Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Latin Roots of the Yoga-Sutra--Chapter 1--Aphorism 9

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 8. This week I move on to:

Aphorism 9: Conceptualization is based on linguistic knowledge, not contact with real things.

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 9:

Conceptualization: from the Latin verb capio, capere, cepi, captum: "take, capture, seize" the Latin prefix cum, (morphed to "con") which here acts as an intensive (thoroughly), and a string of suffixes, the more important of which is "-ation" (act, state, or result of doing something). So, "conceptualization" is the "act of thoroughly seizing" what the mind considers reality via the tool of language (with which the mind must work, as language is the mind's primary tool). SAT and GRE words are legion through this root, e.g.: captious, conceit, precept, encapsulate, incipient, principle, capacious, recuperate, perceptive.

Linguistic: via the Latin root words lingua: "tongue, language,"-ist (one who performs a certain action) and -ic (of or pertaining to). A linguist studies languages, so "linguistic" etymologically means "of or pertaining to the use of language;" are we not all linguists in that our primary tool is language? Other SAT and GRE level derivatives from lingua include: lingo, sublingual, multilingual, bilingual, and polylingual. Note that "linguini," a type of pasta, etymologically means "little tongues" of pasta. Check out my Greek and Latin roots English vocabulary site where you will find out just how important language is!

Contact: via the Latin root word tango, tangere, tetigi, tactum: "touch." Con, as above, derives from the Latin root word cum, but in this case means "together, with," so "contact" with something is a "touching together" with another object that you perceive not to be yourself. SAT level derivatives are legion from this root: tactile, tangent, tactful, contingent, contagion, tangible, contaminate, intact, etc. etc. Note the almost invisible dropping of the "n" from "tango, tangere:" this is a common occurrence, this nullification of "n" across languages. For a huge list of GRE and SAT level derivatives, check out and .

Real: simplest, and yet most, most complex. The adjective "real" derives from the Latin root word "res," meaning, at base, "thing," and in context, just about anything. GRE and SAT level derivatives from this root include: surreal, realist, realizable, irreal, and realization. Note that the word "Republican" derives from this word; the "Res Publica" are the "things" (that is, matters or affairs) of the "people:" via the Latin word populus: "people." Note Grimm's law changing the "p" of the Latin to a "b" in English.

Now, let's take a look at Aphorism 9: Conceptualization is based on linguistic knowledge, not contact with real things. I'll let you decide which category aphorism 9 falls into: 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. A large part of this patterning derives, in addition to perception, from "conceptualization," which becomes clouded by "linguistic" knowledge, which cannot know "real" things, or things as they actually are.
Let me explain. Language, despite the fact that it is the primary tool of human interaction and thought, is limited by the very fact that it, inherently, is a metaphor (and so how much more nebulous do metaphors themselves become!). The word "table" is NOT the "table," or "real" thing itself, but rather is a symbolic referent to a "table." The word itself really gives us very little information about the inherent nature of this thing we, as English speakers, happen to call a "table." Language does not allow us to "know" the table, but only to refer to it. In time, language dupes us into thinking that we know something simply because we know the word which is the referent of the thing. We become, well, desensitized, as it were, in a cloud of linguistic, abstract unknowing. And become rather complacent, even insouciant.
Consider the word "I." We all take it for granted that when we say "I am dancing," that there is a subject, namely the "I," that is indeed dancing. But wait ... what about non-subject based languages? There are languages which do not admit a doer of the deed, but rather an action flowing through as a vector; so, instead of "clouds raining," one might say "there is raining;" instead of saying "I am dancing" or "we are dancing," a speaker of a gerund-based language would say "there is dancing." Can you see the subtle difference? Hard for someone imbued with the notion only of subjects. If one were to assume that a subject-based language is reality, one would assume that language is an infallible tool, which it is clearly not. In fact, language clouds reality and circumscribes reality in terms of its way of looking at experience, not experience as it actually is. Add that to the inherently biased ways that language has of presenting and perpetuating "reality" (provincial and parochial to be sure), and you end up with all kinds of problems.
The above is why Nietzsche hated librettos. Unlike language, which is multiple steps away from "reality" (or that which is the transcendent, the Unmoved Mover, the ding an sich, the ineffable nondual, the non-subject mirror to nature), music is believed by many to be one step away from truth as Keats envisioned it (beauty is truth, truth beauty). Music is an audial form of the luminous sunset (both of which are completely inadequately described by language, and why we become much more emotional from music or visual beauty than we do with words, which much stretch and pull, but also why poetry comes closer than prose to the Unrealizable), and so it is but one step away; when words are thrown in, it's like mixing rancid oil with beautiful, aquamarine, tropical water. You get my point.
And so, language leads us astray. Consider the sem and all the thinking it does, all with language, that just perpetuates its own reality, not unsullied truth. Rather, the yogi looks for contact not with vaporous mind fluctuations that are only a metaphor for general inanity, but with "reality" as Plato envisioned it: the true Real form, or template, that gives rise to our experiences with the person who must do the experiencing, which ultimately changes what reality is. We must lose this linguistic dross, this mental prattle, this detritus of intellect before we can approach the pristine "Real."
Or that which we all desire to "link back" to.

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 res, rei; capio, capere; tango, tangere; and lingua? 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.