(translated from Greek by Eleni Cosma )
The ideas presented in this session are inspired by the lectures of my teacher Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry, India, www.icyer.com)
The images belong to my dear Eridani Milly Baker who is currently working towards illustrating each of the Sutras. You can see all of her drawings here: http://yogasticks.weebly.com/
In our last session, we talked about the Chitta Vrittis, the whirlpools of the mind. The Chitta Vrittis are the thoughts that we cannot control, the frequent and regular thoughts. When a thought becomes frequent and regular, it takes the shape of a whirlwind and has its own personality. We no longer need to decide to think it; it exists on its own! The Chitta Vrittis slowly create Samskaras (habits) which in turn create Vasanas (programmings).
Thus the following chain is created: Chitta Vrittis => Samskaras = > Vasana
When a thought becomes so regular that it becomes a habit, and such a big habit that it then becomes programmed in us, it is very difficult to ‘’un-program’’. These Vasanas follow us everywhere, sometimes even into our next lives!
For example: Every day I have the thought that ‘’I am unworthy’’. This thought, after a while, becomes an automatic habit. This automatic habit is so unconscious now, that it changes our body, our expression, and eventually… our entire life. What was initially just a thought becomes an innate part of our being. A characteristic which deeply affects the way we live our life.
Another form of Vasanas, is desires whose roots we are unaware of.
These Vasanas either come from our childhood, or from previous lives. Desires that are not in harmony with our life, which do not have the grounds to be fulfilled, but for us are undefeatable, are programmings which source from obsessive thoughts that that have become habitual. We must pay attention to these Vasanas because they have the power to guide our life to places that it is not in our nature to go to.
The way to discover and eliminate this type of Vasanas is through self-observation and meditation.
With meditation we can generate the energy (warmth) which ‘’burns’’ the kleshas (layers) and the Vasanas. If we manage to truly meditate and completely clear our minds, even for just a few seconds, the system will automatically create the necessary heat along the length of the spine, which essentially ‘’burns’’ these impressions (kleshas, Vasanas, karma).
If our meditation is weak, we can work with self-observation. In other words, we can use this cosmic dream we call life, to experiment and burn impressions. Life is the field in which we can live out the experiences that we need. The entire universe has been constructed for our evolution. We are therefore faced with the choice of taking our situations personally and self-destructing, or using the opportunity we have been given in order to evolve. If we choose to see life as a workshop towards evolution, then through observing it, we can burn the Vasanas that appear to us as desires.
Where do my desires come from?
Do I have the ideal environment to materialise my desire?
When I attempt to materialise this desire, do I constantly meet obstacles?
Attention: Difficulties which have a solution are not the same as constant obstacles. When in order to succeed at something we constantly meet a brick wall, then we must wonder if our desire is a vasana (old programming) and not a true desire. If however we find difficulties which can be quickly solved, then our desire is real, and the difficulties are there to make the energy of our action grow.
This is why Patanjali says that the main objective of yoga is to control our repetitive thoughts (chitta vrittis). Because if our thoughts are not controlled, they will become Vasanas which obstruct our evolution.
Patanjali (1.6) says that our thoughts (CHITTA VRITTIS ) can be divided into five types:
1. Knowledge (PRAMANA)
2. Illusions (VIPARYAYA)
3. Fantasies (VIKALPA)
4. Memories (SMRITI)
5. Dullness (NIDRA)
All of our thoughts can be included in one of these categories! And it is these categories of thoughts that can result in the programmings that obstruct our evolution.
I will focus now on the fifth type (dullness), because this can easily be misinterpreted. Sometimes, after a busy day, we go home and lie down staring at the ceiling, and if someone asks what we are thinking we might say ‘’nothing’’. This condition is NOT meditation! This is what we call dullness, or a kind of hypnotism. This hypnotism has nothing to do with the meditative state of non-thinking. In hypnotism, the mind is still (not empty), and in contact with the subconscious. In meditation the mind is empty and therefore in contact with its higher field of mind.
I would now like to connect the thoughts (Chitta vrittis) with the kleshas. Patanjali refers to the kleshas as the ‘’colours of our thoughts’’. Another interpretation is that they are the ‘’layers in front of us, obstructing our view of the truth.’’ The kleshas are the subjectivity of thoughts, which prevent us from seeing situations as they truly are; instead we see them as WE are. This is one of the greatest obstacles of human life! The root of this problem is ATTACHMENT. Because our ego is able to convince us that we ARE the situations that happen to us, we refuse to see these situations from an objective viewpoint, and look only through our small, limited viewpoint. This viewpoint cannot possibly see the truth, as our ego is only one of billions of people with billions of viewpoints!
The most valuable thing we will discuss today are the types of kleshas. If we are able to realise the layers that we ourselves place in front of the truth, then we can open our field of view and truly live in constant peace. If we can become free from our kleshas then we will move forward every day towards our evolution.
THE REASON THAT WE ARE NOT ENLIGHTENED, IS KLESHAS AND KARMA.
(Sutra 1.24: ’’The creative source from which we originate (ishwara) is clear consciousness free from kleshas and karma.’’)
(We will discuss Karma further in a future session)
The kleshas (layers which obstruct truth) can be divided into five categories:
1. Avidya – Ignorance
2. Asmita – Illusion of Separateness
3. Raga – Attraction to the pleasant
4. Dvesha – Aversion for the unpleasant
5. Abhinivesha – Fear of death
Patanjali says that ignorance is the root of all other kleshas. In Sutra 2.5 he gives four types of ignorance:
1. Seeing the temporary as permanent
2. Seeing the unclear as clear
3. Seeing things that bring pain as pleasant
4. Seeing that which is not the self as the self
Essentially the knowledge is all inside us. We all know the truth. It is simply deactivated. When the truth is deactivated, we say that we have ‘’forgotten’’. Avidya can therefore also be termed ‘’memory loss’’, because that is what it essentially is. The reason that we have forgotten is because somewhere, at some point, something convinced us that knowledge exists outside of us, in a wise man, in god, in books, and we stopped searching inside ourselves. There is only one escape from ignorance: To look inside ourselves and trust ourselves.
Buddha said: ‘’Kill them all, the parents, the teachers, and in the end kill me too. Only then will you see the truth.’’
ASMITA (Illusion of Separateness)
Asmita is our inability to see that everything is connected and that all existences within the universe, all the qualities (good and bad) originate from the same source. I believe that this illusion can only be overcome through the highest levels of meditation. When we consciously (so that we can remember it) reach the dimension in which space and time does not exist, we can experience unity with all, and this experience is stored in our memory. We know that we have eliminated this illusion within us, when we do not fear the negative. Because we know that the negative is part of creation.
These two qualities are the foundation of attachment; something we have said many times. What I would like to remind you is that when we seek out the pleasant, we will be inevitably hurt by the unpleasant. When we keep a neutral stance towards the pleasant, then the unpleasant does not crush us. This is neither insensitivity nor denial of joy. Quite the opposite, detachment is the true viewpoint of life. When we live without attachments, life becomes filled with peace and truths. When we live with the fear that we will not receive enough pleasure or that something will happen to cause us to suffer, our lives become filled with tension. The system does not differentiate between excitement and disappointment. In both cases, the heart beats faster, the breath quickens and we lose our objectivity. Both sadness and joy will charge the system. What we must seek out is peace, not joy. Because joy is temporary whereas peace can become permanent.
ABHINIVESHA (fear of death)
…And when there is this attachment for the pleasant, our attachment to life comes with it. We think that we are here to have fun, but even if we are not having fun, we still cannot free ourselves from the fear of death. This of course is instinctual, and it is a very useful instinct otherwise we would commit suicide from the first difficulty we were faced with. Life would therefore never be able to fulfil its purpose.
It is correct and necessary not to give up on life.
What is unnecessary, is for all of our actions to root from fear of death.
The excessive need to remain in this (temporary) body, even when it is time for us to change our form (or time for someone close to us to change their form), destroys our personal progress. Simply because the body and the life we live now, is the coarse version of us and not our whole existence, and we simply cannot give so much energy to such a small part of us. In essence this attachment to life means that we are attached to this particular form, and to the idea that we are our body, our thoughts and our situations.
Let us therefore be a little more sensitive in order to understand when we are being overtaken by the survival instinct, and when it is under our control. Our ability to ‘’create illness only with our thoughts’’ clearly demonstrates that the fear of death controls us and does not allow us to progress. On the other hand, those that have the survival instinct under their control, can use their power of thought to cure any disease.
Patanjali says that in order to burn the kleshas, we must meditate:
2.11 ‘’When our thoughts are coloured by kleshas, they are neutralised by meditation (dhyana)’’
He also offers an alternative solution, close to what religion offers:
1.23 ‘’Absolute surrender and dedication to the creative source from which we have originated will bring salvation.’’
If we therefore have as our main purpose in live to become free from illusions (KLESHAS) and to evolve, we must employ the following practices:
· Discipline in Meditation
· Surrender to the creative source
Let us follow our dharma – only this can free us!
Anandhi Korina Kontaxaki