What are the Five Rivers?

What are the five rivers? So far, that’s the most common question about Five Rivers Yoga. You know, I went through quite a long process of name-finding. It started late spring last year, with long lists of words and ideas, brainstorming, index cards, collage…. (The name almost was Mighty Love Yoga. The name almost was Pinwheel. The name came very close to being Over the Hill Yoga…. )

And then, one day, I encountered these words from Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamitta Heart Sutra: “[There are] five rivers flowing together in us: the river of form, which means our body, the river of feelings, the river of perceptions, the river of mental formations, and the river of consciousness. They are always flowing in us….

This is how I understand this right now: The five rivers (or aggregates or skandhas) compose us: body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, consciousness. These shimmering elements of being make us essentially human AND (the catch) we tend to over-identify our “selves” with them. Paradoxically, the rivers may be both vehicles and obstacles to remembering that we belong to everything and nothing…. Empty and full, like the riverbed. Or, as Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “empty of a separate self, but full of everything in the cosmos.” Yoga is a path that clarifies our emptiness and our fullness.

Whew! I also like the way it sounds, and other associations with five, and rivers, and five rivers. More on this soon.

One comment

  1. rich says:

    A wonderful very meaningful name.
    “Five” has always been my favorite number as long as I can remember–asymmetric, unusual, yet softly curved and strong.

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