Wednesday, February 28, 2007

a consideration of the yoga sutras (2)

a consideration of the yoga sutras (1)

Paul asked about the first 4 sutras. In celebration of Paul’s continued interest in the Blog I wanted to address these. Are they sufficient unto themselves. What is sufficient depends upon factors relative to the individual practitioner.

1 now yoga [is] explained
2 yoga is the nirodha (ceasing) [of] vritti (stuff the mind does, such as conceptualizing, judging, planning, daydreaming and so on)
3 then (when this is accomplished) [the] drashta (the one who sees, experiences) [is/knows] sva-rupa (his own being, mind (?) “own-form” would be literal, but this is a kind of colloquialism so I felt “being” might be appropriate)
4 [the] vritti sarupyam (complex word possibly best translated as ‘reflect’ or take-on-the-characteristics-of or the qualities-of), otherwise (or possibly ‘elsewhere’ meaning outside the experience of knowing or merging the knowing mind with one's own being)

So, 2 explains 1, 3 explains 2 and 4 explains 3. How I interpret this and how others interpret this simply demonstrates the nature of the sutras to show us, like a mirror, what we wish to see. Hence, a guide is necessary and, in part, the sutras fulfill this function. The more one's vritti cling to a particular interpretation, the more difficult headway in understanding/practising the sutras becomes. There are no shortcuts. You either “do” the sutras on their own terms or you fail to make sense of any of it. – This is the first lesson the sutras taught me. I tried to make my translation efforts conform to my theories. This simply did not work. Theory must reflect facts and alter when new facts or new understanding of facts becomes clear.

Sutra 5 starts a new idea: here we see an explanation of "vritti".
6 clarifies 5 and 7 clarifies the first item of 6.

Following the sutras very carefully, abandoning your own preconceptions about what the sutras are going to tell you and carefully adjusting your thinking to what you find them actually telling you is the first order of business. It’s almost impossible. I translated the sutras 9 times in a ten-year period, compiling a dictionary of meanings from many sources for each word, tracking where each word occurred and the meaning I felt it had in the context of each sutra in which it appeared. I continue to update my dictionary when a new way of looking at a difficult word becomes clear or takes on a clarity I had not before considered.

If you could simply abandon all your preconceptions about everything and anything and just see things just as they are (that is, experience what the senses tell you without overlaying your notions, preconceptions, conceptualizing tendencies), then you wouldn't need the rest of the sutras. But the process of letting go of anything, let along our preconceptions is a difficult an arduous task.

Sanskrit is a very precise language related to Greek and Latin. It uses endings on words rather than the function words (in, of, by, to, from, through and so on) that we use in English to express relationships between words. Most of the sutras in parts 1, 2 and 3 have no verbs; like Russian, “is” or the relationship of this/that is implied. This makes the sutras easier and sometimes harder to sort out. Like French, modifiers come after (apple red) rather than before (red apple) as in English.

Sanskrit does not use capital and lower case letters and punctuation is confined to (stop) and (full stop) or end of idea end of group of ideas or end of sentence end of paragraph.

a consideration of the yoga sutras (3)

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