Here’s an easier path than all that sweaty yoga

It should come as no surprise that I’m always looking for an easier way to the goal — whatever that goal is, I suppose it varies by person — than years and years of hatha / Ashtanga yoga.

So among the many highlights of our coming Yatra, the few days we will be spending in Varanasi are at the top of my excitement list.

Last night, I finished the one required book on our reading list, Diane Eck’s Banaras. And it included this excerpt from the Kashi Khanda:

Where else does a creature obtain liberation as he does here, simply by giving up the body, with very little effort at all!

Not by austerities, not by donations, not by lavish sacrifices can liberation be obtained elsewhere as it can be obtained in Kashi simply by giving up the body!

Even the yogis practicing yoga with mind controlled are not liberated in one lifetime, but they are liberated in Kashi simply by dying.

Not that I’m planning on giving up the body quite yet, but I am willing to reap a few benefits from our time in Varanasi. (Those few lines also may be part of answer to the “is asana enough” question.)

Posted by Steve

‘People are not dying. They’re gaining moksha’

The Namarupa blog has a link up to a CNN story that I can’t help figure is Robert Moses’ way of telling those of us going on this summer’s Yatra: “Read this.” It’s about Varanasi, one of our many stops:

Varanasi has always been known as the city of light. But a more appropriate moniker might be the city of death.

The end of life here is stark and out in the open, for all to see. Bodies blanketed by white shrouds and orange marigolds are brought to the ghats, the broad steps leading down to the Ganga. Funeral pyres, especially at Manikarnika Ghat, the most sacred of cremation places, burn nonstop, melting human flesh on piles of mango wood. Sometimes, parts of bodies remain after the flames go out; stray dogs surround the smoldering embers. Those smells and sights reminded me of my time covering the war in Iraq.

Many of the city’s residents make a living from death. They include the Doms, the untouchable caste of Hindus who work at the cremation sites as well as the astrologers and priests who gather at the river. Part of the fascination for visitors, especially foreigners, is to bear witness to the process of dying.

The piece comes with a ton of arresting photos, too.

Also, we just highlighted Sangita Yoga’s Naren Schreiner’s effort to crowd-source funding for an album of devotional music. If you are somehow on the fence, maybe give a listen to a radio show he did over the weekend to get a sense of why we think his Yoga of Music is worth support.

Posted by Steve