Sutra 3.17: sabdartha pratyayanam itaretaradhyasat sankaras tat pravibhaga samyamat sarva bhuta ruta jnanam
An object, the word for it, and the idea evoked by it all tend to be confused with each other. Total attentiveness paid to the differences between these brings a true understanding of the utterance of all living beings. Translation by Kofi Busia
We need communication to survive. As social creatures, we must understand each other. In order to live and evolve, our vital needs as individuals and as an evolving species are entwined. And yet somehow we’re just not that good at it! We fumble our way through sharing and listening constantly, because we learn most of our communication methods, words, gestures, concepts –and there’s abundant room for personal spin and interpretation on all of our communication tools.
If it’s so unreliable, how do you gain insight into someone else’s thoughts? By combining tools? Listening and looking? By looking and touching? Yes, absolutely– to a point.
All communication is in some way a translation. It is a vital one that we use to survive and thrive as a social species, and so we do understand each other as a matter of routine. And yet, utterly comprehensive insight feels different than hearing words and knowing what they mean. Describing insight is tough. My best attempt is to call it a jolt of clarity that pervades your body and mind.
This feeling of insight may not be anything more than a feeling, but it seems to carry powerful effects in a conversation or relationship. It smoothes over trouble. It adds deep joy and comfort. It bonds people with trust. When we follow through on this kind of insight, our actions stem directly from our knowing, and humanity (and the universe) stand to benefit deeply.
A literal reading of sutra 3.17 (above) may be telling us something about power. If you can eek out its core message, though, there’s a different reading there. This one comes through our practice of self study, and it’s a reading that includes an insight we can use through a trust in knowledge that is more than cognitive. If we get comfortable with this, we may just learn to trust in our ability to truly understand each other.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.