Teachers

Heaven Bar. The scene of the crime. Photo Credit: The author

This post is dedicated to (in order of appearance) Clara, Mike, and Oanh.

The thing started, as things so often do, with a couple beers in my belly and me running my incorrigible yap.  I was talking to Clara as she and Mike took a break between sets on stage, explaining that I’d never played music in front of anyone other than family, but that I’d always wished I could, and that I thought that 2020 was going to be the year.

It was all bullshit, of course, a manifestation of my intermittent ego-aphasia.  But Clara sharked on it instantly. 

What kind of music did I usually play?  Had I ever written music?  WHY hadn’t I performed in public?  Did I really want to?  Had I ever recorded myself?  Well recording myself would be an obvious first step, now, wouldn’t it? 

“Okay,” she said in a calmly peremptory tone, “You have three days to email me a recording of yourself playing guitar and singing.”  I squirmed. 

“I can’t play guitar right now,” I sniveled.  “I jacked up my finger at jiu jitsu and I can’t play.”  I showed her the finger in a gesture perfectly appropriate to a whinging preschooler.

Clara’s response was instant and implacable. “Then I guess you’re going to have to be creative and figure out how to play without that finger.”

“I can’t do that in three days!” I almost wailed.  I’m sure my feet were waddling hysterically back and forth under the high-top.

“What’s a reasonable time?” Clara asked impassively. 

“Three weeks?” I riposted.

“You have ten days.”  Clara pulled out her phone, set a calendar alarm titled “Quinn Due Date” and sent me a screenshot. 

I felt like a wolverine getting mugged by a squirrel.  But I figured it out, and emailed her a recording that I deemed sufficiently execrable to dispose of the matter.

Maybe a week later I was sitting across a restaurant table from Clara, drinking beer while she enjoyed a dubious-looking sushi dinner.  When she was finished, she announced that we were going to Heaven Bar, a block up the street, and that Mike was already there on-stage. 

I couldn’t fail to notice that Clara’s eyes were fairly glowing with mischief.  Some fuckery was afoot, but the ways of women are layered and subtle, and long experience has taught me to put my head down and concern myself with the simple matters appropriate to my chromosomal architecture, so to Heaven Bar we went.   

It was a matter of moments.  Mike was indeed on-stage.  I had time to shake a hand or two as I heard him welcoming the crowd to “open mic” night (not the ghost of an alarm in my brain-damaged middle-aged consciousness).  I think I was eyeing the beer fridge at the other end of the bar as Mike said, into the microphone:  “Quinn, to the stage, please.  Quinn.  Quinn.”  Reverberating around the bar.

It slogged through the decayed infrastructure of my central nervous system, and my gaze snapped back to the stage, locking instantly with Mike’s twinkling eyes.  The villain.  I gawped.

The Voice In My Head spoke up.  That’s a rare occurrence at all; the Voice has spoken to me maybe a dozen times in almost five decades, and only ever in moments of grave physical peril.  This clearly wasn’t that, but the Voice (genderless, sardonic, imperious) spoke anyways, and it said “You just got called out.  DO NOT THINK.  Move now.”

And I walked fast to the stage, and took Mike’s beautiful Fender acoustic guitar and sat down and started to play while he fussed with the microphone like a father adjusting his infant’s high chair before feeding.   And I did my bit, and I thanked those kind enough to applaud, and I fled back to the table, and I am expected back, and I am still, almost a week later, reeling in shock and gratitude.  Who does that for somebody?  Who just sees a friend and a dream and grabs the friend by the scruff of the neck and tosses them into their dream?

The embarrassing lavishness of Providence’s affection for me being as it is, there is precedent.  Something like it happened before.  This is like the night I became a yoga “teacher”. 

I’ve written the story before, in a social media post I made when I left Saigon.  I can’t tell it any better now, so here I shamelessly plagiarize myself:

September 17th, 2014

I opened the door to the studio for the first time, and walked smack in to her gaze. “Tigress,” my mind noted, in that involuntary taxonomic impulse seekers work to surrender. But I think Paramahansa Yogananda would have succumbed in the circumstance. And without self-criticism.

The dark eyes swept down to my feet and up again. I was both amused and unsettled by the awareness that my physiology and character had just been weighed to the gram. I wasn’t prepared for her first words.

“You want to teach here?” Advantage: Tigress. [Fourteen months later as I write, and she’s never lost it.]

Sidebar: it had been ten or twelve years since my first yoga class, and about two-and-a-half engaged in the full-time study. “When are you going to get certified and teach?” people would ask me. “I’m not ready yet.” 3-6 hours a day of asana practice, mostly balls-out power vinyasa, daily japa meditation, pranayama, shatkarma, kriyas. Weekly kirtan. Kundalini. Acroyoga. Most other waking moments spent reading or talking about yoga. “I’m not ready yet.” Chickenshit. I framed it as conscientiousness, but it was nothing more noble than cowardice. Viparyaya. Anyways, it was dead easy to bitch out.

“I can’t. I’m not certified.” She managed to not roll her eyes, but I saw the split-second of effort.

“Is okay. I wasn’t certified for beginning. I teach you. What your name?” I started to squirm under the steady, implacable, penetrating confidence of her gaze.

“Um… Desmond. Well okay. How about if I take your class, and see how you like to do things?”

She dismissed me into the studio with a graceful nod. I managed not to genuflect or tug a forelock. I rolled out my mat, placed my towel, fetched a block from the back of the room, and returned to find her gripping my mat by both edges to tug it to the front of the room and place it beside hers.

“You help me teach this class.” I wish I could have seen my face.

“Okay… I guess I could help demo poses or something…”

“Okay! Good!” and she glided away to kibbutz with the students as they arrived. I sat in my daze, smiling stupidly at people as they rolled in. Then it was time. She returned and floated to sukhasana with a mischievous sidelong glance at me, spoke in Vietnamese for about thirty seconds, then said: “And this is my handsome teaching partner today, Desmond. Go ahead, Desmond.”

And that’s how I became a yoga teacher. Such as I am.

This song is for Saigon. And especially for the people there I love, and the people there I owe. And first in both, you, Oanh Nguyen. For seeing in me what I couldn’t see in myself, and at a glance. For grabbing me by the ear and hurling me headlong into my blessed dharma. For everything. See you soon.

Mattafix – Big City Life (Official Music Video) – YouTube

I wish I could wrap all this up in some kind of bow with a yoga moral pasted onto it, I feel a dim sense that that’s the point of a yoga blog.  But friends, I have no idea what to make of any of this.  I just have these two stories about teachers dropped on me by the universe, teachers who leveled me up in dazzling fashion by refusing to tolerate any of my bullshit cowardice.  Other humans that I get to love forever.  Ridiculous abundance. 

UPDATE

My second open mic night was last night.  Mike, wise to me, cut off my escape after my first song, upshot being I did TWO songs and mostly into the microphone this time.  More or less into the microphone. 

Levelling.  Up.  


The Tao of Tough

Photo Credit: The author
Model: Pham Hanh (Instagram @phamhanhyoga)

This post is dedicated to Cozy.

I started practicing pranayama when I was about twelve or thirteen.  I’d never even heard the word “pranayama”, but I’d read somewhere that yogis and ninjas could slow their breath and heartrates.  I didn’t know what a yogi was and I didn’t care; I knew my career path, and I knew that I’d be wearing a black suit and mask with matching split-toed fabric shoes to work when I grew up.

And so I’d sit in class and watch the sweep of the second hand on the clock, and slow my breath until I could endure the interminable forty or fifty minutes of social studies or math or whatever class on just more than a breath a minute. 

Now this was the early eighties, and my buddies and I were all about ninjas.  And for us, the iconic weapon of the ninja, even more than the sword, was the throwing star.  Ninja throwing stars weren’t for sale in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and internet shopping didn’t exist yet.  My first DIY examples were cut out of tin can tops with my mother’s kitchen scissors (“Why are my damn scissors so dull?” she’d mutter from the kitchen as I sat mutely culpable before the television, watching Lee Van Clief play the first Occidental ninja on “The Master”) and weighted with electrical solder melted onto the tin over a candle.  From a range of eight or ten feet, they could stick in a cardboard target quite nicely, but they clearly weren’t potentially lethal, and so I went looking for viable steel, and brought Grandpa in as a consultant. 

Grandpa understood steel; he was the kind of guy who owned an anvil and used it on occasion.  He taught me about steel, and the first lesson was the dichotomy between hard and soft.  Hard steel could be sharpened, but it was brittle.  Soft steel was tough.  Soft steel could survive a shock that would shatter hard steel.  Which was interesting enough.  And none of the ninja throwing stars I laboriously hack-sawed and filed out of variously-sourced soft (or “mild” as Grandpa put it) steel scraps ever broke, even when they missed wooden or Styrofoam or dartboard targets in favor of the cinderblock behind.

Five years later, on my first day at my first job after high school, I woke at 5 in the morning to men banging on garbage can lids and bellowing “GET UP YOU FUCKING MAGGOTS!!!”  Infantry training in the Canadian Armed Forces had begun, and by the end of the training cycle, most of the young men who had started had quit, broken by the pain and fatigue and stress and fear that is essential to the transformation of an ordinary young man into an effective killing machine.

We knew going in that most of us wouldn’t make it, and I’m sure we all looked around and placed our private bets as to who would and who wouldn’t.  The attrition began quickly, two guys quitting before lunch on the first day, and a surprising trend was soon obvious:  the big, loud, macho, tough-seeming guys, the avatars of Yang, broke faster.  The quieter guys, the less ostentatiously (indeed, as it turned out, meretriciously) masculine guys, even the nerdier guys, they seemed to somehow soften into the shape of that brutal crucible.  They hunkered down, they accepted the countless day-and-night physical and psychological cruelties.  They took the shit.  They were standing tall on graduation day. 

The phrase “taking shit” has vernacular weight in the Canadian Forces; Brits call it “beasting”.  It refers to the physical and psychological agony instructors inflict on soldiers in training to inoculate them against the stress of combat.  “How was that course you went on?”  “It was good, it was a tough course, we took a lot of shit.”  Note the nature of the verb in context, the receptive denotation of “taking”.

A couple of years later I was in University and tree-planting across Northern British Columbia for the summers, and the same phenomenon presented.  The attrition rate wasn’t as severe as it was in Infantry training, but the discomforts of the job are significant, and at the end of a planting season maybe half of the people who’d started had packed up their tents and slunk home. And the demographic trend was similar: the Yin-ier types tended to make it through, and the Yang-ier types tended to break. 

I’ll pause to note here that at the time, I wasn’t thinking in terms of “Yin types” and “Yang types”.  I just noted that the big , loud and macho didn’t seem to have the long-range toughness of the quiet and unassuming.  I vaguely theorized that the bigger, louder guys were more used to inflicting discomfort and the smaller, quieter guys were more used to receiving it, but I didn’t give it the thought it deserved, and the penny didn’t drop until I came to Southeast Asia, and specifically to the mega-city of Saigon, rented a scooter, slipped into the riotous flow of vehicles, and began to learn the culture of urban Vietnamese traffic. 

It’s a multi-level gob-smack for every Westerner who experiences it for the first time.  The sheer volume of traffic, the toxic cloud generated by hundreds of thousands of emissions-control-free engines revving in a dense mass, the savage, merciless aggression of the drivers, are all indescribable by mere language. 

But to a boy raised in a rough-and-tumble semi-rural North American culture, the most shocking thing was that nobody was getting the shit beat out of them.

People battle for every meter in Saigon traffic.  If you leave a wheel-diameter space between you and the vehicle in front of you, somebody will instantly jam their front wheel into that space, obliging you to stand on the brakes and wait until the next wheel-diameter space opens in front of you, so you can do the same thing to the next guy.  It’s vicious.  Traffic lights are universally ignored; when a light turns red, people just keep driving through.  The drivers who now have the green light inch forward, pushing, pushing, waiting for somebody to leave a violable space, and when one wheel jams in, the tide turns, and that flow of traffic has the upper hand.  In the resulting practice, the flow of traffic is often exactly contrary to the turn of the traffic lights.  People are mostly blocked when they have the green light, and mostly bulling their way through when they have a red light. 

And everybody just deals with it.  Just as they mete out reprehensible aggression to others, they receive the same with abiding equanimity.  It’s incomprehensible to a person from a place where the phrase “road rage” has been common vernacular for decades. 

My premise is this:  the everyday Saigon Viet, on his or her everyday commute to work, is a Taoist master, balancing the most intense Yin and Yang energies without thought or effort.  It’s just what they do.  It’s the Tao of getting around, and without the Yin part of the equation, you will be batshit crazy at the end of the first block of Saigon traffic.  You have to be able to chill out, to take the shit, to soften to the shocks, in order to endure.

Toughness, true toughness, the capacity to endure when it’s not easy, to keep your shit together and keep going when all you want in the world is to scream and cry and break down and pick up your marbles and go home, that’s a quality of Yin.  It’s a quality of the soft, the receptive, the feminine.  It’s not a macho quality.  It’s the precise polar opposite of that.  Yin is that which receives what comes, whether it’s comfortable or not.

This was an epiphany for me.  Western culture, I believe, grossly over-values Yang and undervalues Yin.  We lionize the active, the aggressive, the productive, Getting Things Done.  We insufficiently credit both the power and importance Yin, maybe we even attribute Yin virtues to Yang.  Maybe we think of the capacity to endure adversity as a capacity to harden ourselves against that adversity. 

It’s not.  The capacity to endure adversity does not exist without the capacity to accept that adversity.  The capacity, in short, to take it.  When we accept it, when we take it, we can keep functioning, keep moving forward through it, and karma allowing, maybe even past it.  It’s the Yang that “can’t take it”, because Yang doesn’t take, it doesn’t receive, it gives out. 

The principle applies to discomforts from minimal to intense, from having a tooth drilled without anesthetic to holding a warrior pose a few breaths longer than one wishes to.  Whenever it’s not easy, it’s Yin that sustains.  It’s softness that survives the pressure or the shock that would shatter hardness.  

As always, Dear Reader, do not believe me.  Try it for yourself.  The next time you’re in a situation that requires you to be tougher, to endure that which is other than pleasant, be softer.  Your mat is probably the best place to take it for a spin.  Let me know how it goes.   

Postscript:

I have one more little evidentiary tidbit.  You might find it more repulsive than probative, but I’m going to subject you to it anyways.

I had a kickboxing teacher once, a formidable guy who had been a notorious brawler in his youth.  He’d mellowed with age (thank God) and held a wealth of martial arts arcana.  He told us if we wanted to toughen the skin on our knuckles in anticipation of bare-knuckle fighting, we should pee on our knuckles.  “Hardens the skin,” he said matter-of-factly.  None of us ever admitted to trying it. 

I heard the same thing a couple of years later from a gymnastics coach, who advocated peeing all over one’s own hands, again to “harden the skin.”  I wasn’t a gymnast, but I was curious, but not that curious. 

Got a bottle of quality moisturizer?  Go look at the ingredients.  It probably contains urea.  As in urine.  Not to make skin harder, but to make the skin softer.  I think my kickboxing teacher and the gymnastics coach were half right.  I think peeing on one’s own skin does make it tougher, but not by making it harder.  I think urea makes skin tougher by making it softer. 

You can let me know how that goes, too. 

Pickpockets

One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced.  Such a person, liberated from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna. 

Chapter 5, Verse 3, The Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Translation and Commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

 

 

 

It was a visa run like any other, an overnight hop to Siem Riep on a Cambodia-Angkor Airways turboprop, back tomorrow.  It was a late-ish flight and I plodded over the tarmac and rattled up the stairs an hour past my bedtime, threaded up to my seat, and hello, here’s a little bright spot: a pretty young Laotian woman in a traditional Laotian top and blue jeans in the seat beside mine.

 

She looked up at me with wide eyes as I stowed my yoga mat and daybag in the overhead.  I gave her my standard-issue its-okay-I’m-no-threat smile as I moved to take my seat, and was rewarded with a shy little upturn at the corners of her mouth.  Aw.

 

I settled in.  She was nervous; I noted her staring fixedly out the window in my peripheral, and tension fairly hummed off her.  I took her for an inexperienced flier, maybe even on her first trip out of sheltered, sleepy little Luang Prabang or something.  I’ve lived in Vietnam more than long enough to pick up my share of Vietnamese prejudices, and Laotians are largely adored in Vietnam.  They’re so honest, we’re heard to say.  Lovely people.  I wished I could reassure her.

 

Her anxiety ramped up as takeoff approached.  The sounds of baggage stowage and engine start and runup procedures are louder in those small and venerable turboprops, and she wound tighter with every electric whine and mechanical thump.  By the time we started to taxi, she had her left hand on the seat in front of her and her right on the cabin wall and her head was whipping back and forth from the cabin to the window.

 

Alright.  I nudged her with my elbow, and when her gaze snapped over to me, I smiled and offered her my right hand, palm up.  She snatched it in her left and gripped it until we’d climbed out of Da Nang and the flaps were up.

 

She relaxed a little in cruise climb, and let go of my hand, freeing me up to pull a sewing project from the seat pocket.  I fished out a needle I’d secreted in an Altoids tin to avoid any tiresome conversations at airport security, and fumbled with the thread.  She watched me intently until she couldn’t bear my incompetence any longer and took the needle and thread out of my hands to complete the task.  Moments later, she snatched the nylon strap out of my hands and finished sewing on the D-ring herself.

 

As delighted as I was by her gesture, I didn’t particularly like her handiwork, so I didn’t proffer another strap and d-ring.  We sat in companionable silence for the rest of the trip, and she handled the landing in Siem Reap like a vet.  As the plane came to a stop, I stood up and reached into the overhead for my stuff, and noting the neon pink hard-shell case beside, I looked a question down at her.  She nodded, and I yarded her case down for her, then strapped on my kit and wearily plodded in turn down the aisle, down the rickety stairs, and across the tarmac.  A light went on in my head, and I stopped and turned back to see she was making it down the stairs just fine.  Fine.

 

Into the airport, visa-on-arrival form counter, lineup to the visa application desk, sullenly disapproving of the visa official’s medal-and-braid-festooned confection of a uniform.  My turn.  Here’s the form, you imperious little twat.  Yeah, I got a passport photo.  Thirty USD, okay… okay… wait… um… I patted each pocket of my cargo shorts twice.  Fuck.  Front pocket of my daybag.  No.  Okay, I’m just gonna slide down the counter here and let you deal with the next guy while I unfuck myself.

 

I scrambled from pocket to pouch to compartment with a rising sense of alarm.  Two or three thorough rounds settled the issue; my wallet wasn’t there.  Again through my cargo shorts.  Nope.  What…

 

My head snapped up as it hit me, and I scanned through the arrival lounge.   The long, bleary-eyed foreign-visitor lineups.  The bored, lonely domestic-passports official at his desk, his work done for this flight.

 

She wasn’t Laotian.  She was Cambodian.  And she was gone.  With my wallet.  Thank you, God, for teaching me humility.

 

I propped my elbows up on the counter, rubbed my eyes with my palms, and wallowed in a long, low, groaning chuckle.  Idiot.  Helpless, drooling imbecile.  Bumbling mark.  Fool of proverb, stranded penniless at the visa desk of a Cambodian airport.

 

And stranded isn’t what really stung; I had a flight booked for the following day, and worst case would be a night in the airport.  Even the loss of my wallet wasn’t the worst of it.  The worst of it was that I’d been had off page one of volume one of the playbook: damsel-in-distress.  Gibbering jackass, dick-in-hand, fat pigeon sitting.  God, I hoped the money was going to feed a pack of hungry little siblings and not to some bling-dripping Indochinese pimp.

 

I propped my chin in my hands and reflected, in my defense, that she was brilliant.  Absolutely Oscar-caliber from start to finish, and I was a better man for knowing her, the bitch.  She was magnificent, which was why she was plying her trade in the up-market environment of an airplane instead of a bus.  Even now, the only thing I can fault her for is snatching at crumbs when she could’ve had the whole loaf.  Next time I see you, sweetheart, let me take you to my hotel and put a baby in you.  Then you got me for eighteen years, right?

 

Anyways.  The visa douche was eyeing me suspiciously, and I told him I didn’t have my wallet.  He pretended to misunderstand.  “My wallet is gone,” I said.  His mouth opened in poorly-feigned shock.  I meditated on the urge to drop an overhand right onto his supercilious gob, and demurred to repeat myself a second time.  He lifted his nose and flapped his hand contemptuously towards a nearby bench.  It begins, thought I.

 

The next four hours brought no surprises.  I snoozed uncomfortably, interrupted at intervals by a parade of officials ostensibly there to assess my case, but really just enjoying the opportunity to sneer at a hapless Westerner.  I knew perfectly well that the official decision was already made, and that decision was go fuck yourself.  I bore it all with the saint-like patience and humility for which I am renowned.

 

But to my surprise, there was one guy who evidenced sincere concern for my plight.   A young civilian operations manager, whose name I won’t hazard to render phonetically, returned in tow with every new pompous official, and it was clear he was going pointlessly to bat for me, for some reason I never did learn.  And at the end of all the pomp and palaver, he led me to the visa counter and paid my visa fee out of his own pocket.

 

Thirty American dollars may not sound like much, but this is Southeast Asia, and that probably represented between ten and twenty percent of this guy’s monthly gross.  He told me it was a lot of money to him, and asked me to be sure I paid him back.  And then, when that was all done, and he couldn’t summon a taxi at 3 A.M., he put me on the back of his Honda Dream and drove me into town to my hotel, almost half an hour in the opposite direction to his home. He offered to buy me dinner as we passed an all-night restaurant.  He offered to loan me some money when he dropped me off.  All of this.  Just because.  No reason to do it, and little enough reason to expect repayment.  Just because.

 

The next day a message to my long-suffering mother netted me a Western Union transfer, and the desk staff at my hotel gave me an envelope to stuff with the visa fee, a week or two of gas money, and a note.  I thanked him.  I told him how humbled and inspired I was by his generosity.  I told him without a whiff of hyperbole that I’d never forget it, and I’d be looking for opportunities to pay it forward, and that he and I wouldn’t get to know how many people would ultimately be impacted by his kindness.

 

When I checked in for the flight, the attendant looked at his computer screen and asked me if I had something for our friend.  I handed him the envelope; he opened it, counted the money, read the note, smiled at me, then immediately deputized me to assist an objectionable young American couple who had just tried to check in without a visa approval letter for Vietnam (“But we’re American!” they’d protested when told they didn’t have the required documentation).

 

When I boarded the plane, I was doted on by the cabin attendants, who clustered around my seat and took turns with my needle until they had it threaded for me.  I surmised that they’d heard the story.  Two of them were gorgeous young women, and I devoutly hoped that they were so impressed by my buddy’s heroism that they’d spend every subsequent Siem Reap layover shagging his brains out.

 

And that’s pretty much the story.  Just a little vignette about a guy who went who went way out on a limb to help some random, scruffily-dressed fuckup stranded in an airport, with no expectation of reward.  You understand my need to tell his tale.

 

I have no reason to believe that my buddy has any knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita; Cambodia hasn’t been Hindu since the Khmer Empire converted to Theravada Buddhism in the 13th century.  He didn’t exemplify the principle deliberately.  He just did it.  And I reckon that’s even more admirable.

 

And of course, I dedicate this post to him, and to the cunning little vixen who made it all possible.  They’re both in my heart, and there shall stay.

 

 

Postscript:

 

It all made me think of my Dad, who in his early sixties got robbed by a Vietnamese femme fatale who cut him from the herd in a Vancouver casino.  She, at least, had the decency to fuck him cross-eyed before she jacked him for about six hundred bucks.  Even from his deathbed he spoke fondly of her.

 

 

 

 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A Translation Comparison

Drawing by Pham Thi My Hanh

 

 

 

The Project

 

I recently stumbled across a Facebook posting for a primary-series workshop; the copy brightly proclaimed that the ashtanga yoga of Pattabhi Jois was based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  I felt lines of age etch into my face.

 

There are six series in Sri Jois’s legacy, and they are a progressive system of physical practice.  Patanjali describes none of the postures of Pattabhi Jois ashtanga yoga.  Indeed, Patanjali has precious little to say on the topic of asana at all.  He identifies asana as the third limb of yoga (2.30), famously says something like “posture firm pleasant” (“sthirasukhamasanam”, 2.46), seemingly comments on the perfection of posture by relaxation and meditation in the following sutra (2.47), and that’s about it.

 

Add to that the small problem that to Patanjali “asana” meant simply “a still, firm, seated position” (Ranganathan, 35) and not any version of Virabhadrasana or Adho Mukha Rikshasana (there’s no evidence that any yogasana beyond cross-legged sitting even existed in Patanjali’s time), and the connection between Patanjali and modern postural yoga becomes even more remote.  Whatever Patanjali’s Sutras are, they are no kind of physical practice manual.

 

Ergo, the naming of Sri Jois’s system has less to do with any putative connection to Patanjali’s Sutras and more to do with the impressive testicular diameter of Sri Jois himself.  But I looked at the kindly, smiling face of the teacher in the Facebook post, and did not comment to ask how, with specific reference to the Sutras, Sri Jois’s sequences had anything at all to do with that profoundly mysterious work of unknown antiquity.

 

Nothing but net, controlling my long-standing and still-growing irascibility on this occasion.  I’ve been far more irritated than that on the subject.  Attend enough satsang, and one will inevitably find oneself confronted with some speaker raising a stentorian forefinger and declaiming “PATANJALI SAID [blah blah blah blah].”

 

These are valuable occasions for me, golden opportunities to deepen my practice of not striding to the front of the room, grabbing the fool by the ears and shaking his head like a paint can whilst spitting furious inchoate contumely into his face, a reaction that could conceivably be interpreted as ill-befitting an alleged teacher of yoga.

 

Beware the one who tells you what “Patanjali said”.  Best case, he’s negligent in his teaching.  Most likely, he’s ignorant.  Not impossibly, he’s a con artist and hoping to sodomize you.

 

Happens.  All.  The.  Time.

 

The problem with blithely confident interpretations of Patanjali’s meaning is in the nature of the text itself.  Like many [more or less] contemporaneous sutras, Patanjali is not written in ordinary, grammatical Sanskrit prose.  There are too many nouns and adjectives and not enough verbs.  The resultant effect has been likened to the encoded point-form notes of a lecturer, and indeed Patanjali’s survival probably owes much to the exegesis of the later Sanatan intellectual giant Vyasa, because “But for Vyasa’s explanations, some sutra-s would be absolutely unintelligible.” (Ranganathan, 28).

 

Furthermore, Sanskrit, like English, is a language rich in homonyms.  Words have many possible meanings, and it is a principle of classical sutra interpretation that writers, including Patanjali, meant to include all possible meanings of the words they chose.  I can do no better than to quote Ranganathan: “Patanjali wrote his text in the dense, cryptic sutra style of classical Indian literature.  This style of writing relied upon ambiguity in order to create a linguistically economical text.  By choosing ambiguous terms, Patanjali, like all sutra authors, was able to compress into dense aphorisms many meanings.  Thus, wherever possible, Patanjali is to be understood in a manner that affirms the full range of significances of the words that comprise his sutra-s. “(Ranganathan, 27).

 

I have trouble wrapping my brain around the notion that Patanjali meant every possible permutation of meanings in every sutra; it seems that the combination of the cryptic sutra syntax and an all-inclusive interpretation of terms would result in a range of meanings so broad as to make the work effectively meaningless.  But Patanjali may well have intended some plurality of meanings for each or any specific sutra, and the result is obviously a translator’s nightmare.  That hasn’t interdicted a multiplicity of translations and interpretations in the intervening 2000 years or so, and each commentator of course puts his preferred philosophical spin on Patanjali’s words, further muddying the waters.  Interpretations are sometimes irreconcilably divergent; they can’t all be correct.

 

And so, I aver, it behooves us to relate Patanjali with just a smidgeon of fucking tact.  No-one knows to a certainty what “Patanjali said”.

 

I’ve intended to make my point by way of a sutra-by-sutra comparison of some various translations for a couple of years now.  I have our unnamed primary-series teacher to thank for lighting a fire under me.  I hope the resultant product is useful to someone, somewhere; it was certainly helpful to plod through the data-entry work of compiling it.

 

 

Etic vs. Emic

 

This is a dichotomy of epistemological approach.  “Etic” describes the detached approach of the scientist or academic, studying from outside.  “Emic” describes the approach of the true believer, studying from within.  Of the translators included in this collection, Iyengar and Vivekananda are both clearly emic students of yoga; Woods is clearly etic, and Ranganathan is a little harder to place; I lean towards etic, but suspect he would be uncomfortable with being classified within the dichotomy at all.

 

It is for you to decide if the distinction is important.  There may be a dividend in objectivity accruing to an etic analysis, but there may as well be a debit from a want of experiential understanding.  On the other side, emic students may be subject to the [potentially] corruptive or reductive influence of a given guru/shishya parampara.  We might also be more likely to occasionally give ourselves over to flights of enthusiastic bullshit.

 

Whatever significance you assign to the dichotomy, I commend you to remain cognizant of its existence.  Merely remembering that it exists will remind you that everybody is coming from somewhere, and that no interpretation of anything need be taken as the final word.  A commitment to continual learning and reassessment is, I believe, much better than certainty.

 

 

The Players

 

Vivekananda

 

Swami Vivekananda’s translation is the first rendered in the comparison because his translation was the chronological first, and he might be described as the first great importer of Vedanta to North America.  He attended the “Parliament of Religions” conference in Chicago in 1893, and his speech there was much-lauded by his fellow delegates.  A cynic might think of him as the first international rock-star super-yogi.

 

Vivekananda was both an innovator and a man with a mission:  the importation of Indian philosophy to the West.  To that end, he was willing to nip-and-tuck yoga philosophy as he perceived would make it fit Western sensibilities better.  As David Gordon White, the indisputable 400-pound silverback gorilla of contemporary etic yoga scholarship, puts it: “…Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga was something totally new.  A bold, modern fusion of Yoga philosophy and Western science, religion and the occult, this earnest and impassioned effort to make Indian though accessible to Western audiences often succeeded at the expense of accuracy.” (White, 125).

 

Vivekananda’s faithfulness to Patanjali’s intent cannot be trusted, but I do not intend this observation as an indictment of Vivekananda generally.  Maybe if and where Vivekananda strays, he’s simply overstepping on an otherwise worthy enterprise.  Certainly he initiated the cross-pollination of Eastern and Western spirituality: “Vivekananda gives shape to Modern Yoga by blending Neo-Vedantic esotericism and avant-garde American occultism.  Thus Neo-Vedantic ideology became an integral part of Western occultism and, conversely, Western occult ideas were integrated into Neo-Vedanta.  These ideas were then transmitted back to India” (De Michelis, 110).

 

There is a persistent theme in Sanatan philosophy that elevates calcification to a virtue.  Texts and practices and mantras were passed down from pre-literate origins with [alleged] uncompromising accuracy, largely by a Brahmanic class with a vested interest in canonizing that practice, in no small part to protect their purpose and legitimacy.  I make so bold as to question the value of unthinking, unwavering, dogmatic conservatism generally.  Maybe every way of doing things should be subject to review.

 

Vivekananda’s translation was the jumping-off point for Patanjali’s modern revival, and remains a gold standard, often appearing as required reading in yoga teacher training courses.  I couldn’t fail to include him here.

 

 

Iyengar

 

B.K.S. Iyengar needs no general introduction; the observation that I believe is relevant here is that he was a deeply religious man who “always remained deeply attached to his religion of birth, South Indian Srivaishnavism” (De Michelis, 195).  He valued hard-headed scientific inquiry, and vigorously resisted that which he considered woo, but he was certainly an emic scholar and his devotional sensibilities are evident in his translation.  If he deliberately followed any earlier translation or commentary, he does not report it in his introduction.

 

 

Ranganathan

 

Shyam Ranganathan is a professor of philosophy at York University, Toronto, and a teacher of yoga.  His website at shyam.org describes him as a teacher of the philosophy of yoga, and interprets “kaivalya” as “philosophical autonomy”.  I am particularly fond of Professor Ranganathan’s translation in large part because his introduction makes his approach disarmingly transparent.

 

Professor Ranganathan relates that he undertook the daunting project of generating a new translation of Patanjali because he believed that all previous translations suffered from one or both of these shortcomings:  either they failed to preserve the content of ethics and morality (dharma) inherent to classical Indian philosophy generally and Patanjali particularly, or they interpreted Patanjali as an exponent of some existing philosophical school when in fact Patanjali intended his approach to be entirely novel.

 

Professor Ranganathan’s translation is particularly credible because he is unusually forthright in identifying the problems inherent to the project that I’ve described here.  He even implies that any translation of any sutra into English is in a sense doomed to failure: “The attempt to translate a Sanskrit sutra into English literally and have the final English product itself as a dense sutra text is impossible(Ranganathan, 32).  The reader might sense him wrestling with his conscience in his frequent (and endearingly jittery) resort to brackets and alternate translations.

 

I’m not sure that Professor Ranganathan is correct in his preoccupation with morality; I note that the inclusion of the word “moral” in sutra 1.2 seems entirely superfluous, indeed rather forced.   Nonetheless, Professor Ranganathan has the courage to pick a hill to die on, the integrity to plant his flag, and the humility to explicitly acknowledge the limitations of his project.  He is a stone-cold badass.

 

 

Woods

 

James Haughton Woods is the only entirely etic scholar in this collection.  He was a professor of Asiatic studies at Harvard in the early 20th Century, and his translation is also something of a gold standard.  I’m not sure what to make of that, or of it, or of him.  I find his translation to be the least accessible of the four, perhaps because it is the most uncompromisingly faithful and perhaps because he just didn’t get it.

 

I fret that perhaps I’m throwing him under the bus here, and that juxtaposition with more accessible translations may make him appear (undeservedly) as a flailing outsider operating above his pay-grade.  He was a legitimate and credentialed scholar of Sanskrit and had no personal axe to grind, no emotional investment in any lineage of interpretation.  He could approach the problem with relative objectivity, and if his renderings of specific sutras are sometimes dauntingly impenetrable, then his inclusion only bolsters my fundamental point.

 

 

Patanjali Himself

 

The story goes that Lord Vishnu was sitting on Adidesa, Lord of Serpents, and watching Lord Shiva dance.  Lord Vishnu was so affected by the dance that his body grew extraordinarily heavy.  Adidesa asked why, and when he heard the explanation, he decided that he wanted to learn to dance to honor Lord Vishnu.

 

Adidesa meditated, and saw an elderly yogini named Gonika praying to the Sun God for a son to pass on her knowledge to.  Adidesa descended to earth, and as Gonika raised a handful of water to the sun, she looked into her palms and saw a tiny snake, which then grew into a young man who prostrated himself before her and asked her to adopt him.  She did, and named him Patanjali.

 

And that’s as good a theory as any of who Patanjali was and where he came from.  Dates for Patanjali range from the 2nd Century BCE to the 5th Century CE; many (if not most) scholars believe there was more than one Patanjali.  He is variously credited as a scion of Sanskrit grammar, ayurvedic medicine and classical Indian dance (and thus, I suppose, is a great-grandfather of Bollywood).  Exactly when he wrote his Yoga Sutras is not known.

 

 

Other Notes

 

Two of these translations, Ranganathan’s and Iyengar’s, include renderings of the original Sanskrit in both the original and phonetic Romanic texts, along with word-for word translations.  I have elected not to reproduce a word-for-word translation, as my attempts to do so turned the formatting of the comparison into a dog’s breakfast.  It was a sacrifice, as the word-for-word translations are demonstrative of the grammatic eccentricity of the original, but I believe the point of the exercise is better served by the present format.

 

I have excluded the diacritical marks often added to Romanic-alphabet renditions of Sanskrit.  For the purposes of this resource, they would be more trouble than they were worth.

 

Vivekananda translates only 54 sutras in Book II and 33 in Book IV, while the other translators have 55. and 34 respectively.  The discrepancy is seldom noted, let alone explained.

 

I present this post in unreviewed and self-proofread condition.  I throw myself upon the mercy of the hivemind, and will be most grateful for any corrections that may come my way.

 

 

For What It’s Worth

 

Maybe there is written material that will assist you in your personal yogic journey, and maybe there isn’t.  Yoga is an experiential epistemology, it’s individuated and phenomenological, and every path takes its own twists and turns.  Some of us benefit by study and contemplation of a more cerebral or academic nature, and some of us don’t.  You have to figure it out for yourself.

 

The only legitimate master of yoga I ever knew, when I asked him about Patanjali, rolled his eyes, told me not to waste my time, and sent me down into his spider-infested cave to meditate with orders to not show my face topside for at least an hour.  I took his point then and take it now, but I find I can’t help myself.  I like this rabbit-hole.  I prepared to accept that in studying Vedanta (to the limited extent that I do), I am engaging in an exercise entirely separate to the journey inwards that is yoga.  But the exercise is kind of fun.  So here we are.

 

Vedanta is rife with an Aristotlean fetish for taxonomy, and Patanjali is no exception. He demonstrates some fondness for lists: yamas, niyamas, afflictions to avoid, qualities to cultivate.  But to me, his Sutras feel less like dogma and more like a travel guide to the journey inward.  I can’t shake the feeling that the Sutras are primarily intended as inspiration and encouragement with some advice and some cautions, some words to the wise, some counsel to fellow adventurers.  I don’t think Patanjali wrote to charter chapter and verse.  I think he wrote to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.  Down our mats.  To our cushions.  Into the wild woods of each of us.

 

I think he’s pulling for us, cheering us on, celebrating our journeys.  He must be.    Else, why would he put stylus to palm-leaf at all?

 

 

Bibliography

 

White, David Gordon, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography, 2014

De Michelis, Elizabeth, A History of Modern Yoga, 2004

Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, 1896

Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1996

Ranganathan, Shyam, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, 2008

Woods, James Haughton, The Yoga System of Patanjali. 1914

 

 

 

THE YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI

 

BOOK I – SAMADHI-PADA

 

1.1

Vivekananda: Now concentration is explained.

Iyengar: With prayers for divine blessings, now begins an exposition of the sacred art of yoga.

Ranganathan: Thus, with certainty, (we) delve into the definitive explication of yoga.

Woods: Now the exposition of yoga [is to be made].

1.2

Vivekananda: Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Chitta) from taking various forms (Vrttis).

Iyengar: Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.

Ranganathan:  Yoga is the control of the (moral) character of thought.

Woods: Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of mind-stuff.

1.3

Vivekananda: At that time (the time of concentration) the seer (the Purusa) rests in his own (unmodified) state.

Iyengar: Then, the seer dwells in his own true splendour.

Ranganathan:  Then, the seer can abide in its essence.

Woods: Then the Seer [that is, the Self] abides in himself.

1.4

Vivekananda: At other times (other than that of concentration) the seer is identified with the modifications.

Iyengar: At other times, the seer identifies with the fluctuating consciousness.

Ranganathan:  Otherwise, there is identification with character of thought.

Woods: At other times it [the Self] takes the same form as the fluctuations [of mind-stuff].

1.5

Vivekananda: There are five classes of modification, painful and not painful.

Iyengar: The movements of consciousness are fivefold. They may be cognizable or non-cognizable, painful or non-painful.

Ranganathan:  There are five characters of thought – some afflicted, others not afflicted.

Woods: The fluctuations are of five kinds and are hindered or unhindered.

1.6

Vivekananda: (These are) right knowledge, indiscrimination, verbal delusion, sleep, and memory.

Iyengar: They are caused by correct knowledge, illusion, delusion, sleep and memory.

Ranganathan:  The five epistemic states are: knowledge, illusion, verbal delusion, sleep and memory.

Woods: Sources-of-valid-ideas and misconceptions and predicate-relations and sleep and memory.

1.7

Vivekananda: Direct perception, inference, and competent evidence, are proofs.

Iyengar: Correct knowledge is direct, inferred or proven as factual.

Ranganathan:  The proper means of knowledge are three: (empirical) perception, inference (i.e. logic) and the (Vedic) scriptural tradition.

Woods: Sources-of-valid-ideas are perception and inference and verbal communication.

1.8

Vivekananda: Indiscrimination is false knowledge not established in real nature.

Iyengar: Illusory or erroneous knowledge is based on non-fact or the non-real.

Ranganathan:  Illusion is the improper comprehension (of real objects) not based on their true form.

Woods: Misconception is an erroneous idea not based on that form [in respect of which the misconception is entertained].

1.9

Vivekananda: Verbal delusion follows from words having no (corresponding) reality.

Iyengar: Verbal knowledge devoid of substance is fancy or imagination.

Ranganathan: Verbal delusion arises when words do not track (real) objects.

Woods: The predicate-relation (vikalpa) is without any [corresponding perceptible] object and follows as a result of perception or of words.

1.10

Vivekananda: Sleep is a Vrtti which embraces the feeling of voidness.

Iyengar: Sleep is the non-deliberate absence of thought-waves or knowledge.

Ranganathan:  Deep sleep is the morally evaluatable character of mentality conditioned by the relationship between the awareness of nothing and nothingness.

Woods: Sleep is a fluctuation of [mind-stuff] supported by the cause of the [transient] negation [of the waking and the dreaming fluctuations].

1.11

Vivekananda: Memory is when the (Vrttis of) perceived subjects do not slip away (and through impressions come back to consciousness).

Iyengar: Memory is the unmodified recollection of words and experiences.

Ranganathan: Memory is the prevention of loss of experienced content.

Woods: Memory is not-adding-surreptitiously to a once experienced object.

1.12

Vivekananda: Their control is by practice and non-attachment.

Iyengar: Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness.

Ranganathan:  Continuous endeavor and non-attachment are both required to constrain that (i.e. mentality or memory).

Woods: The restriction of them is by [means] of practice and passionlessness.

1.13

Vivekananda: Continuous struggle to keep them (the Vrttis) perfectly restrained is practice.

Iyengar: Practice is the steadfast effort to still these fluctuations.

Ranganathan:  Abiding (in the true nature of the self) is the result of the will’s determination to stay in that stillness.

Or

Practice, the repeated effort, is resting in stillness as a result of will power.

Woods: Practice is [repeated] exertion to the end that [the mind-stuff] shall have permanence in this [restricted state].

1.14

Vivekananda: Its ground becomes firm by long, constant efforts with great love (for the end to be attained).

Iyengar: Long, uninterrupted alert practice is the firm foundation for restraining the fluctuations.

Ranganathan: (The abiding is) verily procured when it is cultivated assiduously for a long time, without interruption, and with reverence, for it is then resolute and grounded.

Woods: But this [practice] becomes confirmed when it has been cultivated for a long time and uninterruptedly and with earnest attention.

1.15

Vivekananda: That effort, which comes to those who have given up their thirst after objects either seen or heard, and which wills to control the objects, is non-attachment.

Iyengar: Renunciation is the practice of detachment from desires.

Ranganathan: The absence of desire for things – whether seen directly or learnt through hearing – which comes about by subjecting such things to the will, is the sign of non-attachment.

Woods: Passionlessness is the consciousness of being master on the part of the one who has rid himself of thirst for either seen or revealed objects.

1.16

Vivekananda: That extreme non-attachment, giving up even the qualities, shows (the real nature of) the Purusa.

Iyengar: The ultimate renunciation is when one transcends the qualities of nature and perceives the soul.

Ranganathan: In this highest objective, from the knowledge of the person, qualities (of Nature) are not desired.

Woods: This [passionlessness] is highest when discernment of the Self results in thirstlessness for qualities [and not merely for objects]

1.17

Vivekananda: The concentration called right knowledge is that which is followed by reasoning, discrimination, bliss, unqualified ego.

Iyengar: Practice and detachment develop four types of samadhi: self-analysis, synthesis, bliss, and the experience of pure being.

Ranganathan:  The cognitive state focusing on the single object (for example, the person) can be brought about by logical analysis, introspective inquiry, bliss or the keen awareness of individuality.

Woods: [Concentration becomes] conscious [of its object] by assuming forms of either deliberation [upon coarse objects] or of reflection upon subtile objects or of joy or of the feeling-of-personality.

1.18

Vivekananda: There is another Samadhi which is attained by the constant practice of cessation of all mental activity, in which the Chitta retains only the unmanifested impressions.

Iyengar: The void arising in these experiences is another samadhi.  Hidden impressions lie dormant, but spring up during moments of awareness, creating fluctuations and disturbing the purity of the consciousness.

Ranganathan:  The other (state of) abiding is preceded by a condition of cessation, in which only the stores of residual imprints remain.

Woods: The other [concentration which is not conscious of objects] consists of subliminal-impressions only [after objects have merged], and follows upon that practice which effects the cessation [of fluctuations].

1.19

Vivekananda: (This Samadhi, when not followed by extreme non-attachment) becomes the cause of the re-manifestation of the gods and of those that become merged in nature.

Iyengar: In this state, one may experience bodilessness, or become merged in nature.  This may lead to isolation or to a state of loneliness.

Ranganathan:  The condition of such a state of being is the collapse of the body into Nature.

Woods: [Concentration not conscious of objects] caused by worldly [means] is the one to which the discarnate obtain and to which those [whose bodies] are resolved into primary-matter obtain.

1.20

Vivekananda: To others (this Samadhi) comes through faith, energy, memory, concentration, and discrimination of the real.

Iyengar: Practice must be pursued with trust, confidence, vigour, keen memory and power of absorption to break this spiritual complacency.

Ranganathan:  In contrast, others yet (achieve a state of trance like abiding) following the inculcation of faith, vigour, remembrance, liberating states of absorption (samadhi) and intuitive wisdom about the self.

Woods: [Concentration not conscious of objects] which follows upon belief [and] energy [and] mindfulness [and] concentration [and] insight, is that to which the others [the yogins] attain.

1.21

Vivekananda: Success is speeded for the extremely energetic.

Iyengar: The goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice.

Ranganathan: (Success in yoga is) near for those who are intense.

Woods: For the keenly intense, [concentration] is near.

1.22

Vivekananda: They again differ according as the means are mild, medium or supreme.

Iyengar: There are differences between those who are mild, average and keen in their practices.

Ranganathan:   And is also proportional to the degree of intensity: feeble, moderate, or above measure.

Woods: Because [this keenness} is gentle or moderate or keen, there is a [concentration] superior even to this [near kind].

1.23

Vivekananda: Or by devotion to Isvara.

Iyengar: Or, the citta may be restrained by profound meditation upon God and total surrender to Him.

Ranganathan: Or (success in yoga may be had by) prostrating to and meditating upon the Lord.

Woods: Or [concentration] is attained by devotion to the Isvara.

1.24

Vivekananda: Isvara (the Supreme Ruler) is a special Purusa, untouched by misery, the results of actions, or desires.

Iyengar: God is the Supreme Being, totally free from conflicts, unaffected by actions and untouched by cause and effect.

Ranganathan:  The Lord is a special kind of person untouched by afflictions, actions, effects of actions and stores (of latent tendency-impressions).

Woods: Untouched by hindrances or karmas or fruition or by latent-deposits, the Isvara is a special kind of Self.

1.25

Vivekananda: In Him becomes infinite that all-knowing-ness which in others is (only) a germ.

Iyengar: God is the unexcelled seed of all knowledge.

Ranganathan:  In That (i.e. the Lord) is the unsurpassed seed of omniscience.

Woods: In this [Isvara] the germ of the omniscient is at its utmost excellence.

1.26

Vivekananda: He is the Teacher of even the ancient teachers, being not limited by time.

Iyengar:   God is the first, foremost and absolute guru, unconditioned by time.

Ranganathan: Also, That (i.e. the Lord) was the teacher of earlier (teachers), for It is unbound by time.

Woods: Teacher of the Primal [Sages] also, forasmuch as [with Him] there is no limitation by time.

1.27

Vivekananda: The repetition of this (Om) and meditating on its meaning (is the way).

Iyengar: He is represented by the sacred syllable aum.  He is represented in aum.

Ranganathan: The syllable ‘om’ is Its significator.

Woods: The word-expressing Him is the Mystic-syllable.

1.28

Vivekananda: The repetition of this (Om) and meditating on its meaning (is the way).

Iyengar: The mantra aum is to be repeated constantly, with feeling, realizing its full significance.

Ranganathan:  Through repetition, the meaning (of om) comes to life.

Woods: Repetition of it and reflection upon its meaning [should be made].

1.29

Vivekananda: From that is gain (the knowledge of) introspection, and the destruction of obstacles.

Iyengar: Meditation on God with the repetition of aum removes obstacles to the mastery of the inner self.

Ranganathan: Hence (one is led) inward to the knowledge of consciousness, intelligence and volition (the characteristics of purusa), and also to the nullification of the impediments to that knowledge.

Woods: Thereafter comes the right-knowledge of him who thinks in an inverse way, and the removal of obstacles.

1.30

Vivekananda: Disease, mental laziness, doubt, calmness, cessation, false perception, non-attaining concentration, and falling away from the state when obtained, are the obstructing distractions.

Iyengar: These obstacles are disease, inertia, doubt, heedlessness, laziness, indiscipline of the senses, erroneous views, lack of perseverance, and backsliding.

Ranganathan:  Illness, apathy, doubt, negligence, sloth, non-restraint, delusion, perpectivism, failing to be grounded (flightiness/hyperactivity), and inconsistency, scatter the mind and constitute an impediment (to yoga).

Woods: Sickness and languor and doubt and heedlessness and worldliness and erroneous perception and failure to attain any stage [of concentration] and instability in the state [when attained] – these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles.

1.31

Vivekananda: Grief, mental distress, tremor of the body and irregular breathing, accompany non-retention of concentration.

Iyengar: Sorrow, despair, unsteadiness of the body and irregular breathing further distract the citta.

Ranganathan: Accompanying these distractions are discomfort, depression, trembling of the body, and disturbed inhalation and exhalation.

Woods: Pain and despondency and unsteadiness of the body and inspiration and expiration are the accompaniments of the distractions.

1.32

Vivekananda: To remedy this practice of one subject (should be made).

Iyengar: Adherence to single-minded effort prevents these impediments.

Ranganathan: One can avoid the significance of these obstacles (to the practice of yoga) by the implementation of just one of the following truths.

Woods: To check them [let there be] practice upon a single entity.

1.33

Vivekananda: Friendship, mercy, gladness, indifference, being thought of in regard to subjects, happy, unhappy, good and evil respectively, pacify the Chitta.

Iyengar: Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favourably disposed, serene and benevolent.

Ranganathan: Mentality brightens, and gets to be of a serene disposition and good humour, when one takes on an attitude of friendliness towards the pleasant, of compassion for those who suffer, of joy for the meritorious, and of equanimity towards the unmeritorious.

Woods: By the cultivation of friendliness towards happiness, and compassion towards pain, and joy towards merit, and indifference towards demerit.

1.34

Vivekananda: By throwing out and restraining the Breath.

Iyengar: Or, by maintaining the pensive state felt at the time of soft and steady exhalation and during passive retention after exhalation.

Ranganathan: Or by the expulsion and retention of breath.

Woods: Or [the yogin attains the undisturbed calm of the mind-stuff] by expulsion and retention of breath.

1.35

Vivekananda: Those forms of concentration that bring extraordinary sense perceptions cause perseverance of the mind.

Iyengar: Or by contemplating an object that helps to maintain steadiness of mind and consciousness.

Ranganathan: Or by binding the mind into stillness to observe the contents of the mind as they arise.

Woods: Or [he gains stability when] a sense-activity arises connected with an object [and] bringing the central-organ into a relation of stability.

1.36

Vivekananda: Or (by the meditation on) the Effulgent One which is beyond all sorrow.

Iyengar: Or, inner stability is gained by contemplating a luminous, sorrowless, effulgent light.

Ranganathan: Or when the heart is set on being luminescent and free from sorrow.

Woods: Or an undistressed [and] luminous [sense-activity when arisen brings the central-organ into a relation of stability].

1.37

Vivekananda: Or (by meditation on) the heart that has given up all attachment to sense objects.

Iyengar: Or, by contemplating on enlightened sages who are free from desires and attachments, calm and tranquil, or by contemplating divine objects.

Ranganathan: Or by thoughts free from objects of desire.

Woods: Or the mind-stuff [reaches the stable state] by having as its object [a mind-stuff] freed from passion.

1.38

Vivekananda: Or by meditating on the knowledge that comes in sleep.

Iyengar: Or, by recollecting and contemplating the experiences of dream-filled or dreamless sleep during a watchful, waking state.

Ranganathan: Or by insights gained from sleep and dream states.

Woods: Or [the mind-stuff reaches the stable state] by having as the supporting-object a perception in dream or sleep.

1.39

Vivekananda: Or by meditation on anything that appeals to one as good.

Iyengar: Or by meditating on any desired object conducive to steadiness of consciousness.

Ranganathan: Or by meditating on any desired object conducive to steadiness of consciousness.

Woods: Or the mind-stuff [reaches the stable state] by contemplation upon any such an object as is desired.

1.40

Vivekananda: The Yogi’s mind thus meditating, becomes un-obstructed from the atomic to the Infinite.

Iyengar: Mastery of contemplation brings the power to extend from the finest particle to the greatest.

Ranganathan: Control of the internal organ (yields comprehension of) sub-atomic and maximally large objects.

Woods: His mastery extends from the smallest atom to the greatest magnitude.

1.41

Vivekananda: The Yogi whose Vrttis have thus become powerless (controlled) obtains in the receiver, receiving, and received (the self, the mind and external objects), concentratedness and sameness, like the crystal (before different coloured objects.)

Iyengar: The yogi realizes that the knower, the instrument of knowing and the known are one, himself, the seer.  Like a pure transparent jewel, he reflects an unsullied purity.

Ranganathan: When the mode of being (of mentality) has subsided to the state of the well-born, (it is) like a jewel that captures (and reflects) those objects that stand by it.  This is (called) the ‘grasping objects by taking their shape’ engrossment.

Woods: [The mind-stuff] from which, as from a precious gem, fluctuations have dwindled away, reaches the balanced-state, which, in the case of the knower or of the process-of-knowing or of the object-to-be-known, is in the state of resting upon [one] of these [three] and in the state of being tinged by [one] of these [three].

1.42

Vivekananda: Sound, meaning, and resulting knowledge, being mixed up, is (called Samadhi) with reasoning.

Iyengar: At this stage, called savitarka samapati, the word, meaning and content are blended, and become special knowledge.

Ranganathan: (If) in knowledge of linguistic meaning there is mixed with it verbal delusion, it is (called) the engrossment ‘with supposition’.

Woods: Of [these balanced-states] the state-balanced with deliberation is confused by reason of predicate-relations between words and intended-objects and ideas.

1.43

Vivekananda: The Samadhi called without reasoning (comes) when the memory is purified, or devoid of qualities, expressing only the meaning (of the meditated object).

Iyengar: In nirvitarka samapatti, the difference between memory and intellectual illumination is disclosed; memory is cleansed and consciousness shines without reflection.

Ranganathan: (When) remembrance is purified (of the two engrossments) and its essence is like (what is) empty, (awareness of) the object or meaning alone remains – (this is) illumination without conjecture.

Woods: When the memory is quite purified, [that balanced-state] – which is, as it were, empty of itself and which brightens [into conscious knowledge] as the intended-object and nothing more – is super-deliberative.

1.44

Vivekananda: By this process (the concentrations) with discrimination and without discrimination, whose objects are finer, are (also) explained.

Iyengar: The contemplation of subtle aspects is similarly explained as deliberate (savicara samapatti) or non-deliberate (nirvicara samapatti).

Ranganathan: In the same manner reflection and non-reflection on subtle objects (can be) explained.

Woods: By this same [balanced-state] the reflective and the super-reflective [balanced-states] are also explained.

1.45

Vivekananda: The finer objects end with the Pradhana.

Iyengar: The subtlest level of nature (prakrti) is consciousness.  When consciousness dissolves in nature, it loses all marks and becomes pure.

Ranganathan: And subtle objects, without (intermediary) signs, (are) comprehended.

Woods: The subtile object also terminates in unresoluble-primary-matter (alinga).

1.46

Vivekananda: These concentrations are with seed.

Iyengar: The states of samadhi described in the previous sutras are dependent upon a support or seed, and are termed sabija.

Ranganathan: They only are the seeds of liberating states of absorption (samadhi).

Woods: These same [balanced states] are the seeded concentration.

1.47

Vivekananda: The concentration “without reasoning” being purified, the Chitta becomes firmly fixed.

Iyengar: From proficiency in nirvicara samapatti comes purity.  Sattva or luminosity flows undisturbed, kindling the spiritual light of the self.

Ranganathan: The skilled, clear intellect that eschews (discursive) inquiry has the disposition of tranquility and good humour belonging to the real self.

Woods: When there is the clearness of the super-reflective [balanced-state, the yogin gains] internal undisturbed calm.

1.48

Vivekananda: The knowledge that is gained from testimony and inference is about common objects. That from the Samadhi just mentioned is of a much higher order, being able to penetrate where inference and testimony cannot go.

Iyengar: When consciousness dwells in wisdom, a truth-bearing state of direct spiritual perception dawns.

Ranganathan:   In that wisdom Rta flows forth.

Or

This gnostic wisdom that flows abundantly forth is filled with Rta.

Woods: In this [calm] the insight is truth-bearing.

1.49

Vivekananda: The resulting impression from this Samadhi obstructs all other impressions.

Iyengar: This truth-bearing knowledge and wisdom is distinct from and beyond the knowledge gleaned from books, testimony and inference.

Ranganathan: It is different in content from the wisdom of scripture and inference, for it relates to the essence of things.

Woods: Has another object than the insight resulting from things heard or from inferences, inasmuch as its intended-object is a particular.

1.50

Vivekananda: The resulting impression from this Samadhi obstructs all other impressions.

Iyengar: A new life begins with this truth-bearing light.  Previous impressions are left behind and new ones are prevented.

Ranganathan: The impression generated from this is an antidote to other latent and stored tendency-impressions.

Woods: The subliminal-impression produced by this [super-reflective balanced-state] is hostile to other subliminal-impressions.

1.51

Vivekananda: By the restraint of even this (impression, which obstructs all other impressions), all being restrained, comes the “seedless” Samadhi.

Iyengar: When that new light of wisdom is also relinquished, seedless samadhi dawns.

Ranganathan:   From that also comes the constraint of all (thought) and the constrained liberating state of absorption (samadhi) that is ‘seedless’.

Woods: When this [subliminal-impression] also is restricted, since all is restricted, [the yogin gains] seedless concentration.

 

 

BOOK II – SADHANA-PADA

 

2.1

Vivekananda: Mortification, study, and surrendering fruits of work to God are called Kriya Yoga.

Iyengar:  Burning zeal in practice, self-study and study of scriptures, and surrender to God are the acts of yoga.

Ranganathan: Action in Yoga consists of penance, study (of the Vedas or self) and surrendering to the Lord.

Woods: Self-castigation and study and devotion to the Isvara are the Yoga of action.

2.2

Vivekananda: (They are for) the practice of Samadhi and minimizing the pain-bearing obstructions.

Iyengar: The practice of yoga reduces afflictions and leads to samadhi.

Ranganathan: And manifesting the targeted liberating state of absorption (samadhi) by minimizing affliction is the working objective.

Woods: For the cultivation of concentration and the attenuation of hindrances.

2.3

Vivekananda: The pain-bearing obstructions are ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life.

Iyengar: The five afflictions which disturb the equilibrium of consciousness are:  ignorance or lack of wisdom, ego, pride of the ego or the sense of ‘I’, attachment to pleasure, aversion to pain, fear of death and clinging to life.

Ranganathan: Suffering comes about by ignorance, egotism, attachment, aversion and clinging to bodily security.

Woods: Undifferentiated-consciousness (avidya) and the feeling-of-personality and passion and aversion and the will-to-live are the five hindrances.

2.4

Vivekananda: Ignorance is the productive field of all them that follow, whether they are dormant, attenuated, overpowered, or expanded.

Iyengar: Lack of true knowledge is the source of all pains and sorrows whether dormant attenuated, interrupted or fully active.

Ranganathan: Ignorance of the field (of experience, that is Nature) (results in suffering) whether dormant or active, attenuated or interrupted.

Woods: Undifferentiated-consciousness is the field for the others whether they be dormant or attenuated or intercepted or sustained.

2.5

Vivekananda: Ignorance is taking that which is non-eternal, impure, painful, and non-Self, for the eternal, pure, happy, Atman (Self).

Iyengar: Mistaking the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure, and that which is not the self for the self:  all this is called lack of spiritual knowledge, avidya.

Ranganathan: (Unqualified) ignorance consists in declaring the transient as the permanent, the impure as the pure, the painful as the pleasant, and the non-self as the self.

Woods: The recognition of the permanent, the pure, of pleasure, and of a self in what is impermanent, impure, pain, and not-self is undifferentiated-consciousness (avidya).

2.6

Vivekananda: Egoism is the identification of the seer with the instrument of seeing.

Iyengar: Egoism is the identification of the seer with the instrumental power of seeing.

Ranganathan: Egotism consists in conflating the power of the seer (that is, the purusa) with the natural powers of perception into a single (conception of a) self.

Woods: When the power of seeing and the power by which one sees have the appearance of being a single self, [this is] the feeling-of-personality.

2.7

Vivekananda: Attachment is that which dwells on pleasure.

Iyengar: Pleasure leads to desire and emotional attachment.

Ranganathan: Attachment is a residue of pleasant experience.

Woods: Passion is that which dwells upon pleasure.

2.8

Vivekananda: Aversion is that which dwells on pain.

Iyengar: Unhappiness leads to hatred.

Ranganathan: Aversion is what comes on the heels of suffering.

Woods: Aversion is that which dwells upon pain.

2.9

Vivekananda: Flowing through its own nature, and established even in the learned, is the clinging to life.

Iyengar: Self-preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions.  It is found even in wise men.

Ranganathan: A taste for one’s self flows also for the learned, (and thus) a clinging for bodily security is rooted in them too.

Woods: The will-to-live sweeping on [by the force of] its own nature exists in this form even in the wise.

2.10

Vivekananda: They, to-be-rejected-by-opposite-modifications, are fine.

Iyengar:   Subtle afflictions are to be minimized and eradicated by a process of involution.

Ranganathan: When these are traced back to their source, their subtle form can be abandoned.

Woods: These [hindrances when they have become subtile] are to be escaped by the inverse-propagation.

2.11

Vivekananda: By meditation, their modifications are to be rejected.

Iyengar: Fluctuations of consciousness created by gross and subtle afflictions are to be silenced through meditation.

Ranganathan: Thoughts of these can by abandoned through meditation of a spiritual character (Dhyana).

Woods: The fluctuations of these should be escaped by means of contemplation.

2.12

Vivekananda: The receptacle of works has its root in these pain-bearing obstructions, and their experience in this visible life, or in the unseen life.

Iyengar: The accumulated imprints of past lives, rooted in afflictions, will be experienced in present and future lives.

Ranganathan: The root of affliction is past action.  It is latent, seen or unseen, and stays with us through births in the form of experiences that produce further karma.

Woods: The latent-deposit of karma has its root in the hindrances and may be felt in a birth seen or in a birth unseen.

2.13

Vivekananda: The root being there, the fruition comes (in the form of) species, life, and expression of pleasure and pain.

Iyengar: As long as the root of actions exists, it will give rise to class of birth, span of life and experiences.

Ranganathan:  These (lives) will vary in enjoyment or purgation depending upon whether the ripened (karma) is meritorious or demeritorious.

Woods: So long as the root exists, there will be fruition from it [that is] birth [and] length-of-life [and] kind-of-experience.

2.14

Vivekananda: They bear fruit as pleasure or pain, caused by virtue or vice.

Iyengar: According to our good, bad or mixed actions, the quality of our life, its span, and the nature of birth are experienced as being pleasant or painful.

Ranganathan: So long as this root exists, these (karmas) will ripen into a birth of a certain social status, a span of life and experience.

Woods: These [fruitions] have joy or extreme anguish as results in accordance with the quality or their causes whether merit or demerit.

2.15

Vivekananda: To the discriminating, all is, as it were, painful on account of everything bringing pain, either in the consequences, or in apprehension, or in attitude caused by impressions, also on account of the counter action of qualities.

Iyengar: The wise man knows that owing to fluctuations, the qualities of nature, and subliminal impressions, even pleasant experiences are tinged with sorrow, and he keeps aloof from them.

Ranganathan:  And the discriminating person also regards all these experiences as a nagging discomfort, whether they be the heat of impermanence, the remnants of past suffering, or whether they are the conflict of natural qualities in the character of thought.

Woods: As being the pains which are mutations and anxieties and subliminal-impressions, and by reason of the opposition of the fluctuation of the aspects (guna) – to the discriminating all is nothing but pain.

2.16

Vivekananda: The misery which is not yet come is to be avoided.

Iyengar: The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.

Ranganathan: (Fortunately) future suffering can be prevented.

Woods: Only yogins are sensitive to future pain.  This may be avoided in that it has not expressed itself in actual suffering

2.17

Vivekananda: The cause of that which is to be avoided is the junction of the seer and the seen.

Iyengar: The cause of pain is the association or identification of the seer (atma) with the seen (prakrti) and the remedy lies in their dissociation.

Ranganathan: The cause to be abandoned is the tying of seeing with what is seen.

Woods: The correlation of the Seer and the object-of-sight is the cause of that which is to be escaped.

2.18

Vivekananda: The experienced is composed of elements and organs, is of the nature of illumination, action and inertia, and is for the purpose of experience and release (of the experiencer).

Iyengar: Nature, its three qualities, sattva, rajas and tamas and its evolutes, the elements, mind senses of perception and organs of action exist eternally to serve the seer, for enjoyment or emancipation.

Ranganathan: Luminosity, action and stillness are the morally praiseworthy conduct of the elements constituting the nature of things seen.  Their purpose (in existing) is to provide the edifying experiences for the sensory apparatus and thus facilitate liberation (of the purusa).

Woods: With a disposition to brightness and to activity and to inertia, and with the elements and the organs as its essence, and with its purpose the experience and the liberation [of the Self], this is the object-of-sight.

2.19

Vivekananda: The seer is intelligence only, and though pure, seen through the colouring of the intellect.

Iyengar: The gunas generate their characteristic divisions and energies in the seer.  Their stages are distinguishable and non-distinguishable, differentiable and non-differentiable.

Ranganathan: The qualities (of Nature) progress from the indistinct to the distinct, from not having signifying tokens to having unique signifying tokens.

Woods: The particularized and the unparticularized [forms] and the resoluble only [into primary matter] and the irresoluble-primary-matter – are the divisions of the aspects (guna).

2.20

Vivekananda: The nature of the experience is for him.

Iyengar: The seer is pure consciousness.  He witnesses nature without being reliant ton it.

Ranganathan: While the seer who sees is pure (that is, not characterized by the contents of experience), it is also the condition of beholding each by each (that is, it is the condition of the plethora of distinct experiences).

Woods: The Seer who is nothing but [the power of seeing], although undefiled (suddha), looks upon the presented idea.

2.21

Vivekananda: Though destroyed for him whose goal has been gained, yet is not destroyed, being common to others.

Iyengar: Nature and intelligence exist solely to serve the seer’s true purpose, emancipation.

Ranganathan: The only purpose of what is seen is (to serve) the self.

Woods: The object-of-sight is only for the sake of it [the Self].

2.22

Vivekananda: Junction is the cause of the realization of the nature of both the powers, the experienced and its Lord.

Iyengar: The relationship with nature ceases for emancipated beings, its purpose having been fulfilled, but its processes continue to affect others.

Ranganathan:   When its end is accomplished, it disappears, though it continues (to serve) others in common experience.

Woods: Though it has ceased [to be seen] in the case of one whose purpose is accomplished, it has not ceased to be, since it is common to others [besides himself].

2.23

Vivekananda: Ignorance is its cause.

Iyengar: The conjunction of the seer with the seen is for the seer to discover his own true nature.

Ranganathan: The reason for the conjunction (of persons with Nature) is (to grant persons) the powers to be their own spiritual masters and to apprehend their own form.

Woods: The reason for the apperception of what the power of the property and of what the power of the proprietor are, is correlation.

2.24

Vivekananda: There being absence of that (ignorance) there is absence of junction, which is the thing-to-be-avoided; that is the independence of the seer.

Iyengar: Lack of spiritual understanding (avidya) is the cause of the false identification of the seer the seen.

Ranganathan: The reason for this (need for one to have one’s true form revealed) is ignorance.

Woods: The reason for this [correlation] is undifferentiated-consciousness (avidya).

2.25

Vivekananda: The means of destruction of ignorance is unbroken practice of discrimination.

Iyengar: The destruction of ignorance through right knowledge breaks the link binding the seer to the seen.  This is kaivalya emancipation.

Ranganathan: The end of ignorance is the end of the (pedagogic) union (of person with Nature).  Its cessation displays (the purusa in) Isolation.

Woods: Since this [non-sight] does not exist, there is no correlation.  This is the escape, the Isolation of the Seer.

2.26

Vivekananda: His knowledge is of the sevenfold highest ground.

Iyengar: The ceaseless flow of discriminative knowledge in thought, word, and deed destroys ignorance the source of pain.

Ranganathan: Declaration and discernment of discrimination (that puts an end to ignorance) can be continuously had by skillful means (upaya).

Woods: The means of attaining escape is unwavering discriminative discernment.

2.27

Vivekananda: His knowledge is of the sevenfold highest ground.

Iyengar: Through this unbroken flow of discriminative awareness, one gains perfect knowledge which has seven spheres.

Ranganathan: The wisdom gained from this extends to the ends of all seven worlds.

Woods: For him [there is] insight sevenfold and advancing in stages to the highest.

2.28

Vivekananda: By the practice of the different parts of Yoga the impurities being destroyed knowledge becomes effulgent, up to discrimination.

Iyengar: By dedicated practice of the various aspects of yoga impurities are destroyed:  the crown of wisdom radiates in glory.

Ranganathan: The practice of the limbs of yoga leads to the remission of impurities and the radiance of penetrating knowledge, bringing the aspirant towards discrimination from knowledge.

Woods: After the aids to yoga have been followed up, when the impurity has dwindled, there is an enlightenment of perception reaching up to the discriminative discernment.

2.29

Vivekananda: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, are the limbs of Yoga.

Iyengar: Moral injunctions (yama), fixed observances (niyama), posture (asana), regulation of breath (pranayama), internalization of the senses towards their source (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and absorption of consciousness in the self (samadhi), are the eight constituents of yoga.

Ranganathan: The eight limbs of yoga are:  1. Moral conduct, 2. Observances, 3. Posture, 4. Control of breath, 5. Withdrawal of the senses from their objects, 6. Fixed concentration, 7. Abstract spiritual meditation, and 8. Trance states of absolute absorption.

Woods: Abstentions and observances and postures and regulations-of-breath and withdrawal-of-the-senses and fixed-attention and contemplation and concentration.

2.30

Vivekananda: Non-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-receiving, are called Yama.

Iyengar: Non-violence, truth, abstention from stealing, continence, and absence of greed for possessions beyond one’s need are the five pillars of yama.

Ranganathan: The rules of moral conduct are abstaining from harm, truthfulness, abstinence from theft, sexual restraint and unacquisitiveness.

Woods: Abstinence from injury and from falsehood and from theft and from incontinence and from acceptance of gifts are abstentions.

2.31

Vivekananda: These, unbroken by time, place, purpose, and caste, are (universal) great vows.

Iyengar: Yamas are the great, mighty, universal vows, unconditioned by place, time and class.

Ranganathan: This Great Duty (adherence to the yama rules) is to be followed throughout the world, irrespective of station at birth, country or place, time or custom.

Woods: When they are unqualified by species or place or time or exigency and when [covering] all [these] classes – there is the Great Course-of-conduct.

2.32

Vivekananda: Internal and external purification, contentment, mortification, study, and worship of God, are the Niyamas.

Iyengar: Cleanliness, contentment, religious zeal, self-study and surrender of the self to the supreme Self or God are the niyamas.

Ranganathan: The five observances are purity, contentment, penance, self-study, and surrendering to, and reflection on, the Lord.

Woods: Cleanliness and contentment and self-castigation and study and devotion to the Isvara are the observances.

2.33

Vivekananda: To obstruct thoughts which are inimical to Yoga contrary thoughts will be brought.

Iyengar: Principles which run contrary to yama and niyama are to be countered with the knowledge of discrimination.

Ranganathan: Hypothetical arguments that harass and oppose those who would follow these dictates must be countered by (becoming) an opponent who lives according to them (that is, the yama and niyama rules) and in opposition to the detracting arguments.

Or

One must reflect upon what is contrary to those vital steps of yoga and be an opponent who cultivates in themselves what is contrary to them.

Woods: If there be inhibition by perverse-considerations, there should be cultivation of the opposites.

2.34

Vivekananda: The obstructions to Yoga are killing etc., whether committed, caused, or approved; either through avarice, or anger, or ignorance; whether slight, middling, or great, and result is innumerable ignorances and miseries. This is (the method of) thinking the contrary.

Iyengar: Uncertain knowledge giving rise to violence, whether done directly or indirectly, or condoned, is caused by greed, anger or delusion in mild, moderate or intense degree.  It results in endless pain and ignorance.  Through introspection comes the end of pain and ignorance.

Ranganathan: Hypothetical arguments promoting harm and the like, that cause actions to be done in accordance with euphoria, greed, anger or infatuation, are preceded by mild, moderate and extreme suffering.  Without penetrating knowledge, such fruit (of suffering) is endless.  Thus, one must become an opponent to such influences by living in a contrary manner.

Woods:  Since perverse-considerations such as injuries, whether done or caused to be done or approved, whether ensuing upon greed or anger or infatuation, whether mild or moderate or vehement, find their unending consequences in pain and lack of thinking, there should be cultivation of their opposites.

2.35

Vivekananda: Non-killing being established, in his presence all enmities cease (in others).

Iyengar: When non-violence in speech, thought and action is established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one’s presence.

Ranganathan:   That (being, the yogic activist,) is based upon non-harmfulness, and that has the effect of making opponents renounce their hostility.

Woods: As soon as he is grounded in abstinence from injury, his presence begets a suspension of enmity.

2.36

Vivekananda: By the establishment of truthfulness the Yogi gets the power of attaining for himself and others the fruits of work without the works.

Iyengar: When the sadhaka is firmly established in the practice of truth, his words become so potent that whatever he says comes to realization.

Ranganathan: Those whose word is grounded in truthfulness are able to produce results for those who depend upon them.

Woods: As soon as he is grounded in abstinence from falsehood, actions and consequences depend upon him.

2.37

Vivekananda: By the establishment of non-stealing all wealth comes to the Yogi.

Iyengar: When abstention from stealing is firmly established precious jewels come.

Ranganathan: Those who live by avoiding theft have all wealth materialize for them.

Woods: As soon as he is grounded in abstinence from theft, all jewels approach him.

2.38

Vivekananda: By the establishment of continence energy is gained.

Iyengar: When the sadhaka is firmly established in continence, knowledge, vigour, valour and energy flow to him.

Ranganathan: Those who are grounded in sexual restraint acquire vitality.

Woods: As soon as he is grounded in abstinence from incontinence, he acquires energy.

2.39

Vivekananda: When he is fixed in non-receiving he gets the memory of past life.

Iyengar: Knowledge of past and future lives unfolds when one is free from greed for possessions.

Ranganathan: Those who live by non-acquisitiveness have the perfect knowledge of, and are able to relate to, (the meaning of) life.

Woods:  As soon as he is grounded in abstinence from the acceptance of gifts, an illumination upon the conditions of birth.

2.40

Vivekananda: Internal and external cleanliness being established, arises disgust for one’s own body, and non-intercourse with other bodies.

Iyengar: Cleanliness of body and mind develops disinterest in contact with others for self-gratification.

Ranganathan: Once one is pure in body, there is an abhorrence to other (things) not of the same bent.

Woods: As a result of cleanliness there is disgust at one’s own body and no intercourse with others.

2.41

Vivekananda: There also arises purification of the Sattva, cheerfulness of the mind, concentration, conquest of the organs, and fitness for the realization of the Self.

Iyengar: When the body is cleansed, the mind purified and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self, also comes.

Ranganathan: (And purity of body) yields clarity in thought, purity of heart, cheerfulness of mind, one-pointedness in concentration, mastery over the sense organs, and fitness for a vision of the self.

Woods: Purity of sattva and gentleness and singleness-of-intent and subjugations of the senses and fitness for the sight of the self.

2.42

Vivekananda: From contentment comes superlative happiness.

Iyengar: From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness.

Ranganathan: Contentment yields an unsurpassed experience of the pleasant.

Woods: As a result of contentment there is an acquisition of superlative pleasure.

2.43

Vivekananda: The result of mortification is bringing powers to the organs and the body, by destroying the impurity.

Iyengar: Self-discipline (tapas) burns away impurities and kindles the sparks of divinity.

Ranganathan: Austerities decrease impurity, and result in supernormal attainment in body and the senses.

Woods: Perfection in the body and in the organs after impurity has dwindled as a result of self-castigation.

2.44

Vivekananda: By repetition of the mantram comes the realization of the intended deity.

Iyengar: Self-study leads towards the realization of God or communion with one’s desired deity.

Ranganathan:   A bond with one’s chosen deity (The form through which one approaches Isvara) is the result of self-study.

Woods: As a result of study there is communion with the chosen deity.

2.45

Vivekananda: By sacrificing all to Isvara comes Samadhi.

Iyengar: Surrender to God brings perfection in samadhi.

Ranganathan: Surrendering to the Lord results in the attainment of liberating states of absorption (samadhi).

Woods: Perfection of concentration as a result of devotion to the Isvara.

2.46

Vivekananda: Posture is that which is firm and pleasant.

Iyengar: Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit.

Ranganathan: Posture to be assumed should be both still and pleasant.

Woods: Stable-and-easy posture.

2.47

Vivekananda: By slight effort and meditating on the unlimited (posture becomes firm and pleasant).

Iyengar: Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.

Ranganathan: Continuous effort and endless relaxation are the twin attainments (of asana, in particular, or yoga in general).

Woods: By relaxation of effort or by a [mental] state-of-balance with reference to Ananta.

2.48

Vivekananda: Seat being conquered, the dualities do not obstruct.

Iyengar: From then on, the sadhaka is undisturbed by dualities.

Ranganathan: From this follows a freedom from disturbances of opposing characteristics of Nature.

Woods: Thereafter he is unassailed by extremes.

2.49

Vivekananda: Controlling the motion of the exhalation and the inhalation follows after this.

Iyengar: Pranayama is the regulation of the incoming and outgoing flow of breath with retention.  It is to be practiced only after perfection in asana is attained.

Ranganathan: On the realization of this (the perfection of posture), control of breath should be practiced.  It consists in breaking the mal-flow of inhalations and exhalations.

Woods: When there is [stability of posture], the restraint of breath, a cutting off of the flow of inspiration and expiration, follows.

2.50

Vivekananda: Its modifications are either external or internal, or motionless, regulated by place, time, and number, either long or short.

Iyengar: Pranayama has three movements:  prolonged and fine inhalation, exhalation and retention; all regulated with precision according to duration and place.

Ranganathan:  It may be interrupted externally or internally, or it may be constrained mid-flow.  It may be regulated by taking into account place (of the breath in the body), time (that is, duration of the breath), or in accordance with a fixed number of long or non-extended breaths, as propriety dictates.

Woods: [This is] external or internal or suppressed in fluctuation and is regulated by place and time and number and is protracted and subtile.

2.51

Vivekananda: The fourth is restraining the Prana by directing it either to the external or internal objects.

Iyengar: The fourth type of pranayama transcends the external and internal pranayamas, and appears effortless and non-deliberate.

Ranganathan: The fourth (exercise in the control of breath) discards the subject matter of ‘internal’ and ‘external’.

Woods: The fourth [restraint of breath] transcends the external and the internal object.

2.52

Vivekananda: From that, the covering to the light of the Chitta is attenuated.

Iyengar: Pranayama removes the veil covering the light of knowledge and heralds the dawn of wisdom.

Ranganathan: Then that which covers the light is destroyed.

Woods: As a result of this the covering of the light dwindles away.

2.53

Vivekananda: The mind becomes fit for Dharana.

Iyengar: The mind also becomes fit for concentration.

Ranganathan: And the mind is rendered fit for concentrating.

Woods: For fixed-attentions also the central organ becomes fit.

2.54

Vivekananda: The drawing in of the organs is by their giving up their own objects and taking the form of the mind-stuff.

Iyengar: Withdrawing the senses, mind and consciousness from contact with external objects, and then drawing them inwards towards the seer, is pratyahara.

Ranganathan: When the mind withdraws from its objects and resides in its own form, in a like manner the sense organs imitate the mind by withdrawing from their objects.

Woods: The withdrawal of the senses is as it were the imitation of the mind-stuff as it is in itself on the part of the organs by disjoining themselves from their object.

2.55

Iyengar: Pratyahara results in the absolute control of the sense organs.

Ranganathan: Then the sense organs reside under the control of the ultimate (that is, the purusa)

Woods: As a result of this [withdrawal] there is a complete-mastery of the organs.

 

 

BOOK III – VIBHUTI-PADA

 

3.1

Vivekananda: Dharana is holding the mind on to some particular object.

Iyengar: Fixing the consciousness on one point or region is concentration (dharana).

Ranganathan: Concentration binds the mind on to a single area.

Woods: Binding the mind-stuff to a place is fixed-attention.

3.2

Vivekananda: An unbroken flow of knowledge to that object is Dhyana.

Iyengar: A steady, continuous flow of attention directed towards the same point or region is mediation (dhyana).

Ranganathan: In that is the condition for the singular, uninterrupted reflection of a  profound spiritual character (dhyana).

Woods: Focusedness of the presented idea upon that [place] is contemplation.

3.3

Vivekananda: When that, giving up all forms, reflects only the meaning, it is Samadhi.

Iyengar: When the object of meditation engulfs the meditator appearing as the subject, self-awareness is lost.  This is samadhi.

Ranganathan: Its only purpose is the singular radiance that reveals one’s nature (or essences in general) and nothing else – on the way to this goal comes about the liberating state of absorption (samadhi).

Woods: This same [contemplation], shining forth [in consciousness] as the intended object and nothing more, and, as it were, emptied of itself, is concentration.

3.4

Vivekananda: (These) three (when practiced) in regard to one object is Samyama.

Iyengar: These three together – dharana, dhyana and samadhi – constitute integration or samyama.

Ranganathan: These three –  concentration, reflection of a profound spiritual character, and the liberating state of absorption (samadhi) – are the perfect constraint (of the mind).

Woods: The three in one are constraint.

3.5

Vivekananda: By the conquest of that comes light of knowledge.

Iyengar: From mastery of samyama comes the light of awareness and insight.

Ranganathan: The mastery of that (perfect constraint of the mind) results in the luminescence of wisdom.

Woods: As a result of mastering this restraint, there follows the shining forth of insight.

3.6

Vivekananda: That should be employed in stages.

Iyengar: Samyama may be applied in various spheres to derive its usefulness.

Ranganathan: Its progression occurs in stages.

Woods: Its application is by stages.

3.7

Vivekananda: These three are nearer than those that precede.

Iyengar: These three aspects of yoga are internal compared to the former five.

Ranganathan These three parts (of yoga, namely concentration, reflection of a profound spiritual character and the liberating state of absorption) are more internal (compared to the former five parts).

Woods: The three are direct aids in comparison with the previous [five].

3.8

Vivekananda: (These) three (when practiced) in regard to one object is Samyama.

Iyengar: Similarly, samyama is external when compared to seedless (nirbija) samadhi

Ranganathan: In relation to the liberating state of absorption (samadhi) that is ‘seedless’, these parts of yoga are external.

Woods: Even these [three] are indirect aids to seedless [concentration].

3.9

Vivekananda: By the suppression of the disturbed modifications of the mind, and by the rise of modifications of control, the mind is said to attain the controlling modifications – following the controlling powers of the mind.

Iyengar: Study of the silent moments between rising and restraining subliminal impressions is the transformation of consciousness towards restraint (nirodhaparinamah).

Ranganathan: The positive direction of the mind towards small moments of time facilitates the transformation (of consciousness) towards restraint.  This consist of constraining thoughts as they arise, and overpowering latent tendency-impressions by being conscious of the process of checking.

Woods: When there is a becoming invisible of the subliminal-impression of emergence and a becoming visible of the subliminal-impression of restriction, the mutation of restriction is inseparably connected with mind-stuff in its period of restriction.

3.10

Vivekananda: Its flow becomes steady by habit.

Iyengar: The restraint of rising impressions brings about an undisturbed flow of tranquility.

Ranganathan:   This result in the serene flow of latent tendency-impressions.

Woods: This [mind-stuff] flows peacefully by reason of the subliminal-impression.

3.11

Vivekananda: Taking in all sorts of objects and concentrating upon one object, these two powers being destroyed and manifested respectively, the Chitta gets the modification called Samadhi.

Iyengar: The weakening of scattered attention and the rise of one-pointed attention in the citta is the transformation towards samadhi.

Ranganathan:  A transformation obtains, where all purpose becomes one-pointed (by melding into a singularity), and mental chatter diminishes as the liberating state of absorption (samadhi) surfaces.

Woods: The mutation of concentration is the dwindling of dispersiveness and the uprisal of singleness-of-intent belonging to the mind-stuff.

3.12

Vivekananda: The one-pointedness of the Chitta is when it grasps in one, the past and present.

Iyengar: When rising and falling thought processes are in balance, one-pointed consciousness emerges.  Maintenance of awareness with keen intensity from one-pointed attention to no-pointed attentiveness is ekagrata parinama.

Ranganathan: With the mind singularly focused, the condition for the transformation of the mind is set.  It then resolves itself back into peace, and equanimity arises.

Woods: Then again when the quiescent and the uprisen presented-ideas are similar [in respect of having a single object], the mind-stuff has a mutation single-in-intent.

3.13

Vivekananda: By this is explained the threefold transformations of form, time and state, in fine or gross matter, and in the organs.

Iyengar: Through three phases, cultured consciousness is transformed from its potential state (dharma) towards further refinement (laksana) and the zenith of refinement (avastha).  In this way, the transformation of elements, senses and mind takes place.

Ranganathan:   By this, the transformation of things given in the senses – the transformation of their generic moral character, their particular marks and conditions – are fully comprehended.

Woods: Thus with regard to elements and to organs, mutations of external-aspect and of time-variation and of intensity have been enumerated.

3.14

Vivekananda: That which is acted upon by transformations, either past, present or yet to be manifested, is the qualified.

Iyengar: The substrata is that which continues to exist and maintain its characteristic quality in all states, whether manifest, latent, or subdued.

Ranganathan: When peace has surfaced, there is a mystical knowledge of the moral character of (all) things (objects as well) and what follows from their fundamental character)

Woods: A substance conforms itself to quiescent and uprisen and indeterminable external-aspects.

3.15

Vivekananda: The succession of changes is the cause of manifold evolution.

Iyengar: Successive sequential changes in consciousness are caused by the changing order of sequence in the method of practice.

Ranganathan:   The reason for the orderly change in objects is the transformation of other objects.

Woods: The order of the sequence is the reason for the order of the mutations.

3.16

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the three sorts of changes comes the knowledge of past and future.

Iyengar: By mastery of the three transformations of nature (dharma), quality (laksana) and condition (avastha), through samyama on the nirodha, samadhi, and ekagrata states of consciousness, the yogi acquires knowledge of the past and the future.

Ranganathan: Perfect constraint directed onto these three – moral character, their particular marks and conditions – yields a deep comprehension of past and future events.

Woods: As a result of constraint upon the three mutations, [there follows] the knowledge of the past and the future.

3.17

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on word, meaning, and knowledge, which are ordinarily confused, comes the knowledge of all animal sounds.

Iyengar: Words, objects and ideas are superimposed, creating confusion; by samyama, one gains knowledge of the language of all beings.

Ranganathan: Normally, concepts denoting conditions are superimposed on one another and thoroughly muddled.  In perfect constraint, these distinctions and all things spoken of through language are perfectly comprehended.

Woods: Word and intended-object and presented-idea are confused because they are erroneously identified with each other.  By constraint upon the distinctions between them, [there arises the intuitive] knowledge of the cries of all living beings.

3.18

Vivekananda: By perceiving the impressions, knowledge of past life.

Iyengar: Through direct perception of his subliminal impressions the yogi gains knowledge of his previous lives.

Ranganathan:   By actively inspecting the latent tendency-impressions, knowledge of former births is revealed.

Woods: As a result of direct perception of subliminal-impressions there is [intuitive] knowledge of previous births.

3.19

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the signs in another’s both knowledge of that mind comes.

Iyengar: He acquires the ability to understand the minds of others.

Ranganathan:  (And) the condition of other people’s minds is revealed.

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon a presented-idea [there arises intuitive] knowledge of the mind-stuff of another.

3.20

Vivekananda: But not its contents, that not being the object of the Samyama.

Iyengar: A yogi who is able to read the minds of others in general, can also, if necessary, precisely identify specific contents which are beyond the reach of the mind.

Ranganathan: Yet, what is not present (to the yogi) is the thing belonging to the other person’s mind – that is, the object of their thought – for that is a relationship between the other person’s consciousness and the object.

Woods: But [the intuitive knowledge of the mind-stuff of another] does not have that [idea] together with that upon which it depends [as its object], since that [upon which it depends] is not-in-the-field [of consciousness].

3.21

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the form of the body the power of perceiving forms being obstructed, the power of manifestation in the eye being separated, the Yogi’s body becomes unseen.

Iyengar: By control over the subtle body the yogi can suspend at will the rays of light emanating from himself so that he becomes invisible to onlookers.  Me may again make himself visible by bringing back the power of perceptibility.

Ranganathan: When the body’s form is rasped with ultimate discipline, and the ego is disengaged from incoming light, there comes the power of suspending the body and rendering it imperceptible (to others).

Woods: As a result of constraint upon the [outer] form of the body, when it’s power to be known is stopped, then as a consequence of the disjunction of the light and of the eye there follows indiscernibility [of the yogin’s body].

3.22

Vivekananda: By this the disappearance or concealment of words which are being spoken is also explained.

Iyengar: In the same way as described above, he is able to arrest sound smell, taste, form and touch.

Ranganathan: The disappearances of sound and other sensations can be explained by this means.

Woods: Advancing and not-advancing is karma; as a result of constraint upon this [two-fold karma] or from the signs of death [there arises an intuitive] knowledge of the latter end.

3.23

Vivekananda: Karma is of two kinds, soon to be fructified, and late to be fructified. By making Samyama on that, or by the signs called Aristha, portents, the Yogis know the exact time of separation from their bodies.

Iyengar: The effects of action are immediate or delayed.  By samyama on his actions, a yogi will gain foreknowledge of their final fruits.  He will know the exact time of his death by omens.

Ranganathan: And, by turning perfect constraint to the two types of karma – those that are currently bearing fruits and those whose fruits are delayed – or by divination of omens, knowledge of (the time of) death can be had.

Woods:  [As a result of constraint] upon friendliness and other [sentiments there arise] powers [of friendliness].

3.24

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on friendship, etc., various strength comes.

Iyengar: He gains moral and emotional strength by perfecting friendliness and other virtues towards one and all.

Ranganathan: (By directing ultimate discipline towards) friendliness and so on one gains their strengths.

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon powers [there arise] powers like those of an elephant.

3.25

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the strength of the elephant, etc., that strength comes to the Yogi.

Iyengar: By samyama on strength, the yogi will develop the physical strength, grace, and endurance of an elephant.

Ranganathan: (By directing ultimate discipline towards) elephants and other animals, one gains their strength.

Woods: As a result of casting the light of a sense-activity [there arises an intuitive] knowledge of the subtile and the concealed and the obscure.

3.26

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on that effulgent light comes the knowledge of the fine, the obstructed, and the remote.

Iyengar: Concealed things, near or far, are revealed to a yogi.

Ranganathan: By directing effort towards the illumination, the yogi can have knowledge of subtle, hidden and distant things.

Woods: As a result of casting the light of a sense-activity [there arises an intuitive] knowledge of the subtile and the concealed and the obscure.

3.27

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the sun, (comes) the knowledge of the world.

Iyengar: By samyama on the sun the yogi will have knowledge of the seven worlds, and of the seven cosmic centres in the body.

Ranganathan: Ultimate discipline focused on the sun reveals knowledge of the (entire) world,

Woods: As a result of constraint upon the sun [there arises the intuitive] knowledge of the cosmic-spaces.

3.28

Vivekananda: On the moon, (comes) the knowledge of the cluster of stars.

Iyengar: By samyama on the moon, the yogi will know the position and system of the stars.

Ranganathan:  (Upon the) moon it reveals comprehension of the arrangements of the stars,

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon the moon {there arises the intuitive] knowledge of the arrangement of the stars.

3.29

Vivekananda: On the pole star (comes) the knowledge of the motions of the stars.

Iyengar: By samyama on the Pole Star, the yogi knows the course of destiny.

Ranganathan: (Upon the) North Star it reveals the flow of these (stars),

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon the pole-star [there arises the intuitive] knowledge of their movements.

3.30

Vivekananda: On the navel circle (comes) the knowledge of the constitution of the body.

Iyengar: By samyama on the navel the yogi acquires perfect knowledge of the disposition of the human body.

Ranganathan:   (Upon the) navel, it provides comprehension of the arrangement of the cakra-s in the body.

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon the wheel of the navel [there arises the intuitive] knowledge of the arrangement of the body.

3.31

Vivekananda: On the hollow of the throat

Iyengar: By samyama on the pit of the throat, the yogi overcomes hunger and thirst.

Ranganathan: (Upon the) hollow of the throat leads to the termination of hunger and thirst,

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon the well of the throat [there follows] the cessation of hunger and thirst.

3.32

Vivekananda: On the nerve called Kurma (comes) fixity of the body.

Iyengar: By samyama on kurmanadi, at the pit of the throat, the yogi can make his body and mind firm and immobile like a tortoise.

Ranganathan: (Upon the) ‘Tortoise duct’, one gains absolute stillness,

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon the tortoise-tube [there follows] motionlessness of the mind-stuff.

3.33

Vivekananda: On the light emanating from the top of the head sight of the Siddhas.

Iyengar: By performing samyama on the light of the crown of the head (ajna cakra), the yogi has visions of perfected beings.

Ranganathan: (Upon the) radiance of the head, the adept gains philosophical vision,

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon the radiance in the head [there follows] the sight of the Siddhas.

3.34

Vivekananda: Or by the power of Pratibha all knowledge.

Iyengar: Through the faculty of spiritual perception the yogi becomes the knower of all knowledge.

Ranganathan: Or, all (of these) can be had through a flash of intuitive insight.

Woods: Or as a result of vividness the yogin discerns all.

3.35

Vivekananda: In the heart, knowledge of minds.

Iyengar: By samyama on the region of the heart, the yogi acquires a thorough knowledge of the contents and tendencies of consciousness.

Ranganathan: (By directing ultimate discipline towards) the heart, one gains understanding of mentality.

Woods: [As a result of constraint] upon the heart [there arises] a consciousness of the mind-stuff.

3.36

Vivekananda: Enjoyment comes by the non-discrimination of the very distant soul and Sattva. Its actions are for another; Samyama on this gives knowledge of the Purusa.

Iyengar: By samyama, the yogi easily differentiates between the intelligence and the soul which is real and true.

Ranganathan: The condition of unqualified experiential enjoyment – the naturalistic quality of illumination and buoyancy (sattva) – is an objective other than the innermost person, that is absolutely distinct.  By directing ultimate discipline towards one’s own value, penetrating comprehension of the innermost person is had.

Woods: Experience is a presented-idea which fails to distinguish the sattva and the Self, which are absolutely uncommingled [in the presented-idea].

3.37

Vivekananda: From that arises the knowledge of hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, and smelling, belonging to Pratibha.

Iyengar: Through that spiritual perception, the yogi acquires the divine faculties of hearing touch, vision, taste, and smell.  He can even generate these divine emanations by his own will.

Ranganathan:   From this knowledge come special powers of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell.

Woods: As a result of this [constraint upon that which exists for its own sake], there arise vividness and the organ-of-[supernal]-hearing and the organ-of-[supernal]-touch and the organ-of-[supernal]-sight and the organ-of-[supernal]-taste and the organ-of-[supernal]-smell.

3.38

Vivekananda: These are obstacles to Samadhi; but they are powers in the worldly state.

Iyengar: These attainments are impediments to samadhi, although they are powers in active life.

Ranganathan: The emergence of these accomplishments are an obstacle to liberating states of absorption (samadhi).

Woods: In concentration these [supernal activities] are obstacles; in the emergent state they are perfections [siddhi].

3.39

Vivekananda: When the cause of bondage has become loosened, the Yogi, by his knowledge of manifestation through the organs, enters another’s body.

Iyengar: Through relaxation of the causes of bondage, and the free flow of consciousness, the yogi enters another’s body at will.

Ranganathan: And, through relaxing the cause of being bound (to one’s karmas), and from sensitivity to the flow mentality, one can enter the body of another.

Woods: As a result of slackening the causes of bondage and as a result of the knowledge of the procedure [of the mind-stuff], the mind-stuff penetrates into the body of another.

3.40

Vivekananda: By conquering the current called Udana the Yogi does not sink in water, or in swamps, and he can walk on thorns.

Iyengar: By mastery of udana vayu, the yogi can walk over water, swamps and thorns without touching them.  He can also levitate.

Ranganathan:   When one masters one of the five vital airs called ‘udana’, one can rise above water, mud, thorns and the like, without making contact with these, and levitate.

Woods: As a result of mastering the Udana there is no adhesion to water or mud or thorns or similar objects, and [at death] the upward flight.

3.41

Vivekananda: By the conquest of the current Samana he is surrounded by blaze.

Iyengar: By samyama on samana vayu, a yogi glows like fire and his aura shines.

Ranganathan: When one masters one of the five vital airs called ‘samana’, one becomes brilliant.

Woods: As a result of mastering the Samana [there arises] a radiance.

3.42

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the relation between the ear and the Akasa comes divine hearing.

Iyengar: By samyama on the relation between space and sound, the yogi acquires the power of hearing distant and divine sounds.  The organ of hearing, the ear, grasps sound in space.  This is the conquest of air.

Ranganathan: By directing ultimate discipline towards the relation between that which is in space and that which is of hearing, one gains the divine capacity for hearing.

Woods: As a result of constraint of the relation between the organ-of-hearing and the air, [there arises] the supernal organ-of-hearing.

3.43

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the relation between the Akasa and the body the Yogi becoming light as cotton wool goes through the skies.

Iyengar: By knowing the relationship between the body and either, the yogi transforms his body and mind so that they become as light as cotton fibre.  He can then levitate in space.  This is the conquest of ether.

Ranganathan:  And by directing ultimate discipline towards the relationship of the body to space, and through the coalescence (of the mind) with the lightness of cotton, one gains the power to journey through space.

Woods: Either as a result of constraint upon the relation between the body and the air, or as a result of the balanced-state of lightness, such as that of cotton-fibre, there follows the passing through air.

3.44

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the real modifications of the mind, which are outside, called great disembodiness, comes disappearance of the covering to light.

Iyengar: By samyama on mahavideha (the disembodied state), where consciousness acts outside the body, the veil covering the light of illumination is destroyed.

Ranganathan: When the morally evaluatable character of thought is such that it s no longer focused on the external, and there occurs the Great Disembodiment, the obstruction to luminosity remits.

Woods: An outwardly unadjusted fluctuation is the Great Discarnate; as a result of this the dwindling of the cover to the brightness.

3.45

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the elements, beginning with the gross, and ending with the superfine, comes mastery of the elements.

Iyengar: By samyama on the elements – their mass, forms, subtlety, conjunction and purposes, the yogi becomes Lord over them all.

Ranganathan: By directing ultimate discipline towards the gross, the essences, the subtle, the causal nexus and value, one gains mastery over material objects.

Woods: As a result of constraint upon the coarse and the essential-attribute and the subtile and the inherence and purposiveness, there is a mastery of the elements.

3.46

Vivekananda: From that comes minuteness, and the rest of the powers, “glorification of the body,” and indestructibleness of the bodily qualities.

Iyengar: From that arises perfection of the body, the ability to resist the play of the elements, and powers such as minuteness.

Ranganathan: From these arise powers such as the ability to become as small as an atom, and to manifest a perfect body.  These (powers) can help a yogi lead an ethical life, free from disturbances.

Woods: As a result of this, atomization and the other [perfections] come about; [there is] perfection of the body; and there is no obstruction by the properties of these [elements].

3.47

Vivekananda: The glorifications of the body are beauty, complexion, strength, adamantine hardness.

Iyengar: Perfection of the body consists of beauty of form, grace, strength, compactness, and the hardness and brilliance of a diamond.

Ranganathan: Perfections of body include beautiful form, grace, strength, and adamantine firmness.

Woods: Beauty and grace and power and compactness of the thunderbolt – [this is] perfection of the body.

3.48

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the objectivity, knowledge and egoism of the organs, by gradation comes the conquest of the organs.

Iyengar: Through samyama upon the purpose of the conjunction of the process of knowing, the ego, and nature, there is mastery over the senses.

Ranganathan: By directing ultimate discipline towards comprehension, essence, egotism, the causal nexus and value, one gains mastery over the sense organs.

Woods: As a result of constraint upon the process-of-knowing and the essential-attribute and the feeling-of-personality and the inherence and the purposiveness, [there follows] the subjugation of the organs.

3.49

Vivekananda: From that comes glorified mind, power of the organs independently of the body, and conquest of nature.

Iyengar: By mastery over the senses of perception the yogi’s speed of body, senses and mind matches that of the soul, independent of the primary causes of nature.  Unaided by consciousness, he subdues the first principle of nature (mahat)

Ranganathan: Hence follows swiftness of mind, freedom from the sensory apparatus and mastery over primordial matter.

Woods: As a result of this [there follows] speed [great as that] of the central-organ, action of the instruments [of knowledge] disjunct [from the body], and the subjugation of the primary-cause.

3.50

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on the Sattva, to him who has discriminated between the intellect and the Purusa comes omnipresence and omniscience.

Iyengar: Only one who knows the difference between the illuminative intelligence and the seer attains supreme knowledge of all that exists and all that manifests.

Ranganathan: When the utter distinction between persons and the natural quality of luminescence and buoyancy (sattva) is discerned, there comes lordship over all things and omniscience.

Woods: He who has only the full discernement into the difference between sattva and the Self is one who has authority over all states-of-existence and is one who knows all.

3.51

Vivekananda: By giving up even these comes the destruction of the very seed of evil; he attains Kaivalya.

Iyengar: By destruction of the seeds of bondage and the renunciation of even these powers, comes eternal emancipation.

Ranganathan: This state consists in an absence of worldly attachments and the remission of the seed of moral failings:  this is ‘Isolation’.

Woods: As a result of passionlessness even with regard to these [perfections] there follows, after the dwindling of the seeds of the defects, Isolation.

3.52

Vivekananda: The Yogi should not feel allured or flattered by the overtures of celestial beings, for fear of evil again.

Iyengar: When approached by celestial beings, there should be neither attachment nor surprise, for undesirable connections can occur again.

Ranganathan: When beings of high esteem hold out an invitation for association, one should avoid actively associating with them, lest one relapse to an undesirable state of indulgence characterized by pride.

Woods: In case of invitations from those-in-high-places, these should arouse no attachment or pride, for undesired consequences recur.

3.53

Vivekananda: By making Samyama on a particle of time and its multiples comes discrimination.

Iyengar: By samyama on moment and on the continuous flow of moments, the yogi gains exalted knowledge, free from the limitations of time and space.

Ranganathan: By directing ultimate discipline on the flow of extremely small portions of time, speedy discrimination of a penetrating character is born

Woods: As a result of constraints upon moments and their sequence [there arises the intuitive] knowledge proceeding from discrimination.

3.54

Vivekananda: Those which cannot be differentiated by species, sign and place, even they will be discriminated by the above Samyama.

Iyengar: By this knowledge the yogi is able to distinguish unerringly the differences in similar objects which cannot be distinguished by rank, qualitative signs or position in space.

Ranganathan: From this follows understanding that is unbounded by (the) country (one is in), the social group one is born into, or other differentiating characteristics, but is equal (to all).

Woods: As a result of this there arises the deeper-knowledge of two equivalent things which cannot be distinctly qualified in species or characteristic-mark or point-of-space.

3.55

Vivekananda: The saving knowledge is that knowledge of discrimination which covers all objects, all means.

Iyengar: The essential characteristics of the yogi’s exalted knowledge is that he grasps instantly, clearly and wholly, the aims of all objects without going into the sequence of time or change.

Ranganathan: This penetrating knowledge born of comprehension thus allows one to quickly transcend all unhelpful contents of experience.

Woods: The [intuitive] knowledge proceeding from discrimination is a deliverer, has all things as its object, and has all times for its object, and is an [inclusive whole] without sequence.

3.56

Vivekananda: By the similarity of purity between the Sattva and the Purusa comes Kaivalya.

Iyengar: When the purity of intelligence equals the purity of the soul, the yogi has reached kaivalya, perfection in yoga.

Ranganathan: When the mind’s clarity and luminescence (sattva) has been brought to the level of the purity of the innermost person, this is Isolation (that is, liberation).

Woods: When the purity of the sattva and of the Self are equal there is Isolation.

 

 

BOOK IV – KAIVALYA PADA

 

4.1

Vivekananda: The Siddhis (powers) are attained by birth, chemical means, power of words, mortification or concentration.

Iyengar: Accomplishments may be attained through birth, the use of herbs, incantations, self-discipline or samadhi.

Ranganathan: The accomplishments of the adept can be achieved by birth, herbs, the recitation of revealed incantations and penance.

Woods: Perfections proceed from birth or from drugs or from spells or from self-castigation or from concentration.

4.2

Vivekananda: The change into another species is by the filling in of nature.

Iyengar: The abundant flow of nature’s energy brings about a transformation in one’s birth, aiding the process of evolution.

Ranganathan: Birth into a new social context occurs according to the great flow of Nature.

Woods: The mutation into another birth is the result of the filling-in of the evolving-cause.

4.3

Vivekananda: Good deeds, etc., are not the direct causes in the transformation of nature, but they act as breakers of obstacles to the evolutions of nature, as a farmer breaks the obstacles to the course of water, which then runs down by its own nature.

Iyengar: Nature’s efficient cause does not impel its potentialities into action, but helps to remove the obstacles to evolution, just as a farmer builds banks to irrigate his fields.

Ranganathan: Verily, Nature, differentiable into the causally efficient and the causally inert, serves the purpose of treating all things.  Hence, it is like a farmer.

Woods: The efficient cause gives no impulse to the evolving-causes but [the mutation] follows when the barrier [to the evolving-cause] is cut, as happens with the peasant.

4.4

Vivekananda: From egoism alone proceed the created minds.

Iyengar: Constructed or created mind springs from the sense of individuality (asmita).

Ranganathan: Mentality s created from egotism alone.

Woods: Created mind-stuffs may result from the sense-of-personality and from this alone.

4.5

Vivekananda: Though the activities of the different created minds are various, the one original mind is the controller of them all.

Iyengar: Consciousness is one, but it branches into many different types of activities and innumerable thought-waves.

Ranganathan: Mentality is one (feature of Nature), but is differentiated into many according to the various endeavours.

Woods: While there is a variety of actions, the mind-stuff which impels the many is one.

4.6

Vivekananda: Among the various Chittas that which is attained by Samadhi is desireless.

Iyengar: Of these activities of consciousness of perfected beings, only those which proceed from meditation are free from latent impressions and influences.

Ranganathan: In that meditation of a profound spiritual character (dhyana) is born the state without tendency-impressions.

Woods: Of these [five perfections] that which proceeds from contemplation leaves no latent-deposit.

4.7

Vivekananda: Works are neither black nor white for the Yogis; for others they are threefold, black, white, and mixed.

Iyengar: A yogi’s actions are neither white nor black.  The actions of others are of three kinds, white, black or grey.

Ranganathan The action of the yogi goes beyond contraries like white and black (enjoyment producing and pain producing) whereas the actions of others are threefold (enjoyment producing, pain producing, or both).:

Woods: The yogins karma is neither-white-nor-black; [the karma] of others is of three kinds.

4.8

Vivekananda: From these threefold works are manifested in each state only those desires (which are) fitting to that state alone. (The others are held in abeyance for the time being.)

Iyengar: These three types of actions leave impressions which become manifest when conditions are favourable and ripe.

Ranganathan: Of the lingering effects issuing from these three types of action only those that are in conformity (to the natural conditions) will ripen.

Woods: As a result of this there follows the manifestation of those subconscious-impressions only which correspond to the fruition of their [karma].

4.9

Vivekananda: There is connectiveness in desire, even though separated by species, space and time, there being identification of memory and impressions.

Iyengar: Life is a continuous process even though it is demarcated by race, place and time.  Due to the uninterrupted close relationship between memory and subliminal impressions, the fruits of actions remain intact from one life to the next as if there were no separation between births.

Ranganathan: Also, the near relationship between memory and latent tendency-impressions renders them into one category of phenomenon, uninterrupted by factors such as birth region and time.

Woods: There is an uninterrupted-causal-relation [of subconscious-impressions], although remote in species and point-of-space and moment-of-time, by reason of the correspondence between memory and subliminal impressions.

4.10

Vivekananda: Thirst for happiness being eternal, desires are without beginning.

Iyengar: These impressions, memories, and desires have existed eternally, as the desire to live is eternal.

Ranganathan: This (memory and tendency-impressions) is without beginning, for will is eternal.

Woods: Furthermore the [subconscious-impressions] have no beginning [that we can set in time], since desire is permanent.

4.11

Vivekananda: Being held together by cause, effect, support, and objects, in the absence of these is its absence.

Iyengar: Impressions and desires are bound together by their dependence upon cause and effect.  In the absence of the latter, the former too ceases to function.

Ranganathan: The cancelling out of that (that is, samskara-s spoken about in the last two sutra-s) results in the joint nullification of the cause, effect and foundation (of bondage), for they constitute and support these (that is, the cause, effect and foundation of bondage).

Woods: Since [subconscious-impressions] are associated with cause and motive and mental-substrate and stimulus, if these cease to be, then those [subconscious-impressions] cease to be.

4.12

Vivekananda: The past and future exist in their own nature, qualities having different ways.

Iyengar: The existence of the past and the future is as real as that of the present.  As moments roll into movements which have yet to appear as the future, the quality of knowledge in one’s intellect and consciousness is affected.

Ranganathan: The past and the future exist (eternally, just as what is called ‘the present’ exists) and have their distinct forms: the difference in the road owing to the difference of their moral character.

Woods:  Past and future as such exist; [therefore subconscious-impressions do not cease to be].  For the different time-forms belong to the external-aspects.

4.13

Vivekananda: They are manifested or fine, being of the nature of the Gunas.

Iyengar: The three phases of time intermingle rhythmically and interweave with the qualities of nature.  They change the composition of natures properties into gross and subtle.

Ranganathan: They (the moral characters) are manifest and subtle, owing to the essence of the qualities (of Nature).

Woods: These [external-aspects with the three time-forms] are phenomenalized [individuals] or subtile [generic-forms] and their essence is the aspects (guna).

4.14

Vivekananda: The unity in things is from the unity in changes. Though there are three substances their changes being coordinated all objects have their unity.

Iyengar: Unity in the mutation of time caused by the abiding qualities of nature, sattva, rajas and tamas, causes modifications in objects, but their unique essence, or reality, does not change.

Ranganathan: The singularity of modification (on a universal scale) constitutes the reality of each object.

Woods: The that-ness of a thing is due to a singleness of mutation.

4.15

Vivekananda: The object being the same, perception and desire vary according to the various minds.

Iyengar: Due to the variance in the quality of mind-content, each person may view the same object differently, according to his own way of thinking.

Ranganathan: Objects are equal in constitution relative to perceivers, yet two different minds may conceive of objects differently, owing to the difference in their paths.

Woods: Because, while the [physical] thing remains the same, the mind-stuffs are different, [therefore the two are upon] distinct levels-of-existence.

4.16

Vivekananda: Things are known or unknown to the mind, being dependent on the colouring which they give to the mind.

Iyengar: An object exists independent of its cognizance by any one consciousness.  What happens to it when that consciousness is not there to perceive of it?

Ranganathan: An object cannot be dependent upon a single mind to conceive it.  If it were, what would happen to it when it is unobserved by anyone?

Woods: And a thing is not dependent on a single mind-stuff, [for then in certain cases] it could not be proved [by that mind-stuff], [and] then what would it be?

4.17

Vivekananda: The states of the mind are always known because the lord of the mind is unchangeable.

Iyengar: An object remains known or unknown according to the conditioning or expectation of the consciousness.

Ranganathan: Objects are either known or unknown, depending upon what a mind projects and is open to.

Woods: A thing is known or not known by virtue of its affecting [or not affecting] the mind-stuff.

4.18

Vivekananda: Mind is not self-luminous, being an object.

Iyengar: Purusa is ever illuminative and changeless.  Being constant and master of the mind, he always knows the moods and modes of consciousness.

Ranganathan: The immutability of the person consists in being the mater of the character of the mind, which it always knows.

Woods: Unintermittingly the Master of that [mind-stuff] knows the fluctuations of mind-stuff [and thus] the Self undergoes-no-mutations.

4.19

Vivekananda: From its being unable to cognise two things at the same time.

Iyengar: Consciousness cannot illumine itself as it is a knowable object.

Ranganathan: Mentality is not self-illuminating, but it is known by its knowability (to the  person).

Woods: It does not illumine itself, since it is an object-for-sight.

4.20

Vivekananda: Another cognising mind being assumed there will be no end to such assumptions and confusion of memory.

Iyengar: Consciousness cannot comprehend both the seer and itself at the same time.

Ranganathan: And mentality and (its object) cannot be comprehended at once.

Woods: And there cannot be cognition of both [thinking-substance and thing] at the same time.

4.21

Vivekananda: The essence of knowledge (the Purusa) being un-changeable, when the mind takes its form, it becomes conscious.

Iyengar: If consciousness were manifold in one’s being, each cognizing the other, the intelligence too would be manifold, so the projections of mind would be many each having its own memory.

Ranganathan:  If mentality had to see itself in order to know, the second instance of mental cognition knowing the first would require an instance of mental cognition to be known, and so on, resulting in a vicious regress, and remembrance would thus become confused.

Woods: If [one mind-stuff] were the object-for-sight for another, there would be an infinite regress from one thinking-substance to another thinking-substance as well as confusion of memory.

4.22

Vivekananda: Coloured by the seer and the seen the mind is able to understand everything.

Iyengar: Consciousness distinguishes its own awareness and intelligence when it reflects and identifies its source – the changeless seer – and assumes his form.

Ranganathan: When the mental is stilled, it can assume the shape (of purusa) thus cognizing its own self.

Woods: The Intellect (citi) which unites not [with objects] is conscious of its own thinking-substance when [the mind-stuff] takes the form of that [thinking-substance by reflecting it].

4.23

Vivekananda: The mind through its innumerable desires acts for another (the Purusa), being combinations.

Iyengar: Consciousness, reflected by the seer as well as by the seen, appears to be all-comprehending.

Ranganathan: When the mentality is coloured with both the seer and what is seen, all things are apparent.

Woods: Mind-stuff affected by the Seer and by the object-for-sight [leads to perception of] all intended-objects.

4.24

Vivekananda: For the discriminating the perception of the mind as Atman ceases.

Iyengar: Though the fabric of consciousness is interwoven with innumerable desires and subconscious impressions, it exists for the seer on account of its proximity to the seer as well as to the objective world.

Ranganathan: While (mentality) contains countless and variegated tendencies and latent tendency-impressions, it exists for the sake [of?] another (the person) owing to its close contact (with natural objects and person).

Woods:  This [mind-stuff], although diversified by countless subconscious-impressions, exists for the sake of another, because its nature is to produce [things as] combinations.

4.25

Vivekananda: Then bent on discriminating the mind attains the previous state of Kaivalya (isolation).

Iyengar: For one who realizes the distinction between citta and atma, the sense of separation between the two disappears.

Ranganathan: When the self-existent becomes one who sees the distinction (between person and mentality, and Nature in general), (external) causes terminate.

Woods: For him who sees the distinction, pondering upon his own states-of-being ceases.

4.26

Vivekananda: The thoughts that arise as obstructions to that are from impressions.

Iyengar: Then consciousness is drawn strongly towards the seer or the soul due to the gravitational force of its exalted intelligence.

Ranganathan: Mentality is then oriented towards deep discrimination, and gravitates towards Isolation.

Woods: Then the mind-stuff is borne down to discrimination, onward toward Isolation.

4.27

Vivekananda: Their destruction is in the same manner as of ignorance, etc., as said before.

Iyengar: Notwithstanding this progress, if one is careless during the interval, a fissure arises due to past hidden impressions, creating division between the consciousness and the seer.

Ranganathan: Breaks in this deep discrimination are the conditions of deviant experiences, built on residual tendency-impressions.

Woods: In the intervals of this [mind-stuff] there are other presented-ideas [coming] from subliminal-impressions.

4.28

Vivekananda: Even when arriving at the right discriminating knowledge of the senses, he who gives up the fruits, unto him comes as the result of perfect discrimination, the Samadhi called the cloud of virtue.

Iyengar: In the same way as the sadhaka strives to be free from afflictions, the yogi must handle these latent impressions judiciously to extinguish them.

Ranganathan: These can be discarded, just as the abandonment of affliction was explained.

Woods: The escape from these [subliminal-impressions] is described as being like [the escape from] the hindrances.

4.29

Vivekananda: From that comes cessation of pains and works.

Iyengar: The yogi who has no interest even in this highest state of evolution, and maintains supreme attentive, discriminative awareness, attains dharma meghah samadhi: he contemplates the fragrance of virtue and justice.

Ranganathan: When one attains this summit (of yogic practice) characterized by a lack of selfish desires in all contexts and the ever presence of discriminative knowing, there comes the Rain Cloud of Morality Liberating State of Absorption (dharmameghasamadhi).

Woods: For one who is not usurious even in respect of Elevation, there follows in every case as a result of discriminative discernment the concentration called Rain-cloud of [knowable] things.

4.30

Vivekananda: Then knowledge, bereft of covering and impurities, becoming infinite, the knowable becomes small.

Iyengar: Then comes the end of afflictions and of karma.

Ranganathan: Hence, all afflictions and (past) actions terminate.

Woods: Then follows the cessation of the hindrances and of karma.

4.31

Vivekananda: Then are finished the successive transformations of the qualities, they having attained the end.

Iyengar: Then, when the veils of impurities are removed, the highest, subjective, pure, infinite knowledge is attained, and the knowable, the finite, appears as trivial.

Ranganathan: All imperfections are thus washed away, and so with it the covering that obstructs penetrating knowledge, rendering the infinity of the knowable a trifling (in comparison).

Woods: Then, because of the endlessness of knowledge from which all obscuring defilements have passed away, what is yet to be known amounts to little.

4.32

Vivekananda: The changes that exist in relation to moments, and which are perceived at the other end (at the end of a series) are succession.

Iyengar: When dharmameghah samadhi is attained, qualities of nature (gunas) come to rest.  Having fulfilled their purpose their sequence of successive mutations is at an end.

Ranganathan: Then, all activities (of the person) are fulfilled, and so the succession and transformation of natural qualities come to an end.

Woods: When as a result of this the aspects (guna) have fulfilled their purpose, they attain to the limit of the sequence of mutations.

4.33

Vivekananda: The resolution in the inverse order of the qualities, bereft of any motive of action for the Purusa, is Kaivalya, or it is the establishment of the power of knowledge in its own nature.

Iyengar: As the mutations of the gunas cease to function, time, the uninterrupted movement of movements, stops.  This deconstruction of the flow of time is comprehensible only at this final stage of emancipation.

Ranganathan: Succession (of Nature) is the counterpart of very small moments of time:  this is fully understood at the end [of?] the transformation (of Nature).

Woods: The positive correlate to the moment, recognized as such at the final limit of the mutation, is a sequence. The positive correlate to the moment, recognized as such at the final limit of the mutation, is a sequence.

4.34

Iyengar: Kaivalya, liberation, comes when the yogi has fulfilled the purusarthas, the fourfold aims of life, and has transcended the gunas.  Aims and gunas return to their source, and consciousness is established in its own natural purity.

Ranganathan: With no other goal of the person remaining (for they have all been fulfilled), the qualities (of Nature) resolve themselves back into the flow (of Nature).  Then (the person) stands only on its own form, or on (pure) power of knowing.  This is Isolation.  That is all.

Woods: Isolation is the inverse generation of the aspects, no longer provided with a purpose by the Self, or it is the Energy of Intellect grounded in itself.

 

 

 

 

Monsoons

Every year, twice a year, spring and mid-September, everything goes pear-shaped.  It’s hard and fast and brutal and right now everywhere, and somehow, year after year, twice a year, it’s a surprise.  A blind-side cross-check jawplant into the cornerboards.  A helpless victim to the cruel whims of a capricious providence, I.

 

Maybe I’ll act badly. [Edit:  I will most definitely act badly.  How distinguishable from my workaday bad acting, I’m not in position to articulate with clarity.  But my rough-n-ready sense is that there’s a general uptick in the egregiousness and  density of bad acts per hour from February to May and the last half of September.]  Maybe I’ll get loser-pissed in public, and I’ll wake up on a Sunday morning with my body whimpering and my mind begging to die and somewhere, a woman will be mad at me, for reasons that are vague in my recollection.   A career first.

 

Maybe I’ll get sick for no reason, maybe I’ll fall short on my duties.  Maybe I’ll just plain fuck up everything I touch.  But however I should choose to make a bollocks of it, for sure and for certain, the wheels are coming off.  At speed.  Twice a year.

 

Spring.  Dad diagnosed with lung cancer, fades and dies.

 

Mid-September.  Dad’s birthday.

 

As reliable as the Southeast Asian monsoons used to be.

.

Weird that I don’t calendarize it, somehow.  Give myself a little heads-up.  All units BOLF grief-crippled, trauma-fucked trainwreck.  Big fucker.  Socially awkward.  Not the coldest beer in the fridge.  Board shorts, black guido tanktop.  Big, dead-squirrel eyebrows.

 

I haven’t marked any of these days.  I’ve done nothing to acknowledge them.  I haven’t even chosen consciousness of them.  I’ve just cowered in some dark little hole in a brain full of dark little holes.  Maybe if I didn’t do that, the wheels wouldn’t come off so hard and fast.

 

I haven’t picked up my guitar much lately (a love he taught me).  I should.  I get rusty.  My fingertips get tender, unrugged, unwieldly.  I’ve forgotten more songs than I know.

 

My voice is fucked; I’m sick again. I just did another visa run hacking up great bloody garden slugs in every toilet I passed through three Southeast Asian airport terminals, trying to hold it together past quarantine inspections stations, head up, shoulders back, there’s a good lad.  Piece of piss.  Done it in worse shape than that.

 

The perfect conditions for this offering.  For what it may be worth, to me, and thus, to mine.

 

Happy belated, Dad.

 

Practice with Pain

 

 

 

This post is dedicated to one of the toughest men I’ve ever known:  the inimitable, unforgettable, irreplaceable Kenneth Jerrett.  I’m not really qualified to speak to a topic like this in Ken’s company.  But screw him.  He can’t do shit about it.  He’s in Newfoundland.  I heard they don’t have airplanes yet. 

 

 

 

Six months I languished in Canada, fat, dumb and happy, and now I’m floundering around Southeast Asia like a rookie.

 

Last week, I pulled up outside the door of an ice cream shop with Chubs sitting in front of me and Babymama behind, and I made three mistakes in about five seconds.  First, I stopped the bike but left it running.  Second, I left it in gear.  And third, I let Babymama lift Chubs off the bike without a scrap of assistance or even attention from me.

 

And Chubs put her hand on the throttle to balance herself as she lowered, and gunned it as she reached the ground.

 

No kill switch on the bike.  My feet were on the ground already.  My right hand snatched the handlebar to claim the throttle and brake as my left reached across to turn the key as the front wheel of the bike bulled through the door into the ice cream shop, garnering, I imagine, a little attention from the handful of customers inside.  But my biggest, worry, of course, was the girls.  They were both on my right and in close proximity, and my only control of the bike was my right hand on the handlebar.

 

So I squeezed that bitch with my legs as hard as I could, and spent a second or two getting matters in hand while my right leg, pressed hard against the exhaust pipe, sizzled merrily and I bellowed like a gelded bull.

 

Bike stopped, leg pulled off the tailpipe.  A quick glance to my right revealed two ashen-faced but unhurt girls, and I hung my head in a wild whirl of euphoric relief and searing agony.  The young security guard came over to ask if I was okay.  The ice cream shop girls came over to tell me that I couldn’t park there.

 

I knew I was burned pretty bad, I had to be, and I felt no hurry to look at the thing.  I backed out of the doorway, we got helmets and masks and safety glasses off and racked on the bike, the young guy parked it for me, and then I pulled the first-aid kit attached to my dad-stuff bag off, dug out a vial of iodine, and looked down.

 

Gross.  Over a four- or five-square-inch patch, the skin was completely gone, revealing gleaming white subcutaneous fat, very lightly pan-seared, with a couple of little yellowish scraps hanging off.  I expended all available iodine into the ragged hole, slapped on a temporary bandage, and followed the girls into the ice cream shop, where I discovered that a big bowl of ice cream is fully as palliative when you’re just barely the right side of 50 as it was when you were 5.

 

On the way home we picked up an armload of gauze et cetera, and Babymama and Chubs both helped me clean and bandage (after photographing to gross out Facebook, of course.  I note that Chubs tackled the process with more coolness and aplomb than her mother).  The next morning, I climbed into the shower, and calculating that the gauze would have stuck to the wound overnight, decided to soak it thoroughly.

 

Rookie mistake #4 in the series:   a deluge of untreated tropic-climate, developing-nation water into my open wound.  The evening bandage change featured an appreciable mound of green pus, and it was straight back to the pharmacy for antibiotics (and thank God for a country where you can buy amoxicillin and tetracycline without the written blessing of some douchebag in a white coat.)

 

(Interesting note:  the Vietnamese use amoxicillin not just orally, but as a topical, and it works a treat in that application.  But don’t decide to add tetracycline to that mix after a couple of days.  Tetracycline doesn’t appear to work as a topical.  Rather, it forms a hard, yellow shell of tetracycline-crete that does nothing clinically beneficial, and which you will have to pry off in chunks a few days later with a scalpel blade and cut away all the dead tissue underneath.)

 

Anyways, the infection hurt worse than the original burn, and for a few days, down dog got real interesting.  My mind didn’t wander a bit.

 

Day 12 now, and it’s healing nicely.  I went off oral antibiotics three days ago, but Babymama still demands the right to dust the wound with amoxicillin every bandage change.  Things might be a bit Freddy Kruger-y down there when the dust settles, we’ll see, and there’ll likely be a little patch that’s a couple millimeters depressed from the surrounding tissue, but as usual I’m healing like Wolverine, so it looks like I got away with it all again, touch wood.  Short and sweet, this one.

 

I’ve practiced with pain for longer stretches in stranger circumstances.  About fifteen years ago, I sprained my wrist at Mugs & Jugs, that lamented New Westminster institution and show lounge that my buddies and I used to live at.  There was a punching bag game at the back, one of those idiotic carnival-game contraptions that display the force they’ve been hit with as a number, and I was drunk and competing with said buddies.  I hit the bag off-center and rolled my wrist.  I knew I’d fucked it, but of course I went another three or four rounds, and the next morning had a purple mango for a wrist.  So much as turning a door knob made me whimper.

 

It was three months healing.  Then I fucked it again getting bucked off the mechanical bull at Big Star in Burnaby.  I was in my thirties.

 

And for four years, I had to wrap that wrist for everything, the gym, yoga, everything, and every compression, whether it was on a bench press or a down dog, was accompanied by vicious, stabbing pain.   Combative sports were completely out of the question; I couldn’t even contemplate hitting a heavy bag or submitting to a wrist lock.  Yes, yes, I rested it, for as long as a couple of months, but there was no change at all, and it just wouldn’t heal, which was absolutely unique in my experience, profoundly inconvenient, and not a little disturbing.

 

And then one day I was at Unity Yoga in Vancouver, chatting with Reno before the class.  He commented that I was still wrapping my wrist, and started talking about wounds of the heart manifesting in the body.  I forbore from rolling my eyes or patting him on the head or from saying “That’s nice, hippy, but I sprained it on a punching bag.”  But the seed was planted.

 

And a few weeks later, I was sitting before (and, as recall, to the left of) the incomparable Sjanie McInnes as she spoke before class about wounds of the heart manifesting in the body, and she turned her head almost ninety degrees, looked me in the eyes, and said “It’s no accident you’re here today.”  Those precise words, I’ll remember them forever. Something inside me bounded forward and crouched to jump again.  I didn’t know why.  It was weird.  And we began.

 

And there was no pain in my wrist.  Down dog, no pain.  Plank, no pain.  I was freaking out a little.  I tore the wrist wrap off.  Side plank, no pain.  Crow, no pain.  No pain, none at all, not a twinge, for the rest of the class.

 

Or thereafter, except, I was soon to note, when I was spending time with a specific woman with whom I had a passionate, turbulent, on-again, off-again thing.  When it was on, my wrist ached.

 

These days, it complains a little now and then.  A glucosamine/chondroitin/msm stack often puts it to bed.

Two very different stories, there, one a simple, external pain with a short but memorable impact on my practice, the other a long, complex pain that absolutely could not have been diagnosed and treated except by the practice and by the help of two unusually talented and intuitive teachers.

 

Baby stuff, both of them.  I’ve heard a story of years of vinyasa practice sustained after a back injury expected to be crippling, of a hard man weeping silent tears of agony after (or during) every practice for interminable months.  I’ve seen cancer patients on their mats, I’ve seen students turn up in all kinds of braces and splints.   I’ve seen people practice with serious, intense pain.

 

That’s a phenomenon problematic to contemporary received wisdom.  “Don’t do anything that hurts” must be spoken thousands of time every day in yoga studios around the world, I say it myself all the time.  Many teachers try to articulate or codify a good pain/bad pain dialectic to caution their students against injurious practice, and that’s laudable, because too many of us are hurt practicing our allegedly therapeutic pursuit.

 

But many of us do, and should, practice with pain.  Some of us with intense pain.  Some of us with pain every single time we practice.

 

It’s always our call to practice or not, and in the matter of those who experience pain exposed or intensified by the practice, that call will usually not be made without consideration; humans avoid pain and seek pleasure, it’s how we’re wired.  For those in circumstances of chronic pain that are properly diagnosed and analyzed, be it by x-rays or MRIs or whatever means necessary, and who make the informed decision to practice through their pain, I have the profoundest respect.

 

 

At the moment, I’m more preoccupied with what the pain gives us.

 

As I mentioned earlier, my recent boo-boo acted as a point of focus, valuable at a time when my practice is on the re-ascendant and my monkey-mind seems to have got a himself a big baggie of crystal meth from somewhere.  I’ve heard others make the same observation.  Pain focuses attention.  Yogah Citta Vrtti Nirodhah[1].

 

But branding yourself on the leg to quit your sodding daydreaming is cheating, or overdoing it, or something, right?   Like, you shouldn’t do that every week.  IMHO.

 

Is there pride in enduring long suffering in the quest for wholeness, in a long, arduous journey from enfeebled to hale?  Of course there is.  Is that a good thing?  Or is it a dangerous ego-plump?  Obviously maybe.

 

Does it endow us with compassion, empathy, understanding, and the capacity to connect with others we encounter who deal with analogous challenges?  I hope so.   But it could as easily degrade us with an “I worked through it, so quit whining, you should be able to as well” callousness.  I intend to watch out for that.

 

Maybe it’s all just karma.  Old debt paid off.  Invite the neighbors over for barbecue and burn the mortgage papers.  Sure, if the idea of karma is anything more than the greatest myth-system ever rationalized for staying sane in the perennial rampant orgy of grotesque injustice that is the human race.  Better, I aver, to think deeper, unless you really get stuck, in which case I advocate turning to karma.

 

Pain is subjective, it’s phenomenological, it’s personal.  Take that as a disclaimer for this:  pain, particularly when I practice with it, gives me something more than the foregoing, and it’s a right bastard to articulate.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I hate it.  Pain makes me howl, internally or externally, in anguished self-pity, and I escape it as soon as humanly possible.  I’ll drop a fistful of ibuprofen or better in a heartbeat to escape pain.  Maybe I shouldn’t.  Maybe I should just be with it more often.

 

Because I always feel like I’ve grown somehow when I’ve hurt, in some way that I can’t explain.  Pain is work to me, it’s a sculpting, a sanding, a honing.   It feels like it addresses problems that I can’t yet see consciously, somehow.  Coming to the other side of pain feels like I’ve lifted a rock and let something dark and crawly scarper out of me, and let light fall in, and I feel like somehow, there’s more of me than there was before I suffered.

 

And every single time I endure it, I’m a little less afraid of it.  Maybe that’s the most valuable gift of all.

 

Again, that’s all personal.  That may not resonate in any way at all with the person who has dealt with decades of consuming agony that has no escape, ever, due to some illness or injury that they will never see the other side of.  That’s a different deal entirely, and I can only bow down to those people.  That’s as much as I can say about that right now.

 

 

 

 

I note that in my last post, I stood up on my hind legs and proclaimed that I was going to dial back my physical life, to approach physical training more reasonably, to take it just a little bit easy, and report my results.   Well, that all lasted for about three weeks, then it was straight back to the neurotic, compulsive, eighteen-balls-out-sessions-per-week nonsense.

 

I did that for a few months until my old army knee and my old steroid shoulder grew stabbier and gristlier than I was willing to ignore (issues not necessarily related to exercise volume or intensity.  Almost certainly, but not necessarily), and I tapped out for a while to experiment with morbid obesity.  Now I’m in the gym four times a week doing barbell and dumbbell complexes, but not until I puke, so I’m calling myself a success.  Stay tuned.

 

Postscript:

 

I remembered this story while I was doing v-snaps the other day (still haven’t got that monkey in his cage.)  It’s a story about my good friend and super-human yoga beast Hung Nguyen.  Hung’s a bit like me, just younger, smarter and prettier.   He teaches in Saigon.

 

Anyways, he was doing L-sit pullups on his home pullup bar, one of those over-the door-casing deathtraps, and it broke loose.  He fell four feet onto tile, fracturing his coccyx.

 

That’s a notoriously painful injury, and I asked him how it was doing a few days later.  “Not bad,” he shrugged.  “It only really hurts when I’m in navasana.”

 

[1] The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, pada 1, sutra 2.  Usually translated something like “Yoga is the cessation of mental fluctuations.”

Overtraining

God I feel like shit.  I feel like a bucket of smashed assholes.  I feel like I got ate by a wolf and shit over a cliff.  (One of the many little betterments of a Saskatchewan upbringing:  a rich inner codex of evocative and earthy similes.)

 

I’m tired.

 

And I hurt.  Posterior chain thoracic seems to be suffering the worst.  I can feel every sarcomere in my rhomboids squealing in protest at my every callous demand for scapular adduction.  My lower back feels like I took a wrecking ball in the ass, and speaking of my outsized gluteal musculature, well, it aches a little.  Twenty minutes of supine stretching was the entirety of this morning’s asana practice.  But the main limiting factor there was the bellowing, foot-high, light-flashing plastic Apatosaurus doggedly marching into the side of my head as I suffered through three minutes a side of two-knee twists and reclining pigeon.  Thank you, Chubs, for teaching my dharana.  And thanks a bundle to you too, Uncle Phuoc.  Awesome birthday present.

 

Getting back into shape at 46.

 

I weep for my degradation.  I left Saigon in the fall of 2014 after almost four  years of more or less full time practice, including such neurotic behaviors as three to four-and-a-half hours of balls-out power vinyasa classes daily, supplemented sometimes by high-volume weight training and always by a raging acroyoga addiction.  Plus a few rounds on the heavybag here, a little circus school there, plus plus plus.   I left Saigon a prowling beast, 220 pounds of functional muscle and feline proprioceptive grace.  I was goddamn magnificent.

 

And I more or less maintained it for a year in Danang.  And then Hanoi happened.

 

I don’t want to talk about the hows and whys, okay?  I don’t want to risk the keyboard-fouling nausea that will likely result from reading my own excuses.  But photos of me taken near the end of Hanoi make me cringe.  After a year of little-to-no physical life, I was a drawn, emaciated, atrophied, sedentary middle-aged dad.  And the air pollution in Hanoi was becoming world-class, and the whole family was sick all the time.

 

It was time to move, and the move that made sense to me was to take the girls to Danang, dump them on the grandparents, and fuck off to India and Nepal for three months.   North India.   The land of wheat, dairy, and [mostly] pretty tepid asana practice.  Yeah, I said it.  Fuck you, you don’t know me.

 

Anyways.  I leveled up my meditation practice, chalked up what I believed to be a critically important pilgrimage, and ate a truckload of chapatis, butter naan, raita, basically every fucking thing my Cro-Magnon body doesn’t recognize as proper food (I’ll have the grilled mammoth fillet and pine nuts, please.  Roasted cambium bark starter.)  So I returned drawn, atrophied, and fuck knows how I managed this, but potbellied as well.

 

What spiritual development I logged in the subcontinent did not extend to amelioration of my pathological vanity, so I got to work.  For the last couple of months, it’s been 90 to 150 minutes of vinyasa six mornings a week, a four-day bro split in the gym (hypertrophy parameters, except for legs day), and such stretching as can be snatched from the whirlwind.  Five eighths of fuck all, compared to what I used to do. But still, arguably, too much.

 

 

 

The word “arguably” is highly operative there.  We’re talking about overtraining, which is not universally recognized as a thing either down the local gym, or by academia.  Further, there’s a distinction (or maybe semantic quibble) made at the academic level between overreaching and overtraining.  The difference is one of degree and consequence, with the former netting a prescription of rest days and the latter rest weeks or months.  This abstract expands a little.

 

I’m oversimplifying the shit out of this deliberately.  I haven’t always found it the most rewarding of rabbit holes, except obviously for the discovery of CT Fletcher, the boulder-bicepped brute speaking in the first video above-pasted.  He trained biceps every day for a year to build those things, smashing through barriers of pain, fatigue, and all received wisdom about the rest/training balance to extraordinary effect.  In CT’s world, every set is to failure, and recovery parameters are set by will.

 

CT obviously knows what’s up for him and his own body, but I doubt that he’s right for everybody.  My supersensitive yogi powers of perception detect the possibility that his endocrine system produces testosterone in a quantity significantly above the average.

 

My personal experience of resistance training has been very different.  Most of the training plateaus that I’ve experienced, I’ve transcended by reducing my time in the gym.  Over the years, the less I’ve trained, the more I’ve gained, and I’ve come to think of hypertrophy training in particular as a process of getting in, damaging the muscle as quickly as possible, and getting the fuck out to eat, sleep, and grow.  But then, I don’t have biceps like CT Fletcher.  But then again, I don’t want biceps like CT Fletcher.

 

I’m not arguing for or against CT’s biceps.  They’re a proxy for success in physical training, that’s all.  Let’s move on.

 

As for the academics, they don’t seem to have achieved either an iron consensus on definition of terms, a protocol for diagnosis (I even blundered across one study that used cognitive function as the indicator), or a model for the biomechanics of it all.  As a layman roving through the abstracts, I even sensed a certain paucity of motivation on the part of the researchers.  I felt like the scientists were rolling their eyes a bit, like the first draft of some abstract somewhere required an editor to delete the words: “So these guys are tired, huh?  We don’t know.  MAYBE THEY SHOULD FUCKING REST.”

 

Some of the medical literature is accessible to a sparsely-lettered baboon of average-to-middling intelligence and subnormal attention span, and some isn’t.  Biochemistry switches my lights out faster than the more intelligent works of J. Krishnamurti, so I shall demur to comment on that body of literature other than to cite this pleasingly dumbed-down piece here.   I’ll also throw up a more broad-view joint that seems to be something of an old chestnut, judging solely by the number of citations reflected on Google.

 

And to round out this disgracefully (and predictably) terse review of academic literature, I provide this illuminating little gem of scholarly accomplishment, documenting to my permanent and immitigable certainty that doddering venerability is entirely immaterial to the discussion.

 

 

 

What we all, doctors and researchers and trainers and gym rats alike, can agree on is some symptomology typical of sustained intense physical training.  Fatigue, insomnia, depression, compromised immunity (in particular upper-respiratory tract infection), injury, and worst of all for the competitive athletes, reduced performance, comprise a non-exhaustive lineup of the little nasties we all know and hate.

 

But the crux of the argument, the single point on which the debate turns and turns, is whether these symptoms are a brick wall that definitively obligate the affected to pull back and rest, or whether these symptoms are temporary doldrums that you can just slog through, and at some point begin picking up gains again on the other side. There’s even the view that it’s precisely when you’re exhausted, when you think you have no exertion left within you and you still crank out one more (workout, rep, mile, whatever) that the greatest gains are made.

 

The debate, in my experience, tends to undervalue individuation as a factor.

 

Defining terms is great.  But it’s reasonable to characterize overreaching, non-functional overreaching and overtraining as a continuum.  In any particular moment in any particular athlete’s life, diagnosing their position on that continuum is difficult, and identifying appropriate treatment and prognosis even more so.  The constellation of relevant factors is dauntingly vast and intricate.  The human body is a complex bit of kit, and the human psyche is a tricky, potent, and (speaking only for myself) capricious little fuck, too.

 

So.  Speaking of any given hypothetical athlete in any given hypothetical circumstance of experiential training fatigue, maybe that athlete can push a little more, and maybe that athlete needs to spend a few days getting hot and heavy with a foam roller and not much else.  It’s an ad hoc decision.  Always.  It’s on you.  A bit of a lame duck as advice goes, but there it hangs.  Be your own lamp.  And I’ll be saying that again another day, too.

 

Incidentally, there are plenty of people who exert themselves to and beyond exhaustion professionally and are intimate with the phenomenon.  They live their lives pushing through aches and pains and insane cookie cravings and superhuman efforts of will in crawling out of bed.  Infantry soldiers, professional athletes, and especially competitive fighters, live with fatigue and master its refusal.  It might be the fighters who ride closest to that edge; for them, logging less work than your opponent is a highly predictive variable in the incidence of receiving beatings you remember every time you look in a mirror or try to dial a phone number from memory for the rest of your fucking life.

 

They are reasonably motivated to push the boundary of overtraining.

 

Me, not so much.  I think I’m going to dial it back a little.

 

More warmup in the morning practice.  Two thirds the surya namaskars.  Half the flow, and some nice yinny mobility work for the last third, I think.  Lay off the compound sets in the gym, mix up the parameters a little more and every fourth week a deload.

 

And not just to reduce the fatigue, not just to soothe the muscle stiffness, not just because I got a throat infection halfway through writing this and spent two days sulking on amoxicillin and codeine.

 

But to try out these rumors of a new way, an allegedly smarter way.  It actually isn’t a new new way, there’s a reference somewhere to a nineteenth century strength training treatise that insists, and this is a near quote, that the one thing the seeker of strength cannot afford to do is exhaust himself.  (I feel like a total choad referring to a piece I can’t cite, I’ll have a poke around and see if I can figure out where that came from for you guys.  I suspect it was referenced in Kelly Starrett’s Becoming a Supple Leopard, and if you haven’t read that yet, minimize this bullshit immediately and go find it.  Or just start where I did, with Starrett’s appearance on Rogan here.  Seriously, you guys.  The dude is a life-changer.)

 

Ed:  I had that poke around, meaning I typed that exact phrase into Google.  Pavel Tsatsouline and his “Power to the People:  Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American” popped up, and that had been my next guess for the secondary source of the quote.  It might be in there.  Whether it is or it isn’t, the book is a must-read for anyone into movement, whatever their movement paradigm is.  The content is insightful and challenging, and the prose is wonderfully, inimitably Russian.  Not like Dostoevsky Russian, like menacing Vladivostock dockworker Russian.  Go read it. 

 

Anyways, the story goes that you don’t have to bust your balls, that in fact it isn’t optimally productive to do so.  Never train to failure, whatever you’re doing, is the rumor, and it’s garnering some knowledgeable adherents.  Here’s a video of Joe Rogan talking to professional kickboxer and MMA fighter Joe Schilling about it.

 

How bewitching a concept, eh?  You don’t have to leave it all on the floor of the gym or the dojo or the shala.  You can go about your day possessed of workable energy levels and a degree of physical comfort, and develop faster  than you did when you crushed yourself with every damned session.  No hideous hamstring spasms every time you try to get in or out of a car.  No stops for a good long wheeze at the top of two flights of stairs.  It sounds too good to be true.  I’m calling bullshit.  But I’m trying it anyways.  And, dear reader, you can count on me to faithfully report my results.

 

Namaskar, my brothers and sisters.  Take ‘er easy out there.

The Quest for the Real Deal: A Tale of Some Monks

 

Photo Credit: The Venerable Chanh Kien

 

 

 

Chubs is a Theraveda Buddhist.  This wasn’t  my doing, or even her mother’s.  It’s a condition that we’ve recognized since she entered a neglected, ramshackle 200 year old wat in Luang Prabang at the age of 27 months, exclaimed “Wow!”, toddled up to the altar, knelt, pressed her hands together at her forehead, and bowed her head to the floor.

 

I think the sequence went:  her head to the floor, then my jaw and her mother’s jaw more or less in unison.

 

Since then, she’s been about 3:2 more likely to demand to “go see Buddha!” after school than to go to a playground.

 

Anyways, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Theraveda Buddhist pagoda in Danang lately.  They regularly host talks by big-swinging-dick monks from other parts of Southeast  Asia, and I’ve been dragged grumbling and muttering to three or four of these batty little dog-and-pony shows over the last couple of months.

 

I think the first one was the worst.  As the expected time of His Most Holy Reverend Augustness’s (actually, the correct honorific is The Eleventh Tipitakadhara)  arrival, the pagoda authorities jostled the crowd into a big V-shaped receiving line at the pagoda gates.  As I recall it, we were each and all required to hold a fucking flower.

 

We stood for about 45 minutes before the mood of the crowd started to turn a little surly.  The managing monk of the pagoda, a nice bloke who was visibly worried, announced on the P.A. system that he had just heard from the deputation, and they would arrive shortly.  Half an hour later, people were dropping out of the receiving line to find a little shade.

 

Announcement:  the deputation was crossing Thuan Phuoc bridge (fifteen, maybe even twenty minutes away).   Revolution simmered.  After another half an hour, the  managing monk whimpered a five minute warning into the P.A., and a scowling crowd gripping wilting flowers was in line when the SUVs rolled up fifteen minutes later.

 

The Eleventh Tipitakadhara and his entourage dismounted their motorcade, glided into the pagoda with their noses in the air, and we all assembled in the upstairs lecture hall, where His Augustness announced that he was a little tired after his day of sightseeing, spoke for fifteen minutes about bugger knows what, and I got to go home.

 

The next one wasn’t as bad because I didn’t have to hold a flower.  But that guy was a manifest asshole too.  He started his talk by announcing that the assembled faithful could present gifts of fruit or flowers to his assistants.  “Anything else” (i.e. envelopes of cash, the other standard offering), they were to give directly to him.  I don’t know what he talked about, either.

 

 

 

 

Man, these guys were small time.  Trifling amateurs to my jaded eyes.  Light-years from impressive to the likes of me.  Buddy, I’ve been to Mooji satsang.  Just this Februrary, as a matter of fact.

 

In case you’re an unwashed philistine who doesn’t know who Mooji is (as I was until three weeks before I went to his satsang), he’s the current reigning successor of the Ramana Maharshi lineage.  And if you don’t know who he is, he’s actually worth googling.  There’s some great talks on youtube by greybeards who knew him (he died in 1950).  This one is my favorite.

 

He’s a legend.  He was a famously simple man, and his idea was simple:  that the road to Enlightenment is by way of Self-Inquiry (or -Enquiry.  I don’t know and I refuse to Google it).   And in terms of technique, it’s absolutely as simple as it sounds.  Ask yourself:  who am I?  And keep asking.

 

I don’t know if it’s because the man himself was so influential, or because truth is truth, but you come across this idea again and again when you read and listen on the Sanatan circuit.  Different tweaks, sometimes.  I spent a richly enjoyable afternoon smoking weed and chatting (well, listening) to a fellow I met at the Moni Baba shrine who put it: “God, please tell me, who am I?”

 

But anyways, that’s the core of the idea, even if the Q&A in Maharshi’s recorded and published satsangs (which are most of his documentary legacy; he didn’t write much) gets pretty deep.   And Maharshi, when he died, was succeeded by Papaji, who wrote books.  And Papaji died, and was succeeded by Mooji (who also writes books, and is as photogenic as fuck).  And man, a Mooji satsang is a spectacle to behold.  He held six per week over a month-long stretch while I was knocking around Rishikesh, and I shared a cab out of Haridwar with a guy who was there just for him, and that’s how I found out about him, and I went to one.

 

Now the Mooji talk was in a building the size of an aircraft hangar, accommodating over two and a half thousands of the faithful on the day I attended.  The building is so big that halfway down from the dais a gigantic Mooji-tron was suspended from the ceiling so those at the back would be denied none of his Moojiness.

 

Before his arrival, a lady spoke on the P.A., directing the audience to the microphones on either aisle at which people with questions could queue, and she asked the crowd not to attempt to touch Mooji’s feet, and she assured us that due to Mooji’s energetic fecundity or whatever,  we would all receive the full helping of Moo just by attending.  No foot-touching necessary.  Which was great.

 

You could feel the crowd ramping up like an F-14 Tomcat hooked up in the deck catapult of the USS Enterprise when Mooji’s approach was announced, and the Mooji-tron lit up with a camera shot of he and a small entourage of flushed and beautiful women in their early twenties approaching the hall.  He paused outside the door, stoked up a smoldering brand of herbs and wafted holy smoke over his entourage, and then in he came.  The crowd was fairly dizzy with awe as he mounted the dais, rumbled over to the chair (he’s an appropriately portly dude of apparently late middle age – I refuse to google it), and settled in.

 

We om’d, he welcomed us, and we went straight to questions.  The first was from an obvious shill, a diminutive hipster type in his twenties, his earnest face, eyes brimming with tears, perfectly centered on the Mooji-tron as he stood with his elbows bent to offer both hands forward, palms up in supplication while he asked his intensively rehearsed and passionately delivered five-minute question, the final three words of which were “Who am I?”

 

Eight ball in the corner pocket for starters, I guess.

 

Mooji spoke for about twenty minutes, and expounded the Maharshi ideology very well, I thought, not deviating at all from the teachings as I understood them (such as I do), but expressed in a way that wasn’t repetitive, a personal way, a Moojified way.  I enjoyed his presentation, and indeed the rest of his answers for the remainder of the satsang.  He was engaging, funny, perceptive, and charismatic.  It was a good talk.

 

But for my money, the crowd stole the show.  The crowd made the experience.  Anyone watching on the internet, just seeing the camera shots and hearing the microphone feeds, wouldn’t have dug the vibe at all.  Because people were having kundalini experiences all over the shop while Mooji spoke.

 

Wild, insane laughter over here, over there.  The hipster kid doing the funky chicken standing at the microphone while Mooji answered his question, Christ he looked like he was being Tasered. (Btw, here’s a video of me getting tasered, when I was younger and precisely as stupid.)   Some chick clearly having the most devastating 40-minute orgasm ever experienced somewhere behind me off to my left (that one was definitely my favorite.)  It was very much like every description I’ve heard and video I’ve seen of hard-core fundamentalist Protestant shindigs, with the speaking in tongues and whatnot.

 

I left about fifteen minutes early in compliance with the demand of my bladder, and indulged in a Mohan Biri in the street outside the ashram while I waited for my friends.  I found myself standing beside a woman in similar circumstances who looked experienced in matters of yoga, and asked her what she thought of the satsang.

 

“He was fine,” she grumped.  “But I can’t handle the circus around him.”

 

I smiled a little.

 

Then, to my delight, Davy strolled out the gates.  Davy’s a blazing smart middle-aged Israeli cat who was travelling India with his son, and I’d had breakfast with them a couple of times at the only restaurant in Lakshman Jula that serves shakshuka.  Davy’s two bits?  “Well…” he fidgeted a bit, “that was quite a show.”

 

In the tuk-tuk back to Lakshman Jula, my friends properly advised me to keep an open mind and not assume that I know anything about the experiential reality of consciousness other  than my own.  Whilst I ranted.

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, Chubs and I drove her mother to Hoi An and dropped her off at a pagoda to spend a couple of nights at a vipassana intensive presided over by a visiting monk from Myanmar.   When we returned to pick her up, she was glowing.

 

She talked about the whole experience, but mostly about the presiding monk, extolling his obvious, unfaltering mindfulness, his humility, the clarity and simplicity of his instruction.  She lamented that the poor man clearly had a cold of some kind, but enthused that he still taught all day, not resting, not excluding himself for a break, there for midnight meditation, there for everything (except meal times – he was always physically distanced from the attendees, and didn’t attend meals at all), giving unreservedly of himself for a group that needed his commitment and sacrifice and humility.

 

He was, she assured me in my own words, “the real deal”.  Only her iron sense of maternal duty brought her home at all.  If not for Chubs, she’d have followed his ass back to Myanmar in a heartbeat.

 

She was making noises about going back for a couple of more days this week, when the news broke that he was coming to Danang to hold a morning-long ceremony, including talk, for the Buddha’s birthday celebration.  The compromise was obvious and agreeable, and Chubs dolled herself up in her frilliest crinoline-puffed princess dress, and we went.

 

The way it worked out, the monk passed right by me as he entered the pagoda.  His expression was priceless:  “Holy shit would you look at all these people!   What am I supposed to say to them?  I don’t know if I’m up to this, man.”

 

But there was more.  He had this look about him.

 

It was the way his skin stretched paper-thin over the bones of his face.  It was this very specific shade of bleakness in his gaze.  The instant I saw him, the word “tuberculosis” burst in my head like a firework.

 

I shook it off.  No reason to suspect that, none at all.  A few cold symptoms did not constitute substantial empirical evidence, right?  And of course he’d look a little drawn, he’d been fasting for three days.

 

The main seating area in the lecture hall was packed, so we hustled into the wing, which worked out well because we got right up to level with the dais, off to the monk’s left, and as he sat down at the front of the room, I was sitting down on the floor maybe twelve feet from his chair.

 

I saw his thorax spasm, heard the deep wet rumble.  He drew a handkerchief  from the folds of his robe and brought it to his mouth as surreptitiously as possible under the gaze of hundreds.  From the side, I watched him carefully spit into, and then quickly stow, the handkerchief.  An assistant handed him a microphone, and he led a recitation of Pali mantra, and then he spoke.

 

He spoke softly and methodically, half sentences in English, then waited for an intelligent, alert Buddhist nun kneeling some distance to his right to translate into Vietnamese.  I had trouble hearing because of the trio of Laotian girls twenty feet behind me opening packets of crinkle wrap to arrange piles of snacks for the putting-stuff-in-monk’s-bowls ceremony which was due to follow.  But he talked about mindfulness, specifically mindfulness on one’s own self, limiting attention on what others were up to, on saving the lion’s share of one’s awareness for inside.

 

Profoundly useful material for anger-wracked, grudge-nurturing, shit-talking, accusatory ol’ me.

 

While he spoke a few words at a time, he only restarted a sentence once.  He said a couple of words, and halted abruptly.  I saw the ghost of a spasm in his chest.  He sat, still, controlled, eyes switched off, everything he was turned in.  The pause was long.  And then he started his sentence over.

 

Now I don’t know, right?  I’m not a doctor.  I don’t know the man, I don’t know any of his inner circle, I haven’t seen or heard of a professional medical opinion of any kind whatsoever relevant to the man.

 

But that fucking guy has tuberculosis.

 

And he’s not resting at home under the care of physicians and nurses.  He’s travelling the world, working round-the-clock , teaching, speaking, staying up all night guiding meditations, fasting for days at a time.  Every fucking thing a man in that condition shouldn’t be doing.  Spreading the dhamma, utterly refusing any weakness in himself by continuous act of superhuman will.  Living, probably, to a higher standard of tireless beneficence than he would if he wasn’t dying of goddamn consumption.

 

Why?  Why would that guy do that?

 

Because, I suppose, that’s how you roll when you’re the real deal.

 

I’ve met just a small handful of those guys in my lifetime, and all in the last few months.  They’re as rare as hen’s teeth, but they’re out there.  The real deal dudes.  They’re fucking out there.  I was reaching a place where I was prepared to accept that every last bugger presenting himself as a spiritual teacher was a con man of some stripe, you know?  But the real deal dudes are out there.

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable mention to a couple of guys.  The first has to be my big brother  Guru Sharm Dass, who as I write this will be sitting in his orange loincloth outside his stone hut in the woods a couple of kilometers up in the hills outside Rishikesh, sipping a cup of chai and perusing a copy of the Hindustan Times biked up by a devotee.  I owe him.  Big.  Thanks for helping me keep my feet on the ground, Baba-ji.

 

The other is the man with the credit for the Chubs photo at the top, the Venerable Chanh Kien  (translation:  Right Understanding), straight-up the coolest Buddhist monk I’ve ever met.  He was another of the visiting monks down the local temple.  I didn’t understand much of his talk as it was all in Vietnamese, and I can’t usually catch anything more complicated than “Sorry, we don’t have Tiger Beer.  We can give you a La Rue if you feel like shitting blood for four days.”

 

But he cautioned the crowd about Buddhist practice as a quid-pro-quo for earthly gain, delivering a bit that went something like “Okay, Buddha, here, I give you a banana.  Now you give me success in endeavor  X.”

 

In short, he’s one of those funny, down-to-earth, approachable, practical monks who give you material you can work with, and he spent a good hour hanging out with us after the talk, and he gave us these bracelets and his blessing:

 

Photo credit: Chubs

 

 

And you know where his home pagoda is?  Fucking Langley.  He’s from Saigon, I met him in Danang, and he calls Langley home.  For my friends and family in Greater Vancouver, go see him when he’s back from his world tour.

 

Take him a banana, and tell him it’s from me, and I tell him I want a Ferrari.  Red.  Gotta be red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headstand: Musings and Machismo

This post is dedicated to  H.B., in gratitude.

 

 

It’s calling me again.  Slipping unbidden into the stream, insidious temptation like a meth-snorting dancer ex-girlfriend texting me just as I’m leaving the bar alone at 1 A.M.:  “u up?”  Like I know there’s nothing but trouble there, but what chance do I have, really?  Might as well just give up the game and cave.  Take the palaver as read and get where we’re going.

 

Fucking headstand.

 

It’s been nigh on a year.  I finally tapped out when the chain of spasms running up the right side of my spine reached the size and density of a golf-ball mala, and holding my daughter in my right arm precipitated a solo of sotto-voce whimpering so shrill only dogs could hear it.  Blockage in the sun channel, right?  Good try, Geshe.  I’d been supporting my eight-minute headstands with the pads of my index fingers, trying to catch up with the last 20-something, 140-pound Ashtangi to post a series of unsupported headstand pics on bloody Facebook.

 

The Ashtangi had excuses.  As for me, I was staring down the barrel at my 45th birthday and rolling at 205 pounds.  Irredeemable asshole, I.

 

Ever look at a human spine?  Like, a really good, critical look at the chain of vertebrae?  Even a good sketch will do, something by Amy Matthews or somebody clever like that.  Here’s a somewhat pedestrian example.   Down near the bottom in the lumbar region, they’re a pretty respectable chunk of collagen and calcium and whatever, a solid little puck of good solid tissue, vaguely reminiscent of an Austin Healy 3000 motor mount, but with Stegosaurus plates coming out the back.  A trustworthy bit of kit, designed and built to hump horrific aggregate compressive forces on long persistence hunts across the Pleistocene savannah.

 

But the little scamps taper, don’t they?  One of nature’s go-to themes, that: like a tree or a volcano or a wealth-demographic chart, each level is a little smaller than the one below it, until we’re up into the cervical, and we’ve got these dainty little spun-glass confections built for fine, sensitive control rather than grunt.  Evolution cottoned on to which end goes down.

 

Evolution didn’t count on the pernicious coalescence of yogasana and Instagram.

 

“The king of poses”, B.K.S Iyengar told us, and even in my thoughts I contradict Himself with cowering trepidation.  But then, he also fingered Sai Baba as a paragon of holy virtue, so maybe he had it in him to step on his philosophic cock now and then.  And nobody in his generation or before, not Jois, not Krishnamacharya, not no-bo-dy, had access to the volume and quality of peer-reviewed, statistics-grounded scientific literature that we have available now at the cost of a few keystrokes.

 

And now I’m reading brains the caliber of Jules Mitchell and Jill Miller, counselling me to slow down and weigh the pros and cons before I plant Sahasrara Chakra on the rubber and jackknife up in the hope of vaguely-expressed payoffs.  Horror stories of bone spurs and degenerated discs are piling up, and the voices counselling caution speak with reasoned analysis and specific, detailed reference to human anatomy, not universally recognized virtues in the world of guru-shishya parampara.

 

So I should play it smart, right?  Who needs it?  Why take unnecessary chances in the Land of Diminished Returns?  Just don’t do headstand.  It’s not like I run out of things to do in any given practice.  There’s plenty to work on without jacking a couple of hundred pounds up on my, big, dumb, forward-jutting neck and noggin for fifty slow breaths of dare-devil wobble action.  I’ll just leave it out.  Right?

 

Yyyyyyyeah no.   Me and headstand are gonna take another shot.  See if we can’t make it work, you know?  We’ll communicate better this time, me and headstand. We’ve got a lot of history.  Pity to throw it all away.  Et cetera.

 

I hurt myself.  I hurt myself on the mat, I hurt myself in the gym.  I hurt myself kicking heavybags and moving boxes and walking into cupboard doors.  That’s my life, and I don’t mind it all that much.  Pain is a sign you’re still alive, pain is weakness leaving the body; pick a macho shithead aphorism and I’ll endorse it.  Injury is attendant on the things I do, and in the way I do things.  I’ll act to manage the frequency of occurrence, but to live as I like, and to push as I must, injury is less an “if” than a “when”.  I accept it.

 

This is not an approach I proselytize.

 

Any injury is traumatic for many of us, and many of us are slow to heal.  Different activities have different gravities of risk for different people, and some risks are grave.  Some of us suffer permanent, irreparable damage in the ostensibly healing practice of yoga.  We’re all of us invested to consider any activity we undertake, to balance the risks and the rewards and make a [hopefully] informed decision to go or no go.  I’m pretty robust, and I have decades of rough-and-tumble experience in general oafery to draw on when I decide what I’m willing to risk with my body.  I know a tweak when I feel it, and can mitigate my losses by bailing fast and slinking home to my gel-pack and Tiger Balm.

 

Not everyone has that luxury.  Many of us are new to physical exercise, and many of us don’t hear what our bodies say until our bodies are shrieking in agony.  Many of us, even experienced operators, don’t know we’re in trouble until that trouble is very serious indeed, because pain is a lagging indicator, perhaps especially in repetitive exercise paradigms.  We’re damned lucky to have the Mitchells and the Millers to flag the dangerous bits for us.  I wish that all yoga teachers were as knowledgeable and as willing to give it to us straight before we throw down on ego-gratifying stunts like the King of Poses.

 

Which me and my ego are looking forward to revisiting.

 

I’ll drop you a line from emerg.

 

Postscript:

It’s coming up on a year since I wrote this, and then misplaced it in the four-drive labyrinth of the computer I’m typing on.  I can report a couple of noteworthy developments:  first, I spent a bunch of time in the jungle outside Rishikesh, and regularly exchanged namastes with 100 pound ladies packing what appeared to be similar weights of firewood or vegetables or whatever on their heads down jagged mountain paths.  Hmmm.

Second, I haven’t hurt myself.  Doing headstand.  A series of more than four agreements with myself have, I think, contributed.  I enumerate:

  1. No kicking or hopping. I enter with control or not at all.
  2. I tuck my chin a little to lengthen the back of my neck, engage the muscles there, and straighten the cervical curve a little. Yes, I know, it’s there for a reason.  But I refer you back to my point about the spine being designed for one particular end to go up.  I’m working now with the hypothesis that a straighter line of force down through those small cervical vertebrae is safer.  And so far, so fucking good.
  3. I apply a touch of Uddiyana Bandha, both for the stability gain in activating the midsection core, and to [theoretically] straighten the lumbar curve a smidge, see point 2 above.
  4. I keep squeezing my elbows and upper arms in to power up my shoulders so I can take weight off my head if anything feels a little twitchy
  5. If I’m not sure if I’m lined up well, I say something.   I’ll claim that I recite a line of
    Gayatri, and none of you will ever know different.  Anyways, if it sounds weird, I come out and set up again.
  6. I squeeze centerline with my legs, and rotate them out a little so my heels smooch. This last is to counteract my egregious anterior pelvic tilt and thus alleviate its balance-buggering effect,
  7. I think everything up.   Shoulder blades towards tailbone, tailbone towards sky, backs of legs lengthened up, press up through the mounds of the big toes, lengthening inner legs.  Up, up, up.
  8. I keep active wrists and forearms. Inner wrists vertical, pressing wrists, forearms and the blades of my hands  down.  Build from the ground up, I harangue my students ad nauseum.
  9. No fucking tripod. Maybe someday.  Not today.

And please, if you have a story or complaint or philosophy or semi-coherent rambling on yoga injury, in or out of headstand, share it below.  This issue continues to bug me.

 

 

 

 

Pint-Size Pilgrimage: The Sorcery of Intention

“All I’m saying is that to liberate the potential of your mind, body and soul, you must first expand your imagination. You see, things are always created twice: first in the workshop of the mind and then, and only then, in reality.”  From The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma

 

Last week, I snarled at someone that the law of attraction was a load of bullshit, a palliative sophistry spun to dupe fools and enrich charlatans.

There’s a habit that I lost a long time ago:  I don’t set intentions or make dedications at the start of practice any more.  I stagger out of bed, auto-pilot through making a cup of coffee, drain it, unroll my mat, line up my feet, and dive into the surya namaskars.  I don’t go to classes these days, so there’s no-one to remind me to set an intention.  Maybe if I was asked at 5:30 in the morning, I’d growl that my intention was to do these fucking surya namaskars, and shut the fuck up, you’re fucking my count.

Do you like the picture?  The kid on the left is my daughter Chubs.  On the right, we have Gia Huy.  He was Chubs’s best friend in  the year she went to daycare in Hanoi.  They were inseparable.  At potty time they’d be sitting on adjacent pots chatting.  At snack time, if someone had the temerity to be sitting beside Gia Huy when Chubs rocked up, he’d summarily shove that surplus little bastard off the chair so she could join him.

They were best pals, and of the many heartbreaks that leaving Hanoi dealt us, separating Chubs and Gia Huy was the worst.  In the six months since we left, she’s mentioned him at least a couple of times a week.  Taking Chubs back to Hanoi to visit Gia Huy has been on our minds, but life presents more pressing priorities than getting on a plane so your three-year-old can visit her long-distance boyfriend.

So two days ago after afternoon nap I flogged the girls out of bed, into sunscreen and helmets, and bundled them and a daybag onto the bike to ride out to the Marble Mountain caverns, one of their favorite local spots.  It was late in the day as we crested the mountain;  we were moving against the crowds, and I heard someone call my daughter’s Vietnamese name, which was noteworthy as it’s an unusual name, and I turned and looked around.  Then down and around.

Gia.  Fucking.  Huy.   Himself.

And there we were, a group of two toddlers staring awkwardly at each other, and five gobsmacked adults staring at the toddlers.

See, Gia Huy’s family had booked a last-minute package tour of Danang.  The intention of Gia Huy’s parents and grandmother had been to escape Hanoi for a couple of days to breathe some relatively clean air and see some sights.

Gia Huy’s intention had been to go to Danang to visit Chubs.  He told the teachers at the daycare that he wasn’t coming to school the next day, he was going to visit Chubs.  Now, his parents hadn’t called us or anything, I’m sure it didn’t even occur to them, this was just a quick weekend dash out of the big city, and more or less every hour was laid out in the schedule of their package tour.

But what his parents did or didn’t intend wasn’t Gia Huy’s concern.  Nobody walked him through the itinerary, and if they had, I’m sure they’d have been swiftly crushed under the avalanche of fucks he didn’t give.  As soon as he heard “We’re going to Danang”, it was a single-objective  mission for Gia Huy.  His parents did their part, they bought the plane tickets.  He took it from there.  And for a day and a half, he toddled along with the adults, scanning with inexorable determination.  Until he found her.

 

Now, what do you think his chances were?  Danang is a city of well over a million souls.  There’s dozens of tourist attractions, cycling through tens of thousands of visitors every single day.   And the little fucker’s not an inch over three feet tall.

But he found her. That three year old came to this city and found the precise three year old he came to see.  On his own.  No help from the adults in the movie.  He just plain found her.

 

Gia Huy’s family was on the run to catch their tour van into Hoi An, so we checked phone numbers and parted company.  We paid our respects at the cavern temples, then jumped on the bike, rode to Hoi An and rendezvoused.

Chubs and Gia Huy held hands and walked through the lantern-jewelled streets of the ancient city.  They laughed and pranced and set a candle-lit paper lantern afloat on the Hoai River.  Every few steps Gia Huy turned and seized Chubs’ hand in both of his and kissed it and babbled rapturous devotion while Chubs smiled coquettishly at him.

The next day they terrorized Bana Hills.  Cable cars, fantasy castle villages, princess dancing shows, all that bullshit.   The adults trailed along in incomprehending wonder at the beauty, the wildly improbable beauty, of the spectacle at our feet.

 

A thirty-six hour miracle.

 

Gia Huy and his family got on the plane back to Hanoi this morning, and Chubs is back at school.  Surya Namaskars recommence tomorrow morning.

And you can bet your ass I’ll be setting an intention.