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Lesson 5: Online Education in Yoga by Sri Prashant S. Iyengar

Synopsis

This lesson has two topics. First there is a deeper understanding of yama and niyama as vows or anuṣṭhāna and not just moral-ethical principles. Second, he explains what is meditation expounding on dynamic meditation of Guruji B.K.S.Iyengar’s yogic practices. 1. We are critical, and tend to assess people in their morality and ethicality, while we deem ourselves that we are morally, ethically strong. If somebody is a good person, it does not mean that the person has not taken a vow to be good; the person is merely good. Patañjali embarks upon the topic of vratas or vows, either atomic vows or great vows. We are aware only of yoga practices. We think this is something to be practiced and we don’t give any framework of anuṣṭha. Whereas Patañjali in his text speaks of anuṣṭhānam, In the II:28 sūtra of āṣṭāṅga yoga he says ‘yogāṅgānuṣṭhnāt’. 2. Meditation has become a fashion. Everyone wants to get meditation, but no one wants to know what is meditation. Guruji often said that his yoga is dynamic meditation. How can the āsanas or Iyengar yoga that is being practiced, be a dynamic meditation? Because usually meditation means sitting quiet, relaxed, and then closing the eyes and doing something as meditation. Absolute thoughtlessness will not be meditation. Also, every thought will not culminate in a meditative state. Yogic subject matter is the best subject matter, to be going for meditativity. So, there is a thinker, there is thinking, there is a thought. Thought about the thought is the component of the meditativity. Iyengar Yoga is not dynamic meditation, Iyengar’s yoga was dynamic meditation. It was his yoga which was meditation, because yogāsanas, are a wonderful condition to enter into the academy of meditativity.

What is a point doing a Śīrṣāsana which is perfect to look at, by hook or crook? The instrumentation should be proper. So that should be under scrutiny. In meditativity you get reflections. Like if you swallow a psychedelic pill, psychedelic drug, you don’t need a thought scheme, for you to have that psychedelic state. But āsana is not a psychedelic pill, that you get that state sublime state. It is autogenically turned out, biochemically turned out, electrochemically turned out. So there is always the thought process, which is why in āsanas, the precept of activity process and thought process is introduced. Meditation is not dhyāna. Dhyāna is a wider concept, meditation is a component of it.



Namaskar, all of you.

Today we are in the fifth session. Today I want to add something to yamas and niyamas, which we discussed last time.

The moral-ethical principles come to work while we are in social reference, as I said, Yoga is not having any social reference, you are totally individualized, personalized, inwardly. Then where is the field for practicing morality-ethicality which is something on the plane of behavior? That’s a face value of a person, when you speak to, refer to morality, ethicality that is a face value of a person, we really don’t need face value while we are in spiritual1 practices, adhyātmik practices, yogic practices.

Then, the other point is, usually we all claim that, we are morally, ethically strong, compared to someone else, so we have this relativity concept in morality-ethicality, with regards to others we are critical, and we tend to assess them in their morality and ethicality, while we deem ourselves to be morally, ethically strong. One more thing to understand, about the morality and ethicality aspects, here is that if you are not committing hiṁsā, that doesn’t mean that, you are in ahiṁsā. If you are not indulging in asatya, it doesn’t mean that you are in satya; like if somebody is not a bad person, it doesn’t mean he is a good person, or if somebody is not a good person, that doesn’t mean that he is a bad person. A good person must be a good person. Good person will be a good person and a bad person will be a bad person. Not being bad is not being good. Not being good is not being bad. So not being unethical, there is no ground to claim that you are ethical. Not being immoral, there is no ground for you to claim that you are moral, that you are in morality. Morality is morality. Ethicality is ethicality. Unethicality is unethicality. Not being unethicality doesn’t mean that you are ethical. Not being immoral, it doesn’t mean that you are moral. Like somebody is not ugly doesn’t mean that the person is handsome or beautiful. Somebody is not beautiful doesn’t mean the person is ugly. So with respect to these moral-ethical principles we will have to understand this one more perspective there, dimension there.

Now, if we are, if we claim that we are practicing ahiṁsā, satya, asteya, somebody might be a good person and therefore we say he is in ahiṁsā, he is in satya, he doesn’t take recourse to asatya, doesn’t take recourse to hiṁsā, doesn’t take recourse to antagonizers. But one more point to reinforce the earlier statement that Patañjali is not dealing with moral-ethical principle, but ethico-religious2 principles. Why is it? Suppose we are practicing ahiṁsā, if we think we are in ahiṁsā, and we don’t indulge in hiṁsā, we are not definitely in a vow of ahiṁsā. If somebody is a good person, the person has not taken a vow to be good, the person is merely good. If a person is a noble person, the person is noble because he is noble, it’s not that the person has taken vow of nobility; whereas Patañjali immediately embarks upon the topic of vratas or vows, either atomic vows or great vows, that is why there is dharma 3 4 5 in his 5 principles or 10 principles yamas and niyamas. There is something like vows. It is not just practicing satya, practicing ahiṁsā, practicing brahmācarya, practicing asteya, practicing sauca, practicing saṃtoṣa, tapa, etc. It’s not just practice. If you are practicing that is not sufficient, and that is not what Patañjali has mentioned. He expects it that to be a vrata. Vrata means vow. That is how it is rendered into English, which doesn’t have proper connotation, filtering down to language of English.

06:50

Vrata is a unique concept in the Sanātana dharma

6 . Vratas have a greater prowess and power. Vrata has a cultural ambience, cultural sublimity where by one is able to be in a vrata. Because vratas are dharmic practices.

So, why it is āchār-nīti-dharma 7 ? Because Patañjali immediately embarks upon vrata, and vrata only comes in dharma. Vrata doesn’t come in morality-ethicality. The moral people, the ethical people, are not necessarily in a vrata. They need to take, to make it a vrata.

Those observances must be coming under the framework of vrata. That is what is expected, so that’s why Patañjali mentions vratas immediately in the topic of yamaniyamas; either is anuvrata or mahāvrata. We should be going by anuvrata, not try to venture into mahāvrata 8 . We must be taking atomic vows, and those can be certainly practiced. Atomic vows can be practiced. Great vows cannot be practiced. So that’s why he has suggested vows in the topic of yamas and niyamas. Therefore there is some dharma aspect, dharmic aspect. Because outside dharma we don’t have to take any vratas. Again let me tell you vrata doesn’t have an English word, there are only vows. Vows are taken out of resoluteness; vrata is taken out of some dharmic practices. That is why these are āchāra nīti dharma practices aspects. That’s why they are not moral-ethical practices.

09:15

So even in the II.28th sūtra 9 of āṣṭāṅga yoga he says yogāṅgānuṣṭhānāt, anuṣṭhānām! Anuṣṭhāna is again a word that cannot be rendered into English; many of them have rendered it as a reverential practice. That doesn’t carry the connotation properly. Anuṣṭhāna 10 comes only in karma. There is karma anuṣṭhāna, there is jñāna anuṣṭhāna, there is mantra anuṣṭhāna and there is yoga anuṣṭhāna. Today we are not aware of yoga anuṣṭhāna. We are aware only of yoga practices. We think this is something to be practiced. And we don’t give any framework of anuṣṭhāna, whereas Patañjali in his text speaks of anuṣṭhāna, when it comes to āṣṭāṅga yoga: yogāṅgānuṣṭhānat. He doesn’t say yogāṅgapractisat, he doesn’t say yogāṅgasādhānat.

10:15

So these are all earlier steps we have to take before going for anuṣṭhāna, we have to go to other preparatories, other stages, such as practices, sādhāna, discipline, etc., etc. So yamaniyama are coming in anuṣṭhāna, therefore there is dharma. Anuṣṭhāna is a term, which is only in dharma, karma, jñāna, mantra and yoga. So that is another kind of point, which I am putting forward for you to understand that these are not moral-ethical principles.

11:05

Meditation

Now, going to the next topic. Before going to the next topic I was posed a question, and that is a very important question, vital question, and I want to deal with it. Because today people are fascinated to be doing yoga and meditation. Meditation has become a fashion, so much so that even the medicos are prescribing meditation for certain problems: coronary management, they say, get some meditation done, stress management, they speak of meditation, so people are trying to go for meditation, everyone wants to go for meditation. The stranger thing is that everyone wants to get meditation, everyone wants to try and get meditation, no one wants to know what is meditation. This is a very strange scenario. When you have such an intent to go for meditation, why is it that one is not trying to understand what is meditation? The question put to me was, that Guruji often said that his yoga is ‘dynamic meditation’. Nobody questioned how yoga is meditation, the āsanas or Iyengar yoga that is being practiced, how it can be a ‘dynamic meditation’? Because usually meditation means one imagines sitting, sitting quiet, relaxed, and then closing the eyes and doing something as meditation. So everyone wants to make an attempt for meditation. But it’s important that we must know what is meditation. Meditation is a psychological, psycho-mental act. At the outset let me tell you, I am not talking about dhyāna. Meditation is not dhyāna. Dhyāna is a wider concept, meditation is a component of it, meditation is a part of it, meditation is a facet of it, we should not equate meditation with dhyāna. Dhyāna has a wider scope. Anyway people are not interested today in dhyāna, they are all interested in meditation particularly, the western world, which has come into the fold of yoga. Dhyāna is not a familiar term for them and they have been told that dhyāna is meditation, and therefore they are going for meditation, they want to go for meditation.

14:00

Let me try to give a little explanation about what meditation is. Meditation is a psychological, psycho-mental act. It is of the brain, it is in the brain, it is from the brain, it is by the brain, it is of the brain. That is why it is a psychological, psycho-mental process. Now that means meditation will always have a thought. You can’t be having no thought and then go for meditation. Absolute thoughtlessness will not be meditation; it is something else, which Patañjali speaks about cittavṛttinirodha. In case the mind is restrained, citta is restrained. It’s a different state. Meditation is however not bereft of a thought.

Now, usually we worldly people only know about a thought and then we are in thinking. We think, and then there is a thought. Keep thinking, we have a thought. We keep on thinking, we have a thought, we have thoughts. Thoughts come and go, thoughts are inward, outward movements. Thoughts arrive, thoughts depart. So, there is traffic of thoughts going on. So, while the thoughts are on, even in our mundane state, worldly state, wakeful state, the thoughts are on. Then meditation is something different. The point is that there is always a thought, and then we keep thinking. Now meditation can take place, which is a thought process, which is a thinking process. It can take place in only particular realms. Any thought matter, any thought content, doesn’t qualify to go for meditative state. Every thought will not culminate in a meditative state. There are only few thoughts, sublime thoughts, transcendent thoughts; we require suitable thought matter for going to a meditative state. So meditativity depends upon the thought. How transcendent the thought is? How noble a thought is? How virtuous a thought is? Any thought cannot land in meditativity.

17:10

Meditation: trisection of thinker, thinking and a thought.

So when there is a thought, there’s invariably thinking. When there is a thinking, there is a thinker. So there is a triad, which constitutes the process of our thought. It may be non-meditative thought or it may be meditative thought.

There will be invariably a thinker, and there will be thinking, and there will be a thought.Now we worldly people are merely used to thinking around the thought. We have a thought and we go on thinking, we go on thinking, we go on thinking. So there is always thinking about a thought. This will never land us in a meditative state.


What is meditation then? When there is this tripartite constitution that there is a thinker, there is thinking and there is a thought. Understand these, the inflections of the word. It is one word having three inflections. Thinker, thinking and a thought. Now we are only used to having a thinking process on a thought. We never have a thinking process on thinking. Now it is essential that there is a thinking process about very thinking, there is a thinking process about very thinker. So we’ll have to find a thought, not only in a thought, but we’ll have to find a thought in thinking, we’ll have to find a thought in thinker. So, just around the thought if we go on hovering, hovering, hovering with thinking, it will not be meditativity. So we’ll have to get used to a process. Today the meditation has been suggested, any Tom, Dick and Harry suggests and we think we should embark upon meditation. Now listen carefully to what I say now: so, there is a thinker, there is thinking, there is a thought. Don’t just think about the thought. Don’t just keeping thinking about the thought. We must also investigate the very thought.

  • What is this thought?

  • Why is this thought needed?

  • From where the thought has come?

  • What is the subject matter of the thought?

  • What is the realm of the thought?

We must have such investigation about the thought. So thought must be thought about. Then will be a thought about the thought, as to:

  • why did this thought came?

  • From where did it come?

  • How did it come?

  • What was the agency through which I got the thought?

  • What is the purpose of the thought?

  • Should I keep thinking about this thought?

  • Is it worthwhile to be thinking on this thought?

So the thought must be under scrutiny. This is implied in meditativity, have a scrutiny of your thought.

  • Is this thought any good to me?

  • Should I continue to be having this thought in my mind?

  • Or should I do away with the thought?

  • Is the thought harmful?

  • Or is the thought helpful, nourishing, helping me to get involved?

21.34

So there should be a thought about thought, there should be a thought about a thought. There should be thinking about a very thought, rather than just thinking, and having a thought in thinking, then let there be a thought:

  • what is the thought content,

  • thought container,

  • thought resource,

  • thought source,

  • subject of thought,

  • subject matter of thought,

  • purpose of thought,

  • worth of thought,

  • value of thought

You will not like to be thinking on something once you’re convinced, that it’s worthless to have a thought about. You will not engage yourself in a thought, when once you realize it is worthless to be thinking on it. Or it is disturbing me, or it is agonizing me, or annoying me. You will not continue to encourage the thought. So there should be scrutiny about the thought. So there should be thought about the thought, and not just thinking on the thought. Thought about the thought is the component of the meditativity.

Then thought about thinking:

  • How am I thinking?

  • Why am I thinking?

  • What are the tools that we are using for thinking?

Because behind your thinking when you we are having your thinking, there is perception, there is cognition, there is sensation, there are memories, there are other inputs, there are experiences. So they will all be constituting the thinking process. If they are not there, then the thinking process will not be constituted.

So one needs to investigate about the very thinking.

  • How the thinking is taking place?

  • What is the data supporting my thinking?

  • What is underlying my thinking?

As I just now said, there will be perceptions, you will have perceptions you will have cognitions, you will have sensations, you will have memories. Then you will have experiences. All these things constitute to the thinking process. So we must have a thought on thinking. Now that’s a component of meditativity.

24:05

  • Why am I thinking?

  • How am I thinking?

  • How should I be thinking?

  • How should I not be thinking?

  • When should I be thinking?

  • When should I not be thinking?

Because a thought is a good thought. Thinking is a good process, but sometimes the place is not right, time is not right.

So we’ll have to have a scrutiny.

  • Is it the right time to have thinking upon it?

  • Is it the right time to have thinking on a thought, a particular thought?

  • Is it the right time, space, situation scenario?

Objectively, we will have to look at this. Not just keep on thinking, keep on thinking, keep on thinking. Is it the right time to think about it? Think it might be worthwhile to be thinking about. But maybe the time, space, situation, may not be right. So we have to objectify this. Is it the right time, space, situation, scenario for me to be thinking on this thought? So there must be a thought about thinking. Then there should be a thought about the thinker.

  • Is it the right time to have thinking upon it?

  • What is the state of the thinker?

  • Am I in a proper state of mind to be having thoughtfulness or thinking process?

  • Am I vexed?

  • Am I tormented?

  • Am I angry?

  • Do I have prejudices?

There is no point in having a thought process when we have prejudices about that particular thing. So we will have to also investigate the thinker.

  • Is the thinker in a right frame of mind to think about that thought, there and then?

  • Is the thinker in a proper state of mind?

  • Is the thinker in a proper profile?

  • Is it a proper profile to be thoughtful?

If it is a vexed condition, tormented condition, agonizing condition or erupted condition with some malaise, prejudices, etc., then that’s not the right time to be thinking. The thinker should not be thinking then. A thinker should start becoming a thinker at another point in time, knowing that I am not in the right state of mind. So meditativity primarily means having a thought about the thinker, a thought about thinking, it is so important, and also some thought about the very thought, rather than just thinking and thinking and thinking.

Because if you don’t analyze the thoughts, some thoughts have a stress potential, tension potential, stress potential, anxiety potential, worry potential, tormentation potential. You want to wean away from such thoughts because they are vexing your mind. The thought must be analyzed, thought must be scrutinized. Similarly, thinking should be scrutinized and thinker should be under scrutiny. So thinking about thinker is a meditative component. Thinking about the thinker, rather than thinking about the thought. Then thinking about the thinking is a meditative component, rather than usual worldly process of merely having thinking process and a thought object. So you will realize that for meditativity, you will have to select a proper thought object or thought content. Any thought content cannot be leading you to meditativity. So there must be filtration about the thought. The thought must be suitable. Then, the thinking process should be scrutinized. So that, that will be evolved, that will be set right, that will be tuned, fine tuned, and then the thinker. 29:12 So in short, if I have to just give a definition of meditation, primarily this is the nature of a thought on thinker, thought on thinking, at the second stage, and thought about the thought. So evolvement will take place in the reverse manner: thought about the thought, thought about thinking, thought about thinker. So that is a culminative phase, that is a reflective phase. The thinker should be known, the thinker should be objectified, thinker should be assessed, thinker should be investigated, thinker should be under scrutiny. And yogic subject matter is the best subject matter, to be going for meditativity.


30.27

Now why Guruji called his process, his yoga, as ‘dynamic meditation’, let me clarify here: Iyengar Yoga is not dynamic meditation, Iyengar’s yoga was dynamic meditation. So, we Iyengar students should not be complacent, thinking that we are doing Iyengar Yoga, and Iyengar Yoga is dynamic meditation. It was his yoga which was meditation, because yoga, yogāsanas, are wonderful condition to enter into the academy of meditativity. Where, there is a body set addressal, there is a breath set addressal, there is a mindset addressal. The subjective entity is set right; object - the āsanas - are set right, instrumental entities are set right. So, in an āsanic rendition, classically, there is a subjective entity, there is an objective entity, there is an instrumental entity. Sometimes the subjective entity comes from the ‘am’ will.

This was happening to Guruji in his practices. He was not just trying to perfect his Śīrṣāsana, he was getting his subjective entity on the ‘am’ will, on the operation table, and carved, sculpted, cultured the subjective entity.

So, he would objectify the subjective entity that is called witnessivity, auto-witnessing, self-witnessivity.

So, in his yoga, he was having auto-witnessivity, and therefore he would set right his subjective entity. Whereas we have mistaken the process and we just go on correcting our Śīrṣāsana, we go on correcting our Sārvaṅgāsana, we go on correcting our Trikoṇāsana, but we don’t try to get corrected ourselves in a subjective profile. Whereas that is the implication of an āsana. So Guruji would be doing that… that any āsana, there would be a thought process. Now this is an Adhyātmic thought process. Usually for us a thought-object or thinking-process there is some external element coming in. Whereas in yoga, there is no external element coming in. The doer-doing-done are all integral to one, oneself. So there is something called as karma kriyā, something called as jñāna kriyā, something called as dhyāna kriyā in yogāsanas.

So Guruji would not just have his āsana under scrutiny, but he would have his instrument under scrutiny.

What is a point in doing a perfect Śīrṣāsana for sight by hook or crook?

So instrumentation should be proper. So that should be under scrutiny.

  • How am I doing?

  • How the instruments are being used?

  • Are they justifiably used?

  • Are they properly used?

You just want to do an āsana perfectly. We don’t bother about the instruments of it, because we think āsana is a posture, posture is a spectacular thing, and a spectacle; and we try to work on an āsana as a spectacle, we don’t bother about what we do inside. We don’t bother about the processes; we want to just perfect an āsana.

Guruji would have a thought process on instruments. Guruji would have had a thought process on subjective entity. Because in meditativity you get reflections.

That is why, in higher faculty functions, the process is pensivity, reflectivity, meditativity. If there is no reflectivity and no reflection, you can’t meditate, so you don’t meditate on a thought; you meditate on a reflection of a thought. You meditate on reflectivity. If there is no reflectivity, you can’t be meditating. Pensivity should be there. So these are higher faculty functions. That is why I said at the out set that these are psychological, psycho-mental processes. Meditativity is out of pensivity, reflectivity, meditativity. But we have messed up in our understanding. We think first we must concentrate. The concentration gives to meditation, is what is our notion, idea, and that’s why we have the triad of concentration, meditation, trance. That is not right, that is faulty. Concentration will never give you meditativity, concentration is always on an object. Can you imagine concentration with no sensory object? You must have a sensory object to concentrate. With no sensory object, you can’t concentrate. So concentration is psycho-sensory. That is why the Education is important to have proper crystallization. So concentration is psycho-sensory. That will escalate the state, higher state, concentration and absorption. Concentration, involvement and then absorption. You can get absorbed in a sensory object, so we have wrongly brought in meditation as a link, because of mistaken translation of dhāraṇā, dhyāna, samādhi, as concentration, meditation, trance. Dhāraṇā is not concentration. Dhyāna is not, in that sense, meditation. Samādhi, in that sense, is not trance. So, they happen in psycho-mental realm, progressively, and we have brought meditation as a link, which is faulty, which is a blunder. Where does meditation come? It comes in higher faculty functions: pensivity, reflectivity, meditativity. So for meditativity, there must be reflectivity. So the object must be reflection-worthy. If the object is not reflection-worthy, you can’t go to meditativity. And this pensivity, reflectivity and meditativity, they are to be churned out by the process or thought process, which I just now told you: thought, thinking, thinker. Identify them, classify them, recognize them. Then what is the churning here? The thought about a thought, thought about the thought, thought about thinking, thought about thinker. Then again thought about a thought, thought about thinker, thought about thinking. Then again thought about a thought, thought about thinking, thought about thinker. So this circular process, rotary process does the churning and the reflectivity is evolved, meditativity is evolved out of this churning.



Only point to be noted here, from the educative perspective, dimension, that meditativity doesn’t come from concentration. You don’t need concentration to be meditating. You need a good, noble object, suitable object for thought to be woven around it. Every object is not worthwhile to be going for meditativity. Then you must go for dissection of thinker, thinking, thought. If I may say so trisection, the trisection of thought, thinking and thinker, identify each one of them. Objectify each one of them, analyze each one of them, investigate each one of them, scrutinize each one of them and then cyclically go on doing it, it will land up in meditativity.

40:48

So how Guruji’s yoga was a dynamic meditative process or meditation because he was dealing with his core to periphery, periphery to core aspects. All aspects of me and mine coming as objective entities, instrumental entities and subjective entities. And that is why there was thought about thinking, and there was thought about thinker. That’s not even a meditative process. So Guruji was not just perfecting āsanas, but he was trying to carve, sculpt, also address, set-right the instrumental entities and subjective entities. That is why there was meditativity in his āsanas.

How will you embark upon this process in your practices? In your practices, try to understand the syntax which I said last time:

  • I am doing Trikoṇāsana,

  • Trikoṇāsana is being done,

  • Trikoṇāsana is being done on me,

  • Trikoṇāsana is done by the breath and by the mind,

  • Trikoṇāsana is done for the breath and for the mind.

  • I am doing Trikoṇāsana and Trikoṇāsana is done on me.

So this classical process will bring on horizon, the meditativity in your process and will start understanding how an āsana can be a meditative state. See in āsanas, we go for a state of mind. And a state of mind is always a thought pattern. You can’t have a good state of mind with no thought pattern, scheme of thoughts, arrangement of thought, content of thought. They must be there, behind the state of your mind. So in natural, organic yogic processes, a state of mind has always a thought pattern underlying it and there’s a thought structure raised over it.

In only inorganic processes you can have a state of mind, without a thought substrate. Like if you swallow a psychedelic pill, psychedelic drug, you don’t need a thought scheme, for you to have that psychedelic state. The drug will do that. That is an inorganic process. That is an unnatural process. In yoga, you work on your state of mind, very naturally, very organically, very autogenically. So bear in mind, there is always a thought pattern, thought scheme, thought arrangement behind that state of mind. Śīrṣāsana is not a psychedelic pill, or Śavāsana is not a psychedelic pill, that you get that state, sublime state. It is autogenically turned out, biochemically turned out, electrochemically turned out. So there is always the thought, the thought process, that’s why in āsanas, I have introduced the precept of activity process and thought process. Layman, common-man most of the practitioners, also, think yoga is the activity process and then go over board on activity process. They don’t identify thought process. Bring in thought process, bring it significantly. There will be basis for meditativity, meditativity doesn’t get based on activity, meditativity gets based on thought. So,

  • let’s try to improve on thought processes in āsanas.

  • Let us objectify the thought processes.

  • Let us have scrutiny of the thought processes.

  • Let us try to address the thought processes.

  • Let’s try to improve the thought processes.

We will certainly be heading towards meditativity and the dynamic meditation of Iyengar system. I think that is enough for the day. Thank you very much for your patience. Namaskar



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