Yoga Darsana verses 6 & 7
– the cause of all disasters of
along with projections, should be uprooted
and incipient memories be restrained in
What is seen has not the perceived
reality, because what is seen
is the seer itself. Who is thus united
in the seer is best among yoga-knowers.
Nataraja Guru’s translation:
those incipient memory factors of willing,
source of all human disasters, who
with their various willed objects
in the form of Self (saying),
is seen has no existence as such,
what is seen is the Seer's self
among knowers of Yoga
the most superior.
snow has melted and the jet plane has returned us to Portland, so we are ready
to get back to the joys of Darsanamala, made even more joyful by the addition
of Prabu, who has managed to take up residence in our city once again.
study remains at the peak of what we can accomplish in terms of effort; shortly
hereafter we steadily merge into the quiescence of nirvana, our depth mostly
determined by the preparation we have made up to now. In other words, we’ve
gotten about all we can out of willing and goal orientation. It might be better
to say we can now see how much we can get from it, because there’s still plenty
to accomplish, but soon we will turn to examining what letting go has to offer.
or willing is said by Narayana Guru to be the cause of all human disasters and
should be rooted out. This goes against most of our secular training, which is
aimed at refining and directing the will as the prime mover of our life. In
yoga there is a greater reliance on surrendering our willfulness to an inner
guiding principle, because we are sure it is far more intelligent than we can
ever be. Our own limitations are plainly visible to our contemplative eye, and
we have seen how the natural order possesses a vast intelligence that is
supremely harmonious as well as immaculately just. Based on this realization we
are willing to restrain our will in its favor. The class had a number of good
examples of how well this works in practical matters; it is far from being a
detached abstraction of armchair philosophy.
put the oppressive aspects of will in a somewhat different light. Instead of
being alive and open to the moment we are projecting our wants and fears and
seeing them as the world around us. In a way these are recourses to the future
(will) and the past (fear), and the verse is inviting us to Be Here Now — to
not be obscured and thereby obscuring the world with our projections. Can we
lucidly be in the world of the present, without cladding it with our
preconceived notions? Doing so is a very intimate and personal reorientation.
agreed, and because our mind is so easily caught by distractions, it is best to
practice letting go of our monitoring consciousness in solitary meditation, or
even better in a small, trusting group like the class itself. We have to
intentionally set aside all the thoughts that come up to sit in neutral
silence, where the will is not operative. This is vastly more difficult than it
sounds like it should be, as all conscientious meditators well know.
cautioned that when you are able to let go, the first thing likely to rise up
is the greatest motivator, fear, followed by the panoply of its correlates:
anger, anxiety, cravings and so on.
off, let’s reprise the little Nitya says about will in his commentary:
Personal ego is an aggregate of memories
vasana, and it is always active to produce volitional imagery. This is called sankalpa. Sankalpa is the root cause
all human miseries. An effective step in withholding from being influenced by
the vasanas is returning again and
again to the true nature of the Self. This withdrawal is called pratyahara. When once the Self is seen
through an act of samyam, the Self
can be seen in all and as all. When there is nothing extraneous to attract or
distract, consciousness becomes steady and samadhi
is achieved. Thereafter one does not experience the duality of the subject and
the object. Such a state is praised as yoga.
Remember: just because sankalpa is the root cause of all
human miseries DOES NOT mean that all it does is cause misery. It is capable of
plenty of good, when used rightly. It causes misery when it is used wrongly, and
poor results are normally the first clue we have that we have willed wrongly.
reminds me that Patanjali’s eight-limbed Yoga is threaded through the
commentary, so I’ve put the list in Part II in case you’ve forgotten. The quote
above covers the last part, touching briefly on limbs 5-8.
vows and restraints, the first two steps, are so central to what we’re up to
here that they need no mention. Nitya does register his complaint that the
third step, asana, is taken
superficially as meaning body postures such as hatha yoga. At the time of his
writing, there were so many dazed and confused seekers browbeating him with
their enthusiasms. It was like they were recruiting him for their favorite
indulgence of the week, and not paying much attention to his own wisdom that
towered over theirs. He was usually polite but must have chafed inwardly at our
inwitting arrogance. Every once in a while he would register a mild protest
that usually went right over the heads of those it was most intended for. Here’s
his take on asana:
Most people stumble at the threshold of
objectivization and will find it almost impossible to fill the chasm between
the subject and the object. A number of techniques are adopted by aspiring
yogis such as introjecting more and more consciousness into the muscular and
neural activity as one sits in various postures. This of course helps people to
get rid of physical rigidities and gives more lucid motion to moribund
psychophysical energies. It does not, however, bring the desired union of the
individuated self with the universal Self.
In his survey of the eight limbs in Living the Science of Harmonious Union, Nitya
If you, as an aspirant yogi, have
the intention of undertaking a thoroughgoing self-discipline, you are
recommended to choose one interest rather than pursuing many interests. When
full attention is given to that chosen interest, body, mind, and ego are all
interlinked in one line. That means you have placed yourself in a set that
involves both the physiological and psychological. To indicate this the word asana, “steady position or posture,”
is given. That does not
necessarily mean sitting with a certain physical posture. When a cat is
preparing to pounce upon a rat, it puts itself into a posture that is more an
attitude than a special contortion of its body. Similarly, posture here is to
be understood as posing yourself in the most congenial manner to be able to
give full attention.
Anyway, it is easy to see how misdirected will is serving us
very badly. The modern version of willing popularized by psychopaths like Ayn
Rand and once again a powerful political force is utterly devoid of morality
and unabashedly empowers the ego to promulgate whatever it can get away with in
self-serving behaviors. It’s ultimately suicidal, but is likely to take a lot
of its surroundings with it. Nowadays we are staring down the barrel of the
disasters of mankind that unbridled political will has wrought. Vedanta is one
of the restoratives that should be much more widely known than it is.
7 contains a million dollar sentence: “What is seen has not the perceived reality, because what is
seen is the
seer itself.” I asked the class to share how often and to what degree they
recall this most basic tenet of Vedanta. Our masterful minds are so clever to
present their concocted world view so convincingly that we are completely
absorbed by the vision and forget it is a wholly inner experience. It looks so much like reality! As Nitya puts it:
Visual images introjected and reciprocally
projected are such a total experience that there is no room left for
consciousness to stand aside and have a detached view of the vision.
So we are
easily caught in many self-delusions, what Nitya here calls sensory illusions
and hallucinations. He even details these to an extent:
There are hallucinations relating to the
wakeful, the dream, and deep sleep. To put it another way, we can say that the
wakeful is composed of perceptual cues molded into empirical facts by the
clothing of sensory stimuli with conceptual garments; that in the dream state
prior memories are variously fabricated to provide for a psychodrama in which
one and the same subject transforms into all and sundry, and becomes every form
and meaning of what is experienced as a dream; and that the third aspect of
deep sleep is the effacement of all traces of memories.
knows that the subject and object in view are simply poles within the unitive
gestalt of appearance. Most of us frequently forget, but with practice we don’t
get sucked in too far before we slap our forehead and say to our self, “Yow,
snagged again!” And then we let go and step back. Happily there were several
good examples of success in this shared by the participants.
talked about the first time our older daughter was away at Christmas, a holiday
she normally loved more than any other. On top of that her mother had just died
a few weeks before. She was very depressed, missing her mom and her dear girl,
and she remembers looking at the beautiful Christmas tree with its decorations
and projecting all her misery on it, thinking, “I hate my Christmas tree!” It was obvious her feelings
were due to
her grief and the tree was only incidental, yet it felt so real! That tree was
an affront to her person. It’s only a small step to realize that everything we
encounter is colored in the same way. This is precisely why being clearheaded
and cheerful is about the best contribution anyone can make to their world. Not
Pollyana cheerful, but deep, grounded cheerful. It invites the best from all
told us that just the other day she had had an urge to do one of her usual
indulgences. Because of her yoga studies she was thinking about the concept of
letting it go and decided to give it a try. As soon as she held back, the urge
went away, leaving her with a sense of empowerment and freedom to do something
different. She could see that the urge was not really her, it was just a habit.
She concluded “when you see that your urges are not you, it sets you free.”
works as a massage therapist in an old house that she has made her sacred
space. She has worked there forever, and has grown to feel it is her psychic
bubble, one that is a world apart from the bustling street activity outside. A
couple of weeks back, just after she finished some maintenance, cleaning and
repainting, she came to work to find it had been broken into, the door damaged
and things destroyed. She was shocked at first, but then she knew she had to do
what we’ve been learning in class. She framed her shock as an ego reaction:
“How could this happen to me? My spiritual place has been violated.” Looking at
this as beside the point allowed her to calm down and regain her normal peace.
Then she cleaned up, had her son repair the broken door, which was easy enough,
and filed her police report. Looking the place over she realized that none of
her treasured icons had been tampered with, and the place was quickly restored
to being her sacred space. She was sure her yogic intent had spared her a lot
of unnecessary grief.
told her “you had a sense that the rooms were you but in a sense they weren’t
you. The self doesn’t get harmed.” Karen agreed and added that people who
suffer natural disasters sometimes lose everything, and her experience was
nothing close to that. Karen’s groundedness is reminiscent of a famous part of
the Gita’s second chapter:
do not cut This, fire does not burn This, and water does not wet This; wind
does not dry This.
it is uncleavable; It is non-inflammable; It is unwettable and non-dryable
also—everlasting, all-pervading, stable, immobile; It is eternal.
is undefined, unthinkable is It, as non-subject to change is It spoken of:
therefore, knowing It as such, there is no reason for you to feel sorry for It.
reported seeing a TV news spot about mindfulness meditation. Tech companies are
now using it, but they also showed a police department (of course in the San
Francisco Bay area) using it to develop empathy. Speaking of misplaced
sankalpa, American cops are free and even encouraged to kill at will, so this
is a very important step in the right direction. As Moni put it, in meditation
you slow down and see the other as part of you, so you are less likely to cause
shared an inspiring excerpt from Nitya’s “Atmo Original 1-8,” which I’ll
include in Part II for your delectation.
Paul weighed in: “we borrow the universal as we see it and turn it into a
vehicle to promote our vasanas.” Paul is now well aware of the danger of
vasanas projecting on to the present. He retold his venerable police
interaction story, where he lost his cool and nearly wound up in jail, for
Prabu’s benefit. In the light of this verse, we could see that his upset was
due to his son being in trouble—our children are almost always our most
pressing attachments, or vasanas if you will. The cops lost their cool because
they had been harrassed by angry citizens many times in the past, so the minute
Paul said something provocative, all their tender spots were reinjured, and
they mounted a defensive roar. This reminds us we not only have to manage and
be aware of our own vasanas, we can anticipate those of others and try to work
shouldn’t expect we can sweep away our illusions, they are inevitable aspects
of being limited creatures. What the Guru is suggesting is that we take our
limitations into account, which will save us from at least some of the
disasters we are prone to commit. Many religious and spiritual systems treat maya
(or sin, etc.) as a dread disease that we must be cured of or remain failures.
If we simply accepted maya’s existence and took it into account, all the
harmonious qualities we esteem would rush in to fill the void. The norm is to
struggle valiantly, often in a name of God, to overcome this feature that
cannot be overcome, which leads to despair, self-hate, incompetence and the
like. We should learn to accept what Nitya affirms here:
Although the critical staff of rationality
present to guide the reason of the individual, the amount of hypnotic spell
that is exercised on the mind cannot be fully determined.
I love his
conclusion: “The reality of empirical experience is of an absolutely
relativistic order. Everything is both real and unreal.”
think he means empirical reality is both absolute and relative, but I love that
it is worded as absolutely relative. That means it cannot be restored to an
absolute state, it will always be relative no matter what we do. Adjusting to
this is learning to live with expertise, and ceasing to beat our heads against
the wall. It isn’t even that hard, except our egos hate to admit they don’t
have everything under control. We can do due diligence, but we are never going
to live up to the imaginary norms of a prideful ego. We’d do better to accept
that we will always have a few flaws. Giving up an impossible task is a great
relief, I assure you.
puts this rather subtly and traditionally, but the idea is the same:
On the whole we can say that consciousness
remains uninfluenced by memories for a while, and then at times becomes
monitored by memory into various elaborations. Yogic insight means to get
behind these altering states and to not be deluded by the surface disturbances.
What we’re really seeing is not the reality of the world but
our own private version of the world. The key here is that whenever we can see that the subject and object
integral parts of the same oneness being projected in our minds, we can cease
battling to align them just so. They are already aligned! We fight with
inadequate information to present a persona that is perfect, imagining this
will protect us from insults. Again, this is the ego at work. We don’t need to
do it. That’s not what the ego is for, so restrain it and get it back to what
it should be doing. That may well include turning the damn thing off entirely
for a period, just like restarting your computer when it has developed a
Even after receiving the secret instruction
tat tvam asi, “That thou art,” from
one’s teacher, one may not become a yogi unless this consciousness of the union
of the subject and object is continuously realized by perpetuating the
retentive idea “That thou art.” This is not possible unless one empties oneself
of one’s ego.
caught the most important implication: everyone is doing their spiritual
thing to become a better person, trying to get somewhere else, instead of
realizing they are already there. He was further amused by Nitya likening pranayama as practiced by many
as “torturing the lungs.” It’s a favorite dismissal of Nitya’s of superficial
engagement. Scotty chuckled that Nitya went on to extol pranayama after having
seeming to diss it:
Our breathing is a part of the universal
pulsation. All living beings are rhythmically pulsating and maintaining their
life. Sacrificing one’s prana into apana and apana into prana, or
uniting the upgoing breath and the downgoing breath in the heart, is only
suggestive of the spirit merging into matter and matter becoming surcharged
with spirit, or the visible changing into the ideational and ideas transforming
brought us to the closing meditation by extolling neutrality: “when there’s
nothing extraneous, nothing throwing you off, you are more at peace with it
all.” I added the kicker that should invite us to take the plunge: keeping
still is far more powerful than running after things, trying to force them into
your anticipated pattern. There’s no good reason to leave out the more
effective side of the equation.
kept still for a few moments, and then went our separate ways.
again Swami Vidyayanda’s commentary is actually comprehensible and helpful; a
valuable explication. Don’t miss it:
The act of the
will is the source of all suffering. Every willful act arises in accordance
with the incipient memory factors corresponding to it. The act of willing
arises in accordance with some deep-seated incipient memory factor, having
there lain rooted for a long time. Therefore, the yogi or the man of meditation who is interested in avoiding
suffering, should find out by minute introspection those deep-seated incipient
memory factors and abolish them so as to become established in the unity of
not any form
of self-torture. It is the union of the seer and the seen that is here referred
to as Yoga. All that is visible is, in reality, unreal and what really exists
is only the basis for such visible entities in the self as has already been
indicated in the second and third chapters. Therefore, having first brought
into union the visible with the seer, that is to say, seeing everything in the
form of the seeing subject alone, he should remain in the form of that witness.
It is a man who understands Yoga in this manner who is to be considered a
superior kind of Yoga-knower.
For review, the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga:
II.28: By the practice of the limbs of Yoga, the
impurities are destroyed, and knowledge arises, which leads to discrimination
between the Self and the non-Self.
II.29: Self-restraints, observances, posture,
regulation of vital forces, withdrawal from distraction, holding the focus of
the mind, contemplation, and absorption are the eight limbs of Yoga. (Yama,
niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhaya or samadhi)
the evening gathering of the famous Atmo class that became That Alone, here’s
Nitya discussing verse 3:
When I see a beautiful morning sunrise and I call you and
show it to you, it is not a projection where you get stuck in your ego. The
beauty of the sunrise that I see and appreciate and you see and appreciate are
both our personal projections, but there is another element which is not in me,
not in you. It has occasioned the perception of the beauty of the sunrise, and
thus there is an interaction between what is personally within you and yet
outside as a universal factor. When you have this participation within the
projection, transactional life becomes meaningful and harmonious.
get back into your own ego-oriented projection, participation is lost. When you
lose your participation, instead of transaction you get into hallucinatory
behavior. In Sanskrit it is called pratibhasa, hysteric hallucination.
This shrinking into hysteric hallucination is what is preventing you from participating.
In participation, every person becomes a beautiful entity. There is no need for
one’s work to be copied by another. Each one has his or her svadharma to
fulfill. There is also a collective sharing. When you do your thing, you also
participate in everyone’s common interest. Then your transaction takes you all
the way to the horizon where it touches transcendence.