Though I do my best to not get caught up in conversations, which can lead to arguments, from time to time I inevitably find my way there. Less so than in years past, signifying my ability to learn new behaviors, but still a passionate person it does happen. Fortunately for me, more often than not, such conversations are with reasonable and rational people and no friendship is lost in the heat, be it ever so subtle, of debate. Yesterday I found myself in such a conversation, defending a position that was rooted in a truth of my own experience. In contemplation of the conversation in the hours since I acknowledge that I still hold fast to my truth, and yet I recognize that the other position was just as valid. As the position I was arguing against was also a truth.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are full of teachings that over time enable the practitioner to limit the kinds of thoughts that create such bondage in the mind in which a position of defense needs to be held. Yet the mind wishes to hold onto something. So the journey to a mind that is free from bondage is much like the journey to a life that is free from argument, it takes time. First there needs to be an acknowledgement that there is bondage, or a tendency to argue. Then there needs to come an attentiveness to the types of thought the mind wants to hold onto, or the personal truths that one will passionately argue about. After identifying the nature of the mind, and/or the argumentative behavior, comes the work of choosing correct action. With the mind, that is choosing to think the thoughts that do not cause pain and attachment. Pantanjali makes note that even pleasurable thoughts can eventually lead to pain and attachment. So in our quest to bring peace to the mind we must learn to identify which thoughts are pain free, not creating an infliction of bondage. Much like learning to choose thoughts that are painless, remembering that each human has a different perspective on truth will create the spaciousness that enables conversations that are challenging whilst maintaining respect for the other persons position. Until the mind is able to let go of it’s position on what is true or right, the mind will want to defend it.
In yoga sutra 1:5 Patanjali states, “There are five kinds of mental modifications which are either painful or painless.” This sutra is followed with the description of what these states are, yoga sutra 1:6. “They are right knowledge, misconception, verbal delusion, sleep, and memory.” As conscious beings we all experience each of these states. The most valuable for experiencing a mind that is unfettered is the quality of right knowledge. And what is right knowledge?
According to Patanjali, sutra 1:7 states, “The sources of right knowledge are direct perception, inference, and scriptural testimony.” This brings us back to the root of the subtle argument I got into yesterday. The truth that each side brought to the table was gained through direct perception. In many ways each truth was also supported by inference, in that we each not only had personal experience that supported our differing positions, we had also witnessed others experiences that supported our individual truths. Lastly, there is the quality of scriptural testimony. In many ways each of us had the basis of basic truths that have been rooted in the concepts of right knowledge for eons. My stance was that adversity exists in nature and learning to rise above adversity is a necessary component of personal growth. The other, that some systems create more adversity and that those systems need to be adjusted to create more nurturing and life enhancing environments. Each position true, each position valuable, each position a component in the greater web of experiencing personal peace and peace for the greater good.
Thus is one of the many paradoxes of this life. That right knowledge, or truth, changes from the position in which you choose to look at it. And until the mind has been trained to see a greater web in which many threads make up the entirety of the tapestry it will want to hold onto the threads it considers the strongest, most valuable, most important, most beautiful. And much like learning to not be argumentative as a reactive behavior, we must train our minds to be spacious in their understanding of truth and right knowledge.
I will stand by my position for now, as my mind is yet unready to let it go completely. However, I am already experiencing a chipping away of my stance as I contemplate the conversation of yesterday. And though it is slightly painful right now, I know eventually it will lead to a state that is pain free.
To your pain free mind, With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,