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At The Feet of The Yogi
By Kirpal S. Khalsa, Ph.D.

Chapter Two
Class at the University


Yogi Bhajan

“What did you think of the Yogi?” I asked next afternoon after our University classes were finished. We were sitting in my dorm room still trying to make sense of the previous evening.

“The guy was a total ego maniac,” said Andy. “All he did was yell at us.”

“He seemed pretty angry,” I agreed. “I wouldn’t have expected a master of yoga to be so angry.”

“If he’s really supposed to be a master of yoga, why didn’t he do any yoga?”

“He had Dawson and Patrick there to demonstrate everything.”

“Yeah, right, I wonder if he can even do yoga. He’s sort of overweight.”

It was Friday afternoon and we were looking forward to a relaxing weekend. The question before us was what to do that evening. Our options were one, go to a Jethro Tull rock concert or two, go to a lecture on campus given by the Yogi. Andy had made up his mind. I was undecided.

“I think I’d like to see him straight. Last night I was so stoned that I don’t remember anything he said.”

“That’s because he didn’t say anything. All he did was yell at us.”

“I feel like I missed something. Maybe if I were to go straight I might learn something.”

“Good luck. You’re going to miss a good concert.”

The lecture on the University of Arizona campus was advertised as “Kundalini Yoga: Ancient Wisdom of India for Modern America”. It was part of an International Lecture Series and held at a small comfortable theater. I wondered how the Yogi could teach yoga to people stuffed into little chairs with armrests. A crowd of about one hundred people attended, many professors, older students and Tucson community members. There were a few hippie types like me or yoga class people. Needless to say, I was not stoned.

The Yogi parted the curtains at stage center and sat on cushion on the floor. He was a striking figure. His perfectly wrapped white turban contrasted with his jet black beard. Sitting by himself on the large stage he did not seem as physically imposing as on the previous evening. He closed his eyes for a few seconds then spoke into the microphone.


Yogi Bhajan

“I have found that people lack a basic understanding about the goals, process, and techniques of Kundalini Yoga.”

His tone was matter of fact, direct and with a bit of an intellectual air. His Indian accent seemed more pronounced than I remembered, possibly due the fact that he was speaking instead of yelling. He dispensed with any introductions or small talk and got right to the point.

“People do not understand the core concept of yoga. Some people think yoga is a religion. Some people think it is a physical exercise for vitality and health. Some people think it is a psychological system that develops the potential of the psyche. In reality, this is all based on misunderstanding. Yoga is essentially a relationship.”

His audience was from the academic community, highly educated and intellectual. He was speaking their language.

“Consider the origin of the word “yoga.” Yoga, as we in the West understand it, has come from the biblical word, yoke. This from the root word in Sanskrit: jugit. They both mean "to join together" or "to unite." Yoga is the union of the individual’s unit consciousness with the Infinite Consciousness. The definition of a yogi is a person who has merged the unit self with the Infinite Self, the Supreme Consciousness, which is God. That is all it means.”

Uh oh, he used the “G” word. I knew from my very intellectual and academic upbringing that God was not welcome in these circles. I wondered how these intellectual types would take it.

“Yoga is greatly needed. In our life today, each person must deeply understand why he is a human being and what it means to be a human being. There is a lot of talk and philosophy about the inner Infinity and how to know about it. Remember that intellectual knowledge does not hold and sustain you.”

Ha! I had to laugh. To many in the audience, intellectual knowledge was the highest human achievement. They practically worshipped it. He was challenging their basic reality and sticking it to them.

“Knowledge only becomes real wisdom when you experience it with your own heart and Being. Only the experience in that wisdom--gian--can hold and support you. Just because you know about or believe something is true, does not mean you can act on it. But if you discover a truth and act on the path of that truth, and if you can find bliss, success, and fulfillment in yourself as a result, then no power on Earth can make you veer from that truth or do wrong. Once you have seen the joy of that truth and have enjoyed that beauty, you are okay.”

By this point I did not care what the intellectuals were thinking. The Yogi was saying some beautiful things and had my full attention.

“To begin the study of Kundalini Yoga, understand that you have a threefold structure: body, mind, and soul. Your essence has a vehicle to experience the universe and the Self, through these three facets of you. You must understand, have your own depth, and experience of each facet.”

Dawson had spoken about the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of yoga. I was pretty sure I already knew this stuff. But the Yogi spoke with such authority and with a depth of understanding that his words seemed to penetrate through the intellectual layers of my mind to a deeper place where the words resonated true.

“The physical or gross body is the first facet you must master and understand as a human being. It is your vehicle to travel through this life. Your inner machinery is very complicated and subtle. It is not just the flesh and bone that you can see. It’s a very well-designed and systematic system. It has glands, blood circulation, breathing apparatus, heartbeat pulsation, a brain, sensory apparatus, and a complex nervous system. All these systems combine and interweave with a structure of flesh and bone to constitute your physical system.

The physical body is the basic temple in which you can deposit the treasure of happiness in life. When you are young you can play mischief with the physical body. But in old age the body has you paying for the playing. You cannot escape this fact. The body does not forgive your actions, it only records the results of the actions.”

Paying for the playing, he certainly had a way with words.

“You must schedule the body and calculate its use and maintenance on a scale that changes with age. Think to yourself, "Suppose I live 100 years. I have a plan for that. How should I carry this body, model 1949, or1969? I want to live 100 years from that first year. How do care for that system?" This body is the only one you get.

“In Kundalini Yoga, you study the human body in the light of yoga therapy. You must understand it and learn how you can make the best use of it. You must be able to keep it on the level of consciousness you choose, so that it can serve you better and better, without a lot of trouble. That’s the maximum you can do.”

I was eighteen years old and burning the candle at both ends. My best friend had died of an overdose. Others were so spaced out they could barely hold a conversation. Never had I considered that my body had to serve me one or two years let alone a hundred.

“The mind is the second facet in our human life. If the horizon of the mind in thought, understanding, tolerance, and patience is limited, and if the mind is not so beautifully functional that it can see the unseen, and understand the consequences of each action, then it is practically impossible to live a happy life. The mind guides your actions and emotions. If you do not have a good road map, you do not know where you are going. You are just driving without aim, choice, or control. That’s what we do in life.”

That sure was what I was doing in life.

“I would like to train you so that you can have a happy life around you. Actually, you must realize that everything depends on your mental outlook. The problem with your mind is that as you think, so you are. How can you develop this potent mental faculty to perceive everything correctly? If somebody is beautiful or ugly to you, it is a result of your mental evaluation. Somebody seems rich to you, even though he doesn’t give you a penny. He is rich to you because of mental appraisal. You may imagine somebody is poor, even though he has a million dollars sitting right under his seat. You call him poor because of your own mind. All of your experience is filtered through the creativity and appraisal of your mind. Happy and unhappy belong to your mind, not to the world.”

There was no question that I had that one backwards. To me happy and unhappy was directly tied to what happened in the world. Good things made me happy, bad things made me unhappy. Wasn’t that was the way it was supposed to be?

“It is the mind, which can give you a perspective on your life. What is the aim of your life? Many of you do not ask this question. You are too busy just surviving. But without this question you will never experience living. The reflex answer to the question is, "Oh, everything is all right." What is all right? Nothing! Ask anybody. Everybody has twenty complaints about himself. Why? Where does the time go? Early in the morning, you go to the office and earn money. Saturday you have to pay your bills and buy groceries. If there’s a long weekend you have to take care of your taxes. Three hundred and sixty-five days go like this. We are so involved in moment-to-moment tasks that we do not know any better about life. When we do not know any better, how’s the better going to come?

“We pass our years with such speed and anxiety that we do not know what maintains us. It results in a shattered mind and the loss of happiness. Then you must get to a psychiatrist, a counselor, or a yogi. You depend on someone to redirect your energy and help you. But I believe every person represents God. I do not believe you should be dependent and led around like a donkey by the nose by some wise man who puts a string in your nostrils, or who talks about God. You do not need preachers or leechers. What you need is the inner experience of God.”

He was nailing us to the wall, telling us how messed up we were. He sure did not pull punches. I wondered if others in the audience were even listening.

“The third facet in the human being is the soul, the spirit.”

Ah now we get to the good stuff.

“As no lamp can burn without a combustible fuel, so no life can exist without a relationship to the spirit in it. Spirit has many meanings, tones and facets. If there is a central thread in it, it is the general flow of the cosmic energy. In Catholicism we call that flow God. In yoga we call that flow Cosmic Energy. The two meanings and the One Reality are exactly the same.

“You have to understand your relationship with that Infinite Energy. You must learn how you can tune in to accomplish your own purpose. You can have a healthy, happy, holy, wholesome life, a fulfilled life, a beautiful life. You can experience in yourself the deep contentment of existence. You should be so confirmed in this contentment that if you had to quit this planet you could just say, "Thank you," and feel grateful.”

By “quit the planet”, did he mean die? Dying was not something I thought too much about, especially after my friend, Sheep, overdosed on heroin. I doubted very much he died grateful.

“We often misunderstand or deny our basic spiritual nature in our social habits and communication. We are first of all people of spirit and faith. Our first impulse is faith. Our greatest capacity is faith. Our innocence and intuition act from faith, yet we have lost the normal experience of the inner Infinity.

I want to touch on a controversial point. Whatever religion you follow, that belief, tradition, and practice is meant to guide you to experience your true origin, which is Infinity. The religion should get rid of your self-belittlement and limitation. It should inspire and lift you to your full human capacity. Instead of this result, you usually learn prejudice; you learn how to divide humanity; and you learn to love and hate based on belonging to certain thoughts, feelings, or practices. This mis-education has done more harm to humanity than all the good acts the religions were intended to do.”

It amazed me to hear him speaking about faith and religion in sociological terms. It was so perfect for this audience. I wondered again if they heard it.

“We have lost touch with the roots of religion: the spiritual impulse and identity in our heart. We do not even understand the basic concept in the word "religion." That term comes from the Latin religio. It means "to look back at your origin." And what is your origin? Spirit! And what is your end? Spirit! So what are you fighting about? What is the great debate? When you experience your origin as a reality, you are happy. Be constant under all circumstances and relate to one thing--you are a part of Infinity and always lean on that power--then you’ll never be unhappy.”

He had us do a three part breathing exercise sitting straight in our chairs. The fingers were interlocked, facing down at the navel. Inhale one part – lift the hands to the heart; inhale second part – lift the hands to the throat; inhale third part – lift the hands to the forehead. Then exhale in one breath and lower the hands back to the navel. We did it for about five minutes. Then he had us continue the three part breath while holding the hands at the forehead. He had us close our eyes and concentrate at the third eye point. He talked about the third eye as the source of wisdom and self knowledge.

I walked out of that lecture as high as any acid trip or yoga class I had ever attended. The meditation and breathing we had done were pretty powerful but did not account for the way I felt. Something in me had opened; a deep part of my self, a wise and contented knowing self that was at once familiar yet wonderfully new. What happened? All he did was talk to us. Can words alone do such a thing? It was as if the combination of sounds, their meaning, frequency, sequence and rhythm had an impact. Who was this guy?

Well, one thing was for sure, he was a teacher, maybe even a good teacher. I could go only that far. But he was not my teacher. Maybe he was someone I could learn from. Back then I had lots of teachers – Milerepa, Sri Ramakrishna, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Michio Kushi, Satya Sai Baba to name a few. They all had something to teach. I could learn from them all.

But the Yogi’s words were like little seeds. He planted them in my mind and they slowly took root. Over time many of his words made more and more sense. I could not deny their simple and basic truth. I could not deny that I was worlds away from the state of consciousness he described. -- Chapter Three is next.

      

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