Monday, 1 April 2013

PARINAMA - April 2013 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami


"Most of us remain in a state of vikṣipta (distracted) almost all the time all through our lives. It is a state of succession of 'short-time-focus' activities or vrittis of the mind. From the moment when we wake up , from brushing the teeth, talking briefly to the spouse about the breakfast, preparing to go to work, watching the TV to find out about the weather and a brief look at the cat-and-mouse game of the Executive vs Representatives and the interacting with others in workplace, doing jobs in small bites, bits and pieces and so on until we go to sleep, they are all short focus varied activities. This aspect of the brain, its ability to attend to tasks of small durations is very helpful for the way we carry on with life. But Yogis recognize other capabilities or dharma of the mind. They are ekāgra (one pointedness) and nirodha (complete cessation) as other distinct capabilities or dharma of the mind. They paid attention to these capabilities of the mind for without them the important understanding of such subtle principles or tatwas as one's own self will not be possible".
from Ramaswami's April 2013 Newsletter, below


April 2013 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami— PARINAMA

Since I started sending out these newsletters more than 50 months back, David Hurwitz has been kindly donating his time, editing and giving me valuable suggestions. From now on you may have to put up with my unedited newsletters. He has been a source of great inspiration and has been giving quiet but solid support ever since I came to USA and started teaching Yoga. Thank you David for all the help and welcome support.

*************
I. Registration for my 200 Hr Yoga Alliance registered 200 hour 5 week (July Aug 2013) Vinyasakrama Yoga Teacher Training Program at Loyola Marymount University begins on April 3, 2013. Here is the link
http://academics.lmu.edu/extension/programs/vinyasa/teachers/

II. 45 hr program at Ricky Tran's Krama Yoga near Dallas Texas starts on April 13, 2013. Here is the link
http://academics.lmu.edu/extension/programs/vinyasa/teachers/
III. I am scheduled to teach four courses at Steve Brandon's Harmony Yoga in Wells, UK. From May 3,
2013.
http://www.harmonyyoga.co.uk/srivatsa-ramaswami-2013-uk-workshop-details/ 
IV After a long time I am scheduled to teach in San Fransisco area, at Yoga Sausalito. In later part of May
Here is the link
http://yogaofsausalito.com/?page_id=821
In September, I will be going to Chicago to teach at my friend Suddha Weixler's Chicago Yoga Center
http://www.yogamind.com/index.shtml#schedu
*******************
Pariṇāma
When I was in School, in the very early 50s, there was intense debate about language studies for school students. India had become independent prior to which one's mother tongue and English the language of the British who were ruling India until 1947 were required to be studied in school. When I started school, the educators stopped teaching English during elementary school but were uncertain about whether and when to introduce English in the middle school stage. So the introduction of English got delayed by a couple of years and I think we started to learn the alphabets (in school that is) when I was in 7th or 8th standard or II or III form. But we had to study several languages. My mother tongue, a tough language said to be a very old Dravidian language was one . Many reputed Tamil scholars claim that it is older than Sanskrit itself. I was studying in Ramakrishna Mission School which encouraged as many students as possible to learn Sanskrit. I was studying vedic chanting at home and my parents urged me to study Sanskrit. Then English was introduced. Since Hindi was the official language after independence, the syllabus included Hindi as a compulsory language. Suddenly we were required to study four languages instead of one. Later on the Educators saw the folly of burdening the young minds with four languages each having its own script, grammar and tradition—Europeon, vedic, dravidian and then national. It was later reduced to three languages. Mother tongue, English and either Hindi or Sanskrit.

Each of the languages I studied was classic, Sanskrit, English and Tamil. I used to be attracted by the various wonderful quotes and proverbs from these languages which would help one as 'mnemonics'(?) like in different life situations. Works like Tirukkural, short half stanzas were fascinating in Tamil. Then in sanskrit were Subhāṣitas, or 'great or benevolent sayings”. And of course English contains very many wonderful thoughtful quotes.

I remember this one very well. “ Since it's nature's law to change, constancy alone is strange”. Is there anything in the universe that does not undergo change? Everything seems to be in a flux, some change slowly and some others quickly.

The Yogis have analyzed change rather extensively and classified them. One change that we are all very familiar with is the change that takes place all through our lives. From the invisible state of embryo to palpable foetus, then an infant, a child , a teenager, an adult, middle aged, old and sick and then-- no more-- one goes through a lot of changes, unstoppable changes. These changes take place due to efflux of time. These changes also manifest in the dharmi or the one that undergoes changes. Upto the stage of the adult there are many changes of growth and then other changes take place like thinning or graying of the hair, loss of energy etc changes of decay. Because these changes are palpable, they are called lakṣaṇa changes or lakṣaṇa pariṇāma. These time based changes take place all over the universe. The yogis use the word pariṇāma to indicate change or better, transformation because these changes are usually irreversible. Pariṇāma is ṇāma with the prefix pari usually meaning surrounding or inclusive similar to the English prefix 'peri' meaning all around. (Incidentally in many Indian languages 'pari' also means an angel and I understand that 'peri' also means an angel). ṇāma is to bend or change and so pariṇāma would indicate comprehensive change or transformation. These changes can take place in any object or parts of the object like the bhutas and the indriyas that constitute the individual. I had perfect 20/20 vision when I was young and I know it is not 20/20 any more, I may be heading for a cataract operation.

There are other types of changes or pariṇāma that can take place in one's life. These pariṇāmas are primarily influenced by circumstances and the changes take different courses or krama. Different pariṇāmas take place due to differences in the courses taken. Take the case of identical twin siblings. Depending upon the circumstances one may end up as a college professor and another a rock artist. Both have changed but the differences in the changes are due to differences in the courses or krama each one has taken. Or for instance take the case of a pumpkin seed. The seed may be planted which may sprout and become a pumpkin plant or vine (?), produce pumpkin flowers and after a while wither away. Or the pumpkin seed may be taken by a food processor, dried, processed into edible pumpkin seed as a health food and sell it at a huge profit as 'organic' food. Now the seed has followed an entirely different route or krama and the changes it undergoes are very different from what it would have been. Looking at change in this manner we term the pariṇāma as avasthā pariṇāma.

In Yoga, change or pariṇāma is looked upon from yet another important perspective. They may be termed as pariṇāma of inherence or dharma pariṇāma. Take our own minds or citta. The citta has different capabilities. Every one's mind starts with a certain saṁskāras or tendencies which start manifesting at a young age. A three year child may be docile or very aggressive. The aggressive child may throw tantrums and soon enough may develop into an angry young man or woman. If nothing is done to change this behavior, even as lakṣaṇa pariṇāma or change due to time will make the person old, the saṁskāras will remain the same or even firm up and such a person will become an angry old man or angry old woman. While changes take place at the physical level at the mental level the same saṁskāra may prevail. Of course there my be time related changes of the mind also like forgetfulness. depression and others.

The mind or citta has different characteristics. Calmness, agitation, depression are all different characteristics of the same mind but may manifest at different times and under different circumstances. For the sake of clarity yogis have identified five different dominant inherent characteristics or dharma and put them in five different levels from yogic point of view. kṣipta is one of the five dominant characteristics. A kṣipta mind is one which is broken, it is difficult or impossible to mend it. It comes from the root kṣip to discard. Usually kṣipta citta is not fit for yoga as yoga requires a mind which can understand simple instructions. My Guru when once asked when we could start teaching children, promptly said, “When the child tells the mother that he/she is hungry and wants food”. The second ground on which another group of people may stand is known as mūḍha. Mūḍha means to be covered, mind which is not amenable to any suggestions or teaching-- people who are completely swayed by the outside world and the various stimulations it offers. They reject outright any suggestion of inner self and other yogic principles. The third inherent dharma of the citta is what is known as vikṣipta. It is actually the first term kṣipta with a prefix 'vi' . This state of citta indicates that the person is distracted , but is amenable for counseling, yogic counseling. Unlike the mūḍha group the vikṣipta group even as they are attracted to and frequently distracted by the sensual charms of the outside world, also seek to find inner satisfaction and peace. Art, poetry,empathy and other subtle human factors appeal to them.

Most of us remain in a state of vikṣipta (distracted) almost all the time all through our lives. It is a state of succession of 'short-time-focus' activities or vrittis of the mind. From the moment when we wake up , from brushing the teeth, talking briefly to the spouse about the breakfast, preparing to go to work, watching the TV to find out about the weather and a brief look at the cat-and-mouse game of the Executive vs Representatives and the interacting with others in workplace, doing jobs in small bites, bits and pieces and so on until we go to sleep, they are all short focus varied activities. This aspect of the brain, its ability to attend to tasks of small durations is very helpful for the way we carry on with life. But Yogis recognize other capabilities or dharma of the mind. They are ekāgra (one pointedness) and nirodha (complete cessation) as other distinct capabilities or dharma of the mind. They paid attention to these capabilities of the mind for without them the important understanding of such subtle principles or tatwas as one's own self will not be possible.

So, the next dharma that the yogis recognize is the dharma or the intrinsic capability of the citta to remain focused for a considerable length of time called ekāgratā. This is an inherent dharma of the citta but remains dormant in most people. We all recognize this aspect of the citta, for, once in a while the mind is able to remain focused in most of the vikṣipta citta people, but it is rare and one is not able to bring it about at one's will.

The next dharma is the ability of complete cessation of any thoughts or vrittis that the YS talks about. Is it an utopian state of the mind? No, says vyāsa in his commentary. Every citta is capable of 'nirodha' .But why is it we never find anyone with nirodha capability and very rarely with the ekāgratā or one pointedness? Because every one operates within the groove due to samskāras or habits. If I operate with my citta in a state of vikṣipta or distraction, it will continue to operate in the same groove, it can not or will not be able to reach a state of ekāgratā or one pointedness even though the citta has the dharma or inherent capability. The only pariṇāma or transformation that all minds can experience are the changes mentioned earlier viz., the lakṣaṇa pariṇāma or avastha pariṇāma. Yogic application is needed to get the dharma pariṇāma.

When a citta can operate or remain habitually in/with the ekagrata or nirodha mode, then such states are considered to be yogic states. Of the five bhumis or grounds, kṣipta (broken), mudha (blinded or infatuated), vikṣipta (distracted), ekāgra (one point focused) and nirodha (completely stopped or in equilibrium) , the last two are considered to be yogic states and persons in the third ground viksipta ground are those who by adopting the appropriate yoga practices can bring about the transformation of the vikṣipta mind into or elevate it to the yogic levels or ekāgra and then on to nirodha. We may safely say that all of us are in that state of viksipta. Anyone for that matter who shows interest in Yoga is in that vikṣipta state.

The dharma transformations or pariṇāmas themselves are brought about by intense observance of the internal yogic practices. The yogābhyāsi after doing all the preliminary yogāngas as yama. niyama, āsana, prānāyāma, pratyāhāra, the external practices, prepares oneself for the internal practice so intense that in course of time there is a complete transformation in the quality of citta. The first transformation or pariṇāma or dharma pariṇāma is the change into complete habitual one pointedness called ekagra or ekāgrata citta. In this transformation the mind which was habitually distracted (vikṣipta) transforms itself into a citta that habitually remains concentrated. This transformation takes only with the appropriate yoga practice and can not come about without it. The angas of dharana and dhyāna done correctly for a sufficiently long time transforms the citta from being distracted to one that is able to concentrate at will, at the drop of a hat. This is the first yogic pariṇāma, the ekāgratā pariṇāma. When the mind instead of jumping from object to object in the vikṣipta state, is able to remain with the chosen object and if this could happen as a matter of habit--effortlessly-- such pariṇāma is called ekāgratā pariṇāma. In it, the citta can remain with the chosen object moment after moment after moment without any break whatsoever. If this becomes a matter of habit or if the mind is full of ekagrata samskaras then such a transformation of the mind is known as ekāgratā pariṇāma.

In ekāgratā pariṇāma the object is one but the mind is also aware of the meditator the dhyāta. Patanjali says if the concentration becomes more intense the Yogi is able to remain with the object, dhyeya even forgetting oneself, the dhyātā in the process, then that state is called samādhi. If one is able to get into this mode habitually then the citta is said to have transformed itself further to the next mode and this is known as samādhi pariṇāma. In this the citta remains with one object right from the beginning completely oblivious to other thoughts. Finally after completely realizing the self, ātma or puruṣa in one's own mind's eye, the yogi's mind settles down experiencing a complete irrevocable satisfaction. It does not entertain any further desires (like the various siddhis) or vrittis and moment after moment if it remains in that state of nirodha slowly another transformation starts taking place. After remaining in nirodha state for sufficiently long time the citta completely rewires itself, all the cells mutate and the whole mind is full of nirodha saṁskāras. Such a transformation is the final yogic transformation called nirodha pariṇāma.

According to vyāsa these are the five dharmas or the characteristics of the citta. Appropriate actions produce the corresponding results. It is completely in the hands of individuals to essay these yogic transformations or pariṇāmas. After all the citta or mind is nothing but residual saṁskāras. ( saṁskāra śeṣaṁ hi cittam) If I practice yogic activities it will produce the yogic saṁskāras. Then the citta slowly transforms to a yogic mind, the yougika citta, the nirodha citta. By Yoga practice, the citta develops yoga saṁskāras and with a mind full of such saṁskāras one transforms oneself into a complete yogi. After all, man/woman is a creature of habits (saṁskāras), so is a Yogi/Yogini full of nirodha saṁskāras.
Sincerely
Srivatsa Ramaswami
--
www.vinyasakrama.com
http://www.youtube.com/user/srivatsaramaswami?feature=mhee
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A Reminder

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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