Ask Manoj: People say yoga is about realizing the “truth”? What is the “truth” they are referring?

People say yoga is about realizing the “truth”? What is the “truth” they are referring?

Manoj’s Answer:

No verbal answer can clearly reveal the truth to the enquirer. In fact words will only act to cover the truth. Like how the great Lao-tzu said, “Those who know, do not say; Those who say, do not know.” Or like how Kant pointed out, words relate to the world of phenomenon and cannot express the noumenon.

But still, I am just throwing a few words around, to stir up some thoughts on the subject.

Now, what can be the ‘truth’? Many answers might swell up. One answer can be that ‘truth is something which lasts, which doesn”t depend on anything else for its continuous existence’.

So, a tea cup is in front of me. The tea cup is “true” as I can see it and feel it. But on closer look, the “form” of the cup is a dependent, transitory truth. A bigger truth is the “substance” of the cup, which can be clay (I realize I don”t know much about cups.. in fact lifted and tilted it to see whether anything is written on its underside, but other than some residual tea spilling, nothing there..). So the form, idea and the word- “cup”- is only relatively true, when one is relating to it in terms of its shape or utility. But as to what the cup really is, it is just clay (or whatever it is). The form can change, but the material cause remains.

And as I close eyes, can sense wind on my skin. That is the truth of the fan above my body. But fan, for its function of fanning, depends on electricity, and hence electricity is the subtler truth behind the wind felt on my skin.

And as we look in this way, many of the objects around us get stripped of its names. The cupboards, shelves etc suddenly shine forth as just wood, as that is truer than the shape and function it plays.

Similarly, I think I truly exist. But whatever aspect of this notion of “self” I am basing my belief upon, it too is dependent and in fact illusory. The form of the body is an illusion in the mind, as will be revealed if we look at it through a microscope. It is just cells. And each cell is dependent on something else for its activities. Even this mind, don”t know why and how it keeps on functioning. In deep sleep, I have no idea of an “I”. And just as I am waking up, the idea of “I” gets illuminated. By what? Dont know. So even the idea of “self” is not independent, and depends on something else to light it.

Now, “that” or “tat” which is perpetually shining, and by which everything else is illuminated and perceived, that is the independent “truth”, as per yogic scriptures.

However, we cannot realize it as we are strongly in bondage with the “name and form self”.

Now, through practice, when we improve our capacity of concentration and awareness, an unconditioned, non selfed understanding of our body and mind occurs. Then, slowly, layer and layer of conditioned ideas start to get revealed. And as they reveal themselves as merely dependent ideas and not the truth, we get a release from its grip on our way of seeing things. Then, perhaps like how Heidegger said, the “truth” gets experienced as a un-concealment. The same insight occurs to our vision of other people, their minds, and bodies as well.

So, in our practice of asanas, let us be careful of the tendency to get stuck in the relational self with the body. And at any point of time, if you find that you are having free time, look intently at things. First the truth of things as they appear come up. But slowly, as you do not take any conditioned knowledge as a final answer, slowly, slowly, through virarka, vichara, things will reveal.

Now, what can I do now? Some music is wafting through the air. Ok. Let me try what the Kenopanishad, or in a similar vein, what the Zen master Bassui asked of his students-

“Who is hearing these sounds? Continue to ask yourself even more intensely, – What is it that hears?”

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