At The Bodhi Tree Bookstore

Way back when, in 1972, during one of his several visits to California, Swami Venkatesananda had been invited to give a lecture on yoga at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore, which had opened its doors just several years earlier. Other than libraries and cultural centers, like the East-West Cultural Center in Los Angles, and Weiser's Books in NYC, there were few places in North America that specialized in "spiritual" literature of the East beyond esoteric and occult writings; certainly very few that had representation of the great spiritual masters of India, Japan, and China. Later on, stores like Banyon Books, Yes!, East-West Books, Light Fountain Books, and Phoenix Rising joined Bodhi Tree in offering more than smattering of the wisdom of the East. But at that time, in those early days, the Bodhi Tree Bookstore was a breakthrough effort.

And so, it was there, in the crowded main room at the Bodhi Tree in April 8, 1972 that the lecture "What is Yoga and Who Is a Yogi" was given. The excerpted passage below is taken from that talk. It is included here not as a passage that might stand on its own, but quoted rather to encourage you to listen to talk in its entirety. Simply click on the MP3 links below for a free download.

At The Bodhi Tree Bookstore - April 08, 1972
Swami Venkatesananda - photo by Peter Sellers


"Japa is the repetition of a mantra, and I guess many of you may be practicing japa. Let's say you do japa of "Om" or "Soham" (closes his eyes and starts breathing and doing the japa).

Are you doing it?"

Do you hear the mantra within you?

So you are repeating the mantra, and you are hearing the mantra. Are you one or two? I am watching the mantra, and I am listening to the mantra, and I am watching both of these! That means I am three! Is that right? You are repeating the mantra, and you are able to listen the mantra from within you (how this happens is another story), and you are standing aside looking at both of these phenomena. And, as you say, "Heavens, I must be crazy," this third one also stands aside, and draws behind, looking at all these three. And you go on like that, ad infinitum ... for the simple reason that this observer ... is not an object. The observer is the inner light!

   Again, as one says that the observer is the inner light, you immediately say "Ah, yes, I can see the flame rising here!" That is an object! That is not what we are talking about. But you say, "Enlightenment! I look straight down, and I can see there is a blue flame." That is an object of your own thought, and imagination or your psychic "talents." That is not what we are talking about.

And who is the seer? Is there a seer? We come to this crucial and vital question! Is there a seer? There is one enigmatic sutra in Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, where all the translations, - not that I am clever than all the other translators -, seem to have missed a vital factor there: draṣṭā dṛśimātraḥ. If you are ready for this, it is a shattering ... - I don't know what to call it ... it's not a concept -, it's a shattering revelation of truth!

draṣṭā dṛśimātraḥ śuddho 'pi pratyayā 'nupaśyaḥ
Who is the Seer? Seer is seeing! (2-20, Yoga Sutra of Pantanjali)

The act of seeing is the reality! There is nothing else! The eyes see those eyes. The mind sees the eyes seeing those eyes. The intelligence, or whatever it is, is aware of the mind seeing the eyes seeing those eyes.

When this (act of seeing) takes place, a silly notion called "I" springs up. Why does it do so? We are not asking why here. We are merely observing this phenomenon happening.


The entirety of the talk can be accessed from the links below:

What Is Yoga and Who is a Yogi? - Part One
What Is Yoga and Who is a Yogi? - Part Two



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