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The short line of an oral tradition, and ‘virtual saucha’

March 31, 2012
tags: ,

I’m doing my best to keep crap from entering my brain.

A trash-filled brain is a hazard, of course, of being online. You are constantly bombarded with information (using that term loosely), and that can lead to virtual overload: too much news, too much fluff, too many ads, too much ridiculous outrage and meaningless debate that’s intended only to win a point, not advance any substantive issue or cause.

My day job requires me to keep abreast of things, as well. So in that sense there’s no escaping it.

But over the past few weeks, I could feel it also sneaking in around my yoga practice and thinking. Maybe too much A-yoga controversy fallout? Always too much sex and yoga. Trash, trash, trash.

Enough. I have much better things to spend my precious little free time on: Bobbie’s taking a Rig Veda course, for instance.

And so I’m trying to be more particular about what I read, watch, see. It’s part of “saucha;” perhaps when applied to the Web it can be called “virtual saucha.” I’m limiting my surfing, in other words.

That said, in my more restricted surfing this morning, I did find plenty of “clean” things to think about over at Leaping Lanka. One thing in particular was his post about the oral tradition versus what we know about the history of yoga. Jason writes:

I’m always curious as to the degree and depth with which modern Yoga scholars discount or disregard the role of orality within Yoga and the Hindu tradition in which it flowered.
It seems that if something isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.

This reminded me of something Eddie Stern said at the Confluence. It effectively comes down to this: The oral tradition involves about two people per century — the 50-something starting to teach the child. Repeat the process, over and over. For those who are mathematically challenged, that means about 20 people per thousand years of history.

Is it really so hard to imagine that an oral tradition is close to the truth?

I also saw, via Jason’s Twitter account, that there’s a piece at Elephant Journal by Toronto Ashtanga teacher David Robson that seems to fit into our recent discussion about a focused breath during practice. Ours is all inspired by Nancy Gilgoff, but it is, I suppose, worth noting when similar ideas bubble up in our virtually connected world. Link for those interested.

As an aside, EJ remains for me a tough site to read. There will be items that seem really valuable, but they are surrounded by pieces that seem intended only to garner hits — yes, an issue I’ve already admitted to having my own weaknesses. So it’s hard for me to “tsk tsk” them. Probably the best way to look at EJ is it is pretty representative of American yoga — in all its good, bad, sexy and outraged. It can be a tough slog given a a goal of “virtual saucha,” though.

Posted by Steve

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