Actual Freedom – Selected Correspondence by Topic

Richard’s Selected Correspondence

On Patanjali Yoga


RICHARD: I found ‘me’ at the core of ‘being’ ... which is the instinctual rudimentary animal self common to all sentient beings (otherwise mistakenly known as the ‘original face’ and is what gives rise to the feeling of ‘oneness’ with all other sentient beings). It is a very, very ancient genetic memory ... but hoariness does not make it automatically wise, however, despite desperate belief to the contrary. Being a ‘self’ is because the only way into this world of people, things and events is via the human spermatozoa fertilising the human ova ... thus every human being is endowed, by blind nature, with the basic instinctual passions of fear and aggression and nurture and desire. Thus ‘I’ am the end-point of myriads of survivors passing on their genes. ‘I’ am the product of the ‘success story’ of blind nature’s fear and aggression and nurture and desire. Being born of the biologically inherited instincts genetically encoded in the germ cells of the spermatozoa and the ova, ‘I’ am – genetically – umpteen tens of thousands of years old ... ‘my’ origins are lost in the mists of pre-history. ‘I’ am so anciently old that ‘I’ may well have always existed ... carried along on the reproductive cell-line, over countless millennia, from generation to generation. And ‘I’ am thus passed on into an inconceivably open-ended and hereditably transmissible future. In other words: ‘I’ am fear and fear is ‘me’ and ‘I’ am aggression and aggression is ‘me’ and ‘I’ am nurture and nurture is ‘me’ and ‘I’ am desire and desire is ‘me’.

RESPONDENT: This seems no different from Patanjali.

RICHARD: I am somewhat bemused at your comparison ... the Patanjali Yoga-Sutras (also known as the Gonardiya Yoga-Sutras and/or the Gonikaputra Yoga-Sutras) are a categorisation of Yogic thought arranged in four volumes with the titles ‘Psychic Power’, ‘Practice of Yoga’, ‘Samadhi’ (a transcendental state induced by trance), and ‘Kaivalya’ (liberation). The Yoga-Sutras are the earliest extant textbook on Yoga and span several centuries, the first three volumes apparently written in the second century BC and the last book in the fifth century CE. Authorities therefore tend to credit more than one author writing under this name, although there is wide variance in opinion. There is a possibility that many men used this name, as it was also used by the authors of a number of other works on such diverse subjects as medicine, metrics, music, and alchemy. The name itself is obviously a pseudonym, since it denotes no caste and implies divine descent from the Great Serpent Shesa. Scholars now generally agree that the author of the Yoga-sutras is not the grammarian Mr. Patanjali. In any case, the Yoga-Sutras stand in close relation to the Samkhya or Sankhya (‘Enumeration’; ‘Number’) system, so much so that tradition regards the two systems as one.

In Samkhya there is belief in an infinite number of similar but separate Purushas (selves), no one superior to the other. Purusha and Prakriti being sufficient to explain the universe, the existence of a god is not hypothesised. The Purusha is ubiquitous, all-conscious, all-pervasive, motionless, unchangeable, immaterial, and without desire. Prakriti is the universal and subtle (unmanifest) nature and, as such, is determined only by time and space. The chain of evolution begins when Purusha impinges on Prakriti, much as a magnet draws unto itself iron shavings. The Purusha, which before was pure consciousness without an object, becomes focused on Prakriti, and out of this is evolved Mahat (‘Great One’) or Buddhi (‘Spiritual Awareness’). Next to evolve is the individualised ego consciousness ‘ahankara’ (‘I-maker’) which imposes upon the Purusha the misapprehension that the ego is the basis of the Purusha’s objective existence.

The Patanjali Yoga-Sutras adds a twenty-sixth principle to the Samkhya list of twenty five (the Supreme Lord Ishvara) and has thus earned the name of ‘Seshvara-Samkhya’ (Theistic Samkhya). Furthermore, there is a difference in their attitudes: Samkhya is intellectualistic and emphasizes metaphysical knowledge as the means to liberation; Yoga is voluntaristic and emphasizes the need of going through severe self-control as the means of realizing intuitively the same principles. In the Yoga-Sutras, God is defined as a distinct Self (Purusha), untouched by sufferings, actions and their effects; his existence is proved on the ground that the degrees of knowledge found in finite beings, in an ascending order, has an upper limit (omniscience), which is what characterizes God. He is said to be the source of all secular and scriptural traditions; he both revealed the Vedas and taught the first Fathers Of Mankind. Surrender of the effects of action to God is regarded as a recommended observance.

The attitude of the Yoga-Sutras to the human body is ambivalent. The body is said to be filthy and unclean. Thus, the ascetic cultivates a disgust for it. Yet, much of the discipline laid down in the Yoga-sutras concerns perfection of the body, with the intent to make it a fit instrument for spiritual perfection. Steadiness in bodily posture and control of the breathing process are accorded a high place. The perfection of body is said to consist in ‘beauty, grace, strength and adamantine hardness’.

The Patanjali Yoga-Sutras lay down an eightfold path consisting of aids to Yoga: (1) restraint (yama), (2) observance (niyama), (3) posture (asana), (4) regulation of breathing (pranayama), (5) detachment from the senses (pratyahara), (6) concentration (dharana), (7) meditation (dhyana), and (8) trance (samadhi). Both (1) and (2) constitute the ethical core of the discipline: the restraints are abstinence from injury, veracity, abstinence from stealing, continence, and abstinence from greed. The observances are cleanliness, contentment, purificatory actions, study, and surrender of the fruits of one’s actions to God. Ahimsa (non-violence) also is glorified as an ethics of detachment. Numbers (3) and (4) are physical preparations. The asana (‘seat’) are a series of exercises in physical posture and are intended to condition the aspirant’s body and make it supple, flexible, and healthy. Mastery of the asanas is reckoned by one’s ability to hold one of the prescribed postures for an extended period of time without involuntary movement or physical distractions and pranayama (‘breath control’) is a series of exercises intended to stabilize the rhythm of breathing in order to encourage complete respiratory relaxation.

The fifth stage (5) pratyahara (‘withdrawal’) involves control of the senses, or the ability to withdraw the attention of the senses from outward objects to the mind. These first five stages are called external aids to Yoga; the remaining three are purely mental or internal aids. Number (6) dharana (‘holding on’) is the ability to hold and confine awareness of externals to one object for a long period of time (a common exercise is fixing the mind on an object of meditation, such as the tip of the nose or an image of the deity). (7) dhyana (‘concentrated meditation’) is the uninterrupted contemplation of the object of meditation, beyond any memory of ego and (8) Samadhi (‘self-collectedness’) is the final stage and is a precondition of attaining release from the cycle of rebirth. In this stage the meditator perceives or experiences the object of his meditation and himself as one.

Yet you say ‘this [what Richard wrote] seems no different from Patanjali’ whereas I see it as 180 degrees different ... could you elaborate?

*

RICHARD: These passions are the very energy source of the rudimentary animal self ... the base consciousness of ‘self’ and ‘other’ that all sentient beings have. The human animal – with its unique ability to be aware of its own death – transforms this ‘reptilian brain’ rudimentary core of ‘being’ (an animal ‘self’) into being a feeling ‘me’ (as soul in the heart) and the ‘feeler’ then infiltrates into thought to become the ‘thinker’ ... a thinking ‘I’ (as ego in the head). No other animal can do this. That this process is aided and abetted by the human beings who were already on this planet when one was born – which is conditioning and programming and is part and parcel of the socialising process – is but the tip of the ice-burg and not the main issue at all. All the different types of conditioning are well-meant endeavours by countless peoples over countless aeons to seek to curb the instinctual passions.

RESPONDENT: Patanjali, Ramana ... this is so similar.

RICHARD: If I may ask ... how is it similar? I cannot see any correspondence whatsoever. Vis.:

• [The Patanjali Yoga-Sutras]; ‘The fifth stage (5) pratyahara (‘withdrawal’) involves control of the senses, or the ability to withdraw the attention of the senses from outward objects to the mind. These first five stages are called external aids to Yoga; the remaining three are purely mental or internal aids. (7) dhyana (‘concentrated meditation’) is the uninterrupted contemplation of the object of meditation, beyond any memory of ego and (8) Samadhi (‘self-collectedness’) is the final stage and is a precondition of attaining release from the cycle of rebirth. In this stage the meditator perceives or experiences the object of his meditation and himself as one.
• [Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer]: ‘The mind can find rest only when it has found the answer to the question ‘Who am I? By incessantly pursuing within yourself the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ you will know your true Self, and thereby attain perfection. The real ‘I’ or the Self is not any of the five senses, nor the sense-objects, nor the organs of action, nor the breath and vital forces, nor the mind. That which remains after excluding all of these is the real ‘I’. If one realises within the heart what one’s true nature is, one will find that it is infinite Wisdom, Truth, and Bliss, without beginning or end’. [endquote].
• [Richard]: ‘With the end of both ‘I’ and ‘me’, the distance or separation between both ‘I’ and ‘me’ and these sense organs – and thus the external world – disappears. To be living as the senses is to live a clear and clean awareness – apperception – a pure consciousness experience of the world as-it-is. Because there is no ‘I’ as a thinker (a little person inside one’s head) or a ‘me’ as a feeler (a little person in one’s heart) – to have sensations happen to them, I am the sensations. The entire affective faculty vanishes ... blind nature’s software package of instinctual passions is deleted. There is nothing except the series of sensations which happen ... not happening to an ‘I’ or a ‘me’ but just happening ... moment by moment ... one after another. To live life as these sensations, as distinct from having them, engenders the most astonishing sense of freedom and magic. Consequently, I am living in peace and tranquillity; a meaningful peace and tranquillity. Life is intrinsically purposeful, the reason for existence lies openly all around. Being in this very air I live in, I am constantly aware of it; I breathe it in and out; I see it, I hear it, I taste it, I smell it, I touch it, all of the time. It never goes away – nor has it ever been away – it was just that ‘I’/‘me’ was standing in the way of the meaning of life being apparent’ [endquote].


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