etena śabdādyantar-dhānam uktam
etena śabda-adi-antar-dhānam uktam
“By this, the placement within of sound and the other senses is explained [as well].”
This sūtra is omitted in some translations of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras, since sight is often used as a stand-in for all the senses. I like Mr. Iyengar’s inclusion: III.22 emphasizes not just the importance of all the senses, but states resoundingly that our inner awareness is accessed by means of all the senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. Sound draws us to the vibration within. The touch of the breath to the inner surfaces, the feedback of pressures in the joints, the direction of flow of the skin, help us feel at the level of the tissues, the cells. Focal points that engage the different senses (see III.1) increase our sensitivity. They bring self-knowledge and heal broken, disassociated states. Practice that uses the senses brings modern, alienated people–like myself–into the felt, lived body, into an experience of self that is more whole.
Antar-dhānam, inner awareness, is key to what yoga is. Mr. Iyengar, in Light on Life, refers to yoga as the Inner Journey, and over a long life of teaching, he creatively used language and image to convey inner sensing, to make it palpable.
Rohit Mehta, in his commentary, speaks of the restoration of going in, a respite from the crowd. I would add to this, from my own experience, that inner practice anchors me better in a sense of self not defined by others. Recently, I came upon this beautiful caution in ch. 9 of the Tao Te Ching:
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
“The power of the gaze of others”– grāhya-śakti–mentioned in the last sūtra, is no small thing. And, as I mentioned in my last entry, there is particular menace from that gaze for women and people of color. As a woman, I have been raised to care for others’ opinions. I have experienced my safety as dependent on a pleasant manner, a gentle demeanor. I have been a people-pleaser in school and on the job. The danger for me in this is losing track of myself. In performing for others I am capable of doing harm to myself–this has taken the form of crushing self-doubt, high anxiety, fearfulness of a fall from grace.
Healing from the gaze of others, in my experience, can feel like a letting-go of past identities I have held, like the emptying of self described in I.43. It can be a willingness to act, to be, without label or “definition.”
What would it be to not define myself? What would it be to access myself through my present senses, to hear the vibration within?
She who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
She who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
She who defines herself
can’t know who she really is.
She who has power over others
can’t empower herself.
She who clings to her work
will create nothing that endures.
If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.
–ch. 24, Tao Te Ching, translations by Stephen Mitchell
“A person may be in the midst of a crowd, and yet may be so withdrawn within that his presence there is just physical, the psychological counterpart having moved on elsewhere. By this meditation a person may retire into complete solitude even when physically in a crowd. The invisibility here is not physical but psychospiritual…. Patañjali speaks of communion with the Formless and the Soundless…. He suggests that there must happen constantly the phenomenon of withdrawal and return. He alone who constantly withdraws, can return refreshed and therefore undertake the task of effective communication.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 322-23
• What senses do you rely on in your practice? Are there ways you might use all of them?
• Is solitude refreshing for you? What is solitude in a crowd like?
• How do you define yourself? What would it be like to let go of defining yourself?
• Do you see yourself through the eyes of others? What are the happy examples of that? Painful?
pronoun, 3rd case singular
|masculine noun in compound
masculine noun in compound
beginning (śabda-ādi is a compound that indicates “a list of things beginning with” śabda)
neuter noun, 1st case singular
placement within, invisibility (from antar, “within,” + dhā, “to put”; same root as dhārana)
|neuter past perfect participle, 1st case singular
said, uttered (from vac, “to speak”); “it is explained”