Tag Archives: sankya

The Ground of Yoga: Why is yoga different from everything else we do?

What is the ground of Yoga? What is it that makes yoga unique and special setting it apart from all the other activities we perform on the course of the day or throughout our lives?

According to Patanjali, Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

yoga cittavrtti nirodaha

Thru tradition we are advises to ground ourselves in our practice in a similar way.

Om shree ganesha namaha

Any kind of spiritual exercise begins with supplication to Ganesha, famous as the remover of obstacles, and our mind being the biggest obstacle to spiritual realization. The little rat (rodent) he uses as a vehicle is always chewing like the mind. You’ll also see his image or some symbol relating to him at the entrance ways of temples and some homes.

 

A fairly famous way of opening into a spiritual practice like yoga and meditation goes like this:

Om shree ganesha namaha

Om aparvitro pavitrova sharva vashtang

gato o piva yashmaret pundari

kaksham asavantra suchii

Om madhai namaha

Om keshai namaha

Om Rishikeshai namaha

Om pundari kakshan punatu x 3

Om apsarpantu te bhuta, ye bhuta bhuvi sanshitas

ye bhuta vignakartarste nashyantu

Shiva jnana

Om namaha shivaya

After supplicating Ganesha, it goes on to purify the body internally and externally thru supplication to Vishnu the great preserver and operator of the three gunas within the main trinity of gods at the level of Ishwara. After the purification rights (pundari kakshan punatu), we insist that ghosts, latent desires (apsar) and mental impressions of the past be banished from disturbing us from our practice. This will happen by reaching the level of Shiva knowledge (Shivajnana); universal consciousness. So from this we want to practice from a ground of Shiva consciousness.

As we continue our contemplation of the earth tattva, we have to remember that Shiva descended as far as earth and then stopped. He could have descended further, he can do as he likes, thus they say, he likes earth the best. Shiva descends to the most impure gross dense point of earth before making the ascension back thru the tattva.

In this regards, I think of all these people who ask about past lives and such things. If we consider the tattva of tantra, the individual soul exists below the maya tattva, so even our soul is subject to time and the rest, which allows for linear progression and thus past lives. Time, of course takes on a different dimension relative to the birth and death of that soul so when we think about past lives we need to consider that that soul too will make a complete cycle from purity to impurity to purity once again. Such a realization might be the Sankya ideal of kaivalaya for the duality is still there, but Tantra advises to press on beyond the knots, otherwise known as the universal womb, that separate us from from the supreme consciousness, which is the realization of the non-difference between the universal and the individual: moksha; liberation in this life. Patanjali’s yoga cittavrttinirodha is both the the definition of yoga and the means to stopping the fluctuations. We stop (nirodha) the fluctuations (vrtti) of the mind (chitta) by bringing them together in union (yoga). You could say that the project of yoga is to harmonize the mental fluctuations; the cittavrtti.

Going back to the original question of this article, what makes yoga unique. Yoga shares many similarities to creative projects like dance and the arts which also seek a kind of harmony between the artist and the mythical spirits which moves his hand to draw of feet to dance. But there is a subtle. Of course, one could make arguments for dancers at the highest levels reaching a kind of samadhi; but this says little stress, tension and competition that mark the a climb. The truth is that dance very typically has numerous undesirable side effects related to vata and pitta excess and diminished kapha. This is the exact opposite of what yoga is trying to do: cool, calm, lubricate and nourish the body and ultimately the universe. Harmony is something we seek on all levels, but only when we act for something far greater than ourselves or our limited sphere of perception to we strive for yogic perfection: balanced body, balanced mind, balanced spirit.

Sankya will take you to a firm notion of duality, while Vedanta will soften that sense of duality with the Brahman, but will maintain some sense of maya, while Buddhism is said to take you to the void, Tantra is said to carry us beyond the void to the very source of the arising, sustenance, falling away of every mental impression, experience, and the whole universe. I suppose you could say that dance will allow one to harmonize with some few others, Sankya will aid in harmonizing with most others, but only Tantra seeks harmony with the entire universe.

36 Tattvas: Elements of Existence

…. Then he unfolds Himself in the totality of manifestations viz., principles (tattvas), worlds (bhuvanas), entities (bhaavas) and their respective experients that are only a solidified form of Cit-rasa [the juice universal consciousness].” (Pratyabhijnaahrdayam: The Secret of Self Recognition. Trans. Jaideva Singh. Sutra 4)

Macrocosmos & Metaphysical Existence

Shiva Tattvas (Shaktyanda; sphere of shakti functioning in its pure form of citshakti or mahamaya)

  1. Shiva1 – 2. Shakti2

3. Sadashiva

4. Ishvara

5. Sadavidya

Iccha (initial stirring of the will) – Kriya (spontaneous action as opposed to karmic action which seeks to fulfill desires) – Jnana (knowledge)

Vidya Tattvas: these are the tattwas which bind us to our bodily existence

6. Maya3: Five Kanchukas:

7. Kalaa (limits power)

8. Vidya (limits knowledge)

9. Raga (limits fullness)

10. Kaala (experience of time/change)

11. Niyati (experience of cause and effect)

The jiva is limiting himself thru maya and the five kanchukas. The Malas are due to the kanchukas and the two types of ajnana: 1: Paurusa ajnana: innate ignorance regarding the self. 2. Bauddha ajnana: ignorance of buddhi.

One considers the subtle and gross body as the self on account of asuddha vikalpas (ideation, thought constructs, irrational psychological thought). Replacing ajnana with jnana is one of the main goals of kashmiri shaivism and philosophical spiritual practice in general.

Atma Tattvas

Microcosmos – Physical Existence

  1. Purusha (iccha, individual soul, subject) – 13. Prakriti4 (kriya, creatrix, object)

The three Gunas (Sattvic, Tamas, Rajas) are the qualities belonging to prakriti. Possessing gunas is a property of being the object of experience which depends on an experiencer.

Instruments of cognition (Jnana):

Chitta

14. Budhi5 – Intelligence (Mercury)

15. Ahamkara – Ego/ I-sense (Sun)

16. Manas6 – Mind (Moon)

17 -21. Jnana Indriyas:

  1. Sense of smell (Mercury)
  2. Sense of taste (Venus)
  3. Sense of seeing (Sun & Moon)
  4. Sense of feeling/touching (Saturn)
  5. Sense of hearing (Jupiter)

22- 26. 5 Karma Indriyas:

  1. Power of speech (vak)
  2. Power to grasp objects (pani)
  3. Locomotion (pada)
  4. Excretion (payu)
  5. Power of procreation

Tamas:

27 – 31. 5 Tanmatras:

  1. Sound
  2. Touch
  3. Form
  4. Taste
  5. Odour

32 -36. 5 Tattvas:

  1. Fire (agni, tejas) – Sun, Mars
  2. Earth (prthvi) – Mercury
  3. Air (vayu) – Saturn
  4. Water (apas, jala, rasa) – Venus, Moon
  5. Ether (akasha) – Jupiter

Footnotes:

1 Five functions Performed by Shiva: 1. Nigraha or vilaya (act of self limitation/contraction), 2. Srsti (act of self manifestation of the world), 3. Sthiti (preservation of the world), 4. Samhara (absorption/withdrawl of worldly manifestation), 5. Anugraha (revelation or dispensation of grace)

2Shakti’s 5 modes of expression: 1. cit-shakti: conscious force, 2. Ananda-shakti: power as bliss, 3. Iccha-shakti: power as will, 4. Jnana-shakti: power as knowedge. 5. Kriya-shakti: spontanious action as power

Three kinds of defilements: 1. Aanava Mala (mula mala): self-contraction occuring at the first moment of manifestation of the universe. “The impurity of individuality.”(Aphorisms p15) Our true power becomes “obscured by the notions of existence and non-existence…”(Aphorisms p15) Begins once he descend to sadashiva level. Two kinds: a) veils knowledge of divine awareness, but freedom of action remains intact (Parlayaakalas & sakalas who exist below Prakriti) b) leaves knowledge of divine awareness, but veils ability to act freely (those staying above maya tattva). 2. Maayiiyamala: maayaa and the 5 kanchukas. Makes oblivious to real nature. Robs all sign of divinity. Veils only those below Prakriti. 3. Karma mala: Provides us with physical body. Collective residual impressions from past lives. Once karma mala defiles the monade, embodies individuals are created, known as sakalas. *the imprint made in the mind due to action which is motivated out of attachment.

4Prakriti provides Purusha with everything he needs for enjoyment. The physical body, karmendriyas, jnanaindriyas. The three gunas constitute prakriti: Kapha, vatta, pitta. Three modes of activity of shakti are: iccha (rajas), jnana (sattva), kriya (tamas).

5Buddhi is the abode of microcosmic Pranashakti. From here it flows thru the different parts of the body via the nadis. Contracted power of Jnana shakti. Sattvic. Locus of every experience. Five kinds of Pranavayu: 1. Prana (air: moves upward. Receptive: sense organs) 2. Aapana: (Earth: moves downward. Elimination.) 3. Udaana: (outwards. Speech, sound, limbs of the body), 4. Vyaana: (expansion in all directions), 5. Samaana: (Inwards. Anything that spins towards a centre point (ex. Meditation)).

6Manas: Ahamkara is the material cause. Instrument of rationality. Supervises/controls karmindriya and Jnanindriyas.

The Limitations of Man: a tantric perspective

To hear some people speak, you would think that humans would die out quickly if we stopped the mental chatter about past and future. Many people are attached to this chatter and there is nothing wrong with this: it’s the differences that make life. To have just one of something is not possible to recognize because recognition needs something else to compare with the first. Things have to go a little out of balance for the whole to exist. Though this “out of balance” has to balance upon something and that something is of course the one.

So, it’s natural and necessary that no one gets along or agrees with each other. This is the ravage of time on embodied existence. These are the effects of the limitations of time, knowledge, power, desire, and the effects of cause and effect itself. Without such limitations where would we be? We certainly wouldn’t be here raging against these limitations as we head off to our meditation workshops and places of worship following whatever practices seem to be offering some positive effect this week.

In the mean time, without ever taking a serious look at the natural limitations that turn out to benefit us, we blame the other person or the other group or the other nation for the “curse” of these very necessary limitations. Some traditions put these limitations into the category of illusion. By doing so, they trivialize all that we know of the joys and sufferings of life. If the limitations are mere illusions, then everything that comes after them is also illusion; which pretty much covers everything that embodies beings recognize as reality: all matter all experience.

But this life is no illusion. If matter and experience were mere illusion, then we could not use it to see past the limitations. Illusion cannot be used to reach reality, but reality can be used to see a deeper reality if we learn how to use it.

Our bodies are matter: finely tuned instruments with a handful of limited senses and limited ways of taking action in the world. And somewhere inside of our bodies is a mind with various ways of computing all the information coming and going.

The spiritual path begins when we begin to notice some difference between what is happening on a physical emotional plane and the one watching it all unfold. And though we might complain and discredit those whose views and ways of life are different from our own (whether spiritual or material life, structured or chaotic), it’s these essential differences of human nature that prod us to look beyond the differences.

Just as great suffering so often becomes a great blessing by inclining a person towards spiritual path, so too does the constant bickering amongst people and within minds allow for the blessing of discovering the inner witness. As the ‘witness’ we can easily recognize non-difference though we are forced to live in the world of bountiful difference.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Note for those who asked, how is this related with Tantra?

This article takes Tantric perspective in that Tantra (Kashmiri Shaivism) is a realist philosophy. Maya (the limiting factor) is real and not illusury. God consciousness permeates maya as much as everything else. Tantra teaches us how to use maya as away of overcoming maya. This is said to only be possible because, as Mark Dyzkowski so beautifully put it in his exposition on the Aphorisms of Shiva, everything “participates equally in the unity of the hearts essence.”