In this series of articles, DAAJI explains the fundamental principles of yogic psychology, with its foundation in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. He explains Patanjali’s descriptions of the human mind and the various mental imbalances, and furthermore gives us solutions to regain mental well-being through yogic practices. In this article he continues to explore the vikshepas, the obstacles to mental well-being that arise because of the accumulation of samskaras in our system. These 9 vikshepas describe so many of the maladies of modern humanity. Here Daaji focuses on samsaya, pramada and alasya.
PART 8 – VIKSHEPAS: SAMSAYA, PRAMADA AND ALASYA
So far, we have seen how complexities and impurities accumulate in the field of consciousness and contribute to mental imbalance. As these layers accumulate, and we move progressively towards a state of entropy, it leads to all sorts of ailments. Yoga calls these ailments or obstacles the vikshepas. Patanjali described 9 of them in his Yoga Sutras a few thousand years ago, and in today’s world we can add a couple more to the list. In this article we will focus on three of them: samsaya, pramada and alasya.
When consciousness is attuned to the soul, all the entanglements, sufferings and afflictions gradually fade away. This inner attunement happens in Heartfulness when we meditate on the source of light in the heart, and when we connect with the divinity within. Without that inner connection and stability, we are like leaves tossing about in the wind, and the afflictions that are there in our system become more complex. Eventually they manifest as the vikshepas, the obstacles to further progress. Patanjali described these obstacles as follows:
1.30: Vyadhi styana samsaya
anavasthitatvani citta-vikshepah te antarayah
Vyadhi – Disease
Styana – Languor, mental dullness, apathy
Samsaya – Dilemma, indecision
Pramada – Carelessness, haste, indifference
Alasya – Laziness, sloth
Avirati – Absence of non-attachment, sensuality
Bhrantidarsana – False perception, blindness
Alabdha–bhumikatva – Not attaining the destination or stage, lack of determination
Anavasthitatvani – Instability, not retaining the condition
In the modern context, we can add:
fear of missing out (FOMO),
and digital distraction.
These are the obstacles on the path that distract the mind
The third vikshepa is samsaya, which is usually translated as “doubt,” but there are many words for “doubt” in Sanskrit, shanka being the most common. A more appropriate translation of samsaya is “dilemma” or “indecisiveness.” It is the state where we are not clear in our own judgment and decision-making ability. Why? Because our field of consciousness, the heart-mind field, is not calm. We are unable to listen to the heart and trust its wisdom.
We all know that feeling of sitting on the fence, unable to make a decision; the confusion, the weighing up of pros and cons. We still use the same the faculties of the mind – thinking (manas), intellect (buddhi) and ego (ahankar) – that function within the canvas of consciousness (chit), but we use them at a superficial level because we cannot go deeper. We skim the surface because there is too much clutter in the heart, and the mind is turbulent, like an ocean during a storm. This is the common state of consciousness of most of us, and because of this many issues become dilemmas. The mind is not fine-tuned enough to perceive to any depth, and so we are left with confusion and so many challenges. “What to do?” is the question we often ask. In this condition, our available consciousness is only a very thin film. Most of the spectrum of consciousness is unavailable to us, in the realms of the subconscious and the superconscious. We do not have the skills to access it, and so the mind remains very limited.
We can only evaluate and make decisions from a superficial perspective, within that thin film of data, because we cannot see from a higher and deeper perspective. Simultaneously, the mind is pulled by charged emotions, likes, dislikes and prejudices, so there is little clarity – only turmoil and drama.
Compare this with pure consciousness, uncluttered, light and infinitely expansive. Diving deeper into the heart, especially in meditation, we access a much greater spectrum of consciousness. Other dimensions open up that we are unable to use at the surface level. For a start, as well using rational deductive thinking, we also use the faculty of feeling to make decisions, where the heart gives signals of a more direct and subtle nature.
The heart is our barometer for how we feel about everything, including the choices we make in life. When we are happy with those choices, the heart remains a silent witness and there is natural contentment. When the heart is not convinced, we feel restless. The heart sets our direction like a rudder, and tells us when we need to change direction.
Listening to the heart’s signals is the first step. The second step is to make use of those signals, to ask the heart questions in such a way that we get clear indications. The more we listen, the clearer the messages become. As in neuroscience, the more we use the pathways, the stronger they become. The third step is then to have the courage to follow the heart’s guidance – the guidance from our own divine source. In essence, we are allowing the soul to guide our lives.
The heart is not static. Our inner environment is constantly changing, as our consciousness expands and contracts, and is purified or filled with complexities and impurities, as the case may be. Consciousness is fluid like the ocean, so the reference point of the heart is dynamic. And everything about us is tied to this state of consciousness: the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the habits that slowly adjust to our changing level of evolution, and the environment we are in. We are always in a state of continuous improvement, a work in progress.
And when we don’t listen to the heart, when we go against our conscience because we follow our desires and mental justifications, what happens? We keep on recycling those experiences and habits, and creating more and more complexities and impurities, leading to more and more entangled vikshepas.
The heart is our barometer for how we feel about everything,
including the choices we make in life. When we are happy with
those choices, the heart remains a silent witness and there is
Which way we go is actually a choice, especially when we have the simple Heartfulness Cleaning practice to remove complexities and impurities on a daily basis.
There is also a complementary method to resolve dilemmas and confusions: After offering the Heartfulness Prayer at night before sleep, offer your problems, challenges and dilemmas also. There is no need to seek an answer right away. Often, by the time you wake up, the answer is there, although the answer may come in a form other than words.
Samsaya arises particularly in the choosing of a spiritual path and a teacher who will support us on that path, as blind faith is not the way to choose – some level of testing is needed to establish that it is the right path and the right Guide. There is an initial need to question and use a scientific approach in order to experience and decide. Then, once we are satisfied, trust comes, which eventually transforms into acceptance and gratitude, love and surrender. If samsaya is still present as an obstacle at a later stage, something is wrong. Maybe it is our inability to surrender and accept, or may be it is the Guide who is not up to the mark. So vigilance is required, and a lot of discernment and discrimination, known as Viveka, the first step in the path of Yoga. Viveka is the antidote to indecision and dilemma, and it is directly proportional to the purity of the heart, of consciousness. Viveka allows us to listen to the “Voice Real” within.
The fourth vikshepa is pramada, which translates as carelessness, haste and indifference. When do we become careless? When do we do things hastily, without caring for the details? When we do not take interest. It is the opposite of being careful, the opposite of excelling in whatever we do, from cleaning the bathroom to becoming one with the Ultimate. It is the opposite of putting our hearts into everything we do. When we act without enthusiasm, we have not ‘put God into’ whatever we do. In other words, we are disconnected from the source.
Once again, this happens because of the layers of complexities and impurities that fill our consciousness. We cannot penetrate to any depth, we are operating within the thinnest film of consciousness at the surface level. We are not able to feel connected. The simple antidote is a three-fold process: meditate in order to dive deep, purify the field of consciousness, and connect with the source. These are the 3 practices of Heartfulness – Meditation, Cleaning and Prayer.
Through Heartfulness Meditation we become so aware, so sensitive to everything within, as well as in the outer world. Our observational skills become fine-tuned, especially with the aid of Transmission or pranahuti. In stillness, it is so much easier to be careful. We are infused with God through Transmission. We first discover God within ourselves, and also then in everything and everyone. In this state, how can we be indifferent to those around us? How can we remain careless? Life becomes more alive and vital, and pramada is negated.
There is also a Heartfulness Suggestion that can help with this:
Think that everything surrounding you – the air particles, people, the birds, the trees – everything around you is deeply absorbed in Godly remembrance. All are in osmosis with the Source, and developing increasing peace and moderation.
Start by feeling absorbed in Godly remembrance yourself first, so its echo is felt outside. A time will come when you notice that you don’t have thoughts at all. Little by little the mind becomes fine-tuned. This simple suggestion keeps your mind focused. As Yoda says in Star Wars:
“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between this land and that ship.”
And there is another benefit: wherever you go – to the theatre, a shopping mall or college –the feeling in the atmosphere around you will be affected.
Try it as an experiment when you have some free time. Slowly the absorbency will expand around you. If you also think of a friend who is living somewhere else, you will send these vibrations there also. Allow this feeling to expand. There are no limits to this expansion. Even the Universe will be too small when you allow a consciousness packed with love to expand.
Today there is so much talk of compassion fatigue, burnout and indifference, and we often blame the media for showing us so much negativity and horror in the news, making us numb to empathy, compassion and love. We blame stress and lack of sleep for hyping up our nervous systems so that we are irritable and unable to pause long enough to care about others. We blame our workplace environment for always rushing us and causing us to be hasty in everything we do, including decision-making. These are all examples of pramada – carelessness and indifference, rushing around, unable to pause and dive deep into the heart in order to feel and make wise decisions.
Is this the life we want to lead? We all know Aesop’s fable of The Hare and the Tortoise, and there are numerous proverbs in all languages about haste. Here are just a few:
Haste is the enemy of perfection.
Patience is the key of joy; but haste is the key to sorrow.
Haste and hurry can only bear children with many regrets.
People fated to be happy need not haste.
Of hasty counsel take good heed, for haste is very rarely speed.
Mulla Nasruddin also demonstrated this quality with his peculiar brand of humor. One day, while seated on his donkey, rushing through the marketplace, followers and friends tried to stop him to chat every few meters. He kept going faster and faster, replying, “I can’t stop to talk now. Can’t you see I am busy? I’m looking for my donkey!”
This captures the human predicament. It is critical to slow down, have time for those around us, enjoy the beauties of life, and become conscious of the search and ourselves as seekers. So pause, remain poised, especially when everyone else is rushing, go into your heart, feel your Center and recalibrate yourself. Try to approach every task at hand with poise and grace.
Pramada results in sloppy thinking, sloppy action and sloppy work, so even in the worldly sense we will not achieve excellence in any field while this vikshepa is still creating obstacles. That is one of the many reasons why successful people meditate. Excellence depends on removing this obstacle of pramada. And in the spiritual field it is even more critical to transcend it. Spiritual growth is all about refinement – removing negative tendencies and cultivating noble qualities. It is all about becoming more God-like every day. It is all about becoming the best we can possibly be, and then unbecoming – removing every conceivable obstacle to oneness with the Ultimate. There is no room for pramada or any of the vikshepas in that equation.
The fifth vikshepa is alasya, which translates as laziness and sloth. There are different types of laziness. One type is the laziness that arises because the soul becomes more prominent, as inactivity is the quality of the soul whereas activity is the quality of the body. But that is not the type of laziness Patanjali is referring to here. He is talking about the laziness that comes from giving up.
Laziness results when the other vikshepas become crippling. For example, when we are indifferent, careless and hasty, it is symptomatic of the fact that we have lost our faith and confidence in life. We no longer see the point of being enthusiastic and putting our hearts into whatever we are doing. We are living without really being alive. This can also happen in a spiritual practice when we go through the motions of meditating or praying without real interest. It becomes mechanical rather than heart-felt. It takes us nowhere.
If you observe small children, you will notice that they are full of wonder. Life is a playground, filled with energy for life. They are living in the flow of the prana of the universe, the bliss of the inner being, and they are not jaded or blocked by frustration, negativity, disappointment, failure and hopelessness. Everything they see is wonder-ful. They are not competing with anyone else, they are not bogged down by complexities and impurities, and they are still in touch with their feelings and their truth.
As the Heart Region of a human being fills with complexities and impurities in the form of samskaras, all the vikshepas come into play, leading to a negative spiral which eventually results in lack of motivation, incapacitation and inactivity. Just like a car that has broken down because it has never been serviced, our whole system eventually breaks down. This is alaysa.
Imagine when a person in this state has their first taste of Heartfulness Meditation, and feels the ‘life-in-life’ of yogic Transmission being infused into their system. There is an immediate effect. It is as if a lifeline has been thrown to them, a transfusion of motivation, to bring them back from sloth towards a zest for living, and the courage and confidence to move forward. Hope reappears. Renewed interest creates the will to be disciplined and have a purpose. That is something life-changing.
In the next article, we will take up the vikshepas of avirati, bhrantidarsana and alabdha-bhumikatva.
Article by DAAJI (Kamlesh Patel)
July 30, 2020
July 29, 2020
June 29, 2020