Truthfulness and worldly social mingling and interaction

To practice truthfulness (one of the basic practice of yoga), we learn how to minimize as much as possible from engaging in worldly social mingling and interaction, because these worldly social activities empower egoism and strengthen worldly ideas, which is the opposite of yoga practice.

If we analyze our daily interactions and conversations with other people, we will see that it’s mostly about the empowerment of egoistic personal and worldly attachment, identification, judgment, comparison, expectation, desires of craving and aversion, the past and the future. Yoga practice is to free the mind from all these mind activities of egoism. There is also intentional and unintentional hypocrisy, untruthfulness and ego flattering elements in many of the social interactions and conversations.

It’s a normal cultural social politeness for many people to be HYPOCRITE and UNTRUTHFUL and FLATTERING when interacting with other people, to maintain ‘good relationship’ with everyone in the society and this game of hypocrisy and untruthfulness exists even among family members, couples and friends.

Most people don’t want to know the truth as the truth is not necessarily something that they like or agree with.

Since little, everyone was being taught to be polite, to be good and say only good thing in front of everyone, to please other people, to gain love and liking, and acknowledgment/acceptance/recognition from other people, to maintain ‘good relationship’ with everyone, but then, behind people’s back, there’s complaints, gossips, slandering, back-biting, criticism, blame, or bitching. There are many this type of ‘good relationships’ everywhere in the worldly life. And this is being perceived as the ‘correct’ behavior or ‘normal’ way of life in the society and in the family. People don’t like truthfulness and straightforwardness. Being truthful and straightforward is something very rude and wrong.

Truth seekers don’t waste energy, time and effort in this worldly egoistic game of accumulating and cultivating such type of ‘good relationships’. And hence, the practice of silence comes into everyday life to minimize involving in unnecessary social game of hypocrisy, untruthfulness and flattering of the ego of oneself and others. Performing selfless service in a huge community, is not about cultivating and accumulating personal friendships or relationships at all, if one truly knows what is selflessness and selfless service.

There are not many ‘yoga and meditation enthusiasts’ have the understanding, initiative and willpower to cut down or cut off worldly passionate social activities. It’s a painful and contradicting process for the mind to retreat from worldly social activities, as it is going against ‘normal cultural thinking and behavior’. There are lots of ‘justifications’ coming from the egoistic mind to avoid or give up renunciation from a passionate worldly life of social activities.

Those who aren’t really interested in the path of yoga and meditation to free the mind from the root cause of all suffering – ignorance and egoism, they don’t have to practice truthfulness or dispassion or renunciation from worldly social activities.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to do with their life existence, and what they want to think and believe.

Listen?

In the civilized cultured loving and caring society, people might take this word of ‘LISTEN’ to be “Someone or a voice needs to be heard or be listened, and people should being sympathetic in listening to someone else ‘agony’, or ‘difficulty’, or ‘misery’, or ‘unhappiness’, or ‘painful sorrow’, or ‘hurts’, or ‘broken heart’, or ‘suffering’, or ‘grumbling’, and etc.”

It’s normal for people to share each other’s life experiences, ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions, either we want to tell our stories or we want ourselves to be listened by others, as well as we want to be a listener to listen to other people’s stories, whether it’s something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘happy’ or ‘unhappy’. People like to connect and stay connect with other people by chatting regularly or catching-up once in a while to show that they care. And it would be seen as abnormal or inhuman or cold, if one doesn’t involve with such human social activities. We will feel lonely, isolated, abandoned, helpless, unworthy, unloved, not good enough, unhappy, depressed, disappointed, frustrated, or meaningless, if we think there’s nobody there to listen to us, or nobody wants to share with us.

People would think that as human beings, people should be caring and sympathetic to be there for other people when people need someone to be there to listen to what is troubling them. Caring people like to ask other people whom they think they might be ‘disturbed’, or ‘troubled’, or ‘hurt’ by something, “Do you want to talk about what is troubling/disturbing/hurting you? I’m here to listen. Maybe I can help you.” It’s selfish, uncaring, unthinkable, uncompassionate, inhuman, or wrong, if we don’t ask about other people’s ‘problems’, or ‘unhappiness’, or ‘painful sorrow’, or ‘suffering’, and etc. Or it’s ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ if one observes silence of thoughts, actions and speech.

No doubt that by expressing, or talking, or grumbling, or bitching about our ‘frustration’, ‘disappointment’, ‘dissatisfaction’, ‘troubles’, ‘problems’, ‘difficulties’, ‘misery’, ‘grief’, ‘hurts’, ‘painful sorrow’, ‘agony’, or ‘suffering’, and etc, to other people may or may not give certain degrees of momentary relief to the ‘suffering’ or ‘unhappy’ or ‘troubled’ minds, but it won’t help the minds to be free from what they think is their ‘suffering’ or ‘unhappiness’, even if the people who listen to them might try to give them some ‘advice’, or ‘guidance’, or ‘care’, or ‘comfort’ that they think might can relieve their ‘pain’ or ‘solve’ their problems.

Sometimes, talking or complaining about what we think is our ‘problem’ to some other people actually creates further complication to the existing ‘problem’ and could generate some other unnecessary ‘problems’ to ourselves and other people. The listener of other people’s problems becomes a ‘problem maker’ or has a ‘problem’ in the end. We asked for advice from others, and someone was being very kind to listen to us and give us some advice and we took the advice, but when things didn’t turn out to be the way that we expect it to be, we blamed other people for giving us their ‘bad advice’, or we blamed ourselves for trusting the wrong person and taking the ‘bad advice’. This is due to most minds are impure, are not free from egoistic selfish desires, attachment, expectation and incorrect thinking.

In the path of yoga and meditation, we are learning to be a listener. It’s not so much about listening to other people’s ‘problems’ or ‘unhappiness’ to ‘share’ their ‘problems’ or ‘pain’, to say ‘nice things’ to comfort them, or to give them ‘good advice’ with the intention to help ‘solving’ their ‘problems’ (which is nothing wrong, but none can share, or solve, or take away another person’s ignorance and suffering), but it’s to learn how to open and quiet the mind to listen to the Dharma in here and now, and allow other people to also learn to listen to the Dharma, to be free from the root cause of all ‘problems’ and ‘unhappiness’. There’s no ‘problems’ that need to be solved at all.

People think that the person who is ‘troubled’ or ‘hurt’ needs a listener to listen to their ‘pain’, and this person will have less pain or no more pain, but in yoga, this person needs to be the listener, to know what is really going on in its own mind.

If one truly is ‘disturbed’, or ‘troubled’, or ‘hurt’ by something and they think that they need some help or guidance, instead of looking forward to talk and share about what they think is disturbing, or troubling, or hurting them, to be listened by some other people, to have someone there to share their disturbed feelings and thoughts, to get love and support from other people to feel better about themselves, one should learn how to be in solitude and silence, quiet the restless mind and try to LISTEN to the DHARMA.

If one TRULY LISTENS to the DHARMA that is here and now, with an open and quiet mind, one will realize or see the truth of the real cause of all their misery, trouble, problem, unhappiness, grief, painful sorrow, agony, or suffering. One doesn’t need to talk or complain about anything or doesn’t need anyone to be there to share or listen to one’s ‘problems’ or ‘suffering’, as there is none.

Being yoga teachers teaching yoga and meditation to others, is about teaching and guiding them on how to see and listen to Dharma, or how to perform self-inquiry to attain self-realization to be free from the cause of suffering – ignorance, egoism and impurities. This is wisdom and compassion. Or else, talking and listening to each other among the teachers and the students can easily turn into a scene of ‘corruption’ and ‘complication’, especially if the minds are not yet free from ignorance, egoism and impurities.

For example: The teacher is being ‘loving’ and ‘caring’ to share and listen to the ‘troubled’, or ‘heart broken’ and ‘vulnerable’ student’s ‘problems’ and disturbed ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’, and this ‘troubled’ or ‘heart broken’ and ‘vulnerable’ student feels a lot of affection, love and care from the teacher, and unwittingly ‘fall in love’ with the teacher. Or, the student becomes sensitive and suspicious towards what the teacher says and does, as the student would feel ‘disturbed’, ‘betrayed’, or ‘attacked’, when the teacher talks about the similar issues in front of other students as part of the teachings in general, but the student might think that the teacher is talking about him or her personally, and is exposing his or her personal issues, feelings and emotions that he or she doesn’t want to be exposed to any other people.

In yoga, the teachers don’t really need to know what are the students’ personal issues that they think they have. It doesn’t mean that the teachers don’t care about other people’s suffering. It’s because all issues derived from the same root of ignorance, egoism and impurities. The teachers just need to guide the students on how to free their minds from the root cause of all ‘problems’ and ‘suffering’ – ignorance, egoism and impurities, and allow the students to work their own way in their own pace and effort towards self-realization and liberation, without the need to ‘know’ or ‘listen’ to each individual’s different types of ‘issues’ that are ‘troubling’, or ‘disturbing’, or ‘hurting’ them.

When we attend a silent meditation retreat, there’s no talking or discussion with another person or teacher about what we think is our ‘problems’ or ‘suffering’, all we do is quieting the restless mind to allow the mind to see the truth of things as it is. It’s about knowing one’s mind and realizing the truth of suffering and rooting out the root cause of suffering. The past and the future doesn’t exist. No matter all our experiences from the past to the present were/are good or not good, happy or unhappy, pleasant or painful, deserving or undeserving, the only reality is the present moment, and even this present moment is impermanent. It’s about letting go egoism of all forms of attachment, identification, clinging, craving, aversion, desires, judgment and expectation, and thus be free from all sorts of impurities, and hence be free from suffering.

If people think they have ‘issues’ that involve other people whether in a relationship, or in a family, or in the workplace, or in the community, people should try to talk directly to the person/people involved to find the best solution. By talking or bitching or complaining behind people’s back to a third party doesn’t help, even though one might get some sympathy, agreement and supports from the third party who doesn’t really know what is going on. People who are truly practicing yoga and meditation should stay away from such worldly activities.

We think and believe that “I have ‘serious’ problems in my life that are really difficult to deal with, that are more important than anything else. I deserve some sympathy and love and care and support from other people. If not, I’ll feel depressed and hopeless and I think I want to ‘hurt’ myself to end my suffering.” It’s the ego that thinks ‘my problems and suffering’ are bigger and more important than anyone else problems and suffering. If we practice yoga and meditation, we allow the mind to be opened and we will see that what we think is our ‘serious’ life problems are truly nothing being compared to many other people’s suffering in the world. We’ll start to let go what was troubling us that we thought we couldn’t let go before. And this is the beginning of compassion.

If people couldn’t understand this teaching, or if people don’t agree with this teaching, that’s their freedom of thinking and belief.

Practice yoga of self-inquiry and self-realization, and be free.

Renouncing worldly social activities

All physical activities should be completely suspended, all attachments should be ruthlessly cut asunder completely for five or six years, if you want to practice Dhyana Yoga, if you want to realise God through concentration of mind. Newspaper-reading and correspondence with friends and relatives should be completely stopped; as they cause distraction of mind and strengthen the world-idea. Seclusion for a period of five or six years is indispensable.
– Swami Sivananda 

 

The practice of renouncing worldly social activities, as well as seclusion and solitude, is contradicted with the conditioned thinking and belief of the worldly minded sociable community where most people have strong attachment or clinging towards family and friends, worldly identities and social activities.

There’s no need justification for oneself and about one’s yoga practice, when one is practicing yoga and has the correct understanding of the mind and the mind stuffs. There will be criticism and condemn coming from the worldly minded people who are conditioned to think and behave in certain ways, whom also expect other people should also think and behave in certain ways, to be socially and culturally accepted in the society.

In certain social culture, having a friend or some friends come together to engage in conversation consisting of gossip, complain, mourn, criticism, condemn and back-biting is seemed to be a totally normal and acceptable behavior. But those who choose to stay away from such social interactions and conversations, and stay away from people who like to engage in such activities would be criticized for being unfriendly and impolite. In certain family bring up, acting to be agreeable and speaking lies to say nice things in front of others while they have bitterness, ill-thinking and ill-will towards others, but they want to complain and criticize and speak bad about others behind their backs is being recognized as a form of cultural politeness and socially acceptable behavior. But this is not yoga practice.

Those who practice seclusion and solitude and renouncing social activities, they minimize social activities and contacts with other human beings as much as possible including family and friends, as they can generate great distraction, polluting one’s mind with worldly ideas and attachments, pull one away from one’s yoga practice and disrupt one’s regular practice routine by taking up one’s time, space and energy for yoga practice, if one doesn’t have strong self-discipline and certain degree of non-attachment. This would be criticized by the passionate worldly minded sociable community as anti-social, cold, selfish, uncaring and unfriendly, which are being seen as abnormal, or wrong, or inappropriate, or unacceptable behavior to them. And hence, only those who are bold and have strong affirmation in their yoga and meditation practice for self-realization can take up the practice of renunciation, seclusion and solitude. All the others are just clinging onto the worldly names and forms and be happy with what the minds think and believe as worldly achievements, while doing some forms of yoga practice as part of their life activities to relieve stress, to be healthier and to feel better. There’s nothing wrong with that.

In yoga, it’s a noble act to benefit the society by focusing one’s life existence, time and energy for conquering one’s impure and outgoing mind, to be free from ignorance and the by-products of ignorance, so that one can truly benefit and care for the society. Those who take seriously in this practice, they don’t talk much. They don’t mingle. They don’t spread further negativity or impurities into the society through social talking and mingling. They don’t commit actions of gossips, criticism, condemn, back-biting, boasting, flirting, teasing, telling lies, hypocrisy, finger-pointing, blames, complaints, grumble, mourn, and etc. They don’t encourage or support others to engage in such activities by keeping themselves away from such activities or conversations.

Those whose minds are tamed, purified, one-pointed, undistracted and free from worldly passionate desires after underwent intense disciplines and restrictions, can then mix freely into the society and perform selfless actions to serve the worldly community without egoism, attachment and identification, while being undisturbed, or unaffected, or uninfluenced, or undetermined by the worldly activities, actions and the fruit of actions.

The worldly minded sociable community including many of those who think they love yoga, who practice or teach yoga, they might not be able to appreciate or understand the great value of renunciation nor will they have any interest in this practice. In fact, they criticize and condemn others who uphold renunciation, seclusion and solitude.

For most people, it’s possible for them to cut off from the society for a short period of time, as they know they will be back into the society very soon, but it’s impossible for them to be cutting off from family and friends and social activities for a prolonged period of time to allow the mind to have the prolonged period of being free from stimulation, to be quiet, to be in silence. The mind will resist and give itself many ‘rational reasons’ not to practice renunciation, seclusion and solitude.

Renunciation, seclusion and solitude can be developed through gradual process for most people who have strong attachment towards worldly identities, social activities, family ties and friendships. Such like attending short and long silent meditation retreats from time to time, giving themselves and their family and friends a ‘rational reason’ that “I will be away or won’t be in contact with the society, family and friends for some time.” and “It’s totally okay if I don’t mingle, don’t talk, don’t read news or books, don’t look at others, don’t mind about others or the world, and don’t interact or associate with anyone, as I am in such a setting for it.” Some people will start to appreciate such a great relief from being away from worldly social activities and relationships, but for many others, their minds are like fish out of water. There is no guarantee that after attending some silent retreats one will develop detachment and non-attachment towards worldly names and forms which is what yoga and meditation practice is all about.

Om shanti.

P/S : We can’t and won’t run yoga retreats when family and friends are visiting us. When we are running retreats, we don’t accept any family or social visits as it disrupts the retreats. Personally, when I am not running yoga retreats or teaching classes or writing about yoga, I retreat from the social world as much as possible.

 

Yoga retreat?

‘Retreat’ is a period of special time and space of solitude for us to be with ourselves, to retreat from worldly social interactive activities, to allow the mind to have the opportunity to move away from restlessness and its usual habits, to turn the outgoing mind inwards for introspection, for self-inquiry, to know our-Self, even if there are other people being in the same retreat.

Real (spiritual) retreats are not designed for socializing or mingling. It’s an opportunity for us to practice solitude. As solitude is an important element in conquest of mind or fear. Some people’s mind are fear of being with people, they want to be alone to feel safe. While some people’s mind are fear of being alone, they want to be surrounded by some other people all the time. But both of them also is about fear. Fear derives from ignorance and attachment. There’s no peace in ourselves, always thinking that something bad is going to happen on us, or somebody is going to hurt us, either when we are alone, or when we are being with some other people. We generate so much tension into the environment.

If we are afraid of being with ourselves even just for a few days, and ‘have to’ cling onto other people in the retreat all the time, please be considerate that we still have to respect other people in the retreat centre who purposely coming here to have their own time and space for themselves for some personal spiritual practice. As we are disturbing other people’s precious time and space to be with themselves being in the retreat centre.

But, we cannot expect everyone to be understanding this simple and basic principle about ‘retreat’. As there are many other yoga retreats in the world that are not really about silence the mind for self-inquiry, but more like commercialized luxury pleasurable enjoyment and socializing kind of yoga holidays.

In the end, it’s about compassion. Being compassionate towards those who are influenced by ignorance and whose mind is out of their own control, being over-powered by fear. Spiritual practice are here for beings who have fear, to learn to deal with fear, and to let go of fear. But, most of us refuse to confront with the fear in us, and choose to avoid what we are fear of.

Most important is being compassionate towards ourselves by letting go of fear.

Om shanti.

Yoga practice is not separated from yoga philosophy or everyday life…

Without yoga philosophy or yoga teachings and without life, there is no yoga practice… It is a contradiction when we say that we want to practice yoga but we do not want to practice the yoga philosophy or the teachings, or we can only practice yoga in yoga classes and retreats, but we cannot practice yoga in everyday life. As when we really practice yoga, we are actually practicing the yoga philosophy or the teachings practically in everyday life, as yoga practice is not just about doing some physical yoga exercises in yoga classes or retreats…

Even though some people practice yoga asana poses regularly by attending yoga classes for many years, and we can perform many of the complicated asana poses that require certain degrees of physical strength and flexibility, and our physical fitness level is at the peak level, it still doesn’t guarantee us peace, compassion and wisdom. We still can be not free from impurities, ignorance, anger, hatred, jealousy, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, fear, worry, cravings, aversions, unhappiness, and doubts…

We (out of ignorance) might even think and believe that “To share or teach yoga, yoga teachers need to be qualified or certified by some recognized yoga affiliations. And as yoga teachers, they should be able to do all the yoga asana poses and know all their names in Sanskrit by hard, and they should be able to touch their head with their feet from behind…”

We judge and categorize a yoga teacher, yoga practitioner and the yoga practice (beginner, intermediate or advance level) based on the fitness level of physical strength and flexibility to perform the asana poses, or based on how many hours of yoga courses we had attended in the past…

Some people said that they only want to practice “yoga” but they don’t agree with or cannot accept the yoga philosophy or teachings… What they actually mean is that they only want to do the yoga asana exercises as it makes them feel good, fit, strong and flexible, but they do not want to know anything about letting go of the ego, letting go of pride and arrogance, letting go of selfish desires and attachments, letting go of cravings and aversions, letting go of judgment and expectation, letting go of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, fear and worry, and etc…

They are not interested at all to practice non-attachment, or to know about the mind, or to realize unconditional peace, selflessness or compassion. They say it is impossible to practice all these “philosophy” or teachings of yoga in their everyday life, living and working in the big city of the competitive modern world. They think these yoga philosophy or teachings can only be practiced in peaceful quiet environment where there is no external distraction, or disturbance, or tension, or stressful elements… There is nothing wrong with this type of thinking, as just by doing the physical exercise is already a very good pastime activity to improve our physical and mental health and fitness…

The main obstacle that contributes to this type of understanding is our own egoistic mind being not knowing or being unaware of the ignorance in the mind, due to ignorance (absence of wisdom)… Just like the eyes can only see what is in front of it, but it couldn’t see itself. It can perceive objects, names and forms in front of it, but it couldn’t perceive itself… It needs a mirror (reflection) to see itself. And this mirror, is awareness from the higher mind, to be aware of the ignorance in us, to be aware that there are impurities in our mind that hinder us from seeing the truth of things as it is, to be aware that it is our own mind being responsible for the happiness and unhappiness in us…

The one who thinks and believes that “It is not possible to practice yoga in everyday modern competitive hectic lifestyle and stressful working environment” or “Yoga can only be practiced in a yoga and meditation retreat centre with peaceful quiet environment away from all sorts of distractions, disturbance, tension and stressful elements”, is our egoistic mind.

We (our mind) think and believe that there is an “I”. We (the egoistic mind) think and believe that this body and this mind, and all its modifications (sensations, feelings, emotions, thinking, believes, personalities, characteristics, actions and reactions, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements, wants and don’t wants, self-image, self-worth, self-esteem, and etc) belongs to “I”, and they are who “I” am.

It’s because of this wrong identification or incorrect understanding, we (the egoistic mind) have selfish intentions (good or bad intention) to motivate us to perform actions, we have selfish desires and attachments. From these selfish intentions, desires and attachments, we have expectations. We expect to receive the fruit of our actions the way that we like it to be (craving for something that we like and agree with), and expect not to receive the fruit of our actions the way that we don’t like it to be (aversion towards something that we don’t like and disagree with)…

From expectations, we have cravings and aversions. From cravings and aversions, we have fear, restlessness, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, disappointment, frustration, irritation, pride, arrogance, self-protection (something like “I’ll kill you first before you kill me”). And all these impurities strengthen the ignorance… And ignorance strengthens the egoism… And egoism strengthens all the selfish intentions, desires and attachments, and thus strengthens expectation, cravings and aversions, and thus strengthens fear and all the other impurities, and so on…

When we say we cannot let go of the ego, it is actually our egoistic mind being reluctant to let go of its selfish desires and attachments. We do not want to let go of this “I”, who we think what we are…

We do not want, or we have fear of letting go of the self-image that we have been building up for this “I” with such and such qualities that we would like us to be… We identify ourselves as “somebody” with all these qualities that we possess (qualities that we like and agree with) and don’t possess (qualities that we don’t like and disagree with).

We want to protect this self-image to the extend that we will say and do things that will hurt ourselves and other beings. We do not want this self-image to be damaged or stained by any external elements, such like judgments come from people whom we come in contact with, relationships status, friendships status, things, happenings, social status, career status, and etc, as we (the egoistic mind) depend on all these elements to support and compliment us for who we think what we are.

When we realize compassion that is free from (or by letting go of) attachments, craving and aversion, separateness, discrimination, selfish desires, possessiveness, judgment and expectation, we will be able to perform all our duties and responsibility at home, at work or in the society, without being affected or determined by our actions and the result of our actions, whether the actions are being performed for ourselves or for other beings, whether it is a job that is getting some pay, or it is a volunteering work without getting any pay. We are able to perform all actions without fear, without selfish intentions, desires and attachments, without possessiveness and expectation… There is no stress, tension, expectation, disappointment, as there is no such thing as success or failure when we renounce the fruit of actions… We do our best in everything we do, and we renounce from the fruit of our actions. We are not affected nor determined by the result of our actions, or other people’s reactions towards our actions.

Compassion and friendliness is nothing to do with how many personal friends or good friends that we know and have, whom we can spend time with, to eat, to drink, to talk and to do things together (or how many friendships that we have been accumulating and possessed), or whether we have an active social lifestyle or not. It is being free from ill-will, or hatred, or discrimination, or judgment, or expectation, or fear towards any beings, even if some of the beings’ thinking and behaviors are not what we like nor what we can agree with…

When we have selfish intentions, desires and attachments, cravings and aversions, expectations and fear, we will identify or categorize the people or beings whom we like and agree with, as friends. And we will identify or categorize the people or beings whom we don’t like and disagree with, as not friends (or as enemies)… These are friendships or social networks that are made under the influence of our selfish intentions, desires, attachments, cravings and aversions, likes and dislikes, discrimination, judgment, expectation and fear…

When we see a poisonous snake in front of us, out of fear and self-protection (by imagining, or anticipating, or expecting the snake is going to harm us), we might attack and hurt the snake first, even if the snake has no intention to harm us at all… This is selfishness and ignorance… This is absence of compassion and wisdom…

Yoga practice is in life. In our every moment of existence.

Om shanti.