Taittiriya Upanishad, Why Study the Wisdom Writings?

Pancha-Kośa: The Five Sheaths in Theory & Practice

Sat. Mar. 9 & 16
11:30 AM – 2:45 PM
All levels – Register online

Why do you practice Yoga?

Really! Ask yourself. I know, it is like asking yourself, why do

I eat? Because I have to, or because I feel better about myself when I practice. All the pains seem to subside. Is that why?

When I first started, almost forty years ago, I was interested in “Samadhi”, in this implied transcendent state, in feeling peaceful inside, and in “finding” my authentic self. That was the pitch at that time, when I was in my 20s and 30s. Through practice, I realized how wild my mind was and how filled I was with desire to get “better” at whatever I was doing. I wanted to perfect each pose; then, once I realized that there was no such thing as a “perfect” pose, I sought to refine my ability to enter into each pose, to become more sensitive to the feedback from the muscles, connective tissue, breath, and, through this process, I learned how to become deeply absorbed into each moment. Is this what the “Samadhi” moment is?

I live my life in growing orbits,
Which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
But that will be my attempt.  -Rainer Maria Rilke, 1899

This last weekend I went to the desert. I forget how much energy it takes to filter out the noise of excess stimulation from the city. The to-do list, the traffic, the choices, classes, people. I knew that I had this workshop to prepare for, on the Upanishads. The Taittiriyopanishad in particular. I love the Upanishads for they address the heart of the practice: May I come to know that from which all else is known. –Mundaka Upanishad.  The desert seems stripped of “stuff” and lies bare; not barren, but like a blank canvas. I sat on the cool earth, felt the wind, the sun, heard the distance, and waited.

The elements rose up within me; my body became the sensory tool to monitor experience

The earth below me, seemingly firm,
the earth within me, my bones seemingly firm,
the earth all around me, seemingly established in its cyclical
nature of coming and going.

The sky above me, seemingly vast,
the sky within me, when the mind’s itch and the heart’s desire is silent,
seemingly vast,
the sky all around me, seemingly timeless in its immensity.

Cast between the rhythm of becoming and the presence of being.

I love the Upanishads and the Vedas because they speak in metaphor and point the way toward something that cannot and perhaps should not be analyzed, the very personal process of becoming more aware. Yet here, in the Taittiriyopanishad, the student and teacher share a process. I read more, and sat with the desert.

Why do I practice yoga? In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar (Guruji) says: “The sadhaka’s aim is to bring the consciousness to a state of purity and translucence.” He goes on refer to the elements and the Kośas. In order to help man understand himself, the sages analyzed humans as being composed of five sheaths, or kośas. In Light on Life, Guruji further refines and applies these five sheaths with a path inward.

Anatomical Earth Stability
Physiological Water Vitality
Mental Fire Clarity
Intellectual Air Discernment
Blissful Either Bliss

“The first three sheaths are within the elements of nature. The intellectual sheath is said to be the layer of the individual soul and the blissful sheath is said to be the layer of the universal soul”. -LOY

Clearly, I am in good company as Guruji studied and applied these same teachings. “In effect, all five sheaths have to be penetrated to reach emancipation”. While Guruji’s process was one of moving from the elemental toward the spiritual, or, as he might say, from the gross to the subtle, perhaps attuning first to what is most immediate, the earth. As Rilke said, “I live my life in growing orbits”. Then, what lies beneath begins to reveal itself as a new foundation, and what lies beneath that, again, until the most fundamental foundation emerges.

May I come to know that from which all else is known. -Manduka Upanishad

The Taittiriyopanishad is the source material for the Kośas. It is the first time that the word Yoga is used in the wisdom literature. These teachings are ripe with inquiry and with meditative material. Join us for this workshop to study and apply these teachings.

SahaNaVavatu chant is the peace chant that introduces the Bhrahmananda Valli. In translation: Om! May It protect us both (teacher and pupil). May It cause us both to enjoy the bliss of Mukti (liberation). May we both exert to find out the true meaning of the scriptures. May our studies be fruitful. May we never quarrel with each other. Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

I live my life in growing orbits,
Which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
But that will be my attempt.
I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
And I have been circling for a thousand years.
And I still don’t know if I am a falcon,
Or a storm, or a great song. –Rilke

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