shall see Yoga is hard work, involves solitude, renunciation of lower
pleasures, the difficult battle of getting control of the mind, and
acceptance of pain with equanimity. Nobody would pursue these things or
take this approach to life without some compelling reason. One
obviously has to have some kind of motivation to do these things that
are contrary to the normal human urges of pursuing pleasure,
fellowship, wealth, and fun. Indeed, nobody can throw himself
real yoga with an adequate aspiration if he does not have a
motivation and purpose. It must be as if he's running from a ferocious
beast! So nobody embraces the hard and seemingly anti-human
teachings of yoga without
first arriving at "the problem."
The Problem must be
registered clearly or nobody will pursue it. Yoga is full of dabblers
and the curious. But only those who become
convinced that a sad problem exists, and deeply dissatisfied about this
throw themselves into yoga with enough sincerity and energy so as to
get divine fruit.
both existential aspects such as "What is the point of this repetitive
samsara?" and technical, metaphysical aspects like: "How can I purify
the particular samskaras in my body that project this unsatisfactory
waking world?" or "How can I get the mind to stop moving and
manufacturing dualistic images"? As that body
gets purified by
chastity, fasting, and meditation the external projected samsara thus
necessarily keeps improving and becomes more satvic and "The Problem"
starts diminishing. Aum.
states the problem
clearly here and refers to both these aspects:
Those who develop wisdom come to
see all creation, externals, and perceivables as unsatisfactory,
suffering (such as anxiety). This on account of constant
change, conditioning (karma), and due to the unstable,
nature of the natural forces that underly phenomena and the movement of
the mind itself. This is the problem that yoga is pursued to solve.
This verse, whether
in spare translations or the
renderings presently offered, is one of the more jittery,
verses of the Sutra. It is also one of the verses that most challenges
the western mind once it manages to get a peek at its import. Having
studied the verse many years, as well as come
to understand its value (the Yoga-Vasistha helps a great
have tried to unload its real content, a bit beyond
spare translation would produce. Another way of putting it: I have
rendered the verse in such a way that it's right in-the-face and you
can't deny what it says, or why it says it. I do believe
chase around 50 thousand yoguh mavens with this verse for the next
thousand years, and they would run from through hill and dale,
screaming like children running from a witch on a raised stick. For one
must get sick of the world, and cynical about its fulfillments, before
he sets foot on the path of yoga. Do most yoga-mavens even accept this
It turns out
is God-search. The purpose of Yoga is to come to know God
and end suffering. According to the Bhagavad-Gita,
one comes to yoga through three common impulses: suffering, desire for
good things, and sheer love-of-God. Krsna explained to Arjuna that
these are the three
types who seek and find God. Let me list them again:
-- The man of
-- The seeker of
some particular thing other than God
-- The man who knows
that God is the only thing worth having.
Yoga-Sutra is implying here that the
recognition of suffering, and the unsatisfactory nature of the material
creation, is the best platform for undertaking the path of yoga. You
become a "man (or woman) of suffering" when you realize the truth of
this verse, saying "This is a repetitive samsara!" You also become the
2nd type even thinking, "I want true knowledge," or "I want mastery
over theses karmic limitations and afflictions." You become, also, the
3rd type when you say: This yoga is giving me God-knowledge and bliss,
and I prefer it to these other things I used to chase." But one can say
the Yoga-Sutra, in this verse, is giving dignity to Krsna's
type: the man of suffering. This despondency was the state that Rama attained in the
Yoga-Vasistha that made him finally ready for higher knowledge
according to the Sage Vasistha.
verse above tends to be ignored by those interested in body-yoguh which
is not the same thing as yoga. I would say it even goes against the
wishes and dispositions of most. It's not an easy statement. But it's
included in the Yoga-Sutra because this attitude -- the recognition of
the unsatisfactory nature of material creation or "the seen" -- is the
place of wisdom.
The reason this
the same one attributed to Buddha -- is auspicious for yoga is that
yoga involves disengagement from the material creation and cleansing of
the mind which is soaked with the markings (samskaras) of the material
creation. The best platform for undertaking this most prodigious of all
human battles is to become thoroughly convinced "there is
out there worth seeking," and even, in the wonderful Sankarian sense:
"There is nothing out there." (You thought there was, but it was just a
rope across the path at dusk that you thought was a snake.) This
vairagya, which is dispassion and detachment.
The experience of bliss in yogic meditation, moreover, increases that
vairagya because one comes to prefer it over the desultory thrills of
the exterior creation. But the best yogis will have matured to the
point that they are convinced that the material creation offers nothing
truly worth attaining. This makes the task of concentrating the mind
all the easier, as one loses his interest in the external.
Nityananda spoke this:
"What is visible
transient; it is perishable."
It is partly the
outer phenomena that, in the eyes of the wise, make it unsatisfactory.
of the unsatisfactory nature of the dualistic creation helps the yogi
or yogess achieve dispassion or vairagya, specified in the next two
verses, which vairagya in turn helps immensely with the stilling of the
mind unto bliss and samadhi.
inability to distinguish between creation and Purusha, though these are
absolutely separate. One gets knowledge of Purusha by samyama
Purusha (God) itself as apart from creation.
This verse was
from deeper in the text because it is basically an amplifier and
clarifier of1:4. The term "samyama" comes in the section on
meditation, and means perfect concentration. Repeatedly in the
Yoga-Sutra arises the phrase "knowledge of the difference." This refers
to a final yogic attainment of distinguishing between God as perceived
within, and His
creation. It is usually put as discriminating the difference "between satva and
satva is the most pleasant and desirable
aspects of the creation. For this reason the faculty of discrimination
is central to spiritual knowledge and the attainments of yoga. The
verse is saying that our dualistic experience comes about because of
our inability to distinguish between these two. We see God in the
karmic play though He is only reflected there. We project reality onto
unsatisfactory karma, and chase the lesser thing, remaining
enmeshed in it; enmeshed in worlds.
The last three
verses might well
have fit in the later section on Metaphysics as they define our
fundamental existential problem. However, it is good to state the
fundamental metaphysical problem yoga seeks to solve right at the
start, even if it is a new and strange idea to most seekers. In fact,
Patanjali did state it by his third verse. Nightly we separate
ourselves from the dualistic world-miasm and are happy to completely
forget it, in fact knowing with assurance that it does not exist. Yet
when we awake, drawn back to our vasana-ridden body and entering back
into it, we become enstupidated again. Yoga seeks to destroy this
problem in the waking state, and waking sorrows.
are: Ignorance, asmita (the sense of "I exist"), desire,
aversion, and attachment.
We can say that
"distractions" here means any distraction from full at-one-ment with
God, or anything that keeps one from the highest state sought in the
Yoga-Sutra, which would be described variously as nirbikalpa samadhi,
kaivalya, or dharma-megha-samadhi. You will see along the way that the
Sutra's categorization of "sense of being" or "I exist" as a
distraction is difficult to accept and that this is necessarily the
last "distraction" a devotee is willing to give up on his way to
nirvikalpa samadhi, if he wishes to pursue it.
Ignorance is the
substrate of the other four, whether the four are in
a dormant, reduced, controlled, or expanded state.
Ignorance is taking
the non-eternal, impure, evil, and non-atman to be
eternal, pure, good, and atman.
Our normal relation
with the exterior world is to regard it as real though it is
transient, the accretion of mental fluctuations and remembered
experiences, and thus not any more real than a dream. We perceive
desirables in the waking world though it contains no desirables. We
effectively worship the external world, throughout our days, as the one
worthy and the one desirable. At that time we don't give much thought
to the divine place from which the world arises, or to the Eternal.
This notwithstanding the fact that we
utterly forget it and regard it as wholly non-desirable and even
non-existent throughout the nightly sleep state. We could not worship
the world or its contents in this way unless we were temporarily
thinking they were eternal, pure, good, and worthy (atman). Yet every
night we break that delusion and abandon the world utterly. It is
actually the body that binds our mind to the world illusion during the
This is a very
purifying verse to ponder. The whole substrate of this verse is the
recognition that in all things/experiences that humans seek, they are
really seeking atman, and that as the Upanishad says, only "the Self"
is dear; that it is the Self that makes other things seem dear. When
you have fond memories of moments in the past, or perhaps those
memories of moments of childhood that seem to telescope into other
worlds or lives, you are really remembering how in those moments you
sensed the Self. It was not really "that blue sky" or "those playmates'
happy cries" or "those trees" that give you joy on remembrance. Rather,
it is your memory of the Self in that time, which you call to mind
again through that picture frame as it were. Now we come to view a
variety of things as stand-ins or substitutes for The Self. The verse
is pointing that out. But to remind us of the truth we ourselves repair
to the two sleep states nightly, utterly abandon all that is here, and
abide there in the self unconsciously.
Asmita, or the sense
"I exist," arises when Pure Consciousness, the power-of-knowing, gets
associated with the body and its senses.
Maybe the most
of Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra is here: For the highest attainment advocated
in the Yoga-Sutra the aspirant must lose even
the awareness of his own existence. Let's first deal with the situation
in which the goal of losing a sense of existence is not attractive.
Who wants to lose
the sense of
own existence? It sounds like obliteration and who can get attracted to
that? This is where the Yoga-Sutra becomes challenging. Indeed, the
Sutra itself states elsewhere that even sages fear giving up the
individual ego which feels like the prospect of death. It helps to
realize two things: First, this state is one that is
in the highest form of samadhi or nirvikalpa. A yogi who had the
appearance of nirvikalpa samadhi, and that intermittent "no I" state
would be Nityananda of Ganeshpuri. He had lost many of his human
qualities such as conversation, likes and dislikes, or interactivity
with others. Indeed, another frightening term for the Yoga-Sutra's goal
is "kaivalya" which means isolation. Yet it should be remembered that
Nityananda was highly attractive to humanity, was imbibing higher
bliss, and showered blessings on others via siddhi. This relates to the
"dharma-megha-samadhi" state, another of the Sutra's higher goals,
which means "raincloud of good." The aspirant must develop faith that
as he gives up the lower ego this sacrifice makes him become
a greater blessing to others. Yet this does not offer total
comfort when confronted with the prospect of radical alteration of
one's identity or explosion of the ego into the sea of the Purusha.
Yet another way we can entertain this prospect as a goal,
is to resort to considering the state of deep dreamless sleep and
realize that we each already seek this state -- and experience it
without full awareness -- nightly during dreamless sleep. During
even the thought "I exist" is lost or is intermittent,
appear only on the way
toward waking or some lower perch close to the state of dreaming. Thus
we can see that we experience this ego annihilation already nightly and
unconscious nirvikalpa samadhi nightly.
Now the problem with
this route is that the dreamless sleep state, as a goal, is
unsatisfactory to the human waking mind. The
Upanishads find fault with both sleep states: The dreaming on account
of its transience and dualistic nature (good and bad things happen);
the dreamless sleep on the very account that an "I" becomes
obliterated, or as the Upanishad states: "One has gone
as if to oblivion. I see no good in this."
The verse can also
be viewed as
being at odds with Sutra 2:1 which prescribes bhakti. In the devotional
state of worship-of-the-Lord there is an "I" that worships the divine
Other, the Lord, getting bliss and rapture in this state that conduces
to samadhi. Bhakti-yoga is an I-Thou enterprise. This problem might be
solved by understanding bhakti as the beginning of a process that ends
in oneness with the Lord where the small "I" disappears and is
subsumed. Yet then in that state the "I Exist" or asmita of The Lord
can continue to exist. However, the Yoga-Sutra here makes no such
distinction between the jiva's "I" and the Lord's as a distraction or
form of ignorance. Indeed, the high-fallooting non-dualistic of
Vedanta, much to the dismay of a dualist or bhakta, regards Isvara, the
Lord of the Universe, as basically a deluded jiva.
This Sutra verse
deals with an
ultimate, the same ultimate as it's stated goal of kaivalya. The bhakta
and happy yogin has no need to press for it.. Rather, "He will play in
the fields of siddhis for many years."
Now, let us address
from a mechanical point-of-view to understand what it is saying. How is
it that the sense "I exist" arises from the "power of knowing" when it
combines with the instruments of knowing, in the way that yeast, flour,
and water result in bread? This is a difficult question to get one's
head around since it deals with the core of our own being, just as it
is difficult for a fish to understand that it lives in water.
The verse states
that the thought "I exist" arises when the pure
knowing quality of Purusha gets involved with the bodily senses of
sight, sound, touch, etc. A paragraph from the Yoga-Vasistha explains
"The eyes but see: the notions pleasant,
unpleasant, etc. arise, not in
the eyes, but elsewhere--it is even so with the other senses. Hence,
the sense-functions are not evil. If egoistic thought is linked to
these sense functions (which arise in a moment) there is mental
Remember that the
knowing" in verse 2:6 is Nirguna Brahman, Pure Consciousness,
is also called The Self. Now this Yoga-Vasistha verse helps explain how
the mixing of that power-of-knowing with the senses can be identified
as the cause of the "sense I exist."
The verses present a
scenario in which individual sense faculties get developed --
eyes, ears, etc. -- and that this alone becomes the substrate for a
unique jivahood or "I" as the power of knowing looks out through those
recommends that the power-of-knowing be disconnected from one's senses,
just as happens naturally nightly in sleep and in the state of
samadhi as the sense functions of the body are abandoned.
above actually describes is the state of pratyahara in which
the life force reverses itself up the spine and ceases to enliven the
outward-going senses. This disconnection
between the Seer and the senses, apart from being the way into samadhi,
is already is experienced by all when falling
asleep and in the death process.
When Vasistha states
is mental agitation" through this connection -- it means "there then is a jiva, with it's
history, conditioning, worries, desires etc."
As is usual with the
Yoga-Vasistha, a philosophical point-of-view is much more in evidence
than practical yogic experience. The
above Vasistha verse, by
itself, speaks as if simply disconnecting these two would lead to a
happy state and leaves out the vital factor of samadhi. But without the
jiva becoming subsumed in ananda and Pure Consciousness -- this
disconnection itself, or pratyaharaitself,
is an unhappy state. This state of pratyahara, which is a process of
reversal and necessary to
the dissolution of I-ness or asmita, is discussed later with the YS
verse 2:54 which broaches pratyahara itself.
A summary of this
My view is that
there is no need
at all for the aspirant to make efforts toward getting rid of
his "sense of being" for these 7 reasons:
1) We already
experience it in prajna/sushupti
2) The state arises intermittently after the
acquisition of savikalpa samadhi, and
3) The bhakta prefers to enjoy
the bliss of the I-Thou interaction with the blissful Lord and this can
certainly continue during many incarnations with no harm, and
4) Asmita is the last thing to go
5) Even the Lord of all Cycles, Isvara (Saguna Brahman) and our natural
divine Father -- has not relinquished his "I," and
6) It is
the role of Brahman to fold up the universe into a "night of Brahman"
or non-existence at the end of his grand cycle and there is no need for
us to hurry it along, and
7) The falling into Nirvikalpa and
dissolution of one's jiva-I will best happen on its own through contact
with the sat-chit-ananda and there is little that can be done from the
egoic point-of-view to "make" it happen. A piece of salt that interacts
with the sea will surely dissolve. The devoted yogi who practices
brahmacharya and intense meditation will more likely be hurrying and
hustling to somehow KEEP his "I" intact sooner than he is in a rush to
totally lose it!
There is no need for
the yogin to
try to lose his asmita or "Sense of I" for the reasons stated. There is
only need to get addicted to God's causeless bliss through
brahmacharya, bhakti, and meditation. Egoistic
thought is what the Lord as Isvara continuously applies to his
creation, in most systems involving Saguna Brahman. In other
words, the Lord of the long-cycled universe itself acts as a lawgiver
and Father having his own "I."
My view is that the
bhakta or devotee has no need to renounce his "I" and that this
"distraction" can be carried along a long way. It is the jiva who
experiences Nirguna and Saguna Brahman as bliss. Without that human
experiencer there is no bliss in human terms. The Divine Lord which the
Yoga-Sutra calls Isvara and who is Being, Consciousness, and Bliss plus
an original Divine "I" -- wanted a jiva to exist who could then
experience -- like a servant, child, or best beloved soul-mate
the bliss, siddhi, and upgrade of the Lord and be full of inexpressible
gratitude and lofty human joy. It is the asmita or "sense of I" which
experiences that in this path of Yoga, and for the reasons stated there
is no need to renounce it. It dissolves surely enough on its own with
the arising of the transcendental perceptions such as ananda, Aum,
jyoti, and the inner smells and sounds. Aum. Practice yoga
your "sense of I" and love and enjoy God. Ramakrishna repeatedly made
the yogic statement:
salt doll went in to measure the sea."
It speaks of the
inevitability of losing the "I" or asmita by contact with the
Sat-Chit-Ananda and genuine sadhana.
One more point about
this verse: Most translations of this verse refer to "the senses" but
not the body. I placed "the body and its senses" into my
rendering. It is more instructive and useful for the
or religious man to
think in terms of "the body" rather than "the senses." The
reside indeed in something more basic
which is the body. The entire body is sensible and we have many ways of
perceiving the world through it. The body is what draws back
to this projected incarnation
after sleeping; the body is what we strove hard to get and to build up
when we were drawn to this incarnation. And dissolution of attachment
to our bodies is what frees us to experience religion's fruit which is
bliss, world-upgrade, and siddhi including samadhi. The body is the
root of samsara and projected the samsara. Thus it is more helpful to
of the "senses" as the ultimate source of asmita,
but the body. So for best understanding I would write verse
2:6, indeed, the way presented above.
The afflictions are
to be suppressed by meditation.
The suppression of
distracting vrittis is attained by abhyasa and non-attachment.
That suffering which
has not yet
come can be warded off.
This verse happily
question "Can karma
not yet experienced be warded off? Dissolved? Short circuited?
Destroyed? Can we sit it out?" The answer is yes. How? By yoga, which
will be described below. This is very good news. The sutra fails to
signify another bit of good news: Even karma already experienced, and
effects of it, can be destroyed through Yoga. Isvara, the Lord, who is
sought by the yogin, is not constrained or controlled by even the past,
and has Lordship over the past. This is clearly stated in the
Upanishads. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-Gita a wonderful thing:
who meditates on me with a oneness of mind, ever united to be by
incessant worship, I remove all his deficiencies and make permanent his
Krsna just described
very purpose of yoga is, in fact, to help the aspirant to meditate on
God "with a oneness of mind," and become united to Him.
The cause of that
should be warded off is the entanglement of the Seer with the
To get untrammeled
samadhi, end suffering,
know God and become a boon to your surroundings -- you need to stop
worshiping the external ephemeral creation and turn back to God,
worshiping That which is worthy of worship. When you turn your sight
back to the source of sight, the distinction between That and this will
This verse is
similar to 1:4
which speaks of the Seer becoming "assimilated" with the seen, like
milk mixed in water.
10:1 -- (A.O.)
The problem is
solved by getting established in samadhi, which is
The seen consists of
elements and the sense organs. It is of the nature of Prakriti.
Its purpose is experience and liberation
of the jiva.
The seen is for the
Fortunately, we can
use the very
creation itself to attain liberation. With proper practice we can use
nature and our dualistic state, like an anvil, to hammer out the
difference between the
Seer and the seen. As Ramakrishna put it, we can use the one thorn of
flawed dualistic scriptures and
flawed, dualistic activities to pull out the thorn
How to do this? Now yoga will be described in essence.