Yoga Taravali Śloka 11

Trikūtanāmni stimite’ntarange khe stambhite kevalakumbhakena |

Prānānilo bhanuśaśankanādyau vihāya sadyo vilayam prāyati || 

When the interior space called “trikuta” [three peaks] is stopped cold in its tracks by Kevala-Kumbha, then the wind of the vital breath, having left the shining [solar] and hare-marked [lunar] channels, is itself dissolved at once

Trikuta.  This is another one of those terms that are almost sui generis enough not to translate at all.  Almost.  For the record, at the risk of being redundant because I already put it in brackets, kuta means peak, or highest point and the prefix tri means three.  So where is this interior space and why should it have three peaks?  The interior space is the Mind (note capital M), or Consciousness, which in Sanskrit is called citt.  The notion of the Mind comprising a sort of tripod actually comes, if I recall correctly, from Vedanta’s arch-rival āstika darshan (or orthodox school, if you remember from last commentary) Sankhya.  It should be noted that Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra leans really heavily on Sankhya.  It is the source of the Sutra’s hardcore dualism.  Put very briefly, Sankhya is a “top-down” view of existence, quite opposite of ours in the West.  While we see thoughts as the by-product of matter, in Sankhya matter is a by-product (and a very seductive one) of a witnessing consciousness which resides apart from existence as we know it and is beyond words or experience.  According to Sankhya our Minds have three parts: Buddhi (refined higher conscience), Ahamkara (sense of individual self), and Manas (that which processes sensory input).  This may recall Dr. Freud’s notion of the super ego/ego/id complex, and they do almost line up exactly.  The discrepancy is at the bottom, so to speak, of the ladder.  The manas is not a roiling cauldron of murder and sex fantasies, the wellspring of our dreams.  It merely passes information along to the Ahamkara and the Buddhi and has no real role in decision making.

Now, all of this is somewhat moot because when Kevala-Kumbha arrives all three systems come to a screeching halt.  Throughout Yogic/Hindu literature the arrival of higher states of consciousness is described with varying degrees of violence.  It is described as stupefying, being smacked, being struck dumb, even being struck by lightening.  One finds this in Zen fables as well.  The abbot cuts off the monk’s arm, or throws him off a bridge, or plucks out his eye, and right there on the spot the monk is enlightened.  I guess attaining samadhi or experiencing Kevala-Kumbha must be a jarring experience.  If it ever happens to me I’ll let you know.  Although, on the other hand, one of my teachers once told me: “you are so worried about attaining samadhi, but when you get there you will find it is no big deal.” 

In the next line we see what happens to the body when the Mind has been brought to heel.  The vital breath is of course another way of saying prāna, which is the life force that courses through our bodies by way of the nadis, animating us.  The three most important nadis are the idala, pingala, and sushumna.  The sushuma nadi runs straight along the spinal chord, while the ida and pingala go alongside the sushumna on the left and right sides, respectively, wending their ways out and back to center.  The places where all three converge are the locations of the cakras.  The ida nadi, on the left side corresponds with our feminine, lunar nature.  Adi Śankaracarya refers to it as “hare-marked” because Indian people see not a man in the moon, but a rabbit.  The Japanese do too.  I seem to remember a fairy tale of how the rabbit got into the moon but I forget the details.  The pingala nadi on the right side corresponds with our masculine, solar nature.  The sushumna nadi, right up the middle, is the most important one.  It is sattvic, which is to say pure, light, buoyant, non-binary.  By the time one has come close to attaining Kevala-Kumbha, presumably he or she has focused his or her prāna entirely into the sushumna nadi.  But when Kevala-Kumbha arrives the body enters a sort of stasis, halfway between life and death (more on this in later ślokas) and so the need for prāna, both the literal and metaphysical kind, becomes superfluous.  Just as a rocket that that has exceeded the Earth’s atmosphere has no more need for wings, so the body in Kevala-Kumbha has no more real need for air.

Stay tuned for the next edition, in which we see the return of Kundalini and Vishnu!

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