RSS Feed

Now that’s Letting Go: YSP 1.16

1.16 – tat param purusha khyateh guna vaitrshnyam – 

At its highest level, nonattachment means having no desire for any of the constituent qualities of nature, because one has become conscious of the spiritual principle – translation by Bernard Bouandchaud.

– Indifference to the subtlest elements, constituent principles, or qualities themselves (gunas), achieved through a knowledge of the nature of pure consciousness (purusha), is called supreme non-attachment (paravairagya).—translation by

We get to point in these sutra discussions where I just start making stuff up because fundamentally, I don’t get it. Sometimes I can’ t even imagine it, it’s that off the rails for me. And here we are – right squarely at one of those places that I can scarcely imagine, so there’s about an 87% chance that whatever I’ve written here is completely wrong. Consider yourself duly warned.

First of all, let’s open things up by dissecting that phrase ‘constituent qualities of nature”.In yoga speak, these are the gunas. And what are the gunas, you ask? Excellent freaking question my fellow yogis and yoginis – let us indulge in a little yoga cosmology. And just a word to the wise – the gunas are another one of those Sanskrit concept clouds where things are not so much defined as they are a constellation of related ideas.

Every thing is composed of the basic building blocks of nature: matter (tamas) , energy (rajas)  and space (sattva). All prakriti (anything that has capacity to change) is described as a balance between all three forces. All of creation, indeed the process of evolution itself, results from the interplay of these three forces. Rajas is the force of creation; sattva is the force of preservation and tamas is the force of destruction.  Actually, technically speaking, the gunas are not the quality themselves but the tendency towards it. So refining the details a little more exactly, sattva guna is the tendency towards purity; rajas guna is the tendency towards action but not action itself and tamas guna is the tendency towards inertia but not inertia itself.

So within this framework, I can think about anything in terms of the interplay between these forces. Growth is the rajasic force pushing while the tamasic force provides stability. Meals that are heavy in meat and fats decrease my sense of sattva. They make me feel more tamasic. When I’m very agitated and jumpy, my mind is rajasic. When I’m dull and lethargic: tamas. When I’ve engaged in persevering practice, I experience a sense of sattva in body and mind.

Every thing I touch, work with, experience can be described in these basic, fundamental qualities. And in this sutra, the ultimate non-attachment is let go of these constituent qualities of nature. In purely physical terms, I will give up my attachment to atoms and molecules. I would no longer be moved by my desires and that’s not about willpower or renunciation. The desire itself would fade away and be gone as I approach my essential true self. This is when I let go of prakriti and resonate as purusha.

And that, my friends, is several levels above my pay grade. It’s taken me nearly a week to write this because this is so far beyond my limited understanding that I really struggle to find words to describe the idea as it’s filtered down to me. And trust me, I have no experience in it.

That’s it for this week. Sorry this is late but that’s the way it goes sometimes. This finishes up the section on abhyasa and viaragya. Next week, we’re moving on to types of concentration.

Until then, thanks for reading and Namaste,




About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

2 responses »

  1. hello kate! this truly is mind-bending and i don’t know if i’m going down the right path in trying to understand these things, but let me share my 2 cents in how i “rationalize” it (i know, in theory the act of rationalizing may somewhat self-defeating already, but oh well, bear in mind i like to over-intellectualize things)

    if i suddenly imagine i had some kind of super zoomable eye, and the next time i have some sort of interaction, i see the things in front of me as their atomic form (i.e. these atoms just bouncing around, reacting to each other) – i realize i’m just another glob of atoms, and i might even peer in my brain, and realize all these desires are just chemical reactions, sometimes, i think to myself “ah, i see what these atoms are doing, they are just moving according to the laws of physics”.

    it is hard to be “attached” to atoms because that fundamentally doesn’t make sense. (what attaches what to what?) so in that sense, i manage to free myself, at least momentarily, from the clutches of that particular attachment.

    this analogy, in part, i got from a lovely book called “i am a strange loop”. it explores how human consciousness might arise from just a bunch of looping neurons!

  2. I completely understand what you’re saying Michael — it is so mind-boggling fantastic. I try to do a thought experiment a la Albert Einstein and quickly find out that I’m not in the same class of thinker..but really, what would it be like to have no attachment to the material world? No attachment to dimensionality? Gravity? Time? Distance? Physical properties? States of matter? It’s just so wild …truly beyond my capacity to imagine.

    And you’re right with your comment “what attaches what to what” … am I trapped in my own conceptual thinking?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: