A Yogi Bead

Alan Wilkie (New Zealand)

Since your reference to 'The Bead Game' in Crystal Collection #1^, various memories have come back to me. (Incidentally, 'The Glass Bead Game' - literal translation of 'Das Glasperlenspiel' - was the last work and magnum opus of Hermann Hesse. Though it led to his receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, curiously it wasn't published in English till 1969.)

During 1987 Rinpoche gave a class for men who might be interested in studying men's yoga. Beforehand, I thought there might possibly be some demonstrations of asanas or instructions on pranayama. But during the class there were none. But Rinpoche did suggest six books to read. What interested me was that none of the books were physically present, yet as he talked about them he seemed to 'place' each book in a kind of hierarchy, with slight changes in his posture.

He began at the top with 'Calm and Clear'. Then 'placed' the 'Six Yogas of Naropa' to the right, about his shoulder area, then 'Kum Nye Relaxation' to his left, in a triangular formation. Following this he added 'Yoga and Health', on a lower level in the centre, forming a diamond shape (or an up pointing triangle above a down pointing triangle). Then next to that, to his right 'The Serpent Power', then to his left 'Light on Yoga', forming a larger triangular formation.

After the course I began doing hatha yoga in the mornings (using 'Yoga and Health' as my main reference). And in the evening, I often did some drawing. I continued with the yoga for a year till the next course in 1988, when Rinpoche suggested near the beginning, that anyone doing yoga tone it down, and simply do a few exercises, forwards and back, and side to side.

Later in the course, he gave some pointers on Mahamudra, and asked us to put down on paper which of three objects - an arrowhead, a lead ball and a feather - was clearest to us. My initial response to this suggestion was a kind of shrug, my head swinging from one side to the other, while internally I pictured a ping-pong ball. Yet I was also aware that he was looking at me, frowning in the distance, and the ball slowed to become a white globe on the right, a white globe on the left, and a planetary globe in the centre, a little higher than the other two.

It soon became apparent that this suggestion was actually a bit more like an imperative, that we each had to present him with our piece of paper, as a kind of meditation report. When my turn came to see him and I entered the hall, he quite definitely looked down to his left, then to his right, and I noticed two books, 'The Song of Awakening' on his left and 'Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance' on his right.

What transpired after that was very curious, and I won't attempt to describe it. Suffice to say, it raised a big question for me, and I began to observe Rinpoche's body signs much more closely.

In hindsight, reflecting on these book scenes, they appear as a series of montages, or beads on a rosary.

  • Calm & Clear and Kum Nye Relaxation - Tarthang Tulku
  • Yoga & Health - Yesudian & Haich
  • The Sepent Power - Arthur Avalon
  • Light On Yoga - Iyengar
  • Song Of Awakening - Namgyal Rinpoche
  • The Mahamudra, Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance - Wangchug Dorje, The Ninth Karmapa
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