Monday night Begin Here Now continues in Bakersfield. Ashtanga primary series meets Fridays in Santa Clarita. The full calendar of locations and prices is under the link “Calendar”
Yoga sutra 2:21 tad-artha eva drishyasya atma
The sutra translates “The essence or nature of the knowable objects exists only to serve as the objective field for pure consciousness.” Or more simply put: The seen exists only for the sake of the Seer.
I read this with doubts. Gee, it sounds so arrogant. Right? The sutra sounds like it is saying the world exists that I might experience it. Me me me. As if no one else in the world has a say. I gently remind myself that sutras are “threads” not fabric. They are not designed to be fully realized literal blocks of information. They are strings of interconnectedness to ideas that for centuries, are passed down orally, under the strict guidance of a dedicated teacher. A teacher who has trained in years not hours. If taken as a suggestion for a fuller idea I might elaborate thusly: in my father’s eyes I’m a high-strung difficult person. And? And that’s true for him. That idea of me that he sees? Exists so that he can see it.
Knowing what’s true for him tempers my behavior when I’m around him. I try real hard to restrict our conversations to safe, bland topics. The weather. The price of milk. Even if something is happening at my job I am loathe to discuss with him. My dad, bless his heart, is too apt to misunderstand, creating alternate facts. Like the time I causally mentioned poetry readings. “Poetry readings?” He asks my brother, “what is a poetry reading?” The next thing I know, a neighbor from my childhood, someone who hasn’t contacted me in oh, say 45 years, wants to know if I can introduce him to Kanye West now that I’m a famous poet. Rather than having the fun of telling my old neighbor about my new hobby I’m stuck with the really really not fun job of telling him I’m not famous. No, I don’t know Kanye West.
But my point is, and I do have one, my point is – what’s true for my Dad is true for him. He’s enjoying telling people about my “success.” Since he doesn’t know how to turn on a computer and wouldn’t ever read my blog even under duress – he’ll never know any different. In his world I am a famous poet. For those who say, “but wait a minute – that’s not true.” I wonder how many of you think your kids are beautiful, smart, funny and good-natured? I wonder how many of you think you have the best partner/spouse? Or the nicest most comfortable car? Or really amazing taste in interior decorating? Lord knows it’s all true. All of it. When I had my own house out in Lockwood Valley, it was certainly one of my favorite places.
So the purpose of Lockwood Valley is to please Kumari?
Bear with me. The sutra does not state the seen exists for the reader. The sutra says “the seen exists for the seer.” That means I exist for Lockwood as much as Lockwood exists for me. The real weft of the sutra is the cross hairs. My dad exists for me to see. AND. And I exists for him to see. The world is relative. Not just sometimes, but in everything, all the time. It can’t help but be relative. Not as long as we all maintain personal perspectives, memories, experiences and lives. Even when we try to be Borg we fail miserably. We are one but not the same. We are one in that the world is comprised of us. From us. Out of us. But we’re not the same.
Even if you and I have the same parents, grow up in the same house, share the same family vacation – our memories, experiences and deductions are unique to us. I do well to realize the illusion of separateness. It’s no use pretending if I foul up the ocean or destroy the clean air I’ll be able to escape somehow to a better place. All the roads lead to Rome. All the rivers run to the sea. Messing up my neighbor’s backyard eventually messes up mine. What I exhale, cigarette, pipe or marijuana smoke is someone else’s inhale. The world, the galaxy and the universe are – so far as we know – a closed system. There’s no out there – out there – just more here.
If the seen exists for the seer one wonders why we must see so many unpleasantries. I should have planned it better don’tcha think? But we mustn’t get confused on what the sutra says. It doesn’t actually say the seen exists “because” of the seer, only “for” the seer. So perhaps I am not 100% liable for what’s going on around me. Actually, of course I can’t be completely at fault because if I were – that would mean that no one else has free will. Of course we all do. If only my family would interest themselves in yoga they would see a whole new Kumari.
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
Oft attributed to Mark Twain, but never actually found definitively in his body of work. The quote is suspicious because the author’s father died when Clemens was 11. The sentiment speaks to the sutra. The world is so much more than what we make of it. The world is what we All make of all of it. A certain subset of people may say tragedies exist that we all may have the experience of giving, sharing and helping out – a view I take a dismal opinion of – but nonetheless one many religions promote in their quest to explain how God can be both omnipotent and impotent.
The devil is in the details.
God is in the connections. That stuff, ethereal, invisible, weightless that makes up the elephant in the living room drives reality far more than objects of volume and space. The Cultural Revolution in mainland China taught us He who controls information controls the world. In the years after internet we thought information couldn’t be censored. Think again. Information doesn’t have to be censored when false information (read lies) and alternative facts (i.e. lies) and truth-by-declaration are more influential than verifiable beliefs. Screens can be gods what with the way people accord them such importance. Isn’t Facebook today given the same authority as the bible once was in the 19th Century?
Ask your local office gossip if you doubt me.
These adhesions of the soul work like sticky ads. A meme on Facebook might say something like “Be the change you want to see” attributed to Gandhi. Or “No Shame, no blame” accredited to the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. This non-information, or non-sense enters our bloodstream and then effects people. The made up quotes exist to be seen and the seers exist to read the factoids and so the world goes round and round. And that is important to know because? Because only you can put the brakes on, and only when you take this tack of knowing what you know is just what is resonating with you right now. When you have more information you may think differently.
Gone is the safety of knowing what’s what. What else in your world can be quick turned upside down? It’s not that the more sutra is arrogant. It’s perhaps the most best humbling. Even a cat can look at a queen. The seen exists for the seer.
Now y’all play nice!