A Taste of Yoga Sutras, Lesson 7.
As part of her work connecting yoga and food, Camella Nair has created a 12 week course that pairs Patanjali’s yoga sutras with the everyday life activity of feeding the body. In this series for elephant journal, Camella provides readers with a short version of what she addresses more deeply in her course.
1) We become attracted (raga) to that which gives us pleasure.
2) “Attachment is the state of ignorance or forgetfulness, and thus clinging to a memory of enjoyment”
~ Goswami Kriyananda
All beings, of sea or land or air, experience attraction. Humans are typically attracted to people, money, and sex. Simple, eh? We just have to safely navigate these three and we will not have problems with attraction. If we can do that safely, we will not be enslaved by what we are attracted to, as this invariably leads to attachment.
One important thing to remember is that it really is ok to have the nice clothes, a house, a car and favorite food. Attachment is of the mind and not of things. Nothing belongs to us that we don’t come into the world with (remember the George Burns quote from last week?). So, the practice of balancing life is being able to enjoy the things we love, but if they dissolve for some reason, we will still be balanced because we have not based our happiness upon them.
Even as “‘Humpty Dumpty” (see lesson 5) in our mother’s womb, we experienced the taste of our mother’s amniotic fluid and so started to be attracted to and crave her touch. A connection to people, especially our mother or another person is a part of our proclivity as humans. Mother cradles the baby or the lovers fall in love, and yet if the source of the love is absent, there is a dramatic sense of loss.
Sutra 7 and 8 (attraction and aversion) are really two sides of the same coin, just like two opposites in the sun and moon which are two sides of the same chakra.
Monopoly is a great board game, isn’t it? It has weathered the years, and still provides hours of great family entertainment. Everyone has their own favorite color and corner of the board.
In life, it’s not dollar bills that we are lured by, but the spending power it represents. There is a real danger though, if financial power is used to exert power over other people, and I reckon that most of us are witnessing much of this going on in today’s world.
Having money is not the problem, but abusing the power that it wields is, and unless we are wise with our wealth, it can be very destructive. The real wealth—according to the mystic—is not money at all but our memory track, and the very fact that we have forgotten our true nature (avidya-lesson 5) highlights this problem we all have to some degree.
We can’t remember being born, much less anything before that. The value of remembering that we are actually here for a reason and what that is (enlightenment), renders it impossible for us to use money or our mind to exert power and control over anything.
How can you know if you are making progress in this area?
- Can you be content with life now even if you don’t have all the money or things you would like?
- If you want money to flow into your life what kriya (volitional action) are you doing to bring that into your life harmoniously?
Know that very often when the self-made millionaire is asked the question, “Did money bring you happiness?”, they often say that it was what they did to bring the money into their lives that was the most satisfying thing. Not just having the money. The majority of people who have a windfall or come into money easily don’t seem to appreciate it or know what to do with it, and so they lose it. Being able to sustain the wealth and continue to remember what we are here to do is a constant practice and it really should be enjoyable.
Almost every human being experiences, at some point, the desire to have sex on some level and I don’t care if they say they are celibate. The mere desire to have sex, even if it is not acted out, is a desire to have sex nonetheless. So, technically speaking, they’re not renouncing sex.
Patanjali says that the yama or control of energy needs to be practiced in thought, word and deed.
It is a natural urge in the cycle of human beings to want sex, for it allows new life to grow. It is a part of the urge contained within the “martian” chakra at the navel center (Manipura) and linked to the sexual organs at the sacrum (Svadisthana).
Mars is the god of war and wants to control everyone and everything. It is linked to passion or lust. It is not bad energy but potentially can get “out of control”, and so needs to be addressed on an individual level.
Not everyone has the same sexual desire and if a marriage is going to go sour it is usually because of sex, money or disagreements on raising the kids.
How our energy is being used in order to fulfill our desire is very important.
In the Ancient Vedas of India there are four basic goals for the human:
- Kama or pleasure.
- Artha or wealth.
- Dharma or one’s duty.
- Moksha or liberation.
Pleasure as part of our goal in life is natural and therefore to deny ourselves can in fact cause real psychological problems. Women especially think that they need to diet in order to look a certain way and deny things they crave in order to lose weight. But there is something fundamentally wrong in this type of thinking.
If it is our nature to seek pleasure and food gives us pleasure, denying ourselves food will actually create a sense of disconnection from our nature as human beings. Many women are suffering from eating disorders, for example. If we take this concept and look at it from the inside out and can remember how to feel satiated with a connection to god, or divine mother or spirit or whatever you want to call it, the external expression of overeating or eating the wrong foods will not happen at all, or certainly not as much.
This is because the spiritual practice is not one of getting anything, but one of surrendering to what is already within us; Sat Chit Ananda (knowledge of being conscious and in a state of bliss).
So why do we go in search of people, money, and sex?
Patanjali’s sutras allude to the fact that it is because they give us pleasure, or at least, the potential to give us pleasure. But here is the thing, the scales can tip in the direction of “a sense of lack” and so we can become miserable if we don’t have a supportive community, money to buy what we want, and sex on some level depending upon our sex drive.
Remember the last sutra where Patanjali spoke about egoism and the problems that it can create for us? Well, if we do not have a good and healthy sense of self, our ego will need to be validated by going out into the world and craving recognition, money and/or physical stimulation, which are really about bringing pleasure through the sense organs. Not just once—that is never enough—but again and again and again.
Try saying “I love you” just once to someone. It’s not possible.
They (we) want to hear it over and over and over again. We need to be reassured that feelings have not changed, and so, in time. We become attached.
Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all?
Attachment arises because we cling to the memory of what is pleasurable for us. It could be a lover, a sunset or a piece of chocolate cake!
What we become attached to becomes hard to give up. As children, we knew that the queen was not as “good”as Snow White, but it is often that which is not good for us that we crave: the wrong boyfriend, buying the wrong ingredients to cook or establishing relationships with the wrong group of people.
We all need to “feel” special in some way, and this why we need to feel connection in community.
Take any group of models and you will find many of them that do not feel thin enough, pretty enough or young enough. How can each and every person feel beautiful and important just as they are without having to prove anything to anyone? It is not possible without first accepting ourselves; the nice parts and the parts that are not quite so nice!
It comes from a healthy sense of self and remembering that we are more than the body, mind and its personality.
Raga means attraction and it is described often as “being drawn to an object”. That object could be a burger, a piece of chocolate cake or another person. A more subtle expression would be drawing to a concept, a thought or a vibration which often draws us to certain groups of people.
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario though! Which comes first? attraction or pleasure? They lead to attachment and this can be problematic if we base our happiness on never being without these things.
It does seem to be about people, money, and sex, doesn’t it?
We want to be in relationships. They help us grow as we learn to get along with one another. We want to be able to have the money necessary to go the restaurant or gym, buy the clothes or car and go on vacation, etc… and we want to feel validated on some physiological level by other people and know that we really are a good person.
For this lesson of my online course Cooking the Yoga Sutras, I cook and give a recipe for a sumptuous chocolate bread and butter pudding which needs to soak for two whole days before it goes into the oven. Those two days, if you love chocolate, can be excruciatingly long. We may find ourselves thinking about the dessert and longing for the time when we can pop it into the oven and finally eat it.
We get in trouble mostly when we want something that lies in our demand to get what we want right now.
The law of gravity which causes delay, will—in time—give us what we want. Very often though by the time we get what we want, we have changed our minds.
How many times have you ordered something at a restaurant and then changed your mind once the order has gone in? Change the place and circumstance, and the same scenario can occur in many areas of our lives.
To sum up the “extra helping” of this sutra; we come into the world forgetting what we came for, identify our true self with our ego personality and start to become enamored with things we are attracted to. This attraction is based on the memory track of past lives as well as the new experiences we have in this lifetime.
There is nothing wrong with allowing ourselves “things”. This only becomes a problem when we think we own those “things”: my house, my car, my husband, my child, my last piece of cake! Let’s reflect upon what is truly ours.
(Stay tuned for next week’s lesson, when we will look at the opposite of attraction, which is aversion.)
Prepared for elephant journal by Lorin Arnold / Editor: Andrea B.
Camella Nair is an ordained Swami in the Kriya Yoga tradition and has been practicing yoga since she was 17. She has written two books on yoga as well as an online course on the yoga sutras which is part philosophy and part cooking (http://www.cookingtheyogasutras.com/). She lives with her two teenage sons in Northern California. She can be reached via email at [email protected].