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Yoga Sutras

This first chapter (pada), provides some of the most important concepts about the process of Yoga and its results. Cognitive absorption (samadhi) is such a result, and Patanjali brings us to a clear understanding of just what it is towards the end of this first chapter. As Yoga is a scientific art, a progressive system, Patanjali leads us through it much the same way an engineer might point out the features of a blue print. While he does not teach us how to perform specific practices, his blueprint will indicate in fair detail how they all fit together and what the results will resemble. The succinct form of the sutras, like the engineers blueprints, are not to be confused with the reality, which they symbolize. Indian writers in general, and fully accomplished yogins (siddhas) like Patanjali and Tirumular specifically, realized the limitations of language, and used words in a suggestive manner. They wished to point to a deeper reality, which could not be grasped with mere words. Their works were often written in such a way so as to deliberately obscure the meaning from the non-initiate. A good grasp of the concepts revealed in this introductory chapter will enable the reader to understand what follows in the subsequent chapters, in which the processes and results of Yoga are described in much greater detail.

1. Now [begins] the exposition on yoga.

The term atha or ­now is a word used to call the readers attention to the beginning of an important treatise.

2. Yoga is the cessation [of identifying with] the fluctuations [arising within] consciousness.

Here it is appropriate to first explain some of the oldest concepts in Indian metaphysical thought: the term nature (Prakriti) and Self (Purusha) in verses I.16, 24. Prakriti is everything besides the Self and includes the entire cosmos from the material to the psychic levels. Unlike the Self (I am....), which is purely subjective, Prakriti is objective reality, that which is observed by the Self. It is real, however transitory it may be. Purusha, the Self, is pure subject, at the core of consciousness. It illuminates the consciousness. Without it, the mind and psyche would have no conscious activity, just as a light bulb without invisible electricity would radiate no light. Prakriti exists as nature in its transcendental, undefined state as well as its multiform, differentiated manifestations. This Self is to be distinguished from the self of the limited personality and body. Sometimes, one refers to the true Self, as that eternal being at the core of everyone, the atman, or jiva, as opposed to the little, self, the person or personality, the sum of our memories and limited identifications held together by egoism.

The word citta means consciousness and the term cittar (pronounced siddhar) is the Tamil word for one who is a master of consciousness. It is the localized manifestation of Absolute Consciousness (cit). While Patanjali does not define the term consciousness (citta) its meaning can be determined from the contexts in which it appears in the Sutras. According to verse IV.23, consciousness is colored by the Self and the manifestations of nature, the Seer and the Seen. This apparent and mistaken identification of the Self, or Seer, with the manifestations of Nature (the Seen) is the cause of human suffering and the fundamental problem of human consciousness. As the cittars have stated: “We are dreaming with our eyes open because we identify not with who we are, but with what we are not, our dreams”. It is a complete reversal of the true relationship between the Self and objects of consciousness. The Self has become an object and myself, the personality, an ego-ridden collection of thoughts, feelings and sensations taken on the role of the subject. The habit of identifying with our thoughts, emotions, sensations, that is, egoism, is the disease of human consciousness. The fluctuations (vrittih) arising within consciousness, enumerated and explained in verse I.5 to I.11, such as the means of acquiring true knowledge, misconceptions, conceptualization, sleep and memory must be cleansed of egoism, the strong habit of feeling, “I am this emotion,” “I am this memory,” “I am this sensation,” by the systematic cultivation of detachment, wherein one realizes “I am conscious of this emotion, memory, sensation and I am not this emotion, memory, sensation.”

In Babaji’s Kriya Yoga, the first meditation technique, Shuddhi dhyana kriya, has this change in perspective (or - change in consciousness) as its purpose. Like all habits, egoism lives in the subconscious level of the mind, that is, the part that is below our normal everyday realm of awareness. This level is, however, accessible through the various methods of Yoga.

It is not the elimination of the modifications of consciousness that will restore one’s realization of the Self as one’s identity. As long as the world exists, there will always be modifications. What is problematic here is the habitual confusion of “I am” (the Self) with “I am” (the object of consciousness, emotion, memory, sensation).

What is consciousness? The meaning of consciousness (citta) can be determined from the context in which it appears in Siddha literature. According to Tirumular:

   Our intelligence entangled in the senses,
   Finds itself in very deep waters,
   But inside our consciousness is a deeper
   Which the Supreme Grace stimulates.
(TM 119)

and Verse 122:

   Shivayoga is to know the cit-acit
   And for the yoga-penance qualify;
   Self-light becoming Self,
   To enter undeviating, His lordly domain;
   He granted me this - Nandi of the Nine Yogas.

cit = The Self-knowledge of Shiva-consciousness.
acit = The ignorance of the, the soul or individualized spirit which upholds the living being.

Practice: As various disturbing thoughts, emotions, or sensations arise, ask the question: “Could I let it go?” Cultivate detachment towards them.

3. Then the Seer abides in his own true form.

“Then” implies that what follows is a consequence of the process of purifying the habit of identifying with the fluctuations arising within consciousness, described in the preceding verse. What follows is a permanent state of Self-realization, not a temporary experience, which can be dispersed by the waves of mental distractions. In ordinary physical consciousness, one habitually identifies with mental forms and emotions. By the practice of such meditation techniques as Shuddhi dhyana kriya or mantras, one may develop a profound sense of detachment. The “Seer” is the Self. At the end of the process of Yoga, the individual soul (jiva), realizes that it is “Shiva ”, the Supreme Lord. The individual soul (jiva) assumes, by expansion, its true nature or form (Shiva ) and no longer identifies with the lower physical or mental vehicles.

According to Tirumular:

   In this turiyatita jagrat state,
   The Lord Of Dance with jiva in union stands
   When that union takes place maya vanishes away
   That very day jiva attains Shiva form.
 (TM 2277)

Jagrat” refers to the waking state; “turiya is the fourth state of consciousness, beyond waking, dreaming and deep sleep; super consciousness (turiyatita) means beyond turiya).

Practice: Repeat: “Now nothing can disturb me anymore” often, as an autosuggestion, particularly before going to sleep or when coming out of meditation.