asterix

*Am working on figuring out the best way to render Devanagari. For now, transliteration...sorry. Namaste.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Turn and Face the Strange...(ch-ch-ch-changes...Yoga Sutras 3.8-13)



In our last post, we began our descent into the tricky Black Rabbit (W)hole-y Trinity of Dhãranã-Dhyãna-Samãdhi, which for all intents and purposes becomes the collective Samyama from this point onwards in the Sutras. These final three limbs of the asthanga path for Patañjali are inherently different and thus treated separately than the previous 5 (Yama, Ni-Yama, Ãsana, Prãnãyãma and Pratyãhãra). As Patañjali tells us in 3.7, these three are more internal than the other five, meaning that once arrive at this stage, we are transcending the physical and entering the meta-physical. However, even the triumvirate of the Samyama is merely a tool, a skill an upãya for us to go even further, deeper and more profoundly as is hinted in 3.8:

Tadapi bahir-angam nirbijasya
  3.8

Even this (trinity-->Samyama) is an external limb of nirbija (samãdhi) 3.8

Grammatically, the Samyama is taken as a singular unit (tad angam) of nirbija (samãdhi), which as we saw at the end of Book I, is the ultimate goal of Yoga. To achieve nirbija samãdhi, we will have to transcend even the fundamental concept of duality that is the root of our perception of reality. Nirbija, to put it simply, is beyond the pale of even thought itself. It is the moment before the Big Bang, the ultimate Shunyata, or Void. The Rabbit Hole par excellence. And, as we shall see, echoing the advice Peter Parker receives from his uncle, "with great power comes great responsibility" and ostensibly, most of the remainder of Book III is about the powers that one can achieve with the use of Samyama at its fullest potential, but all of it encapsulated in a heavy warning that power deceives and the ultimate power corrupts ultimately. 

Before delving into the supernatural world of the siddhis, or powers of Yoga via Samyama, we first need to do a familiar take two steps backwards before taking a step forward with Patañjali. Stepping back then all the way to our primal definition of Yoga in 1.2, namely the uber-cited, Yogas'citta-vritti-nirodhah, we now deal with nirodah in detail because that is the key to attaining nirbija samãdhi. Unlike the 8 limbs which are means, or upãyanirodhah is the result of these means.

Unfortunately, 3.9, which is the elaboration of nirodhah, is a bit of a tar baby. It is not easy to get a handle on, and to be honest, I am still wrestling with this one (hence the lacuna of posts of late...). So, this is a working translation so that we can move along. And, trust me, in all of the many translations of this Sutra, there is very little consensus except that nirodhah is what is at stake here...
  

Vyutthãna-nirodha-samskãrayor-abhibhava-prãdurbhãvau nirodha-kshana-cittãnvayo nirodha-parinãmah  3.9

The cultivation/evolution (parinãmah) of restraint/temperance (nirodha) is connected to the mind at the moment of nirodhah at the emergence of the mental impression (samskãra) of restraint and the suppression of the transient impressions. 3.9

Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? Okay, this is messy, and is uncharacteristically tautological for Patañjali in that he uses nirodhah to define nirodhah, leaving us a bit none the wiser about what nirodhah is. 

To paraphrase 3.9 a bit then, we can tease out the following:

When the fleeting impressions of the mind that cause us to pre-judge something subside and the control of the mind yields clarity of thought with the absence of these impressions, then we are cultivating temperance of the mind. 

In layman's terms...When we declutter the mind with our prejudices from experience, things become clearer in the mind.

Again, this is a bit murky, but the gist is there. Experience is a good thing, until it clouds the mind about how we perceive the reality before us. Samyama then becomes the scrubbing element to clean our files and to provide us with clear vision without pre-conceived ideas caused by the samskãras, or mental impressions that both allow us to function in reality, but also cause us to be conditioned by our thoughts. The moksha, or liberation, that Yoga promises is the release from the bondage of those pre-conditioned thoughts, which ultimately lead to desire and thus suffering (duhkham) as they are based upon ignorance (avidyã), such as mistaking a piece of rope on the pathway for a snake.

Moving on then to 3.10, we see:

Tasya prashãnta-vãhitã samskãrãt  3.10

The peaceful flow of nirodha-parinãmah comes from mental imprinting (samskãra). 3.10

Tasya, or "of it/its" should refer to nirodha-parinãmah (cultivation/evolution of restraint) as that was the subject of the previous sutra. As such, the emergent samskãra (mental impression) of nirodha then is what drives the evolution/cultivation of nirodha. So, still a bit clumsy and tautological by using the same term to define itself. What seems to be the case is that by practice then of restraint, restraint evolves, or changes. In other words, we are back to the concept of abhyãsa, or practice that is sustained over a long period of time with reverence. Once again, this is not a quick fix. Patience is the core of Yoga. 

From the parinãma (change/evolution/cultivation) of nirodha, we move onto that of samãdhi in 3.11:

Sarva-arthataikãgrataho kshaya-udayau cittasya samãdhi-parinãmah  3.11

The cultivation/evolution (parinãmah) of samãdhi of the mind is in the rise of singularity of thought and destruction of the multiplicity of goals/aims. 3.11

Take-home message here then is: Keep it Simple, Stupid, or KISS...sage advice. The mind is awash with a multitude of things to do. We praise multi-tasking, but ultimately that leads to a fractured mind, whereas a singularity of attention or focus in the mind leads to deliverance. This singularity, which culminates in Kaivalyam, is the result of the profundity of the Samyama, with practice. As we shall soon see, the singularity of the object itself can be many, and thus yield many siddhis (powers), but these too shall prove to be illusory and deceptions caused by desire, which ultimately again lead to suffering...So, it is not merely the singularity, but what that singularity is that shall become the driving force of Kaivalya, produced by the abhyãsa and vairagyam we saw at the beginning of the Sutras so long ago when our Bee woke us up...

Moving along then to the next change that is important, that of the singularity of the mind's eye, we arrive at 3.12: 

Tatah punah shãntoditau tulya-pratyayau cittasyaikãgratãparinãmah 3.12

At that time again, the evolution of the singularity of the mind is in the equality of thought with the emergent present and the subdued past. 3.12

Or, at the moment of the singularity of the mind, past and present melt into each other and Time become irrelevant. The Rabbit Hole no longer even exists...for, as the Black Hole in physics devours its own light and energy, so too does the singularity of the mind with respect to Time and Space. 

And, in this state of singularity, the "truth of the matter" begins to be revealed as we see in 3.13...

Etena bhutendriyeshu dharma-lakshanãvastha-parinãmã vyãkhyãtãh 3.13

With this singularity of the mind, the evolutions of dharma, quality and state of being are explained within the innate senses. 3.13

In other words, when the mind has shed itself of the noise, it can finally "see" things properly with the unclouded mind's eye. 

But, as with all promises of divine insight, we must tread lightly and be careful of what we ask for. For, like the prisoner who escapes the allegorical Cave in Plato's Republic, once you "see the Light," it is impossible to go back, and furthermore, others may not be so keen upon hearing about your new-found discovery of liberation (moksha) and bliss (ananda)...

To be continued.