I told myself I wasn’t going to write this post but ever since I re-watched the Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy movies last week it has been rattling around up here in my head, so here we are- A post about how a trained CIA assassin movie character is a killer yogi. (Heh Heh)
Jason Bourne doesn’t have much personality. There isn’t a whole lot of charming, schmoozing or identifying-with-ego going on. What you see is pretty much what you get and what you get is a physically capable, acutely tuned-in character driven by his objective and clear inner sense of morality. I’d say that this isn’t too far off from what we yoginis and yogis are practicing. Read on and see if you agree…
The ability to maintain focus is dharana, Patanjali’s 6th limb of yoga. This means that in a state of dharana, the mind isn’t meandering hither and thither, it stays with the object of focus. Jason Bourne is really good at this, even with an unfortunate case of severe amnesia. JB has two main objectives and they inform all of his actions: a)do not get killed and b)figure out who I am.
Jason Bourne manages to stay aware of the things going on around him without being drawn out of his own internal experience. Consider the scene in the American Embassy. JB is identified and then within seconds all the guards are in riot gear chasing him through the stairwells. He observes and pays attention to details, but that doesn’t direct his behavior, instead, it informs his behavior. He knocks out a guard, grabs his radio and then rips the fire escape route off the wall so he knows what’s happening and where to go. Pratyahara? I think so. He is directing his senses to serve his objectives: a)do not get killed and b)figure out who I am.
Jason Bourne manages to stay powerfully linked to his objective, all of his skills and senses are engaged in its service and he is (obviously) strongly connected to his objectives. Dhyana is the name Patanjali gives to this deeper connection and focus in his 7th limb. JB’s body runs like a well-oiled and particularly strong machine. Nice work on those niyamas (#4) and asana (#3), JB. Did I notice his breathwork? Yes, I did. He does a very good job of regulating his breath to keep his nervous system from freaking out even when a jiu jitzu master breaks through his apartment window and throws some wicked blows at his head. That’s some pranayama fo’ sho’…fourth limb right there, JB. Way to go. Looks like JB is turning out to be quite a yogi, right? Okay, so maybe there are a few issues.
The first limb of yoga’s first guiding principle is ahimsa or non-harming. The first-first position means that even if you get bored or distracted as you study Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga and you don’t make it all the way to the end, he wanted to make sure you at least read this one: non-harming. This probably includes causing major car wrecks, stabbing people with pens and kicking them in the face. JB isn’t racking up yogi-of-this-lifetime points in this category. There is a lot of harming going on. But on the other hand, think of the Bhagavad Gita. This is a classic text which teaches us yogic principles through story. Arjuna is on the battlefield and doesn’t want to fight. Krisna, Arjuna’s charioteer, who happens to be an omnipotent diety, explains that kriya yoga—the yoga of action, the yoga that most of us are engaged in, sometimes requires that you kill your evil cousins to save the kingdom. It might be the only way to make sure that good prevails. And if you are a warrior by dharma, then you probably have to do the warrior thing and inflict a little harm. Is JB’s situation similar to Arjuna’s? JB doesn’t like killing people, but he is trying to stay alive, and the people that he knocks-off aren’t innocent bystanders. They are trying to get him and carry out some dirty global business. Perhaps he doesn’t have to lose so many yogi-points there after all.
I also have to wonder… If your intense ability to focus comes from being brain-washed does it count as yoga? JB went through CIA-Treadstone-training which made him the top performer of his secret assassin-group. So at that point, he had focus, but the focus wasn’t being directed by his true, divine self. There was a man with some serious avidya driving the JB assassin-machine. Not yoga, right? But then, after a few missions and in spite of all his brainwashing, JB’s inner voice speaks up and won’t let him kill a political target because the guy is surrounded by his kids and looks so…human. There’s a fine example of listening to that true self, the purusa, instead of the brainwasher, Treadstone, boss. Way to go, JB. You might be on your way to being awarded the title of yogi after all.
There are so many other things I’d like to say about Jason Bourne, but I’m going to wrap it up here, leaving you to make the decision for yourself: Jason Bourne…yogi/not a yogi? Please see the movies. Again. And as you do, consider how great it would be if the things that are happening around us, even things that are really intense, didn’t rile up our nervous system and affect the way that we respond. Also, ask yourself: what kind of training do I have to undergo to be able to tune in, at any moment, to the things that are happening around me and more importantly be able to tune into myself so that I can make good decisions and jump back up to standing when someone roundhouse-kicks me into a backbend? There is the option of becoming a highly trained assassin, or you could probably get similar results if you continue to practice yoga. The latter is a lot less risky for your girlfriend, too.