My Parallel Universe
I don’t understand everyone’s mad “parallel universe” craze on the internet. I have been living in one for a long time …
But I do not complain. I was warned 5000 years ago by Lord Krishna: “What is night to the man of the world is day to the Yogi. What is day to the man of the world is night to the Yogi”.
My way of looking at things is almost the opposite end of the pole from 90% of the people around me! What the world values as gold is like a lump of clay to me, and those things which I value are worthless in the eyes of the world.
Hence I have learned the fine art of “keeping my mouth shut!”
The question arises:
How can one straddle these two worlds? I do not live in a cave, though often I think I should. I must interact every day, sometimes on quite an intimate level, with persons whose ideas, values, goals and motivations are a pole apart from mine. Must I compromise my own standards to “keep the peace” as I know full well I cannot bring them to the same standard I set myself? To expect from them what I expect from myself is like beating my head against a brick wall. I don’t want to do that. It hurts! And besides that, it serves no real purpose. In all these years, I have learned to turn to Patanjali for the answer to surviving in this parallel universe.
What does the wise old sage say?
He counsels: “Cultivate indifference towards the ignorant”. In other words, “keep such people at least one arm’s length (or farther) away if possible”. One can communicate with a smile, even at a great distance. Keeping the proper space in thought, word and deed, one may still interact with those living across the great divide! A kind word can be spoken, a kind gesture done, but everything with caution lest it be misunderstood for foolishness or weakness.
A protective psychic barrier can be constructed through which such ignorance cannot pass. Abraham Maslow, the famous American psychologist of the 20th century, commented that he had constructed around himself a “semi permeable membrane” which “filtered out” all those forces which were so contrary to his own nature. He knew they would destroy him if allowed intimate contact.
… even Jesus Christ counselled: “Be in the world, but not of the world”.
In Yoga the term Vairagya is used to describe this “cultivated conscious distance” which one keeps from situations, people and objects which are so antagonistic to one’s chosen path. Detachment is sometimes perceived as indifference, but indifference only resembles Vairagya on the surface. In essence detachment and indifference are widely different characteristics.
Indifference implies a sense of “not caring”, a dullness, a deadness of spirit which really doesn’t give a penny about anything. Detachment or Vairagya is knowing how far or how close to keep the parallel universe around us (for everyone’s good).
The last word on this parallel universe subject was uttered by a Chinese poet several millennia ago:
“I built my hut in a zone of human habitation. Yet all around me there are no sounds of horses or of carriages. Would you know how this is possible? A heart that is distant builds a wilderness around it!…”
That wilderness – Vairagya – enables us to inhabit our parallel universe and navigate the rough waters of the world with ease!
About the Author:
Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani is the resident Acharya of Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India. She is also the Director of the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research (ICYER), the Director of Yoganjali Natyalayam, and Editor of Yoga Life, a publication of Ananda Ashram. For more information, visit:
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