Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sutra 1.18

sutra 1.18

virama pratyaya abhyasa purvah samskara sesah anyah

Non-cognitive (asamprajnata) samadhi occcurs with the cessation of all conscious thought; only the subconscious impressions remain.

In Sutras 1.17—1.19 Pantajali is discussing the various degrees of samadhi—the total liberative experience. And according to this old guy, there are different degrees, sort of like a Bachelor's, a Masters and finally the big daddy Doctorate of spiritual enlightenment. If we choose to go by this familiar academic code, I have recently completed my 2nd grade education and am very much looking forward to 3rd grade.

I think it's important when discussing such exalted states to be very clear about my own limited experience. I also think it's VERY important to be discriminating when hearing or reading other people describe their exalted experiences. As Krishnamacharya told his son Desikachar, "If they call themselves a guru, they are not a guru." I am always a little perplexed when I read Sutra commentary, wondering if the writer is expressing something they know or something they are intelligently imagining or something they believe to be possible. I am of the latter school and sadly, you are stuck with a commentator who has the grace of Jerry Lewis when it comes to imagining and describing.

Sutra 1.17 is describing a state of mind that can be likened to that liminal state just before you fall asleep. You are blissfully aware that you're about to fall asleep but you are still you. This is an objectless state of being where you are free from the sharp definitions of self that you carry around all day. Even your body is different in relationship to consciousness. But, you are still subject to your memories and to the sub-conscious impressions that are stored so deep a back-hoe can't get them out. These samskara will pop up spontaneously to freak you out and remind you that you are still resolving your karma. Karma can be described as both the action that you do and the result of that action, so you're not off the hook even if you're behaving in a saintly way now. You may still have a debt to pay. According to Patanjali, when you are in this particular state of samprajnata samadhi you are getting just a taste of Reality. Samprajnata samadhi is also defined as a precarious state. Some wanderers may think they've arrived, but samprajnata is not home. This state is called by the first and most famous commentator, Vyasa, an upaya—a means—to getting home.

There are as many ways of experiencing the Yoga Sutras as their are people in the world. Traditionalists will say that this system is a rigidly dualistic tradition that refuses to budge. As a second grade citizen I will describe dualism as the idea that there is God out there and there is you and the goal is to reside in kavailya (total aloneness) with God. I myself do not really abide by that tradition, feeling and believing in a more non-dual system that defines God as inward and ever-present, a little more Tantric if you will (and thanks, by the way to Sting who forever ruined that word for many millions).

The Sutras describing states of samadhi and kavailya imply a more immanent quality for me. I feel that transcendence is very, very close to us all day long. (Read The Vijnana Bhairava for beautiful expression of non-dual Tantra). The window to freedom is open between each inhalation and exhalation. Reconciliation with true Selfhood can be found in the most immediate thing you know, your own life force. According to the Sutras you can get there through devoted practice and sometimes spontaneously.

We get a glimmer of this norn-differentiated ego-lessness when we truly love, laugh really hard or are awestruck by nature. We are reminded of our innate divinity in the reunion with a beloved or at a birth or beside one who is dying. The strictly dualistic interpretation has a forbidding quality that is akin to climbing a ladder that reaches beyond doctoral status into post-doc spiritual territory. I'm a practical gal. I like my ladders hand built. All that you need resides within, including wood, hammer, nails, map, the location and the treasure.

I am allowed to mix metaphors. I'm only a second grader.

Do you think of God or the Divine as something out there? Or in here? Why?

Do you have to believe in the Divine in order to practice yoga to its greatest depth? Why? Why not?

Does the word God trigger certain feelings?
Good feelings? Bad feelings? No feeling whatsoever at all?

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