Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reading the Yoga Sutras 1.1-1.4: The Back Door Salvation Plan:

It's Sunday, so it's fitting that I should write about salvation and the path to enlightenment as that is the subject of my summer reading.  I have been  immersed in reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as part of the Teacher Training Program at Bodhi Tree Yoga.I read the introduction and realized it was just the introduction, so I decided to get on with the sutras.

The book is structured by sutra and explanation.  Each sutra is expressed in Sanskrit, then translated and explained.

This is not to criticize the text. After all, who am I to question something thousands of years old.  Truthfully, this is a book I will likely read or reference for the rest of my life and continue to learn.  So I decided that rather than attempting to "learn it" right now,  it is better to taste it and look for the larger nuances and not the details in between.  I liken it to learning a new language.  If you focus on the whole sentence, you miss the intent. I find the explanation to be distracting details.  I like the sutras themselves. 

Nevertheless, as I have now travelled through now 1.1 - 1.4 the focus has been on the perspective of yoga and the role of the seer.   In this scenario, the yogi aspires to be the seer as opposed to the one being seen.  

1.1.  atha yoganusanam - now the teachings of yoga. 
1.2. yoga citta-vrtti-nirodhah - yoga is the stilling of the changing states of mind. 
1.3 tadah drastuh svarupe vasthanam - when that is accomplished, the seer abides in its own true nature.
1.4 vrtti-sarupyam itaratra - otherwise, at times, the seer is absorbed in the changing states of mind. 

It strikes me that the path of yoga is a path of enlightenment and erego, salvation. Here's how I see it working. Purusa - the all seer, the all seeing, omniscient one stands outside of prakrti, or matter and all things contained therein.  Matter is driven by three gunas - tamas (inertia), rajas (action) and sattva (purity).

I do not pretend to be an expert on how this works, but here is my interpretation thus far.  I understand the  quest of yoga is to achieve sattva - or purity and enlightenment through meditation.  

To achieve enlightenment is to achieve balance of sattva, tamas and rajas - purity of thought and intention, the actions that we take, and the things we let go (inertia). 

At the risk of being seen and stepping out of yogic character as it were, I can't help but read this book through my own life mirror. My decision to become a yoga teacher coincides with the quest  to regain balance in my life after being thrown out of balance by the rajas (actions) of another, which occurred in part due to my own tamas (inertia - failure to fly when I knew I was at risk). 

My first reaction was to retreat (tamas - total inertia).  My next reaction was to strike back (extreme rajas way out of whack). Legal advice says do nothing (tamas - total inertia seems unacceptable as it serves no one and hides the larger issue of right and wrong). 

As in all things, the answer is somewhere in between. My own practice is about finding that place of balance as I learn to separate myself (my true self) from my experience.   I am not my experience, I find the movie theatre analogy useful. 

"Yoga is the stilling of the vrttis (fluctuations), stopping the film midway so that the mind can realize that the emotions, fears, happiness, pains, births, deaths, etc., it has been experiencing do not exist in the soul but are the inert flickerings and permutations of the material spectacle.  Thus, yoga is ultimately about liberation from the external material world, or in traditional Hindu terms, from samsara, the cycle of birth and death." (p.27)

So yoga's path to enlightenment can be attained through balance of the gunas. To do that, one must shift the focus from being the one who is seen to be seer. If the soul  (parusa) is outside of  prakrti (matter/ experience) then does it follow that yoga can be a get out of jail free card - or a back door to salvation. This brings into mind the question, how long will that take? 


  1. Learn sanskrit, study the Sutras and practise the teachings, Hmmm might even be a front door to Salvation. You have to be somewhat enlightened to even consider it haha. And how long does it take -- Is one lifetime enough ?

    Found this site the other day after reading your "Decision Seer or Seen"


  2. PS An emotion stirring classic favorite song - hadn't heard for ages. Enjoyed