A Yogic Response to Violence in India

The roots of yoga in all forms are traced back to the Indian subcontinent.  All of us who walk on this path have a connection to the land of its birth in the same way we have connection to the soil which grows our food and the trees from which we built our homes.  It may not be a “soul” connection, but as the world shows us over and over again, it is impossible to separate the origins of the practice from the practice itself, though we can make the choice to walk our path differently.  So when bloodshed and terror strike the motherland of this practice, how do we yogis in the West respond?

Hoards of Western yogis every year travel to the land of the birth of yoga.  They do so not with fear of safety or violence, but with a deep spiritual longing.  This week in India, at least two of these seekers experienced the end of their journey in a land far away from the home they knew.  It is reported that two Americans on a yoga retreat, a father and daughter, were among the foreign casualties of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.  Two yogis seeking a deeper truth met their end in the birthplace of yoga.  And we all grieve.

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We grieve for our brother and sister on the path, for that part which led them to India to seek more deeply.  We grieve, not because we knew them personally, but because we know that part of them that is in us.  We know what would guide us to this fascinating foreign land to practice.  We grieve for their families and friends, for the supporters and the skeptics that held them so close in their hearts.  So much of what yoga teaches us is that there is no separation, what happens to one affects all.  So our hearts expand to grieve the two Rabbis and their students from the Jewish community center in Mumbai, the countless Indian’s who were dining in the restaurant in the Taj Mahal Hotel or sitting without care in their rooms.  We open our hearts to hold the families of all who were affected.

As yogis, we seek to hold experiences, situations, and people without judgment, to know that everything is purposeful in the grand scheme.  As it was Arjuna’s fate to fight his own family on the field of battle in the Bhagavad Gita, so it was with purpose that the motherland of Yoga was inundated with terror.  But, what could possibly be the purpose in fear and death?  The veil of grief is heavy, and often blocks our view.  But it is from this most confusing, dark shroud of violence and grief that we step most solidly on our path of yoga.  Instead of reacting, we find stillness.  We sit with our emotions and learn to truly feel our pain.  In feeling our pain, we learn to feel the pain of others. 

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In this infinite spider web of existence, we are all connected, and the pain that led these men to commit these violent acts is the same seed of pain that we have all felt.  As we sit with this pain, we begin to understand that within this horror, this fragmentation, we, as yogis, can stay connected.  We can open our hearts to the land, the people, the fear and see that within each breath, there is a moment of pause where we are all the same.  So we use this horrible experience to more deeply understand ourselves, to learn about our own tendencies, to bring compassion into our hearts both for ourselves and for others. 

As we in the yoga communities of the world collectively grieve this travesty, let us also collectively seek compassion, understanding, and unity.  Unity with everyone, even those whose path is not clear to us.  We can begin to understand that any separation leads to pain and its results, so our tendency to judge or create division between us and them is just as dangerous as those actions that spark violence.  Union, yoga, means ONE, unconditional, unlimited, without judgment.  And often it is through the most blurred vision, within the most difficult situations that we are asked to practice. Recognize that it is within anger, blame and grief that we can so easily become that which caused us pain. So we practice.  We slow down, breathe, cultivate clarity, practice yoga.  Practice now, yogi family, and seek the yoga within the tragedy.

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