What is Rupa yoga?
It is quite common in the traditional yogic teachings to hear the terms Bhakti yoga and Jñaña yoga. Referring to the yoga of Love and the yoga of the intellect respectively, These are but two of the ways in which we know our experience. Bhakti refers to the path of love. Singing and devotional practices allow one to ‘taste’ reality as pure divine love. The path of Jñaña yoga refers to the intellect or finding divine or absolute Truth through cognizing and re-cognizing understanding. The third and less commonly understood path is known mostly by artisans and musicians as Rupa yoga, or the path of form or perception. In this path one uses the faculties of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch in order to connect to the divine.
Therefore we have the three ways of knowing experience:
•Through the heart, feeling (Bhakti)
•Through the mind, thinking (Jñaña)
•Through our perceptions, Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting and Touching (Rupa).
As you can see, perceptions make up a great deal of what we experience on a day by day basis, especially in our materialist, consumer culture where we are in a constant state of sense overload from advertising and fast paced activity. If we begin to slow down and bring awareness to these perceptions, primarily Seeing and Hearing, we begin to notice experiences of ‘losing ourselves’ in music or beauty. We become aware of the fact that for some reason it seems, certain objects (art or song) seem to take us out of our normal state of being and deliver a sense of spaciousness, openness or connection, often we refer to this as Happiness or Joy. We are then led to believe that this Happiness is in some way inherent to the object, that we can possess this object and thus secure this happiness. However we never seem to find the Happiness IN the object of our desire and thus lead lives in constant search of this seemingly fleeting experience.
Rupa Yoga works directly on this understanding of the nature of perception. The subject/object relationship is looked at closely and dissolved by observing our direct experience of Seeing, hearing, etc. In traditional teachings it is sometimes referred to in this formulation. Knower, Knowing and Known. Knower and Known are the subject and object, But the third Category of Knowing is scrutinized more closely. The practice of observational drawing is a form of meditation, as is playing music, cooking, or eating. We begin to look at each of these three elements of experience with a magnifying glass and see what they are actually made of. Using the meditations as ways of exploring the nature of our perceived experience and the one to whom they appear.
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