Book 1, Sutra 16: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra



I have used the word “Oneness” to translate the Sanskrt word “purusa” but there are a host of other equal possibilities. Other translators have chosen to use the word “God,” “the Seer,” “the True Self,” “the unbounded self,” “Pure Consciousness,” “the Atman,” “the absolute I AM,” “the soul,” “Brahman,” “the Supreme Personality of Godhead,” amongst others. I like the word “Oneness” because it captures an all-inclusive quality along with the idea of “Singularity.” When “Oneness” is realized then separateness is an illusion. The ego disappears and there is only one “I AM” and it is the creator and destroyer of everything and, at the same time, it is the essence of everything. As VishnuDevananda describes “purusa,” “It is unmanifest and without qualities. It is that all-pervading Supreme Being that exists in the soul of every person.”

In order to understand what freedom from attachment to the gunas means we need to understand that the gunas refer to the constituent elements of all of existence. The three gunas are said to be the fundamental elements that combine in different ways and intensities to create what we consider to be life itself. The gunas, however, do not just cover material reality like the four elements do within conventional western science. The gunas also make up our emotions and our thoughts. Therefore, everything that we consider to constitute “my” experience of this moment, right now, is a product of the interplay of the gunas.

To go beyond the gunas means that you no longer hold to the idea that you (the “you” that you can observe, including your own thoughts and emotions) exist as a concrete “special” entity. To go beyond the gunas means that you perceive directly that everything they create, through their interplay, is devoid of a “special” individual self. I use the word “special” to differentiate an individual self (which does not exist beyond the interplay of the gunas) from the True Self. The True Self is not “special” because it does not differ from one object to the next; in other words, the True Self that is within me is not different from the True Self that is in the laptop that I am writing on. The “special” self is the self that we commonly think exists within “me” that makes me special or different from you or this laptop. The “special” self makes “me” special.

To go beyond the gunas means that you no longer see any inherent specialness in one thing over any other, even when comparing your own body to a brick. Another way of describing that state of realization is to say that there is no longer any attachment to “existing” itself, since “existing” is always directly connected to a “special” body and mind that we are currently inhabiting. As Sri Rama says, this ultimate state is “the end of the pursuit of yoga abhyasa.”

Satyananda Saraswati says that when one attains this “para“ (supreme) vairagya then “there is no return to the life of cravings and passions. . . .There is no desire for pleasure, enjoyment, knowledge or even sleep.” Even the desire to be a yogi or to be renounced or to be wise or to be strong pass away at this stage because everything becomes the same or equal and none of it has the “specialness” that the ego formerly gave to one thing over another in life. Mukunda Stiles describes this type of dispassion as arising when “everything and everyone is experienced as one’s own True Self.” Whether you see everything as equally special or you see nothing as particularly special at all, the same supreme dispassion arises. The “purusakhyati,” knowledge of the Supreme, causes the “guna-vaitrsnyam,” supreme detachment.





About Kilaya

Kilaya is a yogi who is also well-versed in the sciences. He studied physics and mathematics at college, biology and molecular biology on his own, fluid dynamics while working as a professional plumber and has always had a passion for in-depth psychology. Now he adds what he has learned from his spiritual master, Amma, and from his life as a professional astrologer to his writings in order to make discoveries that may inspire others.

Posted on December 13, 2015, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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