Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ninth Class

Second day of Manorama's instruction. Fewer notes, as more of the day was spent working on pronunciation, recitation, and expansion of the text of the first 14 Yoga Sutras. Even so -- I present what I recorded in my notebook. As I attended to some of the intervening stories closely enough to forget to take notes, I'd welcome other class members' recollections here.

Sanskrit Workshop

welcome = svahgatam
good morning = suprepratham (sp?)
Review of first day.
Yesterday we covered vowel positions inside the mouth. Prana comes through the throat by the power of intention and strikes the palate at a particular point, creating various kinds resonance. In Sanskrit tradition, sound is understood to invoke meaning. Sanskrit is a phonetic alphabet -- the name of the letter is the sound of the letter pronounced. A-U-M + silence/nadam. The yoga of sound. Pronunciation of different vowels vibrates in different parts of the head and body. In this way, at least, Sanskrit does directly affect the body, literally embodying both meaning and sound. Sounds produce certain kinds of vibrations and feelings in the singer. Some focus in the forehead, an area that includes what some neurologists call "the divine center." So chanting mantras produces a pleasing, mesmerizing, relaxed, tranquil feeling.

Sanskrit consonants are dependent upon vowels for their pronunciation -- they interrupt or restrict the pronunciation of the vowels. Sanskrit mantras are continuous. Vowels are needed to give voice to the consonantal contact points. In Sanskrit, the name of every consonant is the consonant's phonetic effect followed by "a."
Review of Sanskrit Alphabet

Yoga Sutras - attributed to Patanjali
-- holistic way of living
--sutras (shares the root with the word "suture")
-- literally "thread"
-- style of text
-- lots of different kinds of sutras

Manorama borrowed a string of mala beads from a student and explained that mala strings contain 108 beads, and one "godhead" bead. One uses the mala beads to keep track of recitations of mantras, one recitation for each bead. When one gets to the godhead bead, one reverses course, and recites in the other direction. The string holding the beads together is the metaphor of the "thread" or sutra. Each piece of the sutras depends upon and builds upon the previous beads.

The Yoga Sutras are very concise -- so concise that they need, or at least encourage, detailed unpacking and exegesis. Guruji taught Manorama that to understand the Yoga Sutras, she first must come to understand her own text or sutras first.

"Patanjali" = when two hands are placed together at the heart, we call that the "anjali" mudra. It is also performed by placing the hands together in cupping shape, and drawing them - joined - to the forehead, palms open to the sky in offering. It is a showing of reverence.

The story of Patanjali's origin goes this way: Patanjali's mother had borne no children. She very much wanted a baby. She was worshipping Surya, the Sun. In this mythology, the Sun is the symbol of constancy, and is contrasted with the moon, which waxes and wanes, and is understood symbolically to be like the mind, ever fluctuating. But Patanjali's mother worshipped the sun. In doing so, she entered the water, praying to Surya. She held her hands in the anjali mudra, palms open, supplicating. She heard the sound "Pat", and she looked to see what had fallen into her palms. It was an egg. When the egg hatched, Patanjali was born, half serpent, half man.

Patanjali is also referred to as "Ananta" and "Adi-sesa" - first serpent. Recall the symbolism of serpents -- the symbol of two serpents intertwined is a representation of kundalini rising through the body, the crossing points being the principal chakras -- this is also where we get the cadeuseus, the symbol of health. Recall also that Shiva wears serpents as adornments in representation of his power. Also recall that Vishnu resides on a bed of serpents.

Patanjali = that which falls into supplicating hands.

Three texts are attributed to Patanjali: Ayurveda (ayur = life, veda = science); Maha-Bhasya - a grammatical text on the science of speech and grammar for healing the mind; and Yoga Sutra -- for healing the mind and spirit.

Manorama has provided us with a word-for-word translation of the Yoga Sutra. We may want to listen to guruji's recitation of the Yoga Sutra. Also, we might listen to

Before reciting the Yoga Sutra, traditionally, the chanters recite an invocation to Patanjali.

Sutra 1: Auspicious beginning. Note that Patanjali describes this as a compilation, effectively showing that lineage is being passed along. Tradition tells that Patanjali's students wrote down Patanjali's words.

Yoga = union - the kind that cannot be separated, though we may forget that it cannot -- it is the union of the self with the self.

samadhi = consciousness.

Wise men and women come and go, but the Self is only One.

There are not many enlightened -- there is only One Self, and we are all that One.

Q: Some are happy just playing tennis, without regard to these things.
A: True, but who knows about tomorrow? Tomorrow always comes.

Guruji: People always ask me, "how much should I meditate?" How can I tell them "24 hours a day, 365 days a year"?

Yoga is the entry point to a living that we can follow always.

Any moment can be an entry point.

If your life is a meditation, every point is an entry point.

Pray for more problems. They'll keep you close -- guide you in and in and in.

Yoga should not be a weekend God. It should be life.

When we withdraw the sakti from the circle and send it into the center point - siva - we're focused.

Two books to consider: Be As You Are, and I Am That.

One drop of reality and you'll spend the rest of your life seeking more. It can be found through chant, asana, and pranayama.

Robert Thurman -- Columbia professor of Buddhism: It is something to know you are free, but knowing is not enough. You have to feel, and feeling changes everything.

Yoga is a way to enter reality and perceive it directly. For those who are physically inclined, asana can be an entry point.

Notice the small things. They'll lead to noticing silence itself.

Any practice that does not use reverence is less powerful.