Characteristics of a Yoga Practitioner: Charity
- Characteristics of a Yoga Practitioner: Charity
Sometimes one�s understanding and practice of Yoga is
limited to the postures of Yoga, once a day or once a
If this is all that one�s practice consists of, this
is still a good thing, in that posture practice and
performance brings about many mental and physical
health benefits and makes us more mindful,
concentrated and balanced.
Perhaps some of us who are reading this have also
experienced yoga sessions where there were no postures
performed, but instead there was some reflection and
discussion as a group, on the other aspects of Yoga,
about states of being that are desirable to cultivate,
and actions and behaviors that are wholesome for
oneself and those that they interact with.
Certainly, one characteristic that all yoga
practitioners should be accessing and cultivating
through their practice is that of charity.
This sounds more like a Christian teaching then what
some of us have been exposed to and pursued in Yoga,
but there it is, mentioned in both The Hatha Yoga
Pradipika (The authoritative scripture on Hatha Yoga)
and The Bhagavad Gita (The authoritative scripture on
all the Yogas) as being something we should and must
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the teachings of
Buddhism also emphasize charity as being something we
practice to help ourselves and help others.
Sometimes, a closer examination of a word gives one a
deeper understanding of the concepts and actions that
it really conveys.
So, what does charity entail and consist of?
Perhaps, looking at it from a more Christian
tradition, it means love and all that it involves.
It can manifest itself in one�s heart and mind, in
seeing another�s suffering.
It can manifest itself in taking and making the time
to listen to another express his or her confusion
It can manifest itself in sharing something personal
about oneself, that may guide, assist or encourage
It can manifest itself in being merciful to those who
have wronged or offended us.
It can manifest itself in the giving of something
material, it could be money, clothing, shelter, or
food and water.
It can manifest itself in the sharing of teachings,
that it, the giving of instruction that may redirect
one�s mindfulness, from one of loneliness, isolation
and delusion, to one of hope, understanding and
Unfortunately, in some Yoga circles, we seldom explore
charity, so it is left to us, on our own, to access it
and explore it,
Our interest and practice of charity is determined by
various factors, including our conditioning, our
environment, our personality and the amount of input
we get on it, perhaps through a yoga teacher�s
approach and direction, or the clergy of some other
path, practice and discipline, or from someone in our
intimate circle, a friend, a family member, a teacher
Charity can manifest itself in thought, word and
action. Sometimes, we may be unable to perform the
necessary action, but can still be charitable in word.
Charity involves compassion for another, and hopefully
acting on that compassion in a way that is suitable
and appropriate to one�s ability and resources.
Charity involves understanding another�s needs,
confusion, joy and sorrow.
Sometimes this is only possible when we have a better
understanding of our own needs, confusion, joy and
These morals and ethics that Yoga practitioners are
exposed to through their study and practice are there
to direct us in a way, making us more mindful of what
we are striving for and what we are capable of.
Interestingly, for some, these morals and ethics put
forth in Yoga are the same as mentioned as being the
�fruits of the spirit� as put forth in Paul�s letter
to The Galatians 5:22.
Perhaps this is because in and through one�s Yoga
practice, we access and cultivate a sattvic (pure,
harmonious) state of being and beyond that.
Is this the Holy Spirit, which is pure, wholesome and
unsullied by our experiences and the world?
Something that we have accessed and cultivated within
ourselves through the releasing of tension in the
body, and slower and deeper breathing?
The lovely thing about charity is that we can be
directed to it by those who have no idea about Yoga
and it�s practice at all.
My own life experience has consisted of being exposed
to charity from people of all social, economic,
religious and ethnic backgrounds, from different
nationalities, many of whom had no idea at all about
Yoga and Buddhism and what their teachings consist of.
It would be unwise to think that because we practice
Yoga or Buddhism, that we are more charitable then
And at the same time, Yoga and Buddhist teachings and
practices have been effective in raising this idea of
charity within us, at times spontaneously, at other
times slowly and subtly, as we cultivate other states
of consciousness, such as concentration, tranquility,
mindfulness, relaxation and clarity in seeing, which
means that among other things, we can see the need for
charity on our part.
Charity is one thing that aids in this cultivation and
results from this cultivation.
We need to know about it and it�s benefits and then
We are reminded that charity is not something that we
perform in order to talk about later, or impress
As one teacher has written so simply and eloquently,
�charity is for the purification of the heart�.
In purifying one�s own heart, we may be assisting in
Two biblical scriptures nicely summarize charity
�he fulfills the precepts who hands out a helping
hand� � Sirach 29:1
�be gentle to all� � 2 Timothy 2:24
�2003 John C. Kimbrough
(John lives and teaches in Bangkok, Thailand. He can
be reached at johnckimbrough@...)
Yours in Yoga,
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