Saturday, May 16, 2009

Swadyaya: Self-knowledge


Last week I talked about Tapas, the heat necessary for transformation. Once we've been refined by Tapas, the next step is Swadyaya, or self-knowledge. If one is aware, it is difficult to experience the transforming heat of Tapas and not come to a more intimate knowledge of Self, the True Self--you know, the Self that is liberated by Tapas, the self that was tucked away beneath our stress, tension, pride, hurt, misunderstanding, and layers and layers of back fat (smile).

Like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke states in his poem, The Man Watching, "Winning does not tempt that man./ This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,/by constantly greater beings." By our struggles, our Tapas, we grow stronger, even in our defeat. We understand ourselves more because of the struggle. It's understanding that though you were pummeled by your challenges, there remains a deep part of you that is still very tough. It's knowing the part of you that is larger than the fight. This is Swadyaya.

Swadyaya is also learning from all those things that didn't work. With this knowledge we become free from our bonds of misunderstanding (avidya) because now we can see what was holding us back from knowing our True Self.

There is help. Ganesh is the elephant-headed deity in the Hindu tradition who, among other things, helps us gain Swadyaya. He frees us from obstacles because with his great memory and knowledge of us he knows our purpose, our path, and our problems--our dharma. Ganesh represents the part of us that remembers who we really are. Like my wife says, "he helps you see your own inner AWESOMENESS."

This understanding of self relates to a story told to me by one of my teachers, Dr. Richard Miller. A famous yogi, Ram Das, came back to America from years living in India to visit his brother who was living in a mental health institution because his brother thought he was Jesus. When Ram Das arrived, he was wearing a long white robe, flowers around his neck, long, white hair and beard and sandals. His brother asked Ram Das, "Why is it that you walk around looking like that and they lock me up?" to which Ram Das replied, " The difference between you and me is you think that you're God and I know that I'm God." Through years and years of refinement (read Tapas), Ram Das had an intimate knowledge of his True Self. Ram Das had experienced and practiced Swadyaya.

With greater Swadyaya we qualify for deeper work, more Tapas. and like Rilke says, be "defeated, decisively,/by constantly greater beings." This is how we grow.

Let's practice getting to know ourselves better this week. See you in Class!

21 comments:

ilene ferris said...

I enjoyed what you wrote about self knowledge. It is so true because we are truly children of God. He does know us and knows all things.

O Light of Life! O pure Light Divne!
Thou art in us: Our ember is Thine.
Kindle our faith, Give hope when we fear,
Deepen our love -- Thy Fire appear!
Light of our souls, Thou spark at our birth
Grow bright in us, Shine in all the earth!

O Light of Life! O true Light of Peace!
Storms will arise, Let Thy light increase.
Pierce through dark clouds, Give pause to the proud:
Let Thy shafts fall, Lift himble heads bowed.
Answer our pleas, Melt hearts in Thy flame.
Make us as one -- As one in Thy name.

O light of Life! O Swseet Life of Grace!
Thou bidst us come, We follow apace.
See the bright Tree! Behold the white fruit!
Feastihng we weep, We witness the root!

O Light of LIfe! O dear Light of Love!
Come, wash us clean, Send forth Tnhy white Dovel
Fill us withfire, Enlighten our eyes:
Help us to love, 'Tis price of the prize.
Thn let us come, Enrobe us in white
Cleaving to Thee, Light unto thy Light
Light unto LIght, O Light of Life! Amen

ilene ferris said...

I enjoyed what you wrote about self knowledge. It is so true because we are truly children of God. He does know us and knows all things.

O Light of Life! O pure Light Divine!
Thou art in us: Our ember is Thine.
Kindle our faith, Give hope when we fear,
Deepen our love -- Thy Fire appear!
Light of our souls, Thou spark at our birth
Grow bright in us, Shine in all the earth!

O Light of Life! O true Light of Peace!
Storms will arise, Let Thy light increase.
Pierce through dark clouds, Give pause to the proud:
Let Thy shafts fall, Lift humble heads bowed.
Answer our pleas, Melt hearts in Thy flame.
Make us as one -- As one in Thy name.

O light of Life! O Sweet Life of Grace!
Thou bidst us come, We follow apace.
See the bright Tree! Behold the white fruit!
Feasting we weep, We witness the root!

O Light of LIfe! O dear Light of Love!
Come, wash us clean, Send forth Thy white Dovel
Fill us with fire, Enlighten our eyes:
Help us to love, 'Tis price of the prize.
Then let us come, Enrobe us in white
Cleaving to Thee, Light unto thy Light
Light unto LIght, O Light of Life! Amen

Scottro said...

Thanks, Ilene. Beautiful poem.

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