Learning to Live in the Natural World
Excerpt from Light On Life by B.K.S. Iyengar: IYCD Book of the Month
“Before beginning this journey inward, we must clarify its nature. There is a frequent misunderstanding of the journey inward or the spiritual path, which suggests to most people a rejection of the natural world, the mundane, the practical, the pleasurable. On the contrary, to a yogi (or indeed a Taoist master or Zen monk) the path toward spirit lies entirely in the domain of nature. It is the exploration of nature from the world of appearances, or surface, into the subtlest heart of living matter. Spirituality is not some external goal that one must seek but a part of the divine core of each of us, which we must reveal. For the yogi, spirit is not separate from body. Spirituality, as I have tried to make clear, is not ethereal and outside nature, but accessible and palpable in our very own bodies. Indeed the very idea of a spiritual path is a misnomer. After all, how can you move toward something that, like Divinity, is already by definition everywhere? A better image might be that if we tidy and clean our houses enough, we might one day notice that Divinity has been sitting in them all along. We do the same with the sheaths of the body, polishing them until they become a pure window to the divine.
A scientist sets out to conquer nature through knowledge- external nature, external knowledge. By these means he may split the atom and achieve external power. A yogi sets out to explore his own internal nature, to penetrate the atom (atma) of being. He does not gain dominion over wide lands and restless seas, but over his own recalcitrant flesh and febrile mind. This is the power of compassionate truth. The presence of truth can make us feel naked, but compassion takes all of our shame away. It is this inner quest for growth and evolution, or “involution”, is the profound and transformational yogic journey that awaits the seeker after Truth. We begin this involution with what is most tangible, our physical body, and the yogasana practice helps us to understand and learn how to play this magnificent instrument that each of us has been given.” Pg. 18-19