I recently found this draft of a post for class on May 9th. Although adding it now takes us out of chronological order, I think it’s worth including. We had just entered into Book II of the Yoga-Sutra and were beginning to look at Patanjali’s concept of the kleshas, the “primal causes of suffering.” That week’s sutra focused on the first klesha, avidya. If you want a reminder of the five kleshas, scroll down to May 15th.
Ignorance (i.e. avidya) is the fertile soil, and as a consequence, all other obstacles persist.
They may exist in any state—dormant, feeble, intermittent, or fully operative.
Click here to listen to my May 9 Dharma Talk. I’m talking about the kleshas as a way to understand addictive behavior patterns. That was the night I told the story about the Canadian geese on the towpath and driving to class with my dirty windshield.
Here’s a lovely Zen story that illustrates how life looks when we’re stuck behind the second klesha, asmita (attachment to story) planted in the fertile soil of avidya (ignorance).
A potential student went to see a Zen master and asked: “If I work really hard, how long will it take to become enlightened.” The Zen master looked at the man and said “Ten years.”
“No, no,” the man said, “I mean to really work at it –“
The Zen master cut him off. “I’m sorry, I misjudged you–twenty years.”
“Wait,” the man blurted out, “I’m very serious, you don’t understand–“
“Thirty years,” said the Zen master.
Suzin, Thanks for compiling and posting these teachings and recordings of your talks and our chanting of the sutra settings you’ve composed. I know these will be treasured resources, now and later.
One thing I’ve learned these past few weeks is that it seems to take many years of practice before one is really ready to confront the so-called “beginning” steps: the obstacles of temperament, emotion, and the mind. I think when most of us begin yoga, we hope that these will take care of themselves as we learn to stretch the body in asana and stretch our consciousness toward blissful union. But as we keep showing up year after year, the obstacles do too!
Swami Sivananda Radha (the yoga teacher who began Yashodara Ashram in British Columbia) used to call these the “negative personality aspects” and she stressed their importance throughout her many writings (to my initial consternation!), with examples of how progress in yoga was best measured, not by feats, but by something as mundane as being less angry or irritated with one’s neighbors–even ONE less time today than yesterday. It is the sort of thing that you, Suzin, have taught patiently year after year too, as we all keep trying together. Thanks for delving deeper (into the kleshas, and their antidotes in cultivating the yamas, niyamas, and the opposite of whatever negative emotions) at just the right time.