Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Latin Roots of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali--Chapter 1--Aphorism 14

Welcome back fans of Greek and Latin roots as they relate to English vocabulary words! Recently I have been focusing this SAT and GRE English vocabulary blog on analyzing the Greek and Latin root words of titles of great works of literature, and then discussing why those works are nonpareil. I am currently perusing Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, translated by Chip Hartranft. I have found the aphoristic style of the these sutras (sutra means "aphorism") to be not only engaging, but also deeply profound; in them, Patanjali discusses the considerable spiritual, mental, and physical rewards that one can derive from the continuous practice of Yoga, which is much, much more than the usually held western conception of Yoga as just the asanas, or physical postures/poses.
The purpose behind Yoga, according to Patanjali, is seeing things as they really are, not as our minds construct them to be; to do this, the ultimate goal or teleology of yogic practice is to cease the fluctuations of the mind, to calm the sem, that part of our minds that generates an annoying 60,000 random thoughts per day and mostly misperceives samsara, and can lead us down paths of irreality. This calming of the mind's thoughts causes suffering to cease, the ultimate goal of what Yoga can do for us.
During the next three years, I will devote myself to writing about each of Patanjali's sutras, 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 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 root words via Greek and Latin effect the same transformation?
Last post I focused on the Latin roots of the Yoga-Sutra: Chapter 1: Aphorism 13: Practice is the sustained effort to rest in that stillness. This week I move on to: Yoga-Sutra, Chapter 1: Aphorism 14: This practice becomes firmly rooted when it is cultivated skillfully and continuously for a long time.
Let's first take a look at the Latin and Greek root words of this sutra:
Practice: via the Greek root prassein: to make, do, or achieve (morphemes from various principal parts of this verb include: pract and prax). Hence, practice is "doing," "making," or "achieving." Other SAT and GRE level vocabulary words include: pragmatic (via pragma: deed, act); malpractice; practitioner; praxis; and impractical.
Firmly: via the Latin root firmus: strong, stable, immovable. When one does something firmly, one's intent in that action is "strong" and "stable." Someone who is infirm, on the other hand, is not strong or stable, but weak; hence he or she possesses an infirmity of some kind. When one affirms an action, one is "strong" in one's acceptance of it. Other SAT and GRE level derivatives include: confirm, unfurl, furl, and affirmation. Note that the word "farm" derives from this root as well, as the land of a "farm" is "stable, strong, and immovable."
Cultivate: via the Latin root word colo, colere, colui, cultum: to till, grow, tend, maintain, develop, revere, worship, or inhabit. When one "cultivates" an action, one "grows" it by carefully "tending, maintaining, and developing" it over time so that it bears fruit (like a farmer cultivating her fields). SAT and GRE vocabulary words that come from this root include the ff.: acculturate, subculture, cyberculture, and terricolous. Note that a "cult" is a place where a divinity of some kind is "worshiped," whereas a "horticulturist" is one who "tends and grows" gardens.
Continuously: From the Latin root teneo, tenere, tenui, tentum: have, hold; "continuous" is the "thorough holding" of something over a long period of time (note that the prefix "con" comes via the Latin root word cum, which in this case acts as an intensive prefix meaning "thoroughly"). The difference between "continual" and "continuous" is this: whereas something that happens on a "continual" basis has breaks (continual rain would have periods of relief), a "continuous" action is nonstop. Teneo, tenere is another one of those huge roots that have given rise to a multiplicity of SAT and GRE English derivatives, such as: abstain, abstinence, tenacious, pertinacious, tenet, pertinent, detain, appurtenance, malcontent, etc. etc.
Now, let's take a look at aphorism 14: This practice becomes firmly rooted when it is cultivated skillfully and continuously for a long time. The mind is very, well, sticky, very pertinacious, very, very busy. One has been thinking continuously everyday for almost one's entire life (one would like to think that as infants we were spared that continuous barrage, merely continually delighting without spurious, fallacious analysis, golden years of the mind, as it were). Because of this neverending thought stream (stream of consciousness) it is very hard at first to cease those fluctutations of the mind, that interminable mind stuff, that never seems to want to be quiet. The sem, or flea-mind, has over 60,000 thoughts/day ... no wonder the goal of Yoga of cessation of that sem is so very difficult. This is why the practice of yoga must be "firmly" rooted in one's life, imbued in one's day, always and continuously present in one's actions and thoughts; it must be cultivated and tended lovingly and skillfully each and every day on a continuous basis over a long, long period of time. Then, and only then, will the amazing fruits of yoga be realized. Otherwise the mind and its diabolical vrittis or fluctuations will continue to take us over, making us slaves to our false selves. Be sticky. Be tenacious. Be pertinacious. This is well within the range of anyone who has sticky gumption. B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the world's masters of Yoga, states this in his preface to his enlightening book Light on Life: "If this book is to lay any claim to authenticity, it must make one point clear above all others. It is this: By persistent and sustained practice, anyone and everyone can make the yoga journey and reach the goal of illumination and freedom." "Sadhana" is the Sanskrit term for the "practice of Yoga." Be continuous in your sadhana. One's life, to have meaning, must have a teleological bent; what good is a goal if it is for material gratification only? "I've always wanted a Porsche." Then, when you finally get one, all of a sudden you want something else. Then something else again. Ad nauseam. But when one realizes the ultimate goal of Yoga, there is no wanting. No grasping. Only joy and bliss. One of the nicest conceptualizations of yogic practice is the idea of aparigraha: nonpossession. That alone can set you free. Today's world is one of instant gratification. I remember at one time when I was a kid that if I wanted a particular song, I'd have to travel 10 miles to the record store, only to find out that it was out of stock; I would then order it, and have to wait another two or three weeks--but was it sweet when I finally got it! The waiting, in and of itself, was educative. Now, what with instant downloads on one's iPod, one can get music immediately. Periods of waiting are on the decline. Which continues to create false needs because we get into the habit of avarice, wanting more and more and more ... how many gigabytes do you really need on that iPod anyway? You can only fit 5000 songs on it? Why not more? Patience and diligent application are a fire that refines the soul, refines the character, and defines who you are. You are not your likes, dislikes, status, professional standing, or any of the other trappings of modern life. You are purusa, which is realizable via continuous practice. The soul, purusa, the Witness, is not of the physical world; it is of a timeless, non-spatiotemporal realm. Meaning cannot come overnight; rather, those things which really matter in life take many, many years of hard practice before they come to fruition. A man may seek his beloved for an entire lifetime before he finds her; and yet, in that meeting, he will see that all his searching, all his efforts, all his time were more than worth the pain and agony in getting there. One cannot build castles upon sand, but one must carve out the difficult rock to construct something lasting. Ani Tenzin Palmo says in Reflections on a Mountain Lake that humans are lazy; that we let our minds run away with us, being too filled with lassitude to care. Yoga is well worth the effort. What could be more important than a search for the soul, for the ending of suffering, for finding the immanent transcendent that dwells within each and every one of us? If we all understood that the phenomenological manifestations of prakrti are nothing but illusory, merely there for the entertainment of purusa, then we would know that we all are the same, less the specious trappings that we all think are ourselves. What freedom, what peace, what joy, what love, and what bliss would come from that realization. Is that not worth the continuous effort of the discipline that Yoga offers each and every one of us? 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 teneo, tenere; colo, colere, and firmus? 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 beautiful ... it'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!