Excerpt from Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul
By Sharon Gannon, David Life
“In a 1979 lecture, Ram Dass told a great story about not getting caught up in preferences, based on a teaching from the Third Chinese Patriarch:
The Great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
Just look at your life and think how many preferences you have. You prefer pleasure over Pain? Life over death? Friends over aloneness? Freedom over imprisonment? Love over hate? Where are your attachments? Where are your clingings? Are you stuck in polarities? That is what the Third Patriarch is asking. ‘Make the slightest distinction, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart,’ he says. Make the slightest distinction, and you’ve created hell. ‘If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.’ Are you ready to live like that? Do you realize how spacious you have to be, to live by that kind of philosophy?
That’s the fiercest kind of philosophy I know. But I like to have that kind of fierce friend to hang out with me, to keep reminding me how much I ‘hold opinions.’ This should be like this, and that should be like that, and I want everybody to be thus and so, and wouldn’t it be better if…? Instead of just being spacious with it, we’re full of opinions. Not to ‘hold opinions’ doesn’t mean we don’t have them – it means we are not attached to them. It doesn’t mean we don’t have preferences, it means we’re not attached to our preferences. I can prefer blue over green, and decide that when there’s a choice. I’ll pick the blue over the green, but if I end up with green, ah, so.
‘Ah, so’ – remember the ‘Ah, So’ story? There was a monk who lived in the monastery up on the hill. The local girl down in the village got pregnant by the fisherman. She didn’t want to cause problems for him in the village, so she said, ‘It was the monk up in the monastery.’ When the baby was born, the townspeople carried it up the hill to the monastery. They knocked on the gate, and the monk opened the door; they said to the monk, ‘This is your baby – you raise it.’ And the monk said, ‘Ah, so.’ And he took the baby, and he closed the gate. I mean, the guy’s whole life changed just like that, in that moment, and his only reason is, ‘Ah, so.’
Nine years later the girl was dying. She didn’t want to die without admitting what had happened, so she said to the people, ‘Look, I lied. It really wasn’t the monk, it was the fisherman.’
The villagers were horrified! They went up to the monastery and they knocked on the door. The monk opened the gate, and there standing next to him was this nine-year-old child. The villagers said, ‘We’ve made a terrible mistake. This isn’t your child after all. We’ll take him back down to the village to raise him, and you’re free to go back to your monastic life.’ And the monk said, ‘Ah, so.’ He was so much right here that whatever new change arose, ‘Ah, so.’
If you practice yoga [or live life] for small, selfish reasons, you will remain the same, bound by your beliefs about what you can and cannot do. Let go and offer all your effort to limitless potential. Dedicate yourself to the happiness of all beings.
Keep your attentions fixed on seamless, economic breathing, integrated with movement. Keep your mind fixed on God. If you can do this during asana practice, you will create a vinyasa of happiness and contentment that will be unshakable in the face of life’s ups and downs.
You might like forward bending and dislike backward bending, or vice versa. But when you choose to perform both with equal zest, you will attain some freedom from the tyranny of thoughts. When you can experience your likes and dislikes from an amicable distance and transcend their usual hold on you, Yoga is possible. Ah, so.”
By Sharon Gannon, David Life. Pages 178-179.