Friday, March 5, 2010

Chaper 1, Sutra 8

sutra 1.8

viparyayo mithyajnanamatadruprapratisham

Misapprehension is that comprehension that is taken to be correct until favorable conditions reveal the actual nature of the object

It was 1989 in New York City. 9 AM. I was walking down the street between Ridge and Rivington carrying two cafe con leches from the bodega on the corner. The coffee was made to perfection as only a cup of coffee on a Fall New York morning can be. I could hardly wait to take that first, glorious sip of pure joy. It must be noted that the neighborhood, at the time, was loaded with crack vendors and their customers, so there was a quality of anxiety in the air almost all the time. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye a man, a large man, a menacing terrifying man began racing toward me full force. He was barreling across Ridge, right for me and despite the fact it was broad daylight it did not seem insane to think this mad predatory giant was going to attack and kill me.

I threw the coffee cups up in the air and dove for the ground. Face down, flat as a pancake. I lay there with my face next to a hank of acrylic hair attached to a very questionable hairbrush, two crack vials, three cigarette butts and some gum. The murderer charged. I surrendered to the inevitable. He ran straight past and deposited a quarter in his expired parking meter before the meter maid could give him a ticket.
"Ah HA!" he yelled in victory.
I remained face down on the sidewalk for a few moments, hoping against hope that no one saw me in my humiliating freak-out. Since most people are interested primarily in how
they look, no one seemed to mind or notice the weirdo laying on the ground. Life carried on. Eventually I got up and wiped myself off and went back to the bodega.
(As an addendum, it would have to be a circumstance where I felt my life was truly in mortal peril to throw good coffee up in the air.)

Many Yoga Sutras commentary use the parable of a man mistaking a coiled rope for a snake in the dark of night. The fear of the snake is very real and remains so until you realize your misunderstanding. Aside from feeling foolish, you may have come a bit closer to seeing clearly and with equanimity.

I selected Desikachar's translation of sutra 1.8 because he decidedly avoids the word "reality" and includes the very important and friendly
turn of phrase "
until favorable conditions reveal the actual nature of the object." Understanding one thing deeply and fully seems slightly more manageable than comprehending reality.

If we refer back to sutra 1.3. When the mind is quiet and focused, your ability to understand yourself and others is more readily apparent. If, for example, you think you're about to be killed for your coffee, you probably won't make great decisions. If you are working on steadying your mind, you can use the activities of the mind (see sutra 1.6) to discern the true nature of the situation—to the best of your ability at the time.

This is where meditation is very valuable. By beginning to train the mind to rest on one thing and to know it completely means perhaps that you will identify with it and possibly even come into an understanding of Oneness with it. Therefore, the object of your meditation must be chosen with care.

I choose coffee.

Can you relate sutra 1.8 to your asana practice?

Recall a circumstance where you completely misunderstood something. Write about when you realized that your misunderstanding and what coming to this realization meant for you.

Is it hard to you to select ONE object of concentration? Ask yourself why? And if you do have an object of concentration, what is it? And how did you make this selection?

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