Saturday, January 16, 2021

Bringing Yoga to Life - Chapter 6 - The Four Brahmavihara

Bringing Yoga to Life - Chapter 6 - Cleaning Up Our Act: The Four Brahmavihara

In our online Yogi Book Club we have been reading Donna Farhi's book, Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living.  We have been meeting for an hour or more after reading a chapter to discuss our thoughts and how we feel it relates to us, our lives and yoga.

This week while reading and preparing for our meeting it lead me to reading from some of Mr. Iyengar's books - The Core of the Yoga Sutras, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Light on Life.  I also found myself reading Prashant Iyengar's book Fundamentals of Patanajali's Philosophy (Theory of Klesha and Karma) and Anthony De Mello's book The Way of Love  and Edwin Bryant's, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

I'll write a bit about this journey :), but first give a bit about what Chapter 6 is about.  

Donna Farhi describes brahmavihara as attitudes, which are friendliness, compassion, joy and indifference. Patanjali writes of this in Yoga-Sutra 1.33 - maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha duhkha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatah cittaprasadanam. 
Practicing the brahmavihara brings the mind to a tranquil and steady state.

Mr. Iyengar's translation of sutra 1.33 is: Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favorably disposed, serene and benevolent.

Edwin Bryant writes of sutra 1.33, "By cultivating an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, compassion toward those in distress, joy toward those who are virtuous, and equanimity toward those who are non virtuous, lucidity arises in the mind.

In Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar writes of these as the  Healthy Vrttis and that one needs to change their approach toward the external world.  He writes,"If you are happy, pleasant, and unselfish in your behavior towards others, obstacles will shrink.  If you are miserly, with your emotions and judgmental in your mind, obstacles will grow."

Donna writes about the obstacles, or kleshas, which according to Patanajali are:
Avidya - ignorance of our external nature
Asmita - seeing oneself as separate and the divided from the rest of the world
Raga - attraction and attachment to impermanent things
Dvesha - aversion to the unpleasant
Abhiniesha - clinging to Life
From the first klesha - Avidya - ignorance, all other obstacles arise.  

Reading that line made me remember reading this first from Prashant's book, Fundamentals of Patanjali's Philosophy.  I went back to that book and read a few chapters.  It is a book I will have to go back to again (and again), but a few points from Prashant are: 
First of the Kleshas is Avidya. The other Kleshas are Asmita, Raaga, Dvesha, and Abhinivesha. However, these are not five Kleshas but these are actually five-phased Kleshas called Pancha-Parva Kleshas.
Avidya is the only Klesha whose augmentation and escalation actualizes the other four phases.  Essentially it is only Avidya, but when it enlarges to its second phase, it is called Asmita and progressively, Raaga, Dvesha and Abhinivesha arrive. 

Not only are there 5 Afflictions, called obstacles above, but Patanjali lists 9 obstacles to mental clarity.
These are:
lack of effort, fatigue or disease, dullness or inertia, doubt, carelessness, laziness or sloth, inability to turn attention inward, perverted or distorted seeing, inability to establish a firm ground for practice (lack of perseverance), and inability to sustain a firm ground for practice (regression).

Donna doesn't get into these more in this chapter, but mentions them to show why we need to develop these four attitudes - friendliness, compassion, joy and indifference.  

She writes that Patanjali suggests we develop these four attitudes "to life's challenges and apply these to all our relationships and in all situations. These qualities of the heart are conducive to peace of mind and thus can enable us to overcome the distractions that already exist in the mind and to prevent the production of more psychological distress."

In the rest of the chapter Donna gives many great examples of applying each attitude in daily life. 
I won't write all about that as you will get a better understanding reading her words over mine.

Reading the rest of the chapter though did lead me to reading from B.K.S. Iyengar's book, Core of the Yoga Sutras.  I found it helped clarify some things for me, which I'll maybe write about in another blog.

I'll end with one other trail reading about the fourth attitude led me on.

Donna writes on the fourth attitude that we need to develop tolerance toward others.  I had just finished reading in Anthony De Mello's book, The Way of Love, a chapter where he writes, "We think the world would be saved if only we could generate larger quantities of goodwill and tolerance. That's false. What will save the world is not goodwill and tolerance but clear thinking. Of what use is it to be tolerant of others if you are convinced you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong? That isn't tolerance but condescension. That leads not to union of hearts but to division, because you are one up and the other is one down."
I had to pause as these writers seemed to be saying opposite things from each other on tolerance. Anthony then wrote that TRUE tolerance only arises from keen awareness and a clear mind, which in a sense is also what Donna is saying, that practicing the brahmavihara brings the mind to a tranquil and steady state. Another main fact that both authors state is that we are linked to everyone and everything and that our practice is to bring us to that understanding.

There is a lot more I could have written and explored..and maybe I will another day, but if you have any of these books and have a chance to read from them please share with me your thoughts and where your journey leds.

Good luck with your practice of the four brahmavihara.

Thanks for reading..


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