Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Latin Roots of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali--Chapter 1--Aphorism 17

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 (the manifestations of prakrti, or worldly phenomenology), 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 evolutes (which are all so very interesting!).
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 (hence, a tri-lingual, diachronic linguistic heritage) the same transformation?
Last post I focused on the Latin roots of the 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  This post I move on to: Aphorism 17: At first the stilling process is accompanied by four kinds of cognition: analytical thinking, insight, bliss, and feeling like a self.

Let's first take a look at a couple of the most important  Latin and Greek root words of this sutra:

process:  From the Latin root word cedo, cedere, cessi, cessus: move, give in, give way, yield, and the Latin preposition pro: forward, forth.  Therefore, a process is simply a "moving forth" with some activity.  The verb cedo, cedere has a legion of GRE and SAT derivatives, including: antecedent, cede, precedent, accede, incessant, unprecedented, and recession.  Want many more?  Check out where you can find a Greek and Latin roots based dictionary in full color that has a full listing of English words derived not only from this root, but 1170 others, a complete distillation of the English language in terms of its Greek and Latin roots.

accompanied:  The primary stem of the word "accompany" comes from the Latin root word panis, "bread."  Looking at the two prefixes (ac--to, towards, near, at, com--with together), we see that "company" is etymologically the people that we share "bread with;" to "accompany," then, is a going "towards" or being "near or at" those with whom one "shares bread."  Panis, of course, is the root word behind the French word for bread, pain, and the Spanish, "pan;" note that Spanish and French are evolved forms of Latin (to the tune of about 90% root representation).  One of my favorite English words is "paneity," "the state or condition of being bread."  Huge.  Do you know anyone whose brain appears sometimes afflicted by "paneity," or perhaps is in a permanent state of?

cognition:  From the Latin root word cognosco, cognoscere, cognovi, cognitum: to learn, know.  Cognition is the act of learning or knowing (in an extremely broad sense).  Other fine SAT and GRE derivatives that come from this root include cognitive, incognito, quaint, reconnaissance, reconnoiter, and prognosis. 

analytical: From the Greek root word lyein: loosen, destroy, dissolve.  When one analyzes something, one is able to "loosen" any secrets from it, whereas if one is begin analytical, one is "loosening" or "destroying" any obstacles that prevent one from full knowledge of something.  Other SAT and GRE vocabulary words that come from this root include: catalyst and palsy.  Many, many medical terms derive from this root as well, such as: dialysis, hemolysis, electrolysis, paralysis, etc.  Check out Word Empire III: Clarity for a full listing of these medical terms, as well as those involved with chemistry and biochemistry.

Now, with these key words and roots in mind, let's take a look at Aphorism 17, Chapter 1: At first the stilling process is accompanied by four kinds of cognition: analytical thinking, insight, bliss, and feeling like a self.

Patanjali now lists what happens when a yogi becomes nonreactive or attempts to cease the fluctuations of the mind, the vrittis, stilling the violent reactions of the mind in favor of ceasing the never ending flow of the citta.  As per the style of Patanjali, much will be said in future sutras about these four types of cognition.  I would like to bring in my own experience at this point to discuss these four types of thinking.

Japa is the way of meditation, that is, the focusing upon an alambana, or object of concentration, exclusive of all else, the intense focus stills the mind, creates restraining samskaras, and thereby helps circumscribe the multitudinous outgoing samskaras that plague us all so.  Patanjali states that the fastest way to enlightenment is through the help of a divinity, most notably Vishnu or Shiva, but that the second fastest way to enlightenment is the repetition of the sacred syllable OM (which encompasses the Universe) over a course of many years, which brings one closer to Vishnu or Shiva, who then grants samadhi, or the realization that one is not prakrtic in nature at all, but that one is one's purusa, or atman, or soul, and that the body and all its various accoutrements that it brings (job, family, career, that is, identity) is not you, but is yet another manifestation of prakrti, there for purusa to experience, but, when all is said and done, as illusory and evanescent as any other manifestation that prakrti brings for purusa to witness.  Getting there, of course, is way difficult, so difficult, in fact, that it requires many, many lifetimes to get there.  Thanks to Isvara, the Lord of the Yogis, for metempsychosis, for reincarnation.  Indeed, this process of clearing the mind is a multi-lifetime process.
The problem is thought.  Thinking, thinking, thinking and always thinking.  Sem, sem, sem, sem, sem.  The mind, the citta, is whorled continuously by the vrittis; the yogi's task, by doing japa (Iyengar nicely melds japa with yogasana so that one can physically flow and meditate concurrently) is to build up what are called restraining samskaras, which are by and large small fortifications against the outgoing samskaras, those latent impressions in the mind that are continuously popping up, leading to thought upon thought upon thought (ad nauseam).  A samskara can be there from yesterday (dwelling upon events in one's life that are currently troubling), or a samskara can be from childhood, or even feelings that arise from a previous life.  Samskaras seem limitless!  How one is to build enough restraining samskaras to stop the outflow of the outgoing samskaras has seemed like a huge task to me.  The other day I spoke with one of my friends who has been meditating for over 30 years; he told me that his mind is more quiet now during japa, but certainly the vrittis still whorl, egged on by those ever appearing and disappearing samskaras.

I wonder if, as I analyze, analyze, analyze (you'd think we'd all get bored of this neverending thought and worrying that is, after all, just inflections of the very same thing day after day after day), if the restraining samskaras might perhaps be not a one-to-one correspondence with the outgoing samskaras, but if, rather, one restraining samskara might be able to defend, against, say, 100 outgoing samskaras?  I feel as if I am outmatched, as it were; the outgoing team is going to beat the restraining team, and right now the outgoing is winless.  If samskaras are measured by time, I'm going to be around for a very, very long time. 

However, despite the 90% frustration level, the restraining samskaras are building.  As I look upon my bronze statue of Shiva, candle glowing from behind, darkness of pre-dawn reigning, there are moments of pure concentration, when my citta is held at bay, when the restraining samskaras are multiplying.  Perhaps by the thousands; they must be time-independent, for if they weren't, no one would ever get out of the cycle of rebirth.  Sometimes at yoga I will experience the bliss of samadhi, realizing that it's all there, it's all true, it's all right beyond the onionskin.  The other day, while practicing japa, I felt a conscious shift in my brain, almost as if an entire layer of something peeled away.  I'm not sure what it was, but I know it was something to do with burning up those outgoing samskaras.  My mind has been calmer lately.  Even amongst the vicissitudes and vagaries of teaching Latin in middle school.

These epiphanic moments are what encourage the yogi to continue, even through the ardor of sitting (yes, that sounds like an oxymoron, but it is most certainly not).

Patanjali will deal later with "feeling like a self."  The idea here is that the prakrtic self is not who we are; we are not a body, our thoughts, our experiences, our prakrtic evolute. Rather, we ARE our purusa. If we could but realize that, all of the vicissitudes of our prakrtic, phenomenological  self could be seen as what they are: illusory.  I realize that I stated that already in this post, but perhaps you had forgotten?

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 cedo, cedere, and gnosco, gnoscere? 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.