The following interview was published in the August 2017 Edition of German Magazine YOGA AKTUELL. You can find the full article in German here. YOGA AKTUELL have kindly given permission for us to reproduce the interview in English, enjoy!…
YOGA AKTUELL with Sadhana and Keval Pezet
at Shanti Mandir Ashram in India interviewing
the two Yoga Teachers about the significance of the
Antahkarana is from the Samkhya-Philosophy, the subtle and multifaceted tool with which man navigates in the world. Often we use the words “spirit” or “mind” in German, to name the complex areas of this mental structure using a single term. Through an understanding of this tool and veil we can use Antahkarana to become our strongest ally.
YOGA AKTUELL: We are having our conversation today in an Indian ashram, where locals and foreigners come together for their spiritual practice. What is the reason that we all perceive this place in a different way although we find ourselves in the same set of outer circumstances?
SADHANA: A place like this, where the intention is to foster the experience of living yoga, has a particular charge. The quality of energy of this environment is different to that of a city or of a person’s home. What tends to happen in this sort of environment is that the content of the mind is more easily observed, the material of the mind is brought to the surface.
The nature and quality of a place such as this ashram enables time to reflect and observe rather than to get caught and simply run with our mental tendencies, people tend not to get caught as much as they would in their normal circumstances, relationships and work environments. The mind begins to clear itself, to decongest, and we gain a useful view of the mental tendencies that run our lives..
The word mind is used differently in western understanding and in yogic terms. What is the mind for yogis?
SADHANA: The yogic map of the mind is one of the most comprehensive that we can find. One view Yoga gives is that of the mind as a field. A field that is vast, in terms of its expansiveness. In terms of its function it is multi faceted. The first function of the mind according to the yogis is practical. This aspect is called Manas, which draws or uses the instruments of the senses to gain information from the external environment and from experiences. In Manas the information is collected. A lot of it remains unattended and unprocessed due to the enormous amount of input received, waking consciousness can only work with a certain amount of this material. Two other aspects of the mind become involved with the material collected by the senses and deposited in Manas. One is Ahamkara, the “I-maker” or ego. The I-maker tries to appropriate the material that comes into Mannas via the senses – it will make it its own. The ego will like some things and it will not like some things, so here the whole pattern of attraction and aversion, of appropriating, identifying and of attachment plays out. The third aspect of the mind is a little bit more complex. This dimension of mind is Chitta, the repository, where all the impressions that have come to us are stored. From the yogic perspective there is the understanding that a soul experiences many lives – so the impressions of many lifetimes are stored in Chitta. These impressions or Samskaras have charges to them, they generate our patterns of reactions, which cause us to respond to various life experiences in certain ways. The Ahamkara (I-maker or ego) is driven towards its likes and dislikes according to the samskara, the impressions we carry.
So we have what psychology calls subconscious material and ego that influence our responses the raw information that Manas collects – and this can be a mess! This is where we get completely lost and confused and find it very difficult to navigate our own minds. The mind consequently gives us an immense amount of trouble. We believe inherently in its products: its thoughts, ideas, impressions and fantasies. Yoga seeks to unburden us of all this mental conditioning. To make the mind a clearer, unsullied more functional instrument.
Why do we believe in what the mind tells us?
KEVAL: We believe the products of the mind to be substantial and significant because they seem so have their own life. But the seat of the source of the minds power is not the mind itself – and this is a debate that has raged for hundreds of years in the West. From the yogic perspective consciousness precedes the mind and its actions. Mastery arises from the ability to still the mind
If we study the mind deeply we see that it is like a one-way mirror, where light can come through but it doesn’t allow light to penetrate the other way back. It is the light of consciousness that is reflected through the mind and everything that is reflected onto the surface of that one-way mirror. But because we don’t see the source of the light that illumines the mind itself we think that the mind is its own creator. So our identity seems to be derived from the mind and therefore seems to be unique and individual.
SADHANA: There is one aspect of the mind that we didn’t put into picture yet, which is the most important facet from the yogic point of view. That is Buddhi, or higher mind. If we learn to orient more towards that aspect of the mind, which is the refined intellect and the capacity to be discerning, we can make decisions not based on the material of the subconscious or the effect of the ego. Then we can find a way of responding that is intelligent and wise and ultimately liberating. If we learn to activate that aspect of mind we begin to reflect more powerfully the minds source itself, consciousness, and the minds nature, which is consciousness.
SADHANA & KEVAL – Shantarasa Yoga Founding Principals
How do we do that?
SADHANA: The practices of this extraordinary tradition of yoga are all intended to clear and strengthen the mind and to free us from its conditioning. From the practice of the ethics, observances like the Yamas and Niyamas, to asana practice that liberates the body from fixed mental tendencies that constrain it, pranayama to cultivate subtle life force, meditation and mantra repetition that draws the powerful energy of the mind to one point and which ultimately refines the mind and turns the practitioner toward their essential and ever present nature.. They all allow us to transcend not just the conditioning of the mind, but the mind itself. The practice of swadyaya, study of the Self, turns the mind away from fiction toward a greater truth and identity.
The minds nature isn’t necessarily to be confused, dull or disturbed, the minds nature is actually to be clear and transparent to reflect consciousness. So through operating from that aspect of the mind which is Buddhi we can allow the natural state of the mind to begin to effect us more than the conditioned mind. This takes practice and patience. With training, we learn to make choices that are beneficial and such choices are often the harder ones for us to make, a choice that requires our courage and willingness to move against societal trends and influences as well as our own habitual tendencies.
Which would be a good practice to start with for clearing the mind?
KEVAL: A good place to start and a good place to finish as well is to observe the mind. We tend to invest a great deal in our thoughts and we inherently believe them. And the mind is like a Chameleon: it can take any shape and color that it likes. If we are constantly interacting and believing what it is that we see on the surface of the mind and don’t make a subtle shift which helps us to begin to see higher aspects of it, then we remain caught. The shift that has to occur comes through the process of detached observation. Everything that presents itself in the mind is observable.
When we stop and observe the mind in our daily life we see that it is plagued with thoughts and that it is completely scattered. In Yoga the mind is called an instrument or the sixth sense. It is supposed to be at the service of the knower of the mind – not the other way around.
Training in meditation or mantra begin to re-orient or re-reference that experience of the observable to that which is observing. Saint Francis of Assisi and also Rumi said that “The one that you are looking for is the one that is looking”. So that begins to point the finger metaphorically towards that which becomes the source of the contemplation. In yoga that is called the witness, Sakshin, that which is observing. Light and awareness are the two fundamental characteristics of this observing capacity.
What happens when the mind becomes still?
KEVAL: When that shift is made, this is so powerful! That is revelatory! One begins to gain a completely different sense and depth of experience. There is an opening and experience of natural joyfulness that arises. Much of the fear and the existential drama that fills life come from the very fact that the mind never becomes quiet. When it does, there is this natural rise of joy and a feeling of being profoundly connected.
Connected to what?
KEVAL: To awareness and consciousness itself. According to the yogic understanding, that is our home, the source of all things. When we begin to connect with that, the insecurities that plague so many of us and our striving to find an identity that brings a sense of satisfaction and wholeness – all that dissolves of its own accord. When the mind is quiet without unnecessary activity we find that there is a richness of experience that begins to seep its way into everything we do: from going for a walk to cooking a meal, from spending time with our family to simply being silent.
Can you share a personal experience when you felt this connection?
SADHANA: Well, so many (laughs). A practical one I can share is related to how shocking experiences sometimes pitch us into an absorbed state or a state that seems beyond normal mind function. In my own experience that was in a moment of a really shocking car accident that occurred many years ago and when I was seven months pregnant. It was that moment just before the impact that was completely suspended and timeless, as if it was happening outside of the framework of time itself. And within that suspended space all that I needed to navigate through this moment was given. I was about to be impacted by a car right where I was sitting. The moment before the impact felt eternal. I observed rather than felt that the body had been quite horribly injured. The instruction that came very clearly from within was “Stay conscious for the child” even as the body and mind were being pulled into unconsciousness.
What was gained from the whole experience is that there is so much more to our reality and to our existence than our very small day to day preoccupations reveal. Shocking moments like that expand the perception of what is real. We get to feel the bigger picture and that everything we need is right there to guide us in the most powerful way. And that sometimes we have to experience intensity in life to reveal what is essential and real. It is the consciousness we bring to the moment that is most important, it lifts us out of the drama.
KEVAL: What sustains and nourishes me more than anything else are the simple moments that begin to reveal themselves as being extraordinary – that the ordinary is extraordinary in its essence. Simple tasks can make one feel a sense of deep connection when opening occurs and of contentment floods the heart completely. Both the mind and heart feel filled and satisfied, but almost paradoxically empty, empty of any content.
The two of you chose to support people on their journeys to make that transformative shift in perspective. What is your motivation for that?
SADHANA: One motivation is seeing so many people today feeling lost – and not for their own wanting. People are seeking, but they are not often finding what really gives them the answers they need to begin to make a shift in their lives to experience its fullness, depth and beauty. Our work is intended to support people to learn to ask the right questions and find the answers within themselves.
I think for both of us it became impossible to live a life that didn’t integrate this. Our work, our dharma if you wish, had to include the path of yoga. Teaching and sharing this is a way to continue and support the work of our teachers, it is a service. It is a way of expressing gratitude. We can never really express enough gratitude for what they gave: a way to recognize what is real and true, and realize the purpose of a life.
Sadhana and Keval have dedicated over 40 years each to the study, practice and teaching of Yoga. They currently travel between Australia, India and the USA and have been offering international yoga teacher training, workshops and seminars since the year 2000 with a focus on meditation, yoga philosophy and asana.
Level 1 Yoga Teacher Training (200hr RYS)
Level 2 Yoga Teacher Training (300hr RYS)
Level 3 Yoga Teacher Training (175hr CE)
Yoga Therapy in Berlin
Janine Schneider has been an editorial director since Autumn 2016 with YOGA AKTUELL. She has been studying literature and online journalism in Berlin in Cologne and has worked in the media and communications sector of various organisations. Janine teaches Hatha Yoga with a focus on mindfulness and breath.
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