Yogacharya Krishnamacharya describes a healthy person as one who can experience fully and act from all the nine rasaa.
Indian dance and theatre is built on the idea that a human being experiences nine inner states (words like feeling and emotion do not capture the meaning of the word rasaa; rasaa also means ‘juice’; the implication is that each feeling/ emotion is accompanied by a whole range of inner secretions and bodily changes). These states are:
We don’t usually pay attention to our inner states in the course of our daily activities. However, the ease or otherwise of our spontaneous action states has a profound effect both on the immediate outcome of a situation as well as our long-term health. To illustrate; the situation one is in demands an act of courage, but, one gets caught with fear or overreacts and becomes angry. Since we understand cognitively that certain types of responses are inappropriate, we force ourselves to act in ways we should or must. This puts enormous stress within, robs us of power and energy in the moment of action. We come through as inauthentic.
If we observe ourselves we will find that most of us have a propensity towards some of these rasaa and feel blocked with respect to others. A subtler observation will reveal tendency to feel comfortable in certain ways of holding ones body, on further introspection we will discover an inner form of the ‘self’ that we hold. Let me illustrate with a personal example: my height is almost six feet, but when I became sensitive to the inner form of myself that I hold I was very surprised to find that it was of a person considerably shorter and thinner. It was the picture of myself as I was in my teens! On further reflection I discovered that this was related to my yearning for affirmation from people who were significant to me. A persistence of these postural tendencies and inner form impacts the flow of praanaa and ultimately manifests as illness, chronic pain and psychosomatic disease.
What is the implication of this? Firstly appropriate, authentic and powerful action is possible only when one has a sense of ease with all the nine rasaa. Secondly, in a context of collective action, ones own blocks manifest themselves as lack of appreciation of other peoples’ talents and tendencies. One also remains blind to contextual triggers that signal an invitation to display the blocked behaviors. Thirdly, insensitivity to ones body is the basis of bad health. Often these slowly developing distortions of praanic flow results in illness that shows up in mid life, just at the time when ones career is taking off and higher responsibilities are being offered!
What is the difficulty with practicing this? We deploy ourselves in situations spontaneously, whether at work or play or socially. We never stop to think that our only instrument of action is our body. Even when we exercise, it is to build strength and not to increase our ability to observe our bodies and ourselves in action. Equanimity seems like a passive state, neutrality has no drama associated with it. So it is difficult to understand that Shaantam is a powerful and potent state to be in. Practice will start only when one is convinced of its power.
Karma : The clear drum beat of wholesome self assertion arises from the svaadhitaana chakra
Let us start with a small exercise: imagine that you are sitting between two people. The one on your left offers you a ‘gift’. You have to receive it from her in a way that affirms her. You then have to transform the gift into some thing that reflects your self without taking away the ‘energy’ that your friend invested in the ‘gift’. This is now your offering to the person on your right.
This simple process reflects the essence of the idea of ‘Maitri’. There are a few possibilities:
‘Gifts’ are being offered to us at every moment of our wakeful lives (and our dreams if we take Jung and Freud seriously). We don't often see transactions this way, but energy is being exchanged. In yoga the concept is that with every touch, praanaa is exchanged. When we are not attentive to this process, the three beneficial ways of handling gifts (that we imagined in our mental play) would become very difficult. We would either be internalizing negative ‘gifts’ and adding to our internal stress, or we would be multiplying the negatives in our context.
What would the practice of ‘Maitri’ do to your relationships? Whether at work or anywhere else, this would ensure two things. Firstly, you acknowledge and affirm people who you are interacting with. Secondly, you offer yourself to others in a way that enhances your self worth, and establishes your choice to impact your world in a positive direction. Contrary to the usual idea of teamwork, where strong and capable people come together, trust and trust-worthiness is the glue that binds a team together.
What is the difficulty in practicing this? ‘Sahrudayatvam’- the ability to be in resonance with the others’ heart, is the essence of ‘Maitri’ i.e., being empathetic and kind. That implies being vulnerable and open. Unfortunately, the strength of this way of being is not often appreciated. A belief in the ‘masculine’ idea of strength would generate only the ‘hoarding behavior’ or the ‘reactive behavior’. This belief would also see kindness as weakness.
Maitri: Songs of friendship and affection that arise from the Mooladhaara chakra
(the picture is of my Guru Yogachaarya Krishnamaachaarya; from the collection of Lakshmi Ranganathan)Please refer to my earlier blog for continuity, in case you have not seen it
My work revolves around helping individuals, groups and organizations discover their Dhamma, and become “the best they can be”. This aligns with my own personal saadhana. I have restated this question for my self as follows: “how can I be in touch with the well spring of my love for the world and my love for my self simultaneously”