Book club

Book club forming to study the Vedas, Upanishads, Pali Canon and Purans sonas to better understand Yoga. Socially distanced, with remote options. Free. Fun for all ages! Call 970.615.0717 or email lokahathayoga@gmail.com 

COVID-19 Update

 We are continuing to offer classes during COVID-19.  To ensure safety, these classes are being scheduled on an appointment basis, both by video conferencing, and also in person, both at our location on Glendam, and in other convenient locations across the Valley.  

Classes are offered free of cost.  If students wish to donate, we ask you support our Jail Yoga program, or to support our other efforts in the community.

Please call (970) 615-0717 to schedule a class.

Food offerings

We distributed food today, again, as we do most days.  A man and woman, dear friends, in the hot sun begging, and hungry, we gave them bread, fruit, drink, and donuts, and the comfort of respect, and company for a while.  A man, pushing his shopping cart in the hot desert sun, clearly thirsty and tired, we gave him iced tea unlooked for, and were honored when he accepted this simple gift.  It is true what the Vedas say: what food and drink we gave was enough to suppress their hunger and thirst a little while, but Love - expressed by friendship - provides lasting satisfaction in this life.

The Buddha said, love is not only the means to this satisfaction, but the whole purpose of it.  Om Kamadev, vidhmahe!

When we eat, it is an excellent practice to consider all that was sacrificed so we might eat, that we might become worthy of accepting that sacrifice as food.  Offering food at the altar is also an excellent practice, as is offering food to the hungry ghosts and our ancestors, and the gods of our ancestors.  As is the gift of food to those who have given their lives over to practice, whether willingly or not.  But an offering of love, an offering to Love, is better still.

It is sometimes difficult to know what love is, to recognize Love when you find it. But it is not impossible: if you would know Love, be generous, kind, loyal, courteous, honest and persistent.

But should you ever find you have mistaken Love, and worshiped a false idol unworthy of your devotions, who demanded sacrifices they were unworthy of, trust me, as long as it is love itself we adore, the acts of love which we perform wrongly are easily forgiven.  For our love for Love was true.  Love will forgive you because your faith in Love was pure, even if your manner of worship was corrupt.

Therefore, you should love Love, unafraid of erring, fearlessly, courageously.  Of all the gods your ancestors worshiped, only Love will not hurt you.  Of all the gods, Love is the only one you may trust.  For Love is not blind like Justice, nor bound by the chains of duty, like Liberty.  Love is invincible, world-conquering, generous, kind, loyal, courteous, honest and persistent.  And greatly rewards those who put their faith in Him, and serve Him, loyally defending them against all harm.

When you do not notice the hungry and thirsty around you, consider why you have grown callous, ignorant, and unaware.  When a beggar asks you for food, consider why you do not have anything to offer them. 

Consider the rare opportunity to express love through food.  Give food not to suppress their hunger, but to enlarge your heart.  Give, sacrifice, love - because it is your human nature to do so.  Only then will you understand what it truly means to be human, the rare and precious gift it is to live a human life.  The rare and precious gift it is to meet another human being as a human being yourself.  Then you will know Love.

The love they felt, that you felt, will remain.  Love is true, and unchanging; it remains uncorrupted by hate.  For you see, none of us escape the consequences of our actions, good or ill: and there is much in love that is good, and love, once acted upon, bears good a lifetime. Or longer.

Litter clean up during COVID-19

Our road clean up program was impacted by COVID-19, not only because we were unable to raise as many volunteers. 

A 2 mile stretch of road that was usually heavily polluted became so clean that we found only 5 pieces of trash.  A low place, surrounded by trees, which usually fills with garbage knee high or more, had only ankle-deep trash.  Parking lots and empty fields were cleared and remained clean.  The skies and waters were also clear.

The reason is that many people were remaining at home.  If everyone when they were out and about in the world lived like they were at home in it, there would be almost no pollution. 

It is a mark against us and terrible shame that our absence improves our world.

We clean up our world to restore the damage from and otherwise reconcile the criminal act of littering.  But the greatest work lies within: we must learn to not litter, and cultivate true love for our world, and all the people in it.

The last words of the Buddha - Mahaprinibbana Sutta

It is important to understand the destination if you would take the most direct path from start to finish.  We will first understand the object of training, and in the final lessons understand their applications.  Before performing Karma Yoga, it is necessary to have trained in Hatha Yoga, which requires understanding Bhakti Yoga, which in turn requires a contextual foundation in Jnana Yoga.
In reading the Vedas, it is important to understand that there are an almost infinite combination of meanings which can be derived from them: each syllable has meaning as a word, and with multiple translations and connotations. Combining these syllables into compound words results in new meaning: water+melon is different than watermelon.  Thus, any translation is problematic: it is therefore inappropriate to translate the Vedas, except for particular and specific communications, showing them in a particular light required for an occasion or the given audience.  Like cutting a diamond can alter its purpose and effect, the roughness of the Vedas hides an unspeakable beauty.
The last words of the Buddha, like any of the Vedas, are difficult to translate. The Buddha frequently employed double meanings and puns to his words, frequently to dramatic effect, sometimes even for humorous effect.  Though there is certainly no humorous intention to the words he uttered as he lay dying in agony, his layered words (however eloquent in his native language) do not easily render into English with the same double meaning.  
It is important to note the references to Shiva, both direct and indirect.  These are presented later.  But notice here that the formulaic prose sung, especially when combined with the form of repetition represented by those attending and assisting the dying, echoes a sacrificial practice described at the beginning of the Khandogya Upanishad, as connected to the Samaveda, regarding the pronunciation of the udgitha (om, or pranava), which is invoked to fulfill the purpose of the sacrifice.  The Rik is represented by speech, Saman by breath, the udgitha is the Om.  Speech and breath, or Rik and Saman, form one couple.  This is echoed by how the Adhvaryu Priest (or their assistant) will give the order, the Hotri Priest will then recite or confirm (as in the sense of a quality control) the accomplishment of the one performing the order (the sacrificer), and the song of the Udgartri Priest, who combines and supports the efforts of the three Priests and the sacrificer for the satisfaction or fulfillment of the desire, the purpose of the sacrifice.
Similarly, the stanzas echo too the epics of Vishnu presented in the Puranas, representing the fulfillment of the purpose of this Avatara of the Buddha, invoking the peace Vishnu sought between the Devas and Asuras, and all beings, in assisting Shiva's victory over Maya, Kali - not by domination, but by taming, cultivating, civilizing, friendship and love, merging reality and the illusion of our perception of it into truth.  This peace in turn has the double meaning of invoking Shiva's name.  As do the numerous other invocations (Shankara, etc.).  Shiva is invoked in Shiva's role of presiding over any sacrifice.  In this case, the sacrifice of sacrificing: this is the end of religion and faith, its purpose.
And, of course, the stanzas directly reference the questions and doubt of Subhadda, who was perplexed by the various religions, the choice to worship according to doctrines of devas, or asuras.
I have attempted to combine the multiple versions told of this moment into a single rendition, so that the different perspectives, merged, better show their interconnection.  Just as a fire is shared from all directions, and we must circumambulate to observe it completely, seeing things from another's perspective, another's practice and doctrine, we must take a comprehensive view of this last sacrifice of the Buddha, in the context of his life, and purpose.


Subhadda had studied every religion and became perplexed, and so he asked the Buddha Gotama: all the religious leaders say that their doctrine, their method, their practice is the right one, the best one.  "Here there is truth, in no other doctrine is there truth," they say.  Are all of them correct?  Are none of them correct?  Are any of them correct, even partially?  Do you say in Buddhism there is truth, no other doctrine is true?  Does the Buddha teach the answers which will resolve my doubt about this?
The Buddha lay dying, in agony.  There was nothing even Ananda could do to alleviate his discomfort, or even extend his life.  The Buddha knew he would die very soon, and that he did not have time to help Subhadda understand the fallacy of his question, so he simply told Subhadda to set his question aside, as the reasoning which produced it was founded upon a false premise, and so it could not be resolved.
The Buddha said, Subhadda, you know I do not teach that my doctrine is true.  I teach no doctrine is true, though it is true there are doctrines.  This is because when I was 29 years old, I went forth, seeking, as you do, and from every teacher and leader, I heard as you did.  I learned as you did.  And since my going forth, more than 50 years have passed, and I have spoken to more teachers and leaders than you likely will.  By all this, what did I learn?  What did I find that was useful to you?  I found it was the method of my seeking which made what I heard and learned useful, even when what I heard was not true.  It is the method by which I understood the limitations of belief which will be most useful to you.
Subhadda, I learned that when we do not know the truth of something, we form beliefs; we attach to them, we possess them: we say, this is MY belief.  Having made these beliefs, and made them our own, we will insist upon them, saying they are better than other beliefs - which are also founded upon the absence of truth.  We might even delude ourselves, mistaking our beliefs for truth, saying what I believe is true.  This is why those you spoke to say, "my belief is true, no other belief is true."  They have come to think their desire for truth is satisfied by belief, by faith.  And when reality contradicts our beliefs, or others disagree, they react with aggression to protect those beliefs.  Subhadda, people will even harm one another based upon their beliefs.
So too it is when we rely on the authority of one person or another, one doctrine or another.  When we seek a teacher as an authority, we develop doctrine, and dogma.  Then there is debate and argument, then there is disagreement and doubt.  In our delusion, in our desire for truth, in this state of aggression, we harm not only one another, but ourselves.  For should we should lose our debate, or find our beliefs refuted by reality, we will sit dejected, consumed by doubt, and think not only that our beliefs are wrong, but that there is nothing true.  We then will think there is no truth at all.  Then we are defeated.
In that defeat, we might come to delude ourselves that we have triumphed when we clearly have lost - either by adopting some other belief, or by developing beliefs against reality.  In this defeat we reinforce our wrong thinking that some beliefs are superior, others are inferior - that ours are superior - when all beliefs are all simply beliefs, and none are founded upon truth, only upon the absence of it.  Faith cannot resolve our doubt of the truth.  Religion will not resolve your doubts, Subhadda.  Only logic and reason can reveal reality.
There is truth, Subhadda.  But it is not found by faith.  It is by reason and logic we understand there is no truth in any belief or doctrine. This is why I teach the method by which to find truth, the method by which to resolve doubt, but I do not teach truth.  This is why I say, whatever doctrine or discipline is devoid of this method of logic and reason will rely upon faith, result in belief, and therefore produce doubt, not reveal reality.
Now you will see why these other teachers do not practice to abandon their beliefs as I do.  Quite the opposite, in the presence of doubt, they teach the importance of faith, and train to reinforce faith, and belief.  Thus, they will always be desiring truth, they will always fear truth, they will always delude themselves as to what is true.  They will always be in doubt, and inspire doubt, instead of confidence.  Defeated, they teach contentment with faith, with doubt, they teach against challenging that doubt by giving up beliefs.  I would not have you lack confidence, Subhadda.
The Buddha said, look at me, Subhadda. Look at me and you will see the Dharma: it is me, it is Siddha-Artha, skillful work.  It is by Siddhartha you will know the Dharma.  Upon reason and fact take confidence: sacrifice your sacrificing, give up your beliefs.  What is true is beyond belief.  Belief, religion, faith - it conditions its own ending.


The Buddha sang quietly as he died,


vaya-dhamma Sankhara
app-amadena sam-padetha
[which contains simply so many layers of meaning, it is difficult to translate, and is therefore presented below in multiple renditions - translator]


This is my last breath.  Steady, now!  
As someone who is intoxicated and deluded may by vigilance cautiously walk steady
Seeing beyond the delusion of their intoxication the true nature of reality
I take my next step with my last breath


I now let fly my last breath - like the crows who eat the pinda in sraddha
As the crows eat the pinda in sraddha, Shiva Shankara, I sacrifice my last air, 


oh, weaver of the fabric of Dharma, Sankhara, maker of success
strive now toward reality step by confident step


This act of Dharma, my last breath, this duty 
honors the protector of the ashrama (playhouse) of this play (life) [play has the connotation of theater, sport, and childish recreation]


There is dissatisfaction in what is subject to decay, in life


Procure sobriety from the delusion of sensual perception
That life which causes such excessive intoxication conditions a supreme sobriety (of death)


Ananda answered, continuing the melody of the Vedas,


The self-awakened one has become entirely unbound!


Anuruddha, who stood nearby nursing the Buddha, confirmed what Ananda said, continuing the melody of the Vedas, singing


He has no in breath
He has no out breath
The one who was Such
The firm-minded one
Impertubable
    in seeking peace
Has succeeded?  [the term also is referencing and invoking Indra]
He completed the ends [purpose, span] of his life?


With the Buddha unbound, Indra, King of the Devas, who stood quietly nearby, together with a great number of Devas and Asuras, upon this confirmation, continuing the melody of the Vedas, singing and comforting Ananda, in his loss, that the sacrifice was successful, and answering Anuruddha,


What is conditioned and compounded comes unbound in decay
This is the nature of such things: to arise, decay, and pass away
Even as they arise, they still and grow quiet in peace (Anuruddha) and bliss (Ananda)

[which may be also understood to be a reference to the name of Shiva, completing the invocation, and Ananda's tendency to stand nearby quietly, and still, and Anuruddha's soothing palliative nursing]

Jnana Yoga

There are four asanas you may perform mentally.  This is the entirety of Jnana Yoga.
Develop awareness of the body.  Watch as you hold an arm still.  Watch yourself in any asana.  Breathe, counting heartbeats - to better hear your heart: 1 heartbeat, 2 heartbeats, breathe in and hold for 10 heart beats.  Sense every fluid in your body, all the air, every muscle, every tendon, the hair touching your clothes, every bone.  Smell your nose, taste your mouth, see your eye, hear your ears, feel your skin.  Use your body to sense your body.  Protect your body from unnecessary harm, either arising from action or inaction. Body is the first jnana.
The sensation is observed through mind: what is smelled, tasted, seen, heard, felt is understood through past experience and the anticipation of future experience, in the context of self and not-self, and other such association.  Such bias teaches against trusting sensation, or observation. Bias is the foundation of belief. There is also much which is not sensed, or which is ignored.  Ignorance is the foundation of desire.  Use your mind to observe your mind if you would protect your mind against desire and belief.  Mind is the second jnana.
This observation is evaluated through consciousness, through complex emotional processes.  The act of remembrance, the act of anticipation, all those numerous acts of observation and association produces thought, chemical reactions in the brain which are understood as emotion.  Thought, as the basis of all such consideration, may also be considered and evaluated: good and bad, liked and disliked, pleasant and painful.  Consideration results in instinctive responses.  Some sensations are sought, others avoided.  Think about thought: emotion, arising as the effect of mind, arising out of the stimulation, is not itself proximate to reality and is inappropriate to act upon.  Act upon reality, not your perception of it.  Thought is the third jnana.
Thought is understood in the context of self, identity, what theists call “soul.”  I like this, I dislike this, this is Mine, this is not Mine, this is what I am, this is not what I am.  I, me, mine.  From identity, self, ego, soul - from this attachment results in aggression, acting upon the ignorance and desire of thought and mind, which arise out of body.  But understanding can itself be understood.  Understanding is the fourth jnana.
Understanding understanding means understanding your nature, your dharma.  The implication of self-awareness is that self can be controlled by self.  This is the foundation of wisdom, of enlightenment, of Bodhi.  For it is by effort in self-control that the skill is perfected into numerous siddhis.  And by siddhi that contentment (riddhi) is obtained through self-sacrifice.
Jnana (jhana) is a state of rest.  It is an asana.  It is the means by which increasing awareness is achieved.  As you would wake yourself from sleep, rouse yourself from this rest.  “Rest” merely implies an inertial resistance: when you are asleep, you tend to stay asleep; when you are awake, you tend to stay awake.  Withdraw from sleep, and you wake.
In the first jhana, withdraw from sensuality (touch, taste, sound, sight, smell, etc.): this heightens your ability to think in evaluation.  
In the second jhana, withdrawal from thinking in evaluation: this heightens your ability to understand awareness and consciousness.  
In the third jhana, where there is awareness of pleasure and pain, freedom of thought and evaluation, freedom of sensuality, you are able to withdraw from elation and distress.  
In the fourth jhana you may then withdrawal from seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, or any instinctual response: you may become self-controlled and rational.
In the fourth jhana, direct your mind to withdraw from time, space, form: an increased consciousness and logicality naturally arises.  This increased consciousness is necessary for true love: love arises by a knowledge of the nature of things.  By merely understanding the basic laws of the universe, freedom from the cycles of suffering is possible.  At this stage, there is only wakefulness to truth, and then enlightenment.

It is your nature to self-improve, to become more than you are, to change your nature for something better.  This is your Dharma.

Asanas

Asana is a word that means “sitting.”  It is similar in many respects to the English "sit," or the romanized “sedes.”  Sitting is complex, conceptually: a seat is not only something which holds the buttocks, but is an action (“to sit”). But a seat can also be a position of power, or a place (the “seat of power”), it can be a person (“s/he is the Chair of the committee”), it can be a place (“it sits there”).  It is a time (“let it sit”).  Time, place, action, person.

Asanas are the means of accomplishing the duties: it is not enough that the yoke is borne, the work must be done.  Sana means the presentation, or offering, the gain or acquisition of effort: when an A-sana is done, there is nothing left to gain or acquire, there is nothing to present or offer; one has reached, one has accomplished. Like an arrow discharged, there is nothing left for the archer to do: so it is, that when an Asana is performed, there is nothing left for the Yogi to do.  One can sit down.

Anyone can become an acrobat, but it is different to become a Yogi.  Sit at your desk at work, sit on the bus, sit in your car in traffic.  Sit at the dinner table, and sit on the toilet.  Sit on the curbside with your neighbor, sit on the battlefield in victory.  Your arrow will hit the mark.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a practice of uniting body and mind, to strengthen both. It’s performed through Asanas, a word which means “rests.” Just as sitting is a rest from standing, so is standing a rest from sitting; stillness rests from movement, movement from stillness. Go to Temple and come home; go home and go to work, go to work and then go play. There are millions of Asanas, and it is both impossible to practice them all, and ill advised to.  Not all are suitable to your practice.
Hold not long enough, and you won’t benefit. Hold too long, and you’ll harm yourself – this you shouldn’t do. How long to hold an Asana? Svaha! Sufficient, enough, success – this is the secret knowledge by which Yoga is learned.
What is duty? What is Dharma? 
Yogi, some Asanas are easier than others, some work is easier than others. Discover your Dharma, your nature, your duty. Knowing your duty, you’ll be more ready and rested to do what is difficult and necessary, your Dharma, your nature. Sacrificing for this necessary work becomes easier, as any Asana does. Dharma permits work, Artha, - by tirelessly working the Yogi learns that the benefits of this difficult work, Artha, must be enjoyed, Kama.
A teenager attends to every strand of hair in a mirror before leaving the house: so should you exert self-control. This is Uma, the dock upon the waters of the waters of Dharma, our connection to Shankara, the One who sets their own path.  Develop insight for the purpose of self-improvement. Body and mind: it is by self-control one becomes a better person. Yoga is the literal “yoke” for this work. Yogi, learn self-control! Hold the reins and bear the yoke. Perfect your wisdom into contentment.

By Yoga one learns to give up, share, use up, exhaust. This is sacrifice, Yogi! A book has a back cover: put it down when done. Flex, and feel confidence in your strength. Your hard work awaits: seek success, and you will not fail.