As for me, all I know is I know nothing. – Socrates.
A few days ago, as my cousin sister, Gayathree, and I sat speaking about what we usually end up speaking about in our chat-conversations, something happened. It was a moment’s event; a few seconds of time was probably all it took. But the effect, I presume, would be eternal and I pray that it stays so, for it holds such value and would keep me as grounded as I need to be.
How often do we go about, assuming our knowledge (although severely limited) about certain things in life are far more than what is sufficient or necessary? How often, does our ego persuade us to overrule and underestimate the value of certain things – until and unless, of course, something happens, and someone comes to enlighten us on our prejudice.
Though the lesson I learned from this incident which happened about two days ago is, according to me, quite old and universal, the way in which it unfolded is what makes me write this post.
My cousin, although she might deny what I am about to state, is a very knowledgeable person on Yoga. Now, there are two forms of Yoga – the physical (Hatha) and the metaphysical (Raaja). She has been through Hatha Yoga from a very famous training center, and thanks to her wonderful spiritual insight, knowledge and training, her understanding of Hatha Yoga and her line of thought is quite rational and many times, illuminating.
Nevertheless, whenever she had spoken about Hatha Yoga to me, I have always maintained a distant and indifferent shade of response although hiding it from her lest she should feel offended. Ever since I read the book on Raaja Yoga (by Swami Vivekaananda), I have always held it superior to the Hatha form. Though this may be true in a metaphysical sense, the truth is that Raaja Yoga only builds on Hatha and a clear grasp and realization of the need for Hatha Yoga is quite necessary in order to proceed towards Raaja Yoga.
But one clear statement, and the precise form it was made in, put things in a very clear perspective for me. All the while, I had been quite affirmative that Hatha Yoga was a mere physical exertion – with, of course, a considerable level of mental awakening and exercise. And though truth be that Raaja Yoga deals with mind more than Hatha Yoga does, without the foundation, of what use is the construction of a building?
So, she began by narrating me of the days she’d think about why people go through such obscure and odd postures. If at all for physical strength, the problem still stays that Hatha Yoga keeps you only in firm physical shape – but you lose your mortal frame anyway! Why go through such tough, rigorous and lengthy process – and then arrive at a seemingly comic or at times tragic postures – where a very high level of energy is spent or utilized and end up losing the very body that you have taken care of so well?
Then, she said:
You strain your body so that your mind becomes relaxed. For if your body relaxes, your mind wanders and there is no focus. But when you do Hatha Yoga and try to achieve those obscure positions, your mind has only one thing to do – focus on arriving at that final posture. That’s what justifies those obscure aasanaas of Hatha Yoga.
For a few seconds, my mind went as blank as it could – not because it tried to digest the information but because it was reeling under the hit. For so long, I had held Hatha Yoga at the bottom of the list; it suddenly grew out of proportions and became, in one swift instant, as important and in certain angles, way more important than Raaja Yoga. I realized, for probably the nth time, that I had prejudiced against something that was way too important and necessary. This Hatha Yoga is the foundation for mind-control. And mind-control is the foundation of Raaja Yoga.
For the reader, this may not come as either a shock or a surprise. But on a very personal level, the impact of the lesson – that even though I had tried my best not to be judgmental, that even though I had tried my best to refrain from being prejudiced, without a possible consciousness about its existence, I had been totally judgmental and prejudiced against Hatha Yoga. And the day it dawned was the day it struck hard.
Whatever Socrates said, rings loud and clear in my ears. As for me, all I know is I know nothing. If Socrates himself said that, I have strong reasons to believe and realize that I know far less than what he knew.