Sadhana Pada: Yoga in Action (Experience the Now)
- 2.4 Avidya ksetram uttaresam prasupta tanu vicchinna udaranam
- avidya = misperception / ignorance / confusion
- ksetram = breeding ground / origin / source
- uttaresam = for the others / of others
- prasupta = dormant / inactive / latent
- tanu = weak / feeble / diminished
- vicchchinna = intermittent / interrupted / suppressed
- udaranam = fully active / sustained
What is the purpose of yoga? According to the sutras, the "goal" of yoga is to discover, know and unite with our natural divine nature/essence. Why practice yoga? To remove the obstacles, blocks or coverings that cloud over and hide this true nature. These blocks (called kleshas in sanskrit) lead to tendencies, habits and thoughts that prevent us from knowing our true self causing us pain and suffering. Patanjali mentions 5 kleshas, but the first one basically gives rise to the other 4. This first klesha is called avidya.
Avidya can be broken down into "not" (a) and "to know" (vidya) and is often translated as ignorance. Because we often tend to associate ignorance with stupidity, I prefer to refer to it as misperception - not seeing things as they really are. It's out of misperception and our human ability to see things in a multitude of different ways that the other blocks (kleshas) of egoism, attachment, aversion and fear are born. Now before Patanjali gets more into this first klesha of avidya, he first tells us that there are stages we go though with these blocks.
- In the beginning, before we have had any experience with yoga, our blocks and obstacles are fully active. Our thoughts are not focused and directed and we tend to believe we are who others, the false stories we tell ourselves, or society tells us we are. (udaranam)
- When we begin the practices of yoga, we enter the intermittent stage where we begin to watch our mind and recognize how habits, emotions and tendencies rule our actions and we begin to see glimmers of our true selves. (vicchchinna)
- Moving to the weak stage, we recognize that we are letting our mind control us, but we are not our thoughts. It's here where we realize and start to practice choosing different thoughts and begin to perceive things in a different way. (tanu)
- Finally, after long, sustained practice, we may get to the dormant stage where we see ourselves as the magnificent beings we naturally are and the unity we have with everyone and everything. (prasupta)
Think of these stages like clouds in the sky. The sun and sky are always there (our true self), the density of the clouds is different from day to day and moment to moment. The good news is we are human and with long, sustained, consistent practice we CAN reach the final stage where it is nothing but blue skies. The bad news is . . . we're human, so the possibility of clouds of any type/stage coming back to hide our nature is certain. So, what do we do? Remember sutra 2.1 which defined karma yoga (yoga in action)? This is the way to counteract the kleshas - through effort (breathe), awareness (receive), and surrender (give thanks)
So, friends, your challenge once again for this week is to breathe . . . receive . . . and give thanks (yoga in action). The practical idea of yoga may be simple, but the sustained, consistent practice of it can be difficult. So practice when you feel good, practice when you feel bad, practice when you have confidence and faith in yourself and others and practice when you have none of these things. Trust me, I know how truly difficult doing these simple actions can feel these days, but I promise that if you place your belief in the idea that these simple actions can help in the long run, then I will too!
breathe . . . . receive . . . . give thanks