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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A letter to a student




When a person is REALLY detached from all the names and forms, and not being affected by all the things (positive and negative energy) out side, then eating vegetarian or not vegetarian will have no difference at all. But if a person is affected by the external energy from the surrounding and the energy from the food, then avoiding bad energy places, bad energy people and by eating vegetarian will help a person to become calmer and less negative, but it is not a guarantee for enlightenment.

No doubt that by not eating meat is supporting the idea of non-harming other being’s lives – Ahimsa. And yet the real Ahimsa is not just through what we eat but by protecting the lives of others including animals and insects, and also non-harming in our thoughts, actions and speech – so that we will not hurt anyone’s feelings or harming somebody’s live; inflict fear, pain, anger and hatred onto the being's mind.

Most important is the practice of detachment from craving for the taste that we like and aversion towards the taste that we don’t like. Along with detach from what we eat, detach from what we see, hear, smell, touch and think, is the real detachment.

What we need to take care of is the practice of self-control, patience, compassion, wisdom, selflessness, detachment and NOT HARMING in our thoughts, speech and actions. We must think carefully before we do something or want to say something, so that the intention is pure without the influence of arrogance and egoism. Do things and say things that are promoting peace and harmony among other people, and not promoting discomfort and unhappiness among other people.

Many people out there are not the same thinking and same understanding like us. We cannot explain to the people who don’t know what real detachment is, about eating vegetarian or not vegetarian. Basically, we want to promote vegetarian for everyone who are usually being affected by the energy from the food that we eat.

People are very much attached to the mind, the ego, the body, the life and the world – we are being influenced and affected by all the phenomena happenings within our body and in our everyday lives in the world. Whatever we come in contact with will influence and affect our mind. We are very much influenced by both the negative and positive energy surrounding us from the people in the society, the culture from our tribe, the many years of school education, the informations that come from the media, the happenings in the world, the contents in books and movies, the teachings and advices from the elders and everything else that we come in contact with.

Our thinking is being influenced so much by others’ thinking from everywhere in the world but without us realizing it – ignorance. We think that we need to have “this” and “that” to be happy. We also need to do “this” and “that” to make us feel good about ourselves. Our self-worth is being determined very much by how other people think of us, how much others like us and whether others appreciate us and recognize what we do or not.

It is not easy for us to break out completely from that little “box” and long time thinking habit. Even though when we think that we are aware of this dharma but not many of us can really detach from all these “things” that are “truly” giving us all the “problems” that we “think” we are “having” now. People still have great fear of the unknown and worry about their future. If we are really detached from all these ignorance, there shall be no problems at all. There is no unhappiness. There is nothing to gain or lose. Once we attached to any of these ignorance, we will be in trouble. Everything is real and also unreal – everything is changing, arising and passing away, there is no past and no future. Everything is NOW, NOW is everything.

When a person has not really detached from duality yet, he is affected very much by the energy from the food that he eats – His mood and personality changes according to the energy that is released from the food that he eats. Then this type of people need to be careful of what they eat and should choose only the sattvic food – that promote lightness and calmness (no meat, no fish, no onion, no garlic, no mushroom, no eggs, no coffee, no spices, no salt, no sugar, no alcohol, no drugs…) It is not just about meat. Many plants will have different types of effects on many people, like ganja, mushroom, over-riped fruit and overly cooked vegetables are tamasic – promote laziness, depression and dullness. While onion, garlic, coffee and chives are rajasic – promote passion, agitation and aggressiveness.

For a Yogi who practice namelessness and formlessness without cravings and aversions, he doesn’t see the food as “meat” or “vegetables”, “good” or “bad”. What he eats is just food for him for maintenance of the physical body only. He does not eat due to the craving for the taste, even if it is vegetarian food. The energy from food cannot affect him, unless he is not yet detached from all the names and forms of all the things out there, such like praise and censure, happy and unhappiness, cold and heat, birth and death, success and failure.

If he is not detached from duality yet, if he still has fear and worries, he will still be affected by the energy from the food that he eats. Then it is better for him to eat vegetarian food without meat, fish, garlic, onion, eggs, mushroom and without any stimulative or depressive substances to help him in his practice.

But if he has self control and is detached from duality; does things without any intention (good or bad), without egoism and knows clearly about what he is doing (no one will know but himself), then he can eat whatever the food is, as long as it can maintain his physical body and stay healthy to continue his practice towards self-realization.

As well as around the world, there are so many people are starving without enough food to eat. How can we sit here and argue about eating vegetarian or not vegetarian? Merely wasting time and effort in arguing on this issue and not working on the real practice of self-control over lust and desires, and the detachment of likes and dislikes, what is the meaning of our Yoga practice then?

We should respect everyone with their own choices for food consumption whether it is pure vegetarian or meat eating. If we have the opportunity to have pure vegetarian food, it will be our first priority option. But if pure vegetarian food is not available, we shouldn’t be so attached to the idea of “meat is dead animals and it is disgusting”. Some people are born without the enzyme to digest fruit and vegetables and have to eat meat only – does this make them bad people? Some people are born without the enzyme to digest meat and have to eat fruit and vegetables only – does this make them good people?

Food might be affecting the mind but it cannot determine the mind. It doesn’t determine our actions and speech. If it is determining the mind, we cannot have any self-evolution and there is no need to have any austerities and practices for us to achieve any spiritual goals. Because if it is mainly because of food energy a person will be good or bad, then by eating certain food, we will become evil and just by eating certain food we will become enlightened. That means we have no self-control at all and being driven by the energy in the food to determine what we think, what we do and what we speak. It is not like that. There is another element in us called will power, which is the force that can influence the energy (prana) in our body and give us self-control over our thoughts, actions and speech.

If it is so easy to be good and happy; become enlightened and be free from suffering just by eating pure vegetarian food, then why do we need to do so many other hard works?

The mind and the ego like to blame on something else for their actions and not want to take any responsibilities for the consequences that arise following their actions, and they make excuses in order to achieve their cravings and desires.

It is our ability of self-control that determines the mind. It is our own effort to purify our mind and have total control of our actions and speech. It is our own self to determine what we want to do and say, and whether we want to be good or be bad.

Many people are turning to eat pure vegetarian food and some people turn it into an exotic and luxurious business of food industry. It is because pure vegetarian food not only can promote good health (although not necessary – people still suffer illness or cancer even though they have been eating so called pure vegetarian and healthy food), but many people are very much attached to the idea of keeping a slim body and want to achieve a beautiful physical appearance more than the idea of non-harming the lives of the animals.

Most people want to look good, stay slim and fit, and looking attractive – because it will make them feel good about themselves. They will feel bad about themselves and being unhappy when they think that they don’t look good, have put on some extra body weights and body fats. They will try to go on a diet, do lots of exercises trying to get rid of that few grams of fats, and make themselves feel good again. There is nothing wrong about this, but it is not the initial idea of being a vegetarian in Yoga practice and it is not what Yoga wants to teach us about not to attach to our physical body and the outlook of our appearance – in fact this idea to eat vegetarian food is due to the strong attachment towards the physical body.

If our happiness or our feelings is being determined by how we look – the physical appearance, the clothing, the skin texture, the facial features, the youthfulness and the fitness level, then this is very far away from detachment and the path of Yoga.

Some people do not want to kill any animals because they are afraid of committing sins or bad karma and afraid of seeing blood or dead body, and not out of great compassion towards these animals. While in everyday life they might be enjoying eating meat prepared by someone else. And some people are being a pure vegetarian but in everyday life, they are cursing or condemning somebody who they hate into hell; speaking lies and harsh words hurting some others’ feelings; slandering and mocking somebody behind people’s back; and being stingy and torturing their spouse, their parents or their children physically and emotionally with their action and speech… This is not Yoga.

Being a pure vegetarian or not, really doesn’t reflect about our true Self, if we still have likes and dislikes, attachments and cravings; if we still identify with the ego and the mind, and are attached strongly to our physical body and its conditions; and also if we are full of evil thoughts, actions and speech; as well as being unhappy and negative most of the time.

So, what is the real and important practice then?

The practice of patience, perseverance, compassion, wisdom, cheerfulness, fearlessness, detachment and letting go. Purifying the thoughts, actions and speech; eradicate lust, greed, anger, jealousy and hatred. Observe truthfulness, sincerity, forgiveness and tolerance. Detach from our physical body – the changes in our physical health, strength, flexibility, ability and appearance. Detach from the ego and the mind. Detach from our senses and the worldly objects. Detach from all the names and forms, and duality. Detach from likes and dislikes, craving and aversion. Being at the present moment at all time, not hold on to the past and not project into the future.

We don’t have to justify ourselves about what we are doing to anybody who doesn’t understand what real detachment and non-duality is, if we are REALLY detached from duality – likes and dislikes, craving and aversion; and have no fear at all.

You already have quite a good understanding about Yoga practice, but we should watch our mind all the times and remind ourselves not to let the pride and ego over power our thoughts, actions and speech. When we start to think – “I am better than you”; “I know already”; “I know more than you do”; “I want to do this or that”; “I am helping someone”; “I am doing good”; “Don’t you think I know”; “Who do you think I am?” and either “I am not good” or “I am very good” – then we have to be very careful, know that it is the ego and the pride want to express themselves.

If we think or believe that we need to be at certain place; or need to do certain thing; or need to be “somebody”; or need to possess certain thing or need to be in control of anything other than our own self, in order to make us feel good or feel better about ourselves, then know that it is just the mind and the ego being unsatisfied and need “those things” to make us feel good and feel happy about ourselves – Our self-worth and happiness is being determined by where we are; who we are; what we have; what we do and how others think about us.

If this happens on us, we should be careful so that we are not caught up in this condition of the mind. We should detach ourselves from the condition that will determine whether we are good people or not, successful or not – Either we will want to show off or want to prove to ourselves and others that we are good enough; or will feel good and feel happy about ourselves and our lives only if we are able to do the things that we like to do or want to do, or else we will feel bad and unhappy with ourselves and our lives if we can’t do the things that we like to do and want to do.

All these conditions mean that we are still identifying with our ego. We are still very much attached to our mind, the likes and dislikes, craving and aversion.

This is not easy for many people to understand and to be able to do it. Even though some people understand this but find it very difficult to practice it in everyday life. It takes a long time for us to master this detachment and yet we will still be caught up many times repeatedly with the mind and the ego no matter how hard we try to stay detach. But fear not, not to be disappointed with ourselves and keep on practice detachment.

Never say that this will never happen to any one of us, it will – sooner or later… just keep watching our mind; what is going on in there, but do not project into the future or keep thinking that – “the ego and the pride is going to over power us”. And when it does happen, be aware, don’t let it gain control over us. We should move on with greater understanding and stronger self-control, and become more selfless – until one day, the ego is powerless completely. We become selfless but are identified with the unlimited and unconditioned universal Self, and until then we will be safe…

There is no more “my life”; “my feelings’”; “my strength”; “my happiness”; “my achievements”; “my friends”; “my family”; “my ambitions”; “my likings”; “my Yoga”; “my practice”; “my knowledge”; “my duty”; “my job”; “my future”; “my past”; “my students”; “my house”; “my center”; “my reputation”; “my problems”; “my opinion” and so on…

There is no need for us to have any self-protection from any so called bad and negative energy, and we don’t need to attack others with actions and speech beforehand in order to protect ourselves because we anticipate that we will be attack by these people due to fear and low self-esteem in us.

We don’t need to anticipate any problems – Because there is no “me” or “I”, there is nobody being attacked or need any protection.

There is no fears and worries. There is nothing.

Anyway, we are practicing Yoga every moment in life even though when we do “nothing” (not doing asana or not sitting for meditation). Everything is Yoga – eating, drinking, breathing, sleeping, walking, playing, working and resting (so-called worldly activities), but we remain total awareness of whatever we are doing. When we need to do something, we do it. When we don’t need to do anything, we don’t do anything. But it doesn’t mean that we are in a state of non-action or action-less. When the body is energetic, we move and do physical activities. When the body is tired, we take rest and do something that doesn’t require physical strength.

Some people like to ask us “how often do you practice yoga?” – In fact they want to know how often that we practice asana. Actually they asked the wrong question or they have no right understanding about what is Yoga. Yoga practice is not separated from our everyday lives. It is nameless and formless. It is maintaining peacefulness and calmness every moment and not being affected, influenced or disturbed by all the phenomena that is happening around us. It is every moment watching our mind; observing the thoughts and feelings; detaching from the senses, the mind and the ego, and all the names and forms – detaching from duality.

Put it in a simple term – If we are happy and cheerful all the time disregard what is going on inside our body and the mind, and it doesn’t matter what is happening outside our body in the world that we perceive through the senses – no matters if it is something “good” or something “bad”. Everything is just fine. Everything is okay just the way as it is. Heat, cold, praise, censure, rich, poor, young, old, pretty, ugly, healthy, not healthy, action, non-action, birth, death, good feeling, bad feeling, gain, loss, agree, disagree, success, failure, fast, slow, “good people”, “bad people” – all make no differences and are the same. They don’t give us happiness or unhappiness. And this is Yoga.

But this doesn’t mean that we can kill animals and eat their meat because we like to eat meat. Or eat shit and sand; and drink poisons because being challenged by some very ignorant people saying that “since there is no differences and everything are the same, we can eat shit and sand; and drink poison; jump off from the cliff; cut ourselves with knife; burn ourselves with fire; and do all sorts of things to hurt other beings.” – This is huge ignorance. This is not what our Guru wanted to teach us about non-duality and how to transcend happiness and suffering; and be truly happy in life.

Our happiness and unhappiness has got nothing to do with anyone or anything out there.

It doesn’t matter how are the other people’s actions and reactions towards us. It is our own mind and the ego that is feeling happy or unhappy towards other people’s actions and reactions. Nobody can make us happy or unhappy. If we still think that someone is hurting us; something is still troubling us; then we need to look at ourselves and we will see that it is our own self had attached to the happenings out there, and the ego is feeling hurt and unhappy. Then we know that we are still not detached from our ego yet. And so, we need to work on our detachment and not blaming others for our unhappiness.

Many people still confuse about Yoga means asana and pranayama practice. They are just part of the Yoga practice (with certain name and form) that helps us to achieve a calmer mind and a stronger body. Certainly they are not the whole of Yoga. As long as we are still being affected by all the elements and energy we need asana and pranayama as well as good company – Satsanga and pure vegetarian food to help us in the spiritual path. Yogis who are not affected by the elements and energy – they have total control over themselves – not being influenced or affected by anyone and anything, and thus they don’t need to perform any “practices” that have a certain name and form. Their practice has become nameless and formless. If they do perform certain practice, it is for showing to the people who need to have a guidance to follow and to practice.

The mind is always in actions even though when we don’t move or talk. Every moment we should be watching our mind and stay detached from every thought that arises. This is the ongoing action for us. Even when we dream, we still practice watching our mind to stay detach from the dream. This is action in non-action.

When we are doing something good and beneficial for other people and ourselves, we should not have the idea that we are doing some good actions – “I am doing something good”; or “I am giving something good to others”; or “goodness will return to me”. This is the meaning of non-action in action.

In every deals or actions or doings – There is “nobody” giving, there is “nobody” receiving and there is “nothing” being “given” or “received”.

This is the highest meaning of Yoga.

Detach from the fruit of action.

Everything that we do now and did before shall be nameless and formless.

Detach from all the names and forms.

Free ourselves from name and form, good and evil, positive and negative.

Free ourselves from rewards and karma – cause and effect.

Free ourselves from the bondage of all the elements that is creating the energy and affecting the mind.

Free from the duality that causes the likes and dislikes, craving and aversion.

Contemplate on these teachings and be free. If we know this dharma, there is no more fear and worries.

We were taught by our elders and the society that if we do good now, good things will happen to us in the future and do not do anything that doesn’t give us any rewards in return – this is correct in the eyes of worldly minded people.

It is true that if we do bad, bad will happen to us, while if we do good, good will happen on us. This is the law of karma – cause and effect.

There is nothing wrong to have this type of mentality – wanting to do good because we are longing for good rewards and good life in the future, but this can not free us from the bondage of birth and death, because we will be continuing being bound by karma – cause and effect.

Dharma and Vedanta teach us not to wish for any rewards in return when we do good and not to do any bad as well, and thus this will free us from the bondage of birth and death. It is intention-less or pure intention that will free us from the bondage of karma. It is ego-less or selflessness that will free us from the bondage of birth and death.

There is no need to aim for going anywhere after this life. We don’t need to go anywhere. Here at this present moment now is the only reality. The past and the future doesn’t exist. If we still have longing to go to heaven; or go to a better place; or to have a better next life; or we still have fear of ending up in hell or going to have a bad next-life; then we are still caught up in these names and forms, and are not free and have no peace of mind at all. We will have great fear and worries until this life ends and will continue having these fear and worries in the next life-form.

When we are dreaming, we are doing lots of actions in our dream. But this will not generate any karma for us.

If we know what “non-action in action” is and practice it in life when we are awake, we will not generate any karma too. We shall be free from the bondage of karma.

When we are awakened from this impermanent worldly life existence – Our physical body; our worldly life; our needs and wants; our appearance and all our experiences; we will know that all these are just temporary phenomena. And by stop identify with this physical body, the senses, the mind and the ego, this worldly life existence is not any different from a very long dream. We will still experience pain, pleasure, heat, cold, good looking, bad looking, sweet sound, annoying sound, nice smell, bad smell, good taste, bad taste, positive thoughts, negative thoughts through our senses, but we are not being influenced or affected by them anymore. They have no values of good and bad; positive or negative; happiness or suffering.

There is no more karma in the past – Sanchita, all the accumulated karma; in the present – Prarabdha, past karma that is responsible for the present body and until this body drop-off; and in the future – Agami, current actions that generate karma to be reaped off in the future. There is no past and future. There is no time, no space and no causation. This is the proclamation made by all the saints and sages when they attained enlightenment.

If we start to think that we are doing something when we are in action, or thinking that we are not doing anything when we are action-less, be mindful… It is the ego that is doing the thinking. Because the real us will have no idea of “doing good” or “doing bad”; “doing something” or “doing nothing”.

This knowledge is applicable to the student naturally when she or he already have achieved deep understanding about what is real detachment and have good morality and a pure mind. We ourselves also must practice it in life, in our heart. Or else it will create problems and confusions for the student and for us, if the student misunderstood that “no good and no bad” and “non-action in action” mean that they can do anything that they like and they will have no morality at all and will be doing lots of bad actions harming other beings thinking that there is no bad karma being generated. Those who are ignorant will think that this knowledge will allow them to do all the evil actions and no need to be responsible for their actions.

We don’t do evil actions because when our mind is pure, there is no reason for us to harm any beings and we don’t have the “urge” of wanting to cause any destruction and suffering to others. We also do not identify ourselves that we are the doer for any good and beneficial actions. We are not longing for a good life or greed for good karma or rewards in return. We are just being at the present moment, not longing to be in the past nor project into the future; and not longing to be at anywhere else. The present moment is now and right here. This is beyond both good and evil.

If the student has not yet understand this verse of “non-action in action”; if he or she is attached strongly to the mind and the ego; and his or her mind is not pure yet, then we shall begin with guide them into the practice of purification of the mind – to eradicate negative and evil thoughts and replace them with positive and good thoughts. Guide them to detach from the ego and duality; detach from likes and dislikes; free from cravings and aversions; detach from both negative and positive – become pure. Guide them to strengthen their self-control and develop insight. This may takes years or a lifetime. But this is the basic practice if we want to walk the path towards enlightenment; and to free ourselves from the cycle of birth and death.

May we all attain purity and be free. Both negative and positive thoughts, good and evil actions do exist in this life existence of names and forms. But what we want to practice is to go beyond both negative and positive; and transcend both good and evil. We do not commit any negative actions and not identify with any positive actions. It is neither negative nor positive. It is free from both negative and positive.

Om shanti.

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Know thyself. There is no existence of 'I'. Everything is impermanent. Be free, be peaceful, be happy.

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My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia. We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years. Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi. We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.

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