Kino's Yogi Assignment Blog

Challenge Day 24- Yoga is Refuge/Sanctuary

The world can sometimes be a baffling place. Bad news arrives unexpectedly. Good news comes sporadically. Nothing makes sense. Triggering news headlines, traumatic life events, troubling relationships arrive uninvited. The daily grind has everyone running in place to fruitlessly try to finish a race where the goal posts just keep moving further and further down the road. We search for love and meaning in all the wrong places, only to see the truth a few minutes too late to make a difference. Life can be an overwhelming sea of actions that go nowhere. The residue of being caught in the storm feels bittersweet at best, leaving you cold, wet, shivering, alone and suffering.

And, this is actually all just as it should be. The entry to the spiritual path is the necessary suffering that the world brings. Without the frustrations and irritations that arise when interacting with the hustle and bustle of life, there would be no impetus to dive deeply, to seek refuge and turn away from it all. If life as we know it were perfectly happy and we never experienced heartbreak or pain, we would be mind-numbingly towing the line. But, tasting the bitter tea of disillusionment and loss cracks the shiny veneer in the sales pitch of the material world. The charm fades on all that is “out there”. When even the highest highs fade and show themselves to be only temporary quick fixes, the intelligence within yearns for something more. You become a spiritual seeker the moment when it gets bad enough that you desire a permanent way out of your suffering more than you desire the next hit of pleasure.

The Bhagavad Gita begins with what is called the Despondency of Arjuna, when the warrior prince Arjuna becomes deeply troubled by the cost associated with his ultimate victory. It is his suffering that brings about the entire teaching of the Gita. Without it, he would just have been a warrior marching into battle without a second thought. It is suffering that allows Arjuna to seek the refuge of Krishna, to ask for help in resolving what seems to be an impossible situation. When you feel that the costs associated with engaging on the battlefield of life are too high, you are in a very important stage of the spiritual journey. Your despondency is the spark of awakening. Do not run from it. Embrace it. 

The first of the four Noble Truths in Buddhism begins with the recognition that life is suffering, or more poetically states—suffering is. Without the direct realization of the ubiquitous nature of suffering the spiritual path cannot begin in earnest. The sense world is stimulating and beckons with promises of pleasure that are hard to resist. Fear of missing out on something really cool draws many into years spent toiling towards an unwanted and unfulfillable goal. But to realize and accept the temporary nature of life and to understand the inevitability of suffering is to take a step towards true peace and lasting happiness.

The Sanskrit word śaraṇa means refuge and every spiritual practitioner finds sanctuary within the wisdom teachings of the practice. If there was no hardship, there would be no need for refuge. It only makes sense to seek shelter amidst a storm. The spiritual path is presented as a solid rock to place your faith on, a sanctuary that you can return to and find relief from. However, it is not a free pass. The power of refuge comes from your own sincerity of heart and commitment to do the work. The act of taking refuge is a spiritual act of surrender that transforms your heart and mind. Refuge is a reclaiming of true power in a triumph over the ego’s false power. The pleasures of the world are temporary. Seeing refuge is a quest for lasting happiness and real peace. 

To wish for all beings to be free from suffering is not to wish for material pleasure, but to wish that they be liberated from the bondages of worldly existence. To wish for all beings to be happy means to wish for the seat of lasting happiness to be awakened within them. To wish for all beings to be peaceful is to wish for all to finally take refuge in the true peace that comes from enlightenment.

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