Abhinivesha- The Purifying Affliction

namaste all

Do you remember abhinivesha?
Of course you do.
But anyway, let me just type in what it is, in case you cant place it. It is the fifth and final klesha, in the list of kleshas (afflictions) which Patanjali enlisted in the second chapter.
Though Vyasa talks about abhinivesha as an affliction which comes from fear of death, we kind of discussed it more in the lines of fear of change, as if we are not really bothered by death fear in itself.
But i was wrong.
In the flight from KL to Madras, I experienced abhiniveshah, in the original way as told by Vyasa. But then, i also found that this death fear has both good and bad sides.
First, the bad
At 29000 feet, the plane was cruising. Food was being served. Suddenly the plane dipped sharply, and one old man who was standing and talking boisterously to his friends in the row behind him, fell into the row to his side, right into the laps of the passengers. Then the plane started to really shiver and sverve, and again and again tilted and dipped. Everytime it dipped, i could feel a sense of nausea. And the old man, i think, in another tilt to the opposite direction must have fallen back into his original seat.

I then heard some strange wheezing sounds. First i thought it must be some air condition duct going wrong or something, but then realized that the tough looking guy sitting next to me is its source. He was also rubbing his chest and making some strange gestures. Was almost about to tell him to exhale long, and to relax the arms, when i just stopped and decided to take a look at myself. To sense the feeling tone of my awareness..
With so much fear in other passengers, is there a possibility of fear in my awareness too?
Of course never, my ego replied. Anyway i surveyed my body. It was really tensed. Then funnily i found that i have placed my hands on the top of the seat in front of me, as if i can hang on to it if there is a fall or something. My goodness this is funny, i remember thinking.
Are these involuntary actions due to fear? Has thefiringamygdala getting a grip over the rest of my nervous system?
Anyway, to know whether this has become an affliction, i decided to subject myself to a 50 breath observance test. If i can stay present, then there is no affliction.
I failed. Every 10 breaths or so, the plane will tilt, and i forgot the breath.
Chastised and humble, i greeted abhinveshah, and decided to study it.
Physically this affliction was tensing my calves, shoulders and face. Not to mention taking my hands to grip the front seat. Breathwise, in my case, was still calm, but occasional retentions were happening without my volition.
My neighbour was panting. So definitely it catches the breath.
Then i looked into the mind. And i simply let it run.
i wanted to see what all scenarios the mind will conjure once i play along with a death possibility rather than dismissing it, to experience true abhinivesha.
Found that the fear was again not directly on death. But then why so much fear? what is causing this discomfort? As i kept looking, was glad to see the fear was not on any non fulfilled desires or dreams. I could see that i am totally satisfied and grateful for life so far.
finally, i could see the fear was due to thoughts of responsibility. Home loan.. how will my family cope.. insurance coverage.. studio.. kids..parents.. students… and it ran and ran.
Then at a certain point of time, suddenly i experienced a smile, and a total relaxing of body.. realized that buddhi has taken over the reins of consciousness rather than the mind.. could see through the childish thoughts of mind.. and chuckle at myself..
through buddhi we connect to the fact that it is a mithya to think that i am taking care of anyone.. and to worry on what will they do if we are not around.. everything that exists has been brought about, sustained and will eventually dissolve into that underlying order.. once we can surrender to that higher order, perhaps indicated through ishvara pranidhana, then we know that it is that force or intelligence or god (whatever way you connect) that takes care.. in fact ishvara is from the roots ‘ish‘ and ‘vara’.
‘Ish’ is the unseen force and ‘vara’ is the seen, cognized part. We see the ‘vara’ part such as our bodies, our loved ones, and the whole of the objective world. But we do not see or realize the ‘ish‘ part which is what has organized and sustains our bodies as well as all others.
A sense of connection with the ‘isha‘ part occurred and soon i was relaxed and could easily go 100 breaths..
Now, the good
The man who was sitting next to me, the one i told who was wheezing, panting, beating his own chest, and making some strange gargling sounds.. he was not like that when he boarded the plane.
He was outright nasty. In the first place, by mistake i was sitting on his seat. But the way he told me to get off his place was quite rude and loud. And later the way he spoke to the air hostess, the way he asked me for a pen, and a few more things, was oozing with arrogance. So much so that for a few moments i found myself starting to plan.. to follow him towards the bathroom when he goes.. and there, with no one watching us, just brush up a bit on my old karate choking techniques..
Anyway, then nature intervened.. and all his toughness evaporated.. the cocky eyes were now popping out in fear and the acidic tongue was now helplessly rolling. He kept on nodding his head with a wave of hands to show his helpless state… and when the air hostess walked by.. he asked her something so polite.. when the plane started to become more stable, he again looked at me, and smiled.. later he pushed up the window screen, and asked me to look at the white clouds below.. As i gave a real appreciating look at the beautiful scenery, he offered whether i want to take his window seat..
Then i started to think that this affliction is not so bad.. in fact it purifies ..Myself, a yoga teacher with fair knowledge of most scriptures was sitting next to this arrogant guy.. but i couldnt do anything to bring about maitri in him.. but a little bit of fear of death (abhinivesha) did it.. he was oozing maitri after the turbulence..
The kleshas start with avidya, and the first expression of avidya is taking the anitya ( the ephemeral) to be nitya (permanent) and the last affliction is abhinivesha (the fear affliction). But this fear affliction is what which can really knock the reality of impermanence to the ones who are simply floating through life, taking things for granted.
I got out of the flight thanking the whole experience.. where i felt abhinivesha, and could then do a good svadhyaya on it. Thinking of a way how to give you the abhinivesha experience in class. Shall i ask students to grip the window, and then hang on to it, with the body dangling outsider for one minute as part of opening awarenss.. that should do it.. just kidding..
will mail you later with some pics of the ashram in coimbatore where i stayed.