What Kind of Yoga?
She was on a cordless phone; he was on a landline some three thousand miles away. He had just moved to California to work in the movie business, and in no time at all, he had grown a ponytail, became a vegetarian, and found a guru, and now he needed some advice. So he called to talk to his old friend. She used to date a vegetarian, so he figured that she had a pretty good understanding of Eastern mysticism.
Did I mention she was on a cordless phone? She was wandering around in her backyard, way past the effective radius of good reception. Static and noise filled the spaces between their words and even … sometimes … broke … up … words.
“What?” she said. “What’s the name of your meditation?”
“Surat Shabad Yoga,” he declared, showing off the fancy Sanskrit words that he had been studying, and fully expecting her to be somewhat impressed.
“What did you say?” she said. “I’ve got the yoga part, but what is the rest?”
His answer was very serious and slow, making sure he rolled his rrr’s just right, and he spoke with an emotional confidence as if he had uttered this romantic and ancient language for a thousand years.
“Sur-at Sha-bad Yo-ga,” he echoed.
“What?” she said, chuckling, “Sit-Down Shut-Up Yoga? Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that one!” Tickled with herself, she started laughing at him. But there it was – the truth so straight and sharp, that her razor wit sliced through his holy pretense.
“Yes, in fact you’re right,” he said. “ That’s it exactly!”
So, what exactly is this Sit-Down, Shut-Up Yoga? We are endowed with a great purpose – to go beyond the illusion and experience life as a self-realized human, a spiritual being, as we strive for God-realization. We have two things going on simultaneously – the unique opportunity to awaken our spiritual natures while at the same time living in a human body. In spite of this rare spiritual boon available to us, we still have to use physical matter, such as flashlights and foot-stools and telephones. And we have to walk on two legs, do sit-ups, ask for advice, and we always beg to differ because we are stuck in and dependent on our minds.
How lucky we are to have met a teacher, a Master who practices Sit-Down, Shut-Up Yoga and who freely explains to us how to do this meditation every day in order to cut through the illusion that we believe to be reality but that holds us captive here. He shows us with great patience and consistency that in this very life we can connect with our true purpose – go within ourselves, rise above the static and noise of this painful earth theatre and hear the sound of the soul current, and eventually discover our true divine being in this Sound. It’s a lot to ask of a bunch of struggling souls. But the Master smiles on us because he has taken our part, and he will instruct us how to sit down and shut up and so much more than we can ever fathom.
Sitting down and shutting up are two parts of the same thing. Sitting down sounds easy enough: bend our legs, let gravity pull us down to a cushion on the floor or a chair and rest our body weight directly on our bottom. These are the basics, but sitting down is so much more than that. Sitting down is the opposite of standing, the opposite of walking. It is the opposite of running around in the physical world, interacting with the illusion, and believing it to be real. Sitting down involves the critically important action of putting aside the desire to run about in the illusion and, instead, nurture the desire to be motionless, serene and still. Maharaj Charan Singh explains in Die to Live:
The first problem is to still the body. It doesn’t want to sit in one place for even twenty minutes. So first you get into the habit of stilling the body, then you get into the habit of stilling the mind.
“Shut up” is not a nice thing to say. It sounds kind of harsh. But when our mind has run wild and is telling us this and that, constantly yammering about something or other that sounds really important at the time, it may take some harsh words to jolt its attention away from its comfort zone of static and noise.
But the mind won’t bend to being bullied for long. It responds better to a persuasive method, a course of gentle and steady repetition of the five beautiful names given to us by the Master at initiation – our simran. Through simran comes true stillness, stillness of body and of mind; and from stillness of mind comes serenity. When the mind catches glimpses of serenity, it savours the taste of stillness and silence.
So the transformation point – the pivot point – of all the lives we have ever lived in all the 8,400,000 forms of life, begins with us waking up and starting our day by stopping our movement. When we achieve stillness of our body we create a quiet place where we can wrestle with the mind. By sitting quietly in body and mind, we practice in the manner our Master wants us to practice and prepare ourselves to someday meet him in that quiet place where he can be found.