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Thursday, 30 May 2013


Quite the joyous practice this morning. Throat infection Is pretty much gone, ujjayi back, thus rhythm back, thus practice back. Was having so much fun that I added a few of those float to headstands plus some extra leg behind head work after supt kurmasana, seems bhuddasana hasn't one south after all, fancy that. Then after Konasana I added a little hanumanasana and some Sama konasana work, they still seemed possible with a little work too. Was having such a ball that I carried on through to 2nd up to Kapo, nice nice practice.

Part of the good mood was possibly due to watching one of Meghan Currie's videos before practice somebody had linked to one she did recently on the beach.

Vinyasa, that linking of breath and movement....I get so wrapped up with the breath, especially lately that I tend to forget the whole movement aspect. Meghan reminds you of that joy of movement that perhaps we often forget in this practice when we focus on the static aspect of the stay in the asana. Full vinyasa brings back some of that joy and a good breath focus too can bring out that sense of movement as you move in deeper with every breath, but Meghan she's almost bacchanalian in the dance like flow from one posture to the next, it's like, "oh yeah, look what we do". I might not plan to practice like that myself anytime soon but this morning, I must admit, I was kind of tempted, if only for the sheer joy of it.

One more thing about Vinyasa, the vinysa count is to highlight which breaths go with which movement, where the inhalation goes, where the exhalation goes, that doesn't mean that we cant squeeze in a couple of extra breaths where appropriate. If you have a dodgy knee for example or are working on a particular posture It's fine to take a couple of extra breaths to work your way into the pose using our vinyasa awareness to suggest when to lengthen on the inhalation perhaps and to deepen, to work our way further in on each exhalation. We can also stay for three, five, ten breaths twent-five or even more in a posture before resuming the count as we exit as well as take a couple of extra breaths if necessary on the exit, or go straight in and out of the posture on the breath with no stay at all in the variations say, perhaps just the key asana of that group. I would argue that we can find evidence for this in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda and Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala.

That said I'm all for the semblance at least of a seemingly fixed system with a fixed count. The trick seems to retain that seemingly fixed framework and yet retain enough wiggle room.

And you don't want to wiggle too much perhaps in one practice.

Here's the beach clip from Meghan I saw the link to this morning and then the other one because its a classic, love the improvisation.

Music: Encore by Nicolas Jaar

Music by: mock and toof~ farewell to wendo

For some reason the 'watch it on youtube button isn't showing up anymore so here's the link to Meghan Currie"s Youtube channel

And here website

Been meaning to write this long post on whether Ashatnaga and Vinyasa Krama are compatible or if the principles are completely different and if in practicing one you are betraying the principles of the other.

Decided that's not the case.

If you practice a fast, short breath, Ashatanga then perhaps but if your breathing is long and slow and you stay in your postures for as long as indicated, those longer stays in finishing postures for example then it's very much in line with Vinyasa Krama. Your covering a wide range of asana, there's the long stays in key postures.

Ashtanga is a Vinyasa Krama.

The only problem comes if you'r too strict in your Ashtanga and not taking into account the needs of your own body but I'm thinking more and more that even within Ashtanga everyone is adapting the practice, certain postures we'll back off slightly if we have little tweaks or weak areas... we'll milk certain other postures for all they're worth one morning if we feel the need in our bodies, the up dog and Urdhva danurasana say, if we feel we need a bit more of a back stretch, we're always adapting the practice, it's just a little more subtle than perhaps it appears.

The sequences in Vinyasa Krama are more for learning the relationships of the different asana, once we've learned that we still have to build our daly practice. In Vinyasa Krama that might mean different is 'routines' each day, in Ashatnaga the postures are the same but perhaps the stress we give to some of the postures within that fixed sequence changes daily.

Either way I feel less hung up on the issue....which is good, no.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Sharath and Pattabhi Jois Interviews plus... Best jump through, jump back ever....unless you know of better

This ruddy throat infection is a pain. I've practiced while sick with a bunch of things over the last few years, colds, flu, kidney stones, stomach flu, sprains, osteoarthritis but a throat infection is the worst. My ujjayi is right out the window and thus my rhythm. I was trying to make the ujjayi as light as possible but then decided I didn't need to engage it at all as the dodgy throat was giving me natural ujjayi anyway. All the time your wondering if your making it worse and if inversions especially are a bad idea, encouraging the infection to spread further up the throat into the mouth perhaps, enough already.

So I settle on a shorter practice, standing, some key asana and move on to pranayama (without ujjayi) and meditation.....

Yesterday I posted on the (one of the ) secret(s) to floating up to Handstand, the same secret as behind the straight leg jump through and even utthita eka padmasana perhaps.

And I was thinking yesterday, great I can float up to handstand......but why would I want to?
Here's the link to the post

Did a few more this morning to cheer me up and have to say it is fun, kind of magical the way you float up like that, even when lacking polish and finesse, and as i said yesterday, develops good bandha control so why not.

And I also saw this, perhaps THE best jump through and jump back ever.....unless you know of something even cooler ( post a link in comments perhaps) anyway it's my current favourite.

It doesn't matter of course how you transition back and forth to the next posture, you can make it nice and smooth without ever leaving the ground and besides the jump through you end up with may not be the one you'd hoped for. I'd like to have that nice elegant flick through straight leg jump through that laruga and Owl have but I seem to be stuck with the more dynamic shoot through version. Still it's something to plug away at over the years, enjoy the process and try not to get too hung up on it or anything else for that matter.... except perhaps the breath.

Here are two interviews one recent one with Sharath the other with his Grandfather, Pattabhi Jois, thought it would be nice to post them together. The first, the one with Sharath is a translation I think from the Russian, perhaps conducted at Ashtanga Moscow.
And an English translation of the site

The second interview I found on a blog ( part of a longer 2004 interview for Namarupa magazine) while trying to find the interview where Pattabhi Jois mentions Primary for life, 2nd series for teachers, Advanced for demo ( I know Michael Gannon mentions Pattabhi jois saying this several times in his video).
Sharath interview (2011)
1. What can you say about russian students? (of course smth good -_-)

They’re dedicated students. Ashtanga yoga is new, but they’re dedicated, you can see that, very focused in their practice and they listen exactly what to do.
- You said that “Very good. All beginners.”
It’s first for me to come to Russia, so these many new faces. In that basis I just that said. But most of them know the practice, they’re very focused in their practice. They know what they’re doing

2. May be they differ from other foreign students? Finnish, american students...

Students’re all same. As I told you in the conference that yoga has been practicing for many years in the other parts of the world. So people there are little more advanced, that is because they’ve been practiced it for many years. Even in Russia after time passes people will also be very advanced, they’ll go higher levels in their practice.

3. Which qualities of character do people need to develop and which things to pay more attention to?

Yoga should be practiced as a spiritual practice. It’s not just like an exercise. If you do like that it has certain limitations. If you do it like spiritual practice, there’s no limit for that. You can go higher dimensions and higher levels in this practice. So it’s always good to practice thinking it’s a spiritual practice and we should bring spirituality in our practice. That is very important. Instead of just doing it like exercise, aerobics, gymnastics. If you bring more spirituality in your practice, then I think it’s more effective. This whole practice will be more effective. So students have to bring that.

4. I remembered one Guruji’s expression: “Primary series – very important, second series – for teachers, advanced – for demonstration”. May be you can comment smth?

I don’t know where he said that, what meaning he said this. Usually we say that Primary series is like Chikitsa Vibhaga, like I told, to cure deseases. So these asanas are made just to cure deseases. Many deseases can be cured with these asanas like broncheatis, astma, any physical body with suffering. And second series is like Nadi Shodhana, it purifies all the nervous system. Even in Primary series nadi shodhana will happen and in second series little more intense, little more advanced, that’s all. And advanced posture are Sthira Bhaga, to bring more flexibility and strenght in your body. That is why we practice Advanced series. He must have told that many people before doing advanced always try to show up, to show their self, so I thing in that context he said this “For demonstration, for show off, but not really. You should always enjoy your practice, that is very important. You do Primary series, Intermediate or Advanced, unless you are not enjoing your practice it doesn’t make any sense in practicing. It’s boring and no sense in that. As I told you first we should think why we are practicing. We’re practicing to get mind control, to bring control to our mind and body. That is why if you do Advance or any series this doesn’t matter. Unless you’re enjoing the asanas it should be fine.

5. People have their weaknesses. What are the ways to work with them?

Whole practice is done to get rid of all these like I told you kama (lust), krodha (anger), moha (attraction), lobha (greed), madhya (pride), matsarya (jealosy) – these 6 enemies should be removed by practicing yoga. Once you get read of them which each and everyone has the light inside you, the liberation will happen. You get liberated from all these and nothing will affect you. Whole practice is based on that. That’s the main reason why we do the yoga practice.

- Many people may think that these all is theory. But you mean it literally?

Literally you have to practice. This is not just from book, just for saying, it shouldn’t be only in the books, it should be done practically. Then only it’ll be more effective. Any series you do if you don’t try to get rid of these 6 emenies you wouldn’t achieve the goal, the spiritual goal that you have to achieve, that you can’t achieve.

- Is it possible to eliminate them totally?

Completely remove these is always difficult, always minimazing, minimazing day by day, day by day. And you’ll get to that situation where it becomes like a habit. Whenever you are doing, whenever this kind of things bothers you, totally your mind starts rejecting “I shouldn’t do this, because it’s against”. This kind of feeling should come. It come slowly, it doesn’t come at once. By true practice it’ll come.

6. Can ashtanga completely cure chronic deceases?

It’s possible to cure, but you need to take some precautions and you need proper guidance from your teacher. There’re specific asanas which you should do, specific kriyas you should do, so by doing these you can get rid of all these deseases. Many things except only Primary – diet, suitable kriyas for particular desease. So the teacher will treat you as a patient, will try all these different things, which can help to cure.

7. What’s your opinion on practice and ability to conceive?

It’s mostly individual, not everyone’s body is the same – some are more sensetive, some are more stronger. So while conceiving you have to be very careful, that you should do just gentle practice, because it brings lots of heat in the body while doing asanas. So by doing too many asanas, you’ll bring more heat and it’ll be more difficult to conceive. When you planned like this you should be very careful and try to do a gentle practice.

8. What do you think about women’s dharma?

Women’s dharma is to have a family, to have children, to look after them. Husband’s dharma is to look after the wife and children and do his work.

- And how to combine dharma with practice and spirituality? Because sometimes women do practice very hard and this is bad for their family.

It’s not like that unless you can bring spirituality within you. It’s not that will come from your not being in a family, it doesn’t matter you inside or not inside your family, spirituality should happen within you. When it happens within you, if you married or not it doesn’t matter.

9. You making some innovations and changes in Shala, which you planned with Guruji. Can you tell us about it?

We are making not changes but we want to engage students in few other things. Not only doing asanas, now we have sanskrit class, we make chanting compulsory, so we keep students ocuppied. Instead of just doing practice, going out and just gossiping and wasting time. We tell them to come at 11 o’clock for chanting, so that it will help in their development of spiritual practice.

10. We heard that you are writing a book. Can you tell something.

It’s just 2-days baby in the stomach -_- (Only 2 years past… 0_o)

11. Desikachar writes in his book that Kundalini is not an energe but something that blocks our energy.

And we have to remove that block instead of rising Kundalini.

It’s not right. Kundalini means it’s energy which based below your muladhara chakra. Shankaracharya says: “sanskrit from Yoga Taravali”. When we do kumbhaka pranayama we awake Kundalini and it opens all the granthis – Rudra-g, Vishnu-g, Brahma-g – and travels in Sushumna nadi. So that is why then there will be no outside breathing, everything will be internal breathing. This is what the Shastra says. So it has nothing with blocking or anything. It is energy which needs to travel. It’s sleeping and coiled like a serpent. And by doing pranayama you awake that. Many people don’t have too much knowledge about this. You need to refer many books. Just saying one book it’s not possible, you should have practical experience. Once you had practical experience, you can feel and realize that within you. And it will be easier to understand what is says. So that is very important. And if you don’t have practical experience, you always speculate “It can be like this, it can be like that”. You are always guessing.

12. Which book do you recommend to read about yoga?

There’re many books about yoga, Upanishads about yoga – Katha, Kena, so many Upanishads talk about yoga. And Bhagavad Gita all 18 chapters are about yoga, Patanjali Yoga Sutra is there, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gheranda Samhita, so many books. Most of the people are always saying: “Oh, Yoga Sutra says like this. Oh, HYP says like this.” But there’re many other books, which are ancient, before PYS, before HYP. Once you refer those books also, you’ll have better understanding in yoga. Cause many people always translating Yoga Sutra in a different way, and it’s a very confusing way. Yoga Sutra itself is very confusing many times. Unless you don’t refer other books, other ancient books, other Upanishads, it’s very difficult to understand PYS. There’s many translations, many interpretations, it develops more confusion, that’s all.

13. What’s the best way to practice in the big city? It’s almost impossible to go to bed at 9pm as you do, and to get up at 2 am for practice.

When you are going to bed at 1 o’clock and getting up late, you stop your breakfast, you stop eating. You don’t have time to do yoga, but you have time to eat, you have time to take bath, you have time to do many other things. Yoga also should come like that. It should come like part of your life. So then if it’s a part of your life, part of your routine, you will find time to do it. You can do it any time, not necessery particular time. It’s good if you do it in the morning, it’s more effective if you do in the morning. If you can’t do it, you can do it in the evening also. But you have to do it. If within you it becomes like habit like how you eat food, like you have breakfast. Can you survive without eating breakfast? You’re always running “I’m hungry! I’m hungry!” Like that it should come “Oh, I should do my practice, I didn’t do my practice today. I have to do it”. It should come like that.
Farewell words
Ashtanga yoga means (from one verse): “yoganga anushthana... from YS” This making a very big meaning, that by practicing all the limbs of ashtanga yoga all the impurities in our body and mind will be removed, you’ll become more pured and you’ll become more wiser. So it’s always you should keep in your mind that you should do your practice. Once you practice, your practice will heal your difficulty in life. That is the whole meaning of doing practice. It’s a life support for us. That’s why you shouldn’t stop practicing. Whatever time you have, whatever your body and mind allows you do, how much ever it’s possible you should do it. You shouldn’t stop practice it. If you keep practicing, you can build up your spiritual building very strong, your spiritual foundation within you.
Pattabhi Jois - interview (2004)

1. How does Patanjalis classical yoga stand in relation to Hatha yoga?
Hatha yoga means the union of the opposing energies of the body and the channeling of these energies into the central pathway. And this comes about when the surya nadi [right nostril] and chandra nadi [left nostril] are controlled, and the vital energy of these two channels merges in the central pathway of the spine. So, when the prana is finally at rest and no longer moved by the various sense organs, we then realize God inside. That is our Self, our true identity. So, Hatha yoga is experiencing God inside.

2. What did Krishnamacharya teach you?
What my teacher taught me is exactly the same method I am teaching today. It was an examination course of primary, intermediate, and advanced asanas. He also taught me philosophy. For five years, we studied the great texts. He would call us to his house and we would stand outside and wait to be called in. Sometimes, we would wait the whole day. He would usually teach us for one or two hours every day: asanas early in the morning and, around 12 o’clock, philosophy class. He also taught us pranayama, pratyahara [sensory withdrawal], dharana [concentration], and dhyana [meditation]. And, in addition to the Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita, he also taught Yoga Vasishta, Yoga Yajnavalkya, and Samhita. And all in Sanskrit.

3. What was the most important thing Krishnamacharya taught you?
When he left for Madras he told me, “Make this yoga method the work of your life.”

4. How long did you study with Krishnamacharya?

I studied with him from 1927 to 1953. The first time I saw him was in November of 1927. It was at the Jubilee Hall in Hassan and, the next day, I found out where he lived and went to his house. He asked me many questions, but finally accepted me and told me to come back the next morning. Then, after my thread ceremony in 1930, I went to Mysore to learn Sanskrit and was accepted at the Maharaja’s Sanskrit College. There, I was reunited with Krishnamacharya in 1931, when he came to do a demonstration. He was very happy to find me studying at the college.

5. What has the Western world contributed to yoga?
What is particular to Ashtanga yoga practice is what we call vinyasa, which brings together breathing with physical movement. Each posture is connected with a certain breathing sequence, which comes before and after it. This keeps the flow of energy through the spine open. It also safeguards against injury and prevents energy from stagnating in the body. Vinyasa purifies the body, the nervous system, and cultivates the proper energetic field in the body. It is essential to yoga, we believe, and gives people a direct inner experience of their potential. To feel the energy continually flowing through the spine is the effect of vinyasa. But there is nothing that comes instantly. One needs to practice this system for many years—a minimum of five to ten years—to begin to experience these deep subtle changes in the body.

6. What is unique to your style of yoga?
What is particular to Ashtanga yoga practice is what we call vinyasa, which brings together breathing with physical movement. Each posture is connected with a certain breathing sequence, which comes before and after it. This keeps the flow of energy through the spine open. It also safeguards against injury and prevents energy from stagnating in the body. Vinyasa purifies the body, the nervous system, and cultivates the proper energetic field in the body. It is essential to yoga, we believe, and gives people a direct inner experience of their potential. To feel the energy continually flowing through the spine is the effect of vinyasa. But there is nothing that comes instantly. One needs to practice this system for many years—a minimum of five to ten years—to begin to experience these deep subtle changes in the body.

7. Have your teaching methods changed over the years? Do you focus on things now that you did not when you first started?
No, they have not changed. They have remained the same the whole time. Our method from the beginning has been that a posture needs to be perfected before you move on to more difficult ones. Each posture works progressively to increase the energy level and the opening of the body.

8. What is the best remedy for helping people? Do you treat everybody equally?
Taking practice! And to make people aware of yama [the first limb of Ashtanga yoga] and niyama [the second limb of Ashtanga yoga], and of how to control their bodies—these are the best remedies. When they are aware, controlling the senses becomes easier. But, primarily, yama and niyama are the best remedies for anybody with an interest in the practice.

9. What is spiritual about the physical practice?
Behind the strength of the body, there is an energy that is spirituality, and that is what keeps us alive. To gain access to the spiritual, you need to understand the physical. The body is our temple and inside that temple is atman, and that is God.

10. How does your system facilitate the experience of yoga?
To practice asanas and pranayama is to learn to control the body and the senses, so that the inner light can be experienced. That light is the same for the whole world. And it is possible for people to experience this light, their own Self, through correct yoga practice. It is something that happens through practice, though learning to control the mind is very difficult. Most important though is the practice. We must practice, practice, practice for any real understanding of yoga. Of course, philosophy is important, but if it is not connected and grounded in truth and practical knowledge, then what is it really for? Just endless talking, exhausting our minds! So, practice is the foundation of the actual understanding of philosophy.
Part from the article from Namarupa Magazin, fall 2004.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Floating to handstand in Suryanamaskara

Giving the Blogsy app another chance while my Mac is still down.

A moment of inspiration.

I was watching Kino's straight leg jump through post this week and she makes a big thing about drawing the femurs deep into the hip sockets to help you lift up from dandasana. Makes a big difference too when you actually jump through, basically your legs have just become a couple of inches shorter and you have a lot more control of them too.

So then I wondered, wouldn't that make all the difference in that float/pike to handstand that I kept coming back to over the years and only ever kind of nailed.

Well yes it does, makes all the difference, makes it easy in fact. Or at least I found it to be the case but then perhaps we all have different missing pieces, this was mine but yours might be getting your shoulders over your hands or bringing your backside back to counter the weight of the legs as we do in floating up in headstand.

Bound to make a difference too when you think about it, drawing those great big nobbly ends of the femurs into the already heavy pelvis, it's all physics, levers and fulcrums. Plus of course you get to use mula bhandha to lock everything in place, good bandha focus right there.

Wonder if it would make a difference to tic tacs, haven't played with them for a year or so either. Just tried to draw in the femurs while in Urdhava danurasana......perhaps not.

Oh, I should add that I sink the femurs into the hip sockets on trini (as you look up before folding in and then lifting up).

The irony is that I currently have little to no interest at all in floating up to Handstand. Oh we'll, interesting all the same and like I said, does make a lot of difference for the straight leg jump through, which I do like as its simple, elegant and takes almost no energy.

Here's the video, this was the third one I did so still rough and ready but you get the idea and if you do a search on the blog you can find posts on how I was struggling with it before. Also I wouldn't say I'm particularly strong at the moment either, just been doing Primary for the last few weeks, haven't practiced Advanced series with all it's arm balances for a year or so.

Can't tell you what a pain this was to post with just the ipad. Took the movie on my phone, emailed it to ipad,  to edit, then emailed again to my iPod where I had a B&W app ( original was just too pink) then upload to YouTube so I could drag it into the Blogsy app to post, phew.

New HD is on the way for the mac, big 2TB one for only £60, going to try and replace it myself.

In the comments, James asked to see the feet so just took one from the side. Don't think this one works as well, think my hands are a little further forward and I don't think I sink the femurs into the pelvis as well as in the one above. Also I realise while I'm up that there may not be enough room to lower down into chatauranga with the mat turned around to the side, leaves me hanging somewhat. Tried to drop the femurs back in on the the way back down , could do a better job at that with practice and enough inclination.

 And here's Kino's video where she talks about drawing in the femurs.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Tim Miller's Ashtanga Yoga Center 2007

Mac seems to have up and died, freezing then a grey screen when you try to restart. Just a file icon in the Center of the screen with a question mark, lost and confused amongst the shades...

Run to the light Mac, run to the light.

Was just testing the Blogsy app for Ipad but it doesn't seem to actually post oh well.

Problem with Blogging from ipad is that you can't scroll through a longish post to edit, small posts then, not a bad thing perhaps.

Here's what I was trying to test Blogsy with, a video of Tim Miller performing some Advanced series adjustments at his place in Encinitas, doesn't this tempt you to make the trip?

No sign of any devil worshiping that I can see.

Perhaps that trial is not such a bad thing, some parents clearly have genuine concerns perhaps this will, hopefully, put many of their fears to rest and also make us pause and reflect before running around like a Minotaur in a  labyrinthine china shop.

That said back when I was a schoolteacher in a little Christian Prep school I once added an S to the Religion class I was supposed to be teaching and taught the kids about Buddha....didn't go down well, so I can't talk.

Have a nice holiday weekend if you have one where you are, me I'm sick and trying to decide whether to go into work, just a  viral throat infection, can breathe more freely now and even swallow...just about, but M. Is giving me a hard time about staying in bed...

Two days in bed is long enough, full practice yesterday, if you can practice then you can work.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Ariadne's thread: Sharath on Japa, Ramaswami on Japa mantra 'meditation'

Ariadne's thread ( last few seconds are a little gruesome)
Mediation in the context of Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga can be confusing. Sometime the idea is presented that the asana practice is itself meditative, that no other meditation practice is necessary or that it will take years of asana practice before we're ready for Pranayama let alone Meditation, that we need to be able to sit in an asana for three hours at a time....

Recently however, Sharath has mentioned Japa mantra practice in conference. This is a little confusing also, at times there seem to be the suggestion that Japa is just a relaxing practice that you might do for ten minutes before bed, or that it's part of the morning Puja practiced throughout India by yogi's and non yogi's alike.

But also that it can lead to deep concentration.

There can be confusion surrounding our use of the term meditation, is it the seventh limb, Dhyana,  or do the last three limbs together, Samyama, make up the meditative practices of yoga.

I was taught Japa by Ramaswami as a meditation practice. Ramaswami  presents it as the first stage of Samyama (the sixth limb, Dharana), often described as concentration practice or meditation-on-an-object.

There are alternatives to using a mantra, you might want to focus your attention on effulgence, an icon, there are several  options.

We might employ a mantra like Om Namah Shivaya, I used that for a couple of years. This last year I've tended to us the Jesus prayer, mainly because it comes from my own tradition and seems to have more resonance. Another option might be loving kindness, May all be safe, well, healthy and peaceful (or a variant), the actual mantra or prayer does not perhaps matter too much except that ideally it should be up-lifting. It should also be added that the idea here is not to meditate as in reflect on the meaning of the prayer but rather to use the mental chanting of it as something to attach the mind, somewhere to bring the mind back to, Ariadne's thread

Spoiler: As I mentioned above, last few seconds of this are pretty gruesome

Japa should not be dismissed as something trivial, object meditation is where the hard work of meditation practice begins. The idea is to sit in an appropriate comfortable posture, decide how long you intend to practice, ten, fifteen, thirty perhaps forty minutes say and then mentally repeat a short mantra over and over. The mantra gives the mind something to cling on to, when the mind wanders you bring it back ( Like a puppy according to Jack Kornfield ) to the mantra or the internal drishti point in which you've placed it. At the end of the practice you reflect for a few moments on how the practice went.

"When, in due course, the mind is able to stay with the object to the complete exclusion of all other thoughts, it becomes dhyana, the second stage of meditation"  

Over time the distractions become less and you manage to stay with the mantra longer.

The difference between this and the supposed meditative aspect of our asana practice is that nothing else is going on. Where not changing posture every few minutes or breath cycles in pranayama, there's just you and the mantra.

Ramaswami stresses that the asana practice gets rid of the rajas, our agitation, pranayama reduces tamas, lethargy, leaving us in a more satvic state to practice japa, to develop our focus and concentration upon a single object.

Japa is is the simplest and yet most challenging of practices.

Here's Ramaswami on meditation followed by the Samyama sutras from Patanjali and Aranya's commentary. At the end there are some quotes from conference reports relating where Sharath has mentioned the practice of Japa.

On Meditation

By Srivatsa Ramaswami

Only an orderly mind can successfully meditate. Sattwa (purity) is the quality of the mind that produces order and enables it to be one-pointed, a prerequisite for meditation, or dhyana. How can one make the mind and even the body sattwic? Yoga offers asanas and pranayama as the means of reducing the non-meditative, distracting, and dull qualities of the mind. These qualities range from rajasic, meaning passionate or over-active, to tamasic, meaning slothful or inert. Hence in classical yoga, one reduces the influence of rajas and tamas by practicing a well-rounded regimen of asanas and pranayama, or yogic breathing exercises. A yogic posture such as the lotus or hero is chosen and a definite number of pranayamas (usually ten) are performed.

This practice is followed by some meditation or repetition of mantra, such as the gayatri or other mantra. According to Patanjali, one who has practiced these aspects of yoga has a mind which is fit for dharana, or concentration, the first step toward meditation.

The objects of meditation are many: different centers (chakras) in the body, mantras, prayers, or external objects such as an icon of one's favorite deity. But then the method of meditation is to keep on coaxing the mind to be continually present with the object of contemplation. Initially there will be considerable effort on the part of the practitioner to keep the mind focused. Slowly, as the habit of focusing the mind gains ground, the mind stays with the object more intently and for longer periods of time.

When, in due course, the mind is able to stay with the object to the complete exclusion of all other thoughts, it becomes dhyana, the second stage of meditation. In this stage the span of concentration increases and the frequency of distraction decreases. This kind of progress in meditation can be monitored by the practitioners themselves. This qualitative improvement finally culminates in the mind being completely focused on the object for the entire duration of meditation when it is known as samadhi.

Thus, in meditative exercise the mind (which previously was habitually distracted or dull, due to the preponderance of rajas and tamas), becomes sattwic as the result of preliminary practices of asana and pranayama. The steady practice of dharana transforms the mind into one that is habitually one-pointed, the acme of which is samadhi, or complete absorption.

Once a practitioner is able to achieve samadhi on one object, he or she can contemplate on any other object (a higher tatwa, or principle). However, in classical yoga, the emphasis is not so much the object of contemplation, but the development of and the capacity for the habit of meditation.


Chapter 3 of the Yoga Sutras:
Experiences (Vibhuti Pada)

Dharana, Dhyana, & Samadhi, #6, 7, and 8 of 8 rungs (Yoga Sutras 3.1-3.3)

3.1 Concentration (dharana) is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place, and is the sixth of the eight rungs.

3.2 The repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus is called absorption in meditation (dhyana), and is the seventh of the eight steps.

3.3 When only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if devoid even of its own form, that state of deep absorption is called deep concentration or samadhi, which is the eighth rung.

Samyama is the finer tool (Yoga Sutras 3.4-3.6)

3.4 The three processes of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, when taken together on the same object, place or point is called samyama.

3.5 Through the mastery of that three-part process of samyama, the light of knowledge, transcendental insight, or higher consciousness (prajna) dawns, illumines, flashes, or is visible.

3.6 That three-part process of samyama is gradually applied to the finer planes, states, or stages of practice.


Some expansion on this from Aranya'a commentary

Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali:  by Swami Hariharananda Aranya, 

And finally notes from Sharath's conference talks where he mentions Japa.

For example my grandfather was told by his students that he is now world famous. What did he do? Saying "Is that so? Okay." he just continued doing his japa, something he had done several decades every day. He didn't change at all.

16th dec 2012
Japa (mantra / prayer recitation) is good to practice in the evening.
"Twenty minutes of the Maha Mantra (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare), or any prayer that is meaningful to you will help to calm your mind, and you will sleep very well."

For example: if you are Catholic, you can recite the Holy Rosary (Hail Mary Full of Grace...) or if Protestant, The Lord's Prayer.
Anything that you connect with on a personal level, that can calm your mind, and lift your spirit is good to recite.
The Japa should be meaningful to you, and your thoughts should be focused on good things while chanting, then the effects will be very beneficial.

"Japa can also help to develop Bhavana (Spiritual Development) within you, and this will lead to Ishvara Pranidhana" (Surrender to a Greater Power).

Japa, the repetition of a holy name, is recommended for stability.  Japa can easily be done for 15 to 30 minutes before bed.  Any holy name with do, from any religion.  On a personal note, I imagine a repeated serenity prayer would have the same effect.

28 October 2012

If we can’t do āsanas then sitting; breathing, or sitting; doing Japa (mantra repetition) is good. First we should take a bath then we can sit & do Japa for half an hour; this very helpful. But this shouldn’t mistakenly be called Meditation. Meditation means Dhyāna. “Just closing your eyes and thinking about your girlfriend (more laughter) is only good for photo.” Meditation (Dhyāna) means withdrawing the senses, experiencing a sense of oneness where everything seems to come into “one place.” The practice of Japa was recommended fairly fervently by Sharath.

Of the three aspect of yoga practice - Tapas, Svādhyāya; Īśvarapraṇidhāna - Svādhyāya is our homework [this is a reference from Yoga Sūtra 2.01]. Literally it means self-study, but that doesn’t mean that we learn on our own from books; videos without a teacher. We have to try to understand the teachings [of our teacher], what is yoga, what is the supreme. We have to try to get to that knowledge, to surrender to God. The Guru removes our blindness (Timirāndha), gives the ability to see (Unmīlita) Brahma, Viṣṇu; Maheśvara (this comment by Sharath is a reference from two verses of the Guru Stotra: the one at the beginning of this article and another not mentioned).

When we surrender to Guru & tradition, then Jñāna will come. There is a story from the Rāmāyana that demonstrates the power of devotion:

There is a fight between Rāma and Hanumān. Although Hanumān is supremely devoted to Rāma as Lord Viṣṇu, God on earth (Sharath doesn’t explain how the fight was staged, just that it was meant to demonstrate the power of true devotion). Rāma takes aim with his bow & arrow at Hanumān, but Hanumān is doing Japa to Lord Rāma. His devotion is so intense that he becomes Rāma! So Rāma is shooting an arrow at himself. So Hanumān becomes untouchable, or protected by God because of the identification with Rāma. This is real Īśvarapraṇidhāna. If you do lots of Japa, you get more concentration, more devotion. Yoga leads us to remove our delusions so we can see properly. One-by-one our delusions, our impurities leave us.

Japa done after bathing - so we are maintaining both our inner; outer purity - in either the early morning or at night before going to bed is very go

Don’t leave your practice, your practice will help you not to get distracted, judge that is correct what is no correct. Now you are still babying the practice, when you go deeper in the practice everything becomes secondary. Before I was married, I was married to yoga. That means its not being selfish, to make yourself stabilize s that you can be good to everything, for yourself, to others, that is why we do the practice of yoga, to stabilize the mind. Everyone does puja in the morning, bath, connect with your god, there is a superpower, a supreme soul which is controlling us, we call is different names, god, you get connected with that, you do japa, connected to the supreme soul, which makes you stabilize, that stability will come within you, that you should develop, s once you s that, chanting mantra, is so powerful, that makes you focused in one place, even japa is like that, when you do japa you won’t get distracted, sorrowness, happiness, you can do japa to any god that you are comfortable with, 15-20 minutes every day, every night, day by day, month by month there will be changes within you.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Manju's Saxophone, a Buescher Super 400 Alto PLUS Taittiriya Upanishad SIKSHA VALLI and why Krishnamacharya had to get married.

I wrote in an earlier post, my current, provisional, work in progress (possibly nonsense) theory that...

'Ashtanga has to hurt (not bone crunching tendon tearing hurt), it has to cost you something'

or at least appear to until we know better.

...whether it's a sacrifice of time, sweat, breath or a Buescher Super 400 Alto Saxophone.

The practice is perhaps an act of dedication, devotion, commitment, sacrifice, one or more or all of those or whatever others you can come up with along the same lines.

It's a tough practice, hard (but not impossible) to build a social life around it, often hard to get on the mat, hard in winter, hard in summer. Hard to get through a whole practice sometimes, frustrating, irritating, occasionally tedious..... 

and at other times, many other times just beautiful.

Perhaps what it costs us (even though it gives so much in return) is one reason it has such an effect, that it has that something extra, that it's more than the sum of it's tatvas.

And of course it's bad form to mention or even reflect too long about the cost (except that it's an excuse to share pretty sax pics)

So here's Manju's Sax, my beautiful, classic, Buescher super 400 that I have to let go to enable me to go to his workshop in August. 

Ramaswami's was The Martin Tenor.

And I was OK about letting it go before I took it out of it's case to take these photo's for ebay, looks beautiful on the Santorini manduka doesn't it? It's unique too, they put the keys on the back of the bell, quite marvellous.

What the heck. 

Nice thing about being a Saxophone repairer is that they all turn up on my bench sooner or later and I get to give them a blow.

Saxophones are inextricably linked to my practice it seems. I had seven vintage saxophone stolen from under my bed six, seven years ago( got five back). It was to overcome the anger about that that I took up Yoga.  

Taittiriya Upanishad SIKSHA VALLI

Nice coincidence this afternoon. .....

I was playing around with one of Manju's Shanti Mantra tracks, adding a space between each line of the mantra for me to repeat, I've been working at learning it over the last couple of days.

the mantra is down below in red

Anyway I saw that Ramaswami had just posted something on Taittiriya Upanishad
Ramaswami Srivatsa
It was early days. I was chanting the Taittiriya upanishad with my Guru. It was the last paragraph of the Siksha valli chapter—the commencement/convocation/samavartana address by the vedic teacher to the graduating class containing gems like, “Speak the Truth, mother is divine.. never stop studying (svadhyaya) etc.” Sri Krishnamacharya suddenly stopped and said “Ramaswami, you have studied English. You should translate this passage into English, get it printed and distribute it free to your friends and others” I sat down and translated into my Indglish. Then I went to a printing press run by a friend of my father. Sri Padmanabha Iyer. He saw the manuscript and immediately agreed to print it, charging me only for the paper and labour. Then I gave it to a few people and one to my Guru also. He appeared happy.
Incidentally the name of the printing press was “Patanjali & Co”

Haven't looked at the Taittiriya Upanishad for a while so found a version buried away on my ibooks and it turns out that the shanti mantra I've been trying to learn is right there at the beginning. Here it is with a nice explanation.

Taittiriya Upanishad: Petal 2 T.N.Sethumadhavan

aum sham no mitrah sham varunah . sham no bhavatvaryama . sham na indro brihaspatih . sham no vishnururukramah .
namo brahmane . namaste vayo . tvameva pratyaxam brahmasi . tvameva pratyaxam brahma vadishyami . ritam vadishyami . satyam vadishyami . tanmamavatu . tadvaktaramavatu .
avatu mam.h . avatu vaktaram.h .
aum shantih shantih shantih .. 1..

iti prathamo.anuvakah ..

Harih Om
May Mitra be propitious unto us! May Varuna be propitious unto us! May Aryaman be propitious unto us! May Indra and Brihaspati be propitious unto us!
May Vishnu, of wide strides, be propitious unto us!
Salutation to Brahman! Salutation to Thee, O Vayu! Thou indeed art the visible Brahman. Thee indeed I shall proclaim as the visible Brahman. Thee indeed, O Vayu, I shall proclaim as the right (ritam). Thee indeed I shall proclaim as the true (satyam). May It protect me! May It protect the teacher! May It protect me! May It protect the teacher!
Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!

This is a prayer to various deities as we begin to embark upon a grueling journey of the study of Vedanta which at the same time is the most covetable undertaking. So we need the blessings, support and good wishes of all the deities. The word ‘sam’ in Sanskrit means propitious, be kind, be helpful.

The deities to whom the prayers offered are:

Mitra – The deity identified with the
prana and the day; the deity controlling the sun. 
Varuna – The deity identified with apana, the downward breath and the night. 
Aryaman – The deity identified with the eye and the solar orb.
Indra – The deity identified with strength.
Brihaspati – The deity identified with speech and intellect.
Vishnu – The deity who pervades the universe and is identified with the feet.

Praise and salutations are offered to Vayu (air) by the student seeking knowledge of Brahman so that obstacles to the attainment of such knowledge may be removed. All actions and their fruits are under the control of Vayu who is identified with prana. Here Vayu is addressed as Brahman. He is referred to as the visible because of his being direct, immediate, nearer than the sense organs and he can be felt.
Addressing Vayu, the student says ‘ ritam vadishyami, satyam vadishyami’ –‘I will call you the moral order, I will call you the truth’ because no society can flourish without moral order and the rule by truth. 

He then prays for his own protection and that of the teacher also as both the teacher and the taught should be mentally and physically fit for attaining the spiritual goal. If the student is dull he cannot learn and if the teacher is dull he cannot teach.

The word ‘shanti’ is uttered thrice in order to ward off the obstacles emanating from one’s own self, from the other living beings and from the natural forces.

Thus the first section of the Upanishad opens with a set of invocation Mantras which together constitute Isvara Upasana which is a necessary prerequisite for gaining antah karana shuddhi, purity of mind and intellect for becoming fit for gaining spiritual wisdom and ultimately moksha - total fulfillment in life. It is an invocation to certain deities to remove the obstacles to acquire spiritual wisdom.
End of Section 1 - Chapter 1

Why Krishnamacharya had to get  married

And another thing. Ever wondered about that bit in the Krishnamacharya legend, where he is told by his teacher up in the Himalayas to go off and get married and become a householder. Always seems a little strange to me having just spent all those years learning yoga. But here it is in the Upanishad

vedamanuchyacharyontevasinamanushasti .
satyam vada . dharmam chara . svadhyayanma pramadah . acharyaya priyam dhanamahritya prajatantum ma vyavachchetsih . satyanna pramaditavyam.h . dharmanna pramaditavyam.h . kushalanna pramaditavyam.h . bhutyai na pramaditavyam.h . svadhyayapravachanabhyam na pramaditavyam.h .. 1..

Having taught the Vedas, the teacher thus instructs the pupil: Speak the truth. Practise dharma. Do not neglect the study of the Vedas. Having brought to the teacher the gift desired by him, enter the householder's life and see that the line of progeny is not cut off. Do not swerve from the truth. Do not swerve from dharma. Do not neglect personal welfare. Do not neglect prosperity. Do not neglect the study and teaching of the Vedas.

devapitrikaryabhyam na pramaditavyam.h . matridevo bhava . pitridevo bhava . acharyadevo bhava . atithidevo bhava . yanyanavadyani karmani . tani sevitavyani . no itarani . yanyasmaka{\m+} sucharitani .
tani tvayopasyani .. 2..

Do not neglect your duties to the gods and the Manes. Treat your mother as God. Treat your father as God. Treat your teacher as God. Treat your guest as God. Whatever deeds are faultless, these are to be performed-not others. Whatever good works have been performed by us, those should be performed by you-not others.

no itarani . ye ke charumachchreya{\m+}so brahmanah .
tesham tvaya.a.asanena prashvasitavyam.h . shraddhaya deyam.h . ashraddhaya.adeyam.h . shriya deyam.h . hriya deyam.h . bhiya deyam.h . sa.nvida deyam.h .
atha yadi te karmavichikitsa va vrittavichikitsa va syat.h .. 3..

Those brahmins who are superior to us-you should comfort them by giving them seats. Whatever is to be given should be given with faith, not without faith-according to one’s plenty, with modesty, with fear, with sympathy.

ye tatra brahmanah sammarshinah . yukta ayuktah .
aluxa dharmakamah syuh . yatha te tatra varteran.h .
tatha tatra vartethah . athabhyakhyateshu .
ye tatra brahmanah sammarshinah . yukta ayuktah .
aluxa dharmakamah syuh . yatha te teshu varteran.h .
tatha teshu vartethah . esha adeshah . esha upadeshah .
esha vedopanishat.h . etadanushasanam.h . evamupasitavyam.h . evamu chaitadupasyam.h .. 4..

Now, if there arises in your mind any doubt concerning any act, or any doubt concerning conduct, you should conduct yourself in such matters as brahmins would conduct themselves-brahmins who are competent to judge, who of their own accord are devoted to good deed and are not urged to their performance by others and who are not too severe, but are lovers of dharma. Now, with regards to persons spoken against, you should conduct yourself in such a way as brahmins would conduct themselves-brahmins who are competent to judge, who of their own accord are devoted to good deeds and are not urged to their performance by others and who are not too severe, but are lovers of dharma. This is the rule. This is the teaching. This is the secret wisdom of the Vedas. This is the command of God. This you should observe. This alone should be observed.

All the above four mantras are taken up together for their study. At the teacher’s house the student obtains the theoretical knowledge of the Vedas. He has not yet attained oneness with Brahman, which is the goal of achieving the Vedic wisdom. Prior to this attainment he must fulfill his human aspirations that is possible only through performance of his duties. Neglect of duties accumulates sin. The performance purifies the heart and ultimately leads to the Highest Good. Thus, prior to the attainment of the knowledge, it is necessary to discharge one’s duties and obligations. Once self-knowledge is attained, human aspirations reach their fulfillment and thereafter he is free from all worldly duties.
Thus we have seen in this First chapter entitled ‘Siksha valli’, the teacher first instructed the student in the Vedic texts and then gave him the above exhortations regarding conduct of life. The students are supposed to enquire into the nature of their duties, dharma, to be performed by them.
These exhortations can be grouped under seven headings as under.
  1. Advices ruling one’s own mode of living with reference to the society and oneself.
  2. Regulating one’s relationship with the last generation and the present elders.
  3. Relationship between oneself and the teachers.
  4. One’s attitude towards the learned and the wise in the society.
  5. Charity and the laws of giving.
  6. Remedy for doubts regarding one’s duty and conduct in life.
  7. Doubts regarding one’s relationship with others falsely accused in the world.
Thus this valedictory advice covers the entire field of Right Living which the student will be taking up soon. Hence these mantras have become very popular as equivalent to modern Convocation Addresses or Graduation Ceremonies at the Universities.

The next chapter entitled ‘Brahmananda valli’ will give instructions about the attributeless Brahman (Nirguna Brahman).
ityekadasha.anuvakah ..
End of Section 11 - Chapter 1 


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Kino, splits from Ashtanga. Trivikramasana, Supta trivikramasana, Hanumanasana, Sama konasana, Paschimottanasana

"37 Trivikramasana (Figure 4.85)
This has 7 vinyasas. From the 1st to the 5th vinyasas and then the 7th vinyasa, practise following those for utthita hasta padangushtasana. Practise the 2nd and 7th vinyasas as shown in the picture (study it carefully) and remain in these positions. The 2nd vinyasa is the right-side trivikramasana sthiti. The 6th vinyasa as shown is the left-side trivikramasana sthiti. The picture shown here only demonstrates the left-side trivikramasana. It is important that equal recaka and puraka kumbhaka must be carefully observed while practising this asana. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Both legs must be held straight and must not lean or bend to any side.

Benefit: Not only will it maintain the body in an equal balanced sthiti, it will rapidly awaken kundalini.
from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda

Have to admit I was all Kino'd out for a while there.

So many videos, felt like a new one released everyday, too much.

All good stuff of course, Kino has the BEST practice tips, hopefully these will have found their way into her upcoming book, The power of Ashtanga yoga.

Wish she'd been making and releasing all these videos back when I first started, as it was I had to pretty much work it all out for myself. With Kino and David Garrigues's short video tutorials on Youtube and Vimeo, Home Ashtangi's just coming to the practice are spoiled for choice.

This is a good thing right, or does it encourage/allow us to move on to yet another posture and then another more quickly than perhaps we should.

Speaking personally, I raced to and through Advanced B, thinking perhaps that my age was against me ( being mid 40's ) and if I didn't hurry I'd be too old for the later series ( I know, don't say it). Once I got there I slowed right down, dropped most of the fancy stuff and went back to basics. Quite happy currently re exploring Primary and a little back bending on the side. Sometime after Manju's course I'll probably go back to full 2nd, tend to think of the Advanced series now more in the sense of spice, add the odd Advanced posture to something in Primary or 2nd as an extension.

One thing I never could work out for myself though was the splits, ....actually that's not true, I managed Hanumanasana eventually and even Samakonasana, although I haven't tried either for a year or so, both long gone.

Trivikramasana and supta trivikramasana were the two postures from 3rd, or Advanced A, that I never felt I really nailed, they were lame attempts and perhaps the only postures left in Ashtanga that I thought would always be beyond me, just didn't believe I was built for them.

How often have we said that but here's Kino making you think that perhaps I spoke too soon. As ever she makes the impossible sound possible, plausible, even probable with the appropriate amount of practice and dedication.

So here are all Kino's recent split videos in one place. If you only have time to watch one I recommend the second on Supta Trivikramasanathat's, the one that blew me away(so that's how it's done) and reminded me why Kino still rocks.

Fot the first couple of years I used to work at certain postures or 'moves' away from my regular practice. So I would do my main practice in the morning and then in the evening work on jump through's or floating to standing, back bending, splits, whatever. Vinyasa Krama helps here as you can employ a subroutine that leads you up nicely to the posture your working on. I'm currently trying to keep my backbends ticking over while I focus on Primary for Manju's workshop in August. So I'll do some of the Vinyasa Krama Bow and Meditative sequence subroutines leading up to Kapo and then hang out there for a longer stay followed by a counter posture or two. That kind of approach to working on something new seems to be a better approach then buggering up the rhythm of your main practice and makes a nice lead in to my main pranayama (which centres the mind after all that work on/towards a particular posture) and meditation practice.

If your still relatively new to the practice then don't even think about trying this (love you hamstrings, be good to them, the slightest pull will make practice uncomfortable for months and I won't even think about trying these again until after Manju's workshop in August.) but instead note that in all of these I think she stresses the importance of a good forward bend. Paschimottanasana that first asana in Primary series (apart from danadasana) that we so often take for granted ( know I used to ) still perhaps the greatest asana in all the Ashtanga series....with perhaps the exception of Samasthith.

Kino's Paschimottanasana video is at the end and I've also included Mark Darby's because it's excellent.

Nice Supta trivkramasana at the frount of this picture of Krishnamacharya 1930's Mysore palace school. A young Pattabhi Jois supposedly being stood on by Krishnamacharya while in Kapo.

And Tomorrow...

Tomorrow is my Day off,

Research day!

Last week was this post

Research: Full Vinyasa Primary, 10 long slow full inhalations and exhalations in every asana. How Long?

Last week was just too much at 3 hours 40 minutes. Trying to decide how to approach it tomorrow.

A full Vinyasa with the long slow inhalations and exhalations?


a regular primary but with 10 breaths in every posture?

Full Vinyasa with the long slow inhalations and exhalations (8 seconds each)? it is.

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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