“Mom got me this t-shirt when she went to Hamsterdam.”
Hamsterdam…? Lilly held up a Little Mermaid shirt that Paula picked up on a business trip to Copenhagen. Hers was the sort of slip-of-the-tongue that used to pay the mortgage on Art Linkletter’s Bel Air Mansion. Kids say the darnedest things, indeed…
While it’s cute when kids mix things up – confusing this thing for that – it’s not so funny when we spend our lives doing it; and that, according to the Yoga Sutras is what we do.
According to the chapter on practice, we mistake Buddhi for Purusa. (See? Not so funny.)
Buddhi is the meaning-making capacity. It blends the data that comes in from our senses (manas) and filters that data against our memories (smrti). It’s further influenced by an internal editor (ahamkara, literally a self-aggrandizer) which scans the clippings and makes notes about “what this has to do with me”.
It’s a pretty amazing process, if we don’t say so ourselves. And it’s happening right here, right now, in me!
“Actually, I think you mean Amsterdam. And in any case, the shirt’s from Copenhagen.”
“No, Daddy, you’re wrong.”
Purusa is that which observes or that which is aware. Purusa doesn’t react to what it observes. It just observes – unlike the bundle of habits, patterns, memories and interpretations known as “Daddy.”
The strict Sanskrit translation of Purusa is “city-dweller.” This city-dweller is all-pervasive, not limited by my skin or yours or any other boundary; and technically, as the Yoga Sutra-s describe, it’s not an entity, hard as is it to talk about without making it seem like one.
When the contemplative teachings – Yoga or otherwise – talk about forgetting who we are, they’re referencing this confusion.
(more on this tomorrow),