Monday, April 23, 2012

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali | Enlightened Aphorisms


1.
Tree of Life, Ron Barnett
Ancient religious / spiritual traditions, each of them are Technologies of the Heart, and for the Heart: the quintessential faculty of what makes human, human. In an age of sharing, we no longer can afford the luxury to  look at any religious / spiritual tradition as an isolated block, instead we must cherish and share them as common wisdom heritage of humanity, as many branches of a common tree. Standing at the cross-current of great transition of our time if we still behave with outdated mode of division and sectarianism, that can only produce more suffering for the collective humanity and hinder our progress and wholesome happiness.

The tendency to create division against unity is an age old disease of humanity, a disease borne out of ignorance. This tendency is pointed out in the Scripture, again a scripture which must not be looked as belonging to this group or that, but as common wisdom manual of humanity where it is revealed:

And verily this Brotherhood of yours is a single Brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore be aware of Me. But people have cut off their affair (of unity), between them, into various sects: each party rejoices in that which is with itself. - Al-Quran: The Final Testament, chapter of the believers, 23:52-53

The message calls to recognize the unity of humanity and the Oneness of the Creator Who is the common Lord of entire creation and It's Sustainer and Provider, awareness of Whom is the Highest goal. The message also warn against the tendency of dividing truth and rejoicing in fragments, and thus creating sectarianism. This is the summed-up story of how blind religious zeal and divisionism have produced hatred in one nation for other in ages in the past and present, "each group / party / nation rejoicing in what which is with itself," forgetting that they are organically part of the same stream of revelation, light and wisdom.

Wa-inna hazihi ummatukum ummatan wahida ... Indeed the brotherhood of humanity is a single brotherhood. Thus no matter what fraction of truth we find in each group of humanity over age, no matter what part of truth is found in any religion / spiritual path, they all constitute part of the large fabric of reality. Every single religious / spiritual path contribute to the collective human journey towards its destined evolution, the great evolution which progress towards recognition and recollection of the Divine, the ultimate secret of Man.


2.
A contemporary Sufi Master, Shaykh Ebrahim Schuitema from Cape Town, South Africa importantly have made this statement:

"Binocular vision enables depth perception. Get yourself reasonably acquainted with at least one other inner tradition."

This is a very significant message for any seeker of Truth, regardless of the tradition or orientation. To my personal understanding, since people of any land or time, adopt religion of another age or land,, and because of gap in language (terminology, symbols) and culture, such adoption can have certain resistance in penetrating the core teaching and harvest it's fruits. But if people simultaneously learn and explore about his/ her own ancient spiritual / religious tradition of the land (prevailing religious / spiritual path before a new religion arrived there), he or she may find the message of prevailing ancient path as something very organically penetrating within the Heart, enabling realization at a much accelerated pace if unity is sought among messages. This happens because of binocular vision effect as mentioned by Shaykh Ebrahim. This enables depth perception through the acquiring of another inner tradition, specially that of one's own land which has a much attuned vibration and rhythm. Or in the case of a land's ancient wisdom tradition is destroyed or inaccessible, it is the esoteric dimension of the faith which can function as complementary part of the binocular vision.


3.
Patanjali: Father of Yoga
When it comes to an inner tradition of very ancient and rich origin which has survived after thousands of years, preserved with its original text: Indian ancient wisdom perhaps will score the best. One of such surviving ancient tradition, which is a gift to entire humanity is the Knowledge and Wisdom of Yoga. The best part of it is that the storehouse of Yoga has not only survived as knowledge on scrolls and pages but also as a living tradition where the knowledge is lived as wisdom.

The timeline of Yoga goes back as much as 3rd Millennium BC as far as recording system is concerned, but obviously there are real possibilities that this wisdom was revealed to humankind even before that, prior to time where recorded methods even invented. Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on the Hindu concept of divinity or Brahman.

The Sanskrit word yoga has the literal meaning of "yoke", from a root yuj meaning to join, to unite, or to attach. As a term for a system of abstract meditation or mental abstraction it was introduced by Patañjali in the 2nd century BC. Patanjali’s date is unknown, though many scholars assign him to the second century B.C.

His renowned Yoga Sutras presents, in a series of brief aphorisms, the condensed essence of the exceedingly vast and intricate science of God-union - setting forth the method of uniting the soul with the undifferentiated Spirit in such a beautiful, clear, and concise way that generations of scholars have acknowledged the Yoga Sutras as the foremost ancient work on yoga.

Patañjali is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras or Aphorisms of the Ancient Science of Union from India, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. Although the Yoga Sutras have become the most important text of Yoga, the opinion of most scholars is that Patañjali was not the creator of Yoga, which existed well before him, but merely a great expounder.



The yoga system of Patanjali is known as the Eightfold Path (Ashtanga Yoga), which leads to the final goal of God-realization. This eight-fold concept derived from the 29th Sutra of the 2nd book, and is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today. These Eight folds are such that if one carefully study them, one will understand that such characteristics and teachings exists in other religion / spiritual path as well, perhaps some in more openly, some in disguise, some within subtle teachings:

The Eightfold Path of Patanjali can be summarily categorized as:

(1.) Yama (The five "abstentions / purification"): Yama deals with self constraints, self-mastery. It has the following five sub-components:
* Ahimsa (non-violence),
* Satya (Truth, non-lying),
* Asteya (non-covetousness, craving, over-desire),
* Brahmacharya (non-sensuality, non-lust, preserving sexual energy), and
* Aparigraha (non-possessiveness, not hoarding).

(2.) Niyama (The five "observances"):  Niyama deals with self discipline. Niyama has the following elements within it:
* Shaucha (purity),
* Santosha (contentment),
* Tapas (austerity),
* Svadhyaya (study of Scriptures to know about God and the soul), and
* Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God).

(3.) Asana: Literally means "seat", and in Patanjali's Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation. Asana deals with physical practice, rituals.

(4.) Pranayama ( "Breath"): Prāna, breath, "āyāma", to restrain, control. Also interpreted as control of the life force. Pranayama deals with breathing sequence, mindfulness through breathing and right way of breathing as well.

(5.) Pratyahara ("Abstraction"): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects. Prathyahara deals with sense withdrawl, transcending sense world.

(6.) Dharana ("Concentration"): Fixing the attention on a single object. Dharana deals with concentration, higher level of awareness.

(7.) Dhyana ("Meditation"): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation. Dyhana deals with meditation.

(8.) Samadhi ("Liberation"): merging consciousness with the object of meditation. Samadahi deals with Illumination.

Known at the eightfold path it comprises self constraints, self observances, physical practices, breathing sequences, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation-and illumination!

The Eightfold path is arranged in a hierarchy. The follower of Yoga Path aim so move from the base of the triangle to the apex - SAMADHI - or illumination.


If we use the Sufic mind to observe and analysis the Eightfold Path of Patanjali we can see clearly that everything found in Yoga, from principal and essence point of view, are found in Islam as well and by extension, must also be found in every balanced Spiritual Way. As one can observe that the eightfold path beings with purification. In Sufi terminology this is Tazkiyatan Nafs (purification of the self, alchemy of lower-self). This is what every Teacher start with when they work with his followers. For example we read in the Final Scripture where the role of a Master Apostle is described we find purification as one of the major task:

Kama arsalna feekum rasoolan minkum yatloo 'alaykum ayatina wa yuzakkeekum ... We have sent among you an Apostle from among yourselves, who recites to you Our communications and purifies you... - 2:151

After purification or Yama, comes Niyama or practices, self-discipline, daily observances which are essential to maintain purity and increase awareness of the Divine (taqwa). Those who claim that spirituality means there need not any rituals, no physical practices, rituals, they only delude themselves because human beings by nature need structure and it is the Niyama or practices which provide that valuable structure or foundation. The last element of Niyama is Ishvara-Pranidhana or surrender to God, which according to Islam is to be found at the core of every true Path, every true Religion and Yoga is no exception. The secret of spiritual happiness is here, in surrender to God.

After Niyama or Observances come Asana, which are unique to Yoga. In this aspect of Yoga is the most popular for common people, even though Asana or postures are just one aspect of Yoga. To transmit Yoga only through Asana is like teachings rituals of Catholic Mass without introducing who is Jesus or his teachings. When authentic Yoga masters teach about Asanas or Postures, they will point out that it is very important to practice the Asanas on exactly the same time to harvest the best benefit. Asanas help flow the spirit's energy by clearing obstructions, by moving those parts of the body and activating energy body and organs (chakras, subtle body) which are less used. From Sufic perspective this also provide hint for the benefit of regular prayer at appointed time as is done in Islam with very specific body postures. In fact for this reason Islamic Prayer or Salaat is called Yoga of Islam and from the standing, bowing and prostrating to the very action of rubbing the hands on face after supplication, are all found in Yogic practices as well which only confirms the fact that such practices have inherent benefit for humanity whether they are preserved in one Path or another.

Pranayama (mindful breathing), Pratyahar (withdrawal from sensory feedback) are also specialized Yogic practice and discipline which is to be learned from a Yoga master. From Sufic perspective there are certain Tariqa specific practices of Dhikr / Zikr or Recollection of the Divine which utilize deep breathing, in that very framework on loses one's self and thereby it is also another method of withdrawing from sensory feedback. The Turning of the Mevlevi is one example of Pratyahar as found in Sufic practice. Deep loud and collective Dhikr also can bring the same effect where one loses one's self.

Dharana and Dhyana are concentration and meditation, which are also necessary component of inner practice of any Spiritual Path.

Finally Samadhi is the fruit of all foregoing steps. In Hindu terminology it is called Moksha or Liberation (from bonding) and in Buddhist term this is Nirvana. In Sufic terminology this is Fana and Baqa, Annihilation or Lost in Allah, Dying in Allah to Subsist or Abide in Allah.


4.
The aphorisms of Patanjali, also known as Yoga Sutras in which the above teachings are transmitted are excellent source of inspiration and timeless wisdom.

You may read the full text here of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translation by BonGiovanni via Sacred-Text website by following this link: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Here are some highlight of Patanjali Aphorisms:

"On attaining the purity of the ultra-meditative state there is the pure flow of spiritual consciousness. Therein is the faculty of supreme wisdom. The wisdom obtained in the higher states of consciousness is different from that obtained by inference and testimony as it refers to particulars.

...there is no cure for the misery of longing, but to fix the heart upon the eternal.

The mastery of one in Union extends from the finest atomic particle to the greatest infinity.

Not being conditioned by time, God is the teacher of even the ancients.

Practice is the effort to secure steadiness.

Disease, inertia, doubt, lack of enthusiasm, laziness, sensuality, mind-wandering, missing the point, instability- these distractions of the mind are the obstacles. Pain, despair, nervousness, and disordered inspiration and expiration are co-existent with these obstacles. For the prevention of the obstacles, one truth should be practiced constantly. 

Austerity, the study of sacred texts, and the dedication of action to God constitute the discipline of Mystic Union. This discipline is practised for the purpose of acquiring fixity of mind on the Lord, free from all impurities and agitations, or on One's Own Reality, and for attenuating the afflictions. The five afflictions are ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion, and the desire to cling to life. Ignorance is the breeding place for all the others whether they are dormant or attenuated, partially overcome or fully operative.

Ignorance is taking the non-eternal for the eternal, the impure for the pure, evil for good and non-self as self. Egoism is the identification of the power that knows with the instruments of knowing. Attachment is that magnetic pattern which clusters in pleasure and pulls one towards such experience. Aversion is the magnetic pattern which clusters in misery and pushes one from such experience.

When invited by invisible beings one should be neither flattered nor satisfied, for there is yet a possibility of ignorance rising up. By self-control over single moments and their succession there is wisdom born of discrimination. From that there is recognition of two similars when that difference cannot be distinguished by class, characteristic or position. Intuition, which is the entire discriminative knowledge, relates to all objects at all times, and is without succession. Liberation is attained when there is equal purity between vitality and the indweller. "

You may read brief explanation as well as all the Sutras in another translation done by Charles Johnston via Sacred Text website as well: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Charles Johnston, [1912].


Further: 
[+]  Download the Patanjali Yoga Sutras (English Translated, PDF)
[+] Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Raja Yoga - Ashtanga Yoga via Swami J
[+] Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Interpretive Translation by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (PDF)
[+] Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda (PDF)

[+] Yoga in the writing of Hazrat Inayat Khan
[+] The Four Paths which lead to the Goal
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