TF, good little yupster/slave to her body that she is, needs her yoga. TF was sick and busy and wasn’t able to get to yoga for about a week and a half, (which, since TF prefers to go 3 to 4 times a week (TF needs her yoga) is a super long time). So TF was thrilled from the point of her head to the tips of her toes that her health and schedule allowed her to attend a Tuesday night class at her neighborhood spot, Greenhouse Holistic, a great place not only because of its two Williamsburg locations and fairly solid roster of teachers, but also because of their best-in-the-city-unlimited-classes-for-75-dollars-a-month deal and no mat rental prices. (Sidebar: Those mat rental prices really kill me. It’s like eating at a restaurant and getting charged for the cutlery. That’s right every single Manhattan yoga studio: I’m talking to you).
I’d had a normal day at work, and therefore as I settled onto my completely free mat I felt low-brained, glassy-eyed and shifty with inertia. I was eager to push back into downward dog, spin my heart-center to the ceiling in ardha chandrasana, cartwheel my hands into Warrior II, breathe fire in uttkatasana. What I mean is – Momma was ready to move.
So perhaps I reacted more uncharitably (mentally, I did nothing externally other than close my eyes) than I should have when the substitute teacher, during her long opening statement said, “the people who lost their jobs during this recession – that’s their karma.” Addressing the unskillful representations of Buddhist concepts (and the common misunderstanding that Yoga and Buddhism are the same) that happen in yogercize classes is worth a whole big post of its own. But, I’ll leave that for another time. The fact is, misinterpretations of karma are commoner than advertising and karma is the focus of this spring semester of Intermediate Hardcore Dharma. We began last Saturday with a discussion of the 12 Nidanas.
To paraphrase Wikkipedia (would that be a metaparaphrase?) the 12 Nidanas are the “conditioned causal connections of each state that supports the next in the cycle of our lives as we suffer through Samsara.” (Additional sidebar: Do you think Buddhists would ever be able to explain anything if they removed the words ‘causal’, ‘conditioned’, and ‘origination’ from their vocabularies?) In class we started with the Nidanas of the past: Ignorance (Avidya) leading to Volitional Actions or mental formations (Samskara) that then lead to our present state: conciousness (Vijnana).
I think this means that back in the day we started separating ourselves from spaciousness by putting our own separate spin on the present moment, by thinking of reality as ‘my continuous and solid reality’ and this led to us developing mind patterns so that now we get all hot and bothered when our mother over-pronounces the ‘d’ in the word sandwich.
What I’m currently turned on by about these Nidana’s is the idea that they’re a description, not a direction. They’re not saying “don’t separate yourself from reality” or “don’t develop habits,” – rather they’re saying that this state is where we live. There’s nothing to do, our present consciousness is build by the mortar and brick of ignorance and habit energy. I like Reggie Ray’s example that when we walk into an ice cream store, it is simply an illusion that we have choice about what kind of ice cream we are going to get. Our choice is actually completely dictated utterly informed by the infinite galaxy of our past.
It could seem like a bummer, but I also tend to think that understanding that we are completely subject to our exhaustively incomprehensible history of causes and effects is liberating. But then again that’s just my completely dependent consciousness talking. How do you interpret these first three steps/links of the Nidana 12?
Also a disclaimer/question: I, unfortunately, am not going to be attending the Intermediate Hardcore Dharma sessions in person this semester (although I was there for the first class before I realized I was crazy). I will be listening to the audio, following along in the reading and continuing to post HC Dharma inspired posts, however. Is this fraudulent? Let me know.