Sep 2, 2013

Sutra 1.20. Prerequisites to Cognition

So, developing his idea, in the line 1.20:

श्रद्धावीर्यस्मृतिसमाधिप्रज्ञापूर्वक इतरेषाम् ॥२०॥
1.20. śraddhā-vīrya-smṛti-samādhi-prajñāpūrvaka itareṣām 

Patanjali tells that for others (itareṣām), i.e. different from those that we dealt with in the line 1.19 and whom I have referred to as the people of [spiritual] flow, the knowledge (prajna) is preceded (pūrvaka) by four factors: śraddhāvīryasmṛti and samādhi. Let us try to comment upon the essence of these factors. But first let us note that without some respective “fudging” this line shall not match the model of Vyasa since it postulates that Samadhi precedes the knowledge, this, in our opinion, being quite logic.

In order to circumvent this obvious unconformity and to preserve the idea of “ultimate” asamprajnya samadhi some interpreters (for instance, Satyananda Saraswati) have united the words samādhi and prajñā turning it into something like “understanding resulted from samadhi”, yet this has not eliminated the mismatch because “in the absence of mental activity” no understanding can occur… But let us go back to the factors.

Shraddha, one of its translation variants been “faith”. Just one of them – yet the striking majority of Russian interpreters, dashing away the tears of emotion, have translated the word using exactly this one. In theory the word “faith” in Russian has a lot of different meanings that are not associated with religiosity: we can believe the person or trust him, give the benefit of the doubt or be faithful [in Russian these are all translated by words with one and the same root “ver” – transl.note]. We can also trust or not trust in god, or in something else. But you might agree that the connotations that occur upon our coming across such word in the classic context would be of religious nature [1]. And here we immediately turn our back on Captain Obvious for it has never yet happened that the faith in its religious sense promoted the attainment of knowledge or went along with it very well, for the “credo quia absurdum” principle of correlation between faith and knowledge was set forth yet at the dawn of our era.
As far as English is concerned, here the situation with “faith” is not that stringent. There is a number of totally different words that refer to various types of faith/belief/trust, yet according to Monier-Williams Dictionary the translation of the word shraddha includes the major part of them:
Shraddha – having faith, believing in, trusting, faithful, having confidence.

As we see, the drawn translation versions cover almost the whole range of meanings – starting from religious belief and up to commercial confidence. However I believe that here the religious meanings can be omitted since the discourse of faith/lack of faith is not characteristic of Indian mentality. It is the product of the Western mode of thinking and Western culture in scope of which the idea of separation of ecclesiastic life from the social one has been maturing from the earliest centuries of Christianity (having, by the way, finally matured and taken its shape). Under the said circumstances a person could remain a proper member of society without being related to church, and respectively (in terms of monotheism) to religion. Yet the Indian social medium provided for inseparability of public and religious life (at least because of the casts). The ritual aspect of religion was continuously intertwined into everyday life. Besides, in scope of polytheism one’s protest against this god can be perfectly reacted by means of worshipping some other one :).

Based on the above, in order to avoid religious connotations I would translate shraddha as certainty [confidence]. The certainty about correctness of the application object chosen for one’s intellectual and spiritual efforts, one’s self-reliance, self-confidence. This interpretation comes in logical accord with the listed factors that follow (unlike the religious belief that DOES NOT make a good match with the enumeration drawn).

The word virya does not cause that much problems. It obviously derives from vira – the hero, and reflects the corresponding features, them probably been vigor, persistence, energy, stamina, concentration and so on. These features are undoubtedly required for gaining the knowledge. And, as I have said before, they come in good line with translation of shraddha as “certainty”. The active-heroic stage is naturally preceded by such certainty. Here let us pay particular attention to the word “energy” that is used by the majority of interpreters and that I agree with.
Indeed, the occurrence of creative insight requires some energy to be contributed. Remember a person who is trying to think something over (in a truly thorough and devoted manner) [2] – how does he look like? He “gets lost”, he becomes absent-minded, he is walking “half-dead” since a good deal of his psychic energy is consumed by the process of mental activity. 
In his attempts to explain the process of creative act Jung wrote that it is as if some separate part of personality formed at such moment in the person’s unconscious mind that draws a part of the consciousness’ energy (this been the incomplete gestalt from the point of gestalt-therapists). But if the process of creation results in success the person will gain an insight into the issue (the samadhi) and the energy will come back. “Got it!” – and the face is as if illuminated. In some way the process of creative work resembles the shamanic illness (or, probably, it does not even resemble, it is this illness :)). One “gets lost” for the period of the problem been under resolution; if it gets resolved one shall expand one’s conscious mind and come to the new level, yet in case it doesn’t the person shall be destroyed by it.
But of course this all happens if such contemplation has been charged by energy, i.e. if the person is deeply and sincerely (by the way, another variant of translating the word shraddha used by Ganganatha Jha) interested in resolving the problem. If no energy has been invested, nothing will happen. That is why in the yoga of Patanjali dharana, dhyana and samadhi are preceded by pratyahara – the stage of energy accumulation.

Smriti, as we already know, is translated as “memory”. The relations between memory and gaining of new knowledge can be illustrated by the below-given example that describes the way that in my young years some people (who had little to do with classical yoga) used when teaching me, the student studying physics and mathematics, how to solve scientific problems of. 

The algorithm of initiating the creative process included four stages:
1. You should take a look at the problem and get a general idea about it, its contexts etc.;
2. You should be looking at it as long as you need to remember it well so that you could reconstruct all conditions and details of the problem “in your sleep”; 
3. Drive yourself into the emotional state when this problem becomes the only one that you can think about – dharana, dhyana;
4. Forget about the problem and turn your attention to something different, so that after some time the answers will start coming. [They will come] spontaneously, this, as we have already said, been samadhi - the last factor that according to Patanjali comes as the prerequisite to knowledge.

The reader might say: this is all valid if one speaks about creative people but what happens when a person deals with some intellectual activity – how can this be applied? In this case all the stages listed are passed within the process of learning, even if these are the technical skills that are mastered. You are told about how things should be done – and you don’t understand, yet later, subject to proper certainty about your abilities, subject to your persistency and memory the understanding will come suddenly “with a flick”, accompanied by emotional outburst and change in one’s self-sentiment. The stages are all the same, but the scale is not that large.
Learning something conceptually new (and doing this with genuine interest) is also a creative process. Unfortunately, the system of public education and the social medium itself are set and function in such a way that as the years go by the creative impulse of people and their desire of learning is “cropped”. They make a person prepared to take some specific niche, and after he takes it they get him accustomed of keeping a low profile. But a practicing person can and should set himself the new tasks keeping up the spiritual enthusiasm, something that Patanjali referred to as ishvarapranidhana. But this shall come as the object of discussion in our following articles.

[1] It’s time to think over the issue of forming the national mentality [here – of Ukrainian/Russian ones – transl.note] by means of “cutting” down the meaning of words. For instance, compare the Russian standard “I don’t believe in god” with the English phrase “I’m over religion”. The first one as if implies the existence of some god that the person telling the phrase due to some reasons (probably – because of his stupidity) does not believe in, while the second one means that there is some social institute called “religion” that the speaking person has outstripped by means of “pushing the envelope”.

[2] I shall remind the words of B. Shaw that there are only few people who think more than two or three times a year.

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