Last time we discussed the second of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Yoga is stopping the thought formations or modifications (vritti) in the mind space (chitta). There are residual waves as that is the nature of the mind space—like an ocean or lake. Yoga is the liberation from the push and pull of all the waves, not being mindlessly hooked and caught. The entire manuscript of the Yoga Sutra goes on to explain the elimination of mental fluctuations.
Let us expand a little here on our past discussion on how thoughts arise, modify, and distort perception.
The physical eye is a camera lens that just captures an image. It does not identify or label the image and we are not referring to smart phone cameras. This is like a baby seeing things—pure seeing.
Then the brain learns to interpret the image in the way it gets programmed to do so—chair, car, ceiling, floor, etc. The word that arises is the thought expressed. Like a stone thrown in the lake, it creates a ripple or wave which modifies the surface of the lake creating fluctuations.
The labeling and naming condition the mind to see in a particular way and give the object a particular meaning, necessarily limiting the perception to the word. An object has no meaning but the one we choose to give it. We know that one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. To one who has never known a chair, the word chair and therefore its function (sitting on a chair) could be meaningless. The object that is named “chair” could be used in multiple ways that chair users may never think of as they may be strictly associating the meaning of chair with sitting.
So the labeling modifies the thoughts of the object, how it is perceived, and used. The object has been modified/distorted by the thought waves. Further fluctuating modification occurs then about color, shape, style, beauty, ugliness, etc. So the thought modifications create a story around the chair. Now are we seeing the chair as the camera sees the chair or are we seeing the mental story of the chair? Or is the chair seen but is inextricably linked with the story around it?
Similarly, the eye sees a person, just like any other object. But the mind space modifies what is seen with the numerous labels and judgments that go with the label—gender, race, nationality, religion, height, weight, age, and all the programmed thoughts that are associated with these labels. Enormous modifications are superimposed on the actual object and they fluctuate. So are we seeing the person or are we seeing all the series of thought waves? Do we really see the person? Or do we see our biases that have created a story around this person as he/she relates to our story about our self? We do the same to our self as well. What do we really see?
Meditation texts say that we do not truly see ourselves or others. This is what yoga meditation and all Eastern meditations attempt to rectify.
Fluctuating thought modifications distort reality because of the four pairs of opposites that push and pull which we discussed last time: attraction to pleasure, gain, fame, and praise; aversion to displeasure, loss, notoriety, and blame.
The more the awareness is trapped into these opposing thought wave formations, the more turbulent the mind space appears to be. This is the hyperactive mind (rajas). The opposite is the dull, inert, lethargic mind (tamas)—it is sleepy and inattentive. Neither are considered desirable on a sustained basis. A mind not attentive to thoughts is needed for sleep. A hyperactive mind may be necessary when a lot needs to be done. But from the meditative/spiritual perspective, the most desirable state of mind is a balance of the two—activity and inactivity of the alert (not dull and inattentive) witnessing awareness (sattva).
Meditation practices are numerous—there are some that calm the mind, some that focus it, some that look deeply into it, some that discipline it, some that change perceptions. The more advanced practices cultivate the stable state of sattva also known as the pure mind that sees without the filters of thought modifications. It is pure awareness. We talked about awareness the last time.
The activity of the pure mind must have a calming quality to it—none of us can have inactive minds for extended periods of time if we are to exist in this world. The pure mind cultivates right thinking, right speech, right livelihood, right amount of sleep and activity, moderate diet, simple life style, right companionship. The personal and social codes of conduct we discussed earlier are important. These right activities create modifications that are not painful. Then we can move to the next stage of thoughts: like birds flying in the sky leaving no foot prints.
Words are thoughts expressed. Thoughts are stones thrown into the lake of the mind causing ripples and far-reaching waves. These interact with the thought waves of others, causing further complex waves in the infinite ocean.
Today we will continue to practice the lake meditation, just seeing the lake reflect whatever is in the mind space without adding or subtracting anything.
As we develop the buzzing bee breath (bhramari pranayama), readers may find the track on the audio track on the CD Breathe Fully Live Free very helpful.