November 2014 - 4 Goals of Human Birth
Don't be lead to believe by my overseas trips that the life of a yoga teacher is one big party! On the contrary, although enjoyable to get these things happening requires focus and incredible energy – organising things, gathering people together, taking the risk when booking that the numbers will cover the commitment... Well I am quite a disciplined person and I often take things very seriously, even my spiritual life and even things that could be enjoyable. And my teachers are frequently prompting me to relax and enjoy. I think many of us struggle with this – how to relax and enjoy. Women particularly struggle to prioritise their own nurture ahead of partner and family. But it's important that when we decide to do things, we put in the required effort, but also are able to relax and surrender into the outcome – to recognise when it's no longer up to us.
Some review reading touched me deeply recently. The Vedic tradition, from which yoga has arisen includes not just formal spiritual teachings but it offers a whole range of guidance for how we live in general. Browsing the other day I came across, 'The four goals of Life'. I found it really interesting that spirituality is just one of these four goals and that all of them are mentioned, I presume is because all of them are important as part of human birth.
Artha, Dharma, Kama and Moksha.
Artha is wealth. So it's a goal of life that we strive to obtain adequate wealth to support ourselves, meet our needs and also to contribute to society. I recall receiving advice in my early days of being in India that it was important that I could support myself and not press already stretched services to provide for me. As a member of the ashram I would not have been challenged to stay without payment to pursue spiritual practice; but being offered only the opportunity to pay a donation, put the responsibility back on me to and opportunity to look at myself honestly in my relationship with wealth and contribution.
If we have the means it's usual in India that people contribute to those that are less fortunate. In India there is a lot of focus on giving to those in need – whether it's giving support to ashrams that provide medical care, schooling or vocational training; or giving alms to a beggar in the street, without making any judgment. The ashram in India provides schooling for local village children, most of whom would otherwise would be illiterate. This has been maintained for 12 years now with the donations given by local devotees and the many westerner, mainly in Europe when Swamiji teaches yearly.
Dharma is our life's duty or purpose. According to the Veda's we all have things to achieve in our life. Maybe big things, small things... parenting roles, partnering roles, vocational roles and other roles in our social context. And we don't usually have to look to far to find out what these are, as we are probably already doing them. Our mind might struggle and question, but usually we're exactly where we are meant to be. If we can relax into these roles and fulfill them to the best of our ability this is what is required to meet this goal. Sometimes this ain't easy and we want to run away, but we do it anyway. If we tune into our intuition we will usually know whether we are moving in line with our Dharma or whether we are going against it. Even though it's sometimes hard, eventually things fall into place when we moving in the line of our Dharma and things seem to get be complicated if we are going against it.
Kama is pleasure. So it's ok to have pleasure – rock on! Kama is not Dharma, but it's Ok. We are allowed to be fortunate, to have fruitful opportunities, enjoyable friends, sexy, loving partners and happy families and to generally have a good life. Appreciate good food, beautiful surroundings, relaxing moments with friends, lovers and family, enjoy your job and your holidays. Here we are encouraged to enjoy what we have, without guilt. Seeking personal pleasure isn't the sole motivator of our life (it's balanced with our other goals), but we don't have to feel bad to be so fortunate as many of us are. We don't have to turn everything into a struggle. Don't take one moment for granted. We could live for another 50 years or we could die tomorrow. Enjoy the beauty of this precious gift of human birth!!!
Moksha is spiritual life. Now I think that all of these goals are actually talking about a spirituality that is really grounded in human birth and in our lives. Moksha as a goal is perhaps just a reminder of this. Some people are religious and like to express their spirituality in rituals or worship and church going; for others it's connecting with and appreciating nature; for some it's just to live ethically and honorably. So spirituality means different things to different people and is expressed differently. I think it's good if we can drop the semantics, not get caught up in doctrine and appreciate the diversity of spirituality. To see the moon that the finger points at, not get stuck looking at the finger!
So, I've been enjoying teaching yoga to you lovely folk all year, appreciative that I've earned adequate wealth to continue that play.. taking some lovely friends to India for retreat and adventures... all in a manner that feeds me spiritually. So I hope you all have a fantastic couple of months and I'll see you all in February. Lets all be grateful and enjoy what abundance we have; may that give us strength to endure the harder aspects of life.