Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Latin Roots of the Yoga-Sutra--Chapter 1--Aphorism 8

Welcome back fans of Latin roots as they relate to English vocabulary words! Recently I have been focusing this SAT and GRE 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 nonpareil. 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 to be 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 physical postures/poses. During the next two years or so, I will devote myself to writing about each of Patanjali's aphorisms, sequentially, contained in his 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 beyond the asanas. 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 root words via Greek and Latin effect the same transformation? Last week I focused on the Latin roots of the Yoga-Sutra: Chapter 1: Aphorism 7. This week I move on to:

Aphorism 8: Misperception is false knowledge, not based on what actually is.

You will recall that aphorism 8 is a direct answer of aphorism 5: There are five types of patterns, including both hurtful and benign and aphorism 6: They are right perception, misperception, conceptualization, deep sleep, and remembering.

Let's first discuss the Greek and Latin roots of three of the following words in aphorism 8:

Misperception: from the Latin verb capio, capere, cepi, captum: "take, capture, seize" and the Germanic prefix mis-: "bad, badly, wrong, wrongly." "Perception," etymologically, is the "thorough seizing or capturing" by the mind of experience, or of the world that the mind "perceives." Note that the prefix "per" in this case acts as an intensive prefix, adding emphasis to the main stem "cept." ("pre" in the word "prefix," on the other hand, means "before, in front of," as "prefixes" are those words that are "fastened in front of a word"). The suffix "-ion" means "act, state, or result of doing something." Hence, etymologically, "perception" is the "act of thoroughly capturing or seizing" the world around one, through the mind. Following on that, "misperception" is the "act of thoroughly and wrongly capturing or seizing" the world around one. SAT and GRE words are legion through this root, e.g.: captious, conceit, precept, encapsulate, incipient, principle, capacious, recuperate.

False: The word "false" comes to English via the Latin verb fallo, fallere, fefelli, falsum: "trick, deceive." Hence, something "false" deceives the viewer, or has tricked her into believing something that is not true. Some interesting SAT-level derivatives run through fallo, fallere, including: fallacy, fallacious, infallible, fallible, fault, default, unfailing, and faux. Note also that the word "faucet" "flows" through this word: can anyone guess why? I will provide the answer in my next post, and the name of anyone who is so incisive and perspicacious so as to see through the etymological trickery.

Actually: runs through the highly prolific Latin root word ago, agere, egi, actum: "do, act, drive." Something that "actually" is has been "done," and therefore exists in reality (Platonic or not). A truly astounding number of English derivatives flow through ago, agere, including but not limited to the ff. SAT and GRE level derivatives: exacting, retroactive, intransigent, variegated, castigate, cogent, ambiguous, prodigal, mitigate, purge, and cogitate. Interested in (many) more? Check out my Greek and Latin roots English vocabulary site.

Now, let's take a look at Aphorism 8: Misperception is false knowledge, not based on what actually is: the second of the five patterns mentioned in aphorism 5:
There are five types of patterns, including both hurtful and benign

As we learned in my post concerning aphorism 4 of Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra, patterns of thought that are formed at birth and early on in life limit one's view of reality, coloring one's awareness of what the world truly is and restricting it to the view of the pattern, which is not necessarily where reality lies, but only the reality of the pattern itself, which is not actual truth or clear perception. Hence, to understand how to supersede such patterning, one must learn the "types" or forms of these patterns; all of them, according to Patanjali, are not necessarily hurtful, although some are. Being able to harness those that are benign to further the process towards enlightenment and obviating those that are hurtful will take us a long way towards fulfilling our goal, that is, to allow one's awareness of true reality to be unhindered and unfettered by those hurtful or debilitating patterns. In aphorism 6, we are given the names of these patterns, the second of which is delineated in our current aphorism.

Misperception of the physical world can be as simple as mistaking a rope for a snake, or a bear for Sasquatch. What we thought was one thing turns out to be another. Traditionally this sutra has been exegetically limited to that interpretation. I would like to advance another that extends this idea from the purely physical realm to the phantoms of the mental realm.

Misperception, unfortunately, is the way in which most of us view reality, in a clouded and "unreal" state. We do not see what "actually" is, but rather we see with "false knowledge," which launches us into suffering via the kleshas, or five afflictions (caused by defective mental patterns): craving, aversion, ignorance, ego, and clinging to life (in the sense of not accepting that death is but another bardo, or stage of existence). Having wrongly perceived what actually is, we come to have false conceptions of what existence is, especially of who we are (false self vs. true self), and thus react blindly and with little sagacity to many situations in our lives. Most of us, unless we are enlightened yoginis or bodhisattvas, spend our lives in a cloud of confusion, battling our way through a reality that is only wrongly constructed by our minds, and is not actual. Kant examined a concept of this sort nicely in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) when he spoke of noetic a priori filters that our mind has at birth, patterns, as it were, that cloud our vision of reality, much as clear water becomes stained when it flows through coffee grounds. Yogis correctly perceive the clear water of what is actual, and thus are unaffected by the kleshas; the rest of us are drinking our coffee, pleased with the caffeine, but then needing more the next day, sometimes more that very day. Clearly aphorism 8 is one of the hurtful patterns because reality is not presented as it actually is, but as the mind misperceives it to be.

My next post will focus on aphorism 9: Conceptualization is based on linguistic knowledge, not contact with real things.

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 ago, agere; capio, capere; and fallo, fallere? 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 the Greek and Latin roots site Word Empire, 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.

Interested in Greek and Roman mythology? Check out Mr. Brunner's Greek Mythology Blog!