The Japanese Zen Master Fugai, though a talented artist and poet, often took to living in some cave, unknown to anyone. It has been thought that he did this partly to avoid fame and reputation which can easily gather round a noted teacher in a monastery.
He once remarked, however, “Perhaps it is easy to give something up – after all it must be easier than chasing after it or vigilantly guarding it. Perhaps it’s easy to give the world up as a monk. But what is difficult to give up is the thought ‘I’ve given these things up’. Until that has been given up and forgotten there is no true renunciation.”
In yoga too there is a parallel: people sometimes say a bit arrogantly that the true yoga is not “running away from the world to the peace of a cave in the Himalayas but practising yoga here and now in the troubles and disturbances of our developed society”. If the people who say this had ever tried to live in a cave in the Himalayas – no running hot water and drafts and snakes everywhere – they would soon be running away from that cave in the Himalayas to their comfortable little flat in the city. We can deceive ourselves easily with slogans; we have to realise the peace of the Himalayas is for those who can transcend slavery to the body, and try to free ourselves a little from that slavery where we stand.
© 2000 Trevor Leggett