An eastern mystic speaks: ‘Yoga is very mysterious.’
Certainly there is a magnetic draw towards the practice of Yoga which is affecting huge amounts of civilians these days. Mystery has an incalculable allure; while feeding upon our fear of the unknown it promises answers beyond our reach, and it is this yearning for answers which has forever drawn humanity onwards, to boldly go and all that.
We do not only reach into the future for answers. We dip and delve, sweep and blow at archaeological remains of antiquity. Despite all this, the glyphs of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation remain a mystery. Even their precise date is uncertain. As yet, no Rosetta Stone has come to light which would translate the meaning of that broad-hatted human in Mulabandhasana surrounded by animals who epitomises that mystery. He has been variously labelled as Shiva, Rudra and Pashupatinath, lord of the animals - but nobody really knows. Is he really doing Mulabhandasana, or simply sitting on an elaborate stool? Or is that just how they used to sit in the Indus Valley?
‘The human mind is very tricky’, proceeds the mystic. Our love of mystery depends on our desire for solutions. Would Agatha Christie be so popular without the denouement in the library, in which the least-likely person is exposed to be a vicious murderer?
What mystifies me is that, whereas even the police and the FBI employ mystics and mediums to shed light on crimes, the combined disciplines of archaeology and theology have not done the same. Why can’t yogic scholars be engaged to psychically interpret these doubtless important glyphs? Could it be that their meaning is precisely that mystery which is at the heart of all yoga practice, of all true living?
Mystery is all around us. Why are sentient well-shod human beings walking past huddled figures in doorways without a sideways glance? Oh, I know - if we give them money, they’ll only spend it on drink and drugs. We could leave it at that - or we can go on and enquire why we should think that is sufficient as an answer; if people need drink and drugs, why do they need them? They must be suffering - but what can we do about it? Obviously, a rhetorical question. We can’t go and help in shelters for the homeless. We can’t go back in time and unravel their domestic dramas. We can’t go there. Why not?
Another mystery: why are parents in India growing their children in flower-pots in order to deform and cultivate them for lives of affluence in beggary? If we give these children money we are confirming the parents in their view that this was the right thing to do; if we ignore them and give them nothing we close our hearts to a question without a logical answer.
Well, to a certain extent, Indian philosophy offers answers: the parents believe they are doing the children a favour as they are giving them an opportunity to burn up bad karma; they are also aware that they themselves are incurring bad karma by so doing. So in a way, they may reason, they are sacrificing themselves for their children rather than vice versa. The system which provides these answers also holds responsibility for the problem; without the inbuilt cruelty of the caste-system these children would be assured of a decent chance in life without their parents resorting to flower-pots. And we would be saved the embarrassment of worrying what we can possibly do about it - or not.
We can get around it. We too can talk about karma, ignore the frozen bodies on the western streets and the deformed ones in the east. We can assuage our consciences by writing small cheques to big charities and saying, there, that’s my little drop in the ocean. Unfortunately, charity money is all too often mysteriously soaked up by the three-headed snake of admin, corruption and incompetence - which provides an excellent excuse for not giving to charity at all. Which is a shame, as there are some brilliant charities doing very committed work in the world. But how do we know the difference between Oxfam and some tiny little initiative set up by a retired Indian bishop and his wife in Maharastra? Oxfam have some beautiful advertisements and Deep Griha have none: it’s a question of information.
Information? We have a whole technology dedicated to information. As anyone who teaches yoga to teenagers knows, children in the west are deforming their spines in the almost cancerous quest for information which our society now embraces. If I want to know exactly what went on between Brahma and Shiva, and why Brahma was only allowed one temple, if I’m not careful I go to the internet. And after several day’s fascinating diversions come across the right reference which was sitting on the bookshelf all the time. By which time I have completely forgotten why I wanted to know about Brahma in the first place. My spine and neck muscles will also be suffering. Why do we assume the answer is out there rather than in here? It is a mystery.
But we love mystery. While the literal message of the Harappan glyphs is unknown we can understand instinctively their real message: that we come from something far greater, more organic and comprehensive than we with our small minds can grasp. We don’t have to go to India and touch the feet of thousand-year-old statues. We just have to look at the finger that touches. We don’t have to look at a figure doing Mulabandhasana - we can do Mulabandhasana ourselves. Or simply sit. By thus stimulating the Muladhara chakra we intuitively access the deep core of our inner earth where the seeds of our unique genetic histories reside. Perhaps one day these ancestral mysteries will be decoded from our DNA and be accessible for all to download from the internet, but for the moment the mystery itself produces a sensation of absolute security from which, should we let go of the questions enough, all answers will one day bloom.