Sunday, 1 November 2015

November 2015 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami--Illusion

My Mac is currently sick (most likely in need of a new hard drive ) prompting a leave of absence from the Inter-web, I will however try to continue posting Ramaswami's newsletters each month.


During October I with my wife Uma, went to the beautiful home of my friend Jyoti Chittur and met several of her yoga students and friends, There were several Tamil speaking yogis hailing from Madras, Chennai. I spoke briefly on the lines of "Yoga, a complete Adhyatma Vidya". Thank you Jyoti

November,  I am planning to go to India for a four month stay. In November I will be teaching a 100 hour Advanced Vinyasakrama program at Yoga Vahini in Chennai. I understand the registration is complete. I am teaching a long program in India after several decades. During my stay I am also scheduled to teach in Hyderabad, Dubai and New Delhi. For more details  here is the link

 The 100 hour program is also scheduled in a number of other places like in Oneyoga in Saskatoon, Canada, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. I may probably teach the same program in New York City and San Jose in 2016. It basically has a 60 hr vinyasakrama asana component, 20 hrs of Yoga sutras, word by word and 20 hrs of pranayama, mudras and yoga for internal organs.


Disciple: Guruji, I read that some very revered philosophers of yesteryears conclude that the entire universe in just an illusion and there is  no substance to it

Guruji; Yes many great souls like Sankara, Gaudapada and others say so.
D: But I see that the universe, this world is real
G; It is not surprising. What you consider yourself, the 130lbs of you is also part of this illusory world. So being part of the illusion you may find the world real. 

D: But then if it is an illusion who watches the illusion? It is me, is it not?

G: Oh yes we will come to that, but tell me  how  you see the world outside you
D; With my eyes ofcourse. When I close my ears I am able to see but when I close my eyes I can not see. So I should be seeing with my eyes.
G: Do your eyes see.
D; Yes, but not really. The eyes merely select the light particles and pass it along . 
G. What does science say about how we see?
D: Basically it says that the senses receive sensations from the objects which are transmitted to different centers of the brain which then collates and processes the information, interprets it and sees the object. 
G. Explain in detail the steps involved
D: Let us take the case of seeing an object, Light particles fall on the object. The object absorbs some of the light and reflects some of the light at different angles. Then the light rays reach and then go through the eyes to hit the retina. There it is converted into electrical impulses. These impulses are transmitted through optical nerves to a particular part of the brain which contains the sight center if you would call it, It is a small area in the back of the brain. There it is processed and then the brain is able to see it. Ofcourse there may be other signals through other senses like hearing etc., and the brain will collate all the information add analysis and emotions to it and one gets a composite picture. The brain processes the information and sees it. Actually this is a quote from a ophthalmologist which states that the eyes do not see but the brain sees. Here is the quote Guruji

"We're eye doctors."...
"What's something about the eye that most people don't realize?"
"The eye doesn't see. The brain sees. The eye just transmits. So what we see isn't only determined by what comes through the eyes. What we see is affected by our memories, our feelings, and by what we've seen before." 

G: Yes. This is very much what the Yoga theory of citta vritti is. The object that subject sees is actually the light particles reflected by the object, the rupa tanmatras which excite the eyes. The information is transmitted to the brain or citta by the retina and  in the brain takes place the processing and modification of the signals. The information sent by the senses is collated by the 11th indriya, the manas, the buddhi or intellect analyzes the information with what is available in memory and the ability to analyze (adhyavasaya) and then the ahamkara or ego adds its own color to the the product of the citta. Naturally this produces emotions in the individual--  pleasant or unpleasant. And this final picture is called a cittavritti or the activity/projection of the citta. But this according to yogis is only part of the story. This rasoning also raises some more questions

D: What is it Guruji

 G:, Everything, according to science, is taking place in the head, in the brain. So right now I should see you in my head. But actually I see you in front of me. So we have to explain how what is happening in the head is seen outside of the head, in front, out side of me. I can not get into my brain and see. Further even in the head it would be some chemical changes of the brain cells or neurons flying all over the small head space. One has to explain how what is happening in the brain, that which  is seen in the mind in the mental space is seen outside in the physical space. And even if we assume that I see you in front of me, I have to explain if what I see in front of me is the real object from which signals were received or it is the mental projection of the object I had seen. We should be able to align both the subject and the object in the same space, physical space or mental space.

D: Yes, I understand that we do not see any object per se. We only see the projection of it. And there is this question of aligning the subject and object in the same space--physical or mental 

G: Yes the Yogis explain this. They say as the scientists do, that the whole experience is taking place in the mental space or citta-akasa. Apart from the signals received through the senses. of the outside objects, the brain also receives information about oneself, one's person- the subject. There is a complicated nervous system that runs all over the body, presumably sending signals to the brain. The brain or citta with these signals constructs the image/feel of the subject as well and so we have an integrated picture of both the subject and the object in the brain. Through the numerous nadis--72,000 in all-- according to yogis are sent  various signals about the subject or what we consider as ourselves. Then the citta or the brain projects a composite picture of subject and object the totality of the experience we have at a particular moment. We not only experience the outside objects but also feel that we, as subjects, are experiencing the outside object, This total picture is what they call as citta-vritti, or activity or projection of the brain. The feeling of 'I' or about oneself,- the subject- they call as 'asmita' or the “I-exist-feeling” is part of the citta-vritti and it takes place in the brain-- in the mental space.

D :I think science also puts both the object and the subject  in the same mental plane or space. I read this in a blog (Guruji blog is what people write whatever they think is important)

What we call the ‘self’ is a construction of our brain. First, think about what the term ‘self’ implies: understanding a separation between what you are, both physically and mentally/emotionally, and whatever is outside of you, or non-self. While a bit clinical, Antonio Demasio’s definition serves us well:A dynamic collection of integrated neural processes, centered on the representation of the living body, that finds expression in a dynamic collection of mental processes. That is, this thing we call the ‘self’ is the result of our neurochemistry interacting with our physical body and the outside world, resulting in not only what but how we think. 

G: Yes the self that is referred to in the previous quote would correspond to 'ego' or the asmita of the yogis, but not the real self , the pure consciousness or atman the yogis, vedantins talk about. This 'asmita' is something which is felt as part of what is experienced. Most scientists would say that the brain is the processor/ projector and also the observer of what we experience. But several vedic philosophers of yester-years  would point out that what is considered to be  the brain, that itself is part of the projection of the mind, because the brain is also part of the subject referred to , the 'empirical self' .  I will explain in greater detail …..

D: Then which is the one that experiences this whole picture, the projection of the mind

G: It is awareness. According to them, the samkhyas, yogis and vedantins,  what we experience and consider as oneself is a product of the mind or brain and there has to be an independent entity which should be able to experience that. It basically should be awareness, and should be able to constantly observe the ever changing cittavrittis moment after moment. Patanjali says that for experience to take place there should  be an object of experience and an experiencer. The brain cannot be the experiencer and  also what is experienced at once. Here, since what is experienced includes what we consider as ourselves-the empirical self-, the experiencer is one which is pure unwavering consciousness called drashta, atma, purusha and so on.  This theory is reiterated by sankhyas, yogis, vedantins, Brahma sutra, the Gita and other vedic texts

taṁ durdarśaṁ gūḍhamanupraviṣṭaṁ
guhyāhitaṁ gahvareṣṭaṁ purāṇam|
adhyātmayogādhigamena devaṁ
matvā dhīro harṣaśokau jahāti||

He (the Atman), difficult to be seen, full of mystery,
the Ancient, primaeval one, concealed deep within,
He who, by yoga means of meditation on his self (adhyatma yoga),
 comprehends Atman within him as the Lord,
He leaves excitement and sorrow far behind.
— Katha Upanishad, 1.2.12[41][42]

According to them the brain cannot at once be a processor and projector of vrittis on one hand and also the experiencer on the other. Further the brain is just a super processor and an insentient organic one. It has no consciousness, it is just living matter even as it appears to have consciousness. They call the brain 'citta' which literally means something that masquerades as consciousness (cit iva bhavayati iti cittam) even as it is a piece of  organic matter like other parts of the body-alive but without consciousness

D: But the yogis consider the world, the universe, the creation is real.

G: Yes. Ordinarily everyone  thinks the world is real and the senses give experience of the world to us
Scientists and thinkers say that it is the brain which actually processes and experiences the world which by implication is real. The yogis say the brain or citta processes and projects what is experienced in the mental space but there is an independent non changing consciousness which is aware of the experience. They also consider the world as real.

D: Then why the doubt about the reality of the universes?

G: There are several reasons why a group of philosophers consider the world to be unreal. For instance what the mind projects that we experience is sometimes decidedly  a non substantive illusion --like  for instance in a dream what the yogis call as vikalpa vritti,  those are experiences that are determined unreal on waking up. But even during waking stage we only experience a cittavritti or projection of the brain as we have just seen. We do not see any object per se. We have no independent means of determining if there are really objects because what we can experience are  mental projections or cittavrittis only. While in dream the cittavritti appears real and in waking state the cittavritti is considered real only just  exactly as the dream cittavrittis were considered real during dream state. Now even as we believe the waking vrittis are real it is not conclusive. So some philosophers conclude  it is indeterminable (anirvacaniya), whether the world is real or not. Some though assert that just as dream experience is proved to be unreal while awake, the waking experience is considered by implication. false during dream. For instance my dream self was 19 years old yesterday night but on waking up i find myself decades older. One experience negates the other experience. The 76 year old waking experience is negated by the 19 year old dream experience and vice versa. Since one is false the other also must be false.
Furthermore, importantly, even as the brain is a unique organ it is still part of the experienced, the empirical self,its activities are also experienced. So the theory that the mind processes, projects the objects and also experiences it, is suspect.

D; Is there any other reason put forward

G: Many philosophers raise the question about the improbability of real material creation . Science talks about a dime sized singularity of infinite density from which the whole creation took place including the physical space. The universe with trillions upon trillion tons of matter and unimaginable amount of energy and life and consciousness came from this 'insentient', lifeless singularity. Ofcourse they give convincing proofs that other scientists understand. Samkhyas say that the universe evolved out of atomic mulaprakriti. Space, matter, life, everything (not consciousness though) came out of it. Upanishads say that the universe came out of brahman, atomic  pure consciousness (pragnyana ghana). It was both the material and efficient cause of the universe. Everything including space came out of it.  Some philosophers say, that kind of creation is not possible. Only an illusion and not a real creation is possible. On these lines some puranas mention that the universe was created by the Lord with the power of Maya or illusion (for lack of a better word). According to some vedantins the entire narration of creation is an imagination and not real. Like a magician creating an illusion, the Lord created this  huge cosmic illusion. Some  describe creation as a series of pulsating projections moment after moment for the beings to experience and ultimately turn away from and approach the Lord knowing the creation is not real and is worthless (tuccha). Some philosophers even while not agreeing to a Creator or separate consciousness say that what we experience is just a mental projection moment after moment (kshanika) and hence an illusion without any substance.

The theory of  science  seems to suggest that the mind whose seat is the brain projects and experiences the composite projection that contains both the object and the subject in certain vrittis. Since the brain also is part of the subject this would amount to saying the brain/mind projects and experiences itself which is untenable.
There is another theory in which creation is considered to be the projection of Maya or Mayavritti. Since what is considered as  you, the 130 lb you and also your vrittis are known to a conscious observer, you really are the conscious observer different from all that you experience and mindlessly think as yourself. What you experience is the vritti or projection of Maya or power of illusion, by which not only the entire universe is known but also all the thoughts or cittavrittis of the subject are known. Every thing including the world, your 130 lb being and your thoughts form part of this grand cosmic illusion.
D: Even if it is an illusion, what is the use of such knowledge, we still have to go through life and just wish away the world as a mere illusion is not possible.

G:  Ofcourse these are two separate questions, truth and usefulness. Here mere intellectual appreciation is not sufficient, one must be able to realize it to be so. Even when one is convinced about the non-real nature of the universe, because of old samskaras the mind tends to fall into the default belief that the 'ego' or the empirical self  is the real self. It requires yogic contemplation on the illusory nature about the universe  on one hand and and the reality of the 'Self' on the other . As the Katha Upanishad quote  emphasizes, Yogic meditation and contemplation are necessary requisites to replace  the old samskaraas with the new right samskaras. . Then the approach will be different.

Further  during our dreams we believe it to be real and emotionally get attached to the objects, especially the dream self, and experiences which may be happy, indifferent or painful. But when we wake up and realize that it was just a dream, we dismiss the dream experience with a shrug and do not usually bother about it. Likewise  when one, after deep analysis, contemplation and yogic meditation. realizes the illusory nature of life in this world, the attitude towards life will be lot different, lot less stressful, like the relief I get after waking from a nightmare. It is said considerable unnecessary weight one carries in the mind is lifted. Ofcourse the difficult part is that meditation, contemplation and realization should  succeed understanding and conviction. 

D: Guruji what is your final conclusion, is it real or unreal

G: My conclusion? It does  not matter. For that question, each one has to find one's own answer, as the Tamil saying goes, “manattalave ahumam Guru” (Ultimately one's own mind is one's guru). The Lord has given us a long life to find the answer to this simple question,”Is this  real or unreal?”

D: Guruji, dhanyavad. I may come back with more questions
G: Yes please. In the meantime calmly think more about what we discussed today


.1..In some languages I understand Jesus is pronounced as 'Isus". The Sanskrit word 'Isus' and its derivative 'Isvara' would mean 'the Lord'. A Sanskrit mantra from Yajur veda is 'Isus sarvasya jagatah prabhuH " meaning Isus or IsaH is the Lord of all the worlds. Isas and isvara are popular first names in India like Iswara, yogeswara, yogesa, sarvesa, vagees. paresa......

.2..All yogis are familiar with the name Patanjali. Anjali indicates palms kept together as a mark of reverence. Pata or pat is used in the sense of 'to fall'. So Patanjali is described as one who fell into the praying arms of the devotees. Another involed explanation would say 'that which is falling from the folded hands/palms'. Patanjali is said to have fallen down from the palms of the praying Gonika who wanted a divine child. Several people have explained Patanjali along these lines. I have also written about the story of Patanjali in my book "Yoga for three stages of life along these lines following a 17th century sanskrit work called "Patanjali carita" or Story of Patanjali written by Ramabhadra dikshitar a south Indian scholar. There is another interesting interpretation possible. According to dhatupata an ancient source book for Sanskrit roots, the root 'tap' is  transformed into 'pat'. So pat could have the meaning of 'tap'. The word tapas comes from tap to heat (tapa dahe). The dhatupata refers to this tap as follows. "tap(pat)aiswarye va". It means that tap becomes modified to pat and could mean aisvarya. What is aiswarya? It is supernaturaal powers. Amarakosa mentions vibhuti, aiswarya and siddhis as synonymous. so pat or tap could mean siddhis and Patanjali was a great siddha yogi also, as could be seen from the various siddhis elaborated in the III chapter of yoga Sutras.  Patanjali could mean "One to whom siddhis surrender" or one in whom siddhis are inherent. So Patanjali can be given another interpretation. It could be 'A master siddha yogi'.  Patanjali=Master of yoga. One can find the name Patanjali and also Tapanjali as first or family name even now in India.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Yoga Clothing for Men : OHMME YOGA Product Review

My iMac is sick at the moment and needs a new HD but manages to work for a day or two after a clean install (this is my fourth), long enough to finally get this review up.

Relates to this previous post

Hard for me to get excited about Yoga wear, for him or for her but I like this company and like that they focus on men. As long as they Wick, fit, seem long lasting, wash and dry easily and are comfortable through practice then I don't really care what I wear while practicing looks like. These shorts from Ohmme yoga were a bit of a revelation though, who knew practice shorts could be this comfortable.

You may remember I posted this excellent video with my friend Simon Borg-Olivier ( recently

The Video was made as part of a promotion for OHMME YOGA, a UK Mens Yoga clothing company.

OHMME YOGA Shorts and Leggings Product Review

After putting up my earlier post OHMME YOGA got in touch to ask me if I'd like to try out their shorts/leggings, they were kind enough to send me the three below and all the way to Japan too.

I've been wearing them for a week or so now and like them a lot, the Scorpion leggings more than I expected to.

The shorts are incredibly light and comfortable and make my PRANA shorts feel like leather lederhosen, so far they are washing well, will see if they last as well as the lederhosen.

2 Dogs lined Yoga Shorts

Tapsaya grey shorts

One thing, although the grey shorts above are probably my favourites for home practice some may consider them a little TOO short for a public shala, Hot Yoga maybe.

Scorpion Yoga Leggings
The leggings are comfortable to practice in and sure to come into their own with the colder weather on it's way but how does anyone manage to practice garbha pindasana in Leggings?

The Scorpion Leggings are featured in this video with Baris ( )

You can find practitioners who do these shorts and leggings more justice than I do as well as their full range on OHMME YOGA's website Gallery and Store page

Many thanks to OHMME Yoga for shipping these out to Japan for me to try.


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Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga at home by Anthony Grim Hall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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


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