There’s nothing like a good analogy to gain new perspective on a topic. And since much of the philosophy behind the Star Wars is based on Vedic, Hindu and Buddhist philosophies – the same foundation for the system of yoga, it seems only natural to compare Yoga and Star Wars.
The Jedi are the Yogis of the galaxy. They are skilled, disciplined, focused and are seekers of the truth and guardians of peace.
Jedi are trained from a young age in the way of the Jedi. Members of the Jedi Order were encouraged to follow a set of guidelines, including self-discipline, responsibility, non-attachment and public service. Yogis follow a set of ethics and observances outlined in the Yamas and Niyamas which also include discipline, responsibility, non-attachment and non-violence.
The Jedi draw their powers from the Force, an energy field that is created by all living things. The Jedi don’t seek to control the Force, rather they sense it and allow it to flow through them and harness it. The Force in Yoga can be likened to a combination of Prana – life-force energy and Brahma – the supreme consciousness. Yogis harness their own Prana, purify it though asana and pranayama and then merge Prana with Brahma through meditation to achieve Samadhi (supreme bliss).
The path of the Jedi is through training and self-mastery. Luke, the apprentice Jedi, is plagued by frustration, impatience and anger. Luke’s mind is unfocused and full of fear. Luke’s masters, Obi Wan and Yoda teach Luke how to sense the force within, how to recognise and regulate his emotions and how to discipline his mind.
The Eightfold Path of Yoga also requires discipline and training on the way to self-mastery. Asana and Pranayama build physical discipline and awareness of the body and breath. Pratyahara teaches control over the senses, Dharana and Dyana teach us how to concentrate and focus the mind and recognise and regulate our emotions through yoga and meditation.
Luke wants to be able to move objects and learn the way of the Jedi without learning to master himself first. In order to develop his powers, Luke must master his own mind.
Yoda, his teacher, tells Luke that fear is the path to the dark side of the Force. The dark side is the misuse of the Force for greed, corruption and self interest which leads to misery. In Yoga, the Dark Side can be likened to the Five Kleshas or afflictions of the mind that cause suffering and misery.
Yoda guides Luke on the way and path of the Jedi. Yogis are guided by the sage Patanjali on the path of yoga. The Yoga Sutras describe the Five Kleshas or sources of misery and then fortunately for us, prescribes a systematic approach to liberating ourselves from these mental afflictions so that we can experience the absence of suffering, bliss. This system is Yoga.
The afflictions of the mind that lead to misery can be overcome with yoga and meditation. Far beyond the physical poses, yogis can harness the Force to defeat the Dark Side and attain an enlightened state.
The primary source of suffering is Ignorance.
Ignorance is mistaking the unreal for the real and vice versa. Ignorance causes us to determine our sense of self from our job, possessions, achievements and relationships – all the external stuff. All of this is temporary, fleeting, impermanent. Our deepest self is internal and eternal. Yoda nails it here…
It is Ignorance that causes us to focus on the wrong things – external stuff that is not lasting.
If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.
Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already – it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness.
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear.
Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings. – David Foster Wallace
The next source of suffering is Ego.
Our Ego or sense of “I-am” arises from our ignorance and distorted sense of reality. It is what we use to differentiate ourselves from others including all the labels and judgments we apply. Once we’ve established this self image (usually based on external stuff like our job, possessions, achievements), we then spend the rest of our lives defending this position for fear we may lose it and our identify. Our Ego based on ignorance and defended out of fear. This is the game we play and it leads to suffering. Yoda nails it again…
The third cause of suffering, is Attachment. Our attachment to things, people and outcomes is the source of misery. Put simply, when we don’t get what we want it causes us to suffer. Notice the little attachments and how they affect you such as when someone steels your spot in yoga or when your usual yoga teacher is away. Attachment arises from desire. Desire is a state of mind that is dissatisfied with the present and is seeking something other than this. Yogis practice non-attachment from impermanent things and recognise that everything changes, nothing remains the same.
On the flip side of Attachment are our Aversions or all the things we don’t want or like. Our aversions arise from our Ego’s need for things to be different as we are dissatisfied with discomfort and we want to control the outcome by averting or avoiding situations. We are not the sum total of our likes and dislikes. Our attachments and aversions only stir up the mind by creating dissatisfaction and desire which lead to misery.
The final source of misery is the fear of death or clinging to life. Everyone fears death to some extent, however this fear and clinging leads to suffering. As soon as an attachment appears we will have a fear of not getting it or cling to it so that we don’t lose it. This clinging and holding on leads to suffering.
The way to overcome our Kleshas and ease our mind is through awareness and concentration applied through yoga and meditation. We reach a point in our yoga practice when we realise that the physical focus has been mind training for the real deal. Our yoga class is an opportunity to practice skills of discipline, focus, concentration and awareness all designed to cultivate presence of mind. The real application of yoga is LIFE. The real purpose of yoga is to discover who we truly are, rather than the shapes we make. The end goal of yoga is to still the mind so that we can experience the “Force” of universal consciousness or the divine within each of us.
The thing to remember with the Kleshas is that they are going on all the time. The mind is constantly affected by afflictions. Creating little miseries at home, at work, at yoga, wherever you are. Hundreds of these little miseries each day will stir up the mind creating stress, anxiety, depression and suffering. Kleshas are toxins that pollute the mind, we need to keep the mind clear from Kleshas so that we can be calm and at peace. Awaken your presence, allow your awareness to rise up, keep your higher consciousness at the wheel and remain eternally vigilant of the Force.