Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Abinivesa, the Intimate Robe of Fear

This is an excerpt from the September 2010 newsletter of the Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation (KHYF). This foundation was established to continue the prodigious teachings of yoga master T Krishnamacharya. His son and grandson, TKV Desikachar and Kaustaub Desikachar respectively,  continue his lineage and work today in India and around the world.

In each newsletter Kausthub writes a short reflection on one of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. This month he discusses the concept of Abinivesa, or fear.

I love how he breaks down the word for us and how it enlightens the deep meaning behind the sutra. The phrase, "fear is an intimate robe that we continuously wear" rang particularly true in my heart.

May we be enlightened, may no separation come between us.

Sutra Reflections 
by Kausthub Desikachar

Even though there are many beautiful words in Sanksrit that represent the concept of fear, Yogi Patanjali chose to use the word abhinivesa, when talking about it. When we understand this concept, and more specifically this word, not only does his genius shine through, but it also becomes increasingly evident, that the yoga he is representing is a deep system of understanding the human mind, and presumably the first school of human psychology even.

The word abhinivesa seems to form out of a combination of three different parts, abhi + ni + veśa, ultimately bringing together this beautiful word.

The word "abhi", represents something which is "intimate" in us. Something which is so deep and private inside us, that often we don't even know it. And even if we know it, we would prefer to keep it very private. Isn't fear something so private that we would not often prefer to reveal it to others? Isn't fear something so deep that we are sometimes not even aware of it? Isn't fear so deep in us, that it often comes to shake our very sense of existence? Reflect about it.

The word "ni", probably represents the idea of "nitārām", which means continuous, or a long time. This is used in-conjunction with the word "veśa", which often means "cloak" or "robe" or "costume". So in essence the concept of "nivesa", comes to represent an eternal cloak or continuous costume. Fear is not only the continuous robe we wear to mask ourself, but it also makes us wear many masks on many occasions.

When combined with the first part "abhi", this becomes even more interesting, as it seems to indicate that "fear is an intimate robe that we continuously wear."

Isn't this what fear is, and what it does?

An alternate meaning for the word "nivesa", is also "to penetrate" or "to enter". When we look at it from this perspective, Fear turns out to be something that penetrates our most intimate self. This is also an interesting perspective to reflect on.

For continued reading on Yoga Sutra, please read "The Heart of Yoga", by TKV Desikachar.

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