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Religiousness in Yoga Part 17: Nirodha

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Excerpts from “Religiousness in Yoga” by TKV Desikachar

… The mind functions at five levels.

1. Mostly it functions in a way that we hardly notice it. So much happens, so many ideas, perceptions come and go that very often we lose track. It is like a monkey that is drunk and somebody is poking it. IT is distraught and cannot comprehend anything. In Yoga this level of functioning is called kṣipta.

2. A slightly better condition is called mūḍha. Here the mind is like a dull, sleepy, heavy buffalo. There is hardly any inclination to act, to respond or to observe … There are many reasons for this – overeating, lack of sleep, exhaustion, drugs … individual constitution … when a person … has failed to succeed in what he wanted to do …

3. … vikṣipta [is when] we act but we have doubts; distractions come about, there are obstacles.

4. ekāgratā [is when] clarity has come about and we have direction and are able to proceed. What we want to do is much clearer and distractions hardly matter. This is also called dhāraṇā … Yoga is actually the beginning of ekāgratā. Yoga suggests means to create conditions that gradually move the kṣipta level of mind towards ekāgratā.

5. When ekāgratā develops, it culminates in what is called the state of nirodha. This is when the mind and the interest almost become one as if they have merged … rudh represents the envelopment of a particular intererst, ni means the intensity of that envelopment … The word nirodha also means “restraint.” It is not by restraining the mind that it will move and become involved … It is the other way around; that is, so strongly and intensely the mind has moved toward one area … that there is no “infiltration.”

… “citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ” is how Yoga is defined in the Yoga Sūtra. It means that the mind has one and only one activity in all its totality and that the other activities which would distract the mind are absent.

How then to distractions come about? … Through the help of the senses the mind can see or perceive the many things in the world. It can also, on the basis of limited observation, infer the whole … The mind can also conjure things based simply on words … the mind also has the faculty of retaining something that has been experienced … it is possible for us to imagine things … Different actions from the past condition us and block us from seeing things as they are. We already have set ideas about things and we can’t get away from them.

… the mind has also an inherited quality of inaction … and … something inside forces us to do what seems like a hundred different things.

… all of these faculties of the mind … are necessary to life … the Yoga Sūtra says that all activities of the mind could be favorable or unfavorable. What we try to do in Yoga is simple to create conditions so that the mind becomes a most useful instrument for action. And this can only be done gradually. Any “short-cut method” is an illusion.

… in the state of nirodha … one sees and one knows … That is why they say a yogi is a wise man. Not because others cannot see what he has seen but because he has seen something others have not seen, he has seen more than others have seen, and he has seen it ahead of others.

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