Monthly Message 
The Purpose of the Circle
Brian Afton
YogaBetsy Discourse #16
 Over the centuries there have been persistent stories of great masters living in the Himalayan Mountains.  Typically, these stories are about individuals who have studied and mastered the ancient art and science of Yoga; though it must be understood that some of them were Buddhists, Christians and Moslems.

  It comes as a considerable surprise to most Americans to discover that some of these great adepts and masters were Christians.  But, such was the case.  Truth is truth.  It isnít and never was the property of one exclusive group.

  Still, by number, most of the stores are about masters from the Vedic and Hindu tradition.  This isnít because the Vedic tradition is better than the Christian, Moslem or Buddhist tradition.  It derives from the historical population distribution of the world and the simple fact that the Vedic traditions have been around so much longer.  They are much older than the Judaic-Christian tradition and may, in fact, have existed for over ten thousand years in some form.

  Extraordinary feats and manifestations called miracles have been attributed to the Himalayan Masters and consequently it is not surprising that a lot of people have come to believe that mastering the yoga postures will be an important step on the path to their enlightenment.

   That last part is an important point that should, at all times, be kept in mind.  It is an important step.  Doing Yoga postures will not, of themselves, cause enlightenment.

  The truth is not that simple, and personal development is not that easy.  To begin with, real yoga has little to do with the body contortions which most people associate with it.

  If you stop and think about it practically all children can, and easily do, put their feet in their mouths, wrap their legs behind their necks, and sleep undisturbed in bushel baskets or cardboard boxes.  They can, in fact, do many advanced yoga postures and various other contortions effortlessly because they are young and their skeletons are still soft.

  So, if doing the postures was all which was involved in mastership we would all have it made.  Small children do them all the time and, whether you remember it or not, so did you.

  There is a lot more to real yoga than doing postures.  There are several kinds of yoga which are focused on a different aspects of development and often some kind of service.

  Doing the traditional Hatha Yoga postures does have some basic and important health effects and it also prepares you for mediation and attunement but in a more important and practical sense probably the most important thing it does is to introduce you to yourself.

  For most students the Hatha practice is where they really learn about the bodies energy system not as an abstract concept but as a reality in the living, feeling world.  For the first time they will begin to notice the breath, really notice it and begin to understand its importance and power.  In time they will begin to actually feel energy move through the medians and charkas and will start to realize that there is much, much more to you and life and the universe than they had ever suspected or were taught in school or church.  It is where we learn that we are not simply material beings.

  Still and all, it is only a beginning.  In the end, success in meditation and enlightenment occurs because of what you are, and not just because you did some exercises.  The outcome, as with so many other things, is far more closely related to how you did them, what you became in the process, and how you lived your life afterwards.

  For there is another aspect to this matter of enlightenment and spiritual growth which is rarely discussed and warrants serious consideration: this is the fact that, in the Grand Cosmic Scheme of things, how and why we do things appears to be more important than what we actually did sometimes.

  According to the ancient Vedic teachings the Universe always holds us responsible for everything we do.  There is no way any of us is ever going to get out of the universe or avoid the consequences of our actions.  That is called Karma.  But, our Karma is far more closely related to why we did certain things than what we actually did in many cases and this is fortunate, for just how much of the consequences of any act could our limited human minds actually comprehend?

  This situation is explained as well as it is anywhere in The Narnia Chronicles by CS Lewis.

  There is a scene near the end of the book where an enemy soldier enters what he knows to be a death trap searching for his false god because he has been told and been given good reason to believe that it is inside.

  But once inside the building and having gotten past the trial of life and death in the form of an ambush which awaited him there, the enemy soldier did not find the false god of his own limited understanding and imagination at all.  Mind you, all his beliefs and preparations and actions were geared to doing just that, but, because he was willing to face death to find his false god what he actually found was the real one, represented in the form of the Great Lion, Asland.  

  It did not matter that the soldier came in search of a false god, for it was the best that his ignorant mind and limited understanding could come up with, at that point in his development, and so this was overlooked.

  What mattered was that he came and he came honestly, giving his best, while others stood by outside, where it was safe, and did nothing.

  The same principles should be kept in mind in our yoga or other spiritual pursuits especially when we come up short or things do not turn out as we expected or hoped.  Perhaps what were are seeking is not really there. Perhaps some of these dreams cannot come true and perhaps that is very fortunate.  Perhaps the ultimate outcome of our efforts will turn out to be something very different but very much superior to anything we have imagined or could imagine.

  In the end all any of us can do is to give our best though it is often none to clear just exactly what that might be.  Over the centuries some advice and signposts along the way have been left by the great masters and avatars.  They caution us to stop worrying about this world and to start worrying about ourselves; to forget about fixing the world and fixing other people and start fixing us.  Not so much the material aspect of our being but the spiritual and conscious part of our being.

  For the only place you will ever be free in within you.  The only person you are ever going to fix is you and the only place you will ever find love is with God.  It is to all of these things that a yoga practice should be dedicated.

  The purpose of the Circle Meditations we do here is to assist in this process.  When we hold certain kinds of thoughts a condition is established around us which attracts a kind of energy called grace, a power that lies far beyond anything we, ourselves, are capable of generating.  It is part of the process of fixing ourselves and preparing to advance into a higher level of understanding and consciousness.

  It is not that we are asking people to project some magic force from themselves during these circle meditations.  What we are doing is receiving an energy from a higher source.  This is sometimes called grace.  It is also known as the power of the holy spirit though it has other names as well.  

  By any name, it not only empowers and develops us but the mere existence of this condition among us raises the power of everyone and everything around us.  Moreover, because of our configuration in this temple and because of our intention in being here it is a power of vastly greater magnitude than we could possibly hope to generate as a group of individuals.

   We do not need to save the world.  We do not need to point out or correct the faults and imperfections in others.  We need only to remove them from ourselves.  We need only, in the days and weeks ahead rededicate ourselves to that task.  We need only to accept that grace which will flow here this night because of our convocation and invocation and allow it to flow into the world though us.

  Let us then unite in our circle and radiate peace, joy and love into the world.

 Copyright 2008  Brian Afton 109 South 6th St Olean, NY 14760