1.4 The Borne Identity
Updated: Jul 30
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 4 | COMMENTARY
Vṛitti sa̅ru̅pyamitaratra. ||1.4||
One identifies himself with the modulations of the mind.
It was the last period of school. Arnav was restless – only forty minutes to go, the thought flitted his mind. His left foot tapped on the floor; he spun the notebook lying in front of him on his index finger. A paper ball came into his view, he caught it with his other hand and sent it flying along a random trajectory. He heard laughter and rowdy voices from the window that overlooked the play-ground and wished he could be down there but alone. He hated the new town, the new school and the new faces he encountered every day. He looked around – a couple of girls were painting on their desks, and a few others were singing. A group of boys were playing cricket with a cardboard and a paper ball. They are too ignorant, too superficial. Too happy his heart whispered. They don’t know what the world is like, he grimaced in contempt. Before he could pass through these thoughts, it was too late and he slipped.
They came in the night – the footsteps, the shouts and the fire straight from hell. He had been sleeping with his mother snuggled up to her in warmth in the frigid cold of December. The door splintered and he woke up with a start. He saw swords glint in the light of burning torches. Before he could take in his surroundings, he was in his mother arms, and she was running for the kitchen window. Soft ground cushioned him as he was thrown out into the sugarcane farm behind him. He tried to scream but his throat was choked. His mother was next to him again, and she picked him up and ran. He looked back and saw it – a bright flame engulfed his home in a few minutes. Baba¸ he thought, wondering why his father was not next to them. His mother’s heart hammered in her chest and into his ears. The soft ground tried to stop her dashing feet but in vain. They were out of the crops and into the woods. He felt his head getting wet, but instead of being cold, it was warm. He buried his face into his mother’s shawl. An eternity passed and he woke up in a trolley in his mother’s lap frozen cold. He sat up and looked around. A hazy sun illuminated the surroundings. A barren wasteland surrounded him. All the fields turned into ash. Smoke scorched his throat. He looked at the people accompanying him – most of them had wounds on their legs and burns. He turned his face to his mother and screamed – her face was blue.
The cardboard smacked into his face. Everyone was laughing around. No fires, no dead parents. Bile rose into his throat, and he dashed to the restroom to empty his guts, wondering which was a dream – this laughing hell, or the burning heaven.
The above scene is completely fictional. If it invoked some emotions in you such as pain, empathy, or fear – then did you observe them arising? Most of us never observe our emotions – when we get angry, we flow in anger. We shout, or throw things around, or isolate ourselves for a short period of time. When we are too happy, even then we lose our sense of being. We do not realise sometimes what we are doing or saying. In fact, pleasure can cause us to commit a lot of mistakes if not handled maturely. When we watch an interesting movie, we lose all sense of the body and mind; we cry, we laugh and fall in love along with the characters.
It takes only a few years after we are born, and we start defining ourselves as the thoughts we have; when someone asks us about ourselves, we tell them what we like and dislike (which is the social convention and a dimension which is important).
But the likes and dislikes start defining us. The fears drive all our actions. The desires cloud our judgement and intellect. Obsessions blur the line between temporary and permanent.
When we are not in touch with our true nature of peace, serenity and bliss, we operate with a small mind. We fail to come back home to ourselves after we are done applying our mind in our activities. We build an identity with our thoughts and emotions, caging ourselves. Oh, I am like this...I am like that...we either keep on blaming ourselves, or we keep inflating our ego - in either case we are disconnected from the reality. We forget we are not "like this" or "like that" but our thoughts are "like this" and "like that" and our thoughts are transient. Our identity becomes founded on a wisp of smoke. We fail to observe as a spectator and lose all sense of who we are at our core.
The culmination of Yoga prevents this by bringing a realisation of the nature of our being and helps us to get established in it.