परिणामतापसंस्कारदुःखैर्गुणवृत्तिविरोधाच्च दुःखमेव सर्वं विवेकिनःI
pariṇāma-tāpa-saṁskāra-duḥkhaiḥ guṇa-vṛtti-virodhāt-ca duḥkham-eva sarvaṁ vivekinaḥ
The wise person (vivekinaḥ) understands that suffering (duḥkhaiḥ) occurs in all (sarvaṁ) living things due to constant change (pariṇāma), desire to repeat past experiences (tāpa), a conditioned mind set (saṁskāra) and the quality of change in nature (guṇa).
PRACTICAL LIVING In the past three sutras, we were introduced to the Law of Attraction and understood that every action has a consequence, which is based on an intention and could manifest immediately or not. In this sutra, Patanjali clearly describes why we suffer. The reasons are:
1. pariṇāma (change): “The only constant in life is change”. As human beings, we look for solutions to our problems. When we find something that makes us feel better, we attach to that and think that we have solved this issue forever. However, life is continuously changing. Our bodies, our thoughts, our emotions and everything around us are in constant motion. Because we like things to be consistent in order to feel that we have control over our lives, when change happens, we suffer. When the coffee at your favorite coffee shop doesn’t taste like it usually does, do you throw an inner (or outer) tantrum?
2. tāpa (anxiety): Regret about the things we have or have not done in the past and a strong craving to repeat pleasant experiences causes suffering. We are constantly looking for pleasure because it feels good. But in that process, we become anxious to ensure that we only experience pleasant moments. The irony is that the pursuit for pleasure causes pain.
3. saṁskāra (conditioning): From day 1 until today, we have created habits, ways of thinking, behaving and perceiving the world. Many of these habits are useful and necessary in our daily living. However, habits lead us to live mechanical lives. By living purely out of habitual thinking, we lose awareness of what is happening right now. We become reactive to the world. This leads to misperception, seeing the world through an ‘outdated lense’. This misperception eventually leads to suffering.
4. guṇa (quality of nature): In sutra II.16 we described the guṇas, or characteristics of nature as being:
- sattva = quality of revelation, clarification, “that which sheds light”, luminosity, serenity
- rajas = quality of activation, transformation, agitation, passion, vibrance, restlessness
- tamas = quality of compression, density, stillness, inertia, dormancy
According to Patanjali, nature (which includes our bodies and minds) are always under the influence of the guṇas. This means that sometimes we will feel clear, calm and joyful (sattva), sometimes we will feel agitated, angry or worried (rajas), and sometimes we will feel lazy, unmotivated and resistant to change (tamas). This is just the way nature is. Suffering comes because we are attached to certain experiences and sensations and avoid others.
The person who has clarity and wisdom (vivekinaḥ) understands and accepts that pain is part of the experience of being human. This loving approach towards pain causes pain to be less painful. A lot of our suffering results from the drama that we create around pain. When we understand that pain will happen every once in a while, we greet it when it comes and wave goodbye when it leaves.
Does that mean we should not live a life full of pleasure? No! Pleasure feels good 🙂 So let us learn how to enjoy pleasure, with awareness while accepting that pain is a natural part of life.
IN THE YOGA WORLD A little review is always good: Yoga is based on Samkhya – the philosophy that says everything is made out of two things: matter (prakrti) which is always changing; and consciousness or the Self (puruṣa) which is eternal and unchanging. Samkhya states that every change that we go through is necessary for the evolution of matter (the body and mind). And pain, which comes and goes, is part of that evolution. According to Yoga, when we are internally shaken and suffering exists, an internal shift happens, and that can be a great moment of growth.
Another great topic of reflection is the cycle of life. We all celebrate when a baby is born. A baby brings smiles to people’s faces. However, death, which is just as part of the life cycle as birth, is considered by many people as the biggest tragedy of life. It’s painful to lose someone loved, there’s no doubt. In Yoga however, death is seen as a change, a transition just like any other. Clinging to life causes pain. All we know for sure is that one day we will die. Thinking about death and its natural occurrence is therefore a great way to reflect on pain. Does reflecting on it mean that it won’t hurt when it happens to someone we love dearly? Absolutely not. It will hurt. We will cry. The difference is that when we accept both pain and death as a part of life, our experiences are more beautiful and lighter. This requires a lot of detachment. Detachment from values that tell us that death = bad. Detachment from values that say pleasure = happiness. And detachment from values that tell us that happiness = stereotypical beauty, power, money, success and fame.
Wow! That’s a lot of stuff to let go of! Yes, it is. There’s a reason why Yoga is a lifelong process 🙂
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Reconnecting or deepening a connection with another person is something that brings me a lot of fulfillment. I just spent a couple of days with a powerful woman whom I hadn’t seen in a few years. Camilla’s presence is strong, yet soothing. She is independent yet connects people. In these two days we covered a range of topics from the basic catching up on life to profound philosophical conversations about pain, healing and life in general. We shared some of our painful stories, yet laughed remembering silly experiences from the past. Her flexibility and broad range of interests fascinates me. I feel like I can be myself around her. She listens and questions, which is always an enriching experience. Thank you Camilla for listening, sharing and simply being the profound yet simple person that you are! Our conversations and your presence were very meaningful to me! Big hug with lots of love!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we look at how to avoid suffering that has not yet occurred!