Friday, January 13, 2012

Some neither here-nor-there musings on a downcast, snowy Friday afternoon

It's almost 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon. I'm sitting here in front of my computer, musing over a few things that have occurred to me over the course of the week, both from the blogosphere and from "real" life. Hmm... maybe I should start a weekly series of such "Friday Afternoon Neither-here-nor-there Musings." In any case, here are my musings on this donwcast, snowy Friday the 13th:

I. There are siddhis that you probably don't want to have

This occurred to me yesterday during my Buddhist Philosophy class. I was relating the story of Gautama Buddha's enlightenment. According to legend, at the moment that he attained enlightenment, Gautama was able to see all his past lives. A student raised her hand, and asked me if there were any special meditation or yoga techniques that one can practice to attain such knowledge of one's past lives. Now, if I had been a little quicker on the uptake, I would have recognized this moment as an opportunity either to:

(1) Promote Ashtanga Yoga ("Yes, there is a special series of yoga exercises called the Primary Series." If you practice this series continuously for a thousand days without any interruption (except Saturdays and moon days), you will gain the siddhi of seeing your past lives at the end of the thousand days. Wanna try? I can teach you...")


(2) Become the leader of a new cult, The Being-Able-to-See-Your-Past-Lives-By-the-Grace-of-Guru-Nobel-Fellowship: Maybe I would ask her to close her eyes, then walk over to her, place my hand on the crown of her head, and ask her if she feels a warm sensation there. She would presumably answer yes (how can it be otherwise, when a hand is on your head?), and I would say that if she allows me to perform this Past-Life-Knowledge-Transmission-Technique on her head continuously for one thousand days straight, she will gain the siddhi of seeing her past lives at the end of the thousand days.

But of course, not being so quick on the uptake, I missed this great opportunity to perform (1) or (2), and simply told her that although I don't know what the Buddhist answer to this question is (I really don't), I do know that from the perspective of yogic philosophy, being able to see your past lives would probably be a siddhi that is granted to the yogi by Shiva/Krishna, and is something that is beyond the yogi's control. At least, I think this is what the answer is.

At the same time, I was also thinking to myself: This is one siddhi that you seriously may not want to have. I mean, are you really prepared to receive the full knowledge of what you were in all your past lives? What if you were to discover that you were a serial killer in one of your past lives? What if you were a cold-blooded killer who raped and mutilated hundreds or even thousands of people before killing them? Wouldn't this knowledge be a heavy burden to have to carry around for the rest of your present life?

I don't know where I'm going with this. As I said, this is a very neither-here-nor-there post.

II. Is there a better way to blog? 

If you have been paying even a little attention to the yoga blogosphere in the last week or so, you will know of that infamous NYT article about how yoga can do some not-so-nice things to your body (and quite possibly, your mind too). Many bloggers have responded (and are still responding) to article, including senior teachers and yours truly (in putting myself and "senior teachers" in the same sentence, I'm not saying I'm a senior teacher. I'm just saying that I responded to the article. Please, I'm not that grandiose..).

Many of these responses are very well-written, and I think they all do a good job of presenting a more balanced picture of what yoga really is, in a way that the article in the reputable NYT has unfortunately failed to do. Nevertheless, over the last few months, I have started to notice a recurring pattern in the yoga blogosphere. The pattern goes something like this:

1. Somebody publishes an inflammatory article or blog post. The content of such blog posts or articles vary widely, but they are generally articles or blog posts attacking a certain yoga style or even a particular yoga teacher. Examples include that Elephant Journal post by that Sklivas person alleging that Ashtanga is only for the super-fit, or that article about how Ashtanga practice messes up one's pedicure. More recently, there was that NYT article about how Ashtanga is not the best thing to do if you want a tight ass. And then there was also Kinogate 1 and Kinogate 2. 

2. A few brave bloggers rise up to the challenge of debunking whatever erroneous claims that were made in the article or blog post in question.

3. The article/blog post and the first few responses to it set off a series of after-shocks that reverberate through the yoga blogosphere. Before you know it, every blogger that is worth his or her salt (including, again, yours truly: I leave it up to you to judge whether I am worth my salt...) has jumped into the fray, and has his or her own more-or-less unique take on the issue. Although truth be told, some takes are probably more unique than others. But I'm not supposed to say this. So pretend you never read this last line [wink].

4. The after-shocks, in turn, set off a further series of after-after-shocks. And if the after-after-shocks are strong enough, we may even have after-after-after-shocks. And so on, until there are no more shocks.

And then everything is relatively peaceful in the blogosphere, until the next inflammatory post or article comes along. Then repeat steps 1 to 4.  

I'm not sure if this is necessarily a bad thing. After all, people have been writing inflammatory stuff and stirring up s&%t ever since humans learnt to read and write. And so long as humans have chitta vrtti, at least some of this chitta vrtti will spill out of the minds of humans and onto the printed page (or the internet). So perhaps all of this is in the natural course of things. But still, I can't help but wonder: Could be there a different (and maybe, better?) way of life in the blogosphere?

I also don't know where I am going with this. As I said, this is a very neither-here-nor-there post. But I thnk you for bearing with me and reading all this, as always.   


  1. Well, you've posted something on this before: "blogging as an extension of one's own practice"… maybe there is an alternative to reacting emotionally to the shocks and aftershocks...

    1. Yes, wanderingmb. Thanks for reminding me of that blog post. There is definitely an alternative to reacting emotionally. Not to quibble over semantics or anything, but I wonder if there is a way to react in a way that does not involve the emotions? Something for me to think about...