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Hinduism Share This Page
Another Perception of Reality
by Ashish Nangia Bookmark and Share

Aphorism 1.5
vrttayah pancatayyah klistaklista

Translated as – There are five types of mental modifications, or patterns that the self can identify (wrongly !) with, and these can be sources of pleasure or pain. 

Another look at the phenomenon of the ‘self’ losing its identity: according to yoga philosophy (taking its inspiration from the Samkhya system), there are no dualisms in the sense of good/evil, truth/lie, win/lose, fast/slow and so on – these are rather man-made oppositions which have no basis in reality. Yoga is a technique of realizing this reality and penetrating the veil of maya, which cloaks the perception of the true nature of things. 

Maya in turn is a man-made creation, chiefly a direct result of the mind of Man identifying with, to a greater or lesser degree, sensory inputs from the sense organs. Patanjali in this sutra goes on to class these inputs into five types (which he details later), and says that these become the cause of pleasure or pain. Pain and pleasure, of course, are binary oppositions in themselves which only accentuate the cloak of maya, providing Man with a (temporary!) illusion of satisfaction or discontent. 

This is a vicious cycle, of course: for an illusion of satisfaction leads desire for the same and discontent naturally means a desire to change. Both essentially lead to the same end – desire for what is not attainable. 

It is best to illustrate this sutra with examples: 

Advertisements – for cars, for coke, for lawn mowers, for hair dryers, for shampoos: the ad industry recognizes the power of creating a need, a desire for goods, and equates the good being advertised, identifying it with basic human desires – the desire to look good, to be part of a certain (higher!) social circle, to be rich, to be successful. The ad industry in doing so feeds on human desire. Desire is thus one of the results of ‘erroneous self-identification’ – identifying one’s own self-image with a fast car, for example! The message here is that the beautiful people shown on TV have become so because of their shampoo and their clothes…

Loss and hurt – are evident and natural feelings – loss when someone close goes away, hurt when someone close is insensitive. Once again, the ‘self’, by identifying what has been said or done, may respond with something like ‘you hurt me’, or ‘that caused me pain’ - the key word in both these cases being ‘me’! Yoga philosophy, by altering the conception of ‘me’ to include not only the personal, individualized state but also the individualities of all those around – removes the sense of being hurt or of loss – no hurt or loss is possible if everyone – and indeed everything in nature – is considered part of a holistic system, each element with its own and unique role to play. 

Patterns of living – As human beings, and as a product of the social order which we inhabit, we tend to lead life in patterns that get increasingly predictable and settled as time passes. A good example of a settled pattern is eating, another may be smoking after a meal, or coffee, or a drink in the evening. A living pattern becomes a way of life, a routine, that often has very little to do with how we feel or what we may actually want. Missing a pattern, or disrupting a routine, can be catastrophic! And just try to deprive a smoker of his post-meal cigarette… So what is the ‘mental modification’ here? A pattern derived on what has happened before, a (faulty) assumption that we are the same person as yesterday or before, and thus need to do exactly the same thing as we have always been doing. What leads to greater pain – disrupting an existing pattern, or accepting that we are not the same and thus looking for new routines, new things to do? 

In conclusion, yoga once again offers a multi-fold path- to firstly accept the fact that ‘we’ (the self) is not (or at least not completely) that which is perceived by the senses. Secondly, a warning that to continue with this delusion results in a misperception of larger and holistic reality, and thirdly that by following the path of yoga misperceptions/duality/binary oppositions can be resolved. 

In this fifth aphorism Patanjali prepares to list out the five classes of sensory inputs that contribute to a faulty view of reality and the self. 

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17-Apr-2005
More by :  Ashish Nangia
 
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