Friday, 1 February 2013

Ramaswami on Physical and Mental Space . Ākāśa - February 2013 Newsletter from Srīvatsa Rāmasvāmī

See also Ramaswami's free download from Namarupa magazing on Mudra

Hello Friends: 
This is the fiftieth month since I started sending these monthly 
letters containing articles that may be of interest to yoga 
practitioners. Almost everyone who gets this by e mail, has come to my 
programs and so I assume that one is generally familiar with what I 
write. I hope some of you may have found some portions of some of my 
articles useful. You may also have enjoyed my unique Indglish. Thank 
you very much for your interest and support especially David Hurwitz 
(Yogi Dave) and Ross Smith. 
My friends Robert Moses and Eddie Stern, Editors of Namarupa magazine 
have included my last month article as a download in their website/ 
latest issue, nicely formatted with a mudra picture too. Namarupa 
earlier published some of my articles in their earlier issus, as “My 
Studis with Sri Krishnamacharya”, “Sandhyavandana”, “Thirumular”.. 
Here is the link to the magazine 
http://www.namarupa.org/volumes/1604.php 
            ******* 
1.  92 persons have completed my 200 Hr Vinyasakrama Teacher Training 
Program I have been conducting at Loyola Marymount University, Los 
Angeles, over the last few years and some are teaching Vinyasakrama 
Yoga. When I started the program,I had hoped to be able to have 108 
people complete the program. I hope with my next program at LMU 
starting on July 8, 2013, and running for 5 weeks this could be 
reached. If interested please write to my friend and Yoga Coordinator 
at LMU, Amparo Denney at Ampar...@verizon.net 
Here is the link 
http://academics.lmu.edu/extension/programs/vinyasa/teachers/ 

2.  Thanks to Stephen Buehl and Ashley Brunner I will be teaching for 
over ten days (May 17 to 27) at Yoga of Sausalito in San Fransisco. 
Here is the link for the details and registration 
http://yogaofsausalito.com/?page_id=821 

3. I will be teaching again at Steve Brandon's Harmony Yoga, UK, 
between May 3rd and 13th 2013. Here is the link 
http://www.harmonyyoga.co.uk/srivatsa-ramaswami-2013-uk-workshop-details/ 
4. Thanks to my friend Ricky Tran, for about ten days. I will again be 
teaching in Dallas Texas in April 2013 Here is the link 
http://www.kramayogacenter.com/45-hour-vinyasa-krama-teacher-training.html 
5. I will be teaching at Suddha Weixler's Chicago Yoga Center in 
September. I may also go to Mexico City in September. 
                  ********* 
Ākāśa 

One of the facilities we take for granted is space or what is known in 
Sanskrit as Ākāśa. It is said to have emanated first from Brahman/ 
Ātman according to the  the taittirīya upaniṣad--”ātmanaḥ 
ākāśassambhūtaḥ”. As per Sāṁkhyas, ākāśa emanated as a gross principle 
from the śabda tanmātra. At the time of the Big Bang the singularity 
started expanding like a balloon creating its own space, it is said. 
We know the importance of space when flying budget economy class. My 
neighbor, a burly young man keeps his massive arm on the slender 
common armrest and I travel with no elbow room. Then the person in 
front reclines fully giving me less room to move my body and with my 
computer on the floor I have very little leg room. I have difficulty 
placing my oversized hand luggage in the overhead cabin. One realizes 
the value of space. 

The word Ākāśa means space. It is derived from the root kāś, say, to 
manifest, and the prefix 'Ā' would indicate 'up to' the end (ā 
samantāt). So ākāśa would mean that which manifests up to the end or 
end of the Universe. śrī Krṣṇamacārya said “ākāśate  avakāśate iti 
ākāśah”,  avakāśa  is explained below.  He used the term avakāśa which 
usually means time but here it is used as meaning a facilitator. So 
ākāśa is that which extends up to the end of the universe but also 
facilitates the existence of various objects in the universe, in fact 
the whole universe. It is so vast that the distance between a distant 
star and a rock star on earth measures in countless number of light 
years, as per scientists and we accept it without batting an eyelid. 
There is another word based on 'kāś' which is “prakāśa” which many 
yogis are familiar with. Prakāśa is illumination and is associated 
with the quality of satwa. So there are three beautiful words derived 
from 'kāś' space, time and light (ākāśa,avakāśa and prakāśa). 

The vast expanse of space around and the small space I occupy make up 
what is called ākāśa or more specifically as bhūtākāśa or physical 
space. In the physical world there are five bhūtas(elements) led by 
the all pervading ākāśa. Most of the Indian darśanas recognize five 
elements or bhūtās and all objects are made out of these including the 
bodies of the various beings. According to Samkhyas, the bhūtākāśa is 
evolved from purest form of sound or “śabda tanmātra”.   Tanmātra 
literally means that alone (tat+mātra). The other tanmātras produce 
the other elements. The 'rupa tanmātra' or the light particle(?) 
produces the element or bhūta called agni or fire. The rasa tanmātra 
pertaining to taste produces water or 'ap' element'. The 'sparśa 
tanmātra' pertaining to touch is responsible for the evolution of air 
principle, and the prithvi element is said to have evolved out of 
'gandha tanmātra' or smell tatwa. The universe according to this 
simple model is made up of the five elements and the process by which 
various things are produced is called pancīkaraṇa or action of the 
five. Our objective world thus has objects made in this manner— 
trillions upon trillions of tons of matter and trillions upon 
trillions of BTUs of energy. Some speculate that except ākāśa, the 
others actually represent the physical forms of nature, like vayu, the 
gaseous stage, ap or water the liquid state, prithvī the solid state 
and then rūpa producing agni or fire the energy aspect of the 
universe. The vaiśeṣikas aver that the universe is made out of four 
different kinds of paramānus or absolute particles or atoms of earth, 
water, fire and air. 

Objects alone cannot make up the world, there are subjects to 
experience these objects and these subjects must among other things 
have indriyas or senses and life and must also have unwavering 
awareness or consciousness to experience the objects. So the subtle 
body made up of the 11 indriyas, the intellect and ego forms the 
template for the subject. The subtle body carries the un-worked out, 
residual bundle of karmas and the vāsanās to act as a member of a 
particular species. This subtle body(suksma śarira) transmigrates and 
starts a new life first by acquiring a body made up of inputs from the 
parents called mātru-pitrujā śarira or parental or genetic body. This 
body once formed slowly develops a more visible and viable bhūta 
śarira or bhautika śarira or physical body with the help of and by 
ingesting the five bhūtās from the outside world. All these take place 
in the bhūtākasa or physical space. Now we have objects and then 
subjects to experience them. For more on these line please read the 
Sāṁkhya Kārikā. 

The most important function of all subjects and objects is that the 
subject experiences through the senses and the objects submit to 
experiences of the subjects.  It is an incessant activity going on all 
the time-- but generally we do not give any thought to how it happens. 
Yes the object is in front of me and I see it, hear it, feel it, what 
is there to analyze? If an outside object has to be known, first the 
objects or its image should be grasped by an appropriate sense and 
should be synthesized by a central agency, a CPU. The Sāṁkhya and 
Yogis call these three principles as triputi--the object as grāhya, 
the appropriate sense as grahana and the center or the mind/citta that 
finally grasps and holds it as the grahītā. But it is not sufficient 
for the grahītā to merely grasp it, it has to analyze it, add a 
personal color to it. 

Of course the object per se is not grasped. One of the early darśanas 
suggests that   when the mind is focused and the sense is directed 
towards the object the Atman or the Self momentarily goes out, grasps 
the image of the object returns and experiences it. 

But the more common explanation is on these lines. When photons of 
visible light  strike the atoms and molecules(objects) surrounding us, 
some are absorbed, and some bounce off and scatter at different angles 
and different wavelengths. Our eyes receive these bouncing photons and 
they strike molecules in our retinas. This causes chemical reactions 
which create tiny electric signals in the optic nerve. And the 
electric signals traverse to the brain, somewhere in the back of it, 
where the signals are processed by a small chip of the brain  and that 
is where we see the object, say the scientists. Similarly the sound 
waves created by the objects vibrate our eardrums which excite the 
auditory nerves whose signals then reach a section below the mid-brain 
where they are processed and we hear the sound, and so the other 
sensations. The objects remain where they are and the photons, sound 
waves, heavy smell molecules excite the senses and we experience them. 
Of course they are coordinated in the brain and we get a composite 
picture which arises moment after moment. The Sāṁkhyas will say that 
the coordinated experience in the brain is analyzed by the buddhi or 
the intellect, the ahaṁkāra adds emotional color as likes and dislikes 
to the experience and we get a total experience pleasant, unpleasant 
or indifferent. This happens moment after moment. The general wisdom 
is that at one moment when you are engaged with the outside world, 
signals go to our brain and then the brain processes them and we 
experience them momentarily. Then the next moment there is another set 
of signals bombarding the various senses and we have another 
experience and we have successive experiences like this. So when I am 
idly looking out of my rented 12th story balcony and watching the cars 
and pedestrians pass by one moment I receive signals from the outside 
world, and mind interprets them, next moment I receive another bunch 
of signals from the same outside world, and my brain interprets them, 
a succession or a krama of snapshots. And we are pretty satisfied with 
this scientific explanation. 

But then it is only part of the story. My mind will have to show the 
contents of what it has interpreted, like my TV which has received 
signals through the cable. It has to project it on the screen so that 
I can see it. If there is no projection there is no TV show. So the 
old yogis went one step further and explained the next step in the 
sequence of how we see or experience  by postulating two principles, 
one the space produced by the mind and then the projection of the 
processed signals for the subject to see, to experience. Two Yogis 
stand out in this step. One is Vaśiṣta who talks about the space of 
the citta called citta  ākāśa and the contents of it called 
cittavritti by the other beloved Yogi, Patanjali. Citta, or the brain, 
after processing the information can not, as you can see, project it 
obviously back in the physical space  or bhutākāśa , but only in this 
citta  ākāśa or mind space. Of course the same space, the cittākāśa, 
is used by the citta to project other vrittis or its activities like 
dreams (vikalpavritti), remembering, and others as listed by Patanjali 
in his Yogasūtras. So what we see is not the physical space and 
physical objects but the mental projection of the colored objects in 
mental space and this mental space is completely beyond the huge 
physical space. What we see is like watching a TV show, we do not per 
se see anything, any object, but only the converted projection. Even 
all those people who are paying hundreds of dollars to watch a 
football match carry their own TV in their heads and see the custom 
made images in the mental space a la a television show. So we may say 
that we see everything only in the mental space and do not have a 
direct experience of the physical space (bhūtākāśa) and the various 
objects in it. We observe the world, the brain interprets it and 
projects it as a vritti in the cittākāśa. Then next moment the senses 
grasp a different set of stimuli, the brain processes them and 
projects it for the subject to experience. This explanation is a bit 
more, one step more  elaborate than merely saying the brain interprets 
the signals. There is a stream of stimuli from the outside world, 
processed by the mind and projected in the mental space which we 
experience we may say. And there is more to it, there are further 
steps. 

Of all the objects in the Universe in the physical space or bhūtākāśa, 
the brain or citta is a unique thing; even though it is a physical 
object it produces its vrittis in a space or ākāśa that is not 
physical. So after processing all the information the brain projects 
the info for us to see not in the physical plane but in the citta 
space. So what we see is not in the physical plane,... sorry for the 
repetition,nay, repetitions. And that is all we see. We firmly believe 
that what we see is actually in the physical space even as it is in 
some other space which can not be located in the physical space. The 
huge universe we see in the citta ākāśa, including all the various 
objects like you and even I are seen in the citta ākāśa only even as 
we intuitively accept them as something in the physical space. So we 
do not experience any physical space or physical objects at all, 
because looking at our brain we do not see the universe it contains. 
What we experience, well, is an illusion (Maya). We do not see or 
experience the physical world and there is no way to ascertain 
(anirvacaniya) the existence of physical space (bhūtākāśa) and a 
physical universe in it. 

So we see only the citta ākāśa or mental space and not any physical 
space. Now this leads to an anomalous situation. If I experience only 
the projections of the brain, then where do I get all the signals 
from? It leads to a paradoxical state in which the mind projects what 
it receives through the senses but then we see only what it projects. 
My citta projects what I see but what I see is what my citta projects 
in the mental space in the first place and then it can not be the 
outer space at the same time.. It is untenable. That is the lacuna in 
this widespread view but it is a viparyaya. Then how do we see all the 
successive activities supposed to be taking place in the physical 
space?  The view that we get a stream of stimuli from the outside 
world and we see the outside world in the mind space is not tenable. 
Is it like the dream where the mind not only projects the signals it 
has received but also manufactures its own activities? It is not like 
a succession of snapshots but a video show. There is no logical 
explanation about how we see the objects in the outside world. Where 
are the signals coming from when what all I see is only my mental 
projection or cittavritti? 

Further if there is no  physical space that I can directly experience, 
then who is it that experiences what I experience now. If there is no 
physical space or bhūtākāśa that can be identified,, then neither my 
physical body nor my physical brain can also be identified  in the 
physical space. Patanjali in his YS, refers to an entity called puruṣa 
as the observer of 'what I feel I experience now' including me the 
physical me,. The puruṣa has the essential ingredient to know, which 
is, consciousness, unwavering consciousness. So the entity with which 
Patanjali hints I should identify as my 'Self” is the one that keeps 
observing the cittavrittis taking place in the citta ākāśa or the mind 
space. It takes in , in addition to the myriad objects in the physical 
and mental space, another entity, a subject to tango. That is 
duality(dvaita)--subject and object-- in the classical usage. We have 
seen that the physical body in the physical space and the various 
vrittis about oneself (ahamkāra and asmitā vrittis) in the cittākāśa 
or mind space do not constitute the Self because all these are objects 
either in the assumed physical space or in the mind space and are 
objects or vrittis experienced. But the essential aspect of a subject 
is unwavering awareness or consciousness called 'cit'. Cit is the 
subject 

The words citta and cit come from the same root, cit(cint) to be 
conscious of. Cit is consciousness or awareness while citta  indicates 
something that masquerades as having consciousness, my brain. My brain 
or citta is in the physical space, a physical entity and has no 
consciousness per se but appears to have consciousness. Cit has 
several synonyms like ātman, puruṣa and others. This consciousness or 
puruṣa, according to Patanjali, experiences whatever is presented by 
citta in the cittākāśa or mind space as a cittavritti and yoga is to 
make the cittākāśa a very pleasant place (sukha = agreeable space) and 
ultimately empty it(nirodha). But some philosophers like vedāntins 
the  advaitins aver that since the citta ākāśa is a product of a 
physical object called citta or the brain which is in the physical 
space and which we are able to experience only in the mental plane, it 
itself is not real.. So the citta ākāśa also has no independent legs 
to stand on. The citta ākāsa (a product of a physical entity called 
citta or brain) also is subservient to the space of the consciousness 
called cidākāśa, space of consciousness. So everything that we 
experience takes place in the space of consciousness. But it is 
however just an appearance like the objects seen in mental space. They 
give several examples to indicate that--- like the space inside a 
mirror (an appearance and not real), the space produced in the head 
during dreams, or the space and objects created by a magician or the 
worlds created by a Mahāyogi like Viśwāmitra when he created the 
illusion of a whole heaven for Triśanku. So in the cid ākāśa which 
itself is an illusion created in the cit or absolute consciousness, 
the entire universe appears to be created. 
As mentioned earlier we take 'Space'  the bhūtākāśa for granted and 
consider it to be eternal. But most theories on the Universe subscribe 
to the view that space is created, in the 'beginning' there was no 
space. According to the most popular scientific theory, initially-- 
the singularity, the origin of Universe was extremely hot and 
infinitely dense and with the big bang (not so violent  bang or big) 
it created its own space which expanded and is still expanding 
creating its own space, unbounded space. The expansion allowed it to 
cool down and create matter leaving a lot of space within matter and 
without. The Sāmkhyas with the Yogis in tandem, also believe that 
ākāśa is an evolute. The mūlaprakriti made up of the three gunas 
representing  matter, energy and order undergoes 18 minute 
mutations(buddhi,ahamkara,manas, the 10 indriyas and  5 tanmātras) 
before bhūtākāśa or physical space gets evolved. However they were 
conscious of the need to take care of the the 'subject' (as 
distinguished from the objects) or pure consciousness which they call 
is puruṣa which does not evolve out of the atomic mūlaprakriti like 
this universe. This puruṣa entangles with the subtle body and becomes 
the individual, transmigrating being. The Vedantins basing their 
philosophy on the Upanishads, aver that the origin of the universe is 
not the inert prakriti or singularity but pure unadulterated atomic 
consciousness. The duality(subject and object or citta and citta 
vritti) model of Sāmkhyas/Yogis is contested  because of the lack or 
proper explanation about how cit and citta came together. Further 
Citta is a physical entity but the cittavritti 
happens in the non physical citta ākāśa and the observing purusha in 
on none of these. While scientific view implies that inert singularity 
plasma is the source of each and everything--matter, energy, life and 
consciousness (awareness), Sāmkhya and Yoga state that prakriti is the 
source of the universe including citta or brain but consciousness is 
significant and different from prakriti and inert matter is incapable 
of producing the nonchanging consciousness. Vedanta say that Brahman/ 
cit whose essential nature is consciousness (jnana) is the source of 
everything and upaniṣads say that ākāśa and the universe evolved out 
of it and several vedāntins interpret that bhūtākāśa or physical 
universe evolved out of It. The advaita vedantins demur and say just 
as sāmkhyās say consciousness cannot come out of prakriti or matter, 
matter also cannot  come out of consciousness. What  actually came out 
of the consciousness as per the upaniṣads is only  an appearance of 
physical space and physical universe which is corroborated by the 
earlier discussion. 
 It is called Brahman because the huge universe evolved or grew out of 
it ( bruhi bruha vruddhau).  Brahman comes from the root bruh to grow. 
According to taittirīya upaniṣad, ākāśa or space came out of Brahman 
and then the other four elements in succession. The five combined 
variously to form different  objects of the universe. However there 
are different schools within the vedanta philosophy. While most 
schools consider the evolution of space and then the universe from 
Brahman  to be real, Advaitins say that Brahman, according to the 
upaniṣads themselves, is pure  consciousness and is immutable. So the 
only way the universe could have evolved would be as an appearance and 
not really real. The space said to be created from Brahman (ātmanah 
ākāśah sambhūtah) would mean not a real creation and according to them 
the creation of even the consciousness space (cidākāśa) itself  is an 
illusion and all the subsequent evolutes. Since Brahman is pure 
immutable consciousness it can not become inert and or produce 
changeable objects. This vaithatya vada of the advaitins (theory of 
Illusion of the universe we see) is corroborated by the discussion 
above. 

The taittirīya upaniṣad says “...etasmāt ātmanah ākāśah sambhūtah” 
From the ātman or consciousness the ākāśa or space was created. It was 
created ,or more correctly, appeared to have been created within the 
cit but appears outside like the cittākāśa as we discussed earlier. So 
the bhūta ākāśa or physical space itself is known to us only as 
cittākāśa or space created by the brain which itself is the grand 
illusory space created in Itself by the Cit or Brahman or Atman or 
puruṣa the only one reality. 

In other words 

We believe everything is happening in the physical space (bhūta 
ākāśa) 
We experience it however in mind space (citta  ākāśa) 
But it all is just within the consciousness space (cit ākāśa) but 
appears without it. 

Specious/spacious logic? 

Thank You 

With best wishes 

Sincerely 

Srivatsa Ramaswami 

PS My Guru spent a lot of time teaching the nivritti śāśtras, 
Sāṁkhya,Yoga and upaniṣads/vedānta (visiṣtādvaita). I would like to do 
a one day workshop on these darśanas outlining their basic tenets. Any 
yoga school if interested may please write to in...@vinyasakrama.com 
You may access my earlier Newsletters, here is the link 
http://groups.google.com/group/vinyasa-krama-announce?hl=en 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad I caught the info about Ramaswami's upcoming teaching schedule; I'm planning on attending at least one of his talks/classes while he's here in the Bay Area in May. Such a great opportunity.

    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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