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Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah

By Elonne Stockton

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I just came back from an anushthan course with O.P. Tiwariji, which took place outside of Rishikesh. On the banks of the Ganga, there was no escaping practice and spirituality. Every morning when I looked out my window I could see the sun rising over the Ganga and countless candles floating in Her honor. Permeating our every day were the sounds of arathi and overly enthusiastic temple bells, sweet smells of incense and camphor, and bright visions of orange swamis on each street corner.

Unlike a workshop where you learn a lot of technique and theory, the anushthan course is practice-based, with the purpose of taking you to a place of understanding through direct experience of the practices. To achieve that participants dedicate themselves to a specific practice – asana, pranayama, etc. – which they engage in intensely for a predetermined period of time.

One thing Tiwariji stressed from the beginning is that these practices are there for the good of all beings everywhere. The results of our practice are meant for the good of the masses, and if we neglect to keep this in mind, the course and our practices lose their inherent value.

“Abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tan-nirodhah” ~Patanjali. Yoga Sutras 1.12

We know that two things are needed in order to achieve the state of yoga. Abhyasa, where we repeat practices until – as Tiwariji would say — they become part of our nature. And vairagya, or non-dependence. Without non-dependence the goal is always selfish and the practices can easily be perverted, turned into something that they were not intended to be.

“Yoganganushthanad ashuddhi-kshaye jnana-diptir aviveka-khyateh” ~Patanjali. Yoga Sutras 2.28

We also know that through the practices of yoga – if they are done as anushthan, i.e., with firm conviction and with total sincerity — our impurities are removed. Once these impurities are removed we attain perfect wisdom and discrimination. One of the main impurities of the mind is mala or selfishness.

We end our practices each day with a svasti mantra, wishing happiness and well being to all. It is a good reminder that we do not practice solely for ourselves. As Richard Freeman would say, we offer up the practices to the benefit of others so that “they don’t stick to us.” We protect ourselves from being burdened with the heavy task of possessing and holding onto the practices. The practices are mere tools; in and of themselves they are worthless. Without this understanding suffering is inevitable.

Tiwariji will often repeat “idam na mam,” or  “it is not mine.” Everything is by nature impermanent and nothing belongs to us in any real sense. To know this on an intellectual level is one thing, but to truly know this on a deep level takes direct experience. And it is an understanding we are all striving for, through continued, committed and sincere practice.

I find it appropriate that as soon as I returned from the anushthan course we started a 200 hour teacher training course at Samahita. It reinforces this message that we do not practice for ourselves. And I am happy and honored to share and offer up any understanding or insight I might have gained. It was never mine.

“Lokasamasta sukhino bhavantu” – “May all beings everywhere be happy and free.“
“Sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niramayah” – “May we all be happy and healthy.”

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