Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving at the Yoga Farm

I have written several posts about the Yoga Farm, including how I found it and how I became a regular visitor every Saturday.  For the last several years, I have been going there to spend Thanksgiving evening.  They have a sumptuous dinner comprising 8 - 10 different dishes including a couple of different pies that conforms to the yogic diet.  What makes this event particularly fun, is that it often has a very large attendance (50-100 people), many of whom have had past association with the ashram as visitors, students, or staff, and as a result there's a lot of running into old faces.

Following the dinner is an evening satsang -- meditation followed by chanting and a concert or a guest speaker.  This year, the speaker was Dr. Edwin Bryant, who is currently a professor of Religions of India at Rutgers University.  He taught several classes during the day, but since I visited only for the evening, I was able to listen only to his evening talks both on Thursday and Friday.  He talked about a variety of subjects including the origins of Hinduism, the various texts such as the vedas and the puranas, the epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the origins of asana practice in yoga, and many other topics.  It was truly a treat to hear an accomplished scholar with in-depth and precise knowledge of these subjects who was able to put all of these ancient texts in perspective (e.g. how they're related).  At the end of each talk, he took a number of questions from the audience giving patient, in-depth responses to each.

One of things that I learnt from this is that documented asana practice is fairly recent.  Most of the older texts (vedas and puranas) don't say much about this subject.  Another interesting takeaway was the concept of yogamaya and mahamaya.  Up until now, I was only aware of maya, the term used to describe the illusory material world that we live in.  Yogamaya and mahamaya are terms to used to describe illusion that, for example, Lord Krishna creates so that people can have a relationship with him (such as a that of a parent or lover), and illusions such as the one created when Lord Krishna's mother looks into his open mouth and sees the whole universe.

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