2.2 samadhi bhavana arthah klesha tanu karanarthah cha
Bouanchaud: The intent is to gradually attain contemplation and diminish the cause of suffering.
Desikachar: Then such practices will be certain to remove obstacles to clear perception.
Swami J: That Yoga of action (kriya yoga) is practiced to bring about samadhi and to minimize the coloured thought patterns (kleshas).
Having just finished my week studying Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras at Summer Yoga School, I’ve spent the past few days trying to reorganize and re-write my lecture notes. If I don’t do it now, in another 6 months I’ll be looking at things, squinting and muttering “What the hell….?”
It’s apt that in the introduction, our teacher pointed out that Chapter 2 is yoga for the challenges of everyday life. I am deep in the thickets of Chapter 2, my friends, deep, deep in the rough on this one.
Good news, we made out with minimal damage and inconvenience with reference to Hurricane Irene. There’s a lot of tree debris all over the place and I have no power but other than that, it’s all well. No power, of course, meant no coffee, no phone (we run off VOIP), no breakfast, no shower (I’m not brave enough for the 4 am cold water shower disciplines of Kundalini yoga practices), and no internet. I’ve misplaced my cell phone and my wallet yesterday. Today would be one of those “challenges of everyday life” my teacher spoke of in our classes.
Still, I’m feeling pretty cool about it all … and that, dear reader, is the whole damn point of yoga practices in the first place. It’s working when I gradually attain contemplation while, at the same time, my suffering diminishes. It’s a good object lesson for all of us. Life doesn’t get less messy, less complicated, less “what the hell?” because I practice yoga. All the same stuff that normally lands in everyday life still continues to land – like hurricanes, power outages, lack of caffeinated beverages, internet outages. The thing that changes is I stop freaking out about it and turning it into the never ending drama fest.
One of the key terms in this sutra is found with the words “klesha tanu“. Tanu means to minimize, to make fine, to weaken, to enfeeble. I know my yoga is “working” when I feel the kleshas diminishing and at the same time, my ability to reach the meditative state of contemplation increases. And what, pray tell, are kleshas? They’ll be discussed more fully in the upcoming weeks in the column but for now, just think of them as toxins of the mind. These mind poisons are the things that cause our suffering – all the stuff we add to a situation that makes it even MORE painful. Classically, these mind poisons that keep us from seeing things clearly are ignorance, egoism, attachment, repulsion and fear. Much of the time, we’re caught up in the drama of these five, causing much of our own pain. Chapter 2 is the method for reducing the impact of those kleshas, allowing us to perceive reality correctly and get on with it – with or without coffee.
This is a sutra of great hope for people like me. It says “don’t be discouraged”. It’s a gradual process and little by little, I do feel better as I continue my practice. I’ve at least got sufficient self-reflection to know that I’m driving myself crazy with my own mental machinations. Sure, there are other causes of suffering, but the ones I manufacture myself are the only ones I have any control of, and trust me, there’s plenty of work there to keep me busy for the next few incarnations.
Thanks for reading and Namaste,