James Traverse is a yoga educator and writer who communicates the direct approach to understanding your true nature. This experiential means, which is founded on a shift of attention from conceiving to purely perceiving, flowered principally out of James’ studies with his teacher, Jean Klein, who initiated him in the ways of Advaita Vedanta and Kashmiri Shaivism. His other influences include the works of J. Krishnamurti, David Bohm, Rumi, Adi Shankaracharya, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Atmananda Krishnamenon and the yoga of B K S Iyengar, whose method he studied intensely
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The Rope and The Snake is the classic story that sages tell to illustrate the distinction between seeing with the mind and seeing through the mind.
This is the story of a man who is terrified of snakes. It happened that one evening he was concerned that he would be late for a very important meeting, and in order to be at the meeting in time, he decided to walk through a field of tall grass that he would normally have avoided, because other people had said that there were snakes there.
It happened that he was crossing this field at dusk when the light was dim and that he stepped on a thick rope. He thought that the rope he stepped on was a snake and that thought caused him to have a panic attack.
In his panic he turned and ran away from the rope. He had only taken a couple of steps before he collided with another man, who happened to be the owner of the field and rope – he was on his way to retrieve his rope.
At this point the panic stricken man was lying on the ground, gasping for breath, pointing in the direction of the rope and crying, âSnake, snakeâ.
Â The owner of the field guessed that the terrified man had mistaken his thick rope for a snake and walked over to where his rope was to confirm this fact. He then returned to the panicking man and convinced him to calm down. Then with further reassurance the owner of the field convinced the man, who had now recovered from his panic attack, to come with him and see for himself that what he stepped on was a rope and not a snake.
The two men went together to see that indeed it was a rope and not a snake. Thus the man who was terrified of snakes was able to see that he had been experiencing the situation via the content and activity of his mind [he had beenseeing with the mind– seeing through the veil or cloud of the content of his mind] rather than seeing things as they are, which he did once his mind was silent [then he was seeing through the mind, which is the case when the veil of the mind’s content has been relaxed and has fallen away].
In this way the means to realize the union between the material and spiritual realms of being that is always available is to see through the mind – this is the way of clarity, insight and wisdom.
Yoga Philosophy is described in the second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras where he states, “yogas citta vrtti nirodhah”
Yogas means union or connection and the understanding is that everything is already connected [not separate]; Citta means mind; Vrtti means whirling or activity of the mind; and Nirodhah means cessation as when the mind is silent.
Patanjali’s definition of yoga may be rendered in English as: Yoga is the cessation of deriving your identity via the content and activity of the mind [seeing with the mind].
When the mind is silent [seeing through the mind] and there is no conceptualization or intellectual description of being there is no discontinuity to being. There are times throughout the day when the mind is naturally silent and such times reveal that it is true that being continues whether the mind is silent or active.
Patanjali follows what he said in the second sutra with, “TadÄ draá¹£á¹uá¸¥ svarÅ«peâvasthÄnam”
Here Tada means then [still or stillness]; Avasthanam means abiding or resting as; Sva-Rupe means essential nature or form; and Drastuh means seer or experiencer.
In other words Patanjali says that when you do not derive your identity via the content and activity of the mind, then you abide as what you already are and that is your essential nature. This means that your true nature is revealed when the mind is silent. It also reveals that there is nothing wrong with the activity of the mind – the only time mental activity is problematic is when you define your identity mentally. This understanding gives great relief and allows the mind to rest when it does not need to be used and to be very sharp when it does focus on something [because then the energy of the mental activity of defining and defending who you think you are is conserved and thereby available for appropriate mental activity].
Patanjali goes on to says in his fourth sutra, “Vá¹tti sÄrÅ«pyam itaratra”
Itaratra means on other occasions; Sarupyam means there is identity; and again Vá¹tti means whirling or activity of the mind.
The Engish renedering is: Otherwise there is identification derived out of the content and activity of the mind.
In this light yoga philosophy is a way of being [or way of seeing/awareness] where the mind finds its true place as an instrument of authentic being.
The Yoga practice that is most popular today is physical yet the true aim, or purpose, of yoga is not physically based.
The true aim of yoga is the experiential understanding of the true nature of being, which is identity-less.
The physical activity of yoga posture practice is undertaken as one of the limbs of living realization of the main aim of yoga and its role is twofold. Firstly the posture practice benefits the health and well-being of the body such that the mind does not have to be concerned about physical disease or disorder. Secondly the posture practice is explored via feeling rather than thinking, which allows the thinking mind to be silent and this in turn provides a glimpse of the true purpose of yoga.
The true aim of yoga is to know thyself. And this knowing is not a construct, or goal, of the thinking mind. Instead it is knowing that knows itself by being it. In this light the physical and all other practices of yoga find their correct place