By Debi Buzil
Ahhhhh…savasana. The quiet letting go of body and mind, my payoff for the hard work of asana practice. The big sigh at the end of class. Here I feel a moment of bliss, or samadhi. Eastern mystics say that when death arrives, it is the great samadhi. Perhaps the practice of savasana, resting in corpse pose, is the little death, a taste of samadhi. But how do we understand this experience without losing it in the process? The Heart Sutra.
The Heart Sutra is a prominent Mahayana Buddhism teaching. The short form of
the mantra translates, “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, oh what
an awakening!” This is what my savasana experience feels like: conscious, aware, unattached. I glimpse myself in this state, and when I catch it, it’s gone!
My yoga backpack of useful knowledge keeps getting bigger. This year I am studying Tibetan Buddhism with Lama Lobsang Palden, one of Chicago’s crown jewels of Buddhism. Our class has been reciting the Heart Sutra regularly, and during this repetition, my knowledge begins to deepen. Within the warm abode of the Palden home, rich with sacred altars, Tibetan butter lamps and peaceful order, I begin to find answers.
We sit. We chant, “Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā” This is the Heart Sutra. The translation I love best is from Sharon Gannon of Jivamukti Yoga: “Gone, gone, real gone, beyond even the most gone, only in going that gone is there awakening.”
I am a yogi, I want to be awake—I want to know truth. Yoga gives us a way to move from darkness into light, by letting go of ourselves through practices such as yoga and meditation and finding the freedom of immortality, or “pure being.” Through practice, we move beyond the states of “going.” We are able to touch the unchanging nature of pure being.
How can we pierce our mortal elements and experience the unchanging nature of pure being…beyond the beyond? I dig deep into my backpack and pull out the concept of the five koshas or sheaths. We can see our human selves as lamps that have five lampshades over our light, each with a different color and thickness. As the light, which is eternal, shines through the five different layers, we experience our lives and perceptions through different bodies—our physical, energetic, mental, wisdom and bliss bodies.
Using the koshas as a roadmap, our aim is to know the ātman or the eternal unchanging Self. The bliss body or anandamaya kosha is the most subtle lampshade but still colors the experience, as it is still a covering over our light. Only by going even further than the bliss body, “beyond the beyond” as the Heart Sutra suggests, are we to experience our own true nature.
The world I experience through the koshas deepens my perceptions and experience, revealing a precious life. The Heart Sutra guides me. I rest in savasana at the end of practice. I do a tension and release exercise for my body and bring my mind to a single point at the back of my skull, sinking into a deep peace. It is here that I lie dying just a little bit. I give up who I think I am and let go of the illusion of the future. I arise from my practice renewed, present in the moment. This is yoga—beyond the beyond.