using darkness to deepen your practice
Yoga teachings say that: “We must free ourselves from the illusion of the external world”. Nevertheless, in our modern practice of yoga we are trapped by the illusion because most people have a deep attachment to the external forms of the practice, to the appearance of the body and the postures, because they enjoy exhibiting their skills and credentials, and because they love to fulfill the ego. But why are we so interested in the appearances of the external world? Is it because we are not able to perceive the deeper side of existence.
Certainly, a deeper vision can give us a deeper understanding of the world, and on the contrary, a superficial vision leads us to a superficial understanding. However, our vision of the world is mainly focused on the evident material phenomena, and we have this kind of vision by means of light.
Almost all our knowledge is based on the perception of existence by means of light, a “light approach” to life. And our brains are used to interacting with the world according to this perception only. But is there another kind of vision? Is it possible to awaken the sleeping parts of the brain and perceive the “hidden” face of the world beyond the appearances?
Usually we think that darkness and light are opposites, but that is false. The truth is that darkness contains the light, and light emerges from darkness. If we pay attention to the cosmogonies around the world they all say that in the creation of the world only darkness existed, and from darkness all the things of the world were created, even light. In other words, darkness is a more essential and wider phenomena. Let’s look at some characteristics of both:
Darkness is immeasurable, it cannot be lengthened, weighed, seen, tasted, smelled, touched, heard, etc. It is intangible and boundless. It can make all forms, all references in space and time, and all differences disappear; it dissolves the dualities of the world.
Light is measurable, it can be lengthened, weighed, seen, and touched. It is tangible and bounded. It creates all references in space and time, all forms, and all differences; it creates dualities.
When we perceive the world only by means of light, our consciousness only “sees” the characteristics of light, and then for us the world becomes a bounded and tangible place where forms, differences, and dualities exist.
But is it possible to “see” in the dark? We are used to thinking that in the darkness we cannot “see”, but in fact, the darkness provides us with a different kind of vision, a deeper one. In darkness we can perceive the intangible side of the world, boundless and without duality. Nevertheless, this deeper vision may be perceived as astonishing and scary.
Usually, when we are in a dark place, especially when alone, we feel afraid and unsafe. The main reason for this is because in the darkness we lose any known reference with the world and we are able to “see” our fear directly. Complete darkness is like a mirror, we are able to see in darkness what is inside us, and sometimes we don’t like what is inside us. Due to these fears we tend to associate darkness with the evil. And that’s why many people prefer the safe “light-side” of existence.
Andhakara yoga is a revolution of the consciousness and of the way we perceive existence. It makes use of the power of dark vision in the yoga practice. In other words, you change perception by practicing without the shapes of the illusory world, with a boundless consciousness and without duality. And with this kind of vision we become nearer to “freeing ourselves from the illusion of the external world”. You cannot enter the dark vision just by closing your eyes, your practice needs to be immersed in a completely dark place.
Andhakara yoga is practiced in full darkness. Asana sequences are practiced to different primal musical instruments, and practitioners use the darkness and the music to move towards and conquer their fears. This kind of yoga moves us away from the often shallow waters of mainstream yoga, where people often focus too much on their appearance and ego. Yoga is supposed to get us away from that type of thinking, and Andhakara yoga utilizes the darkness to help us embrace what is below the surface.