So now I have a better grasp of Duhkha, last week’s theme, how can I become more aware of the situations that give rise to it so I can try to act differently? The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar mentions the play of the Guna as relevant. These are states of mind. At one end is Tamas, heaviness, and at the other is Rajas, restlessness. Both can draw Duhkha. Absence of either is described as Sattva, likened to clarity.
Whether Tamas and Rajas are good states of mind to be in will depend on the situation. If a troubling external event arises in our lives, a sense of tamas can prevent us from reacting hastily without clarity, which could create Duhkha. At times when we feel a bit stuck and in a rut, a sense of rajas can spur us out of our stupor into action and back to better balance in our life.
So again, an awareness of what state we are experiencing and what purpose it is serving us- help or hindrance- can provide us with more clarity- sattva. And we can take this into our asana practice and be aware of the states of mind we take into our postures and whether they are an asset or a liability. Start with noticing, and then you have the chance to work on change, even if it takes awhile!
It’s funny how at certain times, a Yoga Sutra can seem either mundane or impenetrable to me. Yet at other times, the same one suddenly seems very illuminating. Such was the case when I came to Sutra 1.8, the counterpoint of 1.7 discussed last week. Sutra 1.8 mentions incorrect knowledge or misapprehension i.e. wrong understanding. OK, fine, we all experience this. I then read about Duhkha and Sukha in The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar.
Duhkha is describe as a kind of darkness of the spirit- the sense of constriction, feeling bound up, or to me, that sense of being “out of sorts”, sometimes without knowing why. Sukha is the opposite, a sense of good space, lightness, peace of mind.
Actions arising from incorrect knowledge create duhkha- sometimes immediately, sometimes much later. Desikachar powerfully comments that an action based on correct knowledge harbours no Duhkha. So it sets free our peace of mind. Yet how impossibly difficult, when so often, we believe ourselves to be acting “with the best intentions”- i.e. we think at the time we are using correct knowledge yet hindsight proves it not to be so.
For me, Desikachar’s comments provide another perspective with which to view my thoughts and deeds and their impact, particularly in creating that sense of Duhkha. Once again it asks us to put a mirror up to ourselves for the causes and the remedy. This could take awhile!
Ruth is a yoga therapist and yoga teacher based in Cheltenham, UK. She emphasises yoga as a tool for well-being, for individuals and in her classes, in person or via zoom.