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Perception and reality
Excerpt from an interview with Dr phil. Dirk R.Glogau and D.V. Sridhar.
Our image of the world is created through perception. What this is like depends on the state of our mind. According to Patanjali, yoga practice should lead us to a correct perception that enables us to recognize this world and ourselves.
The seemingly outer world as we see it is a reflection of the inner states of our mind. The same applies to self-awareness. We can also perceive ourselves only in the mirror of our spirit and shaped by our identifications. That the subjective reality we produce is a true reflection of the objective world out there is pure illusion. This view agrees with the knowledge of modern natural science. So all we can perceive are activities of our brain.
Patanjali's Yoga Sûtra as well as the Samkhya are based on a similar model of perception, as well as on direct experiences that every yoga practitioner can and should make himself, because yoga is above all practice and experience. An interview with D. V. Sridhar gets to the bottom of the subject of perception in the Yoga Sûtra.
In traditional Indian philosophy we generally assume that the perceiving subject is different from the perceived objects. According to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, what exactly is to be understood by the perceiving subject?
D. V. Sridhar: Patanjali distinguishes between two aspects: drasta and drsyam. Drastâ means the seer or that which sees, i.e. that which perceives. Drastâ, the self or the soul, is also referred to in the various sources as, for example, âtman, jiva, purusa or cit and refers to the inner self. Drsyam means what is seen, i.e. what can be perceived. It is also known as prakrti, vjîsaya, or vastu.
Drsyam refers to everything else outside of the self. It includes both physical and non-physical objects, i.e. the mind, the body, the senses, but also objects such as tables or chairs. Drsyam is made up of the basic elements space, air, fire, water and earth as well as the senses and has the three qualities sattva, rajas and tamas.
Drsyam can move and act, but needs the power of drastâ in order to be able to be active. Drastâ, the pure conscious being, cannot be influenced by its surroundings.
The goal of drastâs is to interact with his environment and to promote the development of his "seeing", his perception. However, drastâ does not have the necessary tools for this. Therefore drastâ depends on the help of drsyam. The aim of this partnership is to enable drastâ to achieve kaivalyam, freedom from all worldly attachments. Drsyam is capable of two things: Drsyam is able to assist drastâ in its development or to attract drastâ and embed it in the worldly objects and pleasures offered by drsyam drastâ. It is the task of drastâ to cultivate the right relationship with drsyam in order to be able to achieve the goal of freedom.
Dirk R.Glogau: You say that drsyam can support drastâ in its development. Does that mean that drastâ is also in a development process? So, then, isn't this essence also immutable?
D.V. Sridhar: Yes, that's to be understood. Drastâ has to develop. The word "upalabdhi" in Sûtra 2.23 also means "to develop". That is why drsyam exists. Drastâ and drsyam have nothing in common and are completely different in nature. You have entered into a partnership so that drastâ can develop - and development already means change here. Drastâ is not in constant, rapid change like drsyam, but it should also develop. This change relates to the connection between drastâ and drsyam, not to drastâ itself. Drastâ should, as it were, recognize itself in the mirror of drsyam. That is the goal of our development and the purpose of our whole existence.
Dirk R.Glogau: What kind can the perceived objects be and can the perceiving subject recognize them as they are?
D.V. Sridhar: The yoga sûtra is based on three basic principles: sat vaada, parinâma vaada and nimitta vaada. Sat vaada means that everything is true. Take, for example, a person who has back pain and the doctors cannot diagnose any pathology. You will come to the conclusion that your patient is not in pain or is just imagining it. Yoga would never endorse such a finding. If a patient feels pain, regardless of any medical diagnosis, he is in pain, so it is true.
But things are not permanent over time. Everything is in a state of flux and is subject to constant change. This knowledge is known as parinama vaada. This shift can be for better or for worse, or it can be neutral.
The change is inevitable, that's what nimitta vaada stands for. But the direction of development can be changed. We can use our intelligence to steer the development process in a beneficial direction. Drastâ can perceive everything with the help of drsyam, both physical objects and feelings or ideas.
Everything we perceive is real to us, but only temporarily true. And this also applies to deceptions or false perceptions. A wrong perception is also a perception for us and it exists for us.
Dirk R.Glogau: On the basis of modern natural sciences, we can say that we can only become aware of internal states of the brain. What we perceive depends on our sensory organs and our nervous system and does not provide us with any real information from our environment. How does this point of view agree with Patanjali?
D.V. Sridhar: The perception depends on two aspects, drastâ must be interested in the perception and he must be able to connect with the object in question with the help of the senses. Only when these two prerequisites are fulfilled do movements in the mind arise, which Patanjali calls citta vàttis and which allow a process of understanding. This understanding enables structures such as ideas or archetypes that the mind can fall back on.
Patanjali asks a rhetorical question: does an object or concept cease to exist because a person is not interested in it? He doesn't give a straight answer.
The obvious answer, however, is that, whether acknowledged or not, the object exists because it exists independently of the seer. If a seer does not or no longer perceives an object, the object therefore does not disappear and can definitely be perceived by someone else.
Dirk R.Glogau: Drastâ can only perceive with the help of the mind and senses. In doing so, drastâ has to see through the mind and the senses. This view corresponds with modern epistemology such as constructivism. On the other hand, Patanjali says that correct perception, i.e. not colored by mind and senses, is also possible. How is this possible and how can I know when I am perceiving correctly?
D.V. Sridhar: Drastâ sees through the mind because it has no instrument for perception itself. Correct perception is possible when the mind is free from "tints". It becomes transparent like glass, so to speak, through which one can see clearly without causing any distortion. Citta and the senses can and should also become transparent. That is the goal of any yoga practice.
It is very difficult to determine when we are correctly perceiving. This is because wrong knowledge appears to us as right knowledge. It is therefore almost impossible to distinguish in which mode we are currently perceiving.
Good and regular yoga practice is the way to greater clarity and can help us to distinguish. In the beginning the logical thinking ability is coordinated better and better and later this process is carried over to all functions of the mind. The perception then becomes direct and flawless.
Dirk R. Glogau: Is it possible for the perceiving subject to perceive itself, and if so, in what way?
D.V. Sridhar: The purpose of yoga is to facilitate the perception of the self, as Patanjali explains in Yoga Sûtra 1.3: "tadâ drastuh svarûpe avsthânam." Drastâ € ™ s tool of perception is the mind, known as the citta. How is that possible now?
The model that Patanjali describes looks like this: The contact with the outside world is mediated by the senses. Their signals reach the mind, citta, which sends them on to drastâ.
In situation 1 the mind not only receives and forwards the information from the senses, but it adds something itself. These additions are brought about by the "coloring" of the mind produced by the individual samskāras and klesas. As a result, the original information is distorted and perception and understanding are dependent on the state of the mind. Therefore, in most cases, the perception is different from the actual truth.
The result is the distraction of the mind, which most of the time jumps from one object to the next. Because of these distortions and distractions, we deal with things that are not worth it and keep getting distracted. The mind is like a glass lens through which information passes, but the lens - the mind - is colored.
Situation 2: Through the practice of astanga yoga, the yoga of the eightfold path according to Patanjali, the discoloration of the mind gradually diminishes. This improves his clarity and develops the ability to get rid of the things that are not good and to focus on a few important objects.
The mind is still alternating between being able to stay focused and being distracted. The spirit brightens its color more and more. He can focus better and better. His tendency to jump from one object to another gradually disappears.
Situation 3: With further yoga practice, the mind completely loses its color and becomes transparent. The distortions are removed and the ability to see and understand things as they are improves. The ability to choose the right path in life grows and many undesirable things are eliminated. The ability to align and concentrate on an object for a long period of time develops. The mind can now focus on more subtle aspects. The understanding becomes deeper and more comprehensive.
Situation 4: The mind can now do two tasks. On the one hand, it can interact with the outside world through the senses and, on the other hand, it acts as a mirror and helps the seer to get a picture of himself. As the practice intensifies, the mind is transformed into a mirror made of glass. He is no longer interested in relationships with the outside world, as he was before, but reflects the self and helps it to recognize itself. This enables the self to recognize its true form and nature. Now the mind takes on its intended role and drastically helps to understand its own nature.
Article by Dr. phil. Dirk R. Glogau
German Yoga Forum 4/08
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