Why Yogic Practices are Often Done in Sets of Three
Sadhguru tells us a story about Shiva, to illustrate why yogic practices are often done in sets of three.
Questioner: Yogic practices are often done in sets of three. Is there a reason why?
Sadhguru: There are many ways to look at this. This is a dialectical culture. A story will say one thing, but it means something else. It is intentionally structured that way to evolve our logic. If you approach everything in life 100% logically, you will be very crude. Somewhere you have to touch the gray. If everything is black or white for you, no one can be with you. You think you are logically correct but no one can stand you because it is gross logic. So we evolved another kind of logic.
In modern science, they call it “fuzzy logic,” which is a good way to describe it. But this is more than fuzzy logic – this is dialectical culture. Most Asian countries and large parts of Africa are dialectical cultures, but here in India, we evolved this into a completely different process, particularly using it to describe anything spiritual. Dialectical cultures expressed things not 100% logically. On the surface, it looks like a fantastic story. But if you dig deep enough, there is logic to it.
You know, yoga started with Adiyogi, and one of his names is Tripurantaka. I will cut the story short because with Indian stories, even a sub-story will last for days, and this is intentional, because the idea of the story is to take you logically into an illogical realm. Otherwise, it is very difficult for a human being to rest your logic because that is the only thing that has seen you through life till now.
If I say, “Rest it. Surrender. We will do something with you,” you may say, “Yes,” but you will hold on to your logic. If something does not fit into your logic, your mind will naturally reject it. So the story logically takes you to a place beyond your present level of logic. I will not tell you the whole story because that would take a whole day.
There was a rakshasa king. Rakshasa is generally translated as demon, but they are not necessarily demons. They are a different kind of people who do not subscribe to the laws of society. A rakshasa is one who is ruled by his own passions, his own lust, and his own needs. Conquest, rape, and grabbing things are normal for him.
This rakshasa king became very powerful, so powerful he built three cities floating in the sky. He ruled these cities and whenever he wanted, he came to the earth and ravaged it. There was no competition for him. He was such a warrior and his armies were so strong, no one could stop him. He terrorized all the others – human beings and gods. At that time, the god population in the country was more than the human population. We had 330 million gods, even then, and not that many people!
That many gods and yet this man had no sanctity for anything. He just ravaged everything that he saw. No one could kill him; no one could conquer him. They called all the devas. All the heroes went to fight against him, but he not only vanquished them, he disgraced them in every possible way. He made sure that he was the power. At that time, Shiva had his eyes closed. They went to him and pleaded for years, but he did not open his eyes – he was somewhere else. Then Vishnu found a way to make him open his eyes and they told him, “Only you can stop this man.” But the rakshasa had taken a boon that no individual city of his could be destroyed by any army. Shiva saw that he could not shoot down these cities individually – he had to shoot down all three at once. So he shot a single arrow that went through all the three cities and they fell down.
Tri-pura means “three cities.” Tripurantaka means “one who ended Tripura.” The story of Shiva demolishing all the three cities with a single arrow refers to the three fundamental dimensions of who you are. This can be expressed in many different ways. In terms of qualities, these three dimensions are called tamas, rajas, and sattva. In terms of physical manifestation, we call them pingala, sushumna, and ida. These three nadis are the manifestation of who you are. Then there are the three forces earth, moon, and sun. And the three dimensions of one’s existence here: past, present, and future. Essentially, life is happening between these three. You can see it as past, present, and future. Or you can see it as ida, sushumna, and pingala. Or you can see it as earth, sun, and moon. If you try to conquer only one out of the three, you will be on an endless ride because the three are internally one. In yoga and in spiritual process, a lot of people are trying to take charge of only one thing, which is a desperate endeavor.
The message is: unless you shoot all three of them at once, you will never be victorious. It is a spiritual message given in an elaborate story. How he became a Tripurantaka is a whole book by itself. How he fought the Tripura, the many weapons he used, what all happened – all these things describe the struggles of a human being trying to conquer one aspect of his life. Someone wants to conquer his mind without conquering his energy – he can try as hard as he wants – it is not going to happen. Someone tries to discipline the body without taking charge of the mind and energy – do what you want, it is not going to happen. Mind, body, energy; sun, moon, earth – all these are three. Unless they are shot with a single arrow, they will not fall.
Editor’s Note: Isha Hatha Yoga programs are an extensive exploration of classical hatha yoga, which revive various dimensions of this ancient science that are largely absent in the world today. These programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore Upa-yoga, Angamardana, Surya Kriya, Surya Shakti, Yogasanas and Bhuta Shuddhi, among other potent yogic practices.