Relating will never make you feel more connected to another, but love will.
Adi Shankara (from the early 8th century) is known as one of the main proponents of Advaita Vedanta, one of the six main philosophies of Indian thought. He was also a great yoga master and wrote a book called Yoga Taravali which explains the different stages of raja yoga and how to reach the highest state of enlightenment.
Tara means star and a star is defined as something that shines on its own (unlike the moon, which, in astronomical terms, is a satellite and only lit by reflecting the sunlight). Avali is a line of stars. Thus, Yoga Taravali represents a line of teachings (and a lineage of teachers) that serve like shining lights on the path of any serious practitioner. It is a profound, precise and yet beautifully written, poetic book and I recommend it to everyone.
In the Yoga Taravali, Adi Shankara explains the six different stages of raja yoga.
In the first state, which is called unmani, the breath gets so subtle, effortless and refined that it seems to stop (kevala kumbhaka). The movement of prana in the nadis is suspended and the mind doesn’t search for sensual objects any more.
In the second state called manonmani, the yogi has developed the capacity to stay in kevala kumbhaka. In this second stage, the prana moves up and reaches the crown chakra. When this happens there is a total destruction of all egoism and identity-based thoughts. The only thing that remains is pure consciousness.
Usually our mind has only two choices: It either holds something (for example, when you pick a focus) or it is held by something (we all know when our minds are held or absorbed by all the vrittis, the mind chatter). In the state of manonmani, those identity-based thought patterns get destroyed and the mind is only held by pure consciousness.
In the third state called amanaska, all roots of thought patterns (like vasanas [hidden associations], svabhava [predisposition], character and svarasa [our identity essence]) get destroyed too and the mind is at total peace.
From this state on, the mind is no longer a faculty for action or perception.
For us, as normal human beings, it might be very difficult to even imagine states like that.
Because states like that are indescribable by our terminology and simply, by the incapacity of our language to be perceived unambiguously (the only language in the world that is unambiguous is Sanskrit—that’s why the mantras are so powerful), we have even less of an idea what this means.
The biggest mental challenge for many people when imagining those states is how not to have an identity.
Who are you then? And, how can you relate to people without having an identity?
To me, the simple answer is: You can’t relate because you don’t need to any more.
The difference between relating and connecting.
The word “relation” implies something that is relative, meaning something that depends on another factor. This translates to: Our minds relate to other people depending on external and internal identity factors. Meaning, if you meet somebody and this person shares the same interests that you have or has similar ideas, you might think you like that person because of those reasons. It is an identity based reasoning; the ahamkara part of our mind does that with everything you perceive. Similarly, if someone else suffers from the same sickness or has the same problem as you have, you might feel more sympathy for them because of that.
We compare ourselves all the time to the people around us; this is how we form relations in our world. Even when you are in a loving relationship, you tend to ask your partner why he or she loves you. You want a reason for relating.
There is something that is beyond that and this is what those yoga masters referred to. That which is beyond relating is connection. Connection is not relative and identity based. Connection is identity free. Instead, connection is based solely on love because love essentially is connection. When you love your child or another being intensely enough, you might find yourself feeling connected to this being without mental reasoning, without the need of comparison and without subconscious patterns being involved.
All that there is between you and this being is the pure and essential feeling of love. This essence is god and is in you and everyone else. It enables us to get a glimpse of god.
This concept can be clarified through the following image: If you take two raindrops, each of them are single entities and thus, can be compared by their similarities as well as by their differences. But when the two raindrops join together and maybe join with thousands of others, they become the sea. In the sea there is no more comparison and no more identity of single water drops. The drops become one entity that is not dividable any more.
It all becomes one connected unity.
Now we might, even if we practice forever, never reach that highest state in which we become one with all that is and don’t perceive ourselves as single entities any more.
Maybe next time we shout at our children, scold our partners or resent our parents, we could remember to focus on that which truly connects us with them and which emanates from the heart.
Mental concepts of relating will never make you feel more connected to another; but love will.
- Evelyn Einhaeuser studied literature and communication sciences and is a freelance writer and yoga teacher who is currently based in Berlin, Germany. For classes, contact her at [email protected]
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- Assistant Ed.: Stephanie Sefton
- Ed: Brianna Bemel