Holding on to the Sacred
"Do you not hold anything sacred? That’s what I feel like when I see comments like this.”
These are the words of Patuk Glen that I was privileged to come across on Instagram via the @NowThisNews account. Someone left a hateful comment on her post sharing her tribe's, the Iñupiaq, use of a Bowhead whale which they legally subsistence hunt.
Her words struck me as so full of wisdom. If someone is lacking a foundation of reverence for the sacred, whatever form that may take, it leaves them dangerously untethered to common decency and respect. It’s the sacred that creates the form and durability of our boundaries for behavior. It creates framework and structure for our lives in addition to what we revere.
If I, as a yogi, believe that the separation between you, me, and every other human being on this planet is a superficial one because on the deepest spiritual level we are all part of that same divine spirit, how could I inflict violence or harm on you? It naturally leads to the first two limbs in the eight limbed path of a yogi. The Yamas and the Niyamas, those two limbs composing the ethical teachings on the eight limbed path, provide even more form to those boundaries of behavior. I believe it is a sacred teaching that ahimsa (non-harming and the first of the Yamas) should govern how I treat my fellow human.
One of the core teachings of the Upanishads, one of the most sacred texts in Hinduism and yogic philosophy, is that the core being of the Atman (essence of the self) is the same as the core being of Brahman (the divine). From the Vivekachudamani of the Upanishads, "Brahman is the only truth, the world is unreal, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and Atman, individual self." http://yogananda.com.au/upa/Upanishads01.html
This core being is beyond the physical traits that make up our bodies, our minds, or even our characters. It is the intangible spiritual part of us that is shared across all of humanity. This divine thread across all humans requires acting fundamentally from love. That love thread requires I acknowledge the pain and suffering that is being caused to my fellow humans because of those traits between us that are different. Specifically in Patuk Glen's suffering abuse as an indigenous person that I could never understand as a white person. I want to bear witness, acknowledge her, and that pain all from this place of love.
But what might change those people subjecting her to that abuse? Something sacred! This rooted belief in the sacred, whatever form it may take, makes fertile ground for compassion, kindness, and decent treatment of our fellow humans. This is to say that investing in your spiritual development is a revolutionary act that can help heal this world. When you pause and study ancient wisdom of any form, you are honing reverence for the sacred and our connection to one another.
Even the physical practice of yoga asana provides us so much grounding in the sacred. For most of us, physical poses are our first introduction to the holy relationship between the self and the body and how important it is to spend time and effort on care for it. This whole practice of physical postures comes from one short line in the Yoga Sutras, "Sthira sukham asanam" (Yoga Sutra 2.46) which translates to practice asana with steadiness and ease. Moving through these postures and taking care of yourself physically is the path towards finding steadiness and ease in all of the poses without any harming (there's ahimsa again!) or harshness towards the self. That's why the physical postures known as asana is the important third limb in the eight limbed path of a yogi that ultimately leads to enlightenment. It's a sacred practice every time you roll out your mat and connect with your physical body!
If you're interested in sacred texts of the Yogic and Hindu traditions, please consider:
Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
If not, find what is sacred to you! Let it root you in your truth and highest self from which we may treat others the way we want to be treated.