Most of us grow up with a learned sense of “right” and “wrong”. Human beings, perhaps in efforts to maintain harmony among beings, have created many rules for behavior that, once established, societies often follow without regularly considering how, why, or even that they’re powerful tools for peace –or that sometimes they end up being deployed not to create peace but to defend actions that obstruct peace.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter why following a rule creates peace: the action can still be powerful if the intention is weak (like some smiles between clerk and customer). And sometimes, the reason makes all the difference, if not to both parties, then certainly to the disingenuous one.
If I tell a friend who’s in town for work that she can can crash at my place (because it feels rude to say no), but meanwhile have a super busy week myself and am not accustomed to house guests, being a “good” friend is likely to lead to pent up resentment and some pretty poisonous thoughts, which might cause unnecessarily snappy comments.
It also might not, of course. One can often find a way to overcome unwanted thoughts and take actions that aren’t beholden to one’s emotions. But being honest with myself and my friend at the outset would be a simple preventative solution to this whole scenario. Because in examples like this one, being truthful is far more powerful than being “good” by following social norms.
And while this example works at a more basic level than the awareness mentioned in sutra 3.50 (below), at the end of the day, all actions are energy and whether working at a basic or refined level, the principle herein remains true: when treating yourself with genuine respect, letting your actions be guided by your “pure being” will let you maintain harmony with your environment and communities.
Only to those who recognize the distinction between purity of being and pure being does supremacy of all modes, styles and types of being or beings, and complete understanding of all things, come.
Translation by Kofi Busia
The direct realization of the indwelling intelligence from the mind (that is, from the conditions to which the psychic and the physical nature is subject,) brings with it superintendence over all states of being, and omniscience.
Translation by Swami Venkatesananda
Pure being isn’t about being good or moral or smart or right or witty or fabulous. Pure being is just about being, without illusions or judgment or opinions about the being. And in our real-world example, it’s about taking that awareness into life by owning your truth without apologizing for it. And if your truth appears to cause someone else pain, the onus is on both of you to investigate the real source of discomfort. If we believe the yogis (and on this one I do), acting from your purest being will not cause true harm.
Uncovering your innate sensitivity to this inner truth requires curiosity, persistence, and self acceptance. Whether you step in with these foundational attitudes or grow into them, this might be all you ever need to know about yoga.
hari om tat sat!
An earlier version of this post first appeared on the Yoga 216 blog.