Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sutra 1.9

sutra 1.9

sabdajananupati vastusunyo vikalpah

Knowledge that is based on language alone, independent of any external object, is conceptualization

When Lucy is feeling expansive, she says: "I love you a google, Mama."
And then Misha weighs in: "I love you a google too. But I love Blankie a google
and infinity."
"Really?" I say, looking dubiously at the once pink, over-loved, slightly soiled, much adored Blankie.
"Yes,I'm sorry to say it, but it's true." She strokes Blankie lovingly. "Mama?"
"What's a google?"

I could have answered my girls in a few ways—1)an enormous and eerily ubiquitous search engine on the world wide web 2) a number so large that there are no numbers to represent it, or the number right before numbers fall over into infinity, or something like that.
Instead I said:
"It's a whole bunch. A whole whole bunch."
The conversation continued with a sketchy explanation of infinity. Lucy wanted to know who invented infinity and why. Believe me I was lost and slightly distracted by the fact that one of my daughters loved Blankie an infinity more than me.

Are we still talking about the Yoga Sutras?
are still examining the activities—vrittis that occupy the mind. Recall, from sutra 1.2 that Patanjali defines Yoga as the calming or cessation of the active whorls of the mind. He goes further to illuminate the types of movements of the mind as 5. And here we are at vritti number 3, my favorite—imagination—though it is rendered in Carrerra's translation as conceptualization.

It's important to remember that Patanjali is not saying that these mental activities are intrinsically bad or good but that they are veils obscuring the true shape of Reality. Reality, The Godhead, The Divine is understood as unchanged, unchanging and everlasting and so can't be known through the common activities of the mind. It's also important to remember that all thought waves can either produce positive or negative effects. (See sutra 6)

For many imagination is the most alluring and the most productive of the veils of vritti. We exalt the imagination of children and often feel they are closer to Reality than the world we dullard adults occupy. The conversation I was having with my girls was an example of their imagination being used wonderfully and widely. All the same they were attempting to limit the world by naming it and in some ways this is what takes us further away from the source.

I will freely admit that when I became interested in yoga it was purely a physical attraction, though I was open to the possibility that there was more to it than some weird calisthenics. The first portal that sparked my imagination were the images of the Hindu deities because they were so wildly foreign and so reassuringly not Jesus (for whom I, at the time, held negative feelings).

I began to read the Upanisads, and what I read sparked my imagination more deeply. I can't say that I was entirely convinced of a Divine presence in the world, though the beautiful words allowed me to imagine the possibility. It was not until I directly experienced Divine presence in the world
and my self that the thoughts inspired by sacred texts ceased to be workings of my imagination and became knowledge and sometimes even Living Word. Without the help of imagination I would not have walked through that portal and my understanding of Yoga might have been terribly limited. In this way the vritti served me well in gaining a deeper relationship to Yoga. This expansion also all0wed me to review such things as images of the Christ with an increased heart and mind.

Patanjali is a pretty unrelenting teacher and later he will state that
none of these vrittis are present in the state of Yoga. If you do arrive there, you will totally and completely understand a googlolplex and you won't care that Misha likes Blankie an infinity more than you.

How has imagination served you well in your life?

How has imagination (such as projection into the future or the living in the past) limited your life?

Imagination (along with memory) is related to nostalgia, anticipation, and talk therapy. What role does imagination play in your life?

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