Contending Truth in a World Full of Wisdom

It was a smooth journey from London to Trivandrum. The change over in Delhi involved a somewhat hectic shuttle ride to the domestic transfer terminal which instantly reminded me of the India I experienced 5 years ago. The manic roads, the heat, and the congregation of lively souls packed into small spaces. There is an order to things, but everyone rushes around and barges up against you as if there’s something to be missed if they don’t move fast enough.

I arrived late at the ashram, after the evening satsang had finished (which is a gathering for meditation, chanting and talks), so I quickly washed myself down with a bucket of water and went straight to bed. I laid in to recover from the jet lag, and started the yoga class at 8am the following day. I’m still struggling to wake up for morning satsang which starts at 6am and all activities in the tightly packed schedule are mandatory up until 9.30pm. I’ve been finding it difficult for quite some time to get enough sleep to carry me through the day, and this isn’t really helping. Still, I feel there is a lot for me to learn from being here in terms of the time it gives me to reflect and work through some of my own anxieties, so I’m hoping I’ll get used to the early wake up call before too long.

We have a daily lecture on what yoga is, which I enjoy a whole lot more when a contentious topic causes the class to break out in a dispute with the teacher who remains adamant that the teachings are absolutely true. Some of us feel our understanding would be greater for having a discussion rather than a lecture, but the teachers are just here to tell us what yoga says. A few days ago, we were on the topic of fear and blame. The idea is that there is no good or bad, but the way we perceive a situation in our minds relates to how we feel about it. What this does is place the responsibility on the individual to reframe the way they think and behave in a given situation, rather than blaming others for the way things are.

This reminded me of a recent event back home, when my friend’s delivery that had been ordered for next day delivery didn’t arrive before she went on holiday, and the courier was greatly unhelpful in getting it returned to her. It caused a lot of anger and frustration, and obviously Hermes was to blame! But when she discovered the person who was making the delivery had been called to hospital because her mother was taken in unexpectedly, my friend had more compassion and understanding which eased her own pain towards the situation. So one might say our mind’s remain more calm when we take on the responsibility to control our own minds, rather than expecting others to behave in a certain way.

This I can agree with on many levels, but someone raised an important question. If we are not able to hold others to account for their actions, if we just ‘let them be’ as the teacher suggested, then people charged with making important decisions on behalf of society in areas such as environment, health, and education, get let off the hook when they behave or act unreasonably. So where yogis don’t engage with politics because it unsettles the mind to bear judgement, many of us are rattled into a passionate debate because these issues affect the lives of so many people and we believe in a society that is fair and just. Yoga says if everyone does the right thing, the world would be OK. But it’s not that black and white, is it? Because everyone perceives the world differently according to their own experience, and that’s why I think it’s important to have an open discussion on the way we think things should be, rather than accepting things for what they are.

Thankfully, in a community of 170 guests at present, there are plenty of people who want to have these discussions, and I look forwards to sharing more of these conundrums in our quest for ‘truth’ over the weeks to come.

Om tat sat.

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