Sutra 3.6: tasya bhumisu viniyogah
This vision (or the eye of intuition, or the eye of wisdom, or the inner light) can be directed to many fields of observation. Translation and interpretation by Swami Venkatesananda
It is to be used to discover higher and higher planes of being. Translation by Kofi Busia
Its progression is gradual. Translation by Georg Feuerstein
Relativity helps us make sense of the world. To us, the earth is below and the sky is above. Gravity lets us know a down and an up. Out of this we come to think of the sky as “higher” and the earth as “lower”. For a complex host of reasons, we have some how ended up with the thought that higher = consciousness = better/more desirable and lower = physical = baser/less desirable. Busia’s sutra 3.6 translation above uses such language – the vision/wisdom from samyama let’s us experience and connect with “higher and higher planes of being” –those states of awareness that are more disperse, ethereal, without concrete form/matter, and exist as energy, movement.
I have a quibble with “higher” and “lower” that I’ve wanted to air for a while now. I’ve demonstrated my interest in the work of physicists to explain existence and the universe. I do not study physics, nor have I even “mastered” what I learn through interviews with physicists like Brian Greene and Neil deGrasse Tyson who help to make all that physics accessible to people like me. But I’ve heard enough talks and seen enough images of earth and space to feel comfortable saying that there is no absolute up and down –only a center point and degrees of expansion away from that center. (If I’ve got that grossly wrong, someone, please correct me!)
This means that “higher” and “lower” come from our perspective walking around on earth, rather than from a more inclusive perspective on the universe. We need this to engage with life (the life that maintains a connection to earth, I don’t know if there is any other). Sometimes our eureka moments, our insights, are useful in life, on earth. Sometimes, however, they help us move beyond a limited view to a more complete one.
When that happens, the practices of yoga bring us not to higher states of being, but states more aware of a connection to the center of our existence as being the center of the universe’s existence as well.
This distinction matters to me because of a common association of better with higher and lesser with lower, which invites judgment of ourselves and our fellow beings. This association worries me because it leads to a concept of existence and consciousness that is heirarchical – with the implied value and power that hierarchy establishes when used as a structure to organize people. I believe consciousness does not have hierarchy and is not burdened with the weight of value and the judgment that we often pile onto value.
If we replace “higher” with “more expansive” to describe our yoga experience, we might be tempted to fall into the trap of deeming that “better.” Expansion isn’t better either — it’s simply more connected with the truth of the universe, whatever that is.
Samyama can help us experience and grasp the expanse. Or, at least, that’s what the ancient yogis –and my own teachers– tell me.
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.