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Yoga Sutras II: 1-10

3/30/10

Sutra II:1

Self-purification, self-study, and continuous contemplation on Isvara constitute practical yoga.

 

         A giddy full moon crew set out to begin to explore the second Pada, which deals with the practicalities of achieving the sublime states described in the first Pada. Since the Gurukula class always focuses on relating the teachings to our everyday lives, this part will be much more familiar and “user friendly.” Admittedly, many participants have struggled with the complexities and abstractions of the first part, but those who have stuck with it should find the going much easier from here on.

         The class assessed the three aspects of kriya (practical) yoga listed by Patanjali as being negative, neutral and positive, respectively. They are also roughly parallel to tamas, rajas and sattva.

         Tapas, or self-purification, is the process of paring away the impediments we have accumulated. If you didn’t know that we have been doing tapas all along in this study, now you do. Svadhyaya, self-study, is coming to know ourselves as we are. Until we dig down deeply into our psyche, we imagine we are the being we have been cajoled to believe in by others. Isvara pranidhana, contemplation of the ideal, offers a positive model toward which to direct our actions, our kriya. Isvara, as you may recall, is Patanjali’s term for the Absolute.

         All three of these examinations should take place in concert, otherwise they become lopsided. Bill talked about how Western psychology is obsessed with the negative afflictions of the psyche. There is no admission of any higher unity to kindle optimism, so even if you root out many negative factors you may well remain depressed and unsatisfied.

         Likewise, many seekers prefer to associate only with their positive side. They imagine that admitting to having negative proclivities makes them appear unspiritual. It’s one thing to be “in the groove,” but what often happens is that the dark side is merely suppressed so that we can appear to be already realized. If something ugly pops up, instead of dealing with it, the seeker feels guilty and keeps it under wraps. As Jan put it, under their surface cheerfulness is a “simmering anxiety” that she has noticed on numerous occasions. It is only a false front.

         Lost in all this wallowing and pretention is the development of the true self according to its interests and talents. Self-study isn’t just study. Nowadays we would call it self-expression, or the joy of living. Unfortunately, the term ‘self-study’ conjures up an image of sitting at a musty table in the library reading a book. What is meant is that all actions and reactions are examined with an eye of neutrality, right in the thick of the fray.

         Linda wondered if the neutrality we were talking about was anything like the equanimity she is familiar with from her Buddhist studies. That’s a very astute question. Equal-mindedness is a goal in both Vedanta and Buddhism. What often happens, though, is that it is also treated as a means to the end. When that happens, important aspects of the psyche are suppressed in favor of a peaceful exterior. With that, instead of being the crowning achievement of self-liberation, equanimity becomes a tool of self-repression. You stifle your ups and downs to appear calm, instead of curing them to become truly calm.

         Jan mentioned how grateful she was that when some negative part of her psyche surfaced, she could now see it as a healthy thing. She knew she could examine it and either dismiss it or correct it, and it would lose its unconscious hold on her. The class agreed that such “uprisings” were a sign of mental health, and repressing them was a kind of mental malaise. At the same time, there was nervousness among some that those impulses could take you too far, and you might get knocked out of balance. We have all learned to fear the suppressed aspects of our unconscious, and that fear is the very feeling we have that impels us into the suppression mode. By no longer being afraid of herself, Jan was exemplifying the more open type of equanimity. It requires bravery and repeated effort (known as tapas) to learn that attainment, which is a true and valuable siddhi.

         There is a reference at the end of the commentary about verse 8 of Atmopadesa Satakam, in relation to attuning to the voice of the spirit, either from within or from an experienced preceptor. There isn’t much about it in that commentary, really, but I did find this bit that addresses what we’ve been discussing. The verse likens our sensory life to five birds flitting about and eating fruits:

 

 The movement of the birds is qualified as nayena, evasive. The word naya has several shades of meaning. The tactics of a diplomat are called naya. The implication is that in outward form one seems to be upholding ethical norms and correct behavior, while at heart one is maneuvering with conceit. The defense mechanism of concupiscence is naya. In the Holy Koran one can find hundreds of passages decrying this kind of conceit. For a spiritual or moral life, one is asked to be straightforward and simple.

The Freudian concept of the clash between the id and the superego being reflected in the neurotic behavior of the ego, can be used to more fully understand the connotation of the term naya. The operation of the moral authority of the superego is a kind of mirroring within oneself of a fake image of public expectations. One then tries to conform to the requirements of that pattern with continuous deliberation, while at the same time indulging in a secretive enjoyment of forbidden pleasures, privately painting them with altruistic motives to look as bright and acceptable as possible.

 

         Linda wanted to know where the authority promised in this sutra’s commentary was going to come from. Similarly, Paul wasn’t sure how to distinguish the authentic inner voice from the selfish promptings of the ego, since both sound the same to our mind. Both can be equally convincing to us, depending on our inclinations. This is another very important consideration for the seeker of truth.

         First off, as Deb and others maintained, we are trying to learn to listen to the authentic inner voice, because that is the final authority. Isvara teaches from within; it is within. Disaster comes when the voice of authority moves to an outside agency. That being said, it is very helpful to have a wise preceptor or guide to help us distinguish between our own authentic voice and the selfish, manipulative one we know so well. All agreed that that was a primary role of the group setting of the class. Despite a lot of experience, none of us is beyond the need for constructive criticism. When we say something that seems perfectly true to us, the class provides feedback on whether it is valid or in what sense it is off the mark. With that kind of support we can rapidly learn to distinguish the source of our inner promptings.

         There was a widely held feeling that the class really was acting as a kind of guide for all of us, and everyone felt powerfully sustained and encouraged by it. A brief but profound meditation period closed the evening. Whether it was the moon or the sharing, the ebullience and inspiration were palpable. Several people mentioned at the door how the ideas we talked about continued to resurface all week, and how much they meant to them. It is very gratifying to see how the group has matured and grown stronger during the course of this challenging and intense study. Aum.

 

4/6/10

Sutra II:2

[Kriya Yoga is] for the purpose of bringing about absorption and attenuating afflictions.

 

         Really a companion to the first sutra, the second sutra gives us the opportunity to really explore how the threefold technique of kriya yoga—tapas, svadhyaya and isvara pranidhana—is accomplished in our lives. I asked for people to share what they do, but it’s going to have to be a future input. No one was ready to talk about their spiritual program, but Patanjali is going to lead us along with detailed and explicit instructions, so later on maybe we will be able to. Please think about it, and write or share it when you can. Spirituality is not just one monolithic program. Each of us is unique and has our own methodology.

         Last week we loosely categorized tapas, svadhyaya and isvara pranidhana as respectively addressing negative, neutral and positive aspects of our sadhana, our spiritual development. All are essential and should go together. Like the Holy Trinity, they are three aspects of one single impetus: the aim of attaining samadhi, unitive absorption. It is important to know how we express them in our own lives.

         Nitya lays out the import of the sutra very clearly here:

 

 Trying to reach the summit has three stages. First is exerting yourself physically and mentally (tapas). The second is understanding your own resources and applying your abilities to the best advantage (svadhyaya). The third is fixing your goal on the summit and attacking the problem by getting into a constant dialogue with the Absolute (isvara pranidhana). When these three disciplines go hand in hand, you are disciplining yourself with kriya yoga.

 It is easy to imagine. It is a little more difficult to explain to another what you see in your imagination. It is even more difficult to act according to your word. That is why action is given primacy in the self-discipline that is recommended. Kriya yoga has a positive goal. It also has a negative goal. The positive goal is to bring yourself into a state of equipoise and imperientially obtain absorption. When the mind is not disturbed by conditioned states, absorption naturally comes.

 

The last sentence presents the negative goal. Both the positive and negative approaches are critically important and balance each other out. Many superficial seekers downplay the negative aspect, but in yoga both sides have equal weight and value. The class discussed how conditioning warped our perceptions and conceptions, so that without purifying ourselves of them our positive imagery is likely to be false. We are prone to delusion.

         I used the handy example of George Bush, though the type is as common as fleas on a dog. As President, he knew for a fact that he was tight with God, no doubt about it, so he could act like the devil and never have a twinge of guilt. His advisors were busy protecting him from any negative feedback or contrary information, so he could plunge ahead heedlessly. In addition, he was pathologically screened off from critical self-examination, preferring an overblown self-image to reality. God help us from ever falling into such a trap! We beg to know our shortcomings so we can stop inflicting injury and misery, even unknowingly, on the world around us. But unless we critically examine our premises, we will be tempted to think of ourselves in this way.

         Nitya describes tapas as critical reasoning of a contemplative order. He recalls the classic metaphor of a gold nugget concealed in worthless detritus. We bring a hot fire to the slag, and the gold melts and drains out to stand alone and untarnished. Nitya says, “As dross leaves molten gold, so unwholesome emotionalism and wrong conditionings leave us when we insistently enforce our right reasoning.”

         Svadhyaya means we should approach spirituality from our own authentic position and not as imitators of somebody else’s style. We need to learn to be ourselves. It sounds easy, but so many forces constantly tear us away from ourselves that it’s more difficult than we imagine.

         Isvara pranidhana refers to the goal we are seeking. What predominant interest drives us to study yoga, for instance, or seek God or strive for perfection in some way? We are all highly motivated, yet no one in the class was able to verbalize their personal motivation. Odd. We did admit that who we are runs through our entire life, and possibly beyond. Bill and Susan talked about finding old memorabilia and realizing it spoke volumes about their interests and talents, as much today as back then. Others recalled reunions with old friends and classmates that put long stretches of their life into a perspective where they could perceive the continuity of their self, of the gold core beneath all its trappings of temporal ups and downs. The consensus was that even though we have made a lot of progress, we are still the same.

         I hope that in the coming weeks we can share more of how we perform these three aspects of kriya yoga in a personal way. In the interim I’ll share some of my own ideas so the idea is clearer.

         As a child I loved piano music so much that I was passionate about it. Each new piece I wanted to learn I would think to myself, “If I could just play this, I would be happy, I would be satisfied, I could die content.” It seemed like heaven to feel those sublime emotions and be able to share them with dear friends. Sometimes I wondered if I should sell my soul to the devil for the ability to play like a virtuoso, but I decided that was going too far. My heart’s desire impelled me to try really hard to play very difficult pieces, and the interest drew me back time after time. I didn’t know it then, but this was an instance of isvara pranidhana.

         As a young adult though, I had decided that doing yoga and meditating was the whole point of life, and I had dropped playing piano as just another useless encumbrance of an enlightened existence. One day I was driving Nitya around in my VW, and he said to me, “Meditation doesn’t just have to be sitting in lotus pose with the eyes rolled up. Music can be a very fine meditation.” From that moment my love of music came roaring back. I saw how relating to it was a kind of yoga, and how well it suited me. I’m a rajasic type with a very active mind, so sitting for hours on end doing nothing, mumbling mantras or counting beads, drives me nuts. I want a big, cosmic challenge, with something beautiful as the bonus output. This is the svadhyaya, the part about being yourself. Nitya saw who I was better than I did, and with just a nudge put me back on track. Without that insight I might have spent long years drearily imitating all those exemplars who “do it right,” all the time wondering why it wasn’t working for me.

         As for the tapas aspect, there’s always lots of hard work and discipline involved with even a mediocre talent development. You have to overcome plenty of obstacles to have practice time and lessons, and so on. As an example, I bought an electric piano with headphones that just barely fit in my car that I could haul to work and play after hours. Often it had to be out behind the fire engines, moved whenever there was work to do there. Beyond the obvious, there are subtle factors to negate also. My well-meaning father was so awed by the abilities of professional pianists, which are truly unbelievable, that he convinced me that I could NEVER be successful at it. Like pretending Jesus is not a human being, he convinced me that pianists weren’t human, and so I could never be like them no matter how much I tried. Too bad, but then I’ve enjoyed my life more as an amateur lazy bum than as someone who had to put their every moment into one thing, no matter how wonderful it was. So perhaps it’s just as well. But I relate this as one of the obstacles that’s been at the back of my mind impeding my progress and self-confidence, which took some critical contemplation to neutralize. There are always plenty more. Every time you conquer one you become a little more free to exercise you abilities, or as the rishis put it, become one with the Absolute. So tapas is as essential as the other two and just as liberating, even though we describe it as negative.

 

         In his commentary Nitya compares the Greek legend of Sisyphus with the Indian story of Narayanathu Bhranthan. Sisyphus was punished to endlessly roll a heavy boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back to the bottom. Narayanathu Bhranthan did the same task, but voluntarily, and he purposely let the rock roll back down, laughing hilariously at the joke. The class had a lot of fun with the two very similar myths, recognizing how we can never fully complete our program, which is cyclic and endless. If we ever secured the rock at the top, the game would be over. Several people shared the popular belief that we aim for the goal of enlightenment or what have you, attain it, and then that’s the end of everything. But then what do you do for the rest of eternity? Luckily, life will inevitably cycle you back to the beginning of something new.

         I figure that such ideas come from static training in schools and businesses, where simple tasks have a definite beginning, middle and end. But life is not like that, even though we have learned to treat birth, life and death as matching the same formula. Reality keeps on keeping on, cycling around and about.

         The two myths demonstrate alternative ways to feel about our life: either it is a punishment and endless drudgery, or a delight and a source of undiminished amusement. Obviously we want to enjoy the second attitude, but whatever physical, mental and spiritual ailments we have force us toward the first. Kriya yoga therefore includes “ways and means for healing and correction,” as Nitya puts it. Most of us have this need in some form most of the time. If you are lucky enough to not need it, you are a rare and fortunate individual who would also have no necessity for a class such as this. For the rest of us, there is challenging and exciting work ahead. Aum.

 

4/15/10

Sutra II: 3

The afflictions are ignorance, ego identity, attachment, hatred, and lust for life.

 

         The class had a small celebration to say goodbye to Charles and Brenda, who are off to India for a goodly stretch. We wish them the best on their voyage of discovery.

         Once we settled down, we took a brief look at each of the afflictions, though this is pretty much old hat for the class. Still, even old hats fit, and it doesn’t hurt to dust them off occasionally. Perhaps the most interesting discovery was that they are all closely related, five facets of a single psyche, with fear being the energizing basis.

         First we set out to define ignorance. Bill said it meant ignorance of our true nature, which therefore is a universally shared generic state. The only cure would be to come to know our true nature, which is a rare enough accomplishment. Deb described ignorance as separating the outside from the inside, in other words, imposing duality onto the essential unity. There are many degrees and levels of ignorance, some of them beneficial and some not. We can only be separate individuals—which is the game we are currently playing—if we temporarily forget our true nature. Moreover, we would be overwhelmed if we took in all the data flooding our systems, so our brain selectively chooses a tiny but pithy part to attend to. It seems to me that this type of ignorance is a blessing.

         The word translated as ignorance is avidya, meaning not vidya. Vidya, according to the dikker, is “knowledge; science, learning, scholarship, philosophy.” This, then, is the cure for avidya, which takes on a less sweeping aspect in this light. We don’t know everything, and we are incapable of knowing everything. Unfortunately we often act on the barest minimum of information. We should first learn as much as we can, and examine our assumptions closely, before leaping to conclusions. While there is but one dramatic cure for generic ignorance, which is to know the Self, there is plenty of improvement we can make on our native state of intellectual ignorance.

         Every situation begins with us knowing nothing about it. Then we start to discern a smidgen of shape, and like a blast of storm our mind supplies the rest. Too bad that the subject is drowned in the tempest, and that all we see is a projection of our stored expectations. In our ignorance we are quite satisfied with that, because it is just what we expect. Oh really…. We shouldn’t be surprised it is what we expect, because we project our expectations and then are satisfied that we see just what we expected. It’s a closed loop. Our mind has become an isolated fortress, shutting out all contradictory or even simply new input.

         That type of affliction of ignorance is called the ego. Asmita means the sense of mine-ness. We glorify our separateness, erect flags over the battlements of our fortress, and only admit others who are on our team. Our ignorance becomes ossified, highly resistant to enlightenment in any sense of the word.

         The correction for this necrotic state is to open the gates, let down the drawbridge, and admit some fresh air. Where the ego has grown shrunken and desiccated, we need to expand the boundaries and flush it all with the water of life. Having an ego is natural and normal. Nitya always described it as the locus of consciousness, essentially a mathematical reference point. It’s the thick walls that are the problem, the affliction. We may not be able to extend the walls to include everything, but we can open the doors and invite the world inside.

         Our attachments are the result of the ego deciding what it likes and doesn’t like, and refusing to reconsider its choices. These get fixed in stone, like the ego that selects them. In earlier classes we have discussed the positive side of attachments. Possibly the most prominent is our attachment to our children, who rely on us to keep them alive for many years until they are capable of doing it on their own. If we weren’t attached to them, the first time they were a hassle we would just walk away. Our attachment to a project allows it to be completed, and our attachment to our job means we will show up again tomorrow. None of these are afflictions.

         Where attachments go wrong is when they are inflexible and grounded in our overall ignorance. In our extended metaphor they reinforce the walls of our fortress; in fact, in many cases they are the walls. We become attached to our false and defensive mental states, and then spend a lifetime braising in our self-imposed misery inside. These attachments become so fixed that it is nearly impossible to overcome their inertia. And they are self-reinforcing: the pain they cause is projected onto the outside world that threatens to erode them and wash them away, so the psyche puts all its energy into protecting them and shoring them up. Without a conscious decision to take them down, they are going to stand forever.

         We didn’t talk about hatred much. It is a predictable outcome of a separated psyche feeling miserable but adroitly suppressing all the real reasons for it. We are masters at blaming something external for our internal woes, and then beaming the white heat of hatred onto it. A handy example is the right wing mobs currently storming about in the US. Talk about a tempest in a teapot: there is no actual basis for any of it, but false beliefs fueled by worm-tongued liars in the mass media have got them in a rage, capable of any criminal act. When the fortress is threatened, rage and fury mount the toughest defense. It is impossible to even reach the walls when those psychic hurricanes block all approach.

         Possibly the most easily misunderstood of the afflictions is abhinivesa, translated as lust for life. It should be clear that the joy of living is not meant here. We want to live and love to the maximum. It’s when the enjoyment of life becomes a craving and a subject for selfish manipulation that it goes wrong. Abhinivesa is an interesting word, meaning (MW), “application, intentness, study, affection, devotion, determination (to effect a purpose of attain an object), tenacity, adherence to.” The first half are not afflictions, but they become more so toward the end. There is a sense of desperation in some people when they feel that life is passing them by, which, if they are locked in a mental fortress, it is. We want to be careful here: rushing around ever faster within our prison is not the cure. Calmly unbolting and throwing open all the doors is more like it. Most of the societally prescribed palliatives are of the former type.

         None of this is easy to accomplish, because underneath all our afflictions and holding them together is fear. Scotty talked about how much he wants to be free and live as an artist, but whenever he tells that to other people they throw cold water on his aspirations. When people have become accustomed to their little boxes, the thought of someone stepping out of theirs is a threat to their false sense of security, so they try to talk them out of it. And usually they succeed. We have to be strong enough to not need the approbation of others to make our moves, but we've been trained to "read" ourselves in their faces.

         We have to keep in mind that none of this even reaches consciousness without a sincere effort. It’s not a conscious choice to remain afflicted, but a preconscious decision made early in life and then held onto with dogged tenacity. For instance, many children are smacked for being curious. A prominent fundamentalist “psychologist” advises you should wait until the child is nine months old, any earlier doesn’t do any good, and then start the beatings. When you are struck for being open and curious, you quickly learn to fear wondering about anything that doesn’t bear the stamp of parental approval, which is most things. All through your life, at the back of your mind you are anticipating another painful swat, and to avoid it you shun any and all independence. Most of humanity carries this cross and many more.

         We also talked about how this can begin in adulthood. American soldiers have a high suicide rate—actually higher than the battlefield death rate—because they cannot admit their fears in combat. The cult of bravado they are part of forces them to bury their feelings and never talk about them. Once they are on their own, those suppressed feelings cause searing pain, but all they have been taught to do is beat them down and try to ignore them. To ignore is to cultivate willful ignorance. Suicide and insanity are the ultimate achievement of our afflictions. That should motivate us to get down to cases and take yoga seriously. These afflictions are bad medicine indeed.

         We finished up with a wonderful story from Moni. At work there was a bipolar client who had everyone terrorized. No one had been able to get him any treatment because he refused to cooperate and would even beat them with his cane. He called for an appointment, and everyone decided Moni should handle him. Moni didn’t know anything about the situation, but after they set up the appointment with her, people came and told her how dangerous and mean he was. Moni was nervous, but when he arrived she saw he was a small and weak fellow, and she began to relax. In her kind and gentle way, she reached out to him. It took some time, but she was able to become friends, and get him on the road to some badly needed assistance. People like him can easily sense the blocks and negativity in others, and the fact that Moni was open and not hostile made all the difference. If Moni had given in to her fears, the logjam would not have been cleared, but instead she overcame them with wisdom, and the result was a win all around. This is a shining example for all of us.

 

Part II

How nice to receive a thoughtful response like Jan’s here. This is how you make quantum leaps in your life:

 

Scott,

 

Thanks for the great notes on our enlightening class. I had a couple of afterthoughts. Thinking about the false and inflexible viewpoint, and how underneath its fortress is fear, I thought of how in some families, as was true in ours, some of the body of fear came from real places and events like the depression, or the Holocaust. When ancestors lived with fear of destitution and death, I think they tended to become imbalanced and then passed on those neuroses to their kids. In our family, anxiety over money grew to huge proportions and sort of blended in with the other types of fear we are talking about, so that I often felt if I strayed from the parentally approved path of careers...well I would starve and end up living on the street. I had a hard time early on making choices for myself and to further my dreams because of listening to these voices. With my kids, I am trying to give them a sense that they can pursue their dreams and that the "means" will be there. No doubt though I am passing on some fears too, unawares. I tell them that starvation and destitution are not ever going to happen - wanting to remove that fear from their psyche, yet just talking about it may be making it a concept for them. This week, I want to pay more attention to situations where I might not be letting in enough new flow and info, and keeping my mental fortress closed. As I have said before, I always think of the dialectic tool. When I see myself taking a position internally, and needing to defend it to myself or see that it holds a lot of psychic energy, I can try to step away from it and embrace its opposite...waiting for the seeds of truth to emerge from that place. Good fodder for the mind while gardening. Take care, Jan

 

4/20/10

Sutra II: 4

Nescience (avidya) is the field for the others, whether they are dormant, attenuated, alternating, or expanded.

 

         Linda was unfamiliar with the term nescience, which is a favorite of the Gurukula gurus because it perfectly matches avidya. Just as avidya or ignorance is the opposite of vidya, meaning knowledge or science, nescience (NEH-see-ence) means ‘not science’. Ignorance. Here Patanjali acknowledges what we discussed last week, that ego identity, attachment, hatred, and lust for life are specific examples of ignorance. Further, ignorance is accompanied—consciously or not—by the sense of fear, which is an all-pervasive emotional partner to it.

         The emergent urges under consideration are important vasanas that a yogi must attend to make his or her sadhana worthwhile. The four stages enunciated by Patanjali in this sutra paint a picture of how vasanas in general develop, from a potential seed state to full-blown raging expression. Nitya cleverly compares them to the genie in a bottle of The Arabian Nights. Until we know better, we imagine we have dredged a treasure up from the depths, but when we let them loose they threaten to kill us, psychologically at least.

         The sutra holds an important secret for our confrontation with vasanas. When they are in a dormant state they are pure potential. We might speculate on their existence, having read about them or heard about them from a teacher, but they are nonetheless out of conscious reach. As they “attenuate” the faintest whiff begins to tickle the back of our mind. We have an inkling, an intimation. This would be a great time to be paying attention and catch them before they have gathered momentum, but let’s face it, we seldom do. Even if an advisor points them out to us, they seem so innocent and harmless it’s hard to take them seriously.

         Then suddenly they are upon us! The alternating state listed by Patanjali refers to the struggle we have when we have been caught by a vasana, but we still have the good sense to resist. We go back and forth, sometimes giving in and indulging and sometimes standing firm. Nitya describes this stage as resembling a two-headed monster. Westerners have the classic cartoon of a miniature angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, each one prevailing in convincing the poor confused soul to obey them. But once we have gotten to this stage, the battle is already lost. It’s like the old principle of rhetoric: if you can frame the debate in your own terms, you have already won the argument. Here is where we fall over and over again, while feeling heroic and even spiritual. But all we can succeed in doing is repressing the urge for a period of time. We can trick the genie back into the bottle, but there is plenty of pressure for it to come back out.

         Of course, when we lose the battle, the vasana is fully expanded and we no longer resist, we promote it. We believe in our hatred, our lust for life, our favorite attachment, or the shape of our ego. We are prepared to defend it, and are very clever in doing so. If a wise teacher tells us that our attachments are blocking our freedom, we will nod and smile, but as soon as we are alone we worship at their altar once again. Our best shot, then is to address vasanas when they are still attenuated, before they have gotten their claws buried deep in us.

         Speaking of claws, Nitya likens the vasanas of our afflictions to a hungry beast:

 

If a tiger is exposed to starvation for a long time and has no power even to get up, it may look at its prey with a sort of indifference. But if it is given a little more time, it will gather all its strength and pounce. Similarly, a man may starve his sensuous appetites for some time, causing his urges to become weak. But by merely starving one’s appetites, deep-seated urges will not leave. When the environment becomes favorable, they will return with added vigor. Based on this theme, Rabindranath Tagore wrote the story of a sannyasin who thought he had transcended all of Nature's allure during his solitary meditations but found he had no taste for solitude after his hand and heart were touched by a young woman seeking his solace and protection from a cruel world.

 

So repressing our urges is destined to fail, and it often fails spectacularly, like a steam boiler without a pressure relief valve, which when it goes off it destroys the whole house as it rockets through the roof. Nitya recalls the beautiful verse of the Bhagavad Gita that tells us how to overcome our evil genies: “Objective interests revert without the relish for them on starving the embodied of them. Even the residual relish reverts on the One Beyond being sighted.” (II, 59).

         There was some grumbling from the crowd that this was old fashioned and hard to understand, which I suppose it is. That’s why people write commentaries…. Here’s part of mine on this verse:

 

  Krishna is saying, sure you can starve yourself of pleasures as a way to get over an obsession with objects, but this is a hard road. Paradoxically, pushing something away can make it grow in importance, become secretly more desirable. The better way is to come to know the Absolute, which is so absorbingly interesting that mere objects no longer convey the thrill they once did. We extinguish the torch we are using once the sun comes up. The bliss of the Absolute puts mere transitory enjoyments to shame; more, it infuses everything with meaning and joy so that they are even more fun….

  For this reason the Gita recommends seeking the One Beyond first, and all else becomes perfectly simple and natural. The Bible teaches the same thing, though with a more materialistic cast: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33, also Luke 12:31.)

 

         Susan has been pondering the notion of dharma recently, and she wondered how it fits in with this teaching. This led to an excellent discussion. The popular notion of dharma is that it is all about following rules and doing your duty, but that is the opposite of the Vedantic view. Dharma means living in tune with your true nature, your native talents and interests, the Absolute, or whatever you like to call it. Rules and duties stifle our dharma.

         We have all kinds of propensities, good and bad, laudable and horrible. We also have the opportunity to promote the best of them and repress the worst, and outside advice can be helpful here. But we need to not micromanage our life, much less allow other people to manage it for us. There is a beneficent flow to our life that we should allow ourselves to float in. Too much manipulation will take us toward Calvinism or some other form of Puritanism, which will squeeze the life out of us. Still, as Linda reminded us, once we have decided on a course of action there is nothing wrong with feeling duty bound to stick to it, lest we get lazy or give up prematurely.

         Moni gave the classic analogy of the banyan tree. It grows in a certain way, and provides shade to grateful people in the hot climates where it flourishes. But it doesn’t think, “I have to grow like this so that X number of people can sit under me.” It just is like that. Because it doesn’t warp itself by conscious design, it is perfect as it is. So its dharma is to give shade, but it doesn’t have to figure out how to give it, or be instructed.

         Deb thought Moni’s work with the difficult client she told us about last week was a perfect example of living her dharma. Moni has a propensity to make tough situations better, and life offered her one more opportunity to express her abilities. She not only helped a troubled soul but gained self-esteem in the process, not to mention the esteem of her co-workers and friends. But she could never have planned it to happen that way.

         We concluded with a beautiful and relevant poem by Oregon’s eternal poet laureate, William Stafford. Anne sent it to us just in time for it to be a fitting close to our class. You can see how our mutual musing has added more depth to an already perfect expression:

 

Ask Me

 

Some time when the river is ice ask me

mistakes I have made. Ask me whether

what I have done is my life. Others

have come in their slow way into

my thought, and some have tried to help

or to hurt: ask me what difference

their strongest love or hate has made.

 

I will listen to what you say.

You and I can turn and look

at the silent river and wait. We know

the current is there, hidden; and there

are comings and goings from miles away

that hold the stillness exactly before us.

What the river says, that is what I say.

 

William Stafford

 

4/27/10

Sutra II: 5

Nescience is taking the non-eternal, impure, painful, and the non-Self to be the eternal, pure, pleasurable, and the Self.

 

         This is one of those sutras that “says it all.” If you look into it far enough, you can comprehend the whole scheme of the practice.

         It's readily apparent that Nitya was feeling frisky when he dictated his commentary, with its mix of humor and potent critique. His best classes were often like this.

         The fifth sutra is rich with potential for personal transformation. We discussed each of the four pairs of polar opposites in turn, and the door is wide open to do more work on them. Our examples should be jumping off points, not in any way the last word. Before our discussion we did the suggested exercise, ten minutes of examining our minds without recourse to name and form. The meditation attempts to lead us to a unitive state where our familiar surroundings are discarded for a brief period. Powered by the group setting, we all felt a measure of success in the endeavor.

         The idea, of course, is that name and form and all our conceptualizations based on them are the non-Self, and they go very deep in our self-image. We are not only to intelligently struggle to convert from nescience to science, from the non-Self to the Self, but the whole process is simplified if we can simply sight the Self at all. A meditation that merely sifts through different ideas is fine but limited. At least some of the time we should try to go beyond everything that pops into our head. Surprisingly, it works, if you actually do it. After awhile the brain stops throwing up concepts and sits quietly in an open space, where it seems as if we are “dissolved away in an infinite consciousness.” Most of the time, though, we are content to think about it and not really do it. There is a world of difference there.

         Of the four pairs of dual factors, we spent the most time on eternal versus transient values. The basic example I offered was of how our sense of ‘I’ stays steady through our entire life, even as our bodies and minds change shape. Other people insist that we are nothing more than our external, perceptible characteristics, and we may eventually buy into it. Then we spend time crafting what we look like and trying to learn things that will impress others. By focusing on externals we become hollow, and as the modern world with all its peacock feathers shows all too plainly, we have to go to extremes to impress people who don’t really care anyway. We become more and more desperate, until we give up.

         I well remember my feeling of outrage as a child when my friends and family insisted I was my externals. I knew perfectly well that those were tangential at best, but if I tried to talk about it I was scorched with scorn. I was accused of denying the truth of who I was. Despite my initial good sense, I too became preoccupied with crafting a well-camouflaged persona so I could mingle with other humans and not draw their ire. Because I never forgot completely though, when Vedanta came along and turned the whole game upside down, I welcomed it eagerly. Vedanta insists that your core is eternal and your body and mind are destined to disintegrate, so identifying with your core is a key issue. My recent near-death experience reinforced that truth big time, with the perceived environment being hyper-transient while my sense of self remained intact, although stressed.

         The amount of pain we experience because we identify with our flawed exteriors is astronomical. With a healthy conception about what is more important, we can disown that garbage and be much happier and stronger.

         Anita offered a nice example from a very different perspective. The other day she was looking up at the clouds and had a reverie about the Earth’s water cycle: how those clouds had risen from the ocean heated by the sun, and they would pour their rain onto some mountain, where it would form streams to nourish plants and animals and eventually return to the ocean to continue the cycle. All she could see was a cloud, unique and rapidly changing shape, but Anita was able to philosophically locate it within its greater system. Here there is no right or wrong about how you look at a cloud. It’s just that one version is limited and one is complete. Understanding whole systems can add a dimension of appreciation that isn’t available if you only look at the surface of things. This is personally satisfying, but it also can have important practical applications as well. The water cycle, for instance, is taking center stage as the human race depletes its resources and casts around for new supplies.

         Scotty and Paul surmised that anything could be viewed in terms of nitya/anitya, eternal and temporary, and that’s right. Nataraja Guru felt this was one of the most important theoretical issues for us to examine in our studies, bringing it to bear on every aspect of our lives.

         The next pair, pain and pleasure, can be misleading, so we have to be a bit careful. Nitya points out that both pain and pleasure are neural agitations, and that sukham, transcendental pleasure, is not a form of agitation at all. He continues:

 

It seems humans excel in their ability to cultivate masochistic tendencies. When a person smokes for the first time, it is far from being pleasurable. But many people cultivate pleasure in torturing themselves with agitation. Similarly, every so-called pleasure, when closely looked at, is a pain cultivated as a specialized form of pleasure. When masochism is complemented with sadism, personal agitations and disturbances are shared with the community and it is even eulogized as “culture.”

 

         Apropos of this, I told the tale of my first night of getting seriously drunk, and how the social pressure and fantasy liberation outweighed the horrible misery of the event, revolting tastes followed by incredible sickness and stupidity. Yet I couldn't wait to do it again. No amount of wise philosophy is going to keep teenagers from investigating the mostly false claims about the wonders of alcohol, however, and vast numbers learn to treat the body’s rejection of the poison as a rare pleasure.

         Scotty had a unique example for us. This past Valentine’s Day he got a job delivering flowers from secret lovers and admirers. He was looking forward to it, and had even thought that it might be a great job to have. His expectations were high as he went out on his first run, the day before Valentine’s Day. But to his amazement it turned out to be a horrible job. Instead of the wonder and delight he thought people would evince, they were suspicious, hostile and unfriendly. That night, emotionally stung, he swore he would never do it again. But the next day he gave it one more try. That day he had no false expectations, so while it was unfun, it didn’t knock him for a loop. Basically he had been reminded to not expect the external world to fulfill his hopes and desires for happiness. Luckily, Scotty has a strong inner stability that weathered his close look at the vagaries of pain and pleasure.

         You can see from this example that all four pairs of values can be perceived in every instance. While the pain/pleasure dichotomy was strongest, it could also by described as mistaking the non-Self for the Self, the impure for the pure, and the fleeting for the lasting. Regardless, there is really only one thing happening. Often called ignorance, which is an overused term that has become a cliché, the Gurukula Gurus have substituted nescience, which is a more neutral and less pejorative term.

         Recently I had a talk with a young woman who had been hurt in love and so decided that she was not only unfit for a satisfactory relationship, but that there was no hope, so she was giving up. Actually, she wasn’t just giving up, she was erecting tough barricades against any repeat of the experience. If Prince Charming came knocking, she would have him thrown out. I have met a significant number of people who have followed this pattern, and all were very disappointed at how well it worked. Sadly, it’s much harder to undo after the barriers are up.

         It was amazing to me how hard the young woman argued for the barricades, yet pain drives us to it, and it drives us with a vengeance. If she could be convinced to work half as valiantly for openness and purity of heart, the results would be palpable if not stunning. This is where mistaking the painful for the pleasurable really impacts us and deforms our life. Nitya brings the point home: “The very reasoning and cogitating faculty on which a person depends for discerning truth is vitiated by its own imperfections.” He then conjures up Kant’s image of a soul that is isolated in a prisonlike castle, with only stained glass windows to look out of. Some of us even decide to nail plywood over the stained glass so that no light can get in or out.

         This example touches on purity as well as pain. Erecting barricades is the definition of impurity; conversely, purity means living without them. This is very different from the cheap moralistic version puritans are fond of pontificating about.

         I cited my Gita commentary’s discussion of purity, from XIII, 7, which I hereby reprint:

 

  Purity, saucham, is usually associated with so-called moral behavior. Striving to always be good and pure feeds the spiritual ego like nothing else, leading to intractable problems. Spiritual purity is actually a totally different matter. When we latch on to certain static states, such as when we feel ashamed or upset or guilty, then we aren’t open to the next thing that comes along. Our vision becomes clouded whenever we cling to the familiar, because we are not free to be open to the next moment. To stay in the flow we have to release our hang-ups and fixations. Whenever we get stuck, particularly in emotionally-charged states, that is precisely where we need to do our work, to restore our fluidity.

  When purity becomes a part of us, we will see life as lila, a divine sportive play, where all meaning occurs within the unfoldment of events just as the tree develops from the seed. Such an attitude allows for easy detachment and the flexibility to let go when the flow sweeps you away from what you cherish or cling to.

  Early Christian scholar Elaine Pagels had the lost and unorthodox Nag Hammadi scrolls fall in her lap, certainly an “act of God” if ever there was one—and was unsullied enough to realize their value and bring them to the attention of the public, starting with her book The Gnostic Gospels. If Pagels had had a stake in the status quo of the Christian Church, she might have done what others have often done before her and buried the scrolls in some musty college basement. But she was unattached, and so able to act with purity of intent. Her work has led to an avalanche of fresh and valuable perspectives on the human history of the planet.

  If you are pure you can set aside your egoistic desires and act for the greatest common good, which includes your own enjoyment. This is very different from the aptly named Puritanical notion that purity means not breaking social rules, or not having any fun, such as enjoying sex or imbibing psychotropic substances. Dr. G.H. Mees puts this succinctly in The Key to Genesis:

 

In Europe and America there is a strong tendency to identify morality and spirituality. But anyone who has common sense and looks around, is aware that there are a great many people who are moral saints, but lack inner peace and do not know true happiness. In the East the identification of morality and spirituality is as a rule avoided.

 

  Speaking of soma, anyone who has taken psychedelic medicine has almost certainly learned the importance of saucham, purity. Any and all extraneous thoughts are like catching a wave wrong in surfing: you instantly wipe out and get rolled under in the churn. Worse, what you think or fear manifests instantly as a vision, so if you conceive of something awful, that something will immediately become your experience. As far as you can tell, it is just as real as any other “normal” experience. You really believe you’re dying, or being cut in pieces, or being raped, or what have you. So it is absolutely incumbent that you remain in the neutral zone and don’t let your mind wander into projections. This is the source of the certitude that what you think becomes your reality sooner or later, “what you see is what you get” as the old song goes. Ordinarily there is a time lag so it’s much harder to notice that what we imagine is unfolding as our experience, but during the soma trip the feedback is instantaneous. Purity means not initiating such chains of events by cooking up harebrained schemes.

 

         There was little discussion of the Self and the non-Self. The exercise we began with was an implicit training session in the subject, and people often referred vaguely to “that ten minute thing” we did at the outset. It’s hard not to be vague when you can’t reference name and form! Deb did point out that as long as we are embodied we will always be conditioned, so it’s not that we are supposed to throw it all away in advance. We are learning to live well here and now, and cope with our limitations. All these subtle suggestions by Patanjali are intended to help us to have a better life. He wants us to stop magnifying our limitations, is all. They are potent enough without us adding anything to them.

 

5/4/10

Sutra II:6

Asmita is the identification of the seer, as it were, with the power of seeing.

 

         The class struggled with this problematic and difficult sutra, so it was one of those nights when we wandered afield and examined some tangential concepts. This is a sutra where we especially wish our readers would weigh in with their own ideas!

         Asmita, the ego sense or sense of ‘I’, is the first specific affliction listed in II:3, after the blanket category of ignorance or nescience. Next up are attachment, hatred, and lust for life. We will examine each in turn.

         The most popular idea from the commentary was Nitya’s description of how the ego appears from a cosmic perspective:

 

In the morning when the Sun shines it can be seen mirrored in all the dewdrops. If every dewdrop were endowed with a consciousness so it could say “I am,” that would be the same as all individuated beings identifying the central locus of their consciousness as “I am.”

 

I think we all had an inward vision of swarms of little dewdrops all singing “I am” at the top of their voices, and we had a lot of fun with it. Dewdrops are a classic Vedantic analogy because they are illuminated by the same sun but each reflects the world from a unique perspective.

         Anne was reminded of a different analogy of Wittgenstein. He claimed that each person carried around a box with a beetle inside it. No one ever opened their box, so no one ever got to see the beetles, but everyone knew they were in there. Apropos our study he also said, “A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”

         We did some work with Nitya’s suggested exercise to distinguish nature and spirit. We have talked about this dichotomy a lot in the past, so there is no need to repeat it. One thing about the exercise is that when you try to subtract nature from spirit to see what’s left over, a lot of the parts that you thought were spirit turn out to be part of nature and zip! away they go. This led us to discuss stroke and other brain injuries, where the parts we take for granted as “really us” are suddenly not there anymore. It’s a major shock, believe me. Our core of spirit is utterly without appendages, and so is just a very still witness. Language, communication, memory, and many other key aspects of who we are fall into the nature camp.

         One key to understanding this sutra is expressed in II:17, near the end of this section on afflictions: “The cause of that which is to be avoided is the conjunction of the seer and the seen.” The movie theater analogy is very helpful with this. Our true nature is like the projection booth, with its bright light being beamed through a multicolored film. But we, in our role as projectionist, have become so fascinated with the play of images on screen that we have forgotten how we are producing them. We the seers have become attached to the scene seen on the screen.

         Of course, any chance we have to affect the action must happen in the projection booth. The main thing is to change what movie we’re showing. Once it is projected onto the screen we are helpless to alter any of it. We try and try, but if we have selected Disaster Movie Highlight Reel or Sad Tales of the Nether Lands, that’s what we’re going to see. We reach out to make an adjustment and the action has already roared ahead to a new conundrum. It doesn’t matter anyway, because there is nothing to grab hold of, it’s just a very realistic illusion. Only by replacing the film in the projector with Alice in Wonderland or Wisdom’s Frame of Reference or some such are we going to accomplish any real transformation.

         Typically after we have fiddled around with the onscreen images for awhile, we realize we can’t have any impact and we resign from the game. We give up. This is the kind of negativity that Arjuna felt at the outset of the Bhagavad Gita. Luckily his guru Krishna helped him to turn around and discover himself and learn how to live well.

         Patanjali calls such a fixation with the outer play of events egoism. Rediscovering our true nature as identical with the Source is samadhi, the cure.

         The next three afflictions stem from this primary ignorance of egoism, and are more or less side effects of it. For the resolution of all of them Patanjali is going to recommend pure contemplation, along with a “regressive remerging” into their origins. In our metaphor, then, we are to withdraw our attention from the screen and slowly turn around to view and closely examine how the whole thing works. The trick (which is a very appropriate term) is that our habitual mindset prefers to play out the saga on the screen and not actually carry out the yogic transformation. We are content to imagine the process and then think of ourselves as realized, when in fact we are only deluding ourselves further. This produces the spiritual ego, which is an order of magnitude more entrenched than the relatively guileless ego of ordinary people who are content to munch their popcorn and be amused or terrified by the movie itself.

 

5/11/10

Sutra II:7

Attachment (raga) is that which accompanies happiness.

 

         We began the class with the suggested exercise, where we are asked to listen to music or watch a sunset and try to see how the source of the joy it elicits is in ourselves and is not directly supplied by the music. I played a Debussy piece on the freshly tuned piano as the light faded out over the mountains, so we didn’t have to simply imagine the concept. We had both the visual and auditory stimuli on hand.

         Deb started us off by fine tuning Nitya’s statement that you are to “think how much more melodious is your inner appreciation than the music you appreciate.” Actually they go together, and your inner appreciation is very much a mirror image of the music. It is like our potential for joy is activated by the specific form of joy which we encounter.

         I think the problem is only in the wording. Nitya wants us to know that we are the source of our experiences, both positive here and negative as described in the next sutra. We become convinced that the outer manifestation is the source of our happiness, and then we believe we have to repeat the experience or a homologue of it in order to be happy, as Nitya puts it “each time with added vigor and a variation in the form so that monotony may not dampen your interest.”

         This is an aspect of the teaching that meets with a lot of resistance. We are attracted to that which brings us joy. When we are challenged to stop projecting the source outside, the temptation is to see this advice as a bringdown and move on to another format that promises a longer period of pleasing forgetfulness.

         We most enjoy the feeling of some outside source sustaining us, caring for us and guiding us. Essentially we are unconsciously seeking to restore the carefree times when our parents dealt with all the hassles and we were free to play and play. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished! The most successful religions intentionally supply this very comforting aspect of life, which is eagerly gobbled up by needy people for as long as it lasts. Even if a religion doesn’t start out that way, people are desperate to take refuge in the Buddha or Jesus, say, so that develops into a major force over time.

         We have found that this very challenging section of the Yoga Shastra causes some to lose interest for that very reason. They prefer to play up the fun aspect and have it as the lodestone of a new belief system, instead of making the effort to turn around and know that they are the source itself. It’s not easy, but anything less would only cheapen the wisdom, turning it into an exotic version of the same old misguided attitude. That’s not what the Gurukula is about!

         Coming to know that we are joy incarnate means that every moment of life will be filled with true happiness or will be tending toward it. Since we’re not quite perfect, most of us react to shocks, but then we can pull ourselves back together to let the light shine forth once again. It’s not that nothing affects us, but only that we don’t hold onto it. This sutra should awaken us to the joy in even the most mundane parts of our life. For instance, many people complain about doing the dishes, as though that was such a major drudgery that their life is spoiled by having to deal with it. I can attest that with the right attitude it can be fun: transforming dirty things into clean ones, making slow progress, feeling the warm soapy water, recalling the pleasures of the meal, knowing you are contributing to complete a cycle. It’s all in the attitude.

         Likewise, the music I love may sound like hell to someone else. Where we admire a sunset, someone else will barely notice it. It’s not that the music or the scene is different, but the way it is interpreted surely is. We have been trained to be choosy and decide between better and worse. We want to always been seen on the right side. Nitya calls this the tyranny of form. Our happiness gets truncated into having to always be on the good side, to always align ourselves with the hip, the cool.

         The reason this is particularly important will be brought home in the next sutra. When our happiness is linked to certain forms, those eventually fade out or otherwise disappear, and then our happiness goes away with them. We first become upset, and then miserable. If we can blame it on some external cause we will fly into a rage, and might even go into attack mode. False prophets abound who profit from inflaming our frustrations into hatred of other groups. If we are ever to stop falling for the siren call to charge forth into disaster, we need to see how our fixation on external happiness leads us astray.

         The Bhagavad Gita describes the process in a little more detail than Patanjali: Meditating on objects of sense-interest there is born in man an attachment for them; from attachment rises passion; in the face of passion (frustrated) arises rage. From rage is produced distortion of values, and from distortion of values memory lapse, and from memory-lapse comes loss of reason, and from loss of reason he perishes.” (II, 62-63) Perishing means psychological destruction, not actual death, of course. Here’s my commentary on verse 62, which is quite relevant:

 

Attachment is a very subtle business that creeps up on us without our conscious awareness of it. At first we are merely amused or entertained by something, so we repeat the experience. Before long it becomes a need, then in some cases an addiction or obsession. Obviously some amusements, resonating with our vasanas and samskaras in the depths of our being, are more binding than others. We usually learn about these when we try to stop reinforcing them and find that we have hooks in us that make it much harder than it should be. The belief that this means the behavior is therefore good for us is off the mark; we can be hooked by both beneficial and harmful interests. Krishna will show where the deleterious ones lead, and it is up to each of us to observe whether we are sliding down this slippery slope or not. Since we are masters of denial, it doesn’t hurt to have a guru or other advisor to give us the bad news. It is famously hard medicine to swallow the criticism when someone tells us we are going wrong, and our ego will likely shape shift into a parade of demons to resist it. And as Freud said, even the willing patient will push the dentist away when he approaches their mouth with his pliers.

Here’s how the process works. In the normal course of becoming separate individuals, early on we retain a neutral balance in our nature, but very soon we learn to move toward our likes and away from our dislikes. This is where imbalance becomes possible. We can’t always escape what we don’t like and we can’t always have what we do like. Frustration sets in, followed by manipulation and scheming to get “ours.” Even small children can be seen to become violently angry when they don’t get their way. Later they adopt “tricks” to coerce their caretakers into granting their requests. Adults retain these attitudes, though they are better disguised by civilized behavior. But just try to get an addict to undergo treatment, for instance, and the civilized part falls away quickly enough.

Becoming enraged is only the beginning.

 

         Sometimes when Nitya would see a rose or a sunset he would say, “Ah! Look how beautiful I am!” Our first thought was what a crazy idea. But he was doing, nay living, the exercise of this sutra. He knew if he wasn’t there his experience of the flower would not have existed. The flower was there, but he was bringing the bliss of appreciation to it. This was his continuous state of mind. It didn’t depend on the flower, it merely took that shape while the flower was present.

         Susan helped us with a fine practical example. The other day her teenage daughter was in a major snit. In the past, Susan has become very anxious and felt like she needed to wade in and turn the tide. But this time she thought she would leave her alone. She got a book and sat in a back room reading. After awhile her daughter peeked in as she was walking by. A few minutes later she reappeared with her own book, and sat down near her mom to read it. Without any exchange of words, they were happy together again, and it was even a kind of implicit apology. Because Susan wasn’t trying to “fix” her daughter’s state of mind, it gave her room to settle down on her own and in a gentle way reestablish their connection. It’s very beautiful, and exactly the point of this sutra. We actually make matters worse when we show up like a drill sergeant to put everything in its proper place. But by turning the focus back onto ourself, we allow ripples of peace to invite others to do the same, and love is reestablished on a solid footing.

 

Part II

         Because the class is made up of well-adjusted, artistic types, we mostly discussed aesthetic experiences, and as Eugene said, there really isn’t any point in revisiting their downside. Rarely do we get so carried away by them that we become addicts. They are good for us and do not require us to agonize over them.

         There are more salient examples to clarify the problem that leads Patanjali to consider this kind of happiness an affliction. Drugs are always Exhibit A, in that they provide a temporary state of pleasure followed by a trough of negative reaction, which stimulates an urge to repeat the experience. Any habit like this is an end in itself, and carries with it no desire for any yoga practice that requires hard work and deferred satisfaction.

         This whole subject is an excellent field for self-analysis. I recalled in my childhood being rocked by a well-advertised candy bar, the Three Musketeers. Three guys in Musketeer drag sliced one into three BIG pieces with their rapiers and shared them in a spirit of divine brotherhood. I remember being totally entranced by how delicious they were: heaven on earth. I couldn’t wait for Halloween, when I could pilfer a bagful of them and their cousins from the neighborhood. In the meantime I spent hours plotting how to get the next one, and spent more hours wandering the streets picking up pop bottles and loading them in my red wagon. Two and a half pop bottles at two cents apiece would net you one five-cent candy bar at the store. It was good times, learning how to find happiness in junk food.

         Another example more germane to adults is money. While very useful for normalizing exchange, it can also be manipulated into corrupting exchange, as we see with CEOs who make the same as a year’s wages for their underlings in 2 hours at the office. In capitalism money is worshipped as a God, and whole lives are dedicated to its service. It and its markets are credited with deciding all things with an absolute righteousness, and any attempt to add mitigating concepts in the form of regulations is considered blasphemy.

         Narayana Guru describes this type of projection of our happiness onto outside factors as a mirage: as we move toward it, it recedes into the distance or vanishes with a change of the light. Devotees never think that it is the fault of the God that they don’t find happiness, only they haven’t done enough. All I needed was another candy bar. With money the decision is always for more and more, a never-ending pursuit, since happiness does not reside anywhere in it. Not only is poverty a side effect of greed, but disasters like the current one in the Gulf of Mexico are a direct result of it also, and they will continue as long as money is worshipped. Typically, the financial profit itself is invariably used as the justification for degradation of the environment. This is tautology at its best: the value of the world is only what money can be made from it, therefore we should extract all the money we can from the world.

         One thing Biblical Paul put well, if a bit exaggerated: “The love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Greed is the king of all ragas.

         So we play around with our obsessions, sure that ours are legitimate and that we can handle them, until they sneak up and catch us in their net. This is an arena for a fundamental rethinking of our personal values; in our former analogy, of turning away from the movie screen and examining the projecting apparatus in the booth of our mind.

 

Part III

         Lila sent this response, which reminds us of the indomitable strength that a sane life sometimes demands of us:

 

         I too have been grappling with concerns about addiction and obsession. Since my own ecstatic experiences are rare and unpredictable, I find I am putting a great deal of energy into not falling down the despair pit. I am launching a new strategy aimed at just "Happy.” It is not a botox, false smile, but turning what feels like abandonment and silence into ways that are wonderful. Little things bring joy too. Like searching for joy in every grain of sand beneath my feet as I walk. It's TOUGH. Since surgery, and allergic to most pain meds, I am one grumpy person. I have something I can take at night but then I worried. I obsessed about the night meds as finally bringing blissful sleep and pain relief. So I took them then during the day, too. Now I worried I was addicted or would become addicted and stopped all pain meds. The obsession was like walking through the Mohave Desert in bare feet. The pain kept me real. I have to work at being balanced (that sand is very HOT), finding that one or all grains of sand as works of art. The art of finding my inner strength and knowing love surpasses pain.

         I am not polishing my halo anytime soon. What you wrote was another grain of helpful sand to ease the pain of existence (when there is so much hidden joy).

 

6/1/10

Sutra II: 8

Hatred (dvesha) is that which accompanies pain.

 

         The flip side of happiness was much easier to distance ourselves from. We spent a moment meditating on the exercise to establish a witness for our obsessions and inhibitions. Like pain and pleasure, sukham and duhkham, obsession and inhibition are two sides of the same coin of exaggerated attraction and repulsion.

         Of course, while sitting quietly in a peaceful environment it’s very easy to practice witnessing. It’s another matter when some provocation ignites a latent reaction and we blow up. That’s when we really need to do our yoga. But in anticipation of such an event we can practice in our spare time at home. And again, the group setting makes it so much easier. Our meditation at the end of class was so blissful and intense that I had to force myself several times before I could begin the closing chant, and everyone seemed equally reluctant to come to the surface and join in. Balance is indeed a delightful state, especially as it does not have an obverse aspect.

         Here is where the important difference lies between the bliss of unity and mere pleasure. Pleasure has its shadow side, its compensating negativity. We usually choose to ignore it until it builds up into a towering thunderstorm that blasts into our atmosphere. Yet, like a thunderstorm, emotional outbursts can act like a corrective to reestablish balance, and without them our world would become very dry. As Nitya puts it, “You cannot hold onto the pleasures of life and boycott the pains of it. The true happiness postulated by the yogi is neither embellished by pleasures nor embittered by pain.”

         I thought we should offer incidences of our own negative emotions to see where they arose, and I picked out a few of my own. Then, as I meditated on them during the preliminary exercise, I realized they weren’t really examples of hatred, they were outbursts of rage that were due to my own desires being thwarted. And looking back, some were like thunderstorms in clearing the air and reestablishing peace. Only where I couldn’t quell the accompanying upset did they metastasize into prolonged misery.

         One of my favorite examples took place in spring of my senior year in high school. My best friend and I were hoping to travel to Europe that summer, and I had saved up enough money from various neighborhood jobs to pay for it. Europe in those days was dirt cheap. We were going to travel with my friend’s sister, who I had a secret crush on, and one of her best friends. Probably my inner mechanism wanted to arrange for me to marry her and spend my life with her, which I eventually did, but I wasn’t consciously aware of any such considerations at the time.

         My parents had only one word for any independent ideas I ever had: No. I tried every argument, but without success. One night at dinner the issue came to a head. I can still see my fury, boiling up like a volcanic eruption. My whole life was being stifled. I had a vision of adventure and excitement, but the gate was being shut and locked. I remember shouting, and taking a steak knife off the table and hurling it down on the floor, where it obligingly stuck, waving back and forth. Then I stomped out the front door, a large pane of glass in a frame, slamming it so hard that the glass shattered into a million pieces. I didn’t look back, but stalked the three miles down the road to my friend’s house. In my mind’s eye shimmered the stunned looks of my father and mother and brother’s faces. Ours was a family where you never raised your voice or revealed your emotions, and I had shattered that tacit prohibition as surely as the door glass.

         Five or six days later I got a call from my mother, asking me deferentially if I would come home so we could talk about the trip. They had decided to allow it. Miracle of miracles.

         Part of the lesson here is that anger is sometimes justified. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had not gone away that summer. It seems that everything in my adult life unfolded from that seminal adventure: liberation from bondage to menial necessities and joining my life partner, who led me to Nitya, among many other things. So there was a cosmic flow boiling invisibly in my life, and the outer world wanted only to pretend it didn’t exist. If I had remained meek and mild, well-behaved, I wouldn’t have ridden my dharma and eventually become myself. I shudder to think how close to psychic disaster I was, and how fortunate that fate guided me through. I only knew my good fortune after the fact.

         Jan offered a similar example. In dealing with her son’s medical care, she mentioned one doctor who she disagrees with on some issues. She accepts her, but some of her stuff is off the mark. Instead of simply nodding her head and agreeing with her claims, Jan can see herself getting resistive. She has had a long struggle to obtain proper care for her son, battling walls of ignorance and misdiagnosis. So her ire rises, and she stands firm about what she wants. This is good for everyone concerned. It isn’t hatred at all, only righteous anger.

         When anger is permanently lodged in place, it may be called hatred. Intelligent people who can look to root causes realize there is no place for hatred anywhere in their life. Anger has its value, but then we must return to the witnessing state as soon as possible, to prevent permanent derangement.

         Stephen S. Hall, in his new book Wisdom, From Philosophy to Neuroscience (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010) writes about regaining our balance, what he calls emotional regulation. “Emotion regulation may be the most powerful lens in human psychology; polished by time and curved by intimations of mortality, it allows us to see what is really important in our lives.” (78) He describes a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin headed by Richard Davidson that has done studies using fMRI and EEG. One finding was that

 

Adults (the average age was sixty-four) who regulated their emotions well showed a distinctly different pattern of brain activity from those who didn’t. Indeed, the pattern seemed to reveal a conversation going on between different parts of the brain, which, when weighted in one direction, kept negative emotions like anxiety, fear, and disgust in check. These even-keeled people—Davidson specifically refers to them as “emotionally resilient”—apparently used their prefrontal cortex, the front part of the brain, which governs reasoning and executive control, to damp down activity in the amygdala, those twin almond-shaped regions deep in the brain that process emotional content. In people who are unable to regulate their emotions, amygdala activity is higher and daily secretion of the stress hormone cortisol betrays a pattern associated with poor health. “Those people who are good at regulating negative emotion, inferred by their ability to voluntarily use cognitive strategies to reappraise a stimulus, lead to reductions in activation in the amygdala,” said Davidson. He added that such regulation probably results from “something that has been at least implicitly trained over the years.” In other words, these people have somehow learned to regulate their emotions. (74)

 

Wisdom may in part be a function of cognitive attention. The ability to maintain emotional balance, and to ignore extraneous or emotionally disturbing information, appears to be strongly correlated with the focus that often accompanies contemplation or reflection. (74-75)

 

         A significant part of the class was spent talking about our role in teaching our children. The general consensus was that we project our fears onto children especially, since—at least as teens—they seem to be more dependent on us than they actually are. Paul and Deb made it clear that in the teen years they intentionally take an opposite stance to pretty much everything we want to impart to them, so it is wise to not be overly doctrinaire. Susan maintained that we should turn to ourselves as the source of the anxiety, and not worry about them so much. Paul added the very important idea that they learn vastly more from experience on their own than they every would from not listening to our preaching. Therefore they should be given reasonable freedoms to discover truth for themselves.

         In my experience, kids have finished absorbing much new input from their parents somewhere around ages seven to ten, and after that they need to learn to individuate. Thwarting that natural process is more dangerous than trusting them to be wise when they still fall significantly short of the ideal.

         We don’t hate our children, obviously, but we hate some of what they do and what they champion. That hatred has its roots in our own fears and myopias, so we can brighten the scene by biting our tongue and looking into our heart. Projecting our fears onto children is commonplace but deleterious. Yogis need to look within to find the field that needs tending.

 

6/8/10

Sutra II:9

Clinging to life (abhinivesha) is sustained even in the learned, as in the ignorant, by the dynamics of one’s own deep-rooted interest.

 

         It’s a real puzzle to see how abhinivesha is an affliction. We’re talking here about our interest and our will to live, without which life would be short and dull. The subject bears some serious examination. We gave it a first look in the notes for II:3, on 4/15/10, which are helpful to review. I noted there that the word is defined as “application, intentness, study, affection, devotion, determination (to effect a purpose of attain an object), tenacity, adherence to.” If these are afflictions, then they are ones we are happy to have. There must be something deeper down that we should be dealing with.

         I awoke this morning with a new idea of how to address this matter. Narayana Guru has pointed out that even the lowliest of creatures will recoil from an attack, and therefore all sentient beings have the survival instinct. Because of this, non-hurting is of paramount importance.

         It’s easy to imagine how the avoidance of danger would be one trait that was naturally selected through survival of the fittest. In a primitive environment of eat or be eaten, those who were easygoing and non-fearful would be consumed before they had a chance to reproduce. Only the fearful escape artists would live long enough to have offspring. So deep in our vasanas—our genetic code—is the urge to cling to life, and because of this we are here today.

         In at least some parts of the modern world, though, we live with a high degree of protection from being killed for someone else’s benefit. We now have the potential to develop a higher state of mind, where trust, love and kindness prevail over the impulse to scurry under the fridge when the light is turned on. This higher state has actually been under development for a long time; it is now thought that dinosaurs were social beings that cared for their young communally. Cooperation and caring have recently come to be considered hard-wired in our brains. Certainly, acting as a group offers a lot more protection than living as a lone individual, so communal cooperation was an evolutionary leap forward.

         It is to be hoped that modern humans have made significant progress since the Triassic Era. In the historical period, thanks to moral education and protective laws and the policing of them, we now have the opportunity of stripping our psyches of those prehistoric gut fears. We no longer have to be hyper alert when approaching a stranger. We can relax and radiate good will, and the stranger will most likely respond in kind. After three and a half billion years of evolution, we at last have the potential to craft a world based on loving kindness instead of threat and violence.

         Not too surprisingly, those who are still in the thrall of their fears feel threatened by such a concept, and are working hard to make sure it never happens. If we fight them, they automatically win, because we have joined their side. If we ignore them, they may shoot cruise missiles into our wedding parties, or throw us in jail for smoking pot. It takes contemplative brilliance to steer a course between the two impossible options of fighting back or turning away. I think that’s what Patanjali is getting at here. That’s also what Krishna tried to teach Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. There is a dialectic secret for us to discover.

         The class followed up on Nitya’s suggestion that fantasies about immortality are an important mode of clinging to life, and that these delude us enough to be considered afflictions. If we are aiming at perfect neutrality—and the whole postulate is that neutral balance is the key to yoga and samadhi—then mooning over what will happen in the next life actually prevents us from attaining that state.

         Perhaps the thought that we are immortal is exciting and energizing, and provides an important incentive for the novice. Yet as we sink into the cessation of mental modifications, becoming established in more mature understanding, incentives become unnecessary. In fact, they become albatrosses weighing us down. Patanjali is asking us to shed their weight and be free.

         Akin to the longing for immortality is the desire to be noticed and acknowledged by others. We want to know we exist, and we want our surroundings to tell us this, over and over. It is natural to want to have a positive impact, to “do good,” and to be honored for our achievements. Again, a novice works harder by imagining that someone else will be impressed by their efforts and accomplishments. But at some point we have to shed that outward-directed motivation too, and learn to act from our true center.

         The class also had a high admiration for the suggested exercise. The one here applies to our whole life; it’s not something you do for a few minutes during meditation. It epitomizes the attitude of a wide-awake yogi. We are asked to discern whether our action is intrinsic to the natural unfolding of our dharma, the rationally intentional development of intellectual and other skills, or motivated by some powerful emotion. In the first case we are to merely witness the unfolding as resembling the opening of a flower. In the second case we should look into the benefit and the impact on everything that might be affected by it. In the third case, which we ruefully acknowledged as being distressingly common to all of us, where a surging emotion runs away with our good judgment, we have to counter the pressure by intentionally holding back. As we ponder the situation, the pressure will gradually diminish below the threshold where our mind can clear again. We should additionally try to see other people’s perspectives, and not be in a hurry to defend our own. All this will keep the pressure down to a manageable level.

         Very often we mistake the third condition for the first. We believe our emotional urges are the unfolding of our dharma, and so we allow them free rein. It’s not surprising that the horse of our libido runs wild in that case.

         Abhinivesha is not a heinous affliction, like egotism or hatred, but by its acceptability it is hard to even notice its binding effect. Because of this, it is perhaps more tenacious than the more obvious afflictions. It is omnipresent, occurring in the wise as much as the unwise. If we can look at it in our contemplative moments, we can see that it is indeed extraneous to us, and then we can exorcise it by looking deeper, into our true core. This is precisely the curative effort Patanjali will be propounding in the coming sutras.

         We will have several more classes where we will look at our afflictions from a contemplative perspective. It will be beneficial if participants can identify their own versions, and we can then work with them in the group. Part of us resists such spiritual cleansing. This is an important stage to press ahead, since the resistance is the ego defending itself. Yes, it will probably win, but we can learn a lot from the skirmish, and all growth is to our benefit. Like a blade of grass pushing up through a concrete sidewalk, we have to overcome daunting obstacles before we can surge up into the light.

 

Part II

         One further aspect of immortality we discussed was the urge to live vicariously through our children. With the best of intentions we strive to inculcate what we know of the world, to give our offspring a notion of how life looks to us. We hope to establish a smidgen of stability for them in a rapidly changing world, and keep them as safe as possible.

         One problem with this is that kids learn from our example, and not so much by what they are told, especially by their parents. They learn the most through imitation of us, without even realizing it. The problem with words—and this goes for many other situations too—is that there isn’t always a clear connection between what we say and what we do. The link is mysterious and we generally take it for granted rather than seeing the connection ourselves. Because of this, there is often resistance toward our words, even as there is tacit acceptance of the deeds. Nataraja Guru distinguished communication via words and deeds as metalanguage and protolanguage, respectively. He well knew that children communicated better pictorially than verbally.

         The urge to cling to life disrupts our ability to communicate clearly to our children, and everyone else for that matter. Our desire to put forth a nice bouquet of images masks our honest inner core, from ourself as well as others. It should be obvious that this is a truly major impasse that can only be gotten over by serious self-examination.

         Dr. Stephen Heller gives many examples of how the naïve mind reads—or misreads—words, in his book Monsters and Magical Sticks. One is close to my heart: if you tell a child that children should be seen and not heard, and then praise them for being quiet, they will grow up to be shy and withdrawn. Many of Heller’s examples involve major lifelong inhibitions, and they are fascinating to read, since he is a genius at cancelling what he calls the post-hypnotic suggestions involved. Here are a couple more brief ones:

 

In the “real” world of everyday life, hypnotic communications and transactions take place all around you. As you open yourself up to the many possibilities, I am sure you will begin to see more of them. What of the parent who gives a small child a “dirty” look and says, “You’d better clean up your room or else,” and then walks away leaving the child to wonder, “Or else what? The Jolly Green Giant will throw me away?” The child then becomes anxious, agitated and then waits for disaster. What of the child who is told, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you do anything right?” and the child begins to think, “I can’t do anything right,” turning the question into a directive. S/he may even come to believe that mommy and daddy will be pleased if s/he doesn’t do anything right. If the child begins to carry out the suggestions often enough, well, I don’t need to tell you what those results could be. (31-32)

 

         The point of all this is that if we stop trying so hard to get a message across to our intended recipient by pushing harder at them, and instead look into the meaning of what we want to say within ourselves, we will actually be able to communicate much better with all kinds of people. Our communication becomes less a matter of clinging to life and more a matter of simply being alive.

 

6/15/10

Sutra II:10

These attenuated (afflictions) can be removed by a regressive reemergence into their origins.

 

  Readers of the commentary will note that pratiprasava is translated here as re-emergence and later as remergence. I suspect the former is an inadvertent error, and yet it has a certain appeal. I remember Nitya as a master contrarian, and can easily imagine him visualizing the word as meaning the emergence from the miasma of afflictions that have temporarily beset us, back into our original state of grace. Still, the word is best defined as remergence, even though that is a Nitya-ism. My spell checker allows for reemergence but not remergence.

  MW (the dictionary) has pratiprasava as “return to the original state” in the yogic context. Interestingly, the historically earlier definitions are: “counter-order, suspension of a general prohibition in a particular case,” and “an exception to an exception.” By the way, for you youngsters out there, ‘counter-order’ does not mean what we’re having for lunch.

  I like the ancient senses of the word, because our afflictions are like exceptions to a free life, or prohibitions (like inhibitions) against true happiness. Our work is to countermand those bedazzlements to reveal the blissful essence they are blanketing. If our afflictions are considered exceptions to our normal state, then we want to except the exceptions.

  Pondering the sutra on a long walk yesterday, and noting that this is the stretch of the Yoga Shastra where a lot of people drop out of the study, it hit me hard that most of us actually love our afflictions. Well, perhaps it would be better to say we are very attached to them. When it comes right down to it—and this part of the study is where it does, where rapid progress begins to show for all our hard work to date—we are very comfortable with our afflictions. They are our working model for how to live, those carefully chosen likes and dislikes, and the awareness that we are actually beginning to change frightens us into a retrenchment. The threat of abandoning our afflictions strikes us as scary, a leap into the unknown. Better to leave that crap for somebody else to deal with! So we may secretly abandon our efforts, even as we continue to pay lip service to the practice.

         Because of the near-impossibility of overcoming our own preferences and habits without assistance, Nitya extols the value of a therapist. In ancient India, the therapist was called a guru, and a long period of dedicated time combined with reverential deference was spent in perfecting rapport with them. In the Gurukula we call this bipolarity. Nowadays few have the time for it, and respect is little observed. The afflictions militate against dedication to a recondite and abstract goal like liberation. It is extremely rare to have the good fortune to stumble upon a real guru who has the time to work with you, and to whom you can dedicate the adequate time and energy in return. For the rest of us, we pick up a bit here and there and hope it will eventually amount to something.

         We could call a close relationship with a preceptor the induction method. This month’s The Sun magazine has an apt quote from Clarence Buddington Kelland: “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” A very great deal is communicated in this way that can never be adequately transmitted by words.

         One important technique of therapy is to decode our dreams and other symbolic language of the deeper mind, since once we bring the light of conscious awareness to them, we have a golden opportunity of pulling their hooks out of our flesh. Nitya tells us that Patanjali, like the Gita, recommends flooding our interior with light, and then using the light to correct our “surface disturbances, personality maladjustments, and dysfunction of the psyche.”

         The class talked a lot about dreams, and how they throw light on our path. Scotty had a pair of important ones back to back. He dreamed of two ostriches. He was admiring one when the other suddenly charged in and bit its head off. He was shocked and stunned. Then in a subsequent dream he was in his car. There was a mouse on the window sill telling him “you have to get past me if you want to get anywhere.” He swept the mouse out of the way. When he awoke he felt sad for the dead ostrich and the mouse. But in talking about the dreams with his counselor, and so bringing in the light of reason, they realized that ostriches stand for burying our heads in the sand, in other words, ignoring our problems and hoping they will go away of their own accord. Thus killing it is a good thing, and it marked a breakthrough for Scotty in taking control of his own destiny and severing the bonds of his childhood inhibitions. The mouse was seen as a tiny insignificant creature that was preventing him from being the driver of his life-car. As long as we allow ourselves, we can be held up forever by minor impediments. With the smallest flick Scotty cleared his window so he could forge ahead.

         In both dreams his sympathy was initially with the affliction. Only upon reflection did he come to realize that his sympathy was for the wrong things. These dreams perfectly illustrate the theme of the class, that we cherish our afflictions and thus get nowhere. Working with a helper, Scotty was able to see how his affections were misplaced, and muster a thunderbolt to sweep them out of his way. Without the help, he might well have stayed stuck, but instead he broke free.

         Author Michael Meade has a great quote in The Sun also, referring to the importance of this type of breakthrough and how it was once built into the social fabric: “Ancient peoples invented rites of passage in part to break the spell of childhood and move the initiate from the mother’s lap to the lap of the world. To this day, a person must dismantle the spell of childhood or fail to find their place in life.” The sea of adult children we swim in testifies eloquently to a devastating absence of this crucial step, a void that Scotty’s dreams helped him to fill.

         A question arose about the meaning of Nitya’s idea that

 

It is not easy to have a regressive remergence into your own system without knowing how the microcosm is integrated into the macrocosm and what psychological forces are sculpturing the symbols of an inner secret language that is entirely individualistic.

 

What he means is that our personal language and understanding is at variance with the actual structure and meaning of the outside world. While it’s true that social cohesion is comprised of a motley conglomeration of individual interpretations, there is nonetheless a general notion of what it amounts to. This is even more true of what we call the Absolute, or the innate structure of the universe as a whole, which is entirely cohesive. We would like to have easy access to this “macrocosm” but the idiosyncrasies of our microcosmic comprehension throw up roadblocks and deflect us from the necessary straightforward openness. We have to “normalize” our shaky understanding by erecting a close correspondence between our mental structure and the real basis of the whole. In practice what this means is that we constantly need to reassess our perceptions, which as often noted are notoriously prejudiced. In a group setting, or better yet with a trusted counselor, we open ourselves to correction, since others can much more easily see where our blind spots block our vision.

         Because transcending our afflictions is so important, several more sessions are dedicated to it. We really can’t progress further in yoga without a triumph in this area. If we coddle our afflictions, we might continue reading along, but our psyches will be stuck here, blocked by our habitual mindset from making progress.

 

Part II

Nancy kindly searched the book for further reference to pratiprasava, and found these, which both favor remergence:

 

>From I:7

That is why a return to the source, pratiprasava, is the most important theme to study in Yoga.

 

>From III:2

Three stages are conceived: an original state, a state of transformation, and a state of final union. In Semitic religions the original state is considered divine, the second state as the egoistic phase of rebellion, fall, and regret, and the third state as the return to the source. In Buddhism it is the mindless state, the conditioned state of habit formation making many cascades of turbulent karma, then coming to the state of nibbana, the cessation of streaming. In Samkhya and Yoga, the original state is the equipoise of the triple modalities of nature in which the association of purusha with prakriti cannot be discerned. The second state is the impact of the three modalities and three states of consciousness affecting the purusha through wrong identity, and the final is the release of purusha into the state of aloneness through the discipline of pratiprasava, regressive remergence.

 

Scott Teitsworth

rsteitsworth(at)yahoo.com