Review the history of biological life and the philosophies of man and it becomes quickly evident that our desire to live is tremendously powerful. It lives first in our DNA (whether than is a biological DNA or a non-physical one) before it ever enters our minds.
Sutra 4.10: However, it is difficult to determine their exact operation, and it is futile to analyse them. These memories and these tendencies are beginningless – for hope or desire-to-live is permanent. Translation by Swami Venkatesananda
What is eternal being? Quite simply, the yogis believe it is that part of us that is always part of the universe, always “living”. As we are quite aware of the reality of one day not being alive, walking around with the competing concept of our own eternal being is no small feat. Achieving this self awareness that includes our ongoing nature would be what the yogis would call liberation or enlightenment.
But I am a bit of a fatalist when it comes to the idea of the eternal soul. If part of us knows eternal being, why do we have such a strong pull to live out our manifested lives? If we are “all one” anyway, what’s the point of trying so darn hard to fulfill our current specks of life?
For one reason, embracing thoughts of “what’s the point” leads, as history has demonstrated, to chaos during those manifested lives. And if the manifested life is all there is, well, then the drive to live needs to be stronger than the desire for eternal being, so that one maintains a clear focus on living simply because one is alive. Once alive, the living have rights. The right to exist for starters. The right to autonomy of body. The right to seek out love, joy, and comfort.
Sutra 4.11: Yet, since these tendencies have a cause-and-effect relationship with ignorance (that is, they are the result of ignorance and also the cause of its perpetuation) they disappear when the cause (ignorance of the spiritual truth) is dispelled, and vice versa: they support and promote each other and are bound to each other. Translation by Swami Venkatesananda
It’s possible that we seek love, joy, and comfort because, as sutra 4.11 (above) states, we are unaware of it in ourselves –unaware of the eternal being in us that is all things at once (including love, joy, and comfort)– but that seems like too easy an answer. Certainly, this self-sufficiency makes sense if one is a disembodied soul, because there would be no division of individual and universal at that point. As we, here, are not disembodied souls, but embodied persons (and animals), we bring the love within us to the surface through our relationships to others and to our environment.
A gentle smile from a friend or a quiet sunrise can stir the joy that is part of us. The memory of these will do so as well. And a spiritual experience that seems self-sufficient is more likely than not a combination of actual and remembered moments that make us aware of the ongoing nature that only exists through our manifested selves. We can embrace our “eternal being” by living fully through the complex laws of nature and of life.
That means that to find the comfort resting within you, own up to your nature as a human being and go seek out external resources for comfort that will let you connect to the comfort within you. Have a glass of wine with a friend, read a satisfying story, or create ambiance for internal practices of contemplation or meditation. Celebrate the eternal possibilities through your human needs, because you have a right be as you are, here, now, and always.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 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.