Thursday, June 2, 2016
by Meiko Krishok
द्रष्टृदृश्ययोः संयोगो हेयहेतुः I
II.17 draṣṭṛ-dṛśyayoḥ saṁyogaḥ heya-hetuḥ
The cause of pain is the association or identification of the seer (ātmā) with the seen (prakṛti) and the remedy lies in their dissociation. (tr BKS Iyengar)
We are both the Seer and the Seen. The former is that which is unchanging. Ātmā is pure universal consciousness. This is the observer that is unchanging in its response to its environment. The Seen, on the other hand is part of the material world and is continuously changing. Prakṛti is comprised of material objects, the intellect, the mind and the ego, which are constantly experiencing fluctuations. Just think about how your nails grow or your skin changes, or how many different thoughts and emotions overwhelm you on a regular basis. All of this is nature/prakṛti/dṛśyayoḥ/that which is seen.
We encounter difficulty and pain when the Seer and the Seen become confused, when the Seer within us mistakes that which is seen as unchanging, universal truths. We can easily experience a moment of pain, discomfort, or anxiety and forget that it is simply a fluctuation of consciousness, a temporary physical response to our (temporary) physical environment. These are the moments that seem to linger on forever, and even once the physical sensation has passed, often, a piece of that experience remains lodged in our unconscious, ready to spring back up at the drop of a hat.
When we allow the Seer to remain the Observer instead of the Experiencer, we can start to discriminate between ātmā and prakṛti, and instead of getting all mixed up in the material world, intellect and ego, we can allow the Seer to simply shine its light on everything as it unfolds.
As B.K.S. Iyengar points out in his commentary on Patanjali’s sutras, the intellect plays a critical role in this process, as it can easily become enmeshed in the world of material objects. It says what is that? How did they get that and what will it take for me to get one? Am I as smart or grounded or kind as so-and-so? The intellect rules the small self, the ego. The great self is in the heart. The intellect connects the head to the heart, but often this is an unsteady connection. What is needed is not identification of the Seer with the Seen, but transparency between the two. Once the intellect can easily discriminate between the Seer and the Seen, then the ego dissolves, allowing for the soul (puruṣa, the unchanging) to shine its true light.