Archive for June, 2007

Sutras of Patanjali – Book II

Friday, June 29th, 2007

We take the second section from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali today. Part 1 focused on the problem of union. Part 2 now focuses on the steps to union. There’s a lot in here to absorb and a lot of technical details. I’ve provided links to explain the various concepts.

  1. The Yoga of action, leading to union with the soul is fiery aspiration, spiritual reading and devotion to Ishvara.
  2. The aim of these three is to bring about soul vision and to eliminate obstructions.
  3. These are the difficulty producing hindrances: Avidya (ignorance) the sense of personality, desire, hate and the sense of attachment.
  4. Avidya (ignorance) is the cause of all the other obstructions whether they be latent, in process of elimination, overcome, or in full operation.
  5. Avidya is the condition of confusing the permanent, pure, blissful and the Self with that which is impermanent, impure, painful and the not-self.
  6. The sense of personality is due to the identification of the knower with the instruments of knowledge.
  7. Desire is attachment to objects of pleasure.
  8. Hate is aversion for any object of the senses.
  9. Intense desire for sentient existence is attachment. This is inherent in every form, is self-perpetuating, and known even to the very wise.
  10. These five hindrances, when subtly known, can be overcome by an opposing mental attitude.
  11. Their activities are to be done away with, through the meditation process.
  12. Karma itself has its root in these five hindrances and must come to fruition in this life or in some later life.
  13. So long as the roots (or samskaras) exist, their fruition will be birth, life, and experiences resulting in pleasure or pain.
  14. These seeds (or samskaras) produce pleasure or pain according as their originating cause was good or evil.
  15. To the illuminated man all existence (in the three worlds) is considered pain owing to the activities of the gunas. These activities are threefold, producing consequences, anxieties and subliminal impressions.
  16. Pain which is yet to come may be warded off.
  17. The illusion that the Perceiver and that which is perceived are one and the same is the cause (of the pain-producing effects) which must be warded off.
  18. That which is perceived has three qualities, sattva, rajas and tamas (rhythm, mobility and inertia); it consists of the elements and the sense organs. The use of these produces experience and eventual liberation.
  19. The divisions of the gunas (or qualities of matter) are fourfold; the specific, the non-specific, the indicated and the untouchable.
  20. The seer is pure knowledge (gnosis). Though pure, he looks upon the presented idea through the medium of the mind.
  21. All that is exists for the sake of the soul.
  22. In the case of the man who has achieved yoga (or union) the objective universe has ceased to be. Yet it existeth still for those who are not yet free.
  23. The association of the soul with the mind and thus with that which the mind perceives, produces an understanding of the nature of that which is perceived and likewise of the Perceiver.
  24. The cause of this association is ignorance or Avidya. This has to be overcome.
  25. When ignorance is brought to an end through non-association with the things perceived, this is the great liberation.
  26. The state of bondage is overcome through perfectly maintained discrimination.
  27. The knowledge (or illumination) achieved is sevenfold and is attained progressively.
  28. When the means to yoga have been steadily practised, and when impurity has been overcome, enlightenment takes place, leading up to full illumination.
  29. The eight means of yoga are, the Commandments or Yama, the Rules or Nijama, posture or Asana, right control of life-force or Pranayama, abstraction or Pratyahara, attention or Dharana, Meditation or Dhyana, Contemplation or Samadhi.
  30. Harmlessness, truth to all beings, abstention from theft, from incontinence and from avarice, constitute yama or the five commandments.
  31. Yama (or the five commandments) constitutes the universal duty and is irrespective of race, place, time or emergency.
  32. Internal and external purification, contentment, fiery aspiration, spiritual reading and devotion to Ishvara constitutes nijama (or the five rules).
  33. When thoughts which are contrary to yoga are present there should be the cultivation of their opposite.
  34. Thoughts contrary to yoga are harmfulness, falsehood, theft, incontinence, and avarice, whether committed personally, caused to be committed or approved of, whether arising from avarice, anger or delusion (ignorance); whether slight in the doing, middling or great. These result always in excessive pain and ignorance. For this reason, the contrary thoughts must be cultivated.
  35. In the presence of him who has perfected harmlessness, all enmity ceases.
  36. When truth to all beings is perfected, the effectiveness of his words and acts is immediately to be seen.
  37. When abstention from theft is perfected, the yogi can have whatever he desires.
  38. By abstention from incontinence, energy is acquired.
  39. When abstention from avarice is perfected, there comes an understanding of the law of rebirth.
  40. Internal and external purification produces aversion for form, both one’s own and all forms.
  41. Through purification comes also a quiet spirit, concentration, conquest of the organs, and ability to see the Self.
  42. As a result of contentment bliss is achieved.
  43. Through fiery aspiration and through the removal of all impurity, comes the perfecting of the bodily powers and of the senses.
  44. Spiritual reading results in a contact with the soul (or divine One).
  45. Through devotion to Ishvara the goal of meditation (or Samadhi) is reached.
  46. The posture assumed must be steady and easy.
  47. Steadiness and ease of posture is to be achieved through persistent slight effort and through the concentration of the mind upon the infinite.
  48. When this is attained, the pairs of opposites no longer limit.
  49. When right posture (asana) has been attained there follows right control of prana and proper inspiration and expiration of the breath.
  50. Right control of prana (or the life currents) is external, internal or motionless; it is subject to place, time and number and is also protracted or brief.
  51. There is a fourth stage which transcends those dealing with the internal and external phases.
  52. Through this, that which obscures the light is gradually removed.
  53. And the mind is prepared for concentrated meditation.
  54. Abstraction (or Pratyahara) is the subjugation of the senses by the thinking principle and their withdrawal from that which has hitherto been their object.
  55. As a result of these means there follows the complete subjugation of the sense organs.
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The path of appreciation

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

I’ve been thinking lately that there are three qualities to development in the path to Nirvana:- dhyana, loving kindness and appreciation. I’ve included above a definition of appreciation that I found on my Mac. The two aspects of appreciation that I think are important for the journey to Nirvana are gratitude and aesthetic sensitivity.

The first one that I’d like to draw attention to is gratitude. This comes out of the attitude of expecting nothing. So there is nothing to complain about. Only to be grateful for. The idea is certainly around that true wealth comes from being grateful. And if you have nothing you appreciate everything. This extends naturally into being appreciative of what one already has. Making a best use of one’s resources, of all resources including planetary resources. Gratitude combined with understanding. A gardener in Eden.

The second is sensitive understanding of the aesthetic value of something. Padmavajra in his commentary on The Diamond Sutra contrasts this with usage, i.e. seeing something through the lens of what use it has to you. Seeing someone as they are. Dane Rudhyar in his “An Astrological Triptych” evaluated the astrological signs as gifts of the spirit. Whether or not you think that astrology has any validity, the idea that each person brings in to life some kind of gift, leads us to deep connection. And this reminds us of Buddha’s exclamation upon enlightenment “Wonder of wonder all beings are already enlightened.”

There’s a further aspect to this sensitive appreciation, which is more like artistic appreciation. In the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, the author suggests that you copy some pictures upside down. This enables the artist to break through the part of the brain that preconceives and to draw what is seen without interpretation. And in the best artistic portraits we see deep inner qualities of the subject shine through.

We see this from some Zen masters that have shared their paintings and their poetry. So maybe we should have some kind of aesthetic cultivation as part of our practise, an artistic cultivation that leads to appreciation of all of life. Who knows what that might be for us, perhaps it is poetry, dance, playing a musical instrument, drawing or even going out into nature for a walk. Whatever it is, it should take us into pure appreciation that extends into all of life.

So I write this for you.

Like the dew drop in the morning light
The work done while asleep at night
Like the cat with its idle rub
Each moment of eternal love
Like this oasis in deepest space
I like into your face
And wonder at who you are

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Extinction again

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

There was an interesting documentary, I think it was the BBC’s Walking with Cavemen that explored the origins of humanity, that is from Homo Erectus through to Homo Sapiens. The thesis for how humanity got to the final step of becoming Homo Sapiens was something like this: nascent humanity was dying off due to an ongoing drought in its birth place, southern Africa. However there was enough seasonal variation in the weather for some of the sharper ones among them to collect ostrich eggs and store water in them for the dry period.

They’ve found buried ostrich eggs, once used as flasks, that have been carbon dated back to the human fossils they’ve found. It was the ability to predict the dry season, create a plan for it, act on that plan and defer gratification that lead to the survival of humanity and perhaps to Homo Sapiens itself. And the neo-cortex grew over the limbic system.

Sigmund Freud identified that the human psychology is driven by two opposing forces Eros and Thanatos:- urge towards life and death anxiety. I tend to agree with Anthony Robbins’ interpretation of this condition:- pleasure and pain. Perhaps our African ancestors linked incredible amounts of pain to failing to plan. It is amazing how compulsive the planning and collecting process actually can be. It seems that it was essential to being human.

Then at some point we realised that we could use this planning ability and use it in the pursuit of physical pleasure and in the pursuit of social power.

Our minds have ensured our survival and created vast amounts of pleasure and social power for us. We are wealthy beyond what humanity has ever conceived. Yet now it is likely that this incredible ability of ours fettered by desire will destroy the planet. So now we must also discover how to control our minds for the common good. It is time to enter a new age of enlightenment.

Curiously, it was around 600BC that humanity began investigating the very mind itself. There was Buddha in northern India, Lao Tse in China and Greek Philosophers just a little later in Europe. While Buddhism may have attained the most pure insight into the essence of the mind, it left a legacy that people were to remove themselves from society in order to pursue enlightenment.

Yet what’s required of humanity right now is probably as big of a shift as happened in South Africa. We must achieve a measure of planetary awareness as individuals operating in society.

So how do we do this? Firstly, by discovering that the driver of consumption – attachment to things, social power and wealth – is inherently deluded because things, social power and wealth are all inherently empty. And secondly by discovering that the fundamental human relationship not only to ourselves but to all the sentient beings we share the planet with must now be established in loving kindness.

This is the path of love/wisdom.

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