Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sutra 1.24

 sutra 1.24

klesha karma vipakasya iparamristra purusa visesa isvara

Isvara (God) is the supreme Purusha, unaffected by any misapprehension

This sutra is where the scholars like to go really crazy. There is some serious nit-picking analysis of what Isvara is in relationship to Purusha. It is also the kind of conversation that I find, dare I say, boring. For me such stuff sounds like algebraic discussions, and I checked out of that conversation in 7th grade.

The reason scholars get all excited about this is because it is at this point in the sutras that Sri Patanjali unequivocally declares himself as a dualist. A dualist? No, not someone who fights with swords (a duelist) but rather one who believes that God is OUT THERE. Non-dualist traditions in Vedic culture declare that God is IN HERE and OUT THERE and EVERYWHERE.

I once taught at a yoga school that practiced a non-dual philosophy. Since I never formally registered with God as either a dualist or non-dualist, I guess I was let in the school.  Each time before asana class I would chant a sloka, or prayer dedicated to Patanjali. Almost every time several of the students dedicated to non-dualism would openly sneer and snicker and would refuse to chant. At first I was offended and bugged. But upon reflection, I found their response to be really funny because, if God is here, there and everywhere, wouldn't he/she/it easily encompass entirely the idea of a dualist tradition?

These arguments are often the jumping off point for some real suffering. When we get discursive and intellectually uptight about mapping the nature of the Great Mystery, the Great Mystery recedes. By drawing a detailed portrait of God, one does not necessarily come to know God's nature. In fact all sorts of important details may be left out of the portrait because of your own conditioning.  Theological convolutions may lead to attainment of political power, and may also lead to intellectual and spiritual bullying. Theological convolutions can also lead to war, death and suffering. 
On the other hand, there is nothing quite so wonderfully healing as reading or hearing some spiritual philosophy that so deeply resonates with your inner world that you feel you have arrived home or have at the very least, found a map to help you out in the jungle. 

For a time I thought I should possibly chant something different at the non-dualist school— a chant that aligned more with a non-dual philosophy. But what I ended up feeling was that what I was singing was not nearly as important as what I felt when I sang the words.  I felt (and still feel) a sense of authentic reverence, gratitude and joy. I also feel this way when I sing along  to Journey songs with my car windows rolled all the way down. It is the lifting up of my totally mediocre voice as a genuine offering that feels so right. When I sing to God, no matter what song, it aligns me with meaning, a great sense of purpose beyond me. Does it matter how I do it?

Do you think of God as OUT or IN?

Do you think it matters how you worship?

Must you pick a singular tradition to align yourself with?

What happens when you are dedicated to a particular practice and you suddenly come upon an idea or teaching that does not ring true with you?

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