Advaita, Yoga Astanga and Practice




Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about Advaita and listening to a lot of audio Satsang (podcasts), from people like Sailor Bob, Adyashanti, Mark Wells, and Nirmala and the guys at Clearspace to name a few. Although I’d been aware of the teachings of Advaita for several decades, I’d never really looked deeply into them. I have a lot of questions… a beginner’s quandry.

In the last few years, I’ve been a keen practitioner of yoga and meditation, which has helped me deal with a marriage break-up and severe depression (I tried to end it all twice). If it were not for these practices (and my children) I would not be here today.

I have gone from doing yoga asana for the purely physical and mental health benefits, practicing Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga, and now going into the teachings of Desikachar and Satyananda yoga, which focus more on spiritual aspects of the practice.

In coming to Advaita and its teachings, I have some questions (I’m sure many people do!).  

The teachings of Advaita in regards to non-duality – that we are a space which the mind and thoughts imprint upon- don’t cause me difficulty. I’d come to this conclusion several months ago when I had a revelatory experience about death (I’ve written about that previously). I’m not very far into examining the teachings of Advaita, so I might be wrong, but my impression is that you don’t have to ‘practice’ anything as such to fully experience ‘the truth’.

What I am trying to reconcile is where practice fits in Advaita and what kind of practice do people do.

Ok… so you might answer me that to practice is hold the assumption that you are not already all that there is, and so in Advaita, practice is another manifestation of misinterpretation. If that’s so, I’ll just have to accept that take on it. Although, that doesn’t sit comfortably with me. In fact, it smacks of New Age consumer, fast-food spirituality.

If you read the Yogasutra, then it is very easy to suggest that Patanjali was a closet Advaita practioner – he is about realising the truth of the self and liberating one from mistaken perceptions of self and world, and of course, the cessation of fluctuations of the mind.

My big question is: can you reconcile yoga practice (in terms of the full 8 Limbs – not just the pretzel work) with Advaita? Is the resting in the postures, pranayama, dhyana, etc a path to the same truth about the non-self that I have found in Advaita?

Also, does Advaita have practices, or is this an anathema to the teachings?

I am just beginning to unravel this, and I suspect it will take years … but it seems like the utter truth to me and I suspect there is a way to reconcile this with the 8 Limbs.

However, I apologise in advance if my questions are confused or I am simply missing the bleedingly obvious in Advaita teachings.


2 thoughts on “Advaita, Yoga Astanga and Practice

  1. In Soto Zen they don’t practice to attain enlightenment. They practice because it is an activity of the already enlightened.

    In Advaita the dream character can practice or not. The separated individual entity who practices or doesn’t, is illusory.

    In the Absolute, there is no individual, no practice, no results.

    Being less self centered and focusing on your children and/or other needy dream characters will make it a happy dream. You are already enlightenment, prior to all and nothing.

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