Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Surrender
















My response to a comment in the previous post

I just have issues with 'surrender' and find Ishvara pranidhana problematic for me personally, how we interpret it, translate it, how it travels from one world view to another, it's use in Indian philosophy and religion but then being transposed to the west with it's Judeo-Christian tradition.
Find it irritating because it gets used so freely, often carelessly ( seems to have got mixed up with the whole woo woo new age thing, swished around a bit and thrown out the other side), yet perhaps no other concept in yoga should be approached with more reflection.

I would rather use other words where possible, unless surrender is definitely the word we want and are using it mindfully.

I just cringe internally whenever I hear it.

So I wouldn't use 'surrender into a pose', relax  ...release perhaps, anything anything but : )

I take your point though. That's just the practice though, no? As we become more comfortable in a posture we're able to release into it more, some postures take longer than others. Took a couple of years before leg behind head postures became as comfortable as they are now allowing me to stretch out through them.

As I said in an earlier, I see asana, as an adventure, a confrontation, an exchange, an encounter.... but not a surrender

Surrender of what exactly?
------------------------------------------------------------------------
UPDATE

I should add something here perhaps.

I'm not intending to be flippant, difficult, provocative, I genuinely struggle with this.

Coming from a Philosophy background I find concepts  like ego, mind, consciousness, self , highly problematic and hesitate to use them, I find it awkward when I come up against them in general usage, in comments say.

For twenty years I've been struggling with the subject/object distinction. I cheer with my boy Heidegger when he demolishes Descartes dualism and yet live in an experientially dualistic world. Accepting something intellectually is one thing escaping from what feels so intuitive and unavoidable in everyday life, quite another matter.

Yoga is, for me, is an attempt to overcome the subject(ive) in an existential sense. To break out of, dissolve, escape, the experience of self or at least work at the chitta vritti nirodhah such that I can bring a less fluctuating mind more clearly to bare on the problem

... or come to the conclusion that I've been completely wrong.

The path is the same, it's a win win situation.

Of course I like bouncing around on rubber mats too.

UPDATE
It seems, going by the comments, I haven't explained my point well. Iyengar sums it up in the commentary to 1.32


from Iyengar's commentary on 1:32 p80 Light on yoga

'1.32 yaypratisedhartham ekatattva abhyasah

Adherence to single minded effort prevents these impediments

To remove the thirteen impediments and prevent their recurrence, several specific methods have been described.
Though most people have concluded that ekatattva is devotion and surrender to God, it is beyond the average person's comprehension that surrender to god is the cure for all maladies. If surrender to god were possible for everyone, and could itself eradicate all impediments, patanjali need not have elaborated on all the other means of reaching the divine state. Only a few outstanding personalities like Ramana Maharsi, Sri Rama-krishna paramahamsa, mahatma Gandhi, jada Bharata and the great acaryas of the past could surrender wholeheartedly to God, as they were angels in human form, highly evolved should whose subliminal impressions from previous lives enabled them to assume their final human form in order to clear up the residues.
Total surrender to God is beyond the capabilities of most ordinary men and women, who are caught up in pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, success and failure. Meditation undoubtably helps to minimise the mental agitations of such persons to conquer all the obstacles to Self-Realization, all the eight stages of Yoga must be followed.
only when the body, mind and intelligence are fully purified is it possible to surrender totally to God, without expecting any return. This is the surrender of the highest order, beyond the capacity of the average individual.'

Me, I'm just an average guy, not an angel, so for now, I'll just worry about the practice and see where that takes me.

39 comments:

  1. Just throwing this out there because it's a concept i struggle with.

    ReplyDelete
  2. ditto, I've come to take it as a release of control of what cannot be controlled.....earthquakes for example. I got really angry at an earthquake one day, ridiculous, but I was fuming, enough already!! Tried to let go, surrender perhpas, nothing much you can do really surrender, or acceptance.....it's one I too am struggling to define and internalise.

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  3. Maybe the pose term should be a surrender to gravity.

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  4. Yes it lends itself to many interpretations, perhaps dellusion in some cases so I can relat to the aprehension. To me it means I've got a new life, in the same way you surrender, sorry, commit maybe, to being married so are you to a practice, you put the effort, you stay with it moment by moment but there is no result to get attached to cause it's a life time process....

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  5. Well, I think it fits.

    Surrender: give up the struggle (straight out of the thesaurus).

    Words can cause odd reactions sometimes though, so I guess I know what you mean. For some reason, I don't like it when the finishing sequence is referred to as 'closing'.

    Never mind though. Let's call on advice from friends and teachers;
    - "Don't over-analyse"
    - "Don't talk, do your practice"
    - "Abhyasa visa ham vidya" (Knowledge without practice is toxic)
    -

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  6. Surrender of the ego, that's what.

    Although most people don't think of it that way.

    The idea behind it is that the ego is what separates the individual from the universal consciousness.

    Dharma explains it as "giving up the fruits of your actions" to the Supreme Self (the spark of the divine that resides in the heart, as described in the Upanishads). He mentions this at the beginning of every practice.

    Surrendering into a pose is something else, I think.

    Many of the people who use "surrender" are often the same ones who use the word "delicious" when describing the pose." Oy.


    As for living with a given situation, I prefer the word "consent."

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've added an update to the original post by way of explanation.

    Very interesting that you say release rather than relinquish エスタ, it's quite positive, relinquish to give up but release to let, go , free, how curious.

    Like that too Claudia, surrendering attachment to results because it's a lifetime process. It's a nice analogy too.

    Problematic though Steve, yes it fits in the literal sense, to give up a determined effort against resistance but I come from aikido so see an asana as finding an opening, employing the different directions of force, redirecting. it's a struggle till you find that... gap ( don't want to use opening here) and a struggle until your successful in employing the different forces but a necessary one until you find the breakthrough no?

    We're all doing our practice here too and scriptural study IS encouraged in the sutras

    ReplyDelete
  8. have added an update CK, have problems with the concept of ego Despite loving reading the great Jewish poet, not sure I buy any of it.


    Coming from a different usage of Yoga too, going with the root yuja, ( samadhana -to put in place perfectly) so a harnessing of mental energies rather than the 'union' sense a freeing ( kaivalya) of the purusha rather than a joining.

    It was Ramaswami's reading of this in 'Yoga for the three stages of life' that finally convinced me to go and study with him.

    Should probably ask him about Surrender.

    ReplyDelete
  9. thought you were going all freudian on me Ck, psyche and all that.

    so
    Surrender of the mind...

    You see how I have problems with this though.

    do you mean it in the sense of the surrendering of the minds activities. Wouldn't have thought of using surrender there in place of cessation エスタ Esther's surrendering as releasing would be interesting

    releasing of the minds activities

    bit zen no, not stopping them forcefully but not holding on to them, just letting them go on by

    ReplyDelete
  10. did you read Eckhart Tolle's books? he talks about surrendering the ego a lot. It's a constant struggle for me.

    Like Esther, I was ridiculously angry with my second child this morning. He was flippant with his things in Hong Kong and carried on here. Misplaced my hair brush since yesterday and didn't bother looking for it. I blew my top.

    Then stopped myself and told myself that I have to release this expectation of him.

    Wow. it's hard work!

    I think it's just the word "surrender". It's like in the movie Finding Nemo: Marlin surrenders, lets go, releases his fear (whatever you want to call it), drops with Dory in the whale's stomach and got blown up in the air, landed in the Sydney harbour to find his son.

    Sometimes, we just have to let go... and let be.

    ReplyDelete
  11. (Quote): "it's a struggle till you find that gap ........... but a necessary one until you find the breakthrough"

    My point is that I don't believe it needs to be a struggle even before you "find the gap" (Yuk, that reminds me of the London Underground) ;o)

    I believe that the struggle is a sign of impatience, which is a negative influence, and that if you just maintain your practice without the struggle at any stage, the breath finds the gaps; as you have said earlier, sometimes in days, sometimes weeks or even years (advantage to those who receive regular adjustments though). Plus, the longer it takes, the more you adopt patience as a quality of your persona.

    I believe V raises fair points regarding pranayama. At the time that Guruji's guided pranayama fell from the public eye, the shala numbers were really ramping up. It would've been impractical to provide a guided pranayama as it really needs to be staged to small groups. That's always been my best guess.

    It's also a known fact though, that the advanced pranayamas can be dangerous (those which incorporate fast breathing and long retentions). Advanced Asana students are probably less likely to go jumping in at the deep end.

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  12. hi Corty, think I glanced at one of his book's once, heard him mentioned a lot, will have another look perhaps. More on Surrender as relase and let go plus surrender as letting be, interesting, thanks for that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Struggle was your word Steve, no? Not sure I'd it's one I'd tend to use, tend to thinkof it more as an engagement. As i said practicing at home, i don't get held at a pose so don't experience the impatience you mention, I imagine that must be difficult.

    Reading your comment though I was reminded of all those chapters in the Guruji book where people are relating how roughly or forcefully Jois would mash them into a pose, joints and tendons tearing and ripping bones breaking....that's quite a hard, direct approach and does suggest he was happy with everyone 'struggling with poses'

    NB: that of course is my own personal reading and impression of the book, readers of this comment might like to check it out for themselves to see if they getthe same impression. David Williams' letter too on gentle teaching.
    : )

    Yeah the stuff on why Jois stopped pranayama ( except for senior practitioners and teachers :) that V raises has been discussed on this blog before. Still don't buy it, think pranyama is too important to just give up on it unless you practice for five, twen years or so or reach third. Must be another way.

    ' A known fact' Really?

    The dangers of pranayama.... well if you will try and hold your breath for five minutes, or cause yourself to hyperventilate...but then kids try that all the time. you only have to say be careful.

    There's a line about tigers and elephants in the HYP ( that I came across in one of the much older yoga upanishads that i think was taken too literally).

    I mentioned the Swenson/ Freeman interview doing the rounds where they talk about the reasons for caution with pranayama.

    I think Swenson did an intro to pranayama in his recent workshop.

    thanks as ever for your comments Steve. in the library , appologies if my response is a bit rushed.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yeah, David Swenson does teach an introduction to pranayama these days as does Nancy, Richard and a few others, but they all keep it very basic. In fact, when I mentioned the dangers, I was quoting an email that I got from David Swenson a couple of months ago. He was here in Thailand & I thought I was going to be able to make it into Bkk. We got into a bit of email banter and he gave me a bit of adhoc advice on a couple of things. He's a jolly nice chap!

    Just for you Tony, I'll try to stop saying 'S' word (st****le), 'cause this thread is starting to read more like a court case. (Plus my guitar is beckoning ...) ;o)

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  15. you do seem obsessed with asana. Surrender the fruits of one's actions. ie stop focussing so much on the external form, collecting asanas as if they were ££.

    ReplyDelete
  16. hi Chris
    'you do seem obsessed with asana. '

    I explore this very point in the very next post but did you see the update at the bottom about why I'm interested in yoga, got nothing to do with asana, that comes under '
    'Of course I like bouncing around on rubber mats too'.

    Asana, you go through phases, no? I spent a four weeks on just Primary a couple of months ago but then you have a little breakthrough in something and a couple of tricky asana come along all at once, like the proverbial buses.

    Vinyasa krama has a different approach to asana, Ramaswami recommends we try and cover a wide range of asana and access all areas of the book to improve circulation. he suggested his teacher trainee's try and cover all the sequences in his book 'The complete book of Vinyasa Krama' over a week if possible.

    Just a different approach to just one limb

    BTW I have a post coming on this with some pictures of routines laid out by a friend of mine from the VK TT course who is doing just that.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I should spend more time with my guitar too Steve and less time on linguistics ( old habits die hard ). Can't resist saying though that I like 'work', working with, working through, a posture. In my current field (repairs) we'll refer to a tool we might be making as 'the work", the tool as it comes together rather than what we're doing to it a, so a noun and a verb, like how that feels in relation to a posture. Must do a post on that.... sorry to interrupt your strumming, don't mind me.

    ReplyDelete
  18. the only thing is, you're applying your vinyasa krama approach to asana to ashtanga. 4 years practicing and you're struggling away at third and fourth series. Man, that's way too much. Read Alex Medin's experience with third and fourth:

    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/07/talking-with-alex-medin--deborah-crooks/

    "They took me way too quickly through the series’, which triggered all my desire and ambition and fuelled all the other imbalances that I had. "

    When you talk about being able to do all these postures and what will you do when you've mastered them all, well, from my point of view, that's crazy talk. PRIMARY is a lifetimes practice. You hoard asana. It's not healthy.

    ReplyDelete
  19. hardly surprising that you have trouble with Isvara pranidhana. It seems blatantly obvious to me that you need an experienced ashtanga teacher.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I prefer to put it that I'm exploring asana in the context of both vinyasa karma and ashtanga, early and late Krishanamacharya, sometimes it's more fruitful than others but always interesting.

    I agree about it being a lifetime practice, sometime or other I'll settle down to a much softer practice, probably a light vinyasa karma practice but for now I'm able to do a more challenging practice and choose to do so.

    I don't happen to think third is that much more challenging than second series for a guy, a knackering ten minutes perhaps through the later part of the arm balances but that's just a case of building up a little more upper body strength and fitness. Fourth is easier than third in that sense.

    You seem to be giving asana more import than I am Chris, I enjoy it, like the focus of the more challenging postures but at the moment tend feel it's the least important limb.

    Intellectually I'd rather practice Vinyasa karma but unfortunately my temperament seems to lean towards ashtanga, at least for my morning practice. How's that for surrender.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for the link to the Ainterview with Alex, lok forward to reading that, big fan of his blog.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Nice interview Chris, sure guruji would have bumped me back to primary kept me there and that would have been fine. But that's a different narrative, he's not in my practice room so I'll stick with the inner guru.

    Thanks for the concern though

    ReplyDelete
  23. " I’d been taught crazy things in Crete, London and Ibiza. They took me way too quickly through the series’, which triggered all my desire and ambition and fuelled all the other imbalances that I had. "

    ring any bells? It's not a narrative. How about this, your "inner guru" is actually your ego. Ashtanga is transmitted through guruparampara for a reason.

    ReplyDelete
  24. you want a real challenge? try surrender.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Yeah I read that Chris, looks like they took him from Primary up to 3rd in a little over a year which is fast but then he was a young lad and a dancer.

    We seem to have a very different perspective on what yoga is and isn't and how it should and shouldn't be practiced.

    thanks for bothering to make your point so strongly, sorry we disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  26. hahaha! Isvara pranidhana is there in every spiritual tradition.
    "The word islam is a verbal noun originating from the triliteral root s-l-m, and is derived from the Arabic verb ’áslama, which means "to give up, to desert, to surrender (to God)".
    I don't feel that this is a disagreement as such. More a choice as to whether one practices yoga as a spiritual discipline or not.
    Asana as aparigraha?

    ReplyDelete
  27. God Chris i have even more problems with the word Spiritual than Surrender. I have no idea what that means. you seem to have missed all my pranayama, meditation, Indian philosophy and literature posts and there's me thinking i'd over done them recently. I have no idea if what I do is a spiritual practice, 'spiritual' carries too much baggage ( like surrender) so I prefer to ignore it. I don't use the 'union with god/purusha/consciousness' translation of yoga, for me it ( I hope ) leads to the elimination or a least reduction of distractions and thus kaivalya, freedom, this is Ramaswami's yoga coming from the yuja root and I find it more appealing or at least enough to be going on with.

    ReplyDelete
  28. must say I get inspired to practice the OTHER limbs of yoga by reading you Grimmly, asana yes, that too, but also pratyahara, pranayama, meditation... Hey I even met Ramaswami cause I read about him on your blog!... can clearly see the focus is pretty balanced here. Love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  29. freedom of what? The soul. Dictionary definition of "spiritual" .

    adjective
    1 of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

    funny wee form of avoidance you got going on there.
    So Ramaswami is your teacher or your guru?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thank you Claudia, sweet of you to mention that.

    Chris, ideas of surrender, soul, higher consciousness, universal consciousness, spirit, spiritual.... they don't interest me except academically, in the abstract perhaps. That's fine with Patanjali why not with you?

    I leave all that under erasure and just do my practice, work on my Pranayama and meditation. My use of kaivalya here is pretty limited, freedom from distraction, the minds fluctuations. That seems to me to be enough to be going on with.

    Perhaps, if I were ever to attain some degree of that I might come to experience an awareness of something ...other, some kind of 'spiritual' experience, if I do so be it. It doesn't matter to me now. I'm not seeking truth or enlightenment not hankering after god, spirit or purusha just bouncing up and down on rubber mats and working on my breath in the hope of a stilling the mind. Once the mind is still you can take it from there.

    I don't see that as avoidance but it seems like we disagree on this.

    I consider Ramaswami my yoga teacher but I like what David Swenson said in the Guruji book
    ' The ultimate guru is the practice itself'

    Not sure where it's taking me ( the practice) but I don't like to pre guess it or try and force it in any one direction, just enjoying the ride.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Anthony, where does Patanjali say "hey guys, it's fine to just embrace Isvara Pranidhana intellectually" Don't bother with actually bringing it into your life and daily practice"?

    I like Ramaswami, he is very concise. However, that doesn't make me want to go and practice 4th series willy-nilly.

    ReplyDelete
  32. "ideas" of surrender only interest you in the intellectual sense? Ideas can only be interesting intellectually. Surrender is not an idea. Pat is very explicit about this. The object of one's surrender is not important. The surrender is.

    ReplyDelete
  33. The first chapter of the sutra's, for the highest yogi appears to be claiming devotion, bhakti yoga I guess, as the fast track to samhadi. For the rest of us lesser mortals however we get chapter 2, the eight limbs, to put us in the right satvic frame of mind.
    Bhakti might be fine for some, raja yoga for others, hatha or kriya yoga or a mixture of all of them. For me patanjali is saying whatever your temperament there's a way to work towards that citta vritti nirodhah. Kind of loosely based on Ramaswami's yoga sutra course.

    btw Ramaswami probably wouldn't think my doing 4th series is necessarily the best approach to practice but then i have my Vinyasa Krama practice in the evenings.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sorry Chris that response was to one of the comments you deleted but I guess it still applies.

    As I said before, sorry we disagree on so much and that my approach to my practice seems to bother you. Got stuff to do now, can't hammer away at this all night and neither of us are likely to change our positions on this, nor would I seek to change yours which I respect but just don't happen to hold.
    have a good practice is good in the morning.

    ReplyDelete
  35. my understanding is that the surrender is not dependent on bhakti, raja or whatever path but that it's an integral part of them all. "surrender the fruits of one's actions". I'm not upset by your perception of yoga, Anthony, just concerned that you're not grasping certain key elements. Bai for now.

    ReplyDelete
  36. "Through surrender the aspirant's ego is effaced, and . . . grace . . . pours down upon him like a torrential rain." Like the descent through layers of tension to rest in the release of Savasana (Corpse Pose), Ishvara pranidhana provides a pathway through the obstacles of our ego toward our divine nature—grace, peace, unconditional love, clarity, and freedom.

    (B. K. S. Iyengar; Light on the Yoga Sutras)

    ReplyDelete
  37. Glad you mentioned iyengar Steve. In the commentary to 1.32 below he sums up exactly what I've been trying to say in this post and the comments. I'm just an average individual, not one of the highest yogi's that chapter one is referring too. For me there's chapter two, practice.

    from Iyengar's commentary on 1:32 p80 Light on yoga

    1.32 yaypratisedhartham ekatattva abhyasah

    Adherence to single minded effort prevents these impediments

    To remove the thirteen impediments and prevent their recurrence, several specific methods have been described.
    Though most people have concluded that ekatattva is devotion and surrender to God, it is beyond the average person's comprehension that surrender to god is the cure for all maladies. If surrender to god were possible for everyone, and could itself eradicate all impediments, patanjali need not have elaborated on all the other means of reaching the divine state. Only a few outstanding personalities like Ramana Maharsi, Sri Rama-krishna paramahamsa, mahatma Gandhi, jada Bharata and the great acaryas of the past could surrender wholeheartedly to God, as they were angels in human form, highly evolved should whose subliminal impressions from previous lives enabled them to assume their final human form in order to clear up the residues.
    Total surrender to God is beyond the capabilities of most ordinary men and women, who are caught up in pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, success and failure. Meditation undoubtably helps to minimise the mental agitations of such persons to conquer all the obstacles to Self-Realization, all the eight stages of Yoga must be followed.
    only when the body, mind and intelligence are fully purified is it possible to surrender totally to God, without expecting any return. This is the surrender of the highest order, beyond the capacity of the average individual.

    ReplyDelete
  38. intricate avoidance, How about surrender as a continuum rather than an absolute.

    ReplyDelete

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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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