What is it about taking a class with Guruji or Geetaji that makes us feel so good? Why did
Guruji say that his body is a bow, his asanas are the arrow, and the soul is the target? Why did Guruji say that his body is a temple? So began Birjoo Mehta’s presentation on the nature of consciousness.
When we begin class with the invocation, he explained, we are asking for divinity to enter the body. And what does this mean exactly? How can we possibly know when divinity enters the body? The Yoga Sutras tell us that we can know something that is true through direct experience, through inference, and through a person whose word can be relied on (Light on Yoga Sutras, I.7). Our direct experience of the mind has many facets and characteristics. Geetaji spoke of this earlier in the week. Perhaps a sense of divinity, or connecting to something vast comes when we are quiet, tranquil. Indeed, after the Om in the invocation, there is a moment of deep quiet. This, Birjoo suggested, comes when we can spread awareness, or when awareness spreads throughout the body. The body is the instrument, the bow.
Inference is a learned faculty. Geetaji had said that a baby is naïve. She used the analogy of how a baby learns, and compared this to how we generally approach our practice through the past, rather than through being present in the moment. When young children learn how to add four and three, the parent will put four bananas in one pile and three in the other. This direct vision teaches the child. We have already abstracted our experience into a symbol and know that four added to three make seven. We are not experiencing directly.
Birjoo is quite logical in his explanations, and he enjoys weaving the web of understanding. In his “other” life, he is a VP in the Tata Corporation, a major force in India. He kept asking us, are you getting this? “I can’t hear you!” He would say. “Yes” we echoed. Of course many in the crowd probably had trouble hearing as they are not accustomed to the Indian tonality and accent. In any case, his talk mirrored his premise; we are not what we think we are, we are what we are not. This is not easy stuff! He then introduced cutting edge research.
Scientists think that they can measure consciousness with EEG scans that monitor neural activity in the brain. They state that this indicates when a person is conscious. Birjoo, however, said that these doctors were monitoring the Vrttis – movements in the mind- and not consciousness.
In the Scientist, a peer reviewed journal, I found the following: “scientists have found evidence to support the “integrated-information theory,” which holds that consciousness relies on communication between different brain areas, and fades as that communication breaks down. EEG studies have also revealed distinctive brain wave patterns that signal when consciousness is lost and regained.” “I think understanding consciousness itself is going to help us find successful [measurement] approaches that are universally applicable,” said a doctor Pearce. (Measuring Consciousness, April, 2013).
The way Birjoo dismantled this familiar rant between doctors and many of us with a spiritual orientation of what is consciousness – is it biological or is it something else – was beautiful. Of course this discussion may never be resolved! But it does lead to discerning discussions.
“Ego is a set of circumstances, things make us feel that we are a particular way. The essence of a person is never what we see or what we identify ourselves by. We identify ourselves by everything else, things around us.” We are not what we think we are, we are what we are not.
“Doing meditation on what you see and what you think you are will break through bondage. If you can navigate the senses of perception, (not master this, as they belong to the element of nature), you then come back to your original state, original nature” Tata Drastuh Svarupe Avasthanam, I.3. Then, the seer dwells in his own true nature. (LOYS)
I love this kind of reflection. It reminds me of the Advaita Vedanta (non-dual) “neti neti”, not this, not that. And, from the Kena Upanishad, May I come to know that from which all else is known.
Guruji taught us how to connect to this that is greater than the ego self, Birjoo said. I remember seeing Guruji being set up for Savasana, a few years ago. He would be weighted down with 50 pound flat weights and stay in Savasana for a half hour. He was connecting with … When he surfaced, no one spoke to him, and he was in another field.
Birjoo concluded by reminding us that Guruji said that when we inhale, it is our individual consciousness that is entering. Geetaji had used a similar image earlier that day in pranayama, to experience the small self as the core reached the extremities in inhalation. Then, in exhalation, Guruji continued, the individual consciousness leaves, and, in this empty state, universal consciousness enters. And this gives us a sense of quietness, a sense of divinity.
The One Power that illumines everything and every one is indivisible. It is the Ear behind the ears, Mind behind the mind, Speech behind speech, Vital Life behind life. The ears cannot hear it; it is what makes the ears hear. The eyes cannot see it; it is what makes the eyes see. You cannot speak about it; it is what makes you speak. The mind cannot imagine it; it is what makes the mind think. It is different from the known; yet it is not unknown. Those who feel they know Him know Him not. Those who know that anything amenable to the senses is not Brahman, they know it best. When it is known as the innermost witness of all cognitions, whether sensation, perception or thought, then it is known. One who knows thus reaches immortality. Kena Upanishad.