Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: The Root of Integral Yoga (part two)
By Advaita Mihai Stoian
Yoga – Final Destination and Spiraling Evolution
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is divided into four sections or Padas. Even if the structure described in it is a holistic one, each part is having their role just like the organs in the body are having their particular role while fulfilling their general place in the whole. And since the definition of the whole in itself becomes quite difficult Patanjali does not get to talk about the Ashtanga Yoga, the Yoga of Eight Limbs, until the 29th verse of the second Chapter “Sadhana Pada”. And even there it is only sketched because, without the right context and preparation based on direct experimentation, such a complex system will easily become only a self limitation.
The “whole” will become a separate category that will exclude its component parts, a fortress that is heavily defended by the zealots of this concept in their attempt to keep it away from the waves of diversity that are coming from everywhere.THE WHOLE risk to become a dot in the ocean of EVERYTHING.
This is a widespread symptom today among the modern practitioners. Many are those claiming today to have invented a holistic approach on spiritual evolution. They are so fast and keen to affirm their “holism” that they lock themselves into that concept. Busy to find new ways to display their wide views upon spirituality they are ignoring basic elements of the evolutionary mechanisms. And this is mainly appearing when wanting to make a system that can be easy for everyone, without involving much transformation and personal efforts for the spiritual evolution to take place. As in his YOGA SUTRA, perfectly in tune with the modern quantum view upon the world, Patanjali is starting the presentation by defining the goals on the yoga practice in the opening chapter “Samadhi Pada”.
This will not only create clarity upon the goals but in the same time will put the beginning of the path as the source of all evolutionary process and not the other way around as too often we hear today. It is the spirit that generate all the existential means and not the other way around. Here the author deals with the prerequisites of Yoga practice while already setting the course toward the final destination. From a practical perspective, the structure of the work is describing, from the core toward the periphery, different zones of the human existence and their way back toward a state of perfect balance and unity. The closer we are to the center, the more direct will be the path and simple the methods. The further away we are going from the center of our own being, the more complex and technical will be the path and longer the evolution. The whole first section is a Yoga unto itself. In fifty-one verses Patanjali deals with what many call Samkhya Yoga, Kriya Yoga or even Jnana Yoga.
Patanjali enunciates also a kind of Yoga cosmology within the “Samadhi Pada”. It is however a very practical analysis of the “mechanisms” of the consciousness into the process of becoming, serving the individual consciousness on the integration effort. From another perspective, also depicted into this simple yet very accurate model, the evolution is viewed as an ascendent spiral that is unfolding its ciclic movements around a position of neutrality (an axis of the human being, sushumna nadi that exists in every human being at a subtle level, identical with the axis of the world, axis mundi or mount meru). This ciclic movement of the evolution that is unfolding in spirals is discovered nowadays by science at the foundation of all that exist in the physical universe, from the vibrating strings (spirals) of energy in the core of the elementary particles that are forming the very fabric of the universe up to the clusters of galaxies that are spinning around the central core of the known universe (taking a shape that is amazingly similar with the mythical Iggdrasil, The Tree of Life from the nordic traditions).
Yoga Sutras give at its core a depiction of this universal pattern of the universal evolution in the first chapter. Directly stating that the very essence of the human being is a spark of the Supreme Consciousness of God the Supreme Being, the text is setting course toward the final destination: finding through direct experience this essence that is in fact the very source of existence in the first place. Evolution from this perspective reveals to be an amazing journey that begins and ends in the same place, just like in the later representations of this process as a wheel of becoming or the famous ouroboros snake that is biting his own tale. It is all just a spontaneous game of the Supreme Consciousness that is called maya.
Ignorance and Self-Realization
Qualitatively identifying Atman (the Supreme Reality within the human being) with Purusha (the Universal Spirit in Manifestation) and placing under correspondence the Jivatma (the incarnated soul) with Prakriti (the essence of Life in Nature) at the individual level, the yoga system is tapping directly into the very source of power that is creating all phenomenon: POLARITY. This becomes later the fundamental basis for Ha-Tha Yoga, the yoga of the harmonious union between the two polarities. With simple axioms Patanjali is already describing the essence of all spiritual practice, the principle of correspondence: “what is up is similar to what is down, and what is down is similar to what is up, in order to fulfill the miracle of the Whole” (from Emerald Table of Hermes Trismegistos). This fundamental principle is the very reason why assuming a body position that is archetypical one can have the experience, at the human level, that correspond to a fundamental cosmic experience. By revealing this simple principle Patanjali is offering the key to all the phenomenon that animates a spiritual practice and the possibility of evolution from individual toward the cosmic consciousness. After revealing this principle, Self – Realization or identification between Atman and ParamAtman naturally appears as the object of Yoga practice.
The experience of the union of Atman – ParamAtman by the living soul Jiva is the very root of the supreme state of divine ecstasy or “samadhi”, the supreme state of consciousness that the individual can have access to. In fact, the first chapter, Pada, could be taken as the brief, and somehow cryptic, presentation of the mechanisms behind Yoga itself, the Yoga of re-absorption or re-unification into the Supreme Immortal Self or Atman. But in the same time we can see it as a form of Jnana Yoga, a Yoga of divine discernment and wisdom, meant to outline to us that the flaws of our nature are only keeping us away from discovering the real Self that is already perfect within our being.
Patanjali begin therefore his yoga fundamental work by stating that Avidya or ignorance is our main problem, and only the removal of this ignorance can lead to Self-Realization. The ignorance itself is an option of the Supreme Consciousness and have not an objective consistency in itself. Analogically if one have a small stone in the shoe and walk with it for a long time an ugly wound will probably appear on the foot, possibly an infected one. But he can very well stop and remove the stone from the very beginning of the trip and this will eliminate all the un-manifested trouble. Ignoring the stone is in fact at the root of the coming trouble.
The classical story in this respect is the one with the rope that we can mistake with a snake on the floor of a semi-dark room. Our experience with snakes and the superficial glance upon the floor of that room will give the impression that we are threatened by a real snake. Removing the ignorance regarding this complex situation would result into an objective experience and will remove the illusion/sufferance/false life. But there are several blockages or situations that are making this action delayed and yoga is that system of practice that will restore that kind of awareness allowing the immediate action to remove ignorance.
Contrary to most of the competition based systems pointing out today what one can or should achieve even for the spiritual evolution, Patanjali is bringing the natural and wise view: removing what creates disharmony allow the harmony to manifest because it is harmony that is inherent to the universe and disharmony is just an exception or an “impurity” as he name it. Maybe the efforts that should be done for achieving Self-Realization might look the same … but in reality this original angle that is underlined in Yoga Sutra will simply “reverse gravity”, allowing the evolution to take its natural divine course without needing the egotist push that will require so much efforts to cancel its effects toward the end. By realizing the essence of Reality, the yoga practitioner realizes in fact that he can fly by first stoping clinging on the rocs, for it is in the essential nature of the being to be lighter than anything else.
It is interesting to note here that this is also the fundamental pattern that the modern science is discovering all over the known universe, the fingerprints of the mysterious Intelligent Designer who made everything perfect and all we need to regain that original perfection is to remove what we have added afterward, the impurities or the freely chosen ignorance. Yoga Sutra goes deeply into this problem by enunciating the Pancha Klishtha or the Five Afflictions that restrict us in our development. He details the problems of misconception, superior cognition, dualist conceptualization, false memory and sleep.
It states openly that our inferior mind in a state of agitation Chita, holds us from a state of unified living. In fact if is holding us from fulfilling what many scientist are talking about today: whole-ism but at a Cosmic level. In the second verse of the first chapter the sage Patanjali states, “The science of Yoga is attained to by controlling the fluctuation of inferior mind.” The whole first Pada is made up of simple indications of how to sublimate hindering energies, to overcome and transform pain and depression, how to hold the mind in concentration upon the Universal background energy, Pranava AUM. And by sheer discipline obtained with gradual training and choices rather than by any kind of blind belief one can obtain an unified Cosmic Consciousness.
It would do the new students of Yoga a great deal of help and shorten their efforts if they would study deeply the simple statements of Patanjali in the first Pada as a genuine pre-Yoga practice of what he then enunciates to be Ashtanga or the Eight Limbed Yoga. Instead of building a strong ego in the beginning in order to obtain some effects that are afterward consumed in order to dissolve the ego that broiught them there, the one that is correctly starting from the Yoga Sutra first chapter basis will only gradually remove the ties and allow the Divine Nature to come forth in their being and life.
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