Lesson 2: Online Education in the tradition of Yogacharya BKS Iyengar – Sri Prashant Iyengar. April 10, 2020
Why Practice Yoga?
1. Whereas few are interested in yoga, many consumers today want to know, “What can yoga do for me?” This differs from the classical approach which only sought to know, “What is yoga?” Sooner or later, all of us need to follow the latter track.
2. Although we are all familiar with the concept that “Yoga is for one and all,” [it should be restated] more precisely, “There is something in yoga for everyone” — which includes those of different dispositions, whether materialistic or spiritual….
3. We seek “what is good for me” because we don’t want to change. However, the classical approach entailed practice for the sake of yoga. There was an attempt to understand, “What is yoga?”
What does the educational process of yoga entail? It is an education about the Self. It is an adhyatmika subject (pertaining to the atman) — through the practice of yoga we are able to know the Self. That’s why yoga has been described as a darshana (observation), or a mirror. Yoga is a mirror [that displays] understanding of the Self.
Knower of the Shariram (body) as a Field +4.20
1. The Bhagavad Gita has proclaimed that the body is the field. We are the knower of the field:
BG 13.2 | idam shariram kaunteya kshetram ity abhidhiyate | etad yo vetti tam prahuh kshetra-jna iti tad-vidah ||
O son of Kunti, this shariram (body) is called (abhidhiyate) a kshetra (the field of activities), and the one who knows this body is called kshetra-jna (the knower of the field) by those who discern the truth about both.
2. It is an unfortunate travesty that, because of materialism, we aspire to know about everything around us, but not about the Self.
For example, although we want to eat food, we don’t want to know how digestion occurs. Whereas we want to be intelligent, we don’t know what intelligence is, or how it functions. We want to use our brain, but don’t want to know what it is.
This is unsound logic. Use of the brain entails knowing something about the brain. But, in the business of life, we don’t need to know that. We want to use body, mind, and brain without understanding them.
3. In the philosophical approach we are supposed to be knowers of the kshetra (the field of activities). We are supposed to know the shariram (body) that is the field…. We have to overcome the animal tendency to just use the body, mind, and brain [without wanting to know them].
4. This embodiment is meant to be known… particularly in the adhyatmika realm (pertaining to the atman). That’s why we question, “Who am I?” In the adhyatmika subject of yoga, the shariram (body) becomes a kshetra (field), of which we are the kshetra-jna (knowers of the field). Jna means to know. We are supposed to be knowers of the field of the shariram.
5. We are familiar with the connotation of body as [as an interpretation of] shariram. Although rendered as body, it does not suggest a knowledge of anatomy and physiology.
[In Vedanta] there are three shariras: 1) sthula [gross] sharira; 2) sukshma [subtle] sharira; and 3) karana [causal] sharira.
Yoga starts with an understanding of the gross body — the physical body and the psychological mind — that we are born with and leave behind at death. The sthula [gross] sharira is reconstituted in every [succeeding] incarnation.
Beyond the gross body is a subtle, or astral, body, the sukshma [subtle] sharira. There is also a causal body, the karana [causal] sharira.
Yoga is the pursuit to know these shariras.
6. Like the layers of an onion, our embodiment is also comprised of koshas (sheaths): the annamaya [sthula sharira ]; pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya [sukshma sharira]; and anandamaya [karana sharira] koshas. Although we may peel off the [outer layer of] onion skin, each succeeding inner layer is still an onion. We need to explore those layers.
Yoga Depends on Interaction of Body, Mind, & Breath +11.25
1. On the grosser plane we manifest as body, mind, and breath. [We must learn] how they act, and interact with each other.
2. We have this notion that, “I should do asana. I should do yoga.” But the question should be whether you want to do yoga, or whether you eventually want yoga to happen to you.
On the one hand we want to do everything possible in yoga… doing, doing, doing. But when we assess [the results], we want to know how much yoga has happened to us. [As a result,] we are waiting for yoga to happen to us while we on the track of doing it.
3. When you embark on Classical Yoga, you will [broaden] the field of your embodiment — the interface of body, mind, and breath. Yoga depends on how much they do for each other, not how much you do for your body, how much you do for your mind, or how much you do for your breath. What they do for each other is more important. Classical Yoga depends on their profound interactions. How much they work for each other determines how much happens to you.
4. When you take up any posture to [learn] yoga, you have to settle on a posture that is not fascinating to you. [Here] don’t settle on a posture that you want to try… to learn.
[Instead,] settle on a posture that you have done, one that is familiar, in which you are relatively comfortable, and can stay for a longer period of time, such as Supta Virasana or Supta Baddha Konasana. Do not try to get an education in a position in which you are struggling or uncomfortable. You will never learn yoga in such a position.
Learn How Body, Mind, & Breath Benefit Each Other +14.45
1. Now settle down in such a position in which you can stay longer. And, as I said in the last session, become aware of how body, mind, and breath activate each other…. Allow a more pronounced interface between body, mind, and breath.
Rather than in the worldly way — in which how much the mind can do for you, and how much you can do for the mind, and how much the body can do for you, and how much you can do for the body — try to understand how much the body can do for the mind, and how much the mind can do for the body.
How much can the body do for the breath, and vice versa?
How much can the breath do for the mind, and vice versa?
2. The [yogic] position you have taken facilitates body, mind, and breath interaction. They are mutually subservient…. They will be able to work on each other more profoundly because this is a yogic position. It doesn’t happen in any other position…, or posture.
Avail yourself of this and then try to understand how much they can work for each other, and how much they are both mutual benefactors as well as mutual beneficiaries. [It differs from] the materialistic [viewpoint] of “How much can I benefit from yoga.”
In any case, you will benefit indirectly. When your body, mind, and breath have an advantage, don’t you say, “I have an advantage?” Is there any condition when they benefit but you don’t benefit?
The indirect benefit is advocated in yoga more than the direct benefit to the body and from the body, to the breath and from the breath, and to the mind and from the mind. In yogic culture we encourage the indirect benefits that come to us when body, mind, and breath are mutually benefited.
3. In our worldly lives, we say, “This is my body. This is my mind. These are my senses. This is my breath.” That indicates that you are according some relationship between you and your body, you and your mind, you and your senses, you and your breath…. Find out these relationships in the position you have taken. If they are related to you, then they will be mutually related to each other….
4. Although we want body, mind, and breath to be related to us, we [mistakenly] do not want them to have a mutual relationship between themselves. Just as your sister is not just a sibling,, but also a daughter who must [cultivate] a good relationship with your mother for the family to evolve, here we must encourage the body, mind, and breath to relate to each other.
We can’t be the [sole] center of attention. Mind is not just a mind; it must have a relationship with the body, etc…. That is what we want to encourage in asana. That creates a healthy family system [of body, mind, and breath] within us.
Otherwise, we [must resort to] the atrocity of our mundane life — not allowing the body, mind, and breath to nurture each other, but only [nurturing] our selves. This is what asana teaches us.
Asana Teaches How Body, Mind, & Breath Interact +19.40
1. Asana teaches us to nurture and facilitate the relationships of body, mind, and breath within our “family.” Let us see how they can work for each other.
If body and mind were two sisters, how could they interact? Open up a field in asana for their interaction, in lieu of just [demanding] that your sister only be a sister to yourself. [Else] we commit an atrocity within our inner “family,” our inner “society.” That is how we can develop a healthy family relationship [of body, mind, and breath] within ourselves.
2. Our body cells, body matter, mind matter, senses, psyche, and consciousness all have mutual relationships in asana. View the benefits to each of them. Learn how they interact with each other.
Here, education [focuses on] how body, mind, breath and senses interact with each other. This education allows us to understand more about their potentials, traits, dispositions, and gravities when they work for each other.
3. During our worldly activities, we engage [body, mind, breath] to work for us. When we go to work, we want our intelligence to work for us, so we employ it. We [also] employ our body, mind, and psyche to work for us. But we don’t allow them to work within themselves.
[However,] we allow this in yoga. Therefore, we are able to learn their interactions. That’s what education is about — what body does for body, mind, breath; what mind does for body, mind, breath; and what breath does for body, mind, breath.
These are the grosser aspects of us. We are nothing but body + mind + senses + breath. We are only the sum of all these. Let’s see how they work for each other, how they interact.
4. Don’t just do asana for your chest, back, or abdomen. Learn about the interactions between breath and abdomen, abdomen and breath; breath and chest; breath and back; limbs and trunk, and the trunk and limbs. Let them mutually interact.
Here, education is the knowledge of these interactions….. This education is the first step in education about yoga. You can go for this educational process in any asana. Try it. Experiment with it. Learn about their interactions.
5. When two wise persons are interacting, we [must remain] only as a witness, an auditor [refraining] from interfering in their dialogue. The breath is the wisest entity in our embodiment. Let us observe how the wise breath interacts with the less-intelligent body and mind. [Understanding] how they interact is the educational aspect of yoga. That education occurs within, in asana, pranayama, or any yogic process.
Yoga is an educational process — [learning] about one’s own body, mind, and breath, senses, psyche, and consciousness.
 classical approach which only sought to know, “What is yoga?”: Classical generally refers to Patanjala Yoga, especially in this situation because Prashant has cited “What is yoga?” — referencing the beginning of the Yoga Sutra. Sometimes, however, others have used it deceptively to justify a commercial lineage through false provenance.
 It is an adhyatmika subject (pertaining to the atman) — through the practice of yoga we are able to know the Self: At the conclusion of the prior lesson, Prashant implied that, according to Patanjali Yoga Sutra PYS II.48 perfection in asana results in immunity to all duality. There he emphasized that even physical immunity could not be accomplished as quickly or easily as consuming a pill. Here he explains the purpose of practice in relation to that outcome. Upon the involution of chitta, when it has been reabsorbed back into an unmanifested state, purusha — which is the true spiritual Self or the Knower — is liberated. The dissolution of the mundane embodied self, or ego, reveals that purusha alone remains as the source of our eternal wisdom. Here adhyatmika is the adjectival form of the noun atman that refers to that Spiritual Self.
 yoga has been described as a darshana: The extended meaning of darshana is viewpoint, signifying a school of thought. The Yoga/Samkhya school is one of the six schools in orthodox Hindu philosophy. See See Samkhya-Cosmogeny-in-Asana <https://yogastlouis.us/samkhya-cosmogeny-in-asana/>.
 kshetra-jna (the knower of the field): kshetra-jna can be interpreted both in a mundane and a spiritual context. In the mundane sense, yoga is the study of the evolutes of prakrti, or what we commonly call mind and body. In turn, this demonstrates that there must be a spiritual Self beyond the mundane self, which is termed the Knower.
` shariram (body) becomes a kshetra (field), of which we are the kshetra-jna (knowers of the field): Shariram includes body, mind, and intellect. Characterizing them as a field, comparable to where a farmer grows his crops, serves three interrelated purposes: 1) objectification of body, mind, and intellect; 2) designation of body, mind, and intellect as the seen, or known; 3) recognition that body, mind, and intellect may be acted upon. Thus, when mind is no longer viewed as the subject, it implies that there must be another subject — purusha — that can be a Seer or Knower. That generates a distinction between the mundane, “small-s” embodied self that we know as ego, and the spiritual “capital-S” Self of purusha.
 question whether you want to do yoga, or whether you eventually want yoga to happen to you: When you becomes receiver of the action, it may be interpreted as either 1) mind as an object; or 2) liberation of purusha through yoga.
 Rather than in the worldly way — in which how much the mind can do for you…: As Prashant will conclude, this type of learning avoids the trap of becoming self-serving. It implies that we are not limited to vindicating, justifying, or reinforcing what we already know. It is also learning to learn in lieu of just seeking an answer.
 If body and mind were two sisters…. Open up a field in asana for their interaction: Although Prashant has added an additional “sister” metaphor, he has employed it to illustrate the kshetra (the field of activities) metaphor of Bhagavad Gita 13.2 discussed at the outset of this lecture.
 This education allows us to understand more about their potentials, traits, dispositions, and gravities when they work for each other: Technical proficiency in asana is informed by this understanding: It reveals both how to practice, and how practice affects body, mind, and breath. Skill is the ability to adjust the asana to bring it into a more harmonious relationship with the undisturbed body, mind, and breath. Then the external pose can mirror — as a darshana — the internal purity of body, mind, and breath.
 These are the grosser aspects of us. We are nothing but body + mind + senses + breath: These are the evolutes of prakrti described in PYS II.18: Nature (the seen; ie. prakrti and its three qualities of brilliance (prakasha), action (kriya), and stability (sthiti), (and its evolutes), the elements (bhutas), the mind, senses of perception and organs of action (indriyas), exist eternally to serve the Seer, for bhoga (enjoyment) or apavarga (emancipation).