David Life is a co-founder (with Sharon Gannon) of the Jivamukti School of Yoga and co-director of the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York. Born in a small town in Michigan, Life – who worked for many years as an artist; moved to New York with his then-wife Kathy in 1980. The couple quickly launched Life Cafe in Manhattan's East Village, which became one of the epicenters of the East Village's thriving artistic scene (the cafe was later immortalized in Jonathan Larson's play "Rent"). Life left his partnership in the cafe in 1984 to establish the Jivamukti School with Gannon. He has since taught yoga to celebrities such as Sting, Madonna, Russell Simmons, Christy Turlington, and Donna Karan. Life is a longstanding member of PETA; along with Gannon, he set up a 76-acre wildlife forest sanctuary in upstate New York.
Question: What is enlightenment?
David Life: Enlightenment – that’s a tough one. Enlightenment is the knowledge of God. It is the knowledge of the supreme self, and it is that experience. It’s not theoretical. It’s experiential. So the enlightenment is the . . . the experience of your divinity; the embodiment of that divinity; and also the breaking down of the outer . . . the kind of covering that we have. That covering is fashion. It’s how you look on the outside. It’s your thoughts, ideas, opinions – all of that, which is fine. But inside of us we have an essential nature that’s not different. And so when you break that outer crust, which is what happens in enlightenment, the light of enlightenment just shines through.