Seven Practices of a Manager-Yogi: Practice 2 - Exploring Karma
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:
Shringaara- affection, love
Roudram- anger, rage
Bhayaanakam- fear, anxiety
Veeryam- courage, conviction
Adbhutam- wonderment, curiosity
Bibhatsam- aversion, contempt
Haasyam- laughter, joyousness
Kaarunyam- compassion, empathy
Shaantam- equanimity, a state of tranquility where the 8 states above are held in balance
Now let us try out a ‘thought experiment’. Imagine various situations and observe your ‘rasaa’ response to each. There are the following possibilities:
You are able to act from all the nine appropriately and with spontaneity
Some states are easy to be in and others are difficult
Some states are preferred and one hangs on to them, others are blocked
The experience of flow and being blocked is correlated with ones body, the relative strength and weakness one experiences in different parts of ones body
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
Value: I value action
Behavior: Spontaneous, authentic and appropriate response.
Introspection: From what inner space is my action emerging?