Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

I read the Patanjali a few months ago. It was a meditative, Winter read that thickened me up and let me feel like I emerged into Spring with more bounty. I was reading it simultaneously with David Bohm’s book The Implicate Order. The two in parallel were a cool, little under the covers inquiry into consciousness. One from the mind of a modern physicist, one form the mind of an ancient yogi, neither so different. I want to transcribe the notes I took on this two thousand years old text, to reinforce these timeless insights into my own reality.

So fundamentally, nature (Prakriti) has three constituents, the three gunas: tamas (inertia), rajas (activity), and sattva (clarity or light.) All manifestations of nature: matter, thought, and all else are composed of variations of the three gunas. Pure tamas alone is inert, dead matter, perhaps comparable to like some heavy food. Pure rajas is energy without direction, perhaps like spicy food. Pure sattva is a plan or idea that remains unrealized, perhaps like fruit. Sattva is the most spiritual. One of the goals of yoga is to cultivate sattva which in turn will support self- realization. Practicing in Sattvic places like the ocean or mountains help you slip into practice easier. The goal of a practice is to decrease rajas and tamas and cultivate sattva.

Chitta (Consciousness)

Patanjali defines yoga as “controlling the processes of the mind.”  Consciousness (atman) is separate from the conscious object. The goal of it is to be purified of the intellect till its equal to the source, all beings are in this process. All yoga works to quiet the waves of consciousness. Control of the waves of consciousness only is possible when we diminish sanskaras (subconscious tendencies.) These tendencies are created from karma, the actions and results, from the past of this life and others. Yogananda puts it this way “you cannot achieve emancipation unless you have burned the seeds of past actions in the fires of wisdom and meditation.”  Yoga grasped the idea of the subconscious many centuries before Freud.

Meditative Absorption

There are two types of Samahdi (meditaition.) Samprajnata (the seed), is the mental stages of absorption through physical awareness, subtle awareness, bliss, and I-ness. It is steadfastness when focusing on breath, sense objects, one who has eliminated desires (for inspiration), dreams or really anything. Asamprajnata is the termination of all thoughts. Samapatti is when the mind is free from the vrittas (fluctuations) and the mind becomes just like a transparent jewel, taking the form of whatever is placed in front of it. Samprajnata, the seed, is the germination process that can bear “the fruit” of lucidity of inner-self and truth- bearing wisdom. Although truth- bearing wisdom obstructs ultimate wisdom from arising. Through the cessation of truth bearing wisdom, Asamprajnata ensues. Negative thoughts are violence, to counter them one should cultivate opposing thoughts. Some of my favorite aphorisms from this section are “When one is established in truthfulness, one ensures the fruition of actions.”From contentment the highest happiness is attained” And speaking about asana, “postures should be attained through the relaxation of effort and by the absorption in the infinite.”

Mystic powers

Samyama is the term for the state when the mind is fixed in one place and shining forth without reflection. The correlation between word, meaning, and idea causes confusion to arise. By performing samyama on all of them separately, knowledge of speech from all creatures arises. Samyama brings about intuition and higher senses. This is an accomplishment for the mind that is outgoing but it is obstructive to samahdi. When the purity of the intellect is equal to that of purusa, kaivalya (liberation/ moksha) ensues.

Absolute Independence

Mystic powers arise from birth, herbs, mantras, austerity, and samadhi. Time is just different point of manifestation of characteristics. Although its unchanging, consciouness becomes aware of its own intelligence by  pervading the forms assumed by the intelligence. For one who sees the disitinction between the mind and the soul reflection on oneself ceases. Because of the unlimited nature of knowledge when all impurities have been removed from it, that which remains to be known is little. So there is a cessation of the on going permutation of the gunas, their purpose is now filled. Kaivalya is when the gunas deviod of all purpose of purusa return to the latent state, power of consciousness is situated in its own essential nature.

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