Thursday, April 8, 2010

Self Study

Our theme in class this month is svadhyaya, the practice of self-study.  This is not narcissism, but a curious exploration of the elements of our moment-to-moment experience that make up that mysterious phenomenon we label "myself".

Svadhyaya arises in our yoga practice out of necessity, but we can accelerate our growth if we take up this study of Self consciously. For example, to refine my postures, I must learn how my bones and muscles work together. I must discover how my breath interacts with my physical effort.  To remain steady and comfortable in my postures, I must examine how my mind works - either to assist me or hinder me.  And then sometimes in the final relaxation, I end up in a place where my body seems to disappear and my thoughts subside. What is left?  Who am I now?

Buddhism is also devoted to self-study.  The enigmatic 13th century Zen master Dogen wrote:

To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. 
To study the self is to drop the self. 
To drop the self is to be awakened by the ten thousand dharmas. 
To be awakened by the ten thousand dharmas is to free one’s body/mind and those of others. 
No trace of attachment to the awakening remains, and this non-attachment to awakening continues forever. 

The word dharma has a lot of meanings, depending on who you ask.  To the Buddhists, "ten thousand dharmas" refers to the many objects and experiences we encounter in the world and in our minds.  Dharma with a capital "d" refers to both the Buddha's teachings and the ultimate, wordless reality that his teachings lead us to discover.
"To be awakened by the ten thousand dharmas" is to receive every experience - a sip of tea, a traffic jam, an aching shoulder - as a Dharma teaching.  From this perspective, life is a boundless university.  Every moment of our life is a chance to practice svadhyaya, an opportunity to find out who we really are.

Join us this month, and we'll listen for the wisdom that the world (in the form of body and mind) is constantly offering to us.

No comments:

Post a Comment