It is only when we look beyond the physical benefits of yoga practice, that we can discover the real treasure that yoga wisdom promises. That treasure has been spoken about throughout the ages, and it is a treasure that is inherently ours. It is the treasure of realising our spiritual nature and our natural spiritual relationship with the Divine. Although this treasure cannot ever be taken from us, it can be forgotten.
In this world, so many people have indeed forgotten their spiritual life – their real life, their real treasure. Even among the great numbers of people who suspect, or have a little faith, or have an intuitive feeling that the Divine nature is a fact and not just a fairy tale – many of us see spiritual awakening as a side thing – not our main purpose. Material concerns and enjoyments often take precedence. What to do?
The same thing that we do if we want to be successful in sports, business, politics, our VCE exams, or whatever other field of activity we are attracted to. If we work diligently and enthusiastically we will surely succeed. This very same and simple principle also applies in the field of spiritual endeavour. All this is not difficult to appreciate, but the problem faced by many people, is that this present material reality, experienced in all its thumping, in-your-face intensity, does in fact appear to be the real world, while the spiritual can sometimes seem to be a pipe dream.
Firstly, most importantly, we gain strength by regular meditation practice. In the same way that our thirst is quenched when we drink some water, if we drink the water of the regular practice of meditation, our spiritual growth and strength is assured, and we can progress beyond the faith stage of our journey, to a point where we can actually taste the satisfaction, security and joy of spiritual experience.
Secondly, we can methodically analyze with a cool head, the true nature of the many varieties of material happiness, which regularly present themselves before us, as credible alternatives to meditation. A few years ago when some politicians were squabbling with each other about who did a better job of managing the economy, one of them stated that “the opposition gave us nothing more than five minutes of economic sunshine” – something like that. That’s what material life has to offer – ‘five minutes of sunshine’, maybe, in some cases. And even if we consider the best case scenarios, we can be absolutely sure of one thing – whatever amount material happiness we obtain, it won’t last.
When the famous actress Katherine Hepburn (in her old age) was asked about old age, she poignantly mentioned that the romantic view of how old age can be ‘a pleasant thing’ was actually a great nonsense. Importantly, this is the commentary of a “legend”, someone who enjoyed great material fame and fortune throughout her life, and even until her last days. She said that old age was a miserable condition, and if anyone thought otherwise, they should “get out, and have a look around”. She quoted one of her similarly forthright old age buddies, who when asked how she was, replied with, “Oh I’m fine, just don’t ask about the details”.
So it is that whether they meditate or not, all kinds of people can express that they are “fine” – even in the face of all kinds of unpleasant “details” – what with the gradual rotting and demise of the physical body, and/or other problems. In this way, people ‘put their best foot forward’ and do the best they can with a bad bargain, but the way of Yoga, is to realise a much better bargain. That bargain – that real treasure – is to realise that unlike whatever temporary material sunshine we may enjoy – spiritual sunshine does not set. It is sunshine followed by sunshine and yet more sunshine, and the “details”, the dark clouds of material difficulties cannot stop it.