Actions and Karma (4.7 – 4.8)

Ever since “Karma” was taught to us in philosophy classes, I’ve been intrigued and I tried to research on this concept. Eventually google turned out a million results with no definite answers.. So I turned to the Yoga Sutras.

In 4.7, the Yoga Sutra states: The actions of yogis are neither white nor black, while they are threefold for others.
(karma ashukla akrisnam yoginah trividham itaresam)

  • karma = actions stemming from the deep impressions of samskaras
  • ashukla = not white
  • akrisnam = nor black
  • yoginah = of a yogi
  • trividham = threefold
  • itaresam = of the others

The threefold actions of others refer to 3 colored actions or kinds: white = good, black = bad, grey = mixed. These actions leave deep impressions in the depth of our minds, and will arise later to cause actions that further align with these impressions. For yogis who have mastered all the modifications of the mind (stated in 1.2), they will not identify with thought patterns and are in the true nature of their Self, so the colored actions does not apply.

In 4.8: Those threefold actions result in latent impressions (vasanas) that will later arise to fruition only corresponding to those impressions.

(tatah tad vipaka anugunanam eva abhivyaktih vasananam)

  • tatah = from that, thence
  • tad = that, their
  • vipaka = fruition
  • anugunanam = following, corresponding to, accordingly
  • eva = only
  • abhivyaktih = manifest
  • vasananam = latent potencies, potentials, subliminal imprints

Whether your actions are black, white or grey, they leave the corresponding colored impression. These impressions then later surface in the corresponding colored actions, thoughts and speech.

When I read and interpreted these 2 sutras, it became obvious to me how “karma” and actions are actually a perpetuating cycle.

What about Karma yoga?

In the Bhagavad Gita, it is also said that performing karma yoga helps to end the cause and effect cycle of karma.

It’s one also of the 4 types of primary yoga: Raja Yoga (royal/ashtanga), Karma Yoga, Bhakti (devotion) yoga, Jnana (knowledge/self-study) yoga.

Karma yoga is acting selflessly, without intentions of any results or outcomes whether positive/negative (no asanas, haha). In Karma yoga, there is no attachment to any outcomes when we perform actions. There’s no sense that you are the doer of the action. Not having expectations on how things “should/shouldn’t be” and only accepting it as they are.

To perform this, we can start small like doing something kind for a someone without anticipating anything in return, like holding the lift doors open for a stranger!

Reflections on Yoga Sutras 1.1-1.2

I always knew yoga was more than what I’ve been doing in physical classes, but the philosophy side of it was a whole new world and it wasn’t necessarily shining or shimmering to me at first. I didn’t know what all the Sanskrit names meant and there were so many of them in the teachings.

Physical practice was still more interesting. In it, I break a sweat, do interesting poses, focus on my breath. It takes my mind off stress, worries and makes me be more present in the moment by instilling mindfulness. But after being assigned my project topic and doing more research on it, learning more about chakras, 8 limbs of ashtanga in classes, I found all the teachings revolving around yoga to very interesting and intriguing.

In one of the first few YTT classes, Patanjali, the Father of Yoga was quoted. To be frank, I didn’t know who’s Patanjali at that point in time (I just pretended to nod and know, haha).

Who is Patanjali?

From my brief google search though, there’s not much known to modern people about him. There are legends about his birth and how his teachings has spread[1]. But people most famously know him as the author of the Yoga Sutras which is the guide book of classical yoga.

But first, what are Sutras?

The word, Sūtra, means “string, thread” and it comes from the root word, siv – that which sews and holds things together. Thus Sūtra can be defined as any short rule, or a string of words woven together to form an aphorism (an observation which contains a general truth).

The very first sutra of Patanjali’s yoga sutras reads: atha yoga anushasanam.

Interpreted as: Now, after having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study and practice of Yoga begins.

The interpretation of each word as follows (Because sutras are a string of words, it’s important to know what each word means):

atha = now, at this auspicious moment; implying the transition to this practice and pursuit, after prior preparation; implying a blessing at this moment of transition

yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join or to integrate; same as the absorption in samadhi

anu = within, or following tradition; implies being subsequent to something else, in this case, the prior preparation,

shasanam = instruction, discipline, training, teaching, exposition, explanation; Shas implies the imparting of teaching that happens along with discipline

My interpretation of this sutra, is that it is a warm blessed welcome and beginning to this practice. Once you have picked up the Yoga sutra book, or started to read it even, the practice has begun. “Atha” interpreted as “now”, where we are encouraged to be in the present. And in this present moment, we are going to unite all our prior experiences that has brought us to this point in our lives, with the methodical teachings of Yoga. 

The next sutra that follows is Yogash citta vrtti nirodha.

This sutra can be interpreted as: Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.

Simply put, Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind. 

yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join; same as the absorption in samadhi

chitta = of the consciousness of the mind-field

vritti = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications, changes, or various forms of the mind field

nirodhah = control, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, understanding, stilling, quieting, setting aside of

The sutra briefly explains what Yoga is all about.

To me, it also very nicely sums up the reason why I practice yoga at all. Like I mentioned on top, practicing yoga helps me to be present in the moment, and not be distracted by all the thoughts in my head. I focus on my breath, how my body is moving and how it feels like, instead of living in my head and what I perceive. However, something I can further work on here is to to actively make my mind be still, work on being conscious and present, rather than let it happen passively in physical practice.

I think it’s quite amazing how these texts were written maybe thousands of years ago. Now we are here, learning and practicing these teachings to continually discover and improve ourselves. It makes me feel grateful to be able practice and learn the art of yoga that was passed down from many years before. 

[1] https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/who-was-patanjali

Realising own ignorance in Satya

Satya is defined as truthfulness without any hidden agendas or motives. As part of the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga, it forms the social practices in managing the senses of oneself. Aligned with Satya, I have always pride myself in being an honest person. I used to think of that as a quality of being “real” as opposed to being “fake” in today’s society. However, I realised that I haven’t adhered to Satya.

This is because I have only seen things from the lenses of my life. Be it in the social construct of Singapore, my personality or the experiences that I have gone through. Satya is only fulfilled when we remove the illusion of what we see from our perspective and see something as it simply is. However, I used to have fixed assumptions about people I am close as I was unable to shift it out of my experiences. I now realised that my perceived certainty has been misleading to what is actually truth; because I can never know everything about another person’s experiences, thoughts, intentions and actions. I have came to understand that this certainty has been the basis of conflict between opposing people sticking to their version of “truth”.

Satya also requires truthfulness that is in harmony with the other Yamas as well. For instance, this can refer to Yamas such as Ahimsa (non-violence) where one should show compassion and kindness while speaking the truth. Although I always speak about my truth, I am usually too blunt and don’t think about how my choice of words can cause hurt to someone else. It usually also comes with the intention of asserting my opinions onto others. In the past, I usually justify hurting someone’s feelings with the impression that I am right and they should the one that should change themselves. I realised that I should be more aware to express empathy to others even though I am speaking my truth.

Through this topic, I have realised my personal shortcomings in certain areas of my personality and will continue to reflect and work on them in terms of Satya and the other Yamas. I hope that this ignorance of mine would turn to knowledge for me to be a better version of myself starting today.

Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah

In the western world, most of the people perceive yoga as another form of physical workout with relaxing benefits. Some people treat it next to veganism as another trend. Yoga studios are usually full but at the end when some of the teachers start chanting most of the practitioners leave the room- they typically say that they aren’t interested in this ‘spiritual stuff’ they just want to do yoga-for them yoga is the name of the workout, the same as kickboxing, pilates, fitness etc. It might be because lots of gym places offer yoga class next to physical workouts, so its mixed, contaminated and there is no so many real yoga teachers out there. 

When I first started, I didn’t really understand what yoga is about. I felt that it’s something more than physical practise. I started doing it to help me with some emotional problems, I needed it not for my body but for my mind. At that time, it was a form of support to help me deal with stressful situations at work etc. Now I know its not about that but without this, without me feeling this stress  I wouldn’t start it. If I was completely happy in my material life I wouldn’t be looking for something more. Actually, when I think about it I was never fully satisfied in my material life.  There was always something missing.

My approach to life was so emotional. If someone said something or did something I didn’t agree with I had this strong need to defend myself, to explain that it’s not true, I was so attached. I’m not saying that you should agree with everything that someone is saying about you, but being emotionally attached to every judgment takes you further away from understanding yourself. 

Yoga in its ancient traditional development its not primarily about the body, about making you relaxed or distracted form your hectic life style. Yoga is connected to mind.

The three Sanskrit words Chitta Vritti Nirodhah hide the answer to what yoga is really about.

Yoga sutras(basic principles, manual for yoga practitioner ) written over two thousand years ago by Patanjali are the traditional foundation of the inner journey through the spiritual practice of yoga -and its physical part -asanas-practised by most of the people in the west is only one part of 8 limbs of yoga.

The yoga sutras explain what happens to our mind, emotions when you practice yoga- In second sutra Patanjali says ‘Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah– yoga controls, quiets waves(thoughts) of mind, consciousness. You don’t compulsively( obsessively) control the mind but you allow the mind to rest, to switch off by itself. Patanjali further explains that through committed practice and detachment we ll be coming closer to not identifying ourselves with the thoughts, emotions that are the reasons of internal pain, that take us away from our true selves.

Santosha – Contentment

In a blink of an eye, we are at the end of the course. I remember whining about having to wake up way before my usual routine, to make it for daily 8am classes. My course mates and I would joke about how dreadful mornings are, and seek solace in one another sharing the same struggles to this new routine.

Fast forward to the second last day of the course, thinking about how our YTT journey is coming to a close and the possibility that our paths may not cross again leaves me feeling bittersweet. Overheard in class today, “I am going to feel so lost. No need to wake up early and come here?” Funny how when YTT is ending, we are actually going to miss waking up at 630am!??

It also reminded me of Santosha, the second Niyamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga –  contentment.

Demand is high only and especially when supply is low, vice versa. We whined when we had to wake up early, and then start missing this routine when it is coming to an end. In a nonexistent perfect world, if Santosha was in practice, we would be appreciative of every new day we have from waking up from our sleep, our able bodies, the opportunity have a class to attend and the luxury of time to be able to attend this course. We would be in the present and enjoy every moment, without complaints. But of course, this is highly unrealistic. We know this in theory, but practicing it is a different ball game. All we can do in our best ability is to be mindful. Accept and appreciate what we are, what we have and make the best out of it.

I believe showing gratitude to the luxuries of time, health, money we currently have will fill our hearts. More often than not, complacency takes over and we tend to forget that life is unpredictable. A twist of fate can happen any moment, and everyone would go “THAT’S SO SHOCKING” … as if we never knew how life works.

In light of Thanksgiving today, I am thankful to share the last 19 days with my course mates, and an impish buddy who cracks me up every day. Thank you Sree for sharing your stories and wisdom with us.

Namaste

Santosha sutra

Santosha anuttamah sukha labhah – an attitude of contentment

Santosha is the practice of enjoying each moment as it is, being content with who you are and what you have at this current moment. Right now. No matter what has happened yesterday or what will happen, you are content. The practice of this mindset will allow you to lose greed and you do not need anything more. We do not seek contentment or happiness from external sources, only from within.

This practice of contentment has fallen in and out of my life many times. In great times of my life, where I am alone and in tuned with myself, I am able to appreciate every bit that I am, and every bit around me. However, as soon as life moves a little more fast-paced, I forget to be content. Although I chase dreams fast and hard on one hand, one the other, I tend to let anxiety back into my life, self-doubt and comparisons. It is definitely always hard to be content, being raised in a society that is academically-oriented and filled with a large talent pool. We tend to start comparing ourselves to others in terms of many aspects, be it academics, money, status, social status, fitness, talents, love, friendship, etc. The list never ends. I have seen far too many peers of my age constantly worry about something in their lives, and do not focus on the bigger picture – to realize that they can hardly ever be content without understanding this sutra. Human nature introduces greed to us, and we need to understand that for most, enough is never actually enough.

In yoga, some days our bodies do not perform as well as we want it to. Maybe, we feel a little weak in our Chaturanga, a little unstable in our downward dog. Maybe our regular beautiful postures are not turning out right, or maybe lifting ourselves to stay in crow or headstand isn’t happening. But it is what it is. We aren’t perfect bodies and we have up and down days, just like in our lives. So I constantly try my best to keep reminding myself   – do what your body feels good in. Don’t hurt yourself to force for a backbend, because then you will be discontent with the fact that you have injured yourself. Take what you have and make the best of it. Still on my way to practicing contentment, but as all practices require – time!

JT

Everyone can learn something from the sutras of Pantanjali

If you really want to get a sense of how old Yoga is look at the sutras of Pantanjali.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali which are the foundational text of classical yoga philosophy are around 2000 years old.

They fell into relative obscurity for nearly 700 years from the 12th to 19th century and then made a comeback in late 19th century.

During the 20th century, modern practitioners of yoga elevated the sutras to common use translating it into various languages so it could be understood around the world.

Sutra in sanskrit means a rope or thread that holds things together.

The themes of the sutras are universal to the human consciousness and a way of mindful living and are still very relevant today, despite their age. As Patanjali writes, all that matters is that we begin here and now and commit to living and practicing with greater self-awareness and presence.

The sutras show you the lineage of yoga to help you get a better understanding of the history behind certain poses and sequences. From that you earn a certain respect and understanding of the asanas. They remind you of the true purpose of your practice and the sutras talk about the philosophy and helps you to understand the barriers to living a happy and fulfilled life and essentially on how to begin to live your yoga.

I want to end with a verse I found translated. I think it’s amazing how philosophy like this can withstand the test of time and still be as relevant today as it was around 2000 years ago.

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? (136-137)”
– Sri S. Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4 The Theory

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4  The Theory

Love the theory part, not so much that I like to read now, but so relax and easy that someone there talk and I listen, the science, the philosophy, the art, and the stories.

I had already much forgotten to recall exactly how many years from the day I enjoy listening to the teacher’s classroom teaching.

It’s back to my old golden days.

After all, after reading for so many years, my eye sights getting bad. Just packed up all my books into 26 cartons of boxes while preparing to move them to another location.

After this course, I think, likely will start collecting and pick up again, books on the Yoga’s title.

It’s pleasant reading on the Yoga Sutra, though initially having difficulties and hard time stirring my tongues over the Sanskrit words and trying to figure out what’s the meaning by reading the long explanation inside the manual, which eventually made me more confused.

Lucky enough, I managed to find and organized from the internet.
Well, IF, I meant “IF”, If I have the time, likely will add on to it’s German and Chinese or even other languages translation at my leisure if I can find it.

Here share if you need.

Here go we happy Journey to Yoga Lifestyle.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Translation Sanskrit to English

 

汇编 Complied by Angie Chua 20190909.

Laziness is an obstacle to Yoga

Yoga Sutra 1:30:

~Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception~ these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles.

 

“Anyone can  practice. Young man can practice. Old man can practice. Very old man can practice. Man who is sick, he can practice. Men who doesn’t have strength can practice. Except lazy people, lazy people can’t practice Ashtanga yoga.”

—Quote by  K.Pattabhi Jois

In fact, its true that one does not need to have special ability to practice yoga, no need to be either very flexible or powerful, no need to be young and fit, no need to be rich, no need to look good and wear lululemon… One only needs to be willing to spend time each day practicing yoga.

Laziness doesn’t have to be lying on the couch every day. Our modern laziness can even be  a kind of busyness, I am very occupied every day for doing nothing. Our schedules are always full and our lives become boring.  The hearts and minds are occupied by busyness and get insensitive.  Dullness is mentioned in the Sutra as another obstacle of yoga. We wouldn’t invest the thing that could bring life changes in a positive way by self-discipline. It is also a kind of laziness.

Bob Dylan, the American singer-song writer who won the Nobel Prize in literature last year, sang: “he is not busy being born is busy dying.

Yoga, which is a way to strengthen and purify the body, calm the mind and activate the spiritual system, is a way of transforming. It is grateful that I have this karma let yoga enter my life.  Since I’m already engaged in and have a  patchy understanding of the true meaning of yoga, it is important to examine honestly the obstacles mentioned in Yoga Sutra 1:30, especially those in the mind.

Yoga and Buddhism

Before Yoga, I was introduced to Buddhism and got inspired by the books written by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, who is a renowned Bhutansed lama,film maker and writer. He says that its not the clothes you wear, the ceremonies you perform, or the meditation you do. Its not what you eat ,how much you drink, or who you have sex with. Its whether you agree with the four fundamental discoveries(also known as the four seals)the Buddha made under the Bodhi tree, and if you do, you can call yourself a Buddhist.

So what are these four truths?

All compunded things are impermanent.
All emotions are pain.
All things have no inherent existence
Nirvana is beyond concepts.

By thinking of it, we see that there is nothing moralistic or ritualistic about them. There is no mention of good or bad behavior. They are simply the truths based on wisdom which is the primary concern of a Buddhist. Unfortunately, people seem to view Buddihsm in a religious way.

A few years ago, I got into yoga pratice for fitness reason. With regular pratising, I surely enjoyed all those physical benefits, at the same time, I found Yoga also invovled with a lot mental work. Then this karmic wind continued blowing towards me and here I am in the 200hrs YRS training course.

Its not surprising that yoga and buddhism is connected in the ways of concept and pratice. Some points of connections could be:

Karma.
Meditation position and mudras.
Aim to reach enlightment as to Samadhi or Nirvana.
Yamas in Yoga very similar to Noble Eightfold Path.

Well, I just start the discussion here and this topic is really broad. Yoga, Buddhism and all spiritual paths are a map showing the journey back to the heart of the universe. Its time for us to give some thought to spriritual matters.