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Getting Mystical, again (just the music) January 31, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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***NOTE: My apologizes to email subscribers who received the “Saturday post” with the “just music” heading. ***

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, January 31st) at 2:30 PM, CST. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

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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Focus/Concentrate on Peace and Non-violence (the Saturday post) January 31, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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[This is the post for Saturday, January 30th. 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.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

“This is an invitation to a high location
For someone who wants to belong
This is a meditation on your radio station
If you like it you can sing along”

– quoted from the English lyrics of the song “Ahimsa” by U2 and A. R. Rahman, featuring Khatija and Raheema Rahman

After reviewing the first two chapters of the Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras, over the last two weeks, I decided today was a good day to progress. Not coincidentally, the third section of Patanjali’s treatise is the Chapter or “Foundation (or Chapter) on Progression”** and it picks up where the second section (the Chapter or “Foundation on Practice”) leaves off: with the sixth limb of the 8-Limb philosophy, dhāraņā. As I have mentioned in class before, when I first started diving into the Yoga Philosophy, I was taught that dhāraņā is a Sanskrit word for “focusing” – which it is. However, the word can also be translated as “concentration” and “directing attention.”

Some might say that the more classical traditions use concentration; but, Swami Vivekananda (who first introduced the philosophy to the Western world) and T. K. V. Desikachar (whose father was responsible for the resurgence of the physical practice in India and, therefore, the introduction of haţha yoga to the West) both translate it as “holding [the mind to…].” I tend to stick with “focusing”, because it provides a way to track the intensity of awareness/attention as we progress from the fifth limb (pratyāhāra, “sense withdrawal,” which is pulling the senses and mind into a single point) and the eight limb (Samādhi, which is spiritual absorption that comes from meditation).

Yoga Sūtra 3.1 deśabandhah cittasya dhāranā

– “Dhāranā is the process of holding, focusing, or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place.”

Throughout the first (“Foundation on Concentration”) and second (“Foundation on Practice”) chapters, Patanjali reinforced the power of fixing the mind on a single point. We often, as instructed, start with the breath as it is generally the most accessible and it can be infused (or paired) with the other suggestions. For instance, you can breathe in love and exhale kindness. Or, breathe peace in and peace out. Either way, whether it is an idea, a concept, a sensation, a physical/tangible object, or a person, Patanjali also reinforced the importance of choosing wisely – because eventually the goal is to become one with the object of your focus.

For this reason, we do not focus on busyness; we focus on a peace. We do not focus on violence, but instead on non-violence. We focus on the joy and the light, not the sorrow and the darkness. If we cannot be assured that a “model” person or historical figure is virtuous and free of desire, then we focus on ourselves in that virtuous and liberated state. This is the practice as recommended by Patanjali.

Now, I know, I know; someone is thinking, “But what about all that talk about cittavŗtti? Isn’t that literally busyness of the mind? Or how about, when you mention people who are suffering and all the times you tell us to ‘bring awareness to all the different sensation/information?’ Aren’t those contradictions?”

No, actually, they’re not.

Remember, at least two lojong or “mind training techniques” from Tibetan Buddhism support the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Furthermore, one of Patanjali’s goals was to bring awareness to how the mind worked in order to work the mind. By bringing conscious awareness to the busyness, the violence, the sadness, the darkness, the lack of virtue, and the suffering, we also bring awareness to our own choices and the ability to choose peace (within us), peace (all around us), peace (to and from everything and everyone we encounter). Notice that that is the end of the Shantipat; and it is also the benefit of focusing on peace. It is also the benefit of going back to the beginning of the philosophy and focusing on the first yama (“external restraint” or universal commandment): Ahimsā, “non-violence / non-harming.”

Yoga Sūtra 2.35: ahimsāpratişţhāyām tatsannidhau vairatyāgah

– “In the company of a yogi established in non-violence, animosity disappears.”

Today is one of six days designated as “Martyrs’ Day” in India. This Martyrs’ Day is the one observed on a national level as it is the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Today is also the day, in 1956, when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s house was bombed and the day, in 1972, that became known as “Bloody Sunday” in Northern Ireland. Since 1964, when it was first established in Spain, some school children around the world observe today as a “School Day of Non-violence and Peace” and, in 1998, Gandhi’s grandson (Arun Gandhi) established today as the beginning of the “Season for Nonviolence” (which ends on April 4th, the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. All of these remembrances and observations, just like the observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, are dedicated to the goal of honoring the lives of the victims (or martyrs) of past injustices and eradicating the violent tendencies that create more tragedies, crimes against humanity, and overall suffering. Today’s observations are also based on the foundation of ahimsā, one of the guiding principles of Gandhi, King, and those unarmed protesters in Northern Ireland.

Mohandes K. Gandhi was a lawyer by training and trade, who had studied all of India’s religions and philosophies, including Christianity and Islam. He was influenced by the writings of the poet and Jain philosopher Shrimad Rajchandra, William Salter (who was instrumental in the foundation of the NAACP), Henry David Thoreau, the English philosopher John Ruskin, and Leo Tolstoy – on whose farm Gandhi and some of his followers trained in the philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience. Eventually, Gandhi would equate truth, satya (which is the second yama) with God and center all of his public actions around God/Truth and āhimsa.

Gandhi was shot by a Hindu nationalist today in 1948. Although there is some debate around this, his final words were reportedly, “Hé! Rāma.” (“Oh! Lord.”) – which is the epigraph embossed on his memorial in Delhi and part of a legacy that he prophesized a few months before he died.

“I believe in the message of truth delivered by all the religious teachers of the world. And it is my constant prayer that I may never have a feeling of anger against my traducers, that even if I fall a victim to an assassin’s bullet, I may deliver up my soul with the remembrance of God upon my lips. I shall be content to be written down an impostor if my lips utter a word of anger or abuse against my assailant at the last moment.”

– quoted from a prayer discourse, Summer 1947, as printed in All Men Are Brothers: Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi, as Told in His Own Words, by Mohandas K. Gandhi (Compiled and Edited by Krishna Kripalani)

“Have I that non-violence of the brave in me? My death alone will show that. If someone killed me and I died with prayer for the assassin on my lips, and God’s remembrance and consciousness of His living presence in the sanctuary of my heart, then alone would I be said to have had the non-violence of the brave.”

– quoted from a prayer speech, June 16, 1947, as printed All Men Are Brothers: Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi, as Told in His Own Words, by Mohandas K. Gandhi (Compiled and Edited by Krishna Kripalani)

To my knowledge, no one was ever arrested or charged for throwing a bomb on the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s porch today in 1956; but, witnesses saw the man, get out of his car and toss the bomb before it exploded. Dr. King was speaking during a mass meeting at First Baptist Church, but his wife Coretta Scott King, their 2-month old daughter Yolanda, and a neighbor were inside. No one was injured, but the damage was done and a crowd of supporters quickly grew outside of the home. When King returned home, he said to the crowd, I want you to love our enemies,” he told his supporters. “Be good to them, love them, and let them know you love them.”

People were angry, of course, but no one who knew the Kings would have been surprised by the minister’s words, after all, he was influenced by Howard Thurman, Tolstoy, and Gandhi and had been teaching this message since (at least 1952). In 1957 (when he gave the sermon twice in a matter of days), he said, “I try to make it something of a custom or tradition to preach from this passage of Scripture at least once a year, adding new insights that I develop along the way, out of new experiences as I give these messages.” He would continue to teach on love and non-violence until his assassination on April 4, 1968. (In an odd case of tragic synchronicity, Mrs. King, who was not hurt when the house was bombed today in 1956, would pass away in Mexico today in 2006. She was 78 years old.)

“The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than eros. Agape is more than philia. Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.”

– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/17/1957)

There was a “Bloody Sunday” in the United States in 1965, but it was not the first and neither was it the last. To my knowledge, the first “Bloody Sunday” was a London conflict in November 1887, that was followed, the following Sunday, by more protests and more violent conflict. The protests and subsequent violence were related to unemployment and the “Coercion Acts” in Ireland, as well as the continued imprisonment of William O’Brien, an Irish Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Over decades and decades of generations, there would be more “Bloody Sundays” – including some in late January and some related to the conflict between the British and Irish. There would even be the 1965 one in the United States, but the “Bloody Sunday” that happened today in 1972, started as a peaceful protest in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland.

Also known as the Bogside Massacre, this conflict started with peaceful, unarmed Catholic protesters marching in opposition of the internment camps that were part of Great Britain’s “Operation Demetrius” (which would ultimately result in the arrest and imprisonment, without trial, of 342 people suspected of being involved with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the displacement of 7,000 civilians). In full view of the public and press, members of the British Army (1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment – also known as “1 Para”) shot 28 unarmed civilians, 13 of whom died on the spot. A fourteenth victim died from his injuries four months later and the remaining 14 were also injured either from gunshots, rubber bullets, flying debris, and (in the case of two) impact from vehicles. Many were shot while fleeing or helping the other victims. Most of the casualties were 17, but they ranged in age from 17 to 59.

Within a couple of days, the British government began court proceedings overseen by The Right Honorable The Lord Widgery (John Widgery, Baron Widgery) who was serving as the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. The Widgery Tribunal cleared the British soldiers and authorities of any blame, but described some of the shooting as “bordering on reckless.”

In 1998, a second investigation, chaired by The Right Honorable The Lord Saville of Newdigate (Mark Saville, Baron Saville of Newdigate) began proceedings. This 12-year inquiry would declare the killings “unjustified” and “unjustifiable” and concluded that soldiers “knowingly put forward false accounts” about the protesters being armed, throwing bombs, or presenting any threat. As a result of the Seville Inquiry, British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a formal apology and police began an investigation.

It is worth noting, I think, that the Parachute Regiment had been involved in questionable shootings on civilians before the tragic events today in 1972 and that they would be involved in more afterwards. Despite the fact that the Saville Inquiry was criticized for taking 12 years to reach a conclusion, it would take another 5 years before a former member of the Parachute Regiment was arrested and questioned. As of March 2019 (4 years after the arrest and nearly 47 years after the massacre), no one had been prosecuted and the court had decided there was only enough evidence to prosecute one person “soldier F” (also known as “Lance Corporal F”) – and then only for two of the murders, with the possibility of a single charge of attempted murder being added during the trial.

“How long?”

– quoted from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March 25, 1965 speech after the march from Selma to Montgomery and from U2’s 1983 song “Sunday Bloody Sunday”

The Irish rock band U2 has more than one protest song in their repertoire, including the 2000 song “Peace on Earth,” about a 1998 bombing in Northern Ireland, and the 1983 song “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which appears on the album War. Many have said that War, their third album is not only stylistically edger than their first two albums, but that it also marks a transition in mission and message. Even though they have undergone more stylist changes over the years, one would be hard-pressed to listen to a whole U2 album after War and not understand that their music was art with a purpose. In fact, in Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, Simon Reynolds wrote, “U2 turned pacifism itself into a crusade…” and mentioned the white flag – a symbol of peace and (trustful) surrender – that was a fixture throughout the War tour. Reynolds also talked about the religious and spiritual beliefs that infused the band’s music.

But, for the sake argument, let’s say you missed all that. You can take a look at their lives off the stage and see evidence of the same message and mission that’s in the music. From Bono to the Edge, from Adam Clayton to Larry Mullen Jr., the band mates have lent their time, their talent, their energy, and their financial resources to charitable efforts that have made an on-the-ground difference in people’s lives as well as well as in the global community.

Inspired by the lives of non-violent protesters like Gandhi, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the non-violent protesters in Northern Ireland, the members of U2 (even in their 20’s) had an appreciation for the lessons and teachings that cross geographical, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, and political boundaries. This appreciation is evident in their most recent single, “Āhimsa,” which is a collaboration with the composer and award-winning producer A. R. Rahman. Born in Madras (which is now Chennai, Tamil Nadu), Mr. Rahman said the song celebrates ethnic and spiritual diversity in India, as well as the spirit of non-violence and peace.

The 2019 song features Mr. Rahman’s two daughters (Khatija and Raheema) singing in Tamil, a South Asian language that is one of the official languages in parts of India, as well as in Singapore and Sri Lanka. The Tamil chorus comes from the Thirukkural (Sacred Couplets), a classical South Indian text (circa 500 CE) written in 1,300 (7-word) couplets. The kurals (“couplets” or verses) are divided into three sections that focus on virtue, wealth, and love – and they emphasize non-violence on a variety of different levels. The recently released song uses couplets 313 and 319, from the first section, under the “Aesthetic Virtue” heading “1.3.8. Not Doing Evil.”

“Even when a man takes revenge on others who hate him, in spite of him not hating them initially, the pain caused by his vengeance will bring him inevitable sorrow.” (313)

“When a man inflicts pain upon others in the forenoon, it will come upon him unsought in the afternoon.” (319)

– quoted from the English translation of the Tamil lyrics of the song “Ahimsa” by U2 and A. R. Rahman, featuring Khatija and Raheema Rahman (translation from IntegralYoga.org)

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

**NOTE: Patanjali called the third section of the Yoga Sūtras “Vibhūti Pada,” which is often translated into English as “Foundation (or Chapter) on Progressing.” There are at least twenty different meanings of vibhūti, none of which appear to literally mean “progressing” in English. Instead, the Sanskrit word is most commonly associated with a name of a sage, sacred ashes, and/or great power that comes from great God-given (or God-related) powers.

The word can also be translated into English as glory, majesty, and splendor – in the same way that Hod (Hebrew for “humility”) can also be observed as majesty, splendor, and glory in Kabbalism (Jewish mysticism). Also, just as hod is associated with prayer in Jewish traditions, vibhūti is associated with a form of committed devotion to the Divine, like praying or chanting. Finally, hod is the eighth sefirot (or “attribute” of the Divine, out of ten) on the Tree of Life, and vibhūti can be the manifestation of great power “consisting of eight faculties, especially attributed to Śiva, but supposed also to be attainable by human beings through worship of [God].” The “progressing” to which English translators refer, is the process by which one accepts the invitation to a “high[er] location” or plane of existence.

DON’T FORGET! It’s time for a “First Friday Night Special!” Please join me this Friday, February the 5th (7:15 – 8:20 PM, CST) when we will be “observing the conditions” of the heart. This practice is open and accessible to all. Additional details are posted on the “Class Schedules” calendar!

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