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.