Monday, April 6, 2009

Pathanjali (contd)

Pathanjali begins his Sutras with a simple statement:

1. “Athha Yogaanusaasanam” –

that is, “Then begins the instructions on Yoga”.

This word ‘then’ has some relevance in old Indian texts. A student who approaches any definite system of thought has to have certain qualifications. I am not speaking here of the Sambavi Mudra. It calls for no such thing. But Pathanjali’s system is different. It is a complete course on Yoga and its philosophy. You need to have the basics right before you venture further into it.

Hence the student of Yoga is thought of as having studied different systems of thought and engaged in their practice before they come to the teaching of Yoga. He is here because all the other systems have failed to lead him further towards the truth. The desire to learn is there, the commitment is there, the basic knowledge is there. He is ready to be instructed. When such a student appears yoga is taught.
After thus inviting the student to his system Pathanjali defines Yoga in the very next aphorism.

2.Yoga chittavritti nirodha

Yoga is the inhibition of the waves of Chitta (or mind)

Pathanjali does not mince words, he does not beat around the bush. He defines his terms from the very outset. To him the root of Yoga (‘Yuj’ = to yoke etc) does not matter. He defines Yoga as the inhibition of the waves of mind. Other definitions the student learned in the past might stay wherever they are. This is a system where words have a definite meaning and purpose.

If such integrity was shown by many of the other thinkers in the world they would not have much to write about.

With the very second aphorism Pathanjali has actually said it all. He has defined what Yoga is and what its purpose is and has subtly outlined the practice as well.

Pathanjalis usage of Chitta instead of the more common manas has intrigued many thinkers over the years. He uses the word throughout in his treatise. Chitta actually is not mind. It can be taken as the reflected ( or individual) consciousness that we carry within ourselves.

The Samkhyas and the Yogis of India see chitta as containing 3 components. Manas, Budhi and Ahamkara.

These three, the Manas (psyche), Budhi (intellect) and the Ahamkara ( Ego) and their functions are easily understood. Let me illustrate it for you.

Consider you are at the sea shore and a great wave rises and is coming towards you.
The first one to notice it would be the mind. It is the receiver of impressions. It co ordinates the impression that are received through our five senses. It would tell you:

There is something shapeless and big moving over there.

The intellect (It discriminates impressions based on the already existing information) would immediately say:

It’s a giant wave and it’s moving towards the shore and it looks ominous.

The ego (It makes every such impression as its own individual information) would shout.

It’s moving towards the place where I am standing and is going to hit me.

After moving to a safe distance the ego would then proceed to say:

My, I had a hair-breadth escape. Now I know what such a wave can do. There may be others who haven’t experienced this. Hence I may consider this experience as mine own.

(This illustration is not entirely my own, I have adapted it to suit my purpose as it’s humorous and graphically illustrative)

The chitta is the integrator of these three elements.

All actions of the chitta are classified as Vrittis of the chitta. The popular analogy of the vritti is that of the waves created by any disturbances on the face of water. Every wave thus created does not merely modify the face of the water itself. It also modifies the shore and even the bottom of the water body. We have seen how the mind receives impressions from the outside world and how the intellect classifies them and how it is converted into individualized knowledge by the ego. Every such bit of information creates a pathway inside the mind. By repeated action this indentation becomes more and more strengthened. Characteristics are formed this way.

Every such mental incident reinforces your separateness and your bondage. As long as you continue in this state there is threat and danger and insecurity.

Its only through stilling this ever emerging vritti’s that you can perceive your real self.

3. Thadaa Dhrushtu swarupEvasthhaanam.

Then (when the waves have become inhibited) the seer (the one who sees) becomes established in his own real self.

To me the word Dhrushtu ( the one who sees) is significant. The mind according to the Indian thought is not sentient. It has no independent existence and is Jada (inert). It appears to be alive because of its nearness to consciousness. I know this is a bit difficult for the modern student to digest. We normally associate mind with consciousness. In the western thought it is considered as a part of consciousness and those who have received western education elsewhere takes it to be so.

Now according to the Samkhyans, Purusha alone is sentient. Even the Prakriti from which all else evolves is inert and Jada. As long as we treat mind as conscious there is no conquering it. The moment we take it for what it is, an inert substance on which we have full control, things begin to change and our effort at controlling mind becomes infinitely easier.

(To be continued)

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