“Truth is an empty cup.”
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Religiousness in Yoga Part 5: Saṃskāra, Puruṣa & Prakṛti


Excerpts from “Religiousness in Yoga” by TKV Desikachar

Part1: Saṃskāra

… dust that blows on the skin is harmless, but if a tiny particle gets into the eye we suffer … a person who seeks clarity becomes sensitive like the eye … That is why there is always more apparent duḥkha for a viveki, one who is seeking clarity, than for someone who is not …

Yoga uses the Sanskrit word citta for mind and cit for the puruṣa. Citta means “that in us which thinks it is the thing that sees.” Cit is “that which sees.” … When the mind is free from heaviness or “dancing,” it has the clarity of sattvaguṇa.

The triangle is an outside object. The image of it falls on the mind so that the cit can see. If the mind is colored, the triangle appears colored to the cit. If the mind is dusty, then there is no image at all. If the mind is clear, the cit sees the triangle as it is.

… Yoga describes wisdom in seven steps. All of these steps are complicated except the first, which is an understanding of that which should be avoided … We might not know what to do, but we recognize the problem. That is the first of seven steps of wisdom, prajñā.

… we must consider the five faculties of the mind. (1) Pramāṇa is an activity of the mind that registers things accurately through the senses. (2) Viparyaya is an activity of the mind that registers things that are never accurately confirmed. (3) Vikalpa is imagination, that knowledge or understanding based purely on words and ideas with no substance or reality. (4) Nidrā is dreamless sleep. (5) Smṛti is memory, the activity of the mind that retains the experience of an observation. These faculties of the mind work together. With the exception of nidrā, at any one moment there is likely to be a mixture of them. Any of these faculties or a combination of them is not necessarily a form of duḥkha but they have the possibility of affecting the amount of duḥkha.

… Think of the mind as a camera. The image of the object is projected on the mind through the lens of the senses, but the seeing is coming from the direction of cit (puruṣa). The puruṣa observes the mind. If the mind is colored the image is colored; if the mind is clear, the observation is perfect. Since the puruṣa can observe only through the mind, the quality of observation depends solely on the state of mind … The puruṣa, in fact, provides the power for the mind to see … The mind cannot see by itself … That is why in Yoga we work with the mind. We can’t do anything with the puruṣa.

… is it the mind that decides where to focus our attention? Very often the mind does make that decision. While it should not, it does, because it has been conditioned to do so. We called that saṃskāra, constant and automatic movement of the mind in a particular direction. This is why some of the practices we do in Yoga are so important. In āsanas, for example, we do some excercises that are not conditioned by our usual mental activities and yet are not beyond our capabilities … This sense of reorientation is communicated in the Sanskrit term parivṛtti … failing this, the mind will continue to take over … The mind is not the master but very often it behaves as if it were. Therefore, it is useful for us to do some things which give the puruṣa some scope to see. If we get into a groove, the mind takes over and the puruṣa becomes ineffective.

… Clarity means you see how the mind functions and are able to handle it … We know what will lead us into more or less duḥkha. This is clarity. This is why we use the word viveka, “to see both sides.” We are able to see what we are and what we are not. When we used the word asmitā we defined it as ego. Asmitā is also a state where puruṣa and the citta are mixed up and often form a unit within us … When the puruṣa and the citta can be separated, we have viveka, the ability to see both sides.

… one might ask “What is to be done with duḥkha?” … the only duḥkha that matters is that which is about to come. Things that have happened or are happening must be accepted. Tomorrow’s duḥkha can be avoided … The whole of Yoga is an attempt to do this. We know duḥkha is coming as long as avidyā is prevalent. The only origin of duḥkha is avidyā.

Saṃskāra is the total of all our actions that condition us to act in one way. Kāra comes from the root kṛ which means “to do” or “to act.” Sam means “complete, accumulated.” Saṃskāra may be either positive or negative. We try to create a new positive saṃskāra, not to reinforce the old, negative … If this new saṃskāra is powerful, the old one causing duḥkha will have no effect … As the new ways become stronger, the old ways become ineffective … The Yoga Sūtra tells us that we should create powerful new saṃskāra to cause the old to disappear. Then it tells us, don’t stop there but go on until there is no saṃskāra. Let us concern ourselves with only the first step now.

… when we do Yoga, we develop increased sensitivity. If we become preoccupied with this sensitivity we might increase avidyā … If we carefully observe our actions, we will not have this problem.

Part2: Puruṣa & Prakṛti

… In this world we have two things: puruṣa and prakṛti … the term used in the Yoga Sūtra for puruṣa is draṣṭṛ, for prakṛti, dṛśya. Draṣṭṛ is the seer, that which sees; dṛśya is that which is seen. Avidyā exists when these two get mixed up. When the distinction between them is missing, it is known as saṃyoga. At that moment the seed for duḥkha is sown.

One of the expressions of saṃyoga is asmitā. Asmitā is when the seer (cit) and the mind (citta) are associated, mixed up and held in an inseparable notion of I-ness … This association of two distinct entities often leads to problems.

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