The meaning of the phrase, gomukha vyagram is this: at first glace the methodology in the yoga sutras seems a long-lashed herbivorous slow blinking cow, sweet and gentle, easy and docile. Of course we’d choose this path. Why wouldn’t we choose this path?
But as we dig deeper into the sutras we realize it’s not bovine serenity we’ve spending time with.
We’ve been cozying up to a different animal entirely, cunning and queer in its unsettling power. We realize the practice isn’t really what we thought it was. This realization is the point where many turn away from the deeper practices of yoga, the ones where you must be able to sit still for instance. Because to go inward, truly inward, means we sacrifice ‘self’ to the king of the jungle, ‘Self’. To be able to do so means that every aspect of who we think we are shifts. This is slightly terrifying and likened by sages to being face to face with a prowling tiger. For many, myself included, this knowledge threatens to leap from the bushes and tear us limb from limb, and yet we cannot get enough.
Actually it’s not our limbs but the more subtle parts that are threatened: the mind (buddhi), the I-sense (asmita), the ego (ahamkara). So concrete is their presence to us, these pieces don’t seem fragile or pliable; they seem in fact, to be us. No wonder it’s scary! How can we sacrifice something that is us?
Well, here’s the carrot. It’s said that if we can ‘survive’ even ten seconds of the ceding we will be hooked for life, we will stop at nothing once the soul (purusa) recognizes its true nature. And if we can stand beyond our familiar apathies, shake loose the safety of the familiar and convenient, we discover as the ancient sages did, that just beyond dwells our Fullness. It is possible to know, not as concept or idea but rather as experience, our connection with Self, others, and the natural world around us. And finally, after all the illusion is allowed to fall away, what we’re left with is permanent peacefulness.
Whether for physical challenge and exercise or to delve deeper into the ancient methodology for attaining permanent peace, yoga is a worthy pursuit, and Tiger Lily a worthy name for a place to practice such inquiry. But you can call us Gomukha Vyagram if you wish.