Yoga Sutras 1:8-9: Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form. An image that arises on hearing mere words without any reality (as its basis) is verbal delusion.
There is something about being in the media that dehumanizes people. I am not just talking about the person in the news. I am also talking about the people who are reading and viewing the news. I didn’t understand this until I became a blogger. Before that, I would bounce around the internet commenting and saying whatever I felt like. It is amazing how stuff will fly from your finger tips on the net that you would NEVER say in person. Yes, I was a major troll and I didn’t know it. Well, I will take that back. It did get pointed out to me that I was being super negative but I didn’t listen. My ego was like, “who is this person to tell me that I am negative”?
It was not until my blog got a little tiny bit of buzz that I realized how jacked up I actually was. I begin to witness how people write comments on my blog or respond to my posts on their blog with stories that are totally made up. Basically they took a few pieces of information and built a mental image that was about as far from the truth as Pluto is from the Sun. I was like, “Oh, my God, I did this to people?”
When I first witnessed this phenomenon, I felt the need to defend myself right and left. However, I asked myself, “why am I defending the false Self?” Then I felt, “maybe I should make sure my writing is clear.” I quickly discovered that there was no amount of explaining that could stop a person hell bent on seeing the worst in you.
As usual, I turned to my yoga practice to understand. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali talks about 5 mental modifications that those on the path of yoga should look out for, two of these are misconception and verbal delusion. Misconception is when the knowledge you have about something is not right and you make decisions based on it. Verbal delusion is when you weave a story in your mind based on hearing mere words with no reality as its basis.
Two events have happened in the “interwebs” recently that illustrate this. Kino MacGregor’s injury and Sharath’s new Shala policy. My God. It is a misconception and verbal delusion nightmare. I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I will use two examples. Kino hurt herself, while assisting someone else, but yet there are tons of “stories” disguised as educated blog posts talking about how she hurt herself while practicing and/or because of her practice. One is an outright lie. The other is just a work of an active imagination or some medical diagnostic guess work that can’t be proven. That is misconception. Misconception is where you take some information and come up with theories to support it without really even knowing if the information is true but yet you try to pass it off as truth.
Sharath’s situation is verbal delusion. He simply posted a few sentences, on his website, basically saying practice with an authorized teacher for a few months before coming up here. Wow, the stories people came up with based on that sentence! None of them based on fact.
When verbal delusion and misconception is seen on the internet, it can get downright mean. When you look in someone’s eyes, you connect to them as a human. This is why people don’t want to see where their meat comes from. When they look into the eyes of an animal suffering because it is living in a tiny cage, swollen with puss, forced to eat its own kind, and wallowing in its own filth, it changes things. I am sure that there would be a lot more vegetarians in the world if people had to go to a kill farm and pick out their meat. The same is true with the internet. I am 99% positive that if Sharath or Kino Macgregor was standing in front of these people with huge smiles on their faces, full of joy and happiness, that they would not say the things they write.
So next time you start to type a comment or a blog post, ask yourself these questions…I dare you.
Do I really know this is true?
Take a step back, “get out of your feelings”, and make sure you are not simply spinning a story based on emotions, hearsay, past experiences and past hurt.
Would I say this to the person’s face?
I know our egos want us to believe that we would walk up to someone and say, “you are not a real yogi!” “That’s what you get for doing your cirque du soliel practice!” “You just want our money. You shouldn’t be the lineage holder anyway!” However, lets be real. You know good and well you wouldn’t.
If I said this to the person’s face, would I feel good about myself afterwards?
Would you really feel good going up to a man who gets up a 1AM to practice, just so he can help you at 4AM, and say, “Guruji made the wrong choice when he chose you. You made that new rule because you are lazy!”
Would I want my children, grandmother, mother, preacher to hear me saying this to someone’s face?
This article is not a treatise against stating your opinion in a public manner.If that was the case, I would have to shut down this blog. It is just saying, dude, if you are going to state your opinion,at least make sure it is based on truth and kind. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali talk about ahimsa, which is doing no harm. Yes, strong words can hurt and sometimes It can’t be helped. However, just being mean and inflammatory when there are other words that would get your point across in a gentler way, goes against ahimsa. A failure to practice ahimsa, coupled with verbal delusion and misconception is not living your yoga. We have to do better.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.