The vacillating waves of perceptions
are stilled through
consistent earnest practice
Both Iyengar and Sw. Satchindananda describe abhyasa or consistent practice to be the positive aspect of thought control/yoga and vairagya or dispassionate non-attachment to be the negative aspect. Iyengar explains that both ?balance each other like day and night, inhalation and exhalation.? He elaborates that practice is the evolutionary path while detachment is the involutionary path. The evolutionary path leads to the discovery of Self through yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, while the involutionary path ?detaches consciousness from external objects through pratayahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi?. He further states that ?without restraint (vairagya), the forces generated by practice (abhyasa) would spin out of control and destroy the sadhaka (practitioner). At the higher level, vairagya without abhyasa could lead to stagnation and decay.
These two principles were put to practice during a recent Sanskrit workshop with Vyaas Houston. He explained to us the biggest obstacle to learning Sanskrit was the learning model in which the student ?gets it right?. ?Getting it right? elicits emotions/feelings of success & confidence but ?getting it wrong? elicits feelings of failure and insecurity. However, both of these states interfere with the acquisition of Sanskrit. He provides an alternate model based on abhyasa and vairagya.
In this model, abhyasa, is staying on the point and vairagya, is the detachment from perceived success or failure. The point of this workshop was to learn Sanskrit. Learning Sanskrit was supported by listening focus, visual focus, and recitation focus. This focus was supported by the following agreements:
I choose the point. That is, when I observe that I am being distracted by thoughts of fear, anxiety, pride, achievement, judgment or other irrelevant thoughts, I come back to the point of listening, or seeing, or recitation.
We move on when I understand. That is, no one gets left behind.
I participate fully. That is, I volunteer to recite and to support those that are reciting or listening with my silence.
I use only the devanagri script. That is, I do not relate Sanskrit sounds to English.
I remain upright and awake so that I can participate fully.
I am on time so that we can move forward together.
Using Vyaas? model of yogic learning, we were all able to progress tremendously in a short period of time. I was able to pronounce and recognize the Sanskrit alphabet and its combination with the vowels. All accomplished in 14 hours during one weekend. This was an extremely valuable experience, one that I try to bring into all aspects of my life.
Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publications India. 1993
Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications. 2004
Swami Shyam, Patanjali Yog Darshan, India: International Meditation Institute, 2001, 3rd. edition.
Stiles, M., Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Boston, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. 2002