Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Yoga Sutras: Word (śabda) शब्द Srivatsa Ramaswami — April 2015 Newsletter from

I was in Mexico City for about two weeks during March 2015. I taught two programs one at Roxana Letchipia's   Twamevayoga which was well attended and a sparsely attended program at   Centro Kiai. But the involvement of those who attended was heartwarming. Roxana attended my 200 year TT program in 2011 and subsequently started her own studio Twamevayoga in Mexico City which I find is doing well.   Rafael Diaz did the translation into Spanish all through the programs. Thank you Roxana and Rafael.
In May I am scheduled to do three programs in UK organized by Steve Brandon’s Harmony Yoga. A one day workshop on Yoga for Internal Organs, a five day program on Core Vinyasakrama yoga and a long detailed Bhagavatgita program (13 days) at Wells, Somerset. For more details here is the link

Registration is open for my 200 hr Vinyasakrama Yoga program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, starting on July 20, 2015 for 5 weeks. This will perhaps be the last time I will be offering this program in USA which I have been doing for almost 10 years now. It is an attempt to give a much broader and deeper understanding of Yoga that Krishnamacharya taught me for over 30 years. It has a 100 hr Hatayoga component, 80 hours of asanas and vinyasas and 20 hrs of Pranayama. The other 100 hrs will include 20 hours Meditation, 25 hrs of Yoga Sutra and 25 hrs of Yoga for health including A&P, Yoga for Internal organs, subtle anatomy, 20 hrs of Krishnamacharya's works and a few others. Here is the link which you may kindly share with friends who may perhaps be interested

Word (śabda) शब्द

When I started studying Yogasutras with my Guru Sri T Krishnamacharya, at the first reading, he went through each word one by one in every sutra. He would explain each Sanskrit word giving the derivation of the words from possibly its root and then the description of the word in the context in which it was used. This way the student would be able to understand the sutra meaning without being unduly influenced by free commentaries written in other languages like Tamil or English or even Sanskrit. It took quite some time to go through the sutras but it would help the student to stay close to the text. It will also help the student to properly use the more detailed commentaries like Vyasa, Bhoja and contemporary writers later on.

The yogasutras start with the word atha (अथ)  an avyaya (अव्यय)  or indeclinable word having six different meanings but here it would be “Now”. Then the important word Yoga. Yoga (योग) can be a derivative from two different roots 'yujir' meaning yoking or union-- 'yujir-yoge' (युजिर् योगे)-- a commonly known interpretation among modern yogis. The other root from which this word is derived is 'yuja' meaning Samadhi (yuja samadhou- युज समधौ ) which root Patanjali uses in his Yogasutras. Incidentally one finds that Vyasa says योगः समाधिः yogah samādhiḥ or yoga is samadhi. Sankara explains the term as --योगो युक्तिः समाधानम्  yogo yuktiH samādhānam-- meaning yoga has two meanings one yukti (युक्तिः) or union and the other samadhanam (समाधानम्)  or absolute peace of mind. Yoga meaning union is also used by several other yoga systems like (भक्ति योग bhakti yoga),  (हठ योग haTha yoga) or  ( कुण्डलिनी  kuṇḍalinī). When yoga is used in the sense of union, then it  should have two principles, compatible with each other and there should be movement between them, towards each other. Then my Guru went on to explain how systems coming under yoga as union act. Union of (जीवात्मा परमात्मा-- jīvātmā and paramātmā)   as in  Bhakti yoga (भक्ति योग)  and as defined by  yājñavalkya (याज्ञवल्क्य)  in his Yogayājñavalkya ( योगयाज्ञवल्क्य), then prana and apana (प्राणापान) union as in hatayoga ( हठ योग) or union between ( शिव-शक्ति) śiva-śakti as in  kuṇḍalinī yoga (कुण्डलिनी  योग). . But in yoga sutra there is no union, it talks about transformations that take place in one tatva, the citta (चित्त) culminating in its complete cessation of activities or simply permanent peace of mind.

Anuśāsana (अनुशासन ) is the next word. It consists of a prefix 'anu' then the word śāsana (शासन ). Anu in this context would be 'consistent with'.  śāsana would be 'to command or teach authoritatively' -- śāśu anuśiṣṭau (शाशु अनुशिष्टौ) . So the scriptures came to be known as śāsana (शासन) or  śāstra (शास्त्र) . Here the word śāsana (शासन )  would mean the vedas on which the sutra draws its inspiration. Then, the prefix 'anu' would mean 'consistent with the vedas' or the scriptures. So Patanjali indicates that his work on yoga is consistent with the vedas the authoritative text. He wanted to distinguish his work from several others at that time which used the word yoga but did not follow the scriptures/vedas. They were avaidika yogas.

The next word is citta चित्त . Citta is the  brain, the complex organ that appears to have among other things, 'consciousness', even as it is just a piece of meat and has no consciousness. Cit is consciousness the ultimate   reality as per Vedanta. It is the independent entity, a non changing witness to the activities of the citta as per Samkhya and yoga. Citta is that which masquerades as pure consciousness or cit-- cidiva bhāvayati iti cittam ( चिदिव भावयति इति चित्तम्), he would say.
Then the word vritti ( वृत्ति), it is activity. Vritti (वृत्ति)  is associated with one’s avocation --vRtti jīvane वृत्ति जीवने, here the activities of citta or the brain. What are its activities? It is not just fluctuation of the mind but  a whole set of activities.  Patanjali himself would list them in a subsequent sutra. So cittavritti would be the activities of the citta (चित्त)

‘Then the word  nirodha (निरोध) . It is rodha(रोध)  with the prefix  ‘ni’ here indicating ‘nitaram’ or always. Rodha is a derivative of the root ‘rudhir’ meaning to restrain all around. It is  rudhir āvaraṇe  (रुधिर् आवरणे) as per dhatu pata. So, Nirodha would mean restraining completely and permanently, the vrittis of citta.  Yogaścittavṛttinirodhaḥ (योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः)  is how Patanjali defines Yoga. Here he is dealing with cittavritti alone and there is no other principle with which the vriti is to be united. So even as per the definition of Patanjali, yoga is not union in this context. Further the phrase (samāsa    समास)--vrittinirodha (वृत्तिनिरोधः)--  when unzipped (vigraha विग्रह) would be  vRttīnāṁ nirodhaḥ (वृत्तीनां निरोधः) or the cessation of the multitue of vrittis that one encounters all through life
TadA (तदा)  means then,… consequently. The next word is draStuh ( द्रष्टुः) , It is the singular  possessive case of the noun dRStR ( द्रष्टृ). dRStR ( द्रष्टृ)  means 'seer', the one that constantly observes or the one that is the subject, the objects being the cittavrittis. The word draStuh ( द्रष्टुः) comes from  the root  dRś (paśy) दृश् पश्य्  meaning  to see.  draStuh ( द्रष्टुः) would then be 'of the seer'. Svarūpa ( स्वरूप) is sva+ rupa. sva is one's own and rupa is form, svarupa would be in one's real self.
Avasthānam (अवस्थानम्) is ava+sthānam  ava the prefix would be  'down'  and sthānam would be 'to get estalished'. avasthana then would be 'settling down in oneself --Svarūpa ( स्वरूप)'.  The sutra would then mean that the drashta, the seer or subject is established in oneself.  However the Self is always established in itself. So, it would indicate that this becomes known to the citta. Since sutras are devoid of verbs for the sake of brevity one has to add the appropriate verb here which would be 'bhavati or it happens'. 
This is the state of yoga.  What happens if this yoga state is not reached or rather what is the condition of the citta  of non yogic mortals like us? The next word to take up will be  sārūpyam (सारूप्यम्). This is derived from the word Sarūpa as opposed to Svarūpa ( स्वरूप)'  discussed in the previous paragraph. While svarupa would mean the real thing, sarupa would indicate an image, something that is unreal but capable of masquerading as the real one.  Sārūpyam (सारूप्यम) would be a created image that could be mistaken for the real thing. 

The next phase is इतरत्र . Itaratra (इतरत्र), itara+tra. Itaratra could be 'here, on the other hand', meaning when the citta is not in the yogic state of nirodha. In the non yogic state (itaratra) the  vritti that the mind assumes,  Sārūpya (सारूप्य)  or an unreal image as the real self. The citta mistakes the physical person that is seen as the real self during waking state and the dream self as the real self in the dream state and both are false images or  sārūpya (सारूप्य) 

In the next sutra, Patanjali groups the cittavrittis into five categories. Let me stop here. My Guru in a similar vein completed all the sutras before returning to discuss the Vyasa commentary. Of course this write up is a brief and  a pale representation of how he taught as I am writing this from the pleasanat memory of my studies of the sutras with him that happened 40 to 50 years ago. 
When I was young I had a few friends from the Sanskrit college in Madras working for their Sanskrit degree.  One of the optional subjects for them was Yoga Sutras. They found it an extremely dry subject. But Krishnamacharya made the Sutras for us one of the most gripping subjects.   In fact he made all the subjects he taught very interesting-- the upanishads, the Gita , samkhya karika or whatever he taught. He was an outstanding Acharya, a master teacher of asanas, chanting and philosophy. He taught them all with equal facility..


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Spring, first drop of sweat on the mat, state of asana.

It's spring I tell ya, 

....first drop of sweat on the mat this morning, there it was at the end of standing, was so excited that I stopped to take a photo. 

It might have happened earlier or been a towel full by now if not for the new approach to breathing  I'm taking (Simon Borg-Olivier's abdominal approach) which seems to be cutting down on sweating generally, we'll see as the humidity creeps up to 100% in this old, Air conditioner free house in Osaka, Japan.

You might prefer this image of spring

This is Sakuranomiya, cherry trees all down the river and pretty much the view from my train into work each day. It's one stop from work and I'm off there after this post, a walk along the river for an hour or so before work.

So with the warmer weather an opportunity to consider the state of play as far as practice is concerned. 

Winter has taken it's toll, the last year actually, winter was just an excuse for minimal practice. Less asana shouldn't justify a lack of commitment and engagement with those asana one does practice, I have to admit, I've let things slip.

Did come up from dropback without tapping off the wall today  that was a first for a while, kapo was, well... far from the blog header picture but I'll take it and am surprised it's not worse considering how little I practice 2nd. A little concerned at how far my legs sink back but kapo's gone and come back again before, I'm optimistic, be nice to get the heels back such that I can settle in again and breathe.

One of my favourite people in Ashtanga might be pleased to hear that my Supta Kurmasana has taken a leave of absence, again rarely practiced but I was surprised to lose it altogether, did my body just get old while I was taking it easy?

Garbha pindasana? will wait and see until it's warmer to see if that's still happening, haven't practiced it since August last year in Rethymno. Will I sweat at all with this approach to breathing 100% humidity, probably.

What else have I lost,...Marichi D still binds remarkably but only just. Others that I do practice regularly are a pleasure, Maha Mudra/Janu Sirsasana, Baddha konasana etc... karandavasana goes down but certainly not up but that was hit and miss back in Rethymno. Hasta padangustasana is enjoyable recently with the abdominal breathing...

Oh you know, asana, it is what it is. Still, Spring resolve is to be a little more committed to the asana, the form, the container and not just the breath within, one reflects upon the other.

Need to be more Stoical in my practice and in life in general

Been loving Epictetus in my ipad Stoic bible so much that I splashed out, wonderful stuff

Pranayama was a surprise, Ive been including six rounds before and six rounds after practice, Sribhashyam's ( Krishnamacharya's son) approach, which was fine but when I attempted the longer practice I was used to from Ramaswami and Vinyasa Krama this morning, I found it quite an effort.

The extra weight I'm carrying doesn't help perhaps, more lack of discipline this year that I really can't excuse by blaming it on a mild depression brought on by the years disruption or the subtle grieving that comes with parting from those one loves. 

I chose this, Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus would shake their heads I'm sure.

Still. the funk (and it's appetite) seems to be passing, sweat, cherry blossom, fine writing and ideas cheering me as well as realising this morning that I'd missed three new interviews on Lu's Ashtanga Parampara and had them to look forward to.

Read the first of the three before practice, Krista Shirley who I seem to remember had a cybershala blog a while back. Here's my FB intro to the link because I want to rush out and see some trees

 A courageous post here from Krista Shirley with an intro that must have been hard to write. And it turns out she went to Rollins in Orlando, my ex ( and one of my oldest, dearest friends) went there and I spent a lot of time visiting following cheap BA flights from my Dad. Here's Ashtanga then as an effective tool for growth and assist for healing, there's a particularly nice bit on meditation before practice ( and also a mention of home practice). Now to the mat or the other two interviews....
"I strongly believe in meditation. It has always helped me maintain balance and motivation in my practice. If you don’t already have a sitting practice, try to start with just a few minutes each day before you take practice. Sit somewhere you are comfortable and pick a word or image and focus on that for five minutes. Set an alarm on your phone when you are starting out. Even if you don’t like sitting, especially at first, this will help you better set your intention for asana, and help you regain that accountability for it as well. I think some of us sometimes allow our lives into our practice in the mental sense; we rush there and rush through asana because we might lose that sacred distinction between ‘you time’ and the rest of the day. When they blur we might feel like we don’t have time for this yoga stuff because we have too many other things we must do. Then it becomes a chore, another thing we must cross off the list….and then its no longer a treat, a reprieve from life, but just another burden. Meditation even a few minutes a day will help re-define your ‘you time’ and WHY you need it and deserve it". 


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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta Referral Teacher Listing


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