Posts Tagged ‘Patanjali’

The divine abodes

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I’m wondering whether Patanjali came before or after Buddha. It strikes me from time to time that there is a strong connection between Buddhism and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Section 1.33 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is an interesting case in point.

By generating and cultivating the intent and deep feelings (bhavanatas) of friendliness and loving kindness (maitri), love and compassion (karuna), happiness (mudita), equanimity (upeksanam) and sympathetic joyfulness (sukha) in [all] conditions and events (visayanam) whether it be potentially joyful (sukha) or painful (dukha), auspicious (punya-apunya) or not, a sweet grace arises that establishes a clarity of the heartmind (citta-prasadanam).

In one blissful swoop, Patanjali establishes the four brahmaviharas (divine abodes). How they got their name is interesting. The story goes that Buddha was asked about how to be reborn in the heavenly (brahma) realms. His response, in short, was to cultivate loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.

Now, I’m not a Sanskrit scholar of any kind of merit, but I find it interesting that Patanjali has chosen the work upeksanam, when I would have expected samatA, but what do I know. Upeksa is Pali for equanimity, but my understanding of Upeksana in Sanskrit is that it has a sense of neglect. What I think this indicates, and it runs contrary to some of the teachings I’ve had over the years in terms of when Patanjali existed, is that Patanjali was refering to Buddha’s teaching, otherwise he’d have chosen a more neutral Sanskrit work.

What’s also interesting is this reference to four cultivations. Mostly we’re used to mettabhavana (the cultivation of loving kindness). And I do like the Dalia Lama’s view that his religion is loving kindess. But there are three more cultivations:- karuna, mudita and upeksa.

In a separate discussion Buddha did offer a practice, known as mettabhavana, which as far as I can tell has its origins in the Karaniya Metta Sutta.

This is to be done by one skilled in aims
who wants to break through to the state of peace:
Be capable, upright, & straightforward,
easy to instruct, gentle, & not conceited,
content & easy to support,
with few duties, living lightly,
with peaceful faculties, masterful,
modest, & no greed for supporters.

Do not do the slightest thing
that the wise would later censure.

Think: Happy, at rest,
may all beings be happy at heart.
Whatever beings there may be,
weak or strong, without exception,
long, large,
middling, short,
subtle, blatant,
seen & unseen,
near & far,
born & seeking birth:
May all beings be happy at heart.

Let no one deceive another
or despise anyone anywhere,
or through anger or irritation
wish for another to suffer.

As a mother would risk her life
to protect her child, her only child,
even so should one cultivate a limitless heart
with regard to all beings.
With good will for the entire cosmos,
cultivate a limitless heart:
Above, below, & all around,
unobstructed, without enmity or hate.
Whether standing, walking,
sitting, or lying down,
as long as one is alert,
one should be resolved on this mindfulness.
This is called a sublime abiding
here & now.

Not taken with views,
but virtuous & consummate in vision,
having subdued desire for sensual pleasures,
one never again
will lie in the womb.

What if we were to take the same approach for the other three bhavanas? And that’s what I’ve done with my metta bhavana practice, borrowing from Tara Brach. May I experience the joy of being alive, may I be filled with loving kindness, may I express compassion towards all beings. Or something like this. And of course the usual metta bhavana practice extends this from onesself through to all beings. And there’s the equanimity part.

However you look at it, the four brahmaviharas lead to a divine abode in this life. After all Samsara is Nirvana and Nirvana is Samsara.

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Sutras of Patanjali – Book IV

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I thought I should finish this off. So today is the fourth section from [asin id=”0853301123″ title=”The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”] today. Part 3 focused on the results of union. Part 4 focuses on illumination.
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Silent Illumination

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

I’m not entirely sure why Japanese Zen split into the soto and rinzai sects. Auckland Zen Centre practises Integral Zen, which I don’t really know a lot about, but it’s an interesting thought.

And then there’s the thought of meditation stages:- counting the breath, focusing on the single breath, and I guess focusing on nothing. If I’m to understand the practise of silent illumination properly, this last one is that. Patanjali describes I find focusing on nothing requires a level of concentration that the others I guess are indeed a preparation for. Perhaps this is why people like Gil Fronsdal and Bhante Henepola Gunaratana describe Zen as the most difficult practise.

Huatou practise (wato in Japanese, but more commonly and less correctly known as koan practise does indeed seem much easier. Personally, I like to do that as well. As I wrote in an earlier post, my question is “what is emptiness?”. And these to practises seem to dovetail quite well, but I practise focusing on nothing first. One of the reasons is that while huatou is meant to cut thinking off at the root, the mind occasionally finds things to grip on to. Another reason is that it seems to deepen the sense of emptiness observed in silent illumination practise. Patanjali refers to meditation with seed in Book I, 46 of his Yoga Sutras. And meditation without seed in Book 3, 8.

I think I’ve talked about the first two rules of magic before. The Tibetan as I recall it anyway observed that the personality and soul need to be meditating in alignment. Technical discussions aside, I think the practise of silent illumination is in one aspect the personality actively listening for what Blavatsky calls The Voice of the Silence. And this I think the practise of silent illumination does more readily.

And then both practises are the same. By the way, I think Sheng Yen’s book on this topic The Method of No-Method: The Chan Practice of Silent Illumination is a good one; a good addition to your meditation library.

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