Friday, March 02, 2007

A consideration of the yoga sutras (3)

a consideration of the yoga sutras (1)
a consideration of the yoga sutras (2)

Sutras 4 through 11 address the curious questions raised by sutras 2 and 3.

Sutra 2 seems to indicate that yoga is mind control. But cittavritti (in Sanskrit, the ‘ch’ phoneme is generally represented as ‘c’ and the more difficult sound ‘chh', as in church house, is represented by ‘ch’) is two words, the second (vritti) the modifier of the first (citta). When we say “polishing the red apple” are we referring to the apple or the colour red? The apple does not change, but the appearance, the vritti, changes.

Thus, it seems much more helpful in understanding the difficulties posed by this album of wise direction to see that the ancient teachers who pioneered the difficult terrain of understanding what goes on in our heads and how that affects our lives were referring to something quite profound: yoga is not mind control. Yoga is nirodha of the vritti of the mind. Mind is just mind, however. What comes into the mind and what goes out from the mind are both filtered by vritti.

Yoga, the subject of this text is a free mind, something a little different. When the vritti are nirodha (eliminated) then mind is free, mind just is. Sutras 4 through 11 define this vritti business and the obvious, problematic qualities of vritti modifying citta. A modified citta is not a free citta is not yoga.

Happy folks seem to see everthing through rose-coloured glasses; miserable folks seem to see everything through very clouded, foggy glasses. These are vritti, filtres to be nirodha. Then seeing is just seeing, in other words perception is no longer filtered through vritti of any kind and perception is just perception. There is nothing to modify what comes to the mind, things just as they are are perceived just as they are.

This is the free citta.

Otherwise, sutra 3, the seer, the one who sees, the yogi will not be able to stand in his own nature. Until the vritti modifying/masking incoming date to the citta are nirodha, the seer will have no idea what his own nature is.

It is the mind, of course.

One’s “own nature” is a free mind, a mind freed of the colourations of vritti. This is the implication. A cook book can give you an implication of deliciousness and this collection of teachings is definitely a cook book. In and of itself, however, neither a cook book nor this anthology can supply nutrition.

At one time, Mahesh talked to a very small group of us interested in translation. His first suggestion was not to go learn the language you want to translate, although that certainly has its merits. He suggested something else, something very interesting that I still utilize. He said to compare some very good translations and see where your own experience from meditation tells you some word or idea is not quite right, then start checking on the meaning of that word.

This is how I came to compile a dictionary and a word-by-word translation, sutra-by-sutra, noting, considering if my understanding of the first sutra was supported by the second and so on.

If you have the idea, the vritti, that yoga is mind control and the collection of sutras will tell you how to control your mind, then that vritti is not freeing the mind to follow the teachings.

So, first, sutras 4 through 11 must be understood and then, sutra 12, a new section of teaching, can make sense.

There is a very interesting Sufi teaching that is quite valuable to keep in mind here: what you have to learn is different from what you expect to learn and the way you have to learn it is different from the way you expect to learn it.

Sutra 12: the vritti are nirodha by knowing what to do and by not clinging (to your vritti).

Sutra 13: what you have to do is become calm and quiet.

Sutra 14: this takes time and commitment – I see, here, no reference to easy, natural method.

Sutra 15 (explaining “by not clinging” in sutra 12): the quick translation is LET GO OF EVERYTHING which can also be rendered CLING TO NOTHING.

Sutra 15 suggests something very, very difficult and in conjunction with Sutra 2 and the implications of sutra 14 very, very clearly tells us that we will have our hands full. We must have an alertness (sañjña, from jña, to know; sañjña is the knowing aspect of mind) that is free from every kind of desire, a mind free from all desire for any/everything. The sutra calls this the supreme consciousness.

a consideration of the yoga sutras (4)

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