There you are – in one glorious moment, you achieve the state of enlightenment the sages (and your yoga girlfriend or boyfriend) always speak of. Your ego drops, the illusory veil of maya lifts, while attachments and expectations evaporate like mist. You see the Infinite Radiant IS in all its glory, and not only feel but manifest the connection between all beings. You are enlightened.
You sit there, fully present in the moment, at One with all, bathed in the effulgent light of the Now.
Great. Congratulations. You’ve made it to a place few will ever (or have ever) experienced.
What next? Do you just sit there? Do you come down from your lofty state and share your newfound wisdom, as the Buddha and so many others did? What?
You still live in a body/mind/spirit complex, still exist in a temporal world of time and space, as long as there is an ‘I’ to realize and perceive the reality of your enlightenment. So…what do you do, right here and Now?
Perhaps you decide you want to help others achieve this state, or merely to live a simple and obscure life of love. Either way, you will need to eat and defecate (not nearly as much as before, but still some). You will still rely on your body to house your consciousness, still need your arms and legs to enact or manifest your decision of what to do, and to move you through life.
What will you do? You still need to breathe.
As the sages told us (and all of us can experience for ourselves), the practice of yoga begins NOW (the first sentence of the Yoga Sutra). Regardless of your state of development, we all need to breathe efficiently, to move energy through the body to maintain health. Now…in this one, crystalline, beautiful moment.
At the moment of enlightenment, yoga becomes even more pertinent, not suddenly moot or irrelevant as some claim. Yoga then shows itself to be an even more powerful of a set of tools, ones needed for the enlightened to live out their enlightenment more fully (and longer), and to maintain that state of union and integration (the definition of yoga).
You will need now more than ever to sit in meditation and gratitude, to breathe fully of life’s energy, to move the body in ways designed to move and extend energy (and gentle, clear consciousness) more efficiently throughout the body. You will need yoga (asana, pranayama, and all the ‘petals’ of yoga) more than ever.
I see pictures of supposedly enlightened people who appear unhealthy (compared to a yogi) and wonder…would they not be able to share their wisdom better and for longer in healthy bodies? Wouldn’t they have more energy to share with a fit body? Wouldn’t they have more peace and ease in their bodies?
I hear words of unhealthy but enlightened people who disparage the benefits of an ongoing yoga practice and wonder… what would their experience be if they quit disparaging yoga and began practicing it? If you are still on this planet, then you can benefit from a yoga practice and lifestyle.
The point they make about not needing all the petals of yoga (or any petals) to gain enlightenment is undeniably true; many who never heard of yoga got to that place of Oneness. Yet just because this is true does not mean that the practice of yoga is not beneficial on the path to enlightenment and afterwards.
An enlightened person realizes what a gift this life and body are. They know that anything which helps sustain and nourish these gifts are to be sought out and manifested, integrated into an enlightened life and lifestyle. They know they would be remiss to ignore such a gift, or to fail to fully realize it (as yoga helps them do).
A truly enlightened person will be open to any and all practices which serve to increase health, presence, gentleness, and gratitude (which yoga does for all, the enlightened and the common benighted of us). They would never judge a practice they haven’t experienced for themselves…and all experience shows yoga works almost miraculously for all practitioners.
Just as we should be skeptical of any who would emphasize the importance of one yogic petal (such as meditation, dropping the ego, praise, etc.) while dismissing the others, so should we also be skeptical of those who deny benefits of any petal (or yoga itself) without first experiencing, manifesting, and living it for themselves.
So beware people who tell you yoga is unnecessary or moot. No sage or enlightened one can tell you what your own practice and experience can undeniably prove. Only you can experience and realize for yourself the transformation of yoga, the peace and sustenance that keep kith and kin together for a long life of love, service, devotion, and yes…even enlightenment.
If some of the sages now dead had practiced this ancient wisdom and science, integrated it into their enlightened lives and selves, who knows how much longer they could have been with us, how much more of their own beautiful wisdom they’d have been around to share? Osho, Maharshi, Krishnamacharya…the list goes on and on…Zen masters, Buddhist monks, Jews and Christians and Quakers…
How many unknown and unrealized potentially enlightened people have died prematurely in their physical bodies before they could reach this enlightened state and become yet another beacon of love and light to guide the rest of us on our own paths? How many could have gained this state if they’d had the vibrant good health yoga brings?
Yoga…and all its petals…is a gift for all, a never-ending and ongoing process. Yoga -union- is the goal of all truly enlightened people, or those who aspire to be one. Yoga works on the synergy and harmony of all the petals and practices. Like a guitar, it only works if all the strings are harmonized and put into play. The absence of one or more strings severely limits the range of music that can be expressed.
Enlightened or not, we all need to play the music of our lives in harmony, using all the strings, tuned to each other. Yoga helps us all achieve this.
Enlightenment will come when and as it will. In the meantime (and afterwards) yoga helps us dwell more fully in peace and gratitude, to manifest lives of love and service.
That is enough…even for poor old benighted, unenlightened me. Even I can see that, can experience and live it in my own life. I am so grateful for that. Enlightenment can wait – yoga cannot. If I wish to be fully present, I must remember this (which applies to us all)…NOW begins the practice of yoga….Now.