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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.
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!
Nachiketa asks: ” How, O King, shall I find that blissful Self, supreme, in- effable, who is attained by the wise? Does he shine by himself, or does he reflect another’s light?” The King of Death replied: ” Him the sun does not illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor the lightning – nor, verily, fires kindled upon the earth. He is the one light that gives light to all. He shining, everything shines. This universe is a tree eternally existing, its root aloft, its branches spread below. The pure root of the tree is Brahman, the immortal, in whom the three worlds have their being, whom none can transcend, who is verily the Self. The whole universe came forth from Brahman and moves in Brahman. ”
Death continues: ” If a man fail to attain Brahman before he casts off his body, he must again put on a body in the world of created things. In one’s own soul Brahman is realised clearly, as if seen in a mirror…None beholds him with the eyes, for he is without visible form. Yet in the heart is he revealed, through self-control and meditation. Those who know him become immortal.”
Such an interesting description – the upturned tree. We tend, in yoga, to raise the energy from the root chakra up through the other wheels of energy to the crown chakra. Try working the other way. Bring down the light, the love and the blessings from the crown chakra to the root.
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…
Death says: ‘The man who has learned that the Self is separate from the body, the senses, and the mind, and has fully known him, the soul of truth, the subtle principle – such a man verily attains to him, and is exceeding glad, because he has found the source and dwelling place of all felicity. Truly do I believe, O Nachiketa, that for thee the gates of joy stand open.’
Nachiketa replies: ‘ Teach me, O King, I beseech thee, whatsoever thou knowest to be beyond right and wrong, beyond cause and effect, beyond past, present and future.’
Death continues:’ Of that goal which all the Vedas declare, which is implicit in all penances, and in pursuit of which men lead lives of continence and service, of that I will briefly speak. It is – OM. This syllable is Brahman. This syllable is indeed supreme.’
OM is the universal hymn; OM is the primordial sound; OM is the best known mantra; OM is the symbol of yoga; OM is the expression of the Supreme Being.
Nachiketa journeyed to the house of Death, and waited for three days to see him. Death greeted him as a Brahmin and offered him three wishes, or boons. Nachiketa’s first wish was that his father would release his anger and greet him as his son. This wish was granted. Nachiketa’s second wish was that he could learn the fire ritual, so that he could be guaranteed to enter heaven. This Death taught him. But then his third wish was to learn the secret of immortality, and Death was very reluctant to grant this boon. He begged Nachiketa to accept all manner of wealth and status instead, but the boy stood firm. Eventually, Death begins to share his knowledge of immortality:
“The good is one thing; the pleasant is another. These two, differing in their ends, both prompt to action. Blessed are they that choose the good; they that choose the pleasant miss the goal. Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to men. The wise, having examined both, distinguish one from the other. The wise prefer the good to the pleasant; the foolish, driven by fleshly desires, prefer the pleasant to the good.”
So it is that we learn from the teachings, in story form. Just as we enjoyed the stories of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, or Cinderella, so yogis digest the teachings from the Upanishads..
Katha Upanishad begins: ‘ On a certain occasion Vajasrabasa, hoping for divine favour, performed a rite which required that he should give away all his possessions. He was careful, however, to sacrifice only his cattle, and of these only such as were useless – the old, the barren, the blind and the lame. Observing this niggardliness, Nachiketa, his young son, whose heart had received the truth taught in the scriptures, thought to himself: ‘Surely a worshipper who dares bring such worthless gifts is doomed to utter darkness!’ Thus reflecting, he came to his father and cried: “Father, I too belong to thee: to whom givest thou ME?” His father did not answer; but when Nachiketa asked again and yet again, he replied impatiently: “Thee I give to Death”.
We will only progress along our spiritual path if we embrace our yoga, our meditation and the teachings wholeheartedly. That does not mean to say that we follow blindly. No, there is always a need to check everything out with your inner guru. But ‘going through the motions’ will not lead to progress. I’m sure we have all met ‘yogis’ who are more concerned about how pretty they look in an asana, or how lovely their meditation shawl is, rather than actually doing the work!