Readings from Menla Retreat, April 2023

Our habits are called samskaras. Habits are behavioural patterns that take place physically, mentally, emotionally. They accrue through living – stored in the memories of our cells. Every experience leaves a samskara. Our samskaras can be helpful – aklista, or harmful – klista. Our klista samskaras increase “exponentially” (Prashant Iyengar), and our aklista samskaras increase “drop by drop.” They are “congealed behaviours” (Georg Feuerstein: A deeper Dimension of Yoga). Yoga practice helps us replace klista samskaras with aklista samskaras. Samskaras get better in search of truth – not subjective truth, but objective truth. New samskaras can set aside earlier samskaras. This is the process of yoga. Patanjali gives several methods that help us notice, modify, and change our samskaras.

One method is through Kriya Yoga

Tapah svadhayayesvara pranidhanani kriya yogah 2:1 The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Kriya Yoga is the yoga of action. It is comprised of three parts: Tapas, svadhyaha and isvara pranidhana

Tapas – austerity, putting away of all non essentials, discipline, patience, commitment, heat and the burning away of impurities. ” Tapas…is to be simple..devoid of all encumbrances.”

What is Tapas? Geeta Iyengar (2009 Teachers Convention)

” You know when you go to buy cloth. If one thread is damaged, you will see a space, a hole. Do you want to buy this one? You have to see that the threading is done correctly. This is how we practice our asana. This takes a longer time. Especially because we use only that part where the threading is easier, where the threading has gone correctly. Where it is hard, or hasn’t gone correctly, we don’t touch that portion.

So normally we ask, ” Am I able to do thhis? Yes, I did it. THAT IS NOT TAPAS. Tapas is the austere practice where you are able to face all those difficulties – threads, knots, and lose ends – and clear them; burn the impurities, so the purity surfaces.”

Discipline and tapas – Rohit Mehta: Yoga and the Art of Integration

” The problem of discipline seems to be closely related to all questions pertaining to spiritual life, and yet there is no subject on which such confusion prevails….But…the plant of spiritual life flowers in an atmosphere of freedom possible only in disciplined living. How can freedom and discipline be reconciled? ..freedom and discipline are regarded as contradictory…but the fact of the matter is that only s/he who is completely free be truly disciplined. Often a person says that s/he does not accept any discipline that is imposed by an external authority, but such a person forgets that the so-called internal authority…that impinge upon an individual either from society or from the ideological group to which one belongs. It iso nly when the individual, being alone, takes complete responsibility for all that s/he does. When we realized that no authority can save us – then alone are we supremely disciplined.

It is a discipline which emanates from the very act of living. It is not a discipline base on an ideal which one attempts to translate into one’s daily conduct. It is a discipline which comes into being in the very process of learning. One learns, and that very act of learning creates its own discipline.

It is like the river, which, in the very act of flowing, creates its own discipline in terms of the two banks. The banks are not created in advance. One may create such banks and may find that the river has taken a different course. This is equally true of the river of life. If its flow is dept uninterrupted then that very flow creates its own discipline. When the flow is obstructed, disorder starts.

It is the mind of man, with its conclusions and vested interests that creates obstructions in the flow of life.

One has only to look at nature to know how all its activities are perfectly disciplined. But this is not a discipline that is apart from living. The act of living is a dynamic state. Life’s dynamism demands a discipline that comes into being in the very act of living.”