This is blowing my mind this week.
In the first Chapter of the yoga sūtras (I.24), Patañjali describes this cycle. It’s one we all know well.
Kleśa – misperception
So, we are in a situation, and for some reason, we don’t see what’s happening clearly. Maybe we are in a bad mood or we spaced out for a second and were thinking about pizza instead of what our friend was telling us, or we got flooded with memories of the last time we were in these stupid circumstances, or we plainly misread the situation. The point is, there are lots of times when we misperceive what’s happening. We don’t even know we are doing it, and then based on that misperception, we take an…
Karma – action
Because we misread that tone of voice as angry instead of afraid, we respond with aggression instead of compassion. Or even though something isn’t right about that job, we take it anyway because it seems like we should. We do something based on the misperception and that give us a…
Vipāka – result
One of the things I tell my kids is, “there’s a consequence to every action you take.” You don’t clean your room, you lose tv privileges (parental consequence). When you choose to go outside without wearing a coat in the wintery morning, you’ll be cold (natural consequence). Some consequences or results aren’t so obvious at first, but they’ll show up in some way, eventually. And every result leaves an….
Āśaya – impression
Something remains with us. We have 2 glass walls in our shower and for the first 6 months that we lived in our house, I’d shower, leaving the water droplets clinging to the wall. Slowly, the gla residue from our hard water would build up and the glass would get cloudy and ugly looking. And it was so hard to get off! It took one of those flat razor blades and chemicals and a lot of elbow grease to get is clear and shiny again. (Now I have a squeegee and it’s much easier to clean, but I have to take a minute at the end of every shower.) Impressions and residue is part of this misperception-wrong action- result cycle. The things we experience leave something with us.
But this is only the first part of this sūtra. The second part is even more exiciting, if you can believe it. The second part says…
Aparāmṛśṭaḥ – unaffected (by kleśa karma vipāka āśahaiḥ)
The sūtra we are talking about here comes after I.23, in which Patañjali introduces an incredibly helpful thing we can have or cultivate along our yogic path: A belief in a higher power. This doesn’t have to be God, but it could be. Because yoga is experiential, it can be the force that jives with your way of thinking of the world – universal order, an inner wisdom, divine being. Something that helps you to see that you aren’t in charge of everything that happens in your life. I.24 sūtra describes Īśvara and says that this higher power is unaffected by this cycle of misperception.
Puruṣa – soul or person
Viśeṣa – special
Never misperceives? That is a special being or soul.
Īśvara – this is being described. This is the name Patañjali uses for higher power.
There’s a chain of events that’s set off when an action we take is based on a kleśa or misperception and the end result is a residue that’s left behind. That residue then influences how we perceive the next thing that comes along and if we’ve got too much buildup on our glass, then it’s harder to see the next situation clearly… or the next.
But there’s something that’s unaffected by this cycle and that has always had clear perception. Maybe it’s an inner voice or a special being or a system out there in the universe. And if we can find ways to link to this puruṣa-viśeṣa, then it will help us along the way. It can help us to have less of the misperceiving and more of the seeing clearly, so that the impressions that remain are of a different kind. A kinder kind.
Special thanks to Chase Bossart for teaching the sūtras in a way that continues to make them so very meaningful to me. I’m so grateful.