Jun 9, 2017

Yoga and Gnosis

The succeeding lines of Yoga Sutras (namely, all remaining lines of the section) are dedicated to cognition. So I shall lay down a few considerations to make the reader mentally prepared.
Most of Western people erroneously take yoga as a system of physical exercises. A kind of gymnastics. However, hatha-yoga is just a small element of this multifacetous tradition. Physical practices definitely played an important – yet auxiliary - role. They trained the body to keep it healthy and live long; the body that was used as a key to one’s inner world. But authentic yoga practice implies inner transformation that was based on merger with one’s genuine, innermost essence – svarupa – by means of taking under control factors that were separating one from it. This basic nature of yoga is emphasized in the etymology of the word yuj that denotes both “joining together” (samadhi) and “taking control of” (samyama) – see here for details. 
The concept that a man is actually estranged from oneself may at first sight appear to be spacy, yet when learning more about modern neurophysiology findings we shall see this to be a healthy judgement. For instance, they have proved that human brain takes decision several minutes before one has consciously made it. And this refers to some simple issues … We spend years in the agony of “choosing”, but deep inside the decision has been made long time ago…

Apr 14, 2017

Difference Between Ancient And Modern Commentaries

Thorough analysis of primary sources assumes concurrent study of authentic commentarial works. Thus in the process of writing my commentary to every new sutra I usually thumb through primary classical commentaries that I here enlist. Some of them have turned into “favorites”, that is, must-reads: Vyasa, Mishra, Sankara, Bhoja, Sadashivendra. Aged 1000 years and even older, these texts (but for the last mentioned) are truly authentic, i.e. introduced in the framework of intact Indian culture so far not deformed by conquerors. I also had a pleasure of reading commentaries on classical texts of other darshanas (in addition to yoga). 

However, in the process of reading these commentaries I’ve noticed myself to have a kind of dissatisfaction which essential nature has become clear to me only recently. The matter is that notwithstanding the fact these texts are all commentaries, there is a drastic difference between the core point of commenting processes in classical India and in modern science.

Apr 3, 2017

Why Read Ancient Texts?

They have once again asked me: why in general read ancient texts, the more so commentaries on them? Why a person like me, a modern yogi who is rather future-focused than past-minded, the one who objects to traditionalism in all its manifestations and gives skeptical smile to talks on “paramparas” and consecrations, decided to spend heaps of time studying Sanskrit and leafing through ten- or fifteen-hundred-year-old commentaries? Is there anything in them that one cannot evidentiate by experiments based on modern scientific concepts?

Yes, there is.
A seeker of our days, when driven by scientific attitude and intellectual approach, can find many interesting things there.

First. Descriptions of genuine mystical experience that is both functional and based on psychological techniques are rather rare. What I mean here is real experience that differs from all possible forms of visionariness, philosophical waxing and contacts-setting.

Mar 27, 2017

Brahmacharya and Continence in Yoga. The Story of Confusion

Deconstruction (from lat. de – ‘top to bottom, backward’, and constructio – “erection”, “putting together”)- a concept in modern philosophy and art that represents understanding by means of breaking the stereotype or introduction into new context. It is underlain by the assumption that meaning is constructed in the process of reading while traditional ideas either lack due depth (are trivial) or are attributed with author’s repressive instance. Thus there’s a need for provocative act that initiates an idea and liberates the text undertones that author does not control. Developed by Jacques Derrida, it has its roots in Martin Heideggers’ concept of ‘Destruktion’ – repudiation of construing tradition for the purpose of hidden meaning revelation.

I shall once again and for a while withdraw from text linearity for the sake of brahmacharya – one of the most argued and controversial issues in Yoga. Brahmacharya is known to have been listed by Patanjali as one of Yoga yamas. Most of popular books on Yoga promote the concept of brahmacharya to be sexual abstinence, celibate and singlehood. But the absurdity and controversial character of this idea can be judged at least by the fact of Tantric sexual practices existence. 

Mar 21, 2017

Mind Wholeness, Absent-Mindedness and Torpid Mind. Mistakes in Meditation

Summing up the block of seven lines that Patanjali dedicated to exercising the state of mind wholeness (chitta-prasadanam), I shall try to explain why this subject has been essentially significant. One can by intuition guess that mind non-wholeness (chitta-vikshepa) correlates with vritti. And indeed, this opinion was shared by all commentators of Yoga Sutras 

We all now know yoga to be chitta vritti nirodha. And he was already the first commentator – Vyasa - who specified several stages of chitta sophistication on the way to nirodha.

क्षिप्तं मूढं विक्षिप्तमेकाग्र निरुद्धमिति चित्तस्य भूमयः।
kṣiptaṃ mūḍhaṃ vikṣiptam-ekāgra niruddham-iti cittasya bhūmayaḥ

Mar 14, 2017

Sutra 1.40. Chitta Extension and Densification

We have analyzed sutra 1.40 in the context of cognitive aspect proposed by Vyasa. But there can be a different view on techniques the sutra proposes. This kind of energetic practices can be found in all major esoteric Traditions though they may come under different names. In our School we refer to them as “the techniques of chakras fields extension and densification”. But let us consider the subject step by step.

Mar 6, 2017

Sutra 1.40. Another Post About Miracles

Many people are looking for kitschy miracles

but turn their blind eye to the major one

The sutra 1.40 been quoted out of context gave rise to numerous twisted fantasies that I intend to dispel.

This sutra completes the passage on scattered mind (chitta vikshepa) restoration and stabilization methods, and reads as follows

परमाणु परममहत्त्वान्तोऽस्य वशीकारः ॥ ४०॥
1.40 paramāṇu paramamahattvānto'sya vaśīkāraḥ 

In order to explain what I mean I shall instead of giving the line detailed interpretation first start with quoting the translation variants available:

Feb 27, 2017

Sutra 1.40. Eight Supreme Siddhis of Yoga Tradition

The next line of Yoga Sutra (1.40) dwells on siddhis – at least this is what most of modern commentators think – so I shall give my brief note on this disturbing issue, all the more so as some readers have already become restless in anticipation of this theme. Let me also remind that there’s been an article on my blog dealing with yoga’ view on siddhis that was based on the report made by Dominik Wujastyk.

Now, they traditionally distinguish between supreme siddhis (or mahasiddhis) and minor siddhis – the whole of the rest.

The list of 8 supreme siddhis that can be attained by a practitioner is drawn in both early as well as late yoga texts. This is a well-known information: even Amarakosha – the major Sanskrit thesaurus – has it given on its first page, while most of texts on yoga also consider this to be conventional issue giving no list details yet introducing it as “animaadi” – anima (the first siddhi) and so on (adi). 

Feb 22, 2017

Catalogue of the blog articles

Feb 21, 2017

Sutra 1.39. Yoga Sutra and Tantra

The subject of Tantra has definitely captured the attention, so I’ve created some intrigue. In order not to keep the reader in suspense I shall just say that: 

1. NO, Patanjali did not use the word “tantra” in Yoga Sutras. 

2. YES, he highlighted a group of techniques that were later made a groundwork of Tantric yoga. And they shall be the subject matter of this article. 

But let us traditionally start with a sutra of Patanjali. The line 1.39 rounds up the cycle of sutras that expose the methods of mind “gathering” and making chitta stable and steady. It is not difficult for translation and, just like the previous one, it has been ignored by commentators. I think we shall soon understand the reason why. So now:

Feb 13, 2017

On genuine desires and living by genuine inwardness

I’d like to add a few words to my penultimate post on own one’s Way and personal Dharma. I guess the reader has already got the key thesis about correlation between person’s dharma and Genuine desires: Genuine Desires in fact lead one along the road of his own Dharma. In the article that I suggest you read once again I explained the genuine desires to be a far cry from commonplace needs and to differ from neurotic and imposed desire, to be of global and creational nature; yet the practical question – how one can distinguish them “from within” – still remains relevant. 

Feb 6, 2017

Krakow 4. Yoga Sutra Authorship Debate

The next case of Krakow conference that I would like to share is the unusual double report made in form of a discussion between two classics of modern Indology – Philipp Maas and Michel Angot. The subject of the discussion in itself was very interesting – it dealt with Yoga Sutras authorship. But even if it were not for such a provocative and challenging topic the debate between these two persons is still worth listening to. With both being the world leading experts in the field they represent, the contrast between the speakers is nevertheless so striking that one would hardly imagine it. And it is not only their personalities but the method of scientific thinking that this difference involves. While listening to them debating I had a feeling that they were the two mentalities - a French and a German one, both profound and solid yet so unlike – that the discussion was held by… While the speakers were as if playing the roles of their archetypical representatives.

Jan 30, 2017

Krakow 3. What Does “Svarūpa” Actually Mean?

The next report that I would like to refer to was made by Keith Edward Cantú from the University of California, Santa Barbara and explored the category of Svarūpa and its understanding in live Yoga Traditions of India, mostly of Bengal. The reader may remember that the term svarūpa (own form) was introduced by Patanjali to denote the genuine state of Drashtar (the Inner Observer) at the moment of attaining the state of yoga (chitta-vritti-nirodha). Patanjali did introduce the term yet left it without comments having just confined himself to asserting the state opposite to the said to be vritti-sarupiam i.e. being of the same form as that of vritti. It is interesting to note that earlier texts almost never refer to this term as well. Nevertheless the issue of svarūpa notional core is highly important due to its significant association with ontological aims of yoga.

Jan 23, 2017

Krakow 2. The History of Standing Asanas. James Mallinson’s Report

The next report that I would like to give my special consideration to was made by a person who is believed to be a living legend of yoga insider studies - James Mallinson. A British aristocrat addicted to Oriental studies since his early youth; a man who’s been practicing in one of authentic Traditions for more than twenty years and the only European with a highest degree of this Tradition consecration. They say that in order to decide whether a European can be assigned with such a status a special convention of the School Masters was held. He took his doctor’s degree at the University of Oxford and he is a lecturer in SOAS, University of London.