Apr 28, 2016

Sutra 1.35. Methods of chitta stabilization. Part 4. Thoughtless brains beget evil ideas

In the next lines Patanjali proceeds with methods of chitta stabilization and bringing together that, as you might remember, have been already said to include the development of Anahata experience and control of breath. The line 1.35 offers one method more, yet its interpretation requires that we overcome a few challenges.

The first challenge is the fact that there are two variants of this line reading:
विषयवती वा प्रवृत्तिरुत्पन्ना मनसः स्थितिनिबन्धिनी ॥ ३५॥
А 1.35 viṣaya-vatī vā pravṛttir utpannā manasaḥ sthiti-nibandhanī
B 1.35 viṣaya-vatī vā pravṛttir utpannā manasaḥ sthiti-nibandhinī

We see the difference to be just in one letter of the last word, and this could even be accepted in view of the fact that the two variants of this word are very close in their meaning. Nevertheless I have found it essential that this confusion is noted on so that, first, the future researchers are put out of needless misery, and second, the reader understands that even most classical texts are to be treated critically and carefully. No one is immune to mistakes, especially if the text itself is more than two thousand years old.

Another challenge in analyzing this line is associated with an already established convention of its interpretation that I personally consider to be misguided. But let us not jump the gun.

viṣayavatī (f. non. sg.) = viṣaya + vatī, suffix -vat (in this case -vatī because of the noun being feminine) – forms an adjective with a meaning “filled with something”, “related to something”, viṣaya – the word that we already know and that in the framework of YS is used in the meaning of “an object”. Thus a cumulative meaning can be suggested as “of object kind” or “filled objectively”.
vā (ind.) – or.
pravṛttir (f. nom. sg.) – the dictionary meaning of this word is “activity”: the prefix pra (pre-, ante-) + vṛtti (activity), a polysemantic word we already know that has derived from the root vṛt. Yet it is this very word that a stumbling block has occurred in.
utpannā (f. non. sg.) – created, born; ut (upwards-) + pannā - passive past participle of the root pad (to fall).
manasaḥ (n. gen. sg.) – ‘manas’ is always ‘manas’. 
sthiti (f.) – stable, steady; from the root sthā (to stand, to be situated).
nibandhinī (m. nom. sg.) – bound, tied; ni (down) + bandha, from bandh (to bind, to fasten) + in (or an).

In general, it makes no problem to bring this together and get the following translation:

1.35 Or [is] created object-filled steadily controlled activity of manas (mind). In the context of the previous lines it – the said activity – brings about stabilization of the mind. 

The idea is, in fact, totally clear. Scattered mind, the citta vikshepa that the last lines refer to, is caused by insufficient activity of the mind, lack of its proper “arrangement”. Globally speaking, most of psychological problems result from the fact that a person has nothing real to do, is poorly loaded or sets himself very simple tasks. Many readers might know well the effect of a disease that commences simultaneously to vacations or at relaxation after completion of a difficult task. The mechanism of these two phenomena is one and the same. As a Chinese proverb runs: “an empty house always ends with evil spirits, and thoughtless brains – with evil thoughts”.

In a situation when a person uses the whole of his potential, when he is totally focused on one thing he simply has no energy for, as we call it, “going after the tails and trails” [i.e., ‘unfinished’ situations where a piece of chakra energy has ‘stuck’ – transl.note]. And vice versa. Unused energy, just like any other resource, becomes destructive for a person. One must live totally and “the whole nine yards” in respect of all chakras. This is how I interpret this line.

Yet one can easily find this interpretation to fail drastically in fitting the mold - the prevailing mythologeme of Yoga as cessation of activity. And even to contradict it. Maybe it is the reason of why the first of the known YS commentators, Vyasa, who has actually originated the vein related to “fading of activity”, gave a different interpretation of this line trying to neutralize the mentioned problem caused by the word “pravritti”. And indeed, if we consider Yoga to be an escape from activity of the mind, how can we call for it. Moreover, in relation to objects… To this end Vyasa has given a somewhat mystical commentary of the word “pravritti” having shifted its meaning from the activity in general to some “subtle” perception and “subtle” activity. Lofty and unusual. And it was this type of activity that he has referred “subtle” sense organs to. For instance, the eidetic “smell” that occurs in yogi after long-term concentration on the tip of his nose, or the “taste” at the tip of his tongue… (by the way, it has been verified to occur indeed).

There is some logic in it: the prefix pra- has already been mentioned to mean pre-/ ante-, so that we can in line with this dream up some “subtle” smell that emerges before the real one. But only at the level of philosophic speculation. Because even with such an experience of ours we cannot tell whether the eidetic smell really “precedes” the actual one, or - as they think from the perspective of modern science - comes as reminiscence or reconstruction. Also, even if Patanjali implied some specific “subtle” meaning of the word “pravritti”, there is no evidence that it was with a view to some subtle perception. In consideration of Vyasa’s views the translation of this line reads as follows:

1.35 Or the [pretersensual] activity in relation to objects upon its occurrence [also] brings about mental stability. 
(E.P. Ostrovskaya, B.I. Rudoi)

In general the interpretation given by Vyasa dismantles, though partially, the contradiction with his own interpretation, but in addition to making the translation mystic and unverifiable it also puts it obviously out of tune with the rest of the context: everything associated to siddhas was referred by Patanjali to the third chapter of the text. In my early articles I have already expressed my disagreement with interpretation of Vyasa and pointed out his being subjected to Buddhist influence, so I take the liberty of doing it once again.

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