Liking and Disliking:
The Disease of the Mind
by M. Govindan Satchidananda
As we deepen our practice of
Yoga, we begin to realize just how much our mind is tossed about
by things that we like and things that we do not like. We get
excited, laugh or feel very "happy," when we obtain
something we desire, or experience something pleasurable. We get
depressed, frustrated, or anxious when denied what we desire.
We encounter this throughout our day, at work, with our families,
in the public, and in private moments. While we may long for the
peace of our meditation cushion or asana mat, there is much that
we can do to elsewhere overcome this "disease" of the
Patanjali tells us in Sutra II.7 that "Attachment
is the clinging to pleasure."
Because of the individuation
of consciousness, and its false identification with a particular
body and set of thoughts and memories, we are attracted to various
pleasant experiences in our environment. Attachment (ragah), like
fear, springs from the imagination (vikalpa). It occurs when we
confuse the internal experience of bliss (ananda) with a set of
outer circumstances, or factors, and we call this association
pleasure (sukham). We imagine that pleasure depends upon the presence
of these external circumstances, or factors. When they are no
longer there, we experience attachment, the delusion that the
inner joy cannot return unless we again possess the external factors.
Attachment involves clinging (anusayã), and of course,
suffering (dukha). Even when we possess the external factors,
we may still experience attachment because of the fear (imagination)
of losing it. However, in reality, bliss is self-existent, unconditional
and independent of external circumstances or factors. One need
only be aware to experience it.
Patanjali goes onto tell us in verse II.8 that
"Aversion (disliking) is clinging to suffering."
In the same way, we are repulsed
by various experiences in our environment. These are relative
terms, and what is painful for one, may be pleasant for another
person. There is a third possible response however, detachment
(vairagya), which Patanjali proposes as the key practice for going
beyond the painful and pleasurable (see verse I.12, 15).
When we go deep within, standing
back from a painful experience, its cause becomes evident. By
cultivating this perspective and understanding, as well as patience
and tolerance, we are no longer troubled. "If it costs our
peace of mind, it costs too much." Changing an outer painful
situation is often impossible, without first changing our perception
of it. We should first focus our will on clearing and deepening
our consciousness to avoid reacting with aversion. Aspire for
an outer change, for a more harmonious situation. Accept any work
that has been given to you in the spirit of karma yoga (selfless
service), as spiritual training, to purify yourself of attachment
(raga) and aversion (dvesa).
Both "attachment "
and "aversion" are among the five afflictions which
Patanjali identifies in Sutra II.3: "Ignorance, egoism, attachment,
aversion, and clinging to life are the five afflictions."
These prevent Self-realization.
Through ignorance of who we really are, we confuse the Self with
the non-Self, the permanent, with the impermanent. Because of
this ignorance, egoism develops. Patanjali tells us in II.6 that
"Egoism is the identification of the powers of the Seer (Purusha)
with that of the instrument of seeing (prakriti)." In other
words, egoism is the habit of identifying with what we are not,
the body-mind personality, the instrument of cognition, as well
as thoughts, sensations and emotions. We fail to recognize that
they are objects, merely reflections of our awareness. This leads
to the individuation of consciousness: "I-am-ness,"
and its confusion with "I am the body," "I am this
This subject-object confusion
can be removed by the practice of detachment and discernment.
Feel that you are not "the doer," but only the "Seer."
Be a witness and an instrument and notice how everything gets
To overcome "likings"
and attachment, cultivate awareness before, during, and after
pleasurable activities or circumstances. Notice that bliss remains
throughout, as long as awareness is present. Practice letting
go of feelings of attachment. When things go well, thank the Lord.
To overcome aversion or disliking
perform all actions selflessly, skillfully and patiently. Cultivate
equanimity as you perform actions, and with regard to the results.
When things go badly, take responsibility and learn to do better.
Copyright Marshall Govindan. April 2002.
All rights reserved.
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