In verse IV.15, of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says: “vastusamye cittabhedat tayoh vibhaktah panthah”. In IV.16 he says: “na ca ekacitta tantram ced vastu tat apramanakam tada kim syat”.
Iyengar translates these verses as “Due to the variance in the quality of mind-content, each person may view the same object differently, according to his own way of thinking” (IV,15), and “an object exists independant of its cognisance by any one conciousness. What happens to it when that conciousness is not there to perceive it”
The concept of ’emptiness’ – which Lancashire Yogi takes to be ‘ultimate reality’ – pure truth – is beautifully expressed in these sutras.
You can look at a book on a table and due to the fluctuations of thoughts in your mind – you could see it as a “good” book, or a “bad” book; you might think it represents your erudite mind, it might represent “untidiness” or “hope” – or if its an exam text book – “boredom” or “fear”. All those expressions of your mindstuff would represent the variance in the quality of the mind content, and as Iyengar translates – each person may view the same object differently according to their own way of thinking. While you’re viewing it as “an exciting and brilliant book” your partner, or friend may well be thinking that it’s the “most dull and boring book” he or she has ever read. You could be thinking “she thinks I am clever and interesting having books like this”, she might be thinking “goodness he’s so untidy and careless with his possessions”. As Iyengar – and Patanjali say – different perceivers see an object in different ways even though the object of itself remains the same. The object is itself “from its own side” as Geshe Michael Roach might possibly say. He refers to a pen in his talks – and he says – “the pen is not the pen” – to you it’s a writing tool, to a dog its a chewy toy, to a philosopher it’s a weapon of revolution. Kevin the body builder might see the book as a useful prop for his weights – and Lucy the yoga beginner might like to use the book as a block for forward bends to avoid stretching her hamstrings.
Iyengar reflects that while an object remains the same regardless, to the perceiver, it is seen through the interplay of the gunas. These are energies in life. They aren’t as Mrs Lancashire Yogi often reflects – like the British comic team – The Goons – but their collateral damage can result in similar comic, dramatic and interesting effects. Lancashire Yogi thinks that they could be part of the cosmic joke that is played on us. Tamas is the dull energy, rajas, frenetic energy, and sattva – a pure energy. Tamas is “can’t be bothered”, rajas is “excessive and obsessive interest”, and sattva is “kind, curious, open and compassionate interest”. It is said that we are exposed to all of these energies and of course we project them too. A useful game to play is “guna bingo”. Try it to see how much we flit between them. Fill out a card and cross them off as you experience them throughout the day. Heck, it can be one hell of a rollercoaster..Well, it certainly is in Lancashire Yogi’s funfilled life…
The trick as Lancashire Yogi understands it – is to use the yoga practices to achieve as much sattva as possible and of course to counterbalance the times when one’s energy (or the energy of the moment and the environment) are either tamasic or rajasic. Through a balancing of the energy it is possible that the citta isnt vritting and that the mind is empty (un-turning, neutral, objective), and thus can perceive an object as it is, without the labels and thoughts that one may project onto it. The book for example – is just a book and nothing else. And this is the point of Patanjalis verse iv.16 – an object exists of itself from its own side – independent of anyone’s conciousness. Patanjali asks – “what happens to it when conciousness is not there to perceive it”. When we go into the kitchen and leave the book in the lounge on a table. It just “is”. So – it’s there as this pile of paper glued together,inanimate yet representing a multitude of things to whoever perceives it when they glance at it.
Now this is fine with objects such as pens, or books or things that we use. But what about our relationships? Iyengar says the same man or woman is a pleasure to a beloved or a lover, and a pain to a rival. She or he may be an object of indifference to an ascetic, and of no interest to a renunciate or celibate! But in reality that man or woman is just that man or woman. Lancashire Yogi is straying into deep water with this and will probably need to come back to this in detail another time, but how you perceive people and objects is not only an effect of the gunas but also of karma. Now the guna bit is fairly straight forward – someone full of rajasic energy enters a room, and they can raise the energy levels of the occupants of that room, unless their energy is very tamasic. The opposite is also true. As is the same of calm sattvic people creating calm wherever they go.
Where Lancashire Yogi struggles is with the notion of karma. Karma is the sprouting of seeds of conciousness or thoughts that one created and planted in the past. Geshe Michael Roach talks about the experience that you have of an angry person who is shouting at you. He says (I think) that how you perceive this shouting, angry person is a projection of the seeds you planted when you shouted and were angry at someone in the past. In a sense – what you experience is a mirror reflection of your past behaviour. Infact, the mirror analogy isnt probably the best analogy for Lancashire Yogi, and he has spent some time reflecting on this. A long time ago, Lancashire Yogi spent some days with the Aborigine folk around Ayers Rock and in Northern Queensland. His Aborigine friends had an interesting take on reality – which at some point Lancashire Yogi will share. The folk Lancashire Yogi practiced with were adepts at boomerang throwing. You would draw back your arm with a beautiful jarrah boomerang in your hand and then you spin it out to the world in front of you, watching as it left your hand and spun out into the bush. Boomerangs are interesting – and dangerous….You have to keep a sharp eye on them as they spin through the air – because at some point they will start to arc back on a return journey. The one you just threw will arc right back – and with a bit of hand/eye/brain co-ordination you can catch it. The boomerang comes back to you. And that to Lancashire Yogi is the best analogy for karma he can think of today. You chuck out anger – it’ll come boomeranging back – and if you dont catch it – it’ll thwack you on the head. You chuck out love it’ll come back loving you.
I guess this is what the Biblical references to “reaping what you sow” refer to. In those days they used agricultural references – and plant seeds are pretty much like those thought seeds that you have – which grow and grow – sprouting their own seeds. Which also grow….And to refer back to his own boomerang analogy – if you chuck loads of angry boomerangs out there – they’ll come back whacking you from all sorts of different angles. The trick is to throw the right thought out there rather than the wrong thought – because it’ll come boomeranging back at you at some point in the future.
Yoga can help with all this. Infact yoga practices are good preparation for boomerang throwing. This is why Lancashire Yogi likes practicing all the yoga practices: they tend to ensure that the boomerangs are right thought boomerangs, rather than wrong thought boomerangs. Of course, he still chucks out wrong thought boomerangs but thankfully the yoga practices are helping him to catch them before he gets a clunk on the head or other body part.