Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi
  AHYMSIN NEWSLETTER, ISSUE - January 2016 
 
   
 
   

From Form to Formlessness

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

The most important thing [in Aikido] is that you have a body structure of relaxation … You make a movement. Then you give it up. So you move from the form to the formless. If you really give up the form, then the mind is free of restrictions.

— Swami Tat Sat Bharati, SRSG, 26th October, 2015

Yoga and Martial Arts

This last October, Swami Tat Sat taught a course in Yoga and martial arts at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG). Aikido is the martial arts he has practiced for decades; thus aikido and yoga were the primary focus. Nina Pulaska, his aikido and yoga student for 20 years wrote a beautiful article in November's newsletter about the course, with a focus on practices. The following article briefly touches on his last four sessions - lectures, which Nina was unable to attend.

Each of these last 4 sessions began with 10 or 15 minutes of silent meditation. The groundwork thus laid, Swami Tat Sat entertained questions from a diverse group of course participants who came from 5 continents and varying levels of experience. This was an amicable group. 

Choosing a Teacher

When I was new at university, a wise friend said to me “In choosing classes, forget the subject matter. Choose the professor and you will get what you want.” I bumbled around for 5 ½ years until I found the teacher I had been looking for: Dr. Usharbudh Arya. By the time I met him, I had dropped out. He was in the department of South Asian studies at the University of Minnesota. He was also teaching every evening in the attic of the family house. I attended classes in the Arya family attic---and later returned to university piggyback to complete a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree.

I am reminded of my wise friend’s suggestion to choose the teacher, not the subject, in thinking about Swami Tat Sat, the former Ingo Beardi, a teacher and student of yoga, meditation and aikido and longtime student of Swami Rama and Swami Veda Bharati. He is also an initiator in the Himalayan Tradition and resides in Berlin. He said that he will continue to come to SRSG every autumn.

More about Swami Tat Sat

Swami Tat Sat teaches with utmost self-discipline and detachment. Upon first meeting, he appears to be a simple man with the ready smiles of a child. He is private yet humbly present.

I observed changes over the past 8 years in 3 of his students. There was a marked increase in self-confidence and cheerfulness. Also observable was an increased willingness to move through shifting situations –including Aikido falls--with inner strength and flexibility. They seem more responsive and more grounded in attention and mindfulness - a gentle awareness without strong-arming, forcing or suppressing —either oneself or the whims of others. These qualities, these changes, were so clear to me as to be almost palpable - if one can believe that even non-physical things leaves footprints.

If you are fortunate you may come to know how the various strands of Swami Tat Sat’s life influence his teaching. Commitment and surrender. Aikido. Yoga. Action in stillness and stillness in action. Silence and music.

Like some of Swami Tat Sat’s masters, his direct replies reflected an awareness of the needs of individuals present. He was practical and inspiring. His loving commitment to the mindfulness practices inherent both in traditional aikido and yoga were apparent. 

Overview of Martial Arts and Yoga

By the end of the October 2015 course, there was generally a better grasp of how these all fit together: yoga, aikido and other martial arts forms, their shared lineages; meditation, kundalini, prana, pratyahara, tapasya, ishvara pranidhanam, citta prasadhanam, mantras and their links to the masters.

Swami Tat Sat explained that historically many seers and sages were also warrior- protectors. He briefly discussed Indian masters like Vishvamitra; Madhusudana Sarasvati; Guru Gobinda Singh, the last living Sikh guru about whom Swami Rama wrote, and Swami Rama, Swami Tat Sat’s yoga guru, who was a master of yoga and martial arts.

Swami Tat Sat also spoke of Krishna and Arjuna and the subtle depths of the guru-disciple relationship, of universal consciousness and some of the invisible tools of war. Arjuna was an adhikarin, a qualified and prepared aspirant, who received instruction from Krishna himself.

Kernels

Here are some quotes and paraphrases of just a few of the things Swami Tat Sat said during those last 4 days in his course on martial arts and yoga.

Ai-kee means “come together” in Japanese, and aikido is an expression of the universal mindfield in that its practitioners aim to protect themselves from attackers but also to protect their attackers from harm. Swami Tat Sat said “Start to come together. Say to yourself ‘I am not disturbed.’”

Lofty goals, yet it is much more than that. Swami Veda, in his last Yoga Sutras course at SRSG said it repeatedly. “There is only one mindfield. There is only one mindfield. There is only one mindfield.” Though we may not experience it as such, we can remember this and reflect on it.

Swami Tat Sat points out that aikido’s chief goals include training your body, mind, breath and emotions.

“To control the mind is very difficult,” he says. “The mind is very fast. Swami Veda tells us to cultivate the yamas and niyamas. He means ‘Master them.’”

“At first, you train the body so that ….the immune system and digestion go from weak to strong….”

“The problem is that we only have a very limited consciousness about our mind. We are always on the surface and we are thinking that’s the whole mind, but that’s not the whole mind. Manas is this part of mind related to the senses, to the coordination of the senses, but it’s not the whole mind. So if we go deeper in …the mindfield you have more clearness and more awareness…and you have more control over your activity, especially…the body and the prana. What we experience normally is only a very, very small part of the mind. The practice is …more concentration on one object, so we get more stability in the mindfield and with more stability we can go deeper in the mindfield….We need practice.”

“We are living in a world full of confusion. Our minds are part of this confusion. We are thinking that this is a way of living… so we disturb our mind and our personality….We have to come back to more stability and more stillness in the mind.”

“We have more concentration on one movement. You come together in one moment so your awareness expands.”

“Normally as you get older your senses are weakened. Your eyes are weaker. You cannot see. Maybe you need glasses to see more. But your mindfield does not get older. If you clear your mind you can see through your mind, not through the senses….When you really go deep in your mind and you have more stability you can see much more than normal people [see].”

“There is a long, real connection historically, mentally, and physically between martial arts and yoga.”

“Come together with everyone. Raga-Dvesha, attraction-aversion, are a part of the veil.”

“[Cultivate] Citta-prasadanam—mental purification.”

“Swami Veda is very stable; his mind has no wrinkles, no disturbances. Stillness. That is a trained mind - without attraction or aversion.”

“You cannot work if you are aggressive. Reduce your aversion and attachment.”

“Next step: Go to the deeper layers of the mind to purify. Mantra helps, but then all the stuff comes up from many lifetimes.”

He explained that what was most often lost in much martial arts practiced today was what happens in your mind and breath. Practitioners frequently focus on mere techniques which traditionally have not been of primary importance.

Someone asked a question about how to protect yourself when your upper body is weak.  Swami Tat Sat said that “the real strength is in the prana….Most people have no control over breath, mind, personality….The mind goes out through the senses to handle the world but cannot handle their own personality.” He did not equate prana and breath but explained how they were inextricably linked.

“If you learn to control your mindfield you have a better chance in your next life….You bring knowledge from one life to another….You come alone and you go alone. But you have one chance: mantra….But if the mind is not trained, at the moment of death, you have no control.”

“Martial arts is only an instrument but it can be very helpful….Martial arts is to learn to control and to train your mind, breath and emotions. It is very difficult to control the mind. The mind is very fast.”

“If you are not afraid of death you have mastered ahimsa.”

“The first step is to overcome your fear….The second step is awareness, [of] how you walk, talk, sleep, and eat.” He went to a retreat with Swami Veda, and a sister disciple was there. He observed that the whole time she was very aware of what she was doing. She was slow and mindful in her every step, every breath.

He described noticing how she ate so mindfully and decided to try it himself. It changed him.

“The third step is control over emotion and emotional purification. It is very difficult and most important.”

“If there is emotional disturbance [in you] you cannot fight.”

“Breath awareness and mindfulness [go together].”

“In the Shinto Tradition there is Mi-Su-Gee—washing the mind and the body.”

“When you work with someone in martial arts, emotions come up.”

“In aikido every movement is circular like the movements of the universe.”

Music is an important part

Swami Tat Sat has dedicated his life to the core teachings of his yoga and aikido masters, H.H. Swami Rama and Master Hiroshi Tada (9th Dan) of Japan who is 86 years old now and still doing Aikido. The founder and grandmaster of Aikido is the honorable Morihei Ueshiba.

Although this was a course primarily on yoga and aikido, I would be remiss if I failed to mention Swami Tat Sat’s affinity with Western classical music and his profound respect for some of its masters.

He spoke of the revered music conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler and his protege Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996), the legendary Romanian conductor. Furtwängler is said to have listened to the music beyond the music and inspired that awareness in his orchestras with very few rehearsals.

Celibidace was also a man who trained musicians and orchestras with an almost mystical touch. When asked for whom he makes music, Celibidace replied that he doesn't make anything. In speaking of fine musical performances he conducted, he said "I create the conditions so that a kind of spiritual process can take place.” When Celibidace was asked why he had said that he would not be at the podium at the upcoming 1989 concert he would conduct, he replied “I am there, because I am not there." Of course, Celibidace was unmistakably present though he would claim nothing. See the 6th April, 1989, LA Times article on him and see if you can find similarities between Celibidace’s ways in music and the kind of hands-off conducted “symphony” in Swami Tat Sat’s teaching style.

It is easy to see how one might compare these music maestros to the masters of aikido who, Swami Tat Sat said, move very little. He said that their power is at a deeper level.

Like Celibidace, Swami Tat Sat is a conductor of sorts in the fields of aikido and yoga. Indeed, specific techniques in aikido are taught and refined. The keen eye for what is going on in every corner of the room.

The concrete, clear and practical instruction are all essential, yet insignificant in the face of the shakti and absolute focus, the stillness in action and action in stillness — action molded by years of devoted meditation.

With years of dedicated practice perhaps one can learn what is at the core of aikido and meditation.

Transformation through Tempering

Moving from music to metals, the metaphor of tempered steel comes to mind.  At some point in the process, being heated to very high temperatures in involved.

The main purpose of tempering is to produce steels with certain desired properties, particularly the optimum combination of strength, plasticity, and impact strength.

Here, in aikido and in yoga, I am not talking of physical heat. Tapas, one of the necessary kriyas, does produce heat, though not only physical heat. Impurities at every level of the body, breath, mind and sanskaras are burned off.

Discipline, detachment, concentration and shraddha are required. Shraddha is often translated as faith but it is far more than that. It is faith joined with action, a sustained action over a long period of time, and it is faith in and with a higher purpose, not just for one’s own development, which itself is certainly necessary and important.

These qualities and aspirations were the inscribed signature of this extraordinary course. That which words do not contain was the core.


Editor’s Note:

Swami Tat Sat Bharati (formerly Ingo Beardi) teaches in Berlin, Germany.  Here is a link to his website: http://www.beardi.com

 

   
       

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