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Yoga Sutra 2.4: Ignorance (Avidya) and four stages of colorings

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Yoga Sutras: Yoga Sutra 2.4 IGNORANCE (AVIDYA) AND FOUR STAGES OF COLORINGS http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-20109.htm#2.4 (Useful graphics are shown at this
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 22, 2005
      Yoga Sutras: Yoga Sutra 2.4
      (Useful graphics are shown at this link)

      YOGA SUTRA 2.4: The root forgetting or ignorance of the nature of
      things (avidya) is the breeding ground for the other of the five
      colorings (kleshas), and each of these is in one of four states: 1)
      dormant or inactive, 2) attenuated or weakened, 3) interrupted or
      separated from temporarily, or 4) active and producing thoughts or
      actions to varying degrees.
      (avidya kshetram uttaresham prasupta tanu vicchinna udaranam)

      avidya = spiritual forgetting, ignorance, veiling, nescience
      kshetram = field, breeding ground
      uttaresham = for the others
      prasupta = dormant, latent, seed
      tanu = attenuated, weakened
      vicchinna = distanced, separated, cut off, intercepted, alternated
      udaranam = fully active, aroused, sustained

      SYSTEMATICALLY REDUCE THE COLORINGS: These colorings (kleshas) are
      either: 1) active, 2) cut off, 3) attenuated, or 4) dormant. We want
      to be able to observe and witness these stages so that we can
      systematically reduce the coloring. Then the thought patterns are no
      longer obstacles to deep meditation, and that is the goal.

      See also the articles on:
      Klisha and Aklishta Vrittis
      Karma and the sources of Actions, Speech, and Thoughts

      FOUR STAGES OF COLORING: The starting point is to observe what is the
      current state of the coloring of individual thought patterns. This
      self-awareness practice becomes a gentle companion in daily life and
      during meditation:

      1. ACTIVE, AROUSED (UDARAM): Is the thought pattern active on the
      surface of the mind, or playing itself out through physical actions
      (through the instruments of action, called karmendriyas, which
      include motion, grasping, and speaking)? These thought patterns and
      actions may be mild, extreme, or somewhere in between. However, in
      any case, they are active.

      Article on Indriyas (jnanendriyas and karmendriyas):

      2. DISTANCED, SEPARATED, CUT OFF (VICCHINNA): Is the thought pattern
      less active right now, due to there being some distance or
      separation. We experience this often when the object of our desire is
      not physically in our presence. The attraction or aversion, for
      example, is still there, but not in as active a form as if the object
      were right in front of us. It is as if we forgot about the object for
      the now. It is actually still colored, but just not active (but also
      not really attenuated).

      3. ATTENUATED, WEAKENED (tanu): Has the thought pattern not just been
      interrupted, but actually been weakened or attenuated? Sometimes we
      can think that a deep habit pattern has been attenuated, but it
      really has not been weakened. When we are not in the presence of the
      object of attachment or aversion, that separation can appear to be
      attenuation, when it actually is just not seen in the moment.

      This is one of the big traps of changing the habits or conditionings
      of the mind. First, it is true that we need to get some separation
      from the active stage to the distanced stage, but then it is
      essential to start to attenuate the power of the coloring of the
      thought pattern.

      4. DORMANT, LATENT, SEED (PRASUPTA): Is the thought pattern in a
      dormant or latent form, as if it were a seed that is not growing at
      the moment, but which could grow in the right circumstances?

      The thought pattern might be temporarily in a dormant state, such as
      when asleep, or when the mind is distracted elsewhere. However, when
      some other thought process comes, or some visual or auditory image
      comes in through the eyes and ears, the thought pattern is awakened
      again, with all of its coloring.

      Eventually the seed of the colored thought can be burned in the fire
      of meditation, and a burnt seed can no longer grow.

      WHERE DOES ALL OF THIS GO? Through the process of Yoga meditation,
      the thought patterns are gradually weakened, then can mostly remain
      in a dormant state. Then, in deep meditation the "seed" of the
      dormant can eventually be burned, and a burned seed can no longer
      grow. Then, one is free from that previously colored thought pattern.

      EXAMPLE: An example will help to understand the way these four stages
      work together. We'll use the physical example of four people, in
      relation to smoking cigarettes, because the example can be so clear.
      The principles apply not only to objects such as cigarettes, but also
      to people, opinions, concepts, beliefs, thoughts or emotions. The
      principle also applies not only to gross level thoughts, but the
      subtlest of mental impressions.

      PERSON A: Has never smoked and has never felt any desire to smoke.
      When Person A sees a cigarette, he recognizes what it is. There is a
      memory impression in the chitta, but it is completely neutral--it
      just is a matter or recognition. It is not colored; it is aklishta.
      (The thought of cigarettes might be colored by aversion, if he is
      offended by smoking, but that is a different example.)

      PERSON B: Has smoked for many years, but then quit several years ago.
      Occasionally she still says, "I'd kill for a cigarette!" but does not
      smoke due to health reasons. Her deep impression of cigarettes
      remains colored, and is actively playing out in both the unconscious
      and conscious, waking states. At times, the impression of cigarettes
      might not be active, such as when she is asleep, or doing some other
      distracting activity. However, at the latent level, the impression is
      still very colored in a potential form.

      PERSON C: Has smoked for many years, but then quit several years ago.
      He always says, "Oh, no, I don't want a cigarette; I never even think
      about it." At the same time his gestures and body language reveal
      something different. He may have very colored mental impressions of
      attachment, but they are not allowed to surface into consciousness.
      There is separation from the thought pattern, but the coloring has
      not truly been attenuated (even though it goes into latent form
      during sleep, or when the mind is distracted). This kind of blocking
      the coloring is not what is intended in Yoga science.

      PERSON D: Smoked for many years, but then quit several years ago.
      After some time of struggling with the separation or cutting off
      phase (Vicchinna), she then sat with this desire during meditation,
      allowed the awareness of the attachment to rise, gently refrained
      from engaging the impressions, and watched the coloring gradually
      fade. During that time, the thought patterns were sometimes active,
      sometimes separated, and sometimes temporarily dormant. However, it
      is now as if she were a non-smoker. The desire has returned to seed
      form or is completely gone, not only when asleep, or when the mind is
      distracted, but also when in the presence of cigarettes in the
      external world.

      thinking process often, in a gentle, non-judging way, noticing the
      stage of the coloring of thought patterns. It can be great fun, not
      just hard work. The mind is quite amusing the way that it so easily
      and quickly goes here and there, both internally and through the
      senses, seeking out and reacting to the objects of desire. (See also
      the article on the four functions of mind)

      There are many thoughts traveling in the train of mind, and many are
      colored. This is how the mind works; it is not good or bad. By
      noticing the colored thought patterns, understanding their nature by
      labeling them, we can increasingly become a witness to the whole
      process, and in turn, become free from the coloring. Then, the
      spiritual insights can more easily come to the forefront of awareness
      in life and meditation.

      TRAIN THE MIND ABOUT COLORING: An extremely important part of
      attenuating, or reducing the coloring of the colored thought pattern
      is to train the mind that this coloring is going to bring nothing but
      further trouble (This is described in Sutra 2.33).

      It means training the mind that, "This is not useful!". This simple
      training is the beginning of attenuating the coloring (The process
      starts with observing, but then moves on to attenuating). It is
      similar to training a small child; it all begins by labeling and
      saying what is useful and not useful. Note that this is not a moral
      judgment as to what is good or bad. It is more like saying whether it
      is more useful to go left or right when taking a journey.

      OFTEN, WE ARE STUCK IN A CYCLE: Often in life, we find that the
      colored thought patterns move between active and separated stages,
      and then back to active. They go in a cycle between these two. Either
      they are actively causing challenges, or we are able to get some
      distance from them, like taking a vacation.

      BREAK THE CYCLE: However, it is possible that we may never really
      attenuate them when engaged in such a cycle, let alone get the
      colorings down into seed form, when we are stuck in this cycle. It is
      important to be aware of this possibility, so that we can
      intentionally pursue the process of weakening the strength of the

      MEDITATION ATTENUATES COLORING: This is where meditation can be of
      tremendous value in getting free from these deep impressions (2.11).
      We sit quietly, focusing the mind, yet intentionally allow the
      cycling process to play out, right in front of our awareness.
      Gradually it weakens, so we can experience the deeper silence, where
      we can come in greater touch with the spiritual aspects of meditation.

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