देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु व: |
परस्परं भावयन्त: श्रेय: परमवाप्स्यथ || 11||
devān bhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ
parasparaṁ bhāvayantaḥ śhreyaḥ param avāpsyatha
“May you cherish the gods (devas) and may the gods cherish you; by nourishing and cherishing one another, you shall attain the highest goodness”
Bhagavad Gita chapter 3, verse 11
In Hinduism the word Deva (masculine, pronounced dey-va) and Devī (feminine, pronounced dey-vii) can be translated as: shiny, a divine being or anything of excellence. It can be argued that there is no limit to what can be classified as a Deva. Usually, they can simply be referred to and revered as Gods and Goddesses. There can be specific Devas for the environment – and even specific parts of the environment – such as a Devī for a river (Yamuna Devī ) or the fire God, Agni. Devas can also be considered celestial beings of the cosmo and give meaning and directions for the movements of stars, planets and the process of what happens after we die.
To give reverence to the cosmos, our own planet and its environment, to all living beings who walk the earth and even the unexplained journey after death also implies that these are all sacred things, deserving of our respect and inherently are things (beings) of excellence.
The oil industry, car industry and travel industry don’t really see the environment as a shiny, divine being worthy of excellence – unless of course we can exploit the environment and make money off it. The oil, car and travel industries are the creators of one of the most commonly used systems to this day that passes judgments on the world and each other. This system would also have one of the most undivine purposes you can think of – its the 5 star rating system.
We use this system to rate almost anything, from hotels to restaurants and movies to music and the arts. You can even review national parks, beaches, rivers and mountains. You can also (unfortunately) review yoga classes, teachers and places of spiritual significance. I understand the use of reviews and how they can be helpful for others to get a gauge of something or some place before visiting or trying but sometimes holding back or reserving our opinions can be more helpful, even for our own divinity.
Without it turning into a weird dystopian future (hello Black Mirror) perhaps we should ask ourselves; at what point do we stop rating things? Would you be happy if you had your own personal rating system that others can give their opinions about you as a person?
What is then off limits for ratings and reviews? If I can give a temple or spiritual place a review, does that mean I can rate different Gods and Goddesses? Only 2 stars for Lakṣmī (goddess of fortune and wealth) because she didn’t bless me winning the lottery. 4 stars for Hanumān (lord of honor, humility and servitude) for blessing me with devoted friends who look after me and are always there for me.
Imagine if your yoga teacher personally gave individual ratings to each student after every class? Or imagine if the Devas could rate us as humans? If they could what would they say about us? How many stars would you get for being a decent human?
These might seem like trivial questions but we know the feeling when our yoga teacher is near or we feel we are being watched, we focus a little more, maybe try a little harder or commit to doing our best. And when nobody is watching? Well, we know how that goes…
At a young age to signify excellence by learning your times tables, colouring in the lines or doing your homework you can be given a shiny gold star sticker. While this positive reinforcement works for some it can’t work for everyone. And so while we each have our own unique ways in which we like to learn, teach, receive encouragement and feedback so too do the Devas and Devīs have their own unique ways in which they work through the world. These divine beings are everywhere and should we choose to look and acknowledge their presence perhaps we can move away from reviews and ratings and instead find the excellence in all things, even (especially) those that don’t seem that way at first glance.
A yoga practice can help us find the sacredness in the everyday and when we honor and cherish the divinity throughout life, in turn we are blessed and shown the specialness by each and every moment we experience. When the yoga practice is done regularly, you’re able to notice the difference and changes in the body, in your mind and the subtleties of your energy and emotions.
Being able to notice changes and differences in ourselves can then help us understand and navigate the changes we see in others and the world around us. Rather than not liking something and giving it a bad rating or being disappointed in the expectations you had, instead trying to take each experience as something new or approach the yoga practice with the same commitment and curiosity as the first time you practiced.
If each one of us can work towards our highest good and be regularly reminded of the excellence of this human experience then it wouldn’t matter how many stars you give or receive and instead everything can be seen for what it truly is, which according to yogic teachings, are divine moments placed before us as stepping stones on the path to enlightenment.
– Doug Whittaker