This time of the year always calls to me to go deep. To study, to notice, to wake up to things long forgotten. My meditation is more profound, and learning new things is somehow easier when I'm inside more due to cold weather. I turn to my yoga texts when the call to dive deep becomes louder. I invite you to read on, and go deeper with me.
At the end of every class back at Sacred Well Yoga Studio (2001-2014), we would chant. Most of the time we chanted for peace, but sometimes we would chant the following from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, The Forest of Wisdom:
Asato Ma Sad Gamaya,
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya,
Mrtyor Ma Amratam Gamaya,
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!
This translates as, "Lead us from untruth to truth, Lead us from darkness to light, Lead us from death to immortality. Om peace, peace, peace!”
It was a beautiful, deep-tone chant. At the time, I didn't know where it was from nor did I understand the full meaning. I did recognize this chant was different than the others. It had such seriousness in its tone and harshness in the way the words sounded. After many years of studying yogic philosophy, I'm closer to understanding why. The only way to be free of the cycles of suffering always present in human existence is to merge back with the Divine forever. And how to we reach this ultimate freedom and become immortal? By focusing on the Truth and the Light.
The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad serves as a guidebook to the sadhak (spiritual seeker) on both how to live life in human form, and how to shed the human form at the end of life. Living life boils down to being self-controlled, giving and compassionate. Then, when the human body grows weak from illness or old age, the sadhak prepares to slowly lose each of his senses as he becomes one with God. In yogic philosophy death isn’t the end, just a transition to a new phase, either a new human body or immortality. In either form the Self is always present, it is Brahman (God), and it never dies.
The Upanishad says in chapter 4, verses 23-32, “the Self is beyond good and evil, beyond all the suffering of the human heart. In that unitive state one sees without seeing, for there is nothing separate from him; smells without smelling, for there is nothing from him; tastes without tasting , for there is nothing separate from him…” It goes on to say that, “those who do not seek this supreme goal live on but a fraction of this joy.”
The messages from this ancient text of truth, light, and immortality serve as a reminder that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. This spirit will not end when the body does. And as we evolve through each human experience, we hopefully continue to seek more truth and light. Truth and Light are the ways God holds us, and are the ultimate goals of yoga. This chant prompts us to keep the goal in mind.