This post draws from, paraphrases and is inspired by Gregor Maehle's post from a few days ago.
In the foundational text about yoga, Patanjali's yogasutra, yoga is defined and then explained. The twelfth sutra says that "cessation of the turnings of thought [the defined purpose of yoga] comes through practice and dispassion." Maehle translates the last word of this sutra ("dispassion") as "disidentification," a subtle difference that has important philosophical repercussions.
Practice is not enough, nor is disidentification. If we only practice, our mind develops deep ruts of habit and fundamentalist beliefs that our way is the only way, to the exclusion of all other paths.
"If we practise only, then we tend to develop beliefs like ‘Our practice is the only correct practice,’ ‘Only Ashtanga Yoga is the correct yoga,’ ‘Only Mysore style is the correct form for a yoga class,’ ‘Only the God that I worship is the true God,’ ‘Capitalism is the only proper economic system’ and ‘Democracy is the only proper political system,'" writes Maehle.
In these examples we can clearly see the power of practice without the tempering effect of disidentification. We come to identify ourselves and the whole of reality through the lens of our own practices, whether yogic, spiritual or political.
The opposite end of the spectrum embraces "disidentification" without embracing practice, leading to a groundless form of relativism where all views, beliefs and actions are equal.
With this relativism come the beliefs that "‘All paths lead to the same goal,’ ‘It’s all yoga,’ ‘Everything is holy and sacred,’ ‘Everybody has to live their own truth,’ Everybody has to do their own thing,’ ‘All statements, philosophies and religions are valid,’" writes Maehle.
This is the opposite of fundamentalism, but equally as extreme. You may know people and yogis who inhabit both of these extremes. According to Patanjali, the path to yoga requires a middle path that embraces both of these ideas, practice and disidentification.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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