Through the ages we’ve seen constant change. The flow of the human experience is never static. Fashion changes, architecture changes, relationship dynamics change, power changes hands, and technology changes. Very little stays the same.
Something that changes very little is the nature of man. The underlying attitudes and dispositions of human beings a thousand years ago resemble closely the attitude and dispositions of human beings today. We have desires, and we pursue them. We have enemies, and we fight them. We lust, and we love. We build, we conquer, and we fall prey to the greed of other men.
There’s a reason the stories of William Shakespeare, written over 400 years ago, still resonate so strongly today. The pitfalls of the journeys of life are universal truths, recognizable by everyone who’s lived long enough to walk the Earth.
While the Chitta Vikespa is an ancient text written for and about students of yoga, its insight is as relevant and useful to anyone alive today. Taken out of the context of an educational tome for the students of the spiritual path of ancient yoga, the illumination and direction the Chitta Vikespa provides for overcoming distractions and obstacles in our mundane lives today is still invaluable.
If you’re human, and alive, you’ve struggled with the distractions and obstacles discussed and can benefit from the ancient insight into overcoming them. Life is about overcoming. It’s the biggest theme of human endeavor. We overcome our upbringing and launch into our futures. We overcome our circumstances and fears to bring our dreams to fruition. We overcome the shortcomings of our fellow men and carve out lives and beliefs that reflect our hopes and dreams. If you are committed to a pursuit of constant growth, constant improvement and living a life of personal excellence read on.
“ABOVE ALL TREASURE LOVE, MODERATION AND HUMILITY. LOVE BEGETS COURAGE, MODERATION CREATES ABUNDANCE AND HUMILITY GENERATES POWER. COURAGE WITHOUT LOVE IS BRUTTISH. ABUNDANCE WITHOUT MODERATION LEADS TO OVER-INDULGENCE AND DECAY. POWER WITHOUT HUMILITY BREEDS ARROGANCE AND TYRANNY.” – BKS IYENGAR
BKS Iyengar in his book, “A Light on Yoga” wrote about the Chitta Vikespa in terms of yogic philosophy. Indeed, the terms ‘Chitta Vikespa’ refers to the distractions and obstacles that a sisya (student of yoga) will encounter on their way to mastery. Remember that yoga has its roots thousands of years ago, and it is at its core a holistic mind-body-spirit route to spiritual enlightenment. There is a trove of wondrous and guiding information and principles when you get into the realm of ancient yogic philosophy that are worth your time and exploration. The pitfalls of life then resemble the pitfalls of life today, even if the accessories have changed.
“ALL IMPORTANT YOGA TEXTS LAY GREAT EMPHASIS ON CONSTANT PRACTICE. NOT JUST IN THEORETICAL STUDY. IT’S A SPIRITUAL ENDEAVOR. OIL SEEDS MUST BE PRESSED TO YIELD OIL. WOOD MUST BE HEATED TO IGNITE IT AND BRING OUT THE HIDDEN FIRE WITHIN. IN THE SAME WAY, THE STUDENT MUST THROUGH CONSTANT PRACTICE LIGHT THE DIVINE FLAME WITHIN THEMSELVES.”
– BKS IYENGAR
How true this sentiment is about all great feats in life. Athletes don’t conquer their bodies without constant practice. Authors don’t conquer the page without constant practice. World leaders don’t control the currents of world power without constant practice. Business men and women don’t forge pioneers of industry without constant practice. In the same way your life and mind won’t improve, and your dreams won’t be realized without constant practice.
Why is it important to understand the shortfalls of human nature when it comes to mastery, or achieving a life full of vitality?
“TO WIN A BATTLE, A GENERAL SURVEYS THE TERRAIN AND THE ENEMY AND PLANS COUNTER-MEASURES. IN A SIMILAR WAY A YOGI PLANS THE CONQUEST OF THE SELF.” – BKS IYENGAR
There are people in this world who will be content with mediocrity. The sun will rise and set every single day, and the spaces in between those people will fill with distractions and simply surviving. For the rest of us, life is something to be fulfilled and conquered. Our dreams aren’t mirages on the horizon, but goals we aim toward like arrows strung to a bow.
For people like us, the seekers who embrace the belief that we deserve lives full of greatness, we plan for the conquest of everything that stands in our way. We seek out the best knowledge and understanding in order to forge lives worthy of our living them.
In the same way that a carpenter couldn’t build a house without a blueprint, or an army couldn’t conquer their enemy without a map of the terrain it’s important for you to be able to see and understand the distractions and obstacles in your own life. The Chitta Vikespa illuminates for us what those may be.
AS DISTRACTIONS AND OBSTACLES IN OUR PATHS TO HEALING AND LIVING LIVES FULL OF VITALITY, WHAT ARE THE CHITTA VIKESPA?
BKS Iyengar describes them as:
- VYADHI – Sickness which disturbs the physical equilibrium. When the body is sick or the nervous system is affected, the mind becomes restless or dull and inert and concentration or meditation becomes impossible.
- STYANA – Languor or lack of mental disposition for work. This person has no goals, no path to follow and no enthusiasm. Their mind and intellect stagnates and nothing good can flourish in it.
- SAMSAYA – Doubt or indecision. The unwise, the faithless and the doubter destroy themselves inside. Having faith in a spiritual path or Creator inside of your heart frees you from the materialistic vapid hindrances that keep you away from pursuing better higher levels of existence than you’ve ever known.
- PRAMADA – Indifference or insensibility. This person is full of self-importance, lacks any humility and believes that he alone is wise. To gratify his selfish passions and dreams of personal glory, he will deliberately and without scruple sacrifice everyone who stands in his way.
- ALASYA – To remove the obstacle of laziness, unflagging enthusiasm (virya) is needed. Hope should be your shield and courage your sword. With faith and enthusiasm you should overcome the inertia of the body and mind.
- AVIRATI – Sensuality, the rousing of desire when sensory objects possess the mind. This is the tremendous craving for sensory objects after they have been consciously abandoned, which is hard to restrain.
- BHRANTI DARSANA – False or invalid knowledge or illusion. A person afflicted by false knowledge suffers from delusion and believes that he alone has seen the true Light. He has a powerful intellect, but lacks humility and makes a show of wisdom.
- ALABDHA BHUMIKATVA – Failure to obtain continuity of thought or concentration so that reality cannot be seen. As a mountain climber fails to reach the summit for lack of stamina, so also a person who cannot overcome the inability to concentrate is unable to perceive reality. They may see glimpses of reality but cannot see clearly.
- ANAVVASTHITATTVA – Instability in holding onto concentration which has been obtained after long practice. Having come so far through hard work, happy and proud of your achievements, you become slack in your efforts.
BKS Iyengar also mentions…
DUKHA – Pain or misery.
DAURMASYA – Despair.
ANGAMEJAYATVA – Unsteadiness of the body.
SVASA-PRASVASA – Unsteady respiration.
The possible pitfalls in our lives seems overwhelming when listed in this way. How can we avoid these traps and distractions without spending our lives chasing our tails?
THE FOURFOLD REMEDY
“The Yoga Sutras” are one of the most important ancient texts in the Hindu tradition and the foundation of classical yoga. Written by Patanjali (48BCE – 49AD), they provide several remedies to overcome the obstacles and distractions of the Chitta Vikespa.
BKS Iyengar suggests that the best of them are THE FOURFOLD REMEDY. These are qualities we should hold inherent to our character that will allow us to conquer the worst of our obstacles.
- MAITRI (FRIENDLINESS) – Maitri is not merely friendliness, but also a feeling of oneness with the object of their friendliness. A mother feels intense happiness at the success of her children, a feeling of oneness. Patanjali recommends maitri for happiness or virtue. Cultivate friendliness for the good and turn enemies into friends, bearing malice toward none.
- KARUNA (COMPASSION) – is not merely showing pity or compassion and shedding tears of despair at the misery of others. It is compassion coupled with devoted action to relieve the misery of others. Using all of your resources – physical, economical, mental and moral – to alleviate the pain and suffering of others. Become a shelter to one and all.
- MUDITA (DELIGHT) – is a feeling of delight at the good work done by another, even though they may be a rival. Through Delight we can save ourselves from a lot of heartache by not showing anger, or hatred or jealousy for others.
- UPESKA (DISREGARD) – is not merely a feeling of disdain or contempt for the person who has fallen into vice or one of indifference or superiority towards him. It is a searching self-examination to find out how one would have behaved when faced with the same temptations. It is also an examination to see how far one is responsible for the state into which the unfortunate one has fallen and the attempt thereafter to put him on the right path. Understand the faults of others by seeing and studying them first in yourself. This self-study teaches you to be charitable to everyone.
The deeper significance of the fourfold remedy cannot be felt by an unquiet mind. Through a quiet mind, and a constant conquest of our own shortcomings, we come to realize that everyone and everything is connected as part of a whole. Our participating in bettering the circumstances of all things and all people serves everyone.
“IT IS BY THE COORDINATED AND CONCENTRATED EFFORTS OF HIS BODY, SENSES, MIND, REASON AND SELF THAT A MAN OBTAINS THE PRIZE OF INNER PEACE AND FULFILLS THE QUEST OF HIS SOUL TO MEET HIS MAKER.” – BKS IYENGAR
KNOW YOURSELF AS THE LORD IN A CHARIOT
BKS Iyengar gives us a metaphor for ourselves that resonates with clarity and can help us conquer the shortcomings of human nature that might hinder our journey and growth. With understanding we can give victory to our higher nature over our baser selves.
Your Self is the Lord or owner of a chariot.
Your reason is the charioteer who drives.
Your mind is the reins.
Your senses are the horses that power and pull the chariot.
Your sense’s objects of desire are the pastures.
“The Self, when united with the mind and the senses, the wise call the Enjoyer.
The undiscriminating (who lacks good judgement) can never rein in his mind, his senses are like the vicious horses of the charioteer.
The discriminating (who has good judgement) ever controls his mind, his senses are like disciplined horses.
The undiscriminating becomes unmindful, ever impure; they do not reach their goal, wandering from one pursuit to the next.
The discriminating becomes mindful, ever pure; they reach their goals and are satisfied.
The person who has a discriminating charioteer to rein in their mind reaches the end of the journey without regret.”
Discipline yourself with discrimination and destroy your deceptive enemy in the shape of your desires that are outside the pursuit of a strong mind-body-soul and the fulfillment of your dreams.
It is by the coordinated efforts of body, senses, mind, reason and Self that we can obtain the prize of inner peace and fulfill our soul’s ultimate purpose.
“AS BY LEARNING THE ALPHABET ONE CAN, THROUGH PRACTICE, MASTER ALL OF THE SCIENCES, SO BY THOROUGHLY PRACTICING FIRST PHYSICAL TRAINING ONE ACQUIRES THE KNOWLEDGE OF TRUTH (TATTVA JNANA), THAT IS THE REAL NATURE OF THE HUMAN SOUL AS BEING IDENTICAL WITH THE SUPREME SPIRIT PERVADING THE UNIVERSE.” – GHERAND A SAMHITA, CHAPTER I, VERSE 5