Let’s start our yoga sutra musings today with the sutra itself:
Sutra 4.22: Real pure consciousness is changeless and immutable, but due to its constantly changing appearance it identifies with its own workings. Translation by Kofi Busia
And welcome a little help from a wise scholar who wrote the following commentary on sutra 4.22 (emphasis mine; note that “Self-consciousness” refers to the same as “Real pure consciousness” in Busia’s translation above):
Self-consciousness is possible only because of the proximity of the Self. Although Self and consciousness are forever unmixed, there is a ‘sympathetic’ relation between them which Patanjali characterizes as one of conformity. He also uses the term ‘correlation’ (samyoga) to describe the apparent loss of the Self’s autonomy and its equally apparent identification with a particular consciousness. In reality, however, the Self suffers no change or diminution. The apperception of consciousness on the part of the Self is not a series of acts performed by the Self, but is the very essence of the root-consciousness.
Here’s what I take from this. In our search for some sense of being true to our own unique path and purpose, success is viable because in truth we are never separated from the essence of ourselves. The Self is within us, is us. Remove the colorings of our ego-mind and you will reveal your Self.
I found this an interesting idea because my idea of spirit or soul, and therefore also Self, is a mystical other that I will morph into through death, residing forever after out in deep space. This may sound silly (so, then, are many of our beliefs), but it is the image of the unknown I conjured for myself as a child.
Feuerstein’s comment puts into stark clarity the idea that, although the mind may not be of Self or spirit, that our mind is the vehicle of the colored veils that get in the way of Self, you can discover and know your Self at any point because it is ubiquitous and pervasive –not out in deep space, but here, with you, always.
As is a common theme in the yoga sutras, our challenge is to distinguish the voice in our head from the sound of our spirit.
When we confuse the spirit with the mind, and live our life from a place of changeableness, it is far too easy to be swept up into decisions and actions that don’t feel true or good to our spirit.
But, when we can learn to live from spirit, which is essentially what kaivalya is and what this whole pada is about, then we can move through life with ease and without fear of death or any of the other stuff we worry about at the level of the mind.
How do we do that? How do we know what is mind/self and what is spirit/Self?
Yoga and meditation are a good place to start, with guidelines that help you sort through conflicting signals. But really, even with guidance, this process is one of trial and error.
You can’t figure any of this stuff out in theory. You have to go out and live it.
Find what makes your heart sing, even if there’s hard work attached to it. Notice what makes you miserable, even if you’re really good at it.
Spend time with people who love you, who get you, who make you laugh, so you can better know yourself when you are in the company of people who disagree with you, bully you, or scare you.
Enjoy nature in your own way, whether that means soaking up sun on a beach, treading across a mossy forest floor, or wooshing down sun-covered hills.
Whatever makes your heart sing, if it doesn’t cause you or anyone else harm, can be the focus of your life. Because once you’ve seen it clearly, you won’t be able to stop looking for it in everything.
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.