What is Self-Regulation?


Self Regulation: What is Self-Regulation?

The regulus is a ruler.  It provides us with a means of beginning to measure our experiences and to engage in a form of rationality: an effort to discover proportion of our life to the entirety of our phenomenological experience.

To rule has two components:

  1. To rule provides measure, ratio: rationality, and begins to gage a rational relationship to all things, and to all others

  2. To rule is a bio-political act of self-sovereignty.  The gaining of measure and proportion also begins to provide a sense of the boundaries, the suitable domain of true self governance: it is a manner in which the individual can conduct her or himself as a sovereign: self-willed, willed from the center of their own being.

Measure: it is key to understand in terms of the Sanskrit: pramana.  Pramana: means in a general sense “valid cognition” (Yoga Sutra 1.6 and 1.7).  It is the first “fluctuation” of conscious discussed in Patanjali’s work.  It may be a response to the very first attempts to ask the question in all earnestness: “What is going on here?”  -It is a gauging: an attempt to find one’s place in relation to other conditions. It has three components: it is perceivable by the eye (aksha), one has become aware of a condition, the eye is open to it; it carries the elements of previous attempts to gage, to measure (anumana); it is manifested in the phenomenal realm, “the issue arises” (agama).

In our efforts to engage in true rationality, we make an effort to engage with our fellow human beings.  Rationality is not a set of rigid logical assertions as much as it is ratio, proportion: it is the proportion of the personal self to the selves of an other, collectives of others, and to the universe.  

When Protagoras says “human-kind is the measure of all things,” this at first appears to be an anthroprocentric assertion of another European: projecting colonial control in the form of a molar subjectivity.  There are two ways of considering this sense of measure that attempt to deal with the problem of anthropocentric colonization:

  1. phenomenologically in terms of personal experience: our ideas are always bounded by the sense of a situation within the context of a singular set of experiences (we don’t need to call them human): they exist as the collection not of ideas, but of experiences.  As Dr. Vasavada would ask: “how did you experience this in your life?”

  2. post-structurally: bio-politically: even given the admission of “closure”, the haunting of post-structural and post-colonial discourse by elements of anthropocentrism and eurocentrism, in the attempt to give a non-human phrasing to this concept, Deleuze and Guattari referred to it as a “Plane of Consistency:”  it is a provisional horizontal taxonomy or set of associations; it is involved in a politics of a provisional sameness: an assertion of a provisional-totality – without “supplement:”

The point is that a rhizome or multiplicity never allows itself to be overcoded, never has available a supplementary dimension over and above its number of lines, that is, over and above the multiplicity of num- bers attached to those lines. All multiplicities are flat, in the sense that they fill or occupy all of their dimensions: we will therefore speak of a plane of consistency of multiplicities, even though the dimensions of this “plane” increase with the number of connections that are made on it. Multiplicities are defined by the outside: by the abstract line, the line of flight or deterritorialization according to which they change in nature and connect with other multiplicities.The plane of consistency (grid) is the outside of all multiplicities. The line of flight marks: the reality of a finite number of dimensions that the multiplicity effectively fills; the impossibility of a supplementary dimension, unless the multiplicity is transformed by the line of flight; the possibility and necessity of flattening all of the multiplicities on a single plane of consistency or exteriority, regardless of their number of dimensions. The ideal for a book would be to lay everything out on a plane of exteriority of this kind, on a single page, the same sheet: lived events, his- torical determinations, concepts, individuals, groups, social formations. (Massumi, 1989, p.9)

In this form of measuring, while it may or may not be successful, there is at least a program to problematize sovereignty imposed by the state (the “inauthentic exterior”) and the attempt to “overcode” or define the yogin as a discrete unit (a person as a commodity): the units keep shifting and changing: and yet this allows for the possibility of a singular invention of an internal sovereignty: an experience of sovereignty in the self that does not capitulate to external powers of regulation.

Sovereignty: The practice of Ishvarapranidhana (Yoga Sutra 1.23) gets to the core of this issue.  Ishvara can be seen to be an external devotional being: it can be referred to in the European sense of being “The Lord,” “the sovereign of life.”  Here Feuerstein offers these interpretations to help guide the research: “ishvara = lord (from |is, ‘to own, be master of’ + vara ‘choicest’ from |vr ‘to choose’)” (Feuerstein, 1989, p. 42).  All of this points to both an internal and an external conception of choice: and of being the “lord.”  So long as there remains any projection of the Lord on an external reality, the result is either an excess or a deficiency of empowerment: one is either beholden to a lord outside of oneself, or one is oneself a Lord: attempting to validate and verify their lordship through dominance, despotically placed on the exterior.  It is the containment and withdrawal within an interior condition in order to experience absolute inner sovereignty, that one can then turn to the practices of daily life and engage in them non-violently.  The capacity to experience this sense of internalized lordship can be through many avenues, however, humbly offered by Patanjali is japa, recitation of the pranava mantra.  The intention of this mantra is neither to an external divinity, nor to false aggrandizement, but to realization.

On the bio-political level this could be said to be the assertion of the sovereignty of one’s own bare life: outside the realm of public interaction, which would invariably commit one to the problem of the practice and projection of power against one’s own life, or against the lives of others.

The goal of this course then is to help the student address the issue of Self-regulation with the assistance of a core text from the wisdom tradition on Self-regulation: the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.  The emergence of this text in the second century BC occurs at the time of the enormous ascent of the Indo-European consciousness into the powers of empire.  While traditions of philosophy were forming as the basis of thought-control and regulation in Athens and throughout Europe, Patanjali’s thought is at least formulated somewhat outside of the European sphere, and has been incorporated into systems of thought that provided genuine resistance to European colonialism, through the teachings of Swami Vivekenanda and Sri Aurobindo.  And for this, even if not entirely “outside” the discourse of Indo-European imperialism, at least there is provided – an alternative – that gives light to the emerging integral consciousness that belongs to all sentient beings – the true legacy of this planet.

In terms of translation quality: Feuerstein encourages a comparative effort in reading the Yoga Sutra.  He leaves out the devanagari script, for the sake of conveying the “sense” of the sanskrit in latinized letters, and then for the “sense” of the meaning of those letters in bold ink.  We have then the best perspective a Latin letter educated individual can partake of, the task of reading the original devanagari lies ahead.  What emerges are the “bija,” the seeds of the sounds of the Yoga Sutra when spoken.

In terms of a rendering of a sentence of sensible modern prose, Feuerstein’s epistemological approach is cumbersome.  It is necessary to introduce the spirit of Martin Heidegger’s onto-epistemonlogy, both to obtain greater fluidity toward the phenomenology of language itself, and to develop a deeper sense of abhyasa: practice of the rigors of attention to the turning associations of language: a criss-cross of hermeneutical approaches.



Justin Ayres

Los Angles, Pacific Rim, April 2014

Click here to learn more about Professor Ayres’ upcoming workshop  on Self-Regulation and the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali