Sunday, November 8, 2009

Latin Roots of the Yoga-Sutra: Chapter 1: Aphorism 2

Welcome back fans of Latin roots as they relate to English vocabulary words! Recently I have been focusing this SAT English vocabulary blog on analyzing the Latin root words of titles of great English and world literature, and then discussing why those great works are indeed great. I have recently perused Patanjali's great work concerning yoga, the Yoga-Sutra, translated by Chip Hartranft. I have found the aphoristic style of the Yoga-Sutra not only engaging, but also deeply profound; in it, Patanjali discusses the considerable spiritual, mental, and physical rewards that one can derive from the practice of yoga, which is much, much more than the usually held western conception of yoga as just the asanas, or postures. During the next two years or so, I will devote myself to writing about each of Patanjanli's aphorisms, sequentially, contained in this remarkable 2nd-century BCE text, with a focus on analyzing the text in terms of its classical Greek and Latin roots of the fine English translation, and then providing an individual's exegesis of the text itself, based upon my own wonderful experience with yoga thus far. It has been said that memorizing the Sanskrit text of the Yoga-Sutra in and of itself can re-pattern the mind; I am most curious to see if this phenomenon is also metalinguistic, that is, can English and its roots bring effect the same transformation? Last week I focused on the Latin roots of Chapter 1: Integration and Aphorism 1: Now, the teachings of yoga. This week I move on to:

Chapter 1: Integration
Aphorism 2: Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.

The name of this chapter (itself derived from the Latin root caput, capitis: "head") comes from the Latin root integer: "whole, entire, untouched." Thus, this first chapter, the first of but four in the Yoga-Sutra, from an etymological point of view, will focus upon "the act of becoming whole, entire, or untouched."
The second aphorism includes two key English derivatives, both from Latin root words:

pattern: The word "pattern" comes from the Latin root pater, patris: father. Just as a "father" or pater contribues to children via his genetic pattern, so too are patterns progenitors of forms. Patterning in the conscious mind becomes the "father" of action or thought; early patterns that are formed in the mind lead to children of restricted thought. Many SAT-level English vocabulary words arise from the Latin root word pater, patris, including but not limited to: patriarch, paternity, expatriate, patron, patronize, patronizing, patronage, perpetrate, and patricide.

consciousness: The word "consciousness" arises via the Latin prefix "con" which comes from the Latin preposition "cum," which in this case acts as an intensive, meaning "thoroughly," and the Latin verb scio, scire, "to know." It is one's "consciousness" that allows one to "thoroughly know" the world around one, making one aware that one is not only alive, but that much, apparently, surrounds one in this world; a whirling vortex of samsara which leads to the kleshas, or afflictions. Other SAT-level derivatives that derive from the Latin verb scio, scire include: conscientious, omniscient, prescient, conscionable, unconscionable, nicety, and plebiscite.

Aphorism 2: Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.

Let's take a look at the aphorism in light of the etymology of "pattern" and "consciousness." Patterns formed in the consciousness early on in life lead to restricted ways of thought limited by those patterns, which give a skewed, awry, and false view of our awareness and knowing because our consciousness has been, as it were, biased. This yogic view of the apprehension (or not) of reality is remarkably similar to Kant's philosophical bent towards Metaphysical Agnosticism, in which Kant asseverates that our minds contain a priori filters with which we are saddled, or "patterned," at birth, and which color our view of reality for our entire lives; hence we must, by the limitations of our own ability to apprehend reality, remain metaphysical agnostics. Kant's filters are similar to viewing "reality" through rose-colored glasses at all times, or similar to an operating system of a computer that can only read programs based upon its own code. Although Nietzsche thought that Dionysiac carousing (which he termed Rausch) could ephemerally touch that transcendent reality, the beholder could not recall the experience once having returned to consciousness (probably because of the huge post-wine headache, if nothing else). The yogic view, however, is different; although our minds or consciousness are limited by their "patterning" which is formulated early on in life during our impressionistic childhoods, there is a way to break through the false view of reality to see reality as it is (Kant's ding-an-sich) via the multi-step approach of yoga. Thus, despite the undeniable greatness of Kant's 1781 Critique of Pure Reason and its ultimate limited conclusion, yogis provide an answer to not only experience reality, but also to relieve human suffering which is created by this invidious and insidious "patterning" of the "consciousness."
Next week I will focus on Aphorism III of Chapter 1: Then pure awareness can abide in its very nature.

Fascinated with English vocabulary words? Want to pick them apart into their constituent Greek and Latin roots? Want to know even more SAT and GRE words that come from the Latin root words pater, patris: father or scio, scire: "to know"? Studying hard for the SAT or GRE verbal section, and just can't get a handle on all of those vocabulary words, which are truly legion? Check out, where you will find the most comprehensive Greek and Latin roots dictionary available today, and also the most's in full color, and artistically designed. There's even a Greek and Latin roots poster available, which nicely illustrates the full power of what Greek and Latin root words can do for you.