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Note: For the complete lessons, with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.

Lesson 312 - Shatkarmas, Bodily Purification and Enlightenment

From: Yogani
Date: Mar 2, 2009

New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"



It has been said that the human body is the City of God. We can also say that the human body, and the nervous system in particular, is a window to the divine. Yoga practices are designed to aid in cleaning the window so the full light of our inner divine qualities can shine through. This is experienced as increasing inner peace, creativity, energy, and a more illuminated view of the world. That is why the end stage of the purification and opening process is called enlightenment.

Can this purification and opening be accomplished through physical means alone? Not likely. Physical measures such as the diet and cleansing methods being covered in recent and upcoming lessons, and much earlier lessons on postures (asanas), mudras, bandhas, tantric sexual practices, etc., cover the physical (energetic) side of our purification and opening. It runs much deeper than that, and that is why spiritual desire (bhakti), deep meditation, spinal breathing pranayama, samyama and other methods involving heart, mind and breath receive much attention in the overall scheme of our yoga practices. The non-physical methods of yoga reach far deeper than the physical methods.

On the other hand, physical methods are an essential part of the broad scope of spiritual practices as summarized in Patanjalis Eight Limbs of Yoga.

In upcoming lessons, we will be discussing traditional shatkarmas that can be used to supplement our daily yoga routine, including:

--
Jala Neti (nasal wash)

--
Basti (colon cleansing/enema)

--
Dhauti (intestinal wash)

Several additional shatkarmas will also be discussed in relation to our daily routine of yoga practices. These include Nauli (churning of the abdominal muscles), Kapalbhati (sudden exhale, a nerve cleansing pranayama method), and Trataka (an eye/attention gazing method). Some of the elements in these latter shatkarmas overlap with methods covered in previous AYP lessons, and these connections will integrated into the discussion.

The use or non-use of shatkarmas is our option, of course. There is no right or wrong answer in this. Only our own determinations about what works best for our spiritual progress. Shatkarmas, in conjunction with other practices, can help cultivate enhanced levels of purification and opening, and also improve our physical health and well-being.

Stepping back and looking from a broader view, there is always the question of what to do when as we build our yoga practice routine. In the AYP approach we begin with deep meditation and spinal breathing pranayama before we move into more physical methods. With this orientation, the urge to engage in physical methods may emerge automatically. It is not uncommon for those who are engaged in daily deep meditation to naturally favor a lighter more nutritious diet, better hygiene, and even yoga postures and inner physical maneuvers (mudras and bandhas). We call this automatic yoga, which is inspired by the rise of inner silence. It is evidence that all of the limbs of yoga are resident within us and naturally connected. Activate one limb of yoga, and all the others will be stimulated. The deeper the method we choose to engage in (such as deep meditation) the more the other limbs will be stimulated.

Depending on where we are on our path of purification and opening, physical methods such as the shatkarmas (cleansing techniques), can play a greater or lesser role in our opening. For example, if we are on the verge of an energy awakening, or entering into one, shatkarmas can become very important. This is because our inner physical channels are then transforming to a higher level of functioning to support the "nectar cycle" discussed on Lesson 304, and cleansing in the nasal passages, sinuses and GI tract will enhance these refined processes. So we may naturally feel a strong urge to engage in shatkarmas at that time.

Shatkarmas may also be undertaken for health reasons. There is no doubt that a full range of yoga practices, including shatkarmas, can be a great benefit to our physical health.

Taking proactive measures with diet and shatkarmas can jump start inner progress in the early stages of our deep meditation practice. After a few months of daily deep meditation, if not much seems to be happening in the way of positive effects in our daily activity, then diet and shatkarma measures may help. Of course, this can only result if there is a strong spiritual desire (bhakti) emerging from within to engage in these additional measures, which is a sign that deep meditation is working to elevate our longing for progress.

All yoga practices are connected within us.

So, whether we are inclined toward doing shatkarmas now or later, we can be sure it will be in concert with our spiritual desires, deep meditation and other practices we are engaged in. And, likewise, as we undertake shatkarmas, this too will have a stimulating effect on our other practices.

In many cases, shatkarmas may not be undertaken at all. There is no rule that says all practitioners of yoga must engage in all aspects of yoga. We will know when we are being called, by the symptoms and urges that come from within us. Some practices we may never be inclined to undertake, and that is okay. If we are finding good progress and more happiness and fulfillment in our life, that is all that matters.

The urge to engage in shatkarmas may be strong at one time on our path, and then wane later on, as our nervous system becomes more self-sufficient in sustaining the higher functioning associated with ecstatic conductivity and radiance (kundalini). In this sense, shatkarmas are different from deep meditation, spinal breathing pranayama and some of our other practices, which we may continue with on a daily basis with for our lifetime. Shatkarmas may be needed in the beginning or the middle, but not often near the end of our journey. Shatkarmas can be viewed to be a kind of training wheel for our inner ecstatic processes. As these processes come into their own, we may be less inclined to use the training wheel. This can happen with diet also, which is less critical in the end than it may be in the beginning or middle stages of our spiritual journey.

Great sages have occasionally de-emphasized the rigorous diet and bodily cleansing obsessions of those with less experience and development, going so far as to demonstrate that they could eat, drink or smoke almost anything without ill effects, at least not to their spiritual condition. Sustaining the longevity of the body is another matter, and those advanced sages who maintained a purer lifestyle generally stayed in the body longer than those who did not.

One size does not fit all in matters of diet and shatkarmas, and it is largely a matter of hearing our own inner calling along the way on the path and utilizing these methods as inwardly inspired. Our inclinations will likely change as our purification and opening advances over time, first to more attention on diet and shatkarmas, and perhaps eventually to less attention on these things as we move on to the glories of abiding inner silence, ecstatic bliss, and outpouring divine love.

Then, the call we hear most of the time will be for radiating joy everywhere in the form of service to others, and a constant transcendent inquiry into our infinite unifying nature. Our yoga practices are stepping-stones to that. All of the techniques of yoga, physical and non-physical, are for our purification and opening, leading to enlightenment.

The guru is in you.

Note: For detailed instructions on shatkarmas (cleansing techniques), see the Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli book.

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