Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Latin Roots of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali--Chapter 1--Aphorism 16

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.  To help in this considerable and profound endeavor, I am mining the wisdom of both Swami Satchidananda (I live near Yogaville, of which he is the founder) and Edwin G. Bryant's rabbinical and I dare say canonical exegesis of these profound sutras (the commentary on each and every one of the sutras is both diachronic and most enlightening).   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 (vrittis) 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.  Life is, after all, what you think it is, and how you nonreact to all its myriad manifestations.
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 (and also qigong) 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 15: As for nonreaction, one can recognize that it has been fully achieved when no attachment arises in regard to anything at all, whether perceived directly or learned.  This post I move on to: 

Yoga-Sutra, Chapter 1: Aphorism 16: When the ultimate level of nonreaction has been reached, pure awareness can clearly see itself as independent from the fundamental qualities of nature.
Let's first take a look at a couple of the most important  Latin and Greek root words of this sutra:
ultimate: From the Latin root word ultimus: last, farthest away.  Good English derivatives that flow from this root include ultimate, penultimate ("almost" last; "pen" comes from paene, "almost;" source of words like peninsula .... "almost" an island and penumbra), antepenultimate (the 3rd to last syllable), preantepenultimate (the 4th to last syllable, that is, the "before the before the second to last") and Ultimate Thule.
non-re-act-ion: Via the Latin root words non: "not;" the prefix re-: "back, again;" act: from ago, agere, egi, actum: do, drive; and the suffix -ion "act, state, or result of doing something." So, etymologically, "nonreaction" is "the state of not doing (something) back" when something is done to you. Of these root words, hundreds of English words are derived from ago, agere, egi, actum; some SAT and GRE words include: exacting, ambiguous, prodigal, mitigate, exigent, and exiguous. Wanting more? Check out the most comprehensive Greek and Latin roots dictionary available today. 

Pure:  From the Latin purus: clean, spotless.  Words like impurity and purity come via this, but also the SAT-level vocabulary words puritanical, expurgate, and purge (the last two directly via purgo, purgare: to clean or cleanse).

Independent:  Primarily from the Latin root word pendeo, pendere: to hang, weigh.  An "independent" person "is in the condition of not hanging from" anything else.  A huge number of words come via this root word, including many SAT and GRE level words--a small sampling follows: expend, suspend, append, compensate, recompense, stipend, pendulous, poise, penchant, and pensive.  Interested in learning all of the words that come from this highly prolific root word?  Check out www.wordempire.com , where you'll discover the most comprehensive and colorful Greek and Latin roots etymology dictionary available today.

Fundamental:  Via the Latin root word fundus: bottom, depths, basis.  Something "fundamental" forms the underpinning or "basis" from which other things arise.  It is kind of like an infrastructure upon which more things can be built.  For example, one must know the "basis" of knowledge of a certain area, or "basic" facts, or the "fundamental" facts of mathematics before one can truly understand the more abstract variable system.  Other great English vocabulary words that come from this root include: profound, founder (of course, a ship that "founders" sinks to the "bottom" of the sea), found, fund, and flounder.

Quality:  From the Latin adjective qualis: of which sort, or which kind, in what state.  The quality of one's work describes "of what kind or sort of substance" it is composed.  Is it of a poor kind?  Of a good sort?  Other SAT-level vocabulary words that stem from this root of good quality include: qualitative, qualifier, and kickshaw (via French quelque chose)

Now, with these key words and roots in mind, let's take a look at Chapter 1, Aphorism 16: 
When the ultimate level of nonreaction has been reached, pure awareness can clearly see itself as independent from the fundamental qualities of nature.

In this sutra, Patanjali tells us that our soul, purusa or the atman, mistakes itself for being a part of nature, since the citta, that part of our mind that engages with the world, imagines that it is the only reality and truth. Since the citta, however, is also a manifestation of prakrti (prakrti again is the matrix of phenomenology, that is, it is the creative force that creates all phenomena around us in this physical world, including, and most importantly, the citta, or mind), it tricks the purusa into thinking that it too is bound up within prakrti as it conceives of it.  This holds true as well for the buddhi part of the citta, which lies closest to purusa, and acts as a mirror which shines back to it, enabling it to behold itself.  "Pure awareness," or unsullied consciousness of the purusa is not possible with any sort of reaction, because the purusa itself is, by definition, reactionless; it, in and of itself, cannot react to anything because it is not of the nature of prakrti, but transcendent to it; it is beyond the world of opposites, beyond any phenomenology: it is transcendent (and hence a piece of the divine dwells immanent within us all, making us all equal, making us all ineffable).  It is only the citta, the mind, which can thus react.  The ultimate purpose of prakrti once again is to provide experience for purusa, and once purusa deems that it is indeed not of prakrti, and becomes disengaged from it, or disinterested, only then will enlightenment be possible.  This process of the falling away of interest of those things prakrtic (yes, that was tautological all you cavilers) ultimately consummates in total nonreaction because of the realization that prakrti is nothing but an ever-changing show, irreal, but nevertheless necessary for purusa to at long last divine that it, and only it, that is, one Pure Witness, or Pure Awareness, can have any lasting "reality" in the samsaric mokestrom.  The "fundamental qualities of nature" simply refers to the creative matrix of prakrti.

And so, it seems that we can practice (it's oh so interesting that "praxis" takes place amongst the productions of "prakrti") nonreaction to the ongoing show.  Why be oh-so-invested by reacting negatively or harshly to one's neighbor, when, in truth, it it nothing but yet another guise of prakrti that will all too soon evanish, as all of prakrti is evanescent (at best, or at worst)?  My wonderful, wonderful good friend Ruth Frederick used to say "This too shall pass."  And so it shall.  The nature of prakrti is Heraclitean; Heraclitus had many wonderful aphorisms about change: a few follow:

Everything flows, nothing stays still.
The sun is new each day.
You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.
There is nothing permanent except change.

We could view this as highly disenchanting, since, after all, we cling to the unclingable.  We yearn to keep the unkeepable.  But, Yoga tells us that we do, each and every one of us, possess a unique purusa, all of "our" own, that is unchangeable, that is divinely immanent, and that is not influenced whatsoever by the ever changing flow of objects and images that is the phenomenology of this world, this training ground.  We should take very great comfort and solace from that.  That notion could form the very core of our inner calm abiding.  Let us remember, in the thick of it, that this too shall pass.

We can count on that.

One last thought: have you ever looked through old photo albums from your family or extended family, and wonder just who those people were in the black and white photographs?  Sometimes we're lucky if we even get a name, much less anything about them.  Recall that one day, you, too, will be part of a similar black and white photograph.  This can allow us to pause, and regard the samsaric onslaught of prakrti with perspective and equanimity.

With nonreaction.  Because, at heart, it is all equivalent, and equally illusory. 

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, and pendeo, pendere? 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--lexicoaesthetic!  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.

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