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‘Home from OM’ employs the ancient yoga technique of story-telling to put across spiritual teachings, the infinite wisdom. Following the progress of ten occupants of a residential home, we engage with their lives and their pasts. Can living in a yoga community bring grace and fulfillment to their last years? Could this be a way for the elderly to progress instead of diminish? Or will new challenges emerge from the experiment? Carole Kerton has been teaching yoga for forty-one years. She believes in using humour and anecdotes to facilitate learning. Whilst yoga supports all age groups, the elderly in Carole’s classes thrive on their practice.
A man acts according to the desires to which he clings. After death he goes to the next world bearing in his mind the subtle impressions of his deeds; and after reaping there the harvest of his deeds, he returns again to this world of action. Thus he who has desires continues subject to rebirth.
But he in whom desire is stilled suffers no rebirth. After death, having attained to the highest, desiring only the Self, he goes to no other world. Realising Brahman, he becomes Brahman.
When all the desires which once entered into his heart have been driven out by divine knowledge, the mortal, attaining to Brahman, becomes immortal.
As the slough of a snake lies cast off on an anthill, so lies the body of a man at death; while he, freed from the body, becomes one with the immortal spirit, Brahman, the Light Eternal.
Lastly, Sukesa asked the sage: ” Where is the Self?”
The sage replied: “My child, within this body dwells the Self, from whom sprang the sixteen parts of the universe; and in this manner they came into being:’If, creating, I enter my creation,’the Self reflected, ‘what is there to bind me to it; what is there to go out, to stay within it when I stay?’ Pondering thus, and in answer to his thought, he made Prana; and from Prana he made desire; and from desire he made ether, air, fire, water, earth, the senses, the mind, and food; and from food he made vigour, penance, the Vedas, the sacrificial rites, and all the worlds. Thereafter, in the worlds, he created names. And the number of the elements he thus created was sixteen. As the flowing rivers, whose destination is the sea, having reached it disappear in it, losing their names and forms, and men speak only of the sea; so these sixteen parts created from his own being by the Self, the Eternal Seer, having returned to him from whom they came, disappear in him, their destination, losing their names and forms, and people speak only of the Self. Then for man the sixteen parts are no more, and he attains immortality.
Thus it was said of old: ‘The sixteen parts are spokes projecting from the Self, who is the hub of the wheel. The Self is the goal of knowledge. Know him and go beyond death.’ ” The disciples in Prasna upanishad understood, and the story concludes with ‘OM…peace – peace – peace.’
More questions in Prasna upanishad:
Then Bhargava approached the teacher and asked: “Holy sir, how many several powers hold together this body? Which of them are most manifest in it? And which is the greatest?”
“The powers”, replied the sage, “are ether, air, fire, water, earth – these being the five elements which compose the body; and besides these, speech, mind, eye, ear, and the rest of the sense organs. Once these powers made the boastful assertion: ‘we hold the body together and support it,’ whereupon Prana, the primal energy, supreme over them all, said to them: ‘Do not deceive yourselves. It is I alone, dividing myself fivefold, who hold together this body and support it. ‘ But they would not believe him. “Prana, to justify himself, made as if he intended to leave the body. But as he rose and appeared to be going, all the rest realised that if he went they also would have to depart with him; and as Prana again seated himself, the rest found their respective places. As bees go out when their queen goes out, and return when she returns, so was it with speech, mind, vision, hearing and the rest. Convinced of their error, the powers now praised Prana, saying,’As fire, Prana burns; as the sun, he shines; as cloud, he rains; as Indra, he rules the gods; as wind, he blows; as the moon, he nourishes all. He is that which is visible and also that which is invisible. he is immortal life.’
Isha upanishad completes with: ” Let my life now merge in the all-pervading life. Ashes are my body’s end. OM…O mind, remember Brahman. O mind remember thy past deeds. Remember Brahman. Remember thy past deeds.”
And Kena commences in a way to remind us again: “The power behind every activity of nature and of man is the power of Brahman. To realise this truth is to be immortal.”
Yoga is NOT a religion. Yoga is a way of life, built on truth and ethical beliefs. All the teachings lead us to an understanding of goodness, of God, or Brahman, or the Supreme being. I refer back to Patanjali’s Eight Limbs. The second one, the Niyamas or ‘Do’s’ contains Ishwara Pranidhana – Awareness of forces greater than oneself.
From a yoga teacher’s standpoint, Isha is fascinating. I wonder how many times, over the forty years that I have been teaching yoga, that I have said, ‘Yoga works with every part of the being. We work on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. Mind, body, emotions, spirit and breath are all equal team members.’
From Isha we learn: “To darkness they are doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world., and to greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation. Life in the world alone leads to one result, meditation alone leads to another. So have we heard from the wise. They who devote themselves both to life in the world and to meditation, by life in the world overcome death, and by meditation achieve immortality. To darkness they are doomed who worship only the body, and to greater darkness they who worship only the spirit. Worship of the body leads to one result, worship of the spirit leads to another. So have we heard from the wise. They who worship both the body and the spirit, by the body overcome death, and by the spirit achieve immortality.”
Yoga practice is all about balance…
To complete the teaching of Katha Upanishad Death tells us: ” Radiating from the lotus of the heart there are a hundred and one nerves. One of these ascends toward the thousand-petaled lotus in the brain. If, when a man comes to die, his vital force passes upward and out through this nerve, he attains immortality; but if his vital force passes out through another nerve, he goes to one or another plane of mortal existence and remains subject to birth and death. The Supreme Person, of the size of a thumb, the innermost Self, dwells forever in the heart of all beings. As one draws the pith from a reed, so must the aspirant after truth, with great perseverance, separate the Self from the body. Know the Self to be pure and immortal – yea, pure and immortal!”
The Narrator concludes: “Nachiketa, having learned from the god this knowledge and the whole process of yoga,was freed from impurities and from death, and was united with Brahman. Thus will it be with another also if he know the innermost Self. OM peace, peace, peace.”
Our theme for this year’s annual retreat was the lotus flower. It has rich symbology for the yoga community. The lotus flower is seeded in the mud. It grows up through the murky depths, and then blossoms so beautifully on the surface of the water. So it is with us. We come up through our struggles, our difficulties, our lessons, and then blossom with enlightenment!
The King of Death says: ” Brahman is the end of the journey. Brahman is the supreme goal. This Brahman, this Self, deep-hidden in all beings, is not revealed to all; but to the seers, pure in heart, concentrated in mind – to them is he revealed. The senses of the wise man obey his mind, his mind obeys his intellect, his intellect obeys his ego, and his ego obeys the Self. Arise! Awake! Approach the feet of the master and know THAT. Like the sharp edge of the razor, the sages say, is the path. Narrow it is, and difficult to tread! Soundless, formless, intangible, odourless, without beginning, without end, eternal, immutable, beyond nature, is the Self. Knowing him as such, one is freed from death.”
So we learn more about immortality from the Katha Upanishad. Try reading it out loud. The words speak to your heart…
As a mother, you take on the dharma of motherhood. It is your responsibility to care for and nurture your children. As a grandmother, you take on the dharma of caring for your grandchildren, and filling in the spaces where you are needed. As a teacher, you take on the dharma of caring for your students. As you get older, you begin to question more deeply the philosophical questions of life and immortality. Respect, courtesy and good old-fashioned niceness is required for all generations to grow, learn, harmonise and move forward in love.
In the introduction to Katha Upanishad we read: ‘The secret of immortality is to be found in the purification of the heart, in meditation, in realisation of the identity of the Self within and Brahman without. For immortality is union with God’.
Meditation is the cornerstone of yoga practice. When we’ve worked with our asanas and our pranayama, we’re ready to sit steadily and meditate. Then we explore the deeper questions…