What makes us appreciate great artists rather than reality TV stars? Why do we love accomplished sports people* rather than lottery winners? How is it that we are drawn to the stories of people who have positively fought and survived illnesses, whereas we get frustrated with those who continually moan and whinge about their lot? Perhaps it because deep down we respect those who have sacrificed a part of themselves to achieve something greater.
Today’s Kosher Sutra tells a powerful secret. The Hebrew verse is usually translated as “if any Man brings an offering of you to the Lord”, but it can be read as “if any man brings an offering of you” or indeed “if you bring from within yourself a sacrifice to God” (Leviticus 1:1)**. The notion of sacrifice is being willing to give up something that’s important to us. It can be a physical object; in Biblical times this was represented by an animal or a sum of money. In Kabbalistic thinking, this sacrifice is giving up a part of our ego.
The idea of Karma Yoga is translated as the ‘discipline of action’, as we perform positive actions without expecting any personal reward, similar to the Hebrew concept of Hesed (acting with lovingkindness). One distinguished yogi urged his followers to “Forget about your own salvation; See God in those who suffer and for them sacrifice everything of yourself,”*** which truly elevates this idea of sacrifice to the next level.
Every time we step on the yoga mat there is the opportunity to sacrifice part of our self-importance by being completely honest about who we are. My backbend isn’t as flexible as I’d like it to be, my body isn’t as supple as it once was, my mind isn’t as focused as it could be. If you try today’s posture – Downward-facing Dog – whilst meditating on the Kosher Sutra, try staying in the pose until you literally can’t stay any longer. Watch any self-critical thoughts and then ‘burn through’ them. Breathe deeply and allow yourself to grow. When you’ve completed the experience two or three times, you could discover that your stamina has increased, you’ve discovered or reminded yourself about your inner strength, and you have reconnected to that vital sense of brilliance within.
THE KOSHER SUTRAS © MARCUS J FREED/BIBLIYOGA 2010/5770
*well, most of them. At least the pussycats rather than the tigers…
** Likutei Sichot, Vol 1 pp205-208.
***Attributed to Swami Vivekananda.