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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 09 56 is definitely a door to the dharma. In the yoga tradition, the very first two limbs are the yamas and the niyamas—how you behave in the world and how you interact with other people. After that comes asana, the codified physical system of aligning your muscles and bones to promote radiant health, what most people associate with the term “yoga.” The limbs after asana— pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi—are subtler and take us into the meditative realm. Many people come into yoga feeling stressed out, and come out of yoga less stressed out. Processing takes place. Even when people aren’t aware of the four foundations of mindfulness, the experience still happens to a certain degree. It isn’t magic, though. People need to be taught how to relate to what they’re feeling. For example, how to be aware of the intricacies of the knee pain they’re experiencing, as Phillip was describing, rather than being caught up in their story line about it. PhiLLiP Moffit: At Spirit Rock, we just finished our first pro- gram training yoga teachers to employ mindfulness while they are teaching asana. It was very well received, so we’ll start another one in 2010. Asana is seen as spiritual practice from the beginning. If yoga teachers’ asana practice starts to be informed by awareness, they’ll share that with their students. contemplating the Body as Body the Buddha’s instructions for contemplating the body, beginning with mindfulness of breath, recorded in the Satipatthana Sutta, the foundations of mindfulness. And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu abide contemplating the body as a body? Here a bhikkhu, gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or to an empty hut, sits down; having folded his legs crosswise, set his body erect, and established mindfulness in front of him, ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out. Breathing in long, he understands: “I breathe in long”; or breathing out long, he understands: “I breathe out long.” Breathing in short, he understands: “I breathe in short”; or breathing out short, he understands: “I breathe out short.” He trains thus: “I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body”; he trains thus: “I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body.” He trains thus: “I shall breathe in tranquilizing the bodily formation”; he trains thus: “I shall breathe out tranquilizing the bodily formation.” Just as a skilled turner or his apprentice, when making a long turn, understands: “I make a long turn”; or, when making a short turn, understands: “I make a short turn”; so too, breathing in long, a bhikkhu understands: “I breathe in long”... he trains thus: “I shall breathe out tranquilizing the bodily formation.” In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body externally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body both internally and externally. Or else he abides contemplating in the body its nature of aris- ing, or he abides contemplating in the body its nature of vanishing, or he abides contemplating in the body its nature of both arising and vanishing. Or else mindfulness that “there is a body” is simply established in him to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and mindfulness. And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body. From The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi. Published by Wisdom Publications. to tell mind what to do, mind never listens. But if you create the right causes and conditions, mind will follow. BuddhadharMa: Isn’t trulkhor a relatively advanced practice? tenzin WangyaL rinPoChe: Some kinds of trulkhor are quite subtle, but the overall point of the physical yoga is that it can be easier to work with the body as a support for awareness than to work directly on the mind. Why are so many people interested in yoga? Because it’s easy to follow. Of course, it’s not necessarily easy to do, but it’s much easier than dealing with a lot of complicated stages of mind practices. The popu- larity of yoga in the West is a wonderful thing because it can become a door to dharma. It can start as an interest in fitness, well-being, and health, and gradually it can become the door to higher understanding. Unfortunately, it can also be just a physical fitness regimen, and its original purpose of supporting awareness is lost. Cyndi Lee: I agree. For most people it’s easier to start with the body. You can feel it. You can touch it. People come to yoga for a variety of pretty obvious rea- sons—getting fit, losing weight, quitting smoking, meeting a mate—but across the board they stay for a different rea- son, and it usually has some relationship to dharma. Yoga