Saturday, June 09, 2012

The light of accomplishment

I have been thinking about III 32 in Mahesh’s (most likely Vernon Katz’) translation of the yoga sūtras - by sayama on the light in the head, vision of the siddhas is gained.

For the past 30 years I have known a different understanding of this sūtra, perhaps key to the whole yoga sūtra, “sidhi” conundrum. I have been thinking I might write about it for TM-Free, but I hae me douts  that this could be of any interest. Today, I decided to take the leap anyway.

The Sanskrit Scholar, Arthur A. Macdonell, put Patañjali, the compiler of the yoga sūtra anthology, in the 2nd century BCE. This would be at least 300 years after the Buddha. Personally, it has always seemed to me that the Brāhmaṇical revival of the 8th or 9th century CE (whenever the time of Śaṅkara is thought to have lived), attempted to incorporate Buddhist ideas and make them seem Brāhmaṇical. Not altogether unlike the early Christians who kept the Egyptian, Roman and Greek (as well as Persian) myths and just called it Christian (i.e. same old stuff you love, just new names to make you feel special).

This is not necessarily a problem in that the Buddha never claimed he owned or possessed his teachings; he didn’t copyright them, trademark them, restrict them or charge money for them. He widely and consistently proclaimed that they were for the benefit of everyone.

Hence, we see a lot of Buddhist ideas in the yoga sūtras and this number will vary depending upon which version of the yoga sūtras one gets hold of … there are 4 versions, but the only difference is that two of the sūtras which are commentarial in nature are either both included, neither is included or one or the other is included … both of these are in the 3rd section, the “siddhi” section. Here, versions should not be confused with translations. Sūtra III 32 or whatever its number is in whatever version you have to hand, is usually translated more or less as Vernon has done. There are lots of variations, but they seem to say the same thing. This, I think is a trick of the grammar. The point at which Mahesh could have turned TM into something of monumental importance for everyone rather than turning it into a circus of never-ending futility, a constant bazaar of things to buy hopelessly trying to make it work. I question his competence to teach, but it would be dangerous to underestimate his mastery of great depth when it comes to skilfully wielding the carrot-on-the-stick.

For me, the meaning is this:

in [contemplation of] the light in the head, one sees what the great masters saw! — The literal rendering would be something like: in highest light, accomplished seeing.

The “great masters”, the siddhas, those who accomplished the task of liberation, are those mystics and contemplatives who have gone before us, become aware and awakened, paving the way before us, preserving this wisdom for us. – Light, of course, is a metaphor for our own sense of being conscious, being aware of our own awareness. Contemplation is what “saṃyama” is all about: dwelling upon, considering, lingering over, focusing upon.

But, — mūrdha-jyotii siddha-darśanam — in I. K. Taimni’s version, containing both commentary-like sūtras, this is also translated in accord with the commentarial devices attached to the sūtras. I suspect that what I see as a trick of the grammar is a protective device, a kind of seal of secrecy keeping such precious knowledge out of the hands of the un-scrupulous.

Funny how Mahesh missed that. Or chose to conceal that from us. At least he got the secrecy thing down for a time.

This understanding, from the earliest Buddhist records, is the crux of what the Buddha taught: the four foundations of mindfulness: body, feelings (in this case like, dislike, neutrality), mind (knowing the mind is content/not content, serene/not serene, etc.) and the stuff that goes on in the head (including what we might call emotions and psychological states). Usually, one starts with gently training the awareness to remain settled on the breathing so that, little by little, one step at a time, the body-mind simply allows everything to settle (what Mahesh was cryptically calling “transcending”). When it all settles, there is only awareness of awareness, dwelling in highest light.

But, if you are doing TM and your mind is absorbed in tangential thoughts and concerns to return to the mantra, you might miss the boat to the other shore; there might be some sense of the body settling, but certainly not the mind. The Tibetans call this process and understanding “mahāmudrā”, the great seal, i.e. that which underlies and makes possible the reality of everything that can be perceived.

Everything is already complete, already perfect, always has been. There’s nothing to do (sound familiar ?) This is the crux of the two highest, most precious, most effective teachings in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, they are called cutting completely through and leaping over and are extremely secret, highly classified (sound familiar ?). Curiously, they are little different in result and similar to this very sūtra, in both procedure and result, and mirror the four foundations of mindfulness where one contemplates the breath until the body-mind slows down and the breath is nearly non-existent (that would be, non-existent to perception, believe me, it is still there, it doesn’t stop, you simply cease being conscious or aware of it and go on to the next stage); when this is firmly established (established in being, perform action from the Gita) and when this state or stage comes easily (and effortlessly ... sound familiar ?), then one does the same, performs action, with physical perceptions in the body, feelings of like-dislike-disinterest, mind (how our awareness itself is settled or not doing), and head stuff/thoughts. One simply understands by direct perception (what the Yogadarśana or yoga sūtras call vivekaja-jñānam, meeting reality face-to-face ending in kaivalyam, freedom).

Who cares, eh? Mahesh made a dog’s breakfast of TM and the Yogadarśana or yoga sūtras. He turned his organization into buffoonery. For those who care, there are legitimate teachers.

Mahesh’s claim that Patañjali came to him in the night and told him to teach the siddhis (which became the “sidhis” for copyright reasons, so un-Buddha-like) is questionable at best and downright dirty at its worst, just another ploy to take money and give meaningless thrills, full of useless promises. I think I have left room for many questions.

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