Monday, June 2, 2014

The Yogi and the Layman


When I was a young man I had the opportunity to listen to a great speech by a yogi who demonstrated the merits of yoga.  “We can live a healthy life for a hundred years if we practice yoga ascetically,” he concluded as the audience burst into a thunderous applause.  Later one of the invited guests present on the stage asked the yogi, “Do you ever enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life like eating some food which is forbidden by your creed, sipping a whiskey with sparkling soda and some ice cubes, lying on a beach watching without feeling guilty beautiful girls walk by wearing bikini...?”

“No,” admitted the yogi.

“What’s the point of living a hundred years then?” asked the man. 

And the yogi’s answer was a silent stare.

Recently I visited a religious centre in Punjab.  The cult has over 5000 acres of land on which an entire township is built up.  But nobody can use even the mobile phone in that township.  There’s a whole list of Do’s and Don’ts, unbreakable commandments that one has to obey the moment one is inside the township.  My instinctual feeling, as I learnt about how people lived in that township, was pity.  The people were missing something valuable, I thought.  They were being deprived of the opportunities to explore life in their own way, to decide what was good and bad for themselves, to know and experience the agonies and ecstasies of human existence... Their life is a straitjacket.  Every movement of theirs is circumscribed.  Every gesture has to adhere to the prescribed code of behaviour. 

Susan Hill narrated the tale of a man who was very scared of living among people.  He was scared that he might fall in love with a girl who would jilt him, slip on a banana peel and be laughed at, be knocked down by a speeding vehicle... So he decided to live in the absolute security of his own room.  He never stepped out.  One day a painting on the wall lost its moorings and fell on him and he died.

I think living within the boundaries drawn by any religion or organisation is as good as the life of the man in the story.  Life is a series of lessons, experiences that keep enriching us until we have to take leave of this planet.  Who has the right to tell us what we should learn and what we shouldn’t?

Yes, the wisdom of others can be a good signpost, guiding light.  But their wisdom is theirs; each one of us has to arrive at our own wisdom, travelling our own roads in life.  For the yogi, living a hundred years without falling ill may be the greatest virtue.  But  there would be no Vasco da Gama or Edmund Hillary if everyone thought the yogi was right.  In fact, there would be nothing interesting in life if everyone followed the yogi.  All creativity comes from questioning the boundaries of existence.  

I would rather be a mountaineer who climbs peaks until I succumb to one than a yogi who sits in a cave hoping to live a hundred years.







30 comments:

  1. I agree completely Tom. I think that rigid followers of this creed or that guru, are child-like people who are afraid of life and need some kind of security, a father-figure, to tell them what they should or should not do!

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    1. Childish, I would say, Sunil ji, rather than childlike. I still believe that Freud was right when he said that religion is infantile.

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  2. Lovely point... live life to the fullest, it should be enjoyed... not restricted...

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    1. Live life to the fullest. How lovely! Yes, that's what I would like to see people doing. But not without restrictions. Restrictions will be imposed by oneself. One should know why.

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  3. Awesome ...explore your ownself and explore the world that would be the worthy life. .

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  4. Lovely post..I totally agree with the crux of it... the last line says it all... :-)

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  5. I agree with you when you choose human choices over rules laid down by the so called people of God. Having seen my late younger brother adhere to a strictly regimented cult/group, I found much fault in him for being so irrational, for not living a full life, for not getting married. He died all of 32 last year. But, given his medical complications, and the suffering he went through in the form of endless dialyses week after week, I was also amazed at the solace this belief seemed to give him. My parents are still followers of this group, and I have changed my response to their beliefs now. If by choosing a certain way of life, they experience happiness, and if they are likely to feel sad if, like me were atheists, I would rather they stick to a sect and practise what I clearly see as irrational. The understanding that I can't decide for everyone else is the crucial difference between my past and present worldviews...
    Cheers and thanks, as always, for making me reflect on life...

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  6. Having said that, I completely agree that a life filled with mystery, with the exploration of the unknown, and one which is not bound entirely by external rules, is the better one any day...
    But, did Sisyphus live a life any worse than mine? I am not really sure...

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    1. Sisyphus made his choice and that's what matters, even as you have said in the first part of your comment.

      I also agree with you that if a person finds genuine meaning in religion (in the sense that it adds quality to his/her life), I won't stand in the way of his/her belief. My wife is a devout Christian and I have not questioned her faith at any time just as she leaves me to my lack of religious faith. I know that religion made it easy for my mother to accept much pain in life with resignation. But I always thought that such religion acted more as a drug than anything spiritual. Still, I wouldn't take it away from people if they need it.

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  7. Expressed well. Thought provoking.

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  8. Wonderful post Tomichan. Short and yet such a powerful and fresh thought. I am so happy I visited your blog and chanced upon this post. You are absolutely right, living is learning and learning is all about new and fresh experiences and seeing things though your own eyes rather than that of others.

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    1. You've provided a succinct summary of what I have said. Thanks. Glad you liked it.

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  9. Hmm... Its better to hear the bulbul sing then the mouse squeak.... :)

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  10. Everyone to his own. If we do not like a thing we should not do the. If someone else likes a different thing, good for him. We cannot judge others using our point of view always.

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    1. People do what they like whether you and I like it or not. It's impossible to go through life without making judgements. Moreover what we do has its impact on others. So it's inevitable to question too.

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  11. Very well expressed and you made your point ! Living through one's own experiences is far better than being told what to do. But isnt that the bane of parenting as well, when parents continually tell the child what to do and the child refuses to heed.

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    1. When it comes to children the changes. They need guidance obviously. But guidance is not brainwashing.

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  12. Good analogy of various instances Tom!!.. I like subjectivity, on a friendly note i would like to contradict on some points..
    when we were child hopefully we tend NOT to do what our elders say, to test what happens if i do so... at end even we follow or not we learn from it..
    my father always use to say even till my graduation dat - do get up early and sleep early and never listened, but after 2-3 yrs when i am doing my higher studies i realise it now when i am away from them and i do follow it atleast now...i do regret some times i should have followed many things which my elders asked us to be in disciplined way..
    so going by rules will not ought to be a within boundaries, restriction only happens when he becomes uncomfortable.
    an example of yogi and hillary are 2 different context and cant be compared,
    we cant give a laptop and wifi to a tribal people on a word of development, need to respect their boundaries, culture, rights on their way..even our constitution of india also says so and result is the formation of their ministries..
    the para which speaks about a yoga guru who lived 100yrs would be an example to billions to cure and approach to live a healthy life.. Enjoyment for a yogi will be controlling his senses on difficult instances of life and that would be his greatest success, so comparing the same to a person who sips whisky, soda, ice, beach babes would be uselss. people if they dont like rules of others they tend to change their ecosystem itself.ex: many ppl under Khap panchayat do like their rules even it looks weird for most of others, but there are contradictory instances like girl from H.P went beyond the boundaries and left home to pursue career in film - kangana..it varies.. success and failure are NOT life but yes a part of life, its a process not product, just need to enjoy and not to accept it.. :)
    thanks for the article, which invoked some thoughts from me.. :)

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    1. Right now I'm in a place with poor connectivity. Hope to answer you at length when I return to Delhi. Debate is most welcome. .. unlike in the case of religious people. :)

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  13. How true! There's no reason to live when you can't do the things that you want to.

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    1. Those who genuinely seek their own paths are more honest in life than any followers of paths shown by others.

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  14. Agreed to every line...each life depends on a journey of self-exploration and self-experiences. And the only thing to notice is that our path should not hinder the growth of someone else path...it just should grow mutually.

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    1. Precisely. Seek one's ways without harming others. If possible help others. ...

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  15. I am reading your blog post after a long time. I agree with what you brought up over here. Experiences shall teach us what to do or what not to. Theories are the experiences of others... What about mine?
    It was a nice read. :) Would try to visit regularly.

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    1. Glad to see you after a while, Namrata. You were busy with exams or something of the sort, I understand.

      Others can be of much help, as I have implied in the post. But we should not blindly accept their "theories" or views or philosophy or whatever. Our life is ours, our experiences coupled with our personality will determine our "truths" and our philosophy. Only such philosophy is worthwhile in the end.

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