Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sutra Class 2

Alex kindly transcribed these talks so those who missed a class can hear what was discussed. Unfortunately the first class was not well recorded.

Sutra Class 2 - Jan 2012

I am going to recapitulate what we spoke about last week. In fact every week we will go over the same basic concepts.

Atha yogānuśāsanam

The meaning of this sutra indicates that yoga is not something newly to be expounded upon, this is an exposition of a subject that is already known. The subject is known because it occurs as a natural state in the human being.  It is not an artificial state.

According to the yogis or rishis, there are four different states of human experience. The first one is called the waking state. The second one is the dream state, the third one is the deep sleep state and the fourth one is called Samadhi, or Turiya. In ancient times human beings used to experience all four of these states naturally.

The state of Samadhi has unfortunately been lost for most of us, but it is still accessible. One might have the impression that to attain the state of Samadhi and have the experience of the Self, is a long and arduous task and takes some effort. But in a certain sense this is a mistaken view since the Self is always present, the Self is always the source of who we are. The problem is the mind.
Then we come to the second sloka: yogaścittavṛttinirodhaḥ

Patanjali says, yoga is the restraint of the fluctuations of consciousness: when the mind is still, the Self naturally shines, it is naturally experienced. But the problem is that the mind, with its activity (rajas) and its dullness (tamas), is what is mostly experienced. We increasingly have become identified with the contents of the mind, and feel that this is us, and we have lost the connection with our true being, our true experience of ourselves. 

Kali Yuga is a period in human evolution, which is characterized by a predominance of tamas, tamas being the guna of heaviness, dullness, inertia, addiction and delusion. This is a period of delusion, deep delusion for people. There were three previous yugas. In the preceding yuga rajas was dominant but in the first period it was purely the sattvic influence which was affecting the human being.

The three qualities, Rajas, Tamas and Sattva.

The Tamasic quality has its source, its roots, in the head and it has a downward movement. So we feel the experience of Tamas as a kind of blanket or covering, which makes us feel totally dull, and feel like we are stuck somehow or sleepy.

The Sattvic element has its source in the muladhara chakra, which is why we stimulate mula bandha. And the Sattvic element has an upward and expansive movement, like the prana. So Sattva moves up, while Tamas moves down, and Rajas, the third element has a horizontal movement. The quality of rajas is connected with the lower, or animal mind (manas) and the senses. You can see that in animals, the spine is horizontal, and the movement of animals in terms of their connection with the senses and their desires, and the fulfillment of their desires, which are completely natural, is horizontal. In the human being, you can see that the spine has become vertical, and this is what allows us to have an increase in the sattvic quality, as sattva wants to move up.

The Tamasic element you can see mainly in the physical body or in plant life. Plant life has little or no capacity for movement, which is the characteristic of rajas, and has no capacity for consciousness, which is the quality of sattva in human beings. So you could say Human beings are predominately sattvic, animals are predominantly rajasic, and plants predominately tamasic. And in a similar way you could say our physical/energetic body is related a little bit to the plant, our emotional body and lower mind is related to the animal, and our consciousness as humans is unique and rises, transcends these other elements of nature.

So in this earlier period, human beings used to experience Samadhi naturally as a fourth state, along with a waking state, a dreaming state, a sleep state. This fourth state was naturally occurring. It is said to engender profound happiness, far greater than anything you could experience through enjoyment of pleasures of the physical world, through the mind and senses. It is said to be thousands of times greater, and therefore it is the goal of human life to experience that happiness, which remains as an unconscious memory and desire.

As human beings began to experience this world, and the pleasures of this world, they became more and more attached to it. And through this attachment and the pleasure-pain cycle which arose, delusion started to grow, and increasingly this experience of who we are was lost and we became more and more deeply immersed in this material world, both the pleasures and pains of this experience.

So although yoga practice requires effort, we are not really requiring effort to achieve the goal, we make effort to eliminate the problems which are there, then the natural state of Samadhi can be experienced at certain times.

Zoe: When Does Kali Yoga end?

Guy: There are different ways of calculating it. Some say 100s of thousands of years, which I don’t think makes sense, others say 10s of thousands, others say Kali Yuga has already ended.
But what does it mean? It does not mean we cannot practice yoga in this time, what it means is that the challenges we experience are intense and the work is that much harder. And your presence as people who are on the evolutionary path is that much more important for others who are in deeper delusion.

Jason: Last week we talked about the exhale being associated with Prana and the inhale being associated with Apana, can you explain?

Guy: Usually, typically, the opposite is said to be the case. The first thing I would suggest is just to observe through experience. Sit straight. What happens when you breathe in, physiologically? What happens is the diaphragm is moving down, a tendon in the abdomen is pulling the diaphragm down. As the lungs expand they apply downward pressure on the abdominal area. So there is a downward movement - this is the movement of Apana, it is downward.  And you will feel that as you exhale and the pressure is released from the abdominal area, the movement is up and out.

When you speak, or chant or if you sing, this is an expression of prana. This is you expressing your prana. When you breathe in and you feel full - in a certain sense what we experience is that we feel ourselves, as physical human beings, embodied with ego. My chest is expanding, my experience of myself is expanding, and so is my body. And when I exhale, I experience moving towards emptiness, and I’m moving towards a higher experience, the sahasrara chakra.

This is what I understand from my study with teachers in India. Actually both inhale and exhale are governed by prana, it is one energy which gets categorized according to its function in the body. Usually, even BKS Iyengar, talks about prana being inhale.

But I think this may be part of the mistaken way that we think about energy in the context of yoga in modern times. When the yogis say you want to increase your energy, what do we think? Oh I can work harder, I can make love for an extra period of time, I can have the capacity to do all these things in the physical world and fulfill all the pleasures that I have. This is the antithesis of yoga, completely the opposite direction. This is rajasic energy – energy that moves. What we want is sattvic energy. The yogic direction is to find peace, to find tranquility, to find serenity, to find emptiness. When the mind is quiet and the mental noise is eliminated then the Self is experienced. So we are aiming to experience Self, which is not what they call Prakriti.

According to the yogis, there is a division between what is physical (Prakriti) and what is spiritual (Purusha) and the physical also encompasses your mind. All the elements of consciousness we normally experience are part of what is called Prakriti, the material element. And the soul, true spirit, is completely non-physical in nature. Any thoughts you have, any ripples you have in consciousness any fullness of experience, is in a certain sense you experiencing yourself in the limitation of mind, and not in being. Because actually, what happens in the Samadhi experience is you go out. You are not aware of anything, its like sleep but more profound. Only when you wake up from the Samadhi do you experience this incredible bliss, as a kind of memory, just as after you wake up from sleep you have this experience, mmmm I slept well. This is the reason why, according to Patanjali, he calls even sleep a vritti.

There are five different types of vrittis, which will be described in the next few sutras. And of the five different types of vritti, one is sleep, as well as memory, correct knowing, incorrect understanding and abstract knowledge or fantasy. These are the five different types of Vrittis Patanjali says you have to control. But the point is, you experience the pleasure of sleep only afterwards, not during. During sleep, you experience just being out. But when you wake up, you have this delicious experience, delicious memory, a feeling that it was good. I feel good. I feel refreshed. I slept well. In a similar way with Samadhi, after Samadhi experience, when you wake up, then you experience the bliss. But during the experience you’re completely out, somewhere else.
The Third  Sutra, tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe'vasthānamaḥ.

Then the Self is established in its true form. Patanjali uses the word draṣṭuḥ, which means the seer, the one who is seeing but when he says seeing, he also means hearing, tasting, touching – Drashtuh has these experiences without in the slightest way being effected by them.

So when the Vrittis are controlled, then the Self is established in its true form. Otherwise: vṛttisārūpyamaḥ itaratra

Otherwise there is self-identification with the vrttis. This is our normal experience - I am sitting and talking to you, and my vrttis, which are my thoughts and words which are being expressed by me, my identification with what I’m expressing, your identification with what you are hearing and how your assimilating what you hear, whether you are judging it to be correct or incorrect, or if you have some question, or are you are relating what I say to your own personal experience – all of this is chitta vritti. And in the absence of a solid feeling of Self, we become identified with these vrittis. So the purpose of yoga practice is to eliminate the mental chatter and hopefully we’ll get an experience of the Self.

What we experience as mind/body is not just activity (rajas), it also has a quality of tamas, which means dullness. Sleep is the experience of complete domination of tamas - so heavy that you can only remember afterwards having had the experience. It is so heavy and so dull that the mind is completely inert. There are other experiences we can have during the day time where that’s partially the case. We may feel very tired or we may feel very passionate about something. When we are angry or have strong feelings, this has the affect of reducing your mental capacity, your feeling of clarity, feeling of being in touch with yourself.

In truth, Tamas, Rajas and Sattva are always intermixed - all three are always present but as yoga practitioners we are looking towards cultivating that which is predominately sattvic. Sattvic foods will also include elements of rajas and tamas, but sattva will dominate. When you are meditating, rajas, tamas and sattva work together: elevating your thoughts and sitting and using your higher mind, Buddhi, which is predominantly sattvic requires also Rajas and Tamas: it requires the activity of Rajas to keep your thoughts continuously coming back to the same point and the steadiness of tamas to keep it fixed there. But sattva has to strongly dominate otherwise the mind will not be able to resist the disturbance of Rajas or sleep inducing tamas.

These forces form the architecture of our minds, which we cannot escape. But we are looking towards generating as much of the sattvic energy as possible. So when you try to meditate, as the tamasic element kicks in, that thought on which you are meditating disappears. We then use the rajasic element to bring it back into place, and then tamas makes it disappear again. Effectively what we have are discrete thoughts which disappear. They don’t have the power to sustain themselves, something else will come along and replace them, or they will just sink back into the unconscious. So these three are always interacting.

There are a number of different ways of looking at the human being. Another perspective, according to the rishis and the yogis, is that we do not have just one body, but five. We have a physical body, which is called the annamaya kosha, annam means food, it is the body of food. The body is made of the food we consume, and it becomes food for others. Everything is connected in the cycle of life. After you die your body will decompose and become the bodies of other creatures. Even while we are alive, the cells of the body are constantly re-cycling, so we are taking in new material and building news cells, while at the same time eliminating the old. So one is constantly loosing one’s cells, these cells become parts of other creatures and other living beings - they get consumed and become food. So the physical body is called the body of food, and its completely made of the food that you eat and it is not ours, the matter we assimilate is only borrowed, is integrated into the vast nexus of life and will be cast off at death like an old item of clothing.

The second body is called pranamaya kosha, prana is the vital energy, the life force. Earlier I said, that in a certain sense, our physical body devoid of sentience is like a plant but that is not really accurate. The physical body has two aspects to it. One is totally mineral in quality and functions according to inorganic chemistry and the laws of physics, and then added to that is a life body (of course we can see the impact in the human body both of the animal and the purely human in its form and function). So the mineral element would be more like a rock, and when you add the pranic element, to the purely mineral aspect, then you have plant-like life. So pranamaya kosha is called the life body. It is said to be inside the physical body, it is more subtle than the physical body and pervades it, but it is not just inside, as it radiates out beyond the physical body as well.

The third body is called the Manomaya kosha in its relation to manas. Manas is the lower mind, sometimes called the 11th sense. According to yoga we have not just 5 senses but connected to them we also have 5 organs of action. The lower mind, manas, is like a telephone exchange, receiving messages and transmitting instructions.

The organs of action are speech, grasping, locomotion excretion, and reproduction. The 5 organs of action and 5 organs of sense are connected to the mind and these live in a certain sense in the Manamaya kosha, which is more subtle than the pranamaya kosha. This is the body of animal type consciousness.

The 4th body is called Vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnana means knowledge, the sheath of knowledge, or body of knowledge, or the body of intellect. And here we find the buddhi, the faculty of cognition, memory and decision making. And the 5th body is called Anandamaya kosha, it means the body of bliss. It is also called the causal body, and this 5th body is the one that contains the samskaras, unconscious impressions and karmas which determine an individual’s character.

So here is a way of looking at the human being by saying that the soul or Self is completely non-material in nature, and that which we experience with our body and our consciousness, our normal awareness, is composed of these 5 bodies of increasing subtle substance. So the body of food is the most solid and the bodies of energy and consciousness are progressively more subtle and the Self is beyond subtle, the Self is characterized as space – it encompasses all. This is how we understand a little bit about the concept of mind, and how the mind is not the same as the Self. This visualization also constitutes a meditation, which may lead to Samadhi and Self Realization.

They say the Self penetrates the body, “riding” on the prana and imbues the body with life and consciousness. The mind has no innate consciousness on its own, the sense organs have no ability to grasp anything by themselves, these functions are only possible due to the presence of the Self.
The Self has an impact a little bit like electromagnetism. It transfers energy across a boundary, it never enters the physical body as a discrete entity, but its touching creates an energy field or resonance in the physical body which stimulates consciousness and action. So the Self is the “light” or “current” of waking consciousness, and it is obvious that if you were dead, then the Self is no longer there, there is no thinking there is no acting, nothing is happening.

Danielle: The anandamaya kosha reincarnates, and that’s different than the true Self? Because the true Self is pure, and the kosha is not?

Guy: They have a totally different quality in the sense that the Self, or Purusa, the Soul, is not of any substance. It is of the quality of essence, of a different dimension. The purpose of yoga is to purify the bodies, and the anandamaya kosha is the closest to the Self. In its most purified manifest form the anandamaya kosha receives a direct impression of the Self – this is Samprajnata Samadhi (asmita samdhi). When even this subtle trace subsides, the highest state of Samadhi, Asamprajnata Samadhi may be experienced. After this further incarnation can stop.

Felice: It seems, when you talk about the yogis and a lot of the theory, to be going towards something that we are not possessing, to always be reaching for a state that is somewhere out there: you are always looking for something. But then when you look at someone like Guruji who had a family and a life and was very much a part of this world, there seems to be a dichotomy that I don’t really understand. Is the goal being by oneself, sitting in peaceful mediation? Or is it to have a lovely life and influence people positively?

Guy: As I said earlier, in a certain sense, there is no work to be done, there is nowhere to go. We are there essentially. There are many different paths to attaining the Self. Yoga is one of them, but music is another, dance is another, drawing is another, cooking is another. There are 64 yogic arts which can lead to Self realization. Yoga practice should be integrated into life: if we understand how to provide ourselves with the best conditions for practice, there is no struggle.

If you don’t take care of your responsibilities which you have created as a result of your karmas, you are going to have a lot of problems in practice and you are going to have to reflect and go back to take care of those mistakes. You cannot escape your responsibilities and you should not escape your responsibilities to your children and your grandchildren and society and so on.

Traditionally in Hindu culture, when people had fulfilled their responsibilities to their immediate family and children, and then to society, they would retreat to the forest and spend their time in meditation and devote the rest of their lives to Self realization. Those who naturally have no desire from birth, which is extremely rare today, are suited towards a more extreme spiritual path. Many who try to go that way, end up getting aspects of their unconscious perverted into other types of problems because they are not really suited to that path and have karmas they need to perform. So we have responsibilities, we have karmas and we have children, jobs, people who are dependent on us, people we have to serve and take care of, and there is no liberation until we have taken care of these responsibilities.

You can practice for an isolated period of the day, an hour or two hours or however long you have, and still maintain your full responsibilities in life. If you are lucky and if you live in a good environment and if your samskaras are good, you may have some very blissful and good spiritual experiences even though you might be a parent or still working or still involved in society. So you use those periods of time when you are doing your practice as a source of strength, then when you go to your job and you are dealing with people who are rajasic or tamasic or who are aggressive or violent towards you in some way, you have more strength to sustain that same will towards realization, even though you are dealing with the practical and earning a living and taking care of the kids, or whatever.

It may be a long time before we attain Self realization but the beauty of it is, that even though you may not achieve it in this life time or the next, every little bit of improvement, or little bit of movement in that direction, brings more happiness, more beauty into your life. So it has it’s benefit, even though you may not get all the way there this time. Or next time, or ever, for that matter. 

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