Dec 28, 2012

Sutra 1.2. Nirodha (continuation). The Problem of Motivation to Practice

The problem of emotional content of words cannot be ignored as an insignificant one, and even if we no longer lose our sleep over nirodha it will still come before us in all its charm as we start to comprehend the two fundamental concepts of yoga and the Indian philosophy as a whole – the moksha and kaivalya. Though in terms of dealing with some simpler categories that we will come across very soon - like klesha and samskara - the shades of their understanding do dependent upon the emotional content as well.

Curiously, but even the possibility of a more or less correct reasoning upon this topic appeared in human mentality only half a century ago owing to the idea of Osgood’s test of semantic differential and psychosemantics in general, as well as due to those concepts that simultaneously appeared in other sciences (philology), Gachev’s idea of the national "images of the world" (culturology), etc. Without false modesty I should say that I have also “left my footprints” here by having set forth the concept of basic existential myths that underlie the way the particular person perceives the world and that "tint" such world perception in some certain mode. Of course prior to all these scientific breakthroughs there were poets like Velemir Khlebnikov who had caught the same thing but were as per usual ignored by “serious” people J.

But let us come back to nirodha. 
The problem of emotional content of the practice is tightly intertwined with another problem which nature is already deeply philosophical but that nevertheless preserves its actual topicality from practical point of view. I mean here the problem of motivation. 

Dec 22, 2012

Sutra 1.2. Nirodha. The problem of emotional content of the practice

Probably the fewest discrepancies and variant readings have been caused by the dictionary translations of the word nirodha (निरोध).
1) curb; 
2) confinement;
3) encirclement;
4) holdback, hindrance; 
5) difficulty, obstruction; 
6) suppression, quench; 
7) destruction. 

Some translators also used the terms "cessation", "obedience", "retention", "containment", "oppression". It would seem that they all speak about one and the same. However there are still some questions in here that arise within the process of thorough examination. Despite the fact that translation variants of the word nirodha are formally similar one may easily see that in terms of emotional content they are very much different. "Destruction" and "containment" are yet different things, and if it is the heroic pathos of a young Kshatriya that we here in the first case, the second once comes as a placid stoicism of a mature man. And now compare the emotional content of the words "suppression" and "cessation".[1] This is asceticism vs technocracy J. These all seem to be just details – but they are not. The emotional content of these words affects the emotional content of the whole subsequent practice, and therefore it affects its core essence.

Sutra 1.2. Vritti (continuation)

So let us come back to reflections about the category of vritti. We have finished at trying to figure out what was that common between the categories of vritti listed by Patanjali and what was the purpose of the phase about vritti being of klesha and non-klesha type.

Let us try to answer the first question. Patanjali lists and defines 5 vrittis: pramanna, viparyaya, vikalpa, nidra and smriti. The translation of the first two words is sound and beyond exception since these terms are used in numerous Indian systems, but what is more important, their definition given by Patanjali corresponds to their dictionary translation [1]. According to the Russian-Sanskrit dictionary the term vikalpa has the following meanings: mistake, delusion, doubt, choice. However, it is the first meaning – the mistake - that Patanjali focuses attention on, pointing out that this is a certain type of mistake related to a definite misuse of words. That is why Vivekananda translated vikalpa not merely as "delusion" but prior to it he added the word "verbal". I intend to discuss the profundity of this shloka in the next post and here I will confine myself to a comment regarding the phrase “verbal delusion”: this term is a little bit out of date while there is an excellent term "mental speculation" that describes the same class of problems. So I will be explaining vikalpa in this very mode.

Dec 20, 2012

Sutra 1.2. Chitta Vritti Nirodhah

As I have already mentioned earlier, this line of Yoga Sutra has a conceptual significance for the whole subsequent understanding of the text, as well as the practice of yoga in general, so I have decided to dedicate to it not one article (I guess so far there are three J apart from those already written) but several. In the first one I will try to draw the analysis of Yoga definition given by Patanjali, relying on the text itself. In the following two articles I will try to clarify the subject matter of chitta vritti nirodhah on some comprehensible examples taken from life, practice and other esoteric systems.
So let us start with word by word analysis.

As mentioned above, the Sanskrit word "citta" (चित्त) has about 10 different variants of translation. In addition we should bear in mind the options used by Yoga classics in their translations that are different from those given in the dictionary. Vivekananda, for instance, translates chitta as the "mind-stuff", and the aforementioned Desikachar, in fact, equals it to attention. Let us try to look into the meaning of this word on our own.

Dec 19, 2012

Sutra 1.2. Definitions of Yoga

Frankly speaking, when I was starting this blog I did not want to deal here with analysis and comparison of existing translation variants, let alone their criticism, leaving the criticism to those who enjoys doing it J. What I intended to do was to accompany the reader on the way of understanding Patanjali, so to say, “from the roots”, trying to comprehend the knowledge rendered by him in the most literal way, without adding anything extra. In my opinion, those who wish to practice in comparative studies could find all 20 Russian translation (this is what I know, maybe there are more) and do it themselves. However, in view of some doubts I had, I have decided to revise the approach (hopefully, just once J) and still to discuss the available variants in scope of the fundamental issue that affects the rest of the work - in terms of Yoga definitions. The second line of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is known to give a vivid and concise definition:

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोध: ॥२॥
1.2. yogaścitta vṛtti nirodha:

Dec 9, 2012

Some traps on the way of classical texts interpretation

The trap of religiosity
In terms of almost verbatim reading of Patanjali’a Yoga Sutras one may clearly see that it is totally irreligious. It is rather that its style is similar to the way the practicing person recites his experience in achievement of certain states and the possibilities of using these states, and describes the basic elements of his worldview. But if we take any Indian translation we will notice that there is a lot of religiosity there. Religion "worms itself" into the translation in the way it seems that "it has always been there". One translator or commentator slightly changes the meaning of the term, the second one takes it as a basis for adding something for himself, the fourth gives his "explanations", and so a completely normal text shall be thus turned into a totally religious one.

Dec 8, 2012

Lost in translation

Translation of texts from ancient languages is a difficult job, and translation of the texts describing psychological and mystical experience is a twofold difficult task. First of all it happens due to specific features of the described object.For instance when a linguist-researcher wants to translate the word"table" from one language into another he can in terms of communication with the language native speaker point out to the table and find out its denomination in another language. But how do we match the names of emotional, let alone mystical states or other mental patterns.It shall be possible only in case the interpreter himself has mystical or psychological experience that is relevant to the one described, in the way that he has already managed to conceptualize such experience in terms of his native language (which is not an easy task itself). But even in this case there comes the question about the conformity of such mental experience with the one described in ancient sources. For "the plurality of paranormal dictates it" [1].

Let us take,for instance, the word “chitta” that we come across in the second line of Yoga Sutras and that comes as a key word in basic definition of yoga given by Patanjali. According to Russian-Sanskrit dictionary under the editorship of Kalyanov chitta is:
1) Mental2) mentioned 3) cherished, desired, п. 1) mind, intellect 2)intellection, consciousness, 3) feeling, sensation, 4) will, wish 5) heart.

The Value of Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by no means comes as the most famous and the most quoted primary source on Yoga. I know about 20 translations of Yoga Sutra into Russian and ca. 50 into English (those who want to see the list may refer to Schedules 1 and 2). The exact dating of YS is still the matter of dispute between the scientists that I would not quote here. Those interested can find the points of view and arguments drawn on this topic in the works of Nikolaeva, Verstein and others. There are also a zillion of myths about Yoga Sutra that are obviously shared by incompetent people but that are nevertheless rather adverse. So I will start with debunking these myths.

1. Yoga Sutras is not the only primary source on Yoga. There are at least 150 classic yoga treatises known to me. And probably no one knows how many of them there actually exist. It is rather that Yoga Sutras might be the most advertised source in scope of the European culture. Maybe because it was among those first translated into European languages. Maybe because it was admired by the luminaries of modern Yoga, such as Krishnamacharya and Sivananda.


नमो नम:
Greetings to those readers who have ventured to take on this challenging reading. 

In my mind’s eye I also send my greetings to Master Patanjali and all Masters and Teachers of Yoga whom I pay my obeisance; to those experts who have already ventured to give their comments on this anything but simple text, and to all those seeking and willing to cognize! 

For many years, almost from the very beginning of my yoga practice, I’ve been working hard on comprehending the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and providing an adequate detailed comment on its text. In scope of this I have arranged several seminars dedicated to this text and I have written several hundred pages of analytical research. However, both the complicacy of the subject and the lack of time have prevented me from having finished the book in the form that could totally satisfy me. Yet in our age of internet technologies I have found another opportunity to make it happen. I will be giving a phased, step by step commentary on the text together with my ideas that come up in scope of my working on it in form of a blog.