Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Define?

We like to 'define' things. We want everything to be described with the help of 'words'. We love definitions. We often ask during the discussions, 'can you define please?' 'Could you be more precise with the words'.

Is everything and anything possible to be expressed fully with the help of words? Are words enough to communicate the 'reality' in totality? Does the exercise of expressing with the words, dilute the 'experience of truth?'

Most of the problems in our life are because of mis-perceptions. Our mind is in the habit of developing perceptions, frames of references. For example, 'person X is a good person', person Y is a bad person', etc. This perception is based on one odd interaction with the person. May be few interactions. And during these interactions, when one receives 'favourable' response from the person. Then he becomes 'good' person. But, it probably is not the reality. So our habit of defining something deprives us from the experience of reality.

It certainly is important to develop a perception and try to define it with the help of words. But our experience should not stop there itself. The complexity of experience is not necessarily possible to be explained fully with the words through definition. So the definition with the help of words should be considered as an aspect of the reality. May be just one facet of multiple ones.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra addresses this aspect of cognition in its Sutra 9 of Samadhi Pad:

शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः I
(Shabda gyananupati vastushunyo vikapah)

In the process of knowing (cognition), perception is a first stage. We perceive with the help of words carrying the image. Our minds are often thinking and creating chains of words and images. Often this process leads to thoughts or impressions that have no actual reality to associate with. This is called as fantasy or imagination (Vikalp).

Often our thought process, we connect with the future. The mind processes the current perceptions, thoughts. and then fantasizes some new combination as being the future, even though that fantasy is occurring in the present moment.

Perception, imagination, frame of reference, paradigm etc are the words which can be associated with this aspect of cognition.

I think as one progresses in meditation, in yogic experience of uniting with the divine, perceptions those are expressed with the words carrying images fade away. Every external and internal experience of life appears like fantasy or imagination. The discrimination itself becomes difficult as the experience is 'wholesome'. (To be continued...)

Shubham Bhavatu!

Yogi Arwind, Rishikesh