The Yoga Sutras provide us with a bag of tools to teach us how to use our minds to re-discover Truth/Freedom/Consciousness. If you are already Enlightened - no longer a Truth Seeker but a Truth Knower -you can stop reading now. You have no need for this book or blog because you are already established in Truth. Yogic practices are for purification of body-mind. Patanjali states:
I.3 Tada drashtuh svarupe 'vastanam
Then [when thought waves are controlled] the seer (Truth, Consciousness) is established in his own
An Enlightened Being has a clear, still mind that is not fooled by the body's sensory perceptions or states of mind. In sutra 1.4 Patanjali states that when we do NOT have control over our minds, our True Consciousness identifies with our thought waves:
I.4 Vritti sarupyam itaratra: In other states (of mind other than stillness), there is identification [of the Seer, Truth, Consciousness] with modifications of the mind.
This is tantamount to looking through one of those wavy mirrors in a House of Mirrors at a Fun Fair. Reflections may be distorted in some way: an elongated chin, long skinny arms, or a flat wide face that only looks a little bit like the real you. If we are upset about something, the world looks and feels dismal. But if we have had an exhilarating day, the same world looks and feels like an exciting place. The world hasn't changed; only our state of mind has. We are limited to the perception that our mind deduces from our senses, including our emotional state, until we begin to purify.
This is a fast-paced culture and getting faster all the time. Due to necessity we often want to know the "bottom line" so that we can quickly understand a message and move into action or move on to the next thing. The Sutras are very modern in this way: Chapter One gives us the bottom line. It gives us yogic practices to follow and outlines obstacles that can impede our progress. It names and describes the potential fruits of our yogic practices: levels of super consciousness (Samadhi). Amazing! In 51 short verses we are tantalized by powerful bits of wisdom that can not only change our lives but guide us in our process.
For today let's start at the beginning.....in sutra 1 Patanjali makes the announcement to all that the study of this most auspicious and all-encompassing subject is about to begin. I can hear the trumpets heralding this event and the conch shells letting the gods know what we're up to:
I.1. Atha yoga 'nushasanam: NOW the study of yoga will begin
This sutra hints that the subject, Yoga, and its reputation precede Patanjali's compilation. This is true. Yoga is one of 6 major schools of philosophy in the East Indian culture and had been practiced for at least 2500 years before Patanjali came on the scene in the third century BCE. He codified this knowledge into short verses, leaving ample room for lively verbal discussion in a culture that has a history of passing
down its most precious sacred texts through an oral tradition.
Patanjali quickly gets to the heart of Yoga in sutra 2 by telling us the purpose/definition of Yoga:
1.2: Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah: Yoga is the cessation/control of the thought waves/mental modifications
How can this possibly be done? How can we actually direct and control this thinking machine called the mind? Broadly Patanjali gives us the answer in 1.12:
1.12: Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tan nirodhaha: [the modifications] are controlled by practice and dispassion. Much more is to come about these practices.
From an early age we are trained to hone our skills to create a life in the world, emphasizing the use of our outward going (pravritti) mind. Yet sometimes in our lives, usually painful times like during a bitter breakup or unexpected trauma, we question the road we're on and ask ourselves 'what am I doing?' 'who am I?', 'what do I really want?'. Finding an answer requires our minds to flow inwardly (nirvritti), shutting out the world so we can hear our own answers to these questions. We are momentarily freed from the limitations of our outgoing mind, catching a glimpse of untapped potential. Baba Hari Dass's commentary points out that both directions of mind, pravritti (outward) and nirvritti (inward), are observed and utilized in the study of Yoga: we use the mind to cut through illusion and discern what truly IS: Sat Chit Anand -
Truth Consciousness Bliss.
Until next week-
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are divided into four Padas (chapters) and each one has pithy sutras or "threads" of wisdom for us. These compact verses point the way to Enlightenment or some other cool place along the way. Because these verses are so short, MANY commentaries have been published by scholars, teachers and gurus. Take your pick. I have a preference for a few, but my primary mode of study is to use about 10 or 12 and see what the differences are. For several years, my husband and I hosted a study group and we discovered that very lively discussion can arise because there is SO much room for interpretation.
In the preface of his commentary, I K Taimni writes: "The philosophy of Yoga deals with some of the greatest mysteries of life and the Universe and so it must inevitably be associated with an atmosphere of profound mystery." It's the mystery of it all that intrigues me and encourages me to look inward for meaning. That "aha" feeling washes over me when I find a juicy bit that is pertinent for where I am in time and space.
And here's the kicker: Taimni also states: "For there is no subject which is so much wrapped up in mystery and on which one can write whatever one likes without any risk of being proved wrong". YAY!
We can discover our own meaning and no one can say it's "wrong"........not teachers, friends, fellow students, NO ONE. Whatever you discover is right for you and that's what counts. Feel that relief? That's the taste of Freedom.
Next week: Our first group of sutras from Pada (Chapter) One
In a good movie or a good book, there are certain elements that you can count on: interesting characters, internal conflict, good and evil, the rise and fall of action, and a beginning, middle and end. The Yoga Sutras are a really good book, yet its elements are slightly different: WE are the interesting characters and the rise and fall of action is dependent upon our interaction with the book. If we take the words of wisdom to heart and apply the practices, action (change) begins to happen in very profound ways. Come journey with me this year…….