Dispassion was the first word I saw when I opened my favorite 598 page book, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary by Edwin Bryant.
The word immediately struck a cord. I didn’t need to read anymore. I knew right away that the Eastern Yogic tradition was going to enlighten me about how my “passions” should be of the “dis” nature.
Passion is one of my favorite words, though. How could I possibly choose to have a lack of it? Why would I purposefully “negate” it in my life? I carry so many compelling feelings toward so many different things in my life….my husband & children, food, drink, exercise, nature, texts….Why would the Easterners of long ago ask me to “dis” on any of those fabulous things.
According to this specific sutra, “dispassion is the controlled consciousness of one who is without craving for sense objects, whether these are actually perceived or described (in scripture).”
A sense object, according to Bryant, can be external, like a brilliantly brewed pint of beer or an exotically etched high-heel shoe. It can also be internal, like the desire to be respected or admired. Both of these types of attachments, or cravings, will eventually cause a person suffering. Other examples he names:
- · food
- · drink
- · power
- · the opposite sex
"How?" I asked myself, as I lay snuggled in a fuzzy blanket (sense object) with my favorite book (sense object) and my beloved cup of strong coffee (another sense object). How is my blanket and coffee, which I really WANT on a Sunday morning going to cause me suffering? That sounds silly.
As I read on, Bryant pointed out that sensual gratification is temporary. There is a beginning and an end to the pleasant sensations it brings. Eventually, I will put this blanket away and my coffee will be gone. If, per chance, I don’t get to experience my time on the couch at all, with those warm, sensual objects, I will most likely miss it…perhaps even be frustrated or irritated that I didn’t get it.
If something is purchased, for example...like a ( fill in the blank here of your favorite item you like to purchase ), it is exciting and may cause happiness there in the store. A person may even experience pridefullness upon showing it to the world. At some point, though, that item loses its luster, either because it has taken one too many scuffs against the world, or because it simply becomes ordinary and boring. Either way, the pleasantry, associated with purchasing, showing, & using that item, ends.
After the end of the pleasurable experience with the object, the craving for another object begins.
It is a “never-ending pursuit of ephemeral pleasure,” according to Bryant, that brings a person to a life of suffering.
How does this apply in my space?
Well, this morning, I craved a few things:
- · a cup of perfectly, strong-brewed coffee (palatial pleasure)
- · a pillow and warm blanket (somatosensory pleasure)
- · at least an hour of relaxation time on a comfortable chair (somatosensory pleasure)
- · and quality conversation with my husband (emotional pleasure)
I suppose if my coffee pot had broke this morning and my husband had went straight to his man-cave to work on his car, I would have been less than pleased. There is no doubt. I would have experienced frustration at the removal of such named sensory pleasures. I may have even carried my cloudy mood around with me all day… its flag whipping in the wind for all to see.
Okay, great. So, I get it. Attachment to sensory objects, within and without, lead to some level of frustration when the object is removed and the degree to which that object is removed affects the degree of the frustration.
According to Bryant, the Eastern scholars of such beliefs prescribe the following to-dos:
- · try to break external attachments
- · recognize which attachments have been broken and which ones still need work
- · and then, after all external attachments have been broken, start working on the internal attachments
Sounds easy enough (not).
Today I will practice indifference to objects I crave whether they are available or not. If they are available, I will recognize the defects in indulging.
I, quite honestly, don’t even know what that looks like in the real world. It makes sense, conceptually, but now I have to consider what I WANT today, then think about how its just going to make me WANT more of it later, and then not partake in the object so that I avoid the creation of desirous attachment.
Holy cow. Wish me luck.
Does that include doing yoga? Because I really want to do some yoga right now ;).