Raga and Dwesha
Chapter 2 Sutras 7-8; Patanjali’s Sutras
”Raga is the liking accompanying pleasure.
Dwesha is the repulsion accompanying pain.”
Yoga itself is concerned with the all encompassing field of consciousness, the radiant space, (the bigger picture). But many of the ordinary practices of yoga are concerned with everyday, pragmatic management of the mind.
The mind is just one of the things that arises out of the radiant field, but we are very absorbed by it. Naturally. Since conception the mind has been conditioned. It is powerful. As we think so we become, as the saying goes.
But also as we are taught, so we think. As we are aware, so we think. As we feed our psyche, so we think. As we live and are preoccupied, so we think. In other words, in my opinion, thinking is not only a cause, it is a result. So, it is very pervasive.
Back to management of the mind. We do not control the thoughts. They arise. They just do, like bugs live on plants, or fish live in the sea. They are a natural flux of the energy we are made of. What we can control is our awareness of the thoughts. And, with training, we rein in our attachment to the thoughts.
It is not simply a case of announcing ”I am detached from that thought”. Or this one, or those. That is superficial. It often represses. It is a matter of truly realising the nature of thoughts and their random insubstantiality. Becoming the sea who does not say ”I am the fish”.
So, there are various tools. A very useful framework or tool is using the concept of Raga and Dwesha, or recognising like and dislike, attraction and aversion. The witness/seer/watcher sees the thought arise. And there is a reaction. Subtle or large. This is ongoing throughout our daily life. We ”like” that thought, so we cleave to it, we dive into the balmy waters of that comfort. We like thoughts that make us feel good ~ I am right, this is influential, he is loving, that is tasty. We dislike thoughts that make us feel bad, I am jealous, this house is shoddy, I am lazy, they are manipulative.
We are not talking here about whether or not these thoughts are ”true” ~ that is a whole different matter. Truth is something different than thoughts. We are simply talking about mental laundry. We like the smell of the baby clothes, the cute stuff, we recoil from the hideous dirty socks. Raga and Dwesha are what binds us. And thus they are often the roots of our most intense agony.
This liking and disliking is what keeps us at the surface of things, being swayed, like a sea being herded by its own fish.
The trick is to observe, to see what arises, to see the liking or disliking that results, but to be unmoved. Not in a repressive way, but simply observing. It is important not to repress, for this is a form of aversion, and will drive the seed inward. So even when a strong aversion arises this too has manifested naturally within the radiant space and it is not ”bad”…it simply is. When we have become lost in the attractive thought this too is not bad, it simply is, we experience it and we return to the Witness.
If you notice what arises in your field of consciousness as you observe it, you will see contraction (literally) in the mindstuff when it comes across something it does not wish to see, something it wants to avoid. The mindstuff also contracts when it comes across something it likes for, now it focuses like a laser on what it covets to the exclusion of the wider field and starts to cut off bits.
This is suffering. It is known as ”klesha” or affliction. This is when pure consciousness gets limited. Contracted. We forget in this contraction that we are All, and we become ”I”. I don’t like. I do like. It leads to all the other ego pursuits like grasping, craving, running away, self-protection, self-serving, and so on.
These kleshas are very subtle. Just when we think we have rooted one out, it comes up in a seed form, latent. It is a long task, the task of a lifetime, many lifetimes perhaps. So what! Even sages have raga and dwesha.
Viveka means discrimination using reason. Being prepared to really look at ourselves and weed out through rational means what is binding. It takes honesty, bravery, not being repulsed or made arrogant by what we find. But viveka will not help where the mind is unsettled, so that is why meditation is recommended. A space where we let whatever arises arise, and then later, in active life, discriminate calmly.
So, in summary, one of the practical tools for mental management is simply to quietly observe the occurrence of liking and disliking. To sit and watch it happen, without following after the happening. And by not grabbing on or pushing away, we allow contraction to expand. We become aware of the bright field that exists untouched regardless of what arises within it. We stop being the flickering innumerable fish. We start being the sea.