Sunday, March 11, 2007

a consideration of the yoga sutras (5)

a consideration of the yoga sutras (1)

a consideration of the yoga sutras (2)

a consideration of the yoga sutras (3)

a consideration of the yoga sutras (4)

The YS isn't simple; it is complex and not written a language anything like English. So far, I hope, I have illustrated that this path to spiritual development, what else can it be called, isn't a simple natural process of paying money and being taught how to think a mantra. It should as well, be obvious that the YS does not suggest that it’s all going to be automatic and effortless on our part.

What is yoga?

Yoga is bringing the colourations/obscurations of the mind to naught (2). On a foggy day, the fog obscures your ability to see very far. Driving a car is risky. Even walking could end you up in a ditch! The fog is there, yet you cannot grab a handful. Most certainly, you have no power to make it go away. You are in it and yet it eludes your grasp.

This is vṛtti.

On its own, without some kind of intervention, things will remain just like this. Imagining you know where you are going, using reason to guide you in this fog, is unwise. But when the sun comes out, the fog gradually (slowly or rapidly) “comes to naught” (nirodha). The trees, lampposts, buildings and so forth appear. But they were never not there as far as the fog is concerned. They therefore do not appear; it is your perception that becomes un-obscured. The perception/mind (citta, sutra 2) is perfect and always present, of course, so nothing happens to it anymore than anything happens to reality when the fog is or is no more (nirodha).

In one simple sutra (2) Patanjali has laid it all out. Yoga is what you are; your mind is what you are; yoga and mind are synonymous. If there were no yoga, how could you be?

If the fog cleared and you found that you were in the middle of nothingness, where would you go to look for reality? How would you go about the business of just looking? But this situation cannot be because you and reality are inseparable. The arrangement and pattern we perceive in nature isn’t just there because it’s pretty. That we are able to perceive the organization of nature is what yoga (and the yoga sutras) is all about; this sense of sensing order in reality is the essential evidence leading us to be able to understand what governs the external reality and in this context it enables us to recognize how to penetrate that internal reality of citta, mind.

Yoga is what is.

The long explanations of what-is-to-be-understood is necessary, otherwise what Patanjali (as a person or as a series of editors) is explaining would be like using reason to guide you in a thick fog or smoke filled room, in a blizzard or dense forest.

Therefore the sutras from 3 through 22 help us understand what needs to be grasped before progress can be made.

Then comes the BUT [in the sense of: it is like this].

Sutra 23: [literally] īśvara-praṇidhāna + at (submission + -ing/out of submission [to]) it-is-like-this (vā also means ‘or’)

=> A note about Sanskrit: an ‘a’ (ending of one word) before a word beginning with ‘a’ means that the two a’s change to ‘ā’. The final ‘t’ of “at” changes to “ad” before ‘v’. Thus praṇidhāna + at (a suffix forming a present and future participle) changes to praṇidhānād (submitting). But, to complicate matters, an ‘a’ before an ‘ā’ changes a+ā to ‘ā’. So the suffix could be ‘āt’, the ablative form of a masculine or neuter word. But the meaning is the same “from (out of) (ablative) submission” so the sutra could be translated submitting [to] īśvara, it-is-like-this. In Sanskrit, ablative is not like ablative in Latin which gives the sense of ‘with’ or ‘by’. Ablative is more the sense of “coming from/coming out of” almost always translated with from.

So, what about īśvara – we all know it means god, right!

Not really. Just for starters the word īśvara can mean “god”, but it can also mean a powerful ruler, Self, able to do, capable of, liable, exposed to, master, lord, prince, king and so on including ātman and the idea of an eternal self.

This sutra functions much like sutra 20; see part 4.

To understand īśvara as Patanjali appears to intend it, we must look at the next sutra, 24: this īśvara is that distinctive purity of perception untroubled by the store of ripening intent (karma). This īśvara operates, or simply just is, whether there is fog/vṛtti/obscuration or whatnot. You might have done some good or bad things out of bad intent or good intent. That action (karma) will ripen (cause vṛtti in future) without having an effect on īśvara (that which empowers you, mind or mind-self). It was īśvara that was already being talked about in sutra 3 (when this is accomplished, realization has taken place; when this is accomplished, the one who sees is).

Your own perception can be likened to the sun. The sun shines and the fog is no more. Your own perception comes to fullness and that which obscured it is no more. Presto, chango, nirodha. Voilà. YOGA. Sounds simple enough, at least in the abstract. In striving to be free of vṛtti, however, it is something a little more challenging.

We can read 23, but [it-is-like-this] submitting to (or from/out of submission),[is] īśvara (our own power, your own mind, citta [grasped, known] and 24, this īśvara is that distinctive purity of perception untroubled by the store of ripening intent (karma).

25: when you know this, everything is possible.

As if!

It is not a simple matter, this “knowing”. There’s more to the word “know” here. Sarva is everything and jña is to-know, to-be-familiar-with and also means wise. The suffix tva adds the sense of “ness” as used in English. Yes, the sutra contains, as well, the word bīja, but it means “source”; it has nothing to do here with ‘seed mantras’.

So, 25: the source of this all-encompassing wisdom (perception [mind/yoga/reality] free of the obscuration of vṛtti,) [is] unsurpassed.

26: this īśvara was the ideal of the ancient ones. (Not some new invention or idea.)

27: tasya (tad + ya) ‘this’ + ‘to be’ or “thus it follows” [lit having become thus], vācak, the speaker [the one who gives expression to this], is praṇava.

Thus it follows, the one (that which) who expresses this, is praṇava. The one (that which) expresses this is not some leap into a dense-fog-guess like “oh, I know, the guru” (?), god (?), OM (?).

Think it through.

What is Patanjali talking about in sutras 23-26? He/we are talking about the human being having and being in possession of an innate perception, a reality of perception that is clouded over by vṛtti. This is a storehouse not only of karma, but of the conclusions we have drawn from a lifetime of experiences which clouds, measures, cramps, predicts, limits and otherwise colours and obscures our innate reality.

I see a connection here between vṛtti and karma. I think it’s worth exploring; but at this time I am going to pass on that.

When we are free from this “fog” of vṛtti, as Patanjali again and again drives home, we have perception that has no limitations. We are no longer limited by the fog of our own-created limitations. No matter what kinds of limitations we have, the reality is still there. The thicker the “fog” the harder the work to bring it to nirodha, sutras 21 and 22.

The ancients knew this; it is not something new.

Patanjali is telling us what the ancients knew, namely that this “reverberation” has always been there. This reverberation, something we have always sensed, has always been there and has always been pointing us towards this. AND has always been available to teach us.

Maybe you were thinking that praṇava (reverberation) was om and by muttering om, everything was going to just be dandy.

Not likely.

If it was that easy, then the world wouldn’t be in such a mess. If it was that easy, why, you might consider asking yourself, would Patanjali go to all the bother of such a lengthy explanation if he could have just written “mutter om and everything will be nice”. Why would he do that?

Mahesh did this very thing, more or less; how nice is everything?

So, praṇava is a way of indicating that faint, distant itch on the tip of your tongue, in the back of your mind, that pestering sense of something that has always been there but has more or less been forgotten in the process of getting on with your life and creating more and more karma and vṛtti.

26: this great power was the ideal or teacher of the ancient ones.

27: it is that reverberation that is always present.

To this point the YS illustrates the hard work to be faced (thus explaining the mess, because who does hard work). It’s just our nature to look for something easy, a shortcut, something instant – or to imagine we can see/reason our way through the fog.

Few are those with dedication, commitment and purpose-driven desire for awakening from the fog.

28: jāpa repetition. But one of the oldest meanings of jāpa is study, not just simple repetition – and yet the connection is obvious, the meaning is clear: by jāpa, by studying, going over it (3-27) again and again until the message sinks in, tadartha (therefore) bhāvanam [it] comes [to be/is]. Union, knowing, realization of one’s own mind is what comes to be.

This just isn’t a description of Mahesh’s TM. Mental repetition of a bīja, a mantra, the special name of some god simply isn’t the issue, subject or teaching here.

This section extends to sutra 33; but I am going to stop here because this is a lot to digest. We have to go back to sutra 23 now and re-consider the word submit. We have to understand how “submission” operates. The word praṇidhāna indicates profound religious meditation, abstract contemplation and profound aspiration. But, it now seems, in the context of 23, the context of this section, in light of sutras 2 –22, what we have to do is sincerely, energetically and purposefully contemplate our own minds (reality) until the “fog” begins to clear. As it does, the object, the mind/reality (citta, sutra 2), becomes clearer. No magic mantra, meaningless sound to take us skidding off into dissociative states of muzzy awareness and meaningless daydreaming; increased meaninglessness is increased vṛiti!

(to continue in part 6).

Just a parting question to consider before launching into the how of “submit”: if you muttered the special name of a god, why would the god give a tinker’s fart? What kind of a “god” is under ‘your’ control that you can have such expectations of getting his or her blessings by being, basically, a pain in the butt?

a consideration of the yoga sutras (6)

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