“It is not against the principle of Yogic life to know what is happening in the world—what is unyogic is to be attached to these things and not be able to do without them or to think of them as a matter of importance. The all-important thing must be the Sadhana, the growth into a new consciousness and a new inner life. The rest must be done with detachment and without getting absorbed in them. The feeling must be such that if the Mother were to tell you never to see a newspaper at all, it would be no deprivation to you and you would not even feel the difference.” – Sri Aurobindo
This quote from Aurobindo contains extremely important ideas for our daily lives.
It’s very common to see modern pop-culture yoga enthusiasts embrace identity politics and attempt to link what they term “yoga” with nebulous social justice movements. I have found most yoga teachers to be more familiar with Huffington Post and Twitter than the writings of Patanjali, Ramana Maharshi or Nisargadatta.
Why is this?
There are many reasons, some complex, some glaringly simple. Regardless of these reasons, what is most apparent from this cognitive dissonance is the parasite of attachment.
This is a foundational and fundamental teaching of Yoga: non-attachment, Karma Yoga; we take on the burden of our Prarabdha Karma and forge ahead on the path of our lives without becoming addicted to the empty sweetness of “results.” The expectation of results is a type of empty sweetness, much like sugary junk food.
Over time the obsession and consumption of the fruit of results can destroy the mind and body just as too much sugar eventually destroys our pancreas. This metaphor of sugar is also useful when we consider the fact that cancer cells feed off glucose. The more we crave, feed and fuel our lives based solely on the sugary fruits of results, we feed a type of existential cancer.
As stated by Aurobindo: “The all-important thing must be the Sadhana.” This is the pearl hidden within this respective quote.
Our Sadhana must be the Solar force which feeds and fuels all life pursuits; and our lives must orbit around this Spiritual Sun! When this cosmic-corporeal alignment occurs, we can live life with passion and enthusiasm peppered with detachment and discrimination. We strive for self-transformation, yet we are not addicted or chained to a particular outcome or “result.”
How radical is this perceptional stance in the contemporary world? Imagine not being chained to a particular identity or belief system. What type of freedom would this manifest for you? We see people addicted to the media feed, obsessively consuming any and all news reports / media junk foods.
A particular political candidate does something corrupt and the viewer’s day is ruined. When has politics not been corrupt? A particular professional athlete does something and the fan’s day is ruined. At what point do we think the opinion or actions of a professional athlete mean anything of importance?
The majority of people’s lives will come and go like the wind, with thousands of athletes, politicians and celebrities drifting in and out of the contemporary zeitgeist like maggots and flies swarming a rotten corpse. We must establish a sadhana, which our entire life revolves around and steers us in the long and often challenging path to our life’s goals.
We can show compassion to people who need it and defend ourselves when needed, there is nothing mysterious about such ideas. But to become possessed by manipulated media images and allow one’s life to be guided by corporations and television is to lead a cancerous life. As stated by Aurobindo, we should be able to abandon any mundane tool / activity at any time with no hesitation and no fear. Such mundane commodities will come and go in the streams of time just as our mind and body will eventually fade.
I find this idea of avoiding the temptation of results particularly powerful when applied to physical training. Whether in martial arts, running, or weight-lifting, we all set goals and strive to achieve these respective goals. In many ways these goals can become a type of sadhana which we build our lives around.
These goals can be extremely fulfilling. But what occurs when we are injured? Or if we do not achieve our goals? What happens as our bodies and minds age? The deeper spiritual sadhana is our compass in the desert of our lives which can guide us and is always silently present.
The sadhana is in many ways the shadow of the Soul, created by the Solar rays of the Atman. We must seek to establish such a praxis in our lives, a praxis which is rooted in eternal cosmic truths not contemporary social identity politics.
We must stay aware of the world and the never- ending inspirations and inevitable tragedies of the passing of time. But we must not become addicted to our expectations. And we must even question if our expectations are truly ours or a subconscious parasite. Our life events are not special or unique; we are all quite predictable. Don’t be so predictable.
We must ponder the attachments we hold and seek to sever these addictions daily. We must savor the unique flavor of our lives but not become addicted to what we think is the correct way or the correct path. If we remain rooted in our sadhana, we can confidently and fearlessly walk the path to self-actualization and perhaps even Self-Realization! And we must remember that even the sadhana will eventually fade………
“All the scriptures are meant only to make a man retrace his steps to his original source. He need not acquire anything new. He only has to give up false ideas and useless accretions. Instead of doing this, however, he tries to grasp something strange and mysterious because he believes his happiness lies elsewhere. That is the mistake.”
– Ramana Maharishi