From nothing, as far as we know, came everything.
Sutra 4.13: These differences are of the quality of the beings, not of the being itself. And, they may be either subtle or obvious. Translation by Swami Venkatesananda
Let’s operate under the assumption that all there is came “out of nowhere” when the universe exploded into “being” from nothing. This means that all we know in the observable universe is all there is. The elements that erupted into being are the same elements that we know today, that we identify inside of living creatures, organic material, and inorganic material, and that we expect to continue on into the future until the universe’s demise.
These elements may be as close to eternal as we can get. From the start to the finish of our universe, these elements will continue to persist, simply shifting shapes through their myriad connections with one another.
But, you might be asking, what keeps them going? What keeps us going? Is it the element that is eternal in our universe or an initial spark that startles the elements into their current form? What is the impetus for movement that eventually leads to stars and planets and our world as we know it —including “life” and humanity?
Maybe the spark is a potential that is inherent in each element, always accessible under the right conditions. This could mean that a core element and the spark of change (from one form into another, from non-life into life) are one and the same.
I like to consider us at this elemental scale because therein, it seems to me, lies a key to the big picture —or at least a bigger picture than I know in my humdrum daily living. Having a big picture in mind helps me keep perspective. Looking in from outside, I’d say that the spark is the aspect of each element, object, or creature that is “eternal” and does not disappear but only ever changes form –and not necessarily form only in a physical sense (maybe there can be change in the “form” of the spark?). Perhaps this is the same as the drive to continue (to keep living if you’re alive). A drive that, like the spark perhaps, cannot be dissected out of the elements.
It’s the drive that we need to first accept as unchanging in us, so that we can embrace its pull or push to do, to persist, to live and enjoy life fully. Beyond the simple compunction to survive, this drive shows up in us as a will to thrive and flourish in our existence. I do not think it is something we can change, so by all means, we should get to know it.
We’ve also evolved to a point that let’s us question why, from where, and how did we come into being? I think it’s important to explore these questions within the big picture perspective. Asking them of each of us individually, however, might serve only to throw into question our drive to be ourselves. Rather than dwell in our individual insignificance (a speck in the big picture), we may be better off, now that we are alive, embracing instead our individual importance. Each of us is part of the big picture, no matter how small a part. Each of us is equally worthy. Each of us has a right to be here. Each of us has a right to be here with each other. Each of us has a right to joy beyond mere survival.
Doing this, our view will not grow smaller, but more expansive. What you can study in yourself, in your unique configuration of elements, is how you operate, how you’re the same as everyone and everything around you and how you’re just a little bit different. And in getting to know yourself in this way, through svadhyaya, you contribute to solving the puzzles of the big picture.
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.