Vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya navani grhnati naro parani tatha sharirani vihaya jirnany anyani samyati navani dehi Just as a man, having cast off old garments, puts on other, new ones, even so does the embodied one, having cast off old bodies, take on other, new ones. -The Bhagavad Gita, Chap. 2, verse 22
We are born again in each breath that we take and every step we make. The idea of being reborn, or born-again, signifies a rebirth or revival. For the yogi, the breath indicates that life exists, and each new breath is a new living moment. The choice we have is to consciously partake of the construction of our reality or to remain the victim of fate (really unconsciousness). The one who strives to be reborn consciously into life is the jivanmukta. When our life is consciously re-vivified, it has been reconnected to its source and nourishment. When we trade in a love-less life for a love-created life, we are reborn. Our sense of purpose and our core values are re-ignited. Re-incarnation is another word that refers to this continuous process-lifetime after lifetime.
In the Yoga Sutra, Master Patanjali tells us that the substrate of existence contains all possible characteristics whether latent, active or future. Through yoga practices, we can gain access to this substrate of existence and bring forth our greatest vision. When we create variation in causes, they become changes in the results. Yoga practices get to the root causes for unhappiness. When we create change on a causal level-for example, the purification of intention or the removal of fear or ignorance-the results of those changes will be felt automatically in our lives. Knowledge of past, present and future is the result of samyama-perfect balance, perfect equilibrium of mind-on the three kinds of transformation that lead to enlightenment (nirodha, samadhi and ekagrata-parinama; see PYS Chap. III, sutras 9, 11, 12, 16). By observing past impressions (samskaras), knowledge of previous incarnations is obtained (PYS III.18). Samskaras are evident in the difficulties we encounter in yoga practices from unconscious breathing and movement to a fragmented mind. Knowledge of your own death may be obtained through samyama on the two types of karma-active and latent-in shavasana. The goal for the yogi is to be freed from the cycle of rebirth and samsara, the coming and going. It is only through understanding how the cycle of rebirth continues that we can overcome it. This goal is achieved through the disassociation from the movements of chittam (the mind stuff).
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, And all the King’s horses, And all the King’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Religare, the Latin root of the English word “religion,” like the Sanskrit wordhatha, means “to bind up,” and the traditional task of religion and yoga has been to bind up the pieces that have broken away from the ecstatic Oneness of Being-to heal the separation and be reborn whole and complete.
Focus of the Month Teaching Tips Renaissance (May, 2012)
…started writing a book on Renaissance individuals, but discovered in the end that there are no individuals. -Renaissance Self-fashioning, Stephan Greenblatt
Some of the writing of the Italian Renaissance may be interesting especially in relationship to the city state as a reflection of the individual-collecting the parts together to make a whole.
Of course the sutras that address the transcendence of time (all the siddhis) allow us to incorporate our particular birth into the context of a larger coming and going. Emphasis of vinyasa would provide the platform for the witness consciousness in asana practice, and in life itself.
The key to this skill is to witness yoga practice and your life as process- notobject. We can tend to view ourselves as a fixed and vulnerable object that all the monsters of the universe try to destroy rather than as a flowing confluence of cosmic energies that flow around and through time and space. As well, the asanas and other practices can become “things we do” rather than tools for enlightenment. As we flow through all the forms of an asana practice with an unchanging breath we can witness the shifting of shapes at the same time with the continuity of spirit.
As a person’s desire is, so is their destiny. For as their desire is, so is their will; and as their will is, so is their deed; and as their deed is, so is their reward, whether good or bad. A person acts according to the desires to which they cling. After death they go to the next world bearing in their mind the subtle impressions of their deeds; and, after reaping there the harvest of his deeds, they return again to this world of action. Those who have desires continue subject to rebirth. -Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. -Bible, John, 3:5-6,14
It is said that the thought we have on our mind at the moment of death will propel us into the next birth. The key to an evolutionary transition is consciousness in the moment of transition and fixing of the mind and being on the single-pointed goal of perfection. Using mantra during meditation can help to train the mind to the ekagraha- single pointed focus.
For most of us, death is the trouble, not rebirth. In breath-work the emphasis on exhale (Kapalabhati) and exhale retention (Bahya Kumhhaka) prepare us for the last breath we take. Purifying thoughts when we experience the absence of breath prepares us to make a conscious transition to a new body. But also, attention should be called to the first in-breath after retention, experiencing it as new, original, unlike anything you have experienced before. In fact, our attention upon each new breath as a rebirth, is both a revelation and a tool for realizing the passage of the life force from moment to moment. When we can welcome the newness of each breath with wonder rather than guardedness and fear, we can overcome the fear of death of the body. When we accept change as the rule, rather than the exception, we welcome change and exercise our ability to manifest change. The ability to manifest change is called siddhi.
Savasana has obvious benefits. It is a small death and rebirth, and preparation for the actual death of the body and rebirth to the next life. The worst thing that a person can experience is death as confusion and panic. This leads to unconscious transition and unfortunate rebirth. (See Prof. R. Thurman’s translation of Tibetan Book of the Dead.) Practicing our physical death and rebirth each day of our lives helps us to place an authentic value on a life lived, and fearlessness in the face of new possibilities of a new day.