Skip to content

Some words from 500 BC, 500 AD and 2009. And an update from Jim Harrington in Cape Town.

October 31, 2012

I shot this photo in Ladahk this April.
It’s a Tibettan town at the top end of the Indus River the site of one the oldest civilizations on earth and possibly the origin of yoga. The trident spear has various meanings, but here in Ladahk it reminds people to cut through three obstacles. The obstacles are ignorance, desire and hatred.

The approximately 1512 year old self-help book and some more recently animated thoughts.

I came across some obscure suggestions from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a guide to yoga written around about 500AD.
“The Hatha Yogi should live in a secluded hut free of stones, fires, and dampness to a distance of four cubits in a country that is properly governed, virtuous, prosperous, and peaceful. “ – Chapter one verse 12

Seems like sensible advice, but let’s hope it d doesn’t cause an exodus of the Cape Town yoga scene when JZ gets re-elected.
But then again, I am not sure how seriously we should stick to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika guidelines. It also instructs the Hatha Yogi on how to cut the tendon at the base of the tongue and stretch it so that he can touch his forehead with his tongue. This is the way to perform Kechari Mudra and result will be that “the Hatha Yogi will not be tormented by disease, not smeared with Karma, and not troubled by time.”

The “self help” book is clearly not a new field of writing. These writings read a bit like the original guide book to health, wealth and a great looking flat abdomen. As with the others in the genre, their claims are only really useful if they are put into practice. The other thing all good self –help books have in common is that they usually state certain things that we can easily relate to in our experience. So in a part of our cognitive brain we find ourselves recognising a truth and saying “Yes, of course, that makes perfect sense”. Then the next mental step is often not so logical. The mind thinks then by extension, since one item rings true, then items two and three in the basket must also be true. Item two and three could be complete nonsense but we tend not to discount them.

According to the Nobel Prize Winner and Author of “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman, our minds are actually hardwired to accept this kind of irrational judgement. He describes our mind as “A machine for jumping to conclusions”. It’s a kind of time and energy saving method that allows us not to have to analyse every unimportant decision. He gives the example below. People were asked to comment on the personality of Alan and Ben.

Alan: Intelligent – industrious – impulsive – critical – stubborn – envious
Ben: Envious – stubborn – critical – impulsive – industrious – intelligent

Did you see Alan as a more favourable personality? Most people do. If you look carefully, you will see that their traits are exactly the same. They are just in a different order. The earlier trait in the list prejudices our judgement.

This one is not another self help book but more of a science book. Daniel Kahneman is an expert in the field of behavioural economics and uses science to study the quirks of human awareness and consciousness. It’s a fascinating study in humanity and the workings of consiousness.

The term in the tradition of yoga is “Avidya” (ignorance or miss-apprehension) it is the opposite of “Vidya”, clear seeing. And guidelines are given in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (another much older self help book) as to how to remove the causes that prevent clarity. Fairly similar instructions on perception and transcending life’s illusions are given in the many Buddhist works written since 500BC. Another recommendation is the Dharmapada translated by Eknath Easwaran. Its one the earliest works on the teahcings of the Buddha.

And if I may share one more little morsel. One of my favourite kids movies, from approximately the year 2009

“The past is history. Tomorrow is a mystery,
And today is a gift…..That’s why it’s called the present.”
– Master Oo Gwei | Kung Fu Panda 1

Thank you for reading.
Enjoy the day and the week ahead



Here’s a list of upcoming workshops with Jim Harrington


  • Anatomy & Physiology Open Module of TTC Tuesdays 2-5pm and Thursdays 2.30 – 5 pm starting from Thursday the 1st of November. Usual rate R2,300
  • Adjustment Workshop Open Module of TTC Saturday 17th November, 12.30 to 4.30pm at Yogazone
  • November 200Hr, level one Teacher Training Course

Bookings can be made by cash or card at the studio or EFT. Confirmations and queries or 021 421 813

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: