Go home take rest • 28 March 2009

More fragments from Narasimhan. They come in like traces of dream, which makes sense since I’m in a bit of a trance sitting there in the Anantha library.

And speaking of dreaming, he reminds me that there is this whole business in Patanjali about the import of the dreamstate and the pursuit of dreamless sleep as a kind of samadhi. N says: Samadhi without knowledge is sleep; Samadhi with knowledge is evolution.

Admittedly, that doesn’t make much sense to me intuitively.

We think of sleep as our relaxation time, but in yoga, this is in a sense a time to leave the body. You sleep on the left side to let the right side of the brain—the house of the imagination and creativity—have some space. Relaxation is a conscious endeavor, the way N talks about it, and the way savasana is taught… if it is taught… in ashtanga practice. When you exit savasana, and when you get up in the morning, you roll to the right because that puts the left side up and engages your rational mind. When you get up from savasana or from sleep, it is time to engage the world and use the rational mind.

N: sport, unlike yoga, is as likely to excite the mind as to relax it. What is the purpose of it? Sometimes in the west, athletic endeavors reveal a great, delusional absence of purpose. People are lost, so they go bungee-jumping. But yoga has a clear purpose.

And again, the purpose of asana is to work the nervous system—to purify it. This actually happens after asana, during Savasana. You consciously feel and relax the nadis. How do you know nadis exist, and that there are 72,000 of them? Well, it’s the best we know for now. It was a revelation—just like the old revelations about the structure of cells or the speed of light, which practitioners gained without the benefit of scientific instruments. The chakra system is different from the nadis—it’s a different map of similar territory. Research now on the multiple nerve-junctions throughout the body also finds there are about 72,000 such branching-points.

It is a wonder that for all the study and advancement of Indian society, basic technological developments never happened here. Not only were there no scientific measurement devices, but also no economic advances like mass production. It was in the west that the great curiosity about the external world and how to know and shape it was gained; and by the same token in India the best understanding of the mind—it’s structures and how to work with and reshape them—has been developed.

There was a long, light-hearted discussion of the idea of dharma, and how it’s as much a structure of freedom as a fate-given constraint or duty. If you recognize what is given and work within it, your mind is free from fear or doubt and you simply know how to act. It’s as simple as following the rules of the road: if you are outside of the law, you must always look over your shoulder, worry about being caught. Inside it, you know your way and can travel it freely.

When it comes to one’s relationship to practice, arrogance and fear are two sides of the same condition—insecurity. If one is secure in his practice, there is no need to defend it with arrogance. Often the superiority that practitioners express is not even related to the claim of one’s own prowess but rather the inferiority of the content of others’ practices. So one’s supposed superiority is not based on her own wisdom or skill but simply on the imagined existence of others who are said to be without skill. There is a kind of dependence on others to be inferior so that the insecure practitioner can feel less fear and more superiority.

Oh, and I remembered that the four kinds of student classification maps on to Krishna’s commentary in the Gita on the four kinds of “men” who pursue God. There must be commentary on this in a variety of places. The classification is a little bit interesting, but again, it’s transitory—intended to describe rather than create social structures. One may pass through each of these states and therefore require different kinds of practice or teaching as she changes, but all conditions, including the "lowest," are those of a person who is dedicated to learning.


  • Posted 28 March 2009 at 2:45 pm | #

    “Samadhi without knowledge is sleep; Samadhi with knowledge is evolution.”

    Samadhi without knowledge = dreaming sleep?
    Samadhi with knowledge = conscious dreamless sleep?

    Just guessing. The conscious dreamless sleep is consistent with Tibetan dream yoga.

  • Posted 28 March 2009 at 6:16 pm | #

    fascinating. I think I need the Cliffs Notes, though.
    (I do get this, though: “If one is secure in his practice, there is no need to defend it with arrogance.”)

  • boodiba
    Posted 28 March 2009 at 6:38 pm | #

    “When it comes to one’s relationship to practice, arrogance and fear are two sides of the same condition—insecurity.”

    I think you could actually swap the word “anything” for the word “practice” in that sentence!!! I’ve long thought it’s the big people who help others feel more secure, appreciated and comfortable in their own skins. It’s the insecure who belittle and denigrate, in attempt to console themselves.

    Absolutely no one is without insecurities of course, but I think it’s always important to be good to those around you, as much as you can possibly be on any given day. Spreads the light.

    I am REALLY enjoying your writing on these sessions. I’m glad I tuned in again!!

  • Posted 28 March 2009 at 7:28 pm | #

    The part where you begin “It is a wonder that for all the study and advancement of Indian society, basic technological developments never happened here. Not only were there no scientific measurement devices……”.
    Made me think of this passage from Heidegger’s Age of the world picture. He’s talking about the view us “moderns” take of the knowledge and understanding the Greeks had but seems to me it works just as well when speaking of our view in the west of Ancient or present day india and/or indian thought.

    “When we use the word “science” today, it means something essentially different from the doctrina and scientia of the Middle Ages, and also from the Greek epistÄ“me. Greek science was never exact, precisely because, in keeping with its essence, it could not be exact and did not need to be exact. Hence it makes no sense whatever to suppose that modern science is more exact than that of antiquity. Neither can we say that the Galilean doctrine of freely falling bodies is true and that Aristotle’s teaching, that light bodies strive upward, is false; for the Greek understanding of the essence of body and place and of the relation between the two rests upon a different interpretation of beings and hence conditions a correspondingly different kind of seeing and questioning of natural events. No one would presume to maintain that Shakespeare’s poetry is more advanced than that of Aeschylus. It is still more impossible to say that the modern understanding of whatever is, is more correct than that of the Greeks. Therefore, if we want to grasp the essence of modern science, we must first free ourselves from the habit of it.”
    Loving your posts from there too, look forward to them with my post practice grapefruit and Cappuccino every morning. Don’t leave!

  • Posted 29 March 2009 at 6:12 am | #


    The arrogance/fear comment is an example of something we already know, but (for me) hearing him say it gives it an added shade of truth. Maybe one service of a teacher like this is to enable you to take your own true knowledge more seriously.

    Grim, great passage! Reminds me that I asked him a few days ago, “What is science?” I guess I’ll have to reconstruct the answer to that.

    Also, apropos of Karen’s post today, some comments about how people’s nervous systems are unique and it’s important, and takes skill, to suit practice to one’s nervous system.

    But I have to go to the pool now…

  • Posted 1 April 2009 at 10:10 am | #

    Ok… so about individual nervous systems.

    There was some commentary about how westerners, especially from the Judeo-Christian tradition, have an “aversion” to idol worship. He sees this as a hindrance, a limitation, and something that “needs to heal.” Because how else can one have a resonant expreience of ishta devata?

    When it came to finding one’s ishta devata, it used to be easy. One would simply go by family history and caste—certain dieties suited certain social positions. But as society, this does not work any more. One has to pay careful attention to one’s one particular nervous system to find the right avatar, the accurate expression of the personality.

  • susananda
    Posted 5 April 2009 at 8:06 am | #

    I thought there were four states:
    dreaming sleep
    ordinary dreamless sleep
    conscious dreamless sleep, ‘turiya’ (= samadhi)

    Also, I usually sleep on my right, is that bad?? I learnt somewhere that lying on the left is restful to the digestion, and lying on the right is restful to the heart. Indeed, sometimes lying on my left I feel my heart pounding away feeling kind of trapped underneath me, the right is more comfortable for that reason. Wasn’t thinking about what side of my brain I was resting!!

  • Posted 5 April 2009 at 4:49 pm | #

    I think Tibetan dream yoga tells women to sleep on their left side, and men on their right.

  • Posted 7 April 2009 at 12:16 am | #

    The hatha yoga explanation for right side is sometimes about blood circulation… rolling or lying on the right is easy on the heart. The right brain/ left brain thing from Narasimhan was funny, because I thought the idea about women going left has to do with the left being the side of the ida to balance the pingala or something. Anyway, I switch back and forth to balance the gross body!

    Susananda, agreed about the four states. I suspect there is a literal and a post-experiential interpretation of Narasimhan’s comment. I’ll keep up the work at lucid dreaming and see if I can figure it all out…. though the temptation is to use lucid dreaming for flying and other sensory joys rather than for lucid dreaming that I’m NOT dreaming. Hahahahah.

    Ok. Now I’m really going to look for tea. I’m on a delay but when I arrive in London a certain ashtanga blogger will be at the airport to meet me… and then there will be two others with whom I get to have dinner and practice the following day. So strange and nice….

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