Why are we doing Yoga? part 2

As we said, Yoga represents the way out from the Cave where we are kept in chains. This image from Plato’s ‘Myth of the Cave’ is surely very well representative of our condition, but no many people (especially if yoga practitioners) feels that way about their own life. It might be a good intellectual description of certain mechanisms of the mind, of the way sometimes we feel, of some moments of frustration that everyone has experienced in their own life! But who is really feeling kept in chain, in the dark of a cave? Come on! We all are (again, especially yoga practitioners) healthy, quite strong and flexible and most important, happy to do what we are doing…! Why would we ever do all that giving up and facing things? In Fact we have many projects for our future and we like what we are: actually quite smart! We are so far from being desperate or considering ourselves trapped somewhere…that is why we practice Yoga at the end, isn’t it?  No…

We went through what Patanjali says about Yoga, how He describes this state of unity, of pure blissed conscious being. What about when we are not in Yoga, when we are not in a transcendental state,  basically when we are as we always are? Vrtti sarupyam itaratra (I.4): at other times we identify ourselves with these changing states of the mind and thus of the consciousness.

Whether we like or not what we are and what we do, there is identification, attachment, we give importance to things, situations, people. And it is perfectly normal: it’s our nature. Our Mind gets involved with everything that is around and through the senses allows us to experience, to judge, to study, to like and dislike and so on. Something start to change when we realise this is NOT the only thing we are meant to do in our life, that there is something else and that is also the moment when we start realising we are chained and we need to do something to get freed. “There are two birds on a tree. They are perfectly identical. One keeps trying the fruits of the tree and some are good and sweet while some are bitter and bad. The other bird just watch undisturbed.” This passage from the Mundaka Upanishad explains very well the condition of the human being. And we are both the birds: one is our Ego, built up in the years through our mind and experiences, the other one is our consciousness, our Self, untouched by the experiences of life. The first one gets involved and stuck with this endless process of ‘tasting’ life, liking and disliking, desiring and avoiding: these are the chains that Plato describes and the more we like what we do, the more these chains are strong and hard to break. On the other hand the second bird is free and peaceful, just observing his twin’s compulsive activity. Ordinarily we just identify ourSelves with the first bird, with the Ego, experiencing life through the senses, seeking pleasures (Boga) and repeating the same patterns again and again. This process of identification has different ways to affect our consciousness.

Patanjali goes on describing five kinds of changing states of the mind and they can be painful (klista) or non painful (aklista): vrttayah pancatayyah klistaklistah (I.5).

om bhadram karnebhih srnuyama

bhadram payemaksabhiriyajatrah

sthirairangaistustuvamstanubhih

vyasema devahitam yadayuh

svasti na indro vrddhasravah

svasti nah pusa visvavedah

svasti nastarksyo ‘ristanemih

svasti no brhaspatirdadhatu

They are: correct knowledge (pramana), its opposite, error (viparyaya), imagination (vikalpa), sleep (nidra) and memory (smrtayah): pramana-viparayaya-vikalpa-nidra-smrtayah, and according to yoga tradition they represent the all possible mental state that someone can experience and that can be overcome by practice (abhyasa) and dispassion, non attachment (vairagya), abhyasa-vairagyabham tan-nirodhah.

Practice is the uninterrupted, over a prolonged period of time, devoted effort needed in order to fix the mind in one-pointed state of concentration; dispassion is the control over the compulsive craving for senses objects, the need to taste the fruits of life.