You are the Perceivable Brahman
By Elonne Stockton
In the past few days the wind has been whipping through Samahita Retreat.
In Sanskrit the word for wind is vayu, and the word can also be used to refer to prana or breath. When a wind picks up, we can feel a charge in the atmosphere, and everything vibrates with prana, every cell in the body also starts to pulsate with the same energy. Overlooking a windswept ocean, we cannot help but take a deep breath; we are obliged to soak up the prana that surrounds us.
Sometimes there are people of such great energy that their presence is as unmistakable asthe wind. Tiwariji is one of those people.
Tiwari just left after a two-week advanced training. We spent two focused weeks with him in our sadhana/practice. Although he is gone, his presence, which carries with it the power of the Kaivalyadhama lineage, is still here on the retreat, and it is still with us when we practice pranayama each morning. It is as palpable as the blustery breeze.
There are a few beautiful lines in one of the Shantih Mantras about vayu: namo bramane, namaste vayo, twameva pratyaksham bramasi, twameva pratyaksham brahma vadishyami. They translate as I adore Brahman. I adore you Vayu (the Wind God, Prana, Breath). You are certainly the perceivable Brahman. You are the immediately perceptible Reality, I will declare.
Although we cannot see the wind, we can observe it by watching tree branches sway in the breeze. Richard Freeman compares the observance of prana and Brahman to the observance of the wind in the trees. When we work with the breath in pranayama, we start to understand and experience the movement of prana, the movement of energy. And as we begin to feel and understand the movement of energy in the body, it becomes a testimony to the existence of something transcendent, something beyond this impermanent reality that we need to function in on a behavioral level.
But in truth, what we should begin to understand as we sit and work with the breath, as we work on ourselves with the help of our sadhana, is that this ultimate reality could be witnessed anywhere, and actually nowhere, if only our senses were sensitive enough to spot it, or not . . .
We could see it in Tiwari’s smile, smiled ever so nicely. Or, in Paul’s prana-filled c’mon, who’s with me?! bellowed to his teacher trainees during the first week of a training. And we could hear it in the laughing refrain sung by the tickled-tired students. They are most certainly the perceivable Brahman . . . If only our ears were receptive enough to hear.
Brahman is a force that could be found in everything, but it is subtle enough to not be in anything at all. It’s in the salty tears of a student struggling with emotions during the third week of the training, in the pulling pain on the inside of my left knee, and in the anticipation of a child waiting for their parent to finish teaching in the shala. It is in each of them, as they are all the observable Brahman.
It wafts in the smell of smoldering samagri after a morning fire ceremony, and in the overpowering odor of the lingering garbage truck competing for attention . . . I only wish our noses could discriminate.
It glides over us in the chords of a guest’s off-tune guitar strung before dinner, in the sound of silverware being put away, not so nicely, and in a plate crashing to its death. All Brahman.
We could hear it in an excited new grandmother’s voice skipping through sentences on Skype, and in the photographed eyes of a newly born niece waiting to meet us. Definitely Brahman. Oh, what if our hearts were soft enough to carry your presence?
Taste it in a spicy Thai gaeng kieow waan burning a hole in our sinuses and in a custardy and stinky-succulent durian capturing our taste buds’ full attention. Yes, these too are Brahman . . . If only our tongues could truly taste.
It crunches underfoot in the pieces of styrofoam and plastic blemishing an otherwise pristine beach, it rolls in the odd bolt kicked under the bed that we can’t imagine is from where, and it flies in the fugitive piece of hair that the fan sends airborne . . . That has to be you, Brahman. Isn’t it?
When in savasana: every cell of my body beating with the sound of distant ocean waves, a bird call tickling the inside of my ear, the buried memory of cicadas singing in my childhood backyard in Arizona, even further distant sensations from a life’s pain and pleasure revisited, and a baby’s cry piercing my heart. You are the perceivable Brahman as well. Could we possibly feel you?
We cannot find anything that is not you, Brahman, but really you are neither this nor that, so elusive, nothing and everything at the same time . . . If only we were perceptive enough to see!