Art and Science

The wisdom traditions presented here each represent a distinct philosophical school and science - one could argue that being present and abiding in the Self a combination of art and science:

Advaita Vedanta - The science of consciousness

Yoga - The science of the mind

Ayurveda - The science of the body

The Fourth Way - The art and science of being present (consciousness)

YOGA: The key text that defines the philosophy is the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali. In 195 very brief sutras (or phrases) Patanjali sets out the eight-limb path of Yoga. This is a complete system aimed at taking a person from conditioned experience to spiritual freedom. Thanks to the commentary by the ancient Rishi Vyasa, in which he explained every sutra, we are able to penetrate the deep wisdom contained in these verses. More recent sub-commentaries by authorities like Vachaspati Mishra (ninth century CE) have also helped.

In the last 30 years there has been a proliferation of different styles of yoga - characterised by an emphasis on postures (asanas). The Yoga master Krishnamacharya is regarded as the founder of modern yoga; this was to fulfil a task - given by his teacher in Nepal, Ramamohana Brahmachari - to bring Yoga to city dwellers, something that demanded great personal sacrifice. Krishnamacharya was also directed to find a wife and start a family i.e. to follow a householder lifestyle.

The following statement, written by Krishnamacharya's son, provides a useful context on this trend: "My father [Shri T. Krishnamacharya] would turn in his grave if he knew that he was being represented by various brands or styles of yoga. My father was a Yoga teacher and not a teacher of a style of Yoga" T.K.V. Desikachar. When Yoga is discussed here it is respecting this understanding and incorporating all of its limbs.

Here is a commentary on some key concepts in Yoga.

 From Chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutra

From Chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutra

Bhavana (cultivation)

Cultivating right thoughts & attitudes - bhavana - is key to yoga practice. It is one of the most frequently occurring terms in the Yoga Sutra and a good example is sutra 1.33. Thought creates our 'reality'. e.g Thought creates reality.

Yoga is often portrayed as a series of posture performed on a mat. Whilst this aspect has its place, it could be seen as more of the beginning of a process rather than an end goal. Another way to think of ‘holistic’ Yoga is something that starts once we step off the mat as we apply it in everyday life. 

 

 
 Flowers are a good meditation object.

Flowers are a good meditation object.

Karma

Karma is central to yoga philosophy. Your life is produced by karma; it creates specific situations from which you can learn. It's not accidental, but it is unconscious. The work is to make it conscious.

All of our past actions have determined who we are. All of our current actions determine who we will become. The person we will be tomorrow is based on our thoughts and actions today - we have full ability to choose what we wish for.

Life is packed with meaning and purpose; karma creates that. Yoga helps extract the potential from all experience.