Liking and Disliking:
The Disease of the Mind
by M. Govindan
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
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
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.