Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter, Food, and Cancer

Welcome back, fans of Latin and Greek root words as they pertain to English vocabulary!  Happy Easter to all!  The word Easter derives from the Celtic goddess Eostre, the goddess of the dawn.  Easter, of course, is all about new beginnings and new life: consider the fecund rabbit that loves to have so many little bunnies; consider the dyeing of eggs, the former which remind us of the beautiful flowers of the vernal season, the latter which is of course another ultimate symbol of animal life.  Just as daylight is resurrected each and every day, just as Dionysus was torn apart by the Maenads each and every year only to be reborn every successive spring,  so too do the flowers and plants regain life each and every spring, all wonderful symbols of the resurgence of life.
     Easter, too, is a time to eat brightly colored, well, candy.  Milk chocolate rabbits.  Brightly colored Cadbury creme eggs.  Jelly beans of every hue.  All permutations of sugar, sugar, and more sugar.  Not necessarily a bad thing, if eaten as rarely as Dionysus rising from oblivion each year.  Really bad if eaten every day.
      Etymology moment:

Cancer: comes from the Latin root word cancer: crab, tumor, malignant disease.

Carcinogen:  come from the Greek root word karkinos: cancer, crab.  Root of such words as carcinogen ("gen" simply means "engenders"), carcinoma (cancer body), carcinogenesis (producing cancer), and teratocarcinoma (a "monster" cancerous tumor). 

       And, unfortunately, what with processed foods, which contain all kinds of high fructose corn syrup and every other HGI (high glyemic index--meaning--too much sugar) sweetener, all of which are conveniently located in the center aisles of mass chain monolithic grocery institutions (highly profitable, I might add, because of a long shelf life and very cheap to produce), Americans eat them all the way to contracting cancer.  Recent research has suggested that  cancer tumors (we ALL have them--it's just a matter of whether they metastasize or not) feed on sugar.  It's their favorite food, by far.  The human tongue, unfortunately, loves sugar.  The problem is is that most humans do not have enough discipline to not eat sugar, ignore obsesity or signs of ill health, and then when they contract cancer they blame it on elements beyond their control.
     Pretty convenient.  Just like processed foods.
     OK, I know it's impossible for most people to give up processed foods, to give up candy, to give up sugar.  But what can one do to combat the types of things ingested (hate to call processed food, well food, 'cause it's not)?  To stop that food from feeding tumors (through angiogenesis)?  It's actually quite simple, and does NOT require a trip to the doctor's office.
      I recently read a fabulous book entitled Foods to Fight Cancer.  In it, the authors make the startling claim that it's not what you are exposed to in the outside environment, but it's rather what you eat that can put a halt to tumor growth for good.  And be cancer free.  Imagine eating what you want (within Apollonian moderation, while at the same time occasionally enjoying Dionysian wantonness) while still retaining the ability for your body to fight off cancer generation.  All you have to do is eat the following foods (and these are actual foods):

1.  Dark Chocolate.  Make it dark:  70% or more.
2.  Red Wine.  Note that this is Red wine.  Organic preferred.
3.  Turmeric.  Mix the turmeric with ground pepper (our human bodies cannot process turmeric very efficiently without piperine, a constituent of pepper).  Ever wonder why there's a very low rate of cancer in India?  Curry!
4.  Garlic, garlic, and more garlic.  Don't cook it,  or lightly cook it.  It's easy to grow.  OG not necessary.  Chew it raw, mix it with your favorite food.  This is the most anti-carcinogenic substance known to humankind to date.  Did I mention you should eat garlic?  Onions too.
5.  Blueberries.  Blueberries.  Blueberries.
6.  Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage.
7.  Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.  But you have to cook them to release the lycopene.  Pasta sauce, anyone?  With garlic ... a sure winner.
8.  Oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary.
9.  Oranges and grapefruit.
10.  Were you paying attention to numbers 1 and 2???????????

So, enjoy your Easter candy.  It's an important part of life.  Enjoy your dessert, moderately.  But eat that which stops cancer from forming--it's NOT beyond your control, and some might lead you to believe.  Rather, it's all about what you eat. Think of it as pre-cancer therapy.  As a way of injecting your body each and every day with cures for cancer.  Yes, cures for cancer before it manifests.  Doesn't have to come from a drug company, who stands to make billions from an artificial cure.  Ingestion.  Read the book for more information.
     And watch what you put into your digestive system.
     Especially that sugar.  (try LGI: Agave syrup, coconut nectar, wild honey--better).


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Bhagavad Gita's Primary Message

Welcome back, fans of Latin and Greek root words as they pertain to English vocabulary!  I and my colleagues in Portland, OR have just finished putting out our SAT and GRE vocabulary online learning system  that has been a labor of love.  Hence, I have a few moments to discuss yet another amazing text that I've just perused, The Bhagavad Gita as translated by Eknath Easwaran.  This Hindu/Yoga text, probably the most enlightening religious text I have yet to learn from, has one primary message in it that supersedes all others: The Freedom That Comes from Renunciation.  Let's first take a quick look at the Latin roots of the word "renunciation:"

re-:  from the Latin root "re" meaning "back, again."
nunciat:  from the Latin root word nuntio, nuntiare, nuntiavi, nuntiatus: "announce, report, send a message."  Thus, renunciation is the taking in of something, and sending it back out into the world, or not acquiring the desire for the "message" you want in the first place.  SAT and GRE English vocabulary words that come from this root include:  renounce, denounce, denunciation, enunciatem and annunciation.

The freedom that comes from renunciation is a simple concept, and it works like this.  In chapter two of the Bhagavad Gita, we find the following verse:

You have the right to work, but never to the
fruit of work.  You should never engage in action
for the sake of reward, nor should you long for

This, to me, is almost the meaning of life itself.  Imagine that, if you were to do work with no selfish thoughts of what you were going to get out of it; that is, you renounce all results of the work, all that which you hope to gain from the work, such as material success, power, wealth, etc.  This would bring about a state of moksha, or freedom.  One would never have to worry again, scheme again, be disappointed again when things didn't work out.

In point of fact, Krishna, the Lord of Yoga in The Bhagavad Gita, tells Arjuna, his disciple, that those who do not desire or hanker for the fruit of their actions, the desired results, attain spiritual perfection, and in fact get everything they want.  Whereas those who strive and think only about what's in it for them gain, in the end, nothing but disappointment.  This renunciation of the fruit of action (note this is not giving up the action itself!) is, in Sanskrit, tyaga.  Imagine working selflessly.  And thereby freeing yourself from the bondage and pain that comes from lack of success (or sometimes even from success itself, which often brings about unintended entanglements in the swirling mass that is maya).


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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Greek Root Words of Autobiography of a Yogi

Welcome back, fans of Latin and Greek root words as they pertain to English vocabulary!  I and my colleagues in Portland, OR have just finished putting out our SAT and GRE vocabulary online learning system  that has been a labor of love.  Hence, I have a few moments to discuss a truly amazing book that I've just perused, the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Being true to this English vocabulary blog's mission, to fully analyze the Greek and Latin roots of the English translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, rest assured that I shall return to that labor of love in my next post.  But this cannot wait.

First, let's discuss two words in the title:

autobiography:  This word is comprised of the prefix auto-, which comes from the Greek root word autos, which means "self."  A few GRE (and more difficult) words that come from this prolific prefix include autochthonous, automaton, autodidactic, and autonomous.  From the stem, or primary morpheme, of this word, which derives from the Greek root word bios, "life," comes multiplicitous English vocabulary words:  biology, biome, biochemistry, bioethics, bionic, and bioengineering.  And lastly, the suffix -graphy, derived from the Greek root word graphein , "to write", come a whole host of English vocabulary words, such as: geography, paleography, cartography, selenography, and epigraphy.  Can you see what each of these has to do with writing? 

yogi:   This word comes from a Sanskrit word meaning "to join."  It is a yogi's and yogini's task to "join" with the Self, not to be confused with the phenomenal self, thereby recognizing her or his own true divinity.  This word is cognate with the Latin root word iungo, iungere, iunxi, iunctum, "to join," whence: junction, adjunct, conjunction, conjunctivitis, juncture, adjoin, etc.  Interested in more English derivatives that come from the aforementioned Greek and Latin roots?  Check out, the most exhaustive etymological dictionary in terms of visually displaying the power of Greek and Latin vocabulary as the foundation of the English language. 

Now, on to the phenomenal and I dare stay outstanding Autobiography of a Yogi.  If you have ever "done" yoga, or been interested in a modern-day experience and/or life of a fully accomplished yogi, this book sheds a great deal of light on those very topics.  Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship in California, engagingly and eruditely covers his variegated and colorful life from his origin in India, his days of schooling there (not a model student, I might add, but certainly a most interesting one), his apprenticeship in Yoga under Sri Yukteswar, and his eventual coming to the United States to bring the message of Kriya Yoga here.  Many yogis that Yogananda met in his travels are fully discussed, such as the ageless Babaji, The "Perfume Saint," the Levitating Saint, The Sleepless Saint, Giri Bala (a yogini who never eats), etc. etc.  He also discusses bilocation, a particular interest of mine.  Patanjali discusses various mystic powers of a yogi that are derived from the path of Yoga, most of which were shown to be physically possible from the people that Yogananda met and so eloquently speaks of.  I must admit that this book was a true eye opener, and has added dimensions to my own yoga practice that I had not even considered prior to its reading.  It's almost a modern-day corroboration of the seemingly far-removed expostulations and aphoristic conundrums of Patanjali, giving us all hope in this crazy modern-day world of a better way, possible for each and every human being on this planet.
      Even if you only have a small interest in yoga, read this book anyway.  Its verbiage uses exalted levels of English vocabulary, and it's a highly entertaining and informational read.  It's probably the best non-fiction work that I've ever perused.


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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Latin and Greek Roots of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali--Aphorism 19, Chapter 1

Welcome back fans of Greek and Latin roots as they relate to English vocabulary words!  I apologize for my rather lengthy absence ... I've been very hard at work on an online vocabulary teaching system where you can learn SAT and GRE vocabulary words--and NOT FORGET THEM.   Recently I have been focusing this SAT and GRE English vocabulary blog on analyzing the Greek and Latin root words of the aphorisms that comprise 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 classically diachronic and most enlightening).   I have found the aphoristic style of 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, that is, to calm the sem, that part of our minds that generates on average an annoying and astounding 60,000 random thoughts per day (vrittis), and while doing so mostly misperceiving samsara (the manifestations of prakrti, or worldly phenomenology), thereby leading us down paths of irreality, making the self we create seem more real than our eternal Self, (purusa or atman). 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 (some of which can be so very enticing!).

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, which was highly influenced by 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 (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 18:   Later, after one practices steadily to bring all thought to a standstill, these four kinds of cognition fall away, leaving only a store of latent impressions in the depth memory.  This post I move on to: Aphorism 19: These latent impressions incline one to be reborn after one leaves the body at death and is dissolved in nature.

Before I begin commentary on Aphorism 19, let's check out the Latin root words of some of the English vocabulary present in the aphorism:

Latent:  From the Latin root word lateo, latere: to lie hidden, lurk.  A "latent" impression "lies hidden" until being spurred to reappear, in this case in a later life.  Note that the "-ent" suffix is nothing more than a present active participle ending, hence "latent" is "lying hidden."  Latency is another key derivative, simply the substantive form of "latent."

impression:  From the Latin root word premo, premere, pressi, pressum: press, crush, overpower, exert force upon.  An "impression" is simply that which is "exerted upon" something else, in this case, the experiences of one's life being "pressed upon" one's memory.  This Latin root word is prolific, to wit: compression, suppress, oppressive, impressionable, repressive, irrepressible, etc.  A complete list of over 100 derivatives from this root word can be found via Word Empire III: Clarity, the most comprehensive Greek and Roots etymology dictionary available today.

incline:  This word is derived from the Greek root word klinein: to lean.  If one is "inclined" to do something, one "leans on" that choice, or "leans towards" it.  Of course, one "leans" on a bed in a "clinic," where a "clinician" might take a look at you before a doctor arrives, who may either "decline" or "lean away from" treating you because you're really not sick, or put you into a "recliner" so that you can "lean back" for a more thorough look into your malady.  This Greek root has given us a number of SAT and GRE words: inclination, anticlimax (via the Greek root word klimax: ladder, which "leans" against a building), declination, climax, and disinclination.  

dissolve:  From the Latin verb solvo, solvere, solvi, solutus: untie, loosen, destroy.  When a problem is "solved," it is untied.  When a substance is "dissolved" into water, its atoms are "thoroughly loosened" or broken down so as to disappear, appearing to have been "destroyed."  A "solution" to a problem is its "untying," or the "loosening" of the knot of the problem.  Some nice SAT derivatives that come from this Latin root word are: solvent, irresolute, absolve, resolution, dissolute, and resolve. 

nature:  From the Latin root word nascor, nasci, natus sum: to be born.  "Nature" is that power which causes life to "be born" into the world.  Many, many SAT and GRE vocabulary words come from this root word, including but not limited to: nascent, innate, naive, renaissance, naive, cognate, supernatural, and preternatural. Note that the Latin word "natura" means "power which gives birth to the world." 

Now, on to Aphorism 19:  These latent impressions incline one to be reborn after one leaves the body at death and is dissolved in nature.

     The latent impressions that Patanjali is referring to include all the past experiences that we've had that are lying hidden within the mind that must be dealt with in either this or a later lifetime.  One can only deal with so much during one phase of life ... how hard it is to work through just one flaw, much less all of one's personality issues!  Imagine dealing with not only all of one's errors one has made in this lifetime, but also in past lifetimes as well!  These latent impressions, or samskaras, however, must be dealt with, for they form our karmic deposits that arise at different times during each of our different lives, and must be burned away before we can be released to go beyond the samsaric circle (cycle of life and death) with which we all must deal.  Our task is to burn away these samskaras by creating what are known as restraining samskaras, that is, a bulwark or bastion that not only helps to keep at bay the creation of more samskaras (remember that impressions are created anew by the manas, or mind, each and every day) but also helps to settle and burn away the seeds of latent samskaras that form the architecture that comes with us from one life to another.  If you've made great errors in previous lives, they have to be dealt with (yes, no one ever really gets away with anything from a karmic standpoint) in future incarnations where you get a new body, but have the same purusa which carries along one's challenges from lifetime to lifetime.
     So, what is the best way to deal with these latent impressions?  There are eight steps in the highly pragmatic and utilitarian system called Yoga.  Most of the people in the West tend to think of Yoga as only the third limb, or Yogasana, that is, the physical positions.  However, Yoga is much more than that, rather comprising a system of 8 steps, or 8 limbs (much more on this as we continue to study the sutras):

1.  yamas: ethical practices (including ahimsa, non-violence; aparigraha, non-possessiveness; asteya: non-theft; bramacharya--sexual self-restraint; and asteya--truthfulness)
2.  niyamas: internal tasks (including cleanliness; restraint; devotion to Isvara, or Lord; contentment; and study of religious texts) 
3.  asana (the typical western notion of yoga, or the postures.  The postures create a hardened yet supple body that can endure the rigors of the later stages of the 8-limbed path, especially sitting for long periods of time in dhyana, or meditation)
4.  Pranayama: regulated inflow and outflow of the breath
5.  Pratyahara: non-focus on the senses but rather beginning to travel inwards
6.  Dharana: concentration within
7.  Dhyana: meditation (the next step up from dharana)
8.  Samadhi (enlightenment, or the vision of the Purusa, or unchanging Self: the soul, atman)

     Yogic metaphysics is predicated upon Sankhyan metaphysics, which stated, in a nutshell, the following:
1.  Each and every person is divine, and possesses an individual Purusa, that is, an atman, soul, or unchanging Witness who is the true Self.
2.  Each and every person, instead of identifying with the Purusa, instead identifies with the self, yet another manifestation of prakrti, that matrix that creates, perpetually, all that is around us, including our minds.  The self is what we all pay attention to, but is not Reality; rather, the purusa, or Self, is.  The purusa, unfortunately, has become so colored by the prakrtic self that it, too, does not fathom its divinity, immutability, and eternal immanence, and so we believe ourselves to be the collection of thoughts, beliefs, attributes that make our prakrtic selves, but have nothing to do with who We really are.

How do we realize the Self?  That is where Yoga comes in.  Yoga is a system whereby one is led, through a series of steps, ever increasing in difficulty, to the ultimate stage of samadhi, where we apprehend the purusa, the true Self, untainted by the prakrtic self.  But it's tough.  In order to stop creating more and more latent impressions, however,  and deal with the existing ones, and to stop being reborn over and over again (via the samsaric process of reincarnation or metempsychosis), one can follow the very practical system of Yoga.  As Patanjali states, this may take many lifetimes, but restraining samskaras transfer from life to life.

What I do:  I have been practicing yogasana now for four years.  I have become a vegetarian, hence fulfilling ahimsa (at least in part).  Every day, or as much as I can, I practice 40 minutes of dhyana, during which time I focus upon an alambana, a bronze sculpture of Visnu, and repeat the Universal sound, AUM (which helps to quiet the mind, leading myself to mySelf--Patanjali assures us that this is the "quickest" way to access samadhi).  As I focus upon Isvara Vishnu (Vishnu and Shiva are both manifestations of Isvara, the ultimate Purusa; Krishna is, in turn, a manifestation or inflection of Vishnu), I also focus upon my third eye (between the eyes and a little up towards the crown) and my heart center.  I refocus, again and again and again, as thoughts continue to be generated; I simultaneously practice pranayama, the gentle but controlled and even luxurious inbreath to outbreath, retain, inbreath to outbreath, retain, all the way from the belly to the top of the rib cage, focusing not only on length, but also breadth. 
     I also practice qigong, an ancient Chinese art of healing that was highly influenced by Yoga, facing the north in a copse of pine trees.  More on that later.
      Stay tuned for my next post, which will focus on Aphorism 20, Chapter 1.

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 such Latin root words as premo, premere and solvo, solvere? 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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