1.41 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 41 | COMMENTARY
Kshina-vrttera-abhijaatasya-iva maneh-grahitr-grahana-grahyesu tat-stha-tad-anjanataa samaapattih
क्षीणवृत्तेरभिजातस्येव मणेर्ग्रहीतृग्रहणग्राह्येषु तत्स्थतदञ्जनतासमापत्तिः॥१.४१॥
kṣi̅ṇavr̥tterabhija̅tasyeva maṇergrahitr̥grahaṇagra̅hyeṣu tatsthatadañjanata̅sama̅pattiḥ||1.41||
When the mind becomes free of its modulations, it becomes like a pure reflecting crystal, and plays the role of the seer, seeing and seen effortlessly in the moment.
“The mind is like a photographic plate. It clicks pictures of the events, but the events are not there.”
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
We sat together in the amphitheatre, our legs touching. The sky was a brilliant blue above us. The air smelt of the earth after rain, and a light breeze caressed our skin. I sensed a stillness deep within me, and it oozed out to my senses, such that everything I perceived seemed to deepen the calm.
‘It was the best experience of my life. I had never known such peace and bliss.’ My voice was barely a whisper.
‘Hmm…’ – she nodded – ‘I hope you get to experience that again.’
The silence within me broke. I realised that, no matter how hard I tried, I could not communicate my experience with anyone. A laugh escaped deep from my chest. ‘No’, I said. ‘The moment was complete. The experience was fulfilling. I have no desire or need to experience that again.’
The new pandemic of the modern world (besides Covid) is the overwhelming fixation on future. All kinds of people, because of the easy reach to the masses, suddenly have become convinced that what they know and the way they live their life is the only way to live. This conviction brings a kind of self-belief and power over one’s presence and words that can easily influence those who have self-doubt. Today, if I open social media, everyone is a “gyaani” – a wise one. Everyone is giving out advice – how to think, how to act, what opinion to have (and not to have), and how to have a good future. People of all ages including children and teens are being told that food, sleep and rest is for losers. Celebration is a waste of time. The only way to live today is to hustle until you cannot keep your eyes open and then hustle some more. If you are not outworking the other person, you are not working enough. Even right now, if you think about it, I am writing to give you some knowledge as if I know some secret. I, fortunately, do not labor under the delusion that my way of life is the only productive way of life, or that I know something that others are incapable of knowing. It is quite liberating to be ordinary. I believe that every life has its own shape and path, and every person must find their own truth. No one can give it to you. J. Krishnamurti puts it succinctly:
“Truth cannot be accumulated”.
The obsession with making the future better has a simple implication – the present moment is an obstacle to be dealt with. We will be happy tomorrow because tomorrow will be better than today – today, we must struggle. But, tomorrow never comes. Only our imagination is thriving in the present, and our imagination is scared, because everyone keeps telling us that if we do not have a life they have, if we do not live by their morals, if we do not make them proud, then we have failed at life. It breeds self-doubt, and one day, we are not sure if we should listen to ourselves anymore. It feels easier to let someone else tell us what life means and how to live it. Suddenly, we find ourselves running around to do something someone else told us to do, to build a life someone else told us we would be happy to have using the tools we do not know if are compatible for us. A few days later, someone else will come along and tell you something different, and your mind will take off like a bullet in the other direction. What a joke! No wonder we are exhausted. No wonder the world seems so heavy and scary.
Where is life? Neither the past exists, nor the future – these exist in our memory and imagination respectively. Memory is seldom accurate, and our imagination has already been hijacked along with half of our intellect. We are half dead, not because we do not have, but because we have been told that what we have is the not the right thing to have, and what we will have tomorrow will be better and it is not right to be happy and content now. We are told that we cannot think for ourselves, that we are unintelligent, unwise, and uncomprehending in the face of the truth of life which only they seem to know. Life is passing like a dream, foggy and always just out of grasp.
The mind does not like noise. It likes space. It literally becomes aware of life when it is not occupied with anything in particular – neuroimaging shows that areas of brain associated with the sense of self are not active in people who are always stressed. When the mind is steadied, it becomes soft and receptive. A passive awareness develops that flows with the time – keeping with the present. The present, instead of a foe to be wrestled, becomes a friend to share silence with. The nature of being human starts to express, and since it is nature, it is natural. One discovers oneself – our needs, our inclinations, our strength, and our weakness. It is now impossible not to take decisions that yield what we desire to achieve. Acceptance develops. Compassion flows. Then, life is content, and yet every action is fulfilling. The mind becomes pure like a reflecting crystal, pure and untainted by anything it comes in contact with. Every moment is experienced in its entirety, in its endless depth, and when it passes, the mind does not hold on to the desire of the joy, or the fear of pain in the moment. Such a person goes beyond space and time, for each moment becomes eternal and infinite – the present never runs out. Such a mind is free – and such a mind has achieved Yoga.