Jan 21, 2013

Raga and Dvesa. The Issue of Emotions in Yoga

In our previous article we have discussed the general aspects of the category of "klesha”. However I think that two of the said categories - raga and dvesa – require a more thorough analysis. And as a matter of fact, given the name of the blog it is time we proceed from the text analysis to it actual commenting upon J.

Based upon the literal translation of Patanjali’s text we have defined raga and dvesa as “holding up to…" (attachment to) something pleasant and unpleasant respectively. First we should note that such understanding of these terms differs much from the understanding that occurs in terms of traditional translations. 

For instance, in the translations of Yoga sutra that we know raga is interpreted as predilection, affection for, desire, passion. However, besides obvious inconsistence of such translation variants with the text of Yoga sutra they contradict the original meanings of the words themselves. Let us recall that raga is translated from Sanskrit as "coloring" or "mood”. In scope of classical Indian musical works there is a specific musical form named raga which is the background music that tunes the listener to some certain emotional state. In this sense such words as "affection for" or "passion" have nothing in common with this approach. So long as we use modern terms the closest respective category shall be the category of "mindset" in the vein of D. Uznadze as a primary emotional "coloring" through which prism the person perceives the situation. In this case the emotions don’t have to be necessarily "pleasant". A person is pleased with merely the fact of having such “sets”. Let us remember the delight some people take in complaining about their lives or criticizing someone. In terms of the sample taken from another school of modern psychology - the transactional analysis - the psychological advantage from objective viewpoint may happen to be not the advantage at all. For instance, if a person has once again proved to himself that he is a failure this would be his psychological payoff, though he would lose something in scope of real life.

Thus, the “raga” klesha comes as the emotional colouring of the situation that is comfortable for a person and that prevents one from considering the situation from another, a more global viewpoint. 

Obviously, the development of a person is possible only subject to overcoming such sets, or rather it is subject to one’s ability of disengaging with them. The feasibility of changing any aspect of one’s life is based upon acceptance of the fact that but for your personal one there are plenty of other attitudes to the problem that may be more constructive. 

The ability of such disengagement - metanoia – is gained by means of ironic attitude towards oneself and one’s current emotions (for humor is a powerful tool of disengagement, and it is not without reason that a classic has said that by means of laughter the mankind is parting with its past) and through the practice of constant listening to a different point of view in all scales, starting from the personal aspect and finishing with learning other cultures, fundamentally different value systems and emotional responses [1]. One’s becoming aware of historical aspects of any problem will also help. The concept of cultural relativism is the best friend of a yogi who is trying to expand the cocoon of his traditional “me”. And on the contrary, the occurrence of emotionally significant mindsets and beliefs that one is eager to vehemently stand for points out that the person is absorbed by the “raga” klesha.

In order to explain the category of raga on some modern examples (for I am a “modern” mystic J) let us turn to the field that at first a glance seems to be far from yoga, namely, the PR technologies and mass consciousness management. One of the most successful (in view of its author who is very much sought after) PR models has been set forth by A. Vuyma in his book "The Black PR" and is called "the theory of virtual concepts". According to this theory all concepts that one cannot "put to the closet" are virtual, i.e. those that exist only in our minds. “Love, hate, sympathy, antipathy, good, evil, prestige, value, freedom, democracy, greed, arrangement, success, happiness, property, power, state borders, recognition, fashion and more – these are just virtual concepts”. “Property, power, love, good, evil, the value of money, justice, democracy, rationality, the equality of men, freedom, experience, state, feelings, marriage, debt, stupidity, honesty, understanding, splendor, beauty, grace, sexuality, law, etc. Most of these concepts really mean a lot in our lives, much more than material concepts. It should be noted that almost the whole PR is hinged on these concepts. It is very rare that PR is based upon material notions without any signs of virtuality”.

These concepts in themselves are the words used by people who in their majority do not understand their meaning and precise definition. A Buddhist would say that all these concepts are void, but I think the authors of the theory are not familiar with Buddhism and they managed to get it on their own J. Moreover, these concepts are deprived of any objective emotional content - they are neutral. Yet in most people's minds these concepts are sort of “coloured” (in the term of Vuyma) in some emotional content. For instance, for most people the category of “family” is positive and that of the “war” is negative. The humour of the situation is that sometimes a word can be substituted by a synonym that shall mean the same but have a different content. For instance, compare the emotional reaction upon the words “environment” and “socium” or “crisis” and “turning point”. The perception of material objects also depends upon virtual categories that are attributed to them. The price of goods, for example, depends upon how fashionable they are, whether they are “in trend” or not.

One can manage people due to “changing the colouring” of the concepts they use. "For PR guys there are no positive and negative people, but there should be people whom someone has coloured in certain colors, and there should be the way that these colours can be changed”. The re-colouring is possible through their metaphoric involvement into other discourses that have different emotional content. For instance, the "war of liberation" already sounds positively... There are other ways of re-colouring that one can find in respective books dedicated to the subject.

Of course as long as the person believes that there is positive or negative colouring of at least any notions (i.e. as long as one is ambivalent in terms of yoga) he shall be subject to managing in scope of this technology.

One can easily see that the afore-drawn model to the best way possible illustrates the concept of raga-klesha. 

I have specified the understanding of raga-klesha because the listed erroneous translations and interpretations of raga as simply "emotion" and "passion" have generated an idea that circulates in scope of “popular” perception of yoga regarding association of yoga with fighting against one’s emotions or their suppression. This idea is certainly absurd. The emotions in terms of physiology are the essential part of individual’s mental life. Their elimination is impossible and the attempt to do it is harmful. Moreover, the main idea that the man has been given by nature something that he should get rid of or should fail to admit in himself (body, emotions, feelings) is manifestation of the dvesa klesha.

Let us now discuss the category of “dvesa”. At first glance this category seems to be similar to the previous one since it is associated with attachment to some (unpleasant) class of emotions. However in this case the author of Yoga sutra would have not introduced a new concept, so there are probably some shades of this word that are not obvious. One can hit these shades if goes deep into the phrase “attachment to something unpleasant”. Let us recall a similar phrase of Klyuchevsky: “the enemies who are in love with each other”. A good point said by the historian. The rejection of any aspect of the Universe shall attach one to it just as well as falling in love. In this respect dvesa can be considered as an obsession occurring due to rejection, antagonism against any aspect of the Universe. Since I am not I philologist I cannot speak for sure, but it seems by intuition that the words dvesa and dvaita are similar in their root. In any case they are similar in the nature of experience. Dvaita, the dual perception of the Universe, implies the rejection of one’s sense of Universal unity, of understanding the fact that absolutely everything that happens around us is integrated, natural, essential etc. 

Some aspects are demonized, and this is the core point of dvesa. 

Xenophobia, racism, religious intolerance, rejection of certain social classes, rejection of authority and hierarchy, disrespect to the opposite sex – they are all manifestations of dvesa; turning down one’s desires is dvesa as well. In fact dvesa is the root of one’s non-Love of Life

From practical point of view one’s rejection of some aspect of the Universe, its dislike, on the one hand, makes this aspect unavailable for the person, while on the other hand it attracts him. In this way a person who does not love power will never hold the power, the one despising money will never become rich, and he who does not love people will never be loved by them. While rejecting some aspect the person deprives himself of his development in this aspect. Yet the soul is still longing for advance in the entirety of the Universe. Therefore such rejection will again and again bring the person back to the items that he does not accept, establishing emotional bods between the man and the objects of his dislike. Nothing reveals the hidden obsession with sex as moralizing and asceticism do, the desire for money is hidden behind the ostentatious indifference to them, the desire for power is revealed through its criticizing, and “homophobia conceals one’s hidden homosexual tendencies”. From the point of karma one’s rejecting any form of another person’ behavior (criticism) will entail the mirror-like karma – the circumstances will force you to behave the same way as this man does unless and until you understand: it can also be this way, and until you forgive that person.. 

There is a particular case of the described situation when a person is completely convinced that “life should be like this, and never otherwise”. He says “This will never happen to me!” The harmony of the Universe requires that you see things may happen in another way. For instance a woman who in terms of her young years was sure she would be faithful to her husband and would never play him false will truly and deeply fall in love with another man, a man who despised the army in a critical situation will go to do his military service, and the daughter of the person who is the advocate of “pure blood” will marry a man of a different race.

I realize that the concepts I analyze here differ much from "neurotic yoga" of people who use yoga as a refuge from an active social life, and from life in general. The escape to asceticism, moral abstractions, political and religious systems, national and other types of ideas give rise to vast cultural layers, including those in "yoga", established in order to escape from the wealth of the Universe and one’s desires, and to continue suffering. On the other hand, these layers are a good deal of, and it is enough to look closely at your opponents. To see that the world is not so bad J. “Each item contains its liberation from itself”.

I shall end up this article with an example of overcoming raga and dvesa that I was much impressed with. In one Vietnamese village they have an unusual holiday held once a year. The veterans of Vietnam War from both sides, the Vietnamese and the Americans who were fighting against each other in this location, come there. They drink together rice vodka and recall the past battles. My student asked them how they managed to do it, for they used to be enemies. The reply of the old people was: these were not us who were fighting, these were our governments, and we were just people who happened to appear in the same unpleasant conditions - in the same jungles, in the battle against the people that we actually had nothing against. We have survived one and the same experience, and we are now closer to each other than anyone else. We are comfortable when sitting at one table.

These people did manage to overcome the alienation imposed upon them and to see man as a man and not as a social role. Their war was really over. And let this deeply spiritual and Anahata-based story help you to end your wars.

[1] That’s why in scope of our School we pay so much attention to Yoga of Travelling. A conceptual article on this subject is here http://yogatravel.com.ua/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=146:2012-01-25-10-20-48&catid=3:newsflash&Itemid=18

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