Yoga e ritualistica (una esperienza personale)

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					Yoga and ritualism, an experience of research
Namastè, a heartfelt greeting to everybody here present. Let me begin this speech of mine by remembering the person who, many years ago, introduced me to the ritual in yoga: Yogamaharishi Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj. He was an expert teacher of the ancient southern tantric tradition of India and profound connoisseur and divulger of the system Siddha Siddhanta yoga Thanks to that meeting I had, many years ago, the first approach to the ritual as a complementary sadhana in the yoga. To Him my deep gratitude still goes today for having stimulated in me the desire for research and learning on this path, which afterwards I have been able to examine in depth and to practise. Is not my intention here to talk technically about the ritual and its development, but I would like to share pleasantly with you an experience from within yoga. The ritual is born from the wish and from the need of the man to contact his deepest part, his innermost part and to understand consciously the phenomenal world which surrounds him, with its laws and its principles that regulate, support and feed life itself. This has been the motivation that has pushed me to undertake this path. Probably, someone who has been to India and has had the opportunity to attend a puja (the practice of the ritual) inside a temple, may have thought, according to a relative point of view, that he was seeing, at that moment, at something completely alien to our culture. This impression is probably caused by the multiplicity of the representation of the various male and female divinities and by the various cults and temples dedicated to them. Despite these apparent differences, for the yogi who practises the ritual, this variety represents only some aspects, some qualities or strengths of the same apparent causal source like the sap that flows and gives life to the various types of trees. Each of these can have some intrinsic characteristic that differentiates it from the other. We can enjoy the shadow of an oak or taste a mature fruit of an apple- tree or cherry-tree but, inside them, even if the external shape is different, there flows the same sap. Similarly, in this room at the moment, if we look at ourselves we notice at first sight that externally we have a different shape from one another, and that is true; it is equally true that at the same time there is a process, or something that we can call or define with several terms or names, which makes our hearts beat, and always at this moment we are breathing the same air or prana-shakti.

The ritual led me to understand better the depth of the yoga and its techniques and for me now, to remove the ritualistic would be like removing what gives taste to food. The practice of the ritual in yoga has the effect of reminding me that I am part of the divinity herself, and that I am never separate from her, so the divine aspect becomes something familiar. In the performance of the rite, the divinity is invoked and invited. She is treated as a friend. She is invited to sit-down. Some water is given to her before the meal and then, as one would behave with a special friend, the choicest things are offered to her, like milk, honey, flowers, fragrant sandalwood and many other things. So each offering and gesture in the rite has a symbolic meaning. An example from the cult of Ganesha God (the elephantheaded God) is the coconut offering that, before being offered, is divided in a half,. The unbroken coconut in fact represents the ego. The act of breaking it in half represents the overcoming of the limit of the ego, of the sense of separation, without which it wouldn‟t be possible to draw to the deepest states of consciousness that the splendid and luminous inner path of yoga can offer. These external gestures in which the best things are symbolically offered to the divinity, have the positive effect on our mind of reminding us that in the relationship with ourselves and therefore with our interior essence, we have to learn to be able to offer to ourselves all the best things that can help us and can stimulate our inner growth so as to prevail over our limits and conditionings which are obstacles to this process. The ritual that the yogi performs externally is only a phase of a deep and interior process that is repeated inside himself (antara or manas puja). For the yogi, the manifestation of life itself represents an eternal cyclical rite that is supported and nourished by the Dharma, and his body represents, in the microcosm, the temple or the city where the atman or essence, resides and has being in its natural place. Through the process of the ritual in yoga, we find again the practical application of the asthanga yoga system written by the rishi Patanjali, with the presence of the asana, pranayama, dharana, prathyara and dhyana. In tantra yoga, the sadhana is more enriched or increased through the use of the yantra, the mantra and the mudra, both as techniques of external and interior practice. All this process is harmoniously united in the yogi‟s vision of reality. The spiritual symbol of the act of giving or the sacrifice, called Yajna in the Vedic texts, can perhaps accustom us and help us more easily to understand and apply some principles or rules that are always referred in asthanga yoga like the yama and the niyama, that should be the fundamental bases for success in the work on ourselves through yoga.

So the application of the principles like Vairagya (detachment, non-attachment) and the Viveka (discriminating comprehension) would maybe become less arduous to understand and to apply if we intend to realise our spiritual nature through the practise of yoga. Yoga means „to join, to put together‟; in the rite this is experienced and applied. The yogi, through the practice of the ritual, takes consciousness of the fact that both he and the divinity are the same thing, and so he learns to divinise his senses and so to change in positive his mental impressions. To get this inner consciousness is not so difficult. Many people are often discouraged on the path of learning in the way of yoga, as they notice that they are not able to obtain stable and concrete results in meditation or on the contact with something concerning the interiority. In these cases what I can recommend is to search for our essence, for our interiority that is often the very object of the meditation, with the same wish and enthusiasm that at times we apply to realising something outside ourselves. We should fall in love with our essence as when we happen to fall in love with a man or a woman or a beautiful sunset, and this thought pleasantly comes back to our mind several times during the course of the day. Then the meditation state wouldn‟t be so difficult to reach but would arrive spontaneously, naturally. Once, a student went to Swami Ji and said to him: “I want to find God.” Swami answered: “It is easy, I can help you to find God in less than 15 seconds.” The student was full of joy. “Wonderful” he exclaimed. “Please help me.” Swami Ji smiling said: “There is only one problem, for first thing we must find you.” In my school of tantra yoga, I have never separated yoga and ritualism because it is my way to live life, to live myself and therefore to teach yoga. And to tell the truth, I have not found difficulty or problems of any kind, to transmit and to teach this to people, also because they directly verify on themselves the effects favourable to understanding better some yoga techniques. For instance the ones concerning the chakra where, in each of these centres, are present various symbols and murti (divinity), most of which we find again in ritualism. The presence of these symbols in the chakra is not random, but being inside them, they are a practical starting point for the meditation. So, as the symbol is different inside each of them, the work that is applied to each chakra is different. Sometimes affectionately I warn my students, reminding them that yoga is an interior way to live oneself and to live life, day by day, and it should be applied in the same way , day by day. This is the most intriguing, beautiful and positive challenge we can give ourselves. The more yoga I can bring in my life, the more I will live a conscious life. It is through the

development of the interior spiritual-self-esteem (aiswarya) that you bring people to a positive relationship with themselves and life, you lead them affirm in yoga and in life „I want, I can do it‟, in a society where the conditional language has become by now almost a normality, the famous sentence “I would like but I cannot”. To reach this creed, certainly it is not enough to attend a yoga course for one hour a week or to practise for 15 or 20 minutes, shut in a room. There must be a continuous and permanent engagement also beyond the room of the yoga centre, because, as my Guru used to say: “the ego is deceitful and dishonest by nature”. I always repeat to my students that they can come to know the most amazing techniques of the ancient science of yoga but not for this they can be a yogi, if the interior conflicts, caused by the state of conditioning of the mind, that are what people live in their daily life, have not been overcome. In my experience, the ritual applied to yoga can be that healthy and powerful fuel similar to the flame of the Karpura that is lighted and offered to the divinity symbolising the light of knowledge, that can light up our mind allowing it to follow successfully the path of yoga towards consciousness, in harmony with the dharma and in harmony with ourselves. That will be able to stimulate us to put positive motivations and love in things we do and in all we believe in within yoga, whether it be a pleasant asana series or a conscious

pleasantness of being. The ritual of yoga can be, as it has been for me, a luminous bridge that, if well covered, can allow us to meet with ourselves in a c onscious way, with our real “I”, that you are… Namastè

(Lecture held by Yogacharya Shiva at the world yoga congress 8-17 april 2005 forum in Milan Italy)

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