Yoga, the world and the fact of futility

By now, you’ve seen the photo of Aylan Kurdi, and you’ve probably heard the stories of all the refugees trying to make their way to Europe.

It is in the face of such news that stretching myself into asana positions and, even more so, thinking that does any good beyond lowering my blood pressure, always strikes me as both absolutely ridiculous and ultimately self-serving and naive. I invariably think about the words of German philosopher Theodor Adorno: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

To paraphrase it: “To practice yoga as refugees walk their way into Europe is barbaric.”

I’d been thinking of this for much of the past week. And I suspected we’d touched on this topic before. I was right. Back in December 2012, days before we left for our first trip to India, Bobbie wrote this (the bold was originally a block quote):

It can be difficult to believe, in the face of horror, that creativity can go on—that anything can go on. The images from Connecticut shock the soul. And seeing them over and over, with no chance for catharsis, can be emotionally exhausting.

Comfort came from Robert Moses, in a message to the readers of Namarupa. I thought I’d pass it along to you. He wrote:

Hearing troubling news on a daily or almost hourly basis these days is indeed unsettling. Yet there is always hope. There is always the glimpse of love no matter how clouded things may appear to be.

Robert suggests—prompted by a message from Ammachi—chanting what we recognize as the closing prayer of the practice. It’s ancient prayer from the Rg Veda, known much more widely as the “Mangala Mantra.” It’s a reminder that there is, of course, solace in the practice itself.

svasti prajabhyam paripalayantham nyayeana margena mahim maheesah
gobrahmanebhya shubamsthu nityam lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu
om santih santih santih

Unlike Bobbie, who found solace in that (as you’ll see if you take a look back at her post), perhaps I’m a tougher case. I’m more likely to feel the futility of one person, two people, 2,000 or 2 million practicing yoga and expecting to wake to a brighter, more perfect world.

I also realize the opposite — better to say the contrary — is worse. But it does not make getting to Samasthiti much easier.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “Yoga, the world and the fact of futility”

  1. What else can you do? You can donate for a related cause, rally against war campaigns, write to lawmakers, etc.

    Not long ago, we had human slavery, in its most explicit and codified form. Now you don’t have to worry about invoking logical, coherent argument to convince someone that slavery has no place in this world. For many of the slaves at that time, i am sure life looked bleak.

    We still live in a world that slaughters 100s of millions of defenseless, helpless, innocent animals just to satisfy our appetite. This does not even enter the waking consciousness or discussions of people (save a small minority), including supposed “yogis”.

    I am hopeful. There is NO other choice.

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