Monday, November 18, 2019

Cooperation vs. Competition


“Regarding cooperation: it’s good for you to try and lose yourself a little—to move beyond the personal self and try and cooperate with others. This really helps us understand that we are all one—all part of the same great whole. The action of compassion is to see yourself in others. If I see myself in you, how can I hurt you, steal from you, or lie to you? Impossible! Learn to see yourself in others and strive always to make every offering an act of adoration to the Supreme Self or the forces behind everything. Then we are all practicing yoga.”

—Sri Dharma Mittra, March 2017 issue of Yoga Journal

'Yoga means union, or to yoke or join. To cooperate means to “work jointly towards the same end,” or to “assist someone or comply with their requests,” according to The Oxford Living English Dictionary. Cooperation has its roots in love and compassion—or, as Sri Dharma says, putting oneself in the place of others.

'To compete means “to strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others,” according to the same source. Competition has its roots in the feeling of separateness, which the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali cites as one of the main kleshas, or causes of pain and suffering. Competing can actually reinforce and strengthen this sense of isolation.

'But practicing cooperation can sometimes feel like swimming upstream, especially when mainstream society often appears to divide the world into “us” and “them” and reward unbridled competition.

'We can learn to cooperate in yoga class by respecting the body’s limits on a given day, rather than competing with how our body was a decade or a week ago, or comparing our practice with that of the person next to us or someone on Instagram. My first teacher, Suddha Weixler, used to remind us regularly in class that “It’s not a competition.”

'In yoga practice, when we compete, we end up either beating ourselves up mentally or forcing ourselves into a variation of a pose that causes pain—both of which are violations of yoga’s golden rule, ahimsa (non-harming). Sri Dharma equates ahimsa to the Bible’s First Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” explaining that it doesn’t just apply to taking a life, but means, “Thou shalt not kill the comfort of others.”

'We can cooperate in class by moving together as a group rather than doing our own thing and distracting the rest of the people trying to follow along. (I’ve noticed lately that the latter has been happening a lot in the classes I teach.) One potential consequence is that new practitioners in class become confused and start following the person who’s doing his or her own thing, which can result in injury. For some reason these lone wolves tend to put their mats in the front of the room, and, as a result, everyone else ends up having a diminished experience.

'Sri Dharma often reminds us in class to “move together like a school of fish” in order to create a collective consciousness. “When you are doing things together, you are inside the collective mind, and share psychic knowledge with each other. That is how you become one.”

'When we move in and out of poses as he describes, the effect is incredibly powerful; everyone ends up benefiting more from their practice. (Sri Dharma also reminds us that the fish who goes off on her own is usually the one that is eaten by a bigger fish.)'

Read the rest of this excerpt from my Beyond the Mat book here.


"Recognizing our responsibilities as industrialists, we will devote ourselves to the progress and development of society and the well-being of people through our business activities, thereby enhancing the quality of life throughout the world."

-Konosuke Matsushita

'While I was CEO, I came across a book that gave me newfound confidence that maybe I wasn’t so broken after all,' writes Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler in his new book, This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World. 'Called Not for Bread Alone, it was a series of essays from the long career of a Japanese businessman named Konosuke Matsushita.

'Matsushita led an extraordinary life. In 1918, he started one of the first electrical companies in Japan, which he ran for more than 40 years. That company continues to operate today under the name Panasonic. Not for Bread Alone shares philosophies and lessons from Matsushita’s long career, which is remarkable not just for its longevity but for its broader idea of prosperity.

'In 1932, he told his employees, “The mission of a manufacturer is to overcome poverty, to relieve society as a whole from the misery of poverty, and bring it wealth.” At this same time Matsushita declared the company’s 250-year goal: “the elimination of poverty from this world.”

'He meant it. In 1936, Matsushita decided to give his employees one day off a week at a time when Japanese workers got two days off a month. It wasn’t until 1947 that one day off a week was standardized by Japanese Labor Standards Law. In 1960, Matsushita went further, announcing that the company would offer Japan’s first five-day workweek. “We need a dramatic increase in productivity if we want to compete with foreign companies,” he said.

'“Having two days off every week will help us to achieve this by giving us ample time to refresh mind and body, and greater opportunities to enrich our lives.” To produce more and to produce better, Matsushita counterintuitively proposed people work less. It took until 1980 for most big Japanese firms to follow, and until 1992 for Japanese government workers to have five-day workweeks.

'Matsushita was also a proud capitalist. “Only by making a reasonable profit — neither too much nor too little — can an enterprise expand and be of greater service to more people,” he wrote. “Moreover, the enterprise contributes to society by paying a large portion of its profits in the form of taxes. In that sense, it is a businessperson’s duty, as a citizen, to make a reasonable profit.”

'The contrast between Matsushita’s way of seeing the world and the “disrupt yourself” tone of my present day couldn’t have been bigger. The words of this 89-year-old Japanese man were transformative for me. I had a leadership role model for the first time.'

Read the rest of this piece in Medium.

Read more about Konosuke Matsushita here.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monday, November 04, 2019

Dakshinamurthy Stotram

Eighth Century saint Adi Sankaracharya wrote many great stotras (prayers) but this is a unique prayer, which is not only a prayer but the summary of all the philosophy that he taught.

Learn more here.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Simultaneous Creation

Ramana Maharshi On Simultaneous Creation
from this website

When Adi Sankara wanted to explain the process of simultaneous creation, He gave the example of a city which is seen reflected, in a mirror: ˜"isvam darpana drisyamana nagariĆ¢"(the opening words of Dakshinamurti Stotram). In his time no better example than that was available. But if he were living nowdays,he would certainly have given the very apt example of a cinema projector.

Let us therefore see how Sri Bhagavan used to explain the creation of the world
with the example of a cinema projector.

In a cinema projector there is a bright arc-lamp,in front of which passes a film, and in front of that there is a lens. The rays of the light which comes from the arc-lamp pass through the film, are enlarged by the lens and create a large picture on the distant screen. The arc-lamp in the projector is similar to Self, which shines within our body.

The film which is close to the arc-lamp is similar to the very subtle tendencies or vasanas accumulated within us.

The lenses by which these tendencies are enlarged and made gross are the five sense organs.When the tendencies, which are thoughts in their very subtle seed-form, are projected out through the five senses by the light of Self, they are made gross and are seen as the picture of this outside world consisting of so many different names and forms,which are merely the five sense-knowledges.

That is,the multitude of very subtle tendencies which exist within us is seen by us as the vast universe outside.Therefore everything which is seen outside is in truth only what was already existing inside.

Know clearly that everything which is perceived having come (out) through the mind (and the five senses), was already existing as tendencies (vasanas) in the heart, like a hidden treasure, and (therefore merely) an old story which has come out to be seen.

Source: Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 84.

If there were no arc-lamp in the cinema projector,the picture show could not appear on the screen.Similarly, if the light of self were not present, the creation, sustenance of this world could not take place. The light of Self is that which is commonly known by the name God.

If the film-reel were not in the projector, the picture-show consisting of names and forms would not appear on the screen. Instead only a bright light would be seen there.

Similarly, what shines in the outlook of the Jnani, in whom all the tendencies have been destroyed, is not this world picture consisting of names and forms; what the Jnani experiences is only Himself, the unlimited light of Selfconsciousness.

Source: The Path Of Sri Ramana Part Two By Sri Sadhu Om

Monday, October 21, 2019

Stop Wasting Time

Get up! Wake up! Seek the guidance of an
Illumined teacher and realize the Self.
Sharp like a razor's edge, the sages say,
Is the path, difficult to traverse.

-Katha Upanishad

See Kali's column on the path of the razor's edge here.

Image of Lord Yama and Nachiketa available here

Monday, October 14, 2019

Chogyam Trungpa on Concentration

"Meditation practice is not an attempt to enter into a trance-like state of mind nor is it an attempt to become preoccupied with a particular object. There has developed, both in India and Tibet, a so-called system of meditation which might be called 'concentration.' That is to say that this practice of meditation is based on focusing the mind on a particular point so as to be better able to control the mind and concentrate. in such practice the student chooses an object to look at, think about, or visualize and then focuses his entire attention upon it. In so doing, he tends to develop by force a certain kind of mental calm. I call this kind of practice 'mental gymnastics' because it does not attempt to deal with the totality of any given life-situation. It is based entirely on this or that, subject and object, rather than transcending the dualistic view of life.

"The practice of samadhi on the other hand does not involve concentration. This is very important to realize. Concentration practices are largely ego-reinforcing, although not purposely intended as such. Still, concentration is practiced with a particular aim and object in mind, so we tend to become centralized in the 'heart.' We set out to concentrate upon a flower, stone or flame, and we gaze fixedly at the object, but mentally we are going into the heart as much as possible. We are trying to intensify the solid aspect of form, the qualities of stability and stillness. In the long run such a practice could be dangerous. Depending upon the intensity of the meditator's will-power, we might become introverted in a way which is too solemn, fixed and rigid. This sort of practice is not conducive to openness and energy nor to a sense of humor. It is too heavy and could easily become dogmatic, in the sense that those who become involved in such practices think in terms of imposing discipline upon themselves. We think it necessary to be very serious and solemn. This produces a competitive attitude in our thinking -- the more we can render our minds captive, the more successful we are -- which is a rather dogmatic, authoritarian approach. This way of thinking, always focused on the future, is habitual with ego: 'I would like to see such and such results. I have an idealized theory or dream which I would like to put into effect.' We tend to live in the future, our view of life colored by the expectation of achieving an ideal goal. Because of this expectation we miss the precision and openness and intelligence of the present. We are fascinated, blinded and overwhelmed by the idealized goal"

from Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Monday, October 07, 2019

Ramana Maharshi on Concentration

Question: Is concentration one of the spiritual practices?

Ramana: Concentration is not thinking of one thing only. Rather, it is the putting off of all other thoughts which obstruct the vision of our true nature. All our efforts are only directed towards lifting the veil of ignorance. Now it appears difficult to quell the thoughts, but in the regenerated state, it will be found more difficult to activate them! Why should we think of these things? There is the Self alone. Thoughts can function only if there are objects – but there are no objects, so how can thoughts arise at all? Habit makes us believe that it is difficult to cease thinking. If this error were discovered, one would not be so foolish as to exert oneself unnecessarily.

When attention is directed towards objects and intellect, the mind is aware only of these things. That is our present state. But when we attend to the Self within, we become conscious of It alone. It is therefore all a matter of attention. Our mind has been attending to external things for so long, that the latter have enslaved it and drag it hither and thither. If the mind wanders, we must at once realize we are not the body and enquire, "Who am I?" and the mind must be brought back to realize the Self. Thus all evils are destroyed and happiness is realized.

The Self is like a powerful magnet hidden within us. It draws us gradually to Itself, though we imagine we are going to It of our own accord. When we are near enough, It puts an end to our other activities, makes us still, and then swallows up our own personal current, thus killing our personality. It overwhelms the intellect and floods the whole being. We think we are meditating upon It and developing towards It, whereas the truth is that we are like iron-filings and It is the Self-magnet that is pulling us towards Itself. Thus the process of finding Self is a form of divine magnetism.