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Characteristics of a Yoga Practitioner: Charity

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  • John Kimbrough
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2003
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      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
      about something.

      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
      at school.

      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
      apply it.

      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
      purifying another�s.

      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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