Knowledge and Wisdom

Heritage of Yoga

Knowledge and Wisdom:  What is the difference and how can I cultivate wisdom in my yoga practice?

I place my feet, I lengthen down in the inner calf and lift from my outer arch.  I feel the strength grow from my feet through my inner and outer legs as it weaves a pattern into my pelvis.  I follow this strength up my spine lifting one vertebra off another.  My upper ribs and collar bones lift and roll back and I release my shoulders.  The strength transforms into an experience of length and lightness as it passes up to the crown of my head.  I feel myself strong and tall.  I have taken the form of Tadasana.  But is this the asana Tadasana, the experience that transcends the form?

My eyes tell me that I have placed my body in the correct position.  My nerves, bones and muscles echo the truth of what my eyes see.  My memory of previous experiences affirms that I am in the correct alignment.  All this I know through my senses; my senses which have guided me before there was cognitive thought.  I trust them to be a sure guide in every moment, reflecting the world back to me and me to the world.  This is the sphere of I and other.  This is the world of knowledge.  Knowledge presumes that there is something to know and someone who knows.

There is something more I experience in Tadasana which defeats language.  The moment I begin to describe it, it no longer exists.  This moment is not known in language.  Language is linear, moves in increments along a continuum.  This experience comes whole without a subject and an object.  When the moment is past and I hold the memory recorded in my senses then I can speak of it.  I feel light, no effort to hold myself up in gravity.  There is balance.  There is no in or out, no sense of breathing.  It  is quiet, peacefulness, joyful.  Joy that is like the warmth of the sun, everywhere and nowhere.  This memory is not the moment, but the shadow of the moment.  In the remembering I have separated myself and made my experience solid.  Wisdom is fluid.  It is that which transcends duality, that which cannot be named, but can be known.

So how do I cultivate wisdom in my practice?  In truth, I don’t know.  I believe that at best I can establish fruitful conditions and make a sincere effort.  I can watch out for pitfalls and not be discouraged.  I can hope for blessings and recognize them when they happen.  I don’t think there are any guarantees.  Effort and the right conditions don’t create wisdom, but without them I have little hope.

So I cultivate being present.  I am grateful for finding an authentic spiritual teaching and good teachers.  I am happy to have spiritual friends who guide me and give so generously of their inspiration.  I am blessed with a practice that so easily reminds me when I have dropped it and bears fruit when I persevere.  I walk the gradual path from the foundations of the yamas and niyamas to the apex of samadhi.  I know from previous experiences that any moment can transform into wisdom.  Recently I was sitting at the end of class when I realized that when I am ‘in the state of yoga‘ all eight limbs are present.  That even when it seems I am only walking the path of yoga, I am also the path.  I am not the form Tadasana, but the thing itself.

I am reminded of a comment a Zen master made to a group of us who had just finished a week long meditation retreat.  In essence: ‘That when we have insight (wisdom arising) it is like breaking out of our box into a larger box.  The important moment is when we are between boxes‘.

So each time wisdom arises I move into a larger arena of awareness.  I expand my understanding, my knowledge, and for a brief moment I drop my small self and am a spark of wisdom.

You live in illusion and in the appearance of things.  There is a reality.  You are that reality.  If you wake up to that, you will know you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything.  That is all.

Kalu Rinpoche

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