The full moon on Valentine’s day occurs in Magha(“the magnificent”) nakshatra, a sickle shaped group of stars in the royal constellation of Leo—ruler of the heart. Magha is sometimes represented by a throne and, at other times, by a palanquin. Both of these suggest royalty and give us a sense of the accomplishments and positions of authority that Magha confers. Magha is also strongly linked to our ancestors through its ruling deities-- the Pitrs (the Fathers). The Pitrs are vedic deities who have the special responsibility of guiding the individuals, families, and cultures that are placed under their care. They do so, for the most part, quietly and unobtrusively and tend to intervene only when there is a major diversion from the proper course of action. The Pitrs can be thought of as guardian angels, here to assist us in our time of need and counsel us in times of trouble, to remind us of the timeless, universal values that will put us back on track. Patanjali enumerates some of these nobler expressions of humanity in Sutra 1.33—Maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha dukha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatah citta prasadanam —“The cultivation of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity in the presence of happiness or suffering, virtue or the lack thereof, bestows the blessed state of mind.” This is Patanjali’s prescription to eliminate the obstacles presented in Sutra 1.30—Vyadhi styana, samsaya pramada alasya avirati branthi darsana alabdabhumikatva anavasthitatvani citta viksepa antarayah—“Illness, stagnation, doubt, impatience, laziness, intemperance, delusions, lack of perseverance and instability scatter the mind,”and produce the afflictions listed in Sutra 1.31—Dukha daurmanasya angamejayatva svasa prasvasa viksepa sahabhuvah-- “Suffering, depression, anxiety, and scattered breathing accompany these obstacles.” When we find ourselves in the grip of these obstacles and afflictions, Patanjali suggests (Sutra 1.32)—Tat pratisedha artham eka tattva abhyasah—“The persevering practice of a single principle will eliminate these obstacles.” This is when Patanjali presents his list of great altruistic qualities—maitri (kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (joy), and upeksanam (equanimity)—and suggests that our observance of just one of these is sufficient to bestow a more awakened state of mind.
Valentine’s Day is a day when we are reminded of the importance of love in our lives—romantic love, familial love, love of friends, and, on a more universal scale, love for all beings. Magha reminds us also to love and take pride in our family traditions and to make an effort to reconnect with our ancestors, recognizing that we owe our very existence and most of our spiritual values to them. Many ancient cultures place great emphasis on worshipping their ancestors. In modern day America it often seems that we are distancing ourselves from our ancestors as quickly as we can, and, as a result, are experiencing a great sense of alienation and lack of foundation. Perhaps that is part of the attraction of ashtanga yoga—it offers us the opportunity to connect with a tradition and a lineage, even if it is a tradition borrowed from another culture. We all need to feel some sort of foundation underneath us and to have some guiding principles and practices to help keep us healthy and sane. As we persevere with the practice we eventually come to love it and to love the parampara—the lineage of teachers that have passed down the tradition. We also begin to love our fellow students and the greater family of ashtanga yogis throughout the world. Eventually, maybe we will learn to extend this love even to those poor, unenlightened souls who practice other kinds of yoga, and maybe even to those who think that yoga is a cultured milk product, a sex cult, a brainwashing technique, or painful and exotic exercise.