by Sharon Gannon |
December, 2007
Presence: Jivamukti Focus of the Month

Gate, gate, paragate, parasangate bodhi swaha
Gone, gone, real gone, beyond even the most gone,
only in going that gone is there awakening

The Heart Sutra

Our beloved teacher, Swami Nirmalananda would often remind us, “Practice dying everyday of your life and when the time for your death arrives you will be ready for the great samadhi.”

Yoga is eternal. It exists in the infinity of the present; there is no future for yoga, nor can it be imprisoned in the past. What does it mean to be a yogi? To be a yogi is to live in timelessness, to be free, absolutely wild and completely at ease.

To be able to die to the past and give up the illusion of a future is to be born into the present. This demands of us an understanding of karma, action. Our time-bound reality comes from our karmas.

The practice of yoga can help purify your karmas by revealing them to you. When you engage in the various practices of yoga, you will come up against obstacles that will distract you from the present moment. These obstacles may arise in the form of competitive projections, for example, which will tempt you to focus on achieving specific goals, in order to feel that you are accomplishing something; others will arise from the past, tempting you to run away to avoid pain. Both habits arise from past karmas.

We believe it is possible to escape from the present because we are caught in the illusion that things, people or circumstances are separate from us and are coming “at us.” This illusion is due to ignorance, or avidya, which is actually “a case of mistaken identity.” The truth is that there is no one else really “out-there,” to come at you. In fact, there is no “out-there” out there at all! All, that we experience, whether actual or virtual, appears as a result of our own past actions, our karmas. When unpleasant things appear in our reality, if—instead of avoiding them, we investigate our discomfort by simply witnessing (without placing any judgment upon our feelings), we will begin to develop chitta prasadanam, or serenity of mind. With this serenity of mind established, we may be able to fearlessly delve deeper into our own beings, allowing all negative emotions and habits to rise to the light of awareness and be dissolved: going, going gone.

The practice of yoga is the practice of dying. You go to who you think you are and you keep going, going right through, and dying to who you thought you were. Through investigation, through keen and consistent observation of the self, you come to the realization that “you” don’t exist. Your self, who you think you are–the ego, the body/mind, the personality–doesn’t really exist. It is only an abstract concept. As Alan Watts says, “Like the equator, you can’t really find it, you can’t trip over it, because it doesn’t really exist.” If you truly observe something–anything really–the thing will disappear. You will disappear. You as a separate entity will dissolve, once you enter into the presence of the present moment, which is a space outside of time, and therefore devoid of thought. Thinking, by its very nature, is designed to separate the pulsating inter-connected reality into the illusion of separate beings, things and moments in time.

At the so-called “time of death”, it is said that we will see our entire lives pass before us. Actually, if we have some training, we can allow it to pass right through us. During the death process all the ghosts of our past will come knocking on the door. We must be able to let them in and allow them to pass right through. In this way we will see them for what they are: phantoms of our past. We will see our small selves, our personalities and our separateness for what they are: empty.

Love is the only power that can invite this kind of apocalypse, where all is relinquished and no-thing exists. Love is the only way that we will be able to open the doors of our hearts wide enough to allow everything and everyone that needs to pass through to pass through. We will see the everlastingness in everything that’s passing and we will become that everlastingness through everything that’s passing.