In yoga, Swadyaya, means self-knowledge. If one is aware, it is difficult to experience any challenge and not come to a more intimate knowledge of Self, the True Self.
Like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke states in his poem, The Man Watching, "Winning does not tempt that man./ This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,/by constantly greater beings." By our struggles, we grow stronger, even in our defeat. We understand ourselves more because of the struggle. It's understanding that though you were pummeled by your challenges, there remains a deep part of you that is still very tough. It's knowing the part of you that is larger than the fight. This is Swadyaya.
Swadyaya is also learning from all those things that didn't work. With this knowledge we become free from our bonds of misunderstanding (avidya) because now we can see what was holding us back from knowing our True Self.
There is help. Ganesh is the elephant-headed deity in the Hindu tradition who, among other things, helps us gain Swadyaya. He frees us from obstacles because with his great memory and knowledge of us he knows our purpose, our path, and our problems--our dharma. Ganesh represents the part of us that remembers who we really are. Like my wife says, "he helps you see your own inner AWESOMENESS."
This understanding of self relates to a story told to me by one of my teachers, Dr. Richard Miller. A famous yogi, Ram Das, came back to America from years living in India to visit his brother who was living in a mental health institution because his brother thought he was Jesus. When Ram Das arrived, he was wearing a long white robe, flowers around his neck, long, white hair and beard and sandals. His brother asked Ram Das, "Why is it that you walk around looking like that and they lock me up?" to which Ram Das replied, " The difference between you and me is you think that you're God and I know that I'm God." Through years and years of refinement (read Tapas), Ram Das had an intimate knowledge of his True Self. Ram Das had experienced and practiced Swadyaya.
With greater Swadyaya we qualify for deeper work, and like Rilke says, be "defeated, decisively,/by constantly greater beings." This is how we grow.
Let's practice getting to know ourselves better this week. See you in Class!
The Man Watching
By Rainer Maria Rilke
I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister.
The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers' sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
--Translated by Robert Bly