Nov 23, 2015

Sutras 1.3 - 1.4. Svarupa. Genuine inwardness, or what happens after vrittis have been overcome??

The subject of chitta scattered character (chitta-vikshepa) that we have investigated in the previous articles allows returning to a more thorough consideration of the term that Patanjali introduced yet in the third line. Namely, the category of “svarupa” or, making it verbatim, “own form”, “proper form”, “proper inwardness”. Let me remind that the line as a whole goes as follows:

1.3. At that time (in the state of chitta-vriddhi-nirodha) the drashtar’s (the inner observer’s) svarupa (own form)
1.4. otherwise – merger with vritti

These two lines postulate ontological objectives of Yoga coming as the most important verses of YS. And obviously the most topical question for understanding yoga that hence arises is the question of what that svarupa of drashtar is. Strange as it may seem, but this is the issue that most of commentaries either sidestep in general or dedicate only a couple of vague lines to. In most cases the explanations given bear some metaphorical rather than empirical character. For instance, they represent that in this situation a person attains the state of “pure” consciousness and so on. That is, nothing but “small talks”.

The nature of such ignoring is clear: in the framework of the set concept where chitta-vritti-nirodha is the “cessation of mind activity” the question about svarupa seems to be somewhat indecent, since whatever the answer is, it shall “bury” the whole concept. One can also duck the question having “soft soaped” the situation with help of religious concepts like those of “mind merging with Absolute” and so on. But let us be realistic – it does not make it clearer. Because even in case we draw some distant ontological perspective (like merging with “Absolute” or something else) we still need distinct interim criteria to help us understand that we move in the right direction and have positive dynamics. And these criteria should be manifestly implied by the ultimate goal. More over, a rough understanding of what a yogi trying to cease identification with vritti is heading to would be nice. If just to fix the idea….

To cut off all insinuations let us recall the line on “scattering of mind”. It gives a distinct reference point: when in the state of yoga, chitta is focused and concentrated. Dissolution into, or merger with, is the process opposite to concentration and akin to scattering and has nothing to do with the practice of yoga; frankly speaking, the major part of all these tales about dissolution in absolute are mere fiction of European salon occultists that is far from authenticity.

The things deeper and much more authentic are the reflections about proper nature of Self present within the framework of Kashmir Tradition. What appeals a great deal to me personally is the idea of development as “self-cognition of Ishvara” (pratyabhijna). I shall not dwell on this doctrine here referring the reader to the books on the subject available in English. But even with such a mature concept there still remains the question of situational orienting points as well as of empiric procedure that accompanies the experience. To make it short: what does a yogi feel and how does he live in the state of chitta-vriddhi-nirodha????

Some part of the answer is given by Yoga Sutra itself. The third and fourth sections make it clear that a yogi proceeds with his live and activity, and thus svarupa is not akin to nirvana of early Buddhists attained after physical death. The fourth section refers to this state as “kaivalya” that when translated literally means not “liberation” (this translation entails oceans of new neurotic concepts) but “detachment / disintegration”. What does a yogi detach himself from by mastering vrittis? The answer to this question can be accessed empirically: from determinism, conditionalism of his mind by external factors, namely those of them that have not been subjected to the fire of personal awareness.

Let me explain by examples. 

1. One has heard something negative about a person he has never met, and he starts an interaction having already some presets in his mind. His consciousness is determined by someone else’s attitude which nature he has not been aware of. The speaker may have been ego-tripped or biased, or he may just have shot from the hip because of bad mood… Yet the landscape has already turned somewhat distorted and the behavior has been adjusted. 

2. Another example is advertising. It affects consumers’ choice by manipulating their psyche. And of course – as it is seen from psychologists’ studies – 80 percent of consumers believe that they personally are not subjected to ads’ impact. But this only confirms its effectiveness.

3. “Habitual” views and beliefs which relativity becomes obvious after one finds himself in a different culture.

4. The “natural” – or, in fact, imposed by upbringing and often rather absurd and non-adaptive behavioral forms.

These are just few of hundreds instances of predetermined mind. But still what is it a person retains after he manages to liberate himself from all these influences? Is it emptiness? Of course it is not. And here my position coincides with ideas of humanistic psychology. The creative potential a man has emanates from his self. And in terms of yoga – from his chakras system. The need for self-realization, unwinding one’s self into the Universe is not a vritti yet a part of man’s proper Nature. That is not fulfilled because of these very vrittis. That is why a yogi is an active and dynamic person (let us remember Mahabharata) driven through his life by Genuine chakra desires. 

Of course I don’t mean banal physiological needs or neurotic desires (that are vrittis proper). Genuine desires are transcendental in relation to the person and it is only after a good while that their meaning becomes clear. I’d rather not go into refinements in this article but suggest that the readers learn (or recall) the famous speech of Steve Jobs about three significant events in his life given in 2005 at Stanford University graduation ceremony. In fact his instance is a perfect explanation of what true desires are and what role they play.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Learning these desires makes this very “cognition of the Self”, while their fulfillment is that what we call following one’s Dharma.

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