Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Saiou Ga Uma

"Saiou ga uma" is a Japanese phrase that means "Saiou's horse." It's an abbreviation of "Ningen banji saiou ga uma," by which a famous Japanese proverb is known.

The literal translation is "All human affairs are like Saiou's horse". It basically means you can never really know what will prove to be "good" or "bad". The meaning came from a Chinese folk tale about an old man called Sai. Here's the story:
Once upon a time, an old man, Sai, lived near the Chinese Northern Fort. One day his horse ran away. His neighbors commiserated with him over his misfortune, but Sai said "How do you know this is not really good luck?".

A few days later the horse returned, bringing another horse with it. When his neighbors congratulated him on his good luck, the old man said "How do you know this is really good luck?"

Sure enough, some while later Sai's son fell while riding the horse, and broke his leg. The neighbors called it a misfortune.

But it turned out to be good fortune when all the young men of the village were ordered to join the Emperor's army. Sai's son didn't have to go because he had a broken leg.
Psychologists call this reframing. When you take an event and view it from slightly different circumstances, its meaning can change dramatically.

Here's another example. Can you imagine a circumstance in which this statement is a positive one?
Her face was horribly disfigured.
How about on Halloween night? See what I mean? A gruesome face is a prized disguise on the right night.

When I think of these examples it strikes me that it's never the event itself that causes me happiness or suffering. It's how I interpret the event.

The broken leg, for example, is neutral. But if I think it's bad, it's bad. If I think it's good, it's good.

If all events are neutral, maybe I can train myself to always see the good.

I think that's what Patanjali is asking us to do when he tells us to practice the niyama samtosa. Samtosa means being content. It's a spiritual discipline. It's a practice. You can aspire to it. You can cultivate it. You can train yourself to do it. Be content.

The writer of the Christian scripture says:
For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (Phillipians 4:11)
Notice he didn't say I am content. He said he had to learn to be content.

Keep the "Saiou ga uma" proverb in mind today. It will help you see how you sometimes choose to be happy and at other times you choose to be unhappy. It takes practice, but you can always see the good. And it will help you acheive the state of yoga, in which the mind has ceased its relentless churning.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved, Mo Yoga LLC.


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