Something to Nothing, The Yogic Journey

By Manorama, March, 2009

Yoga Pearl: “It takes a whole lot of something to get to nothing.”

In Yoga philosophy, the word nothing is loaded with rich meaning. It is not like in English where the word nothing is synonymous with something one throws out. The English dictionary defines nothing as something of no importance or concern. Yogic teachings, however, place primary importance on the idea of nothing. The aim of Yoga is to reach nothing or nothingness. In Sanskrit, the language of Yoga, the word, shunya nothing is synonymous with other words like zero, emptiness, stillness, beingness. The initial starting point in Yoga moves from the manifest world, the something, towards the internal quiet realm of nothing. Experiencing nothingness or emptiness, is the experience of a state of Yoga.

The pearl above speaks to the practitioner, who often sets out on a journey in a search of him or her self. Most people approach the notion of Self, the way they’ve been taught to approach most of life, by trying to grasp or understand something tangible. The pearl above acts as both a guide and a support, that plays out in the mind of the reader, reminding one that the goal is reached in the movement from something to nothing, not in obtaining yet another something. No doubt this will seem confusing, since the mind is a part of the initial process, and mind always deals with something. ‘Something’ in the quote is synonymous with anything in the material world, thoughts and anything in the phenomenal realm. The student moves outward trying to grasp the idea of nothing as something new to obtain, imagining this is a means to peace, to gather it. A skilled teacher who pays close attention will gently guide the student away from the outer.

Movement outwards as a plan
The student will naturally come up with a strategy to relate with the outside world as a means to attain inner contentment and stillness. To remove all connection with the tangible realm is often too abrupt for students, instead a skillful teacher of Yoga will find a way to allow both possibilities to exist side by side together something and nothing. “It takes a whole lot of something to get to nothing,” describes a relationship between something and nothing, which as yogi’s-in-training we must examine. The teacher will find a way to help the student sit with whatever experiences add up to reality or something for them and then gently offer up the counterpoint of nothing as its backdrop. Soon this backdrop of nothingness is found to be the ground of being or existence itself.

Humor and Contradiction as aids to Experience Self
There is humor in the statement above. Using contradiction and humor to express the teachings is not only fun, but also allows the thinking mind to relax and be at ease in the intense process of Self-discovery. When the mind relaxes it has the possibility of connecting more easily with its quiet essence. An open and relaxed mind has the environment where the seeds of the great Yogic teachings can take proper root.

Copyright 2009 Sanskrit Studies, Manorama


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