evacuating, people were moved toward the assault area rather than away from it.

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam

– “Cultivate a steady [or stable], easy [comfortable or joyful] seat [or pose].”

If the last few years (not to mention thousands of years of world history) have taught us nothing, it’s that we have to be careful where we stand. This is true politically, socially, religiously, and spiritually; because our support of something (or someone) can create divisiveness or can be healing. Note, in this case I’m not talking about whether the thing (or person) itself creates suffering or healing – that’s a different philosophical conversation. (See one of my posts on āvidya, “ignorance.”) No, what I’m talking about here is that the way we carry ourselves, and the way we move through the world, provides both the means and the opportunity for healing or suffering – or, as Patanjali puts it, fulfillment and freedom.

This is also true physically. On and off the mat, how we sit – or stand or lie down or kneel or walk or talk or think – contributes to whether or not thoughts, words, and deeds create suffering or alleviate suffering. We can do “poses” all day, every day, and for every moment of our lives – but that, in and of itself, does not guarantee that we find peace and freedom from suffering. Getting on the mat regularly does not necessarily mean we are engaged in a healing practice. To access that healing, which the sūtras tells us is already in us, requires effort. To this point, Patanjali’s instruction on the fourth limb of the Yoga Philosophy, āsana, is succinct and points to continuous action. We don’t just plop into a position and find peace and joy, or even some of the healing benefits described in sacred and modern text. No, we have to “cultivate” – which is an ongoing experience.

“We are living in a body imbued with vast potential, and yet our mental faculty is so dull and dense that we are only dimly aware of its internal dynamics.

We have become disconnected from our body’s intrinsic intelligence. This dims our recognition of our inherent beauty, charm, vigor and vitality, and healing power, and eventually blocks their flow completely. As a result, our ability to be happy with what we are and what we have, our ability to embrace all and exclude none, our ability to cultivate and retain a robust and energetic body, and our ability to heal ourselves and each other plummet. This disconnection also disrupts the incessant flow of information among the body’s various systems and organs, and so they begin to function chaotically. This is how we become unhealthy and succumb to disease.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.46 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

The Spanish Infanta Maria Teresa (also known as Marie-Thérèse) was born heir to the Spanish and Portugal throne, Archduchess of Austria, a member of the Spanish branch of the House of Habsburg, and would eventually (by marriage) become Queen of France. Before you get the idea that she lived an easy life in the lap of luxury, I will point out that 5 of her six (known) children died before she did, she endured a lot a suffering during her lifetime, and she died a painful death. She is, however, an example of someone who, once given the means and opportunity to make a difference, had to adapt to changes in order to continue making a difference.

Her marriage to her double first cousin, Louis XIV (also known as “The Sun King” and “Louis the Great”), was stipulated as part of the “Peace of the Pyranees,” which was signed today in 1659, Isle of Pheasants. The peace treaty ended 24 years of warfare between France and Spain and was part of the 30 Years War, which started as a religious conflict between Catholic and Protestants (similar to the situation in Northern Ireland). Unfortunately, neither the marriage nor the treaty was perfect.

Perhaps it wasn’t much of a hardship for Maria Teresa at first, since the 21-year olds were supposedly in love. However, about a year into their marriage, Louis was clearly cheating. Yet the marriage was still considered “necessary” to the treaty. In fact, previously, talks had stalled because Maria Teresa was (at one time) first in line to the Spanish throne. When she renounced her claim to the Spanish throne, and her younger brother was born, she was suppose to receive a settlement – which was never paid, and led to another war.

The treaty fixed a new border between France and Spain at the Pyranees; but, it also gave most of Catalonia and any “villages” north of the Pyranees to France. Spain got everything else north of the border and also kept Llívia (because it was considered a “town” not a “village”). In exchange for Spain’s loss of territory, France agreed to stop supporting Portugal and also renounced its claim to the county of Barcelona. The treaty also gave Dunkirk to England, which sold it to France.

Overall, the Treaty of the Pyranees, combined with the “Peace if Westphalia” provided stability to France and a significant period of peace throughout Europe. That did not mean, however, that there was no “internal” conflict. For example, some of the people directly affected by the treaty, the Catalans, were excluded from the negotiations and lost the autonomy they might have had with Spain. Some of the ensuing culture conflicts continue to this day – and the Catalan language was not recognized as “valid” until 2007.

“A diseased body demands constant attention – we busy ourselves caring for it and have no time or energy to enjoy living in it. But as soon as we restore our connection with our body, our inner balance and harmony return. We become healthier, and we have ample time and energy to discover the purpose of having a human birth.

Restoring the natural connection with our body and reestablishing inner balance and harmony begin with the practice of asana.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.46 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify

Here’s a groovy version of the strangest dream that’s on YouTube, but not Spotify.



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