By Ayya Yeshe
Yoga and mindfulness are buzz words now.
There is a whole movement with the over simplified idea that Yoga and Buddhism are about having a chill life with lots of sensory pleasure, having a beautiful body, excellent sex and no tension. This is accompanied by a small amount of profound spiritual wisdom usually minutely quoted out of context with a girl in a bikini doing a back arch on a cliff.
In truth if we wanted to have a chill life and a nice butt we could just do aerobics and smoke dope. We don’t need the hard-won wisdom of yoga and Buddhism for that. To say that yoga is just about getting more fame, money and sex appeal is like saying that Jesus was a blonde-haired gun toting alt right guy who didn’t believe others should have health care. Its a misuse of the purpose and goal of yoga and mindfulness.
That peace you feel when you do yoga and not aerobics is an invitation to something much more lasting and profound.
It is a path that is the very opposite of shallowness or egotism. It is about waking up and exposing self deception and pulling the rug out from under your delusions. Its not always comfortable and its not about being just a comfortable well adjusted consumer in a postmodern world, fast becoming a dystopia.
Yoga and Buddhism are not quick fixes that belong on the same shelf as the fat blaster, fad diets and five minute, famous, self-help Gurus who sometimes bully rape survivors.
Where has our depth and compassion, our “beloved community,” our philosophical searching and rationalism gone? Where is our desire to be a good person, a person of substance and our concern for a suffering world? Since when did having a nice butt and living a life based on simply seeking pleasure and using others for pleasure rather than truly loving and committing to them, out rank being someone living for something greater than themselves?
Spirituality that numbs the pain of ourselves and the world cannot heal the world. To heal requires us to first be honest about our wounds and feel the pain. It’s not easy, it’s not always blissful and it is usually not done in one weekend sipping a pina colada by the beach. But that hard work of really going into a tradition and using it the way it was meant—for goodness, for love, for becoming a light unto the world. If one practices in that way, one will be transformed and illuminated and never the same again.
We have been handed these traditions; we have to honor them. We can’t just sell them and trivialize them for the highest buck. These paths are the journey of a lifetime, not a five minute fad. They are about the ageless beauty found in even the harshest places, not only the domain of youth, fitness and white privilege.
If your gateway to yoga or mindfulness/Buddhism is fitness or stress relief, no problem. But be honest about what you are offering and the higher purpose of these paths.
Honor those paths and their more advanced teachings. Offer the option for people to explore these things in deeper ways, and do not obscure the original purpose of these paths, which was enlightenment and the end of selfishness and clinging, a better and more compassionate world. Insert a few courses and teachers and philosophical contexts that allow the few who are interested to go deeper. For these teachings were hard won by our spiritual ancestors.
We cannot face the divine if we only worship at the shrines of worldly success and desirability.
Because the world needs compassionate socially engaged spiritual warriors now so much more than tumeric lattes and nice butts right now.
Ayya Yeshe is the Abbess of Dakini Bodhicitta Monastery, which is now forming in Australia. She is the director of a socially engaged Buddhist charity for ex “untouchable” Dalit Buddhists in Nagpur, India. Ayya is a contemplative, activist and a socially engaged Buddhist who travels internationally to teach. She is the author of Everyday Enlightenment by Harper Collins and her sacred chants on Youtube have 58,000 hits.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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