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Gannon is a renowned yoga master, instructor and animal rights activist. In 1984, she and her partner David Life created the Jivamukti Yoga Method, which is a path to enlightenment[…]

Perfecting one’s relationship to all things.

Topic: A Culture of Waste of Exploitation


Sharon Gannon:    This culture that I’m speaking of started roughly about 10,000 years ago. And it started with two major occurrences. The first one, the domestication of animals – which domestication, of course, is a very soft and acceptable way of describing slavery – enslaving other beings.

Of course the second occurrence was intensive agriculture, which happened basically after the domestication of animals as sort of part and parcel of that. Well what happens to anybody when you enslave another is a hardening. You have to harden your heart in order to do such a horrible thing.

It involves confining them. It involves taking away their freedom. It involves exploiting them without any thought of how your action might impact upon their happiness or their well being. It’s very selfish. It’s very self-centered. It’s all about “me”.

What is that animal going to provide me? And because that’s first and foremost in a person’s mind, then it’s easy to do exploitive things to another being because you’ve convinced yourself that you’re benefiting. Generation after generation we’ve been brought up with this conditioning that if it benefits human beings, then it’s okay. Even if it benefits human beings in the immediate, like right now – immediate gratification. And so we see the repercussions of that kind of mindset in our disposable culture.

In our use of toxic chemicals or nuclear power, if it’s going to provide me with energy now, who cares about how it might impact upon future generations, or the environment? Heaven forbid if we even think about the birds; or the other various wildlife that might be impacted by the nuclear power plant; or the fish or the other sea creatures that live in the sea when we have to get rid of our toxic nuclear waste. This is just one example, and we see it played out in so, so many ways. We eat meat. We drink milk as a culture, and we think this is okay. We don’t even question it for the most part. Some of us are questioning it now. But it really just began 10,000 years ago.

I feel that we’re a very ingenious species, and that this cultural conditioning is not really our true nature; that our true nature lies in the joy and the happiness that is felt when you feel yourself as connected to the whole, to all of life. In fact I think everyone really knows in our hearts the secret to happiness for ourselves; and that we know that the best way to uplift our own life is to do all we can to uplift the lives of others.

These kinds of ideas in ________ yoga sutra, we find asana. The word “asana”, which of course in our modern times, contemporary times, many people think asana, “Oh that means the physical exercise part of yoga,” implying that that’s something separate from the spiritual. And once again if you look into the word itself – asana - it’s a Sanskrit word – it means “seat”. Seat. And if you look into that English word “seat”, then you come to know that a seat is a connection to the earth. So asana really means “your relationship to the earth”. And of course by “earth” we mean all of life – all beings and things, this whole physical manifestation.

In yoga, the practice of asana is really the practice of perfecting your relationship to all beings and things, your relationship to life itself. And the __________ in the yoga sutra says about this asana practice; says if you want enlightenment, if you want yoga – yoga and enlightenment are synopsis terms – and of course enlightenment means the realization of the oneness of being

We don’t have to think about how our choices might impact upon the happiness, or well-being, or future health of anyone else. But yoga teaches that the way to our own happiness, ultimately the way to our enlightenment, lies in how we are able to enhance the lives of others.


Recorded on: October 31, 2007



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