Sadhana Pada: Yoga in Action (Experience the Now)
- 2.5 Anitya asuci duhkha anatmasu nitya suci sukha atmakyatir avidya
- anitya = impermanent / transitory / not eternal
- asuci = delusion / impure / unclean
- duhka = misery / suffering / distress
- anatmasu = non-Self / the false self / corporeal
- nitya = permanent / everlasting / eternal
- suci = truth / pure / clean
- sukha = happiness / pleasure / joy
- atma = Self / the true self / soul
- khyatir = view / assertion / ideal
- avidya = misperception / ignorance / confusion
Sometimes we only see what we want to see, or we simply can't allow ourselves to see something else. Our mind is constantly playing tricks on us. It doesn't do it to be malicious, vengeful or even to play around with us. It's simply a matter of survival. From the time we were young, we developed a way to see and be in the world that helped us to cope with whatever we needed to or were forced to deal with at the time. The problem is sometimes this perception we developed and lived with doesn't match with the truth of what we are living now. According to the sutras, this misperception (or ignorance) is the root cause of all problems in our practice and in life, and is the very reason yoga exists. Yoga is about clearing away our mind clutter to get to the truth of who we really are, not who we allow our minds to tell us we are.
According to sutra 2.5, avidya (misperception) is the root of all the other obstacles we'll encounter along our path. It goes on to further describe 4 specific ways the mind tries to trick us resulting in misperception. These 4 "tricks" include:
- viewing the impermanent as permanent - Among a few different ways to look at this, one includes believing how things are now is how they will always be. What a perfect example of this we are living in at the moment. Sick of hearing about Covid-19? Tired of wearing masks? Annoyed and frustrated by the division? As much as it feels like this will never change or is taking forever to end, guess what? There WILL come a time when all of these things we are living through will be nothing but a memory.
- viewing delusion as truth - this involves the stories you tell about yourself or others. Do you have the replay in your mind that you're not good enough? Do you think a specific person or group of people is "wrong" because they don't agree with your point of view? This part of the sutra is saying if you sit in your stories without confronting them to see if there's a different way to view things, it's merely perpetuating a misperception.
- confusing misery and happiness - Ever heard the "good luck, bad luck, who knows" story? Sometimes what we believe will bring us pleasure or starts out pleasurable can result in something painful. Sometimes our deepest pain can result in our greatest growth and pleasure. It's a misperception to label things and experiences as misery or happiness as they can often be different sides of the same coin.
- confusing the non-Self as Self - We may introduce ourselves to others based on our role (mother, brother, daughter, uncle, etc.), job titles, labels, etc. But to let these things define us and to think who we are is only these things results in misperception.
Yoga does not have a definition of evil. Yoga doesn't believe in evil. Yoga simply sees various levels of misperception or ignorance that prevent us from seeing the magnificence of who we ALL are at our very core. So . . . in the spirit of this week's sutra, I propose the kindness challenge. Instead of letting the current perception of us vs them/my way of thinking vs their way of thinking prevail, I challenge you to simple relate to everyone you encounter or think about this week (including yourself) as a spark of light projected out into a human being who is doing the best they can with what they have at this particular point in time. There's nothing you need to do except energetically send loving kindness towards these people that you love, get along with, don't see eye to eye with, have challenges with, etc. Just for a moment give yourself and them a break to be exactly where they are and may need to be now. Also, if you're interested in an additional challenge . . . focus in on the picture above. Can you perceive the message that is hidden within it? Sometimes there is more to things than what our eyes originally perceive!