Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shut up and practice

There are many concepts and terms associated with quantum mechanics and its interpretations. Schrodinger's cat, wave function collapse and multi-verses are just a few of them. These terms and their varied interpretations are usually highly intriguing and interesting. Consequently, there are many interpretations for them which serves to confuse the layman. Amongst the popular interpretations, there is one that caught my eye. It is called the instrumentalist interpretation which is also referred to as the 'shut up and calculate' view. The primary concern of the physicists who subscribe to this view is to be focused on the physics and not be worried about interpretations. This does not mean that they do not know the interpretations. It is just that they are agnostic to the interpretations.

Like always, one can draw analogies between physics and Yoga. Like the mind boggling terms in quantum physics, Yoga also has its own set of terms that serve to guide and confuse. Most often, even serious practitioners are caught up in the terms - kaivalya, brahman, self etc. Analogous to the 'shut up and calculate' view in quantum physics, one can easily formulate the 'shut up and practice' view in Yoga. These terms like 'sunyata' and 'aham brahmasmi' intrigue beginners and are living truths in the enlightened (and who are one in a hundred million by the way). Hence, for all serious non-amateur practitioners, the best view on the highest philosophy would be 'shut up and practice'. It is useful to know these terms enough to be not disturbed by intellectual challenges but not more. The practice then involves rigorous adhering to basic principles and continuously eliminating all impurities from the lower aspects of oneself. The actual practice can take various forms depending on the individuals needs and inclination but will most certainly involve personal physical and mental health practices, compassion and responsibility etc.

My personal practice is centered around these three statements. For the purpose of expression, they have been split into three although it is one continuous whole - the grossest being expressed first and the most subtle expressed last.

1.) At the external level it is captured by this statement from Yoga Vasishta.

शुबाषुबाब्यां मार्गाब्यां वहन्ति वासना सरित
पोउरुषेण प्रयत्नेन योजनीया शुभे पथि!

Tendencies flow on healthy and undesirable paths. Men of wisdom put in the right effort to direct them along the healthy paths!

To me this emphasizes proper asana / pranayama / dietary / sleep routines on the personal front. It also implies continuous vigil against anger / insensitiveness etc which crop up easily when one is placed in tough situations.

2. At the internal level, I have this statement adapted from the Yoga Sutras.

श्रीराम प्रपत्ति क्लेश कर्म निव्र्त्तिहि!
On surrendering to Ram, one is liberated of impurities and consequences of action!

This involves following the path of Ram of sincerely attempting to be perfect and correct always. To accomplish this, the basic necessity is the subjective conquest of matter aka indiscipline (earth), insensitivity (water), lack of motivation (fire), lack of imagination (air) and lack of acceptance (space). When one accomplishes this, naturally, the state of inner purity is recognised and pure action automatically flows. Then one takes total responsibility for all dimensions of ones life. Personal, social, national and world issues all become equally important. Cleaning ones egoic relations become as important as cleaning up the garbage produced by ones life style.

3. At the deepest level, the only practice for everyone is neatly summed up by this statement from the Ashtavakra Gita.

असङ्गोऽसि निराकारो विश्वसाक्षी सुखी भव!
Rest in peace as the unattached formless witness of all of creation!

Relentless adherence to these three statements covers my definition of 'shut up and practice'.

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