Beyond Pleasure & Pain: Yoga Sutra 2.7 – 2.8
Attachment springs from the reservoir of pleasure.
sukha = pleasure; craving to possess, hold on to; craving to consume
anuśayī = anu + śayin
anu = that which follows
śayin is derived from the verb root śi, which means to rest, to reside, to give room to
Together anuśayī means that which resides in; that which follows; reservoir, pool
rāga = attachment; clinging; craving
Aversion springs from the reservoir of sorrow.
duḥkha = pain; sorrow; grief
anuśayin = that which resides in; that which follows; reservoir, pool (see above).
dveśa = aversion; dislike
As explained in the commentary to sutra 2.6, lack of understanding or a distorted understanding of ourselves leads us into a complex network of confusion. In the scriptures, a confused person plagued with distorted self-understanding is said to be like a blind man. When a blind man is led to an elephant and happens to explore the animal’s tail, he is thrilled and insists, on the basis of his direct experience, that the elephant looks like a rope. Another blind man who encounters an elephant discovers its leg, so to him, an elephant is like a big pillar. A third blind man happens to touch the ear and is certain the elephant looks like a big fan, while one who touches the animal’s side proclaims that the creature is like a high, thick wall. All of them are adamant about their positions—all are convinced of the validity of their experience and none is willing to consider any other possibility. This is the power of self-understanding that lacks a vision of truth. Patanjali calls it asmita.
Asmita is not to be confused with mere ego. Asmita is the essence of I-am-ness, the very ground of our existence. It refers to our limited, distorted, and incomplete sense of being. Just as the blind men cling to their notion of “elephant,” asmita clings to the notion of whatever we come to identify as our core being. That notion is its precious wealth. It does not want to let go and this clinging is attachment (rāga).
Pleasure comes from holding on to asmita. There is a sense of accomplishment in seeing this notion expand and be recognized by others. Even the slightest indication that someone or something is damaging this notion is frightening. We suffer from anticipating the loss of that which is so dear to us. The desire to stop the possibility of this loss is natural and the failure to stop it results in anger. This anger-driven thought construct (vritti) is called aversion (dveśa).
In other words, “This is what I am” is asmita; “This is what I want to be” is attachment; “This is what I do not want to be” is aversion. The fear that our asmita might be altered or destroyed is an affliction (klesha). The fear that I may lose my precious asmita is an affliction and the fear that someone may take it away from me is an affliction. In an attempt to escape from this affliction, we normally resort to yet another affliction—avidya, the dark chamber of ignorance where we experience a false sense of freedom from all other afflictions.