Yoga Mail

By Jamie Spatafore

Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of consciousness

For this edition, we are going back to the beginning, or we can call it back to the basics. We have discussed this verse before, but sometimes you need to look back to see how far you have travelled. A quick online search on “what is yoga” will give you hundreds of thousands of thoughts, articles and commentaries. We do not need the Internet for this answer. Sri Patanjali has given it right here. This is the true definition of yoga. The yoga sutras are similar to a research article where the problem is first given. Most of us can reflect on this sutra and satisfactorily walk away and say, yes Patanjali is correct, this is the definition of yoga.

But, this is the easy part. After this, differentiation comes in and this is where the trouble starts, as well as the hundreds of thousands of thoughts, articles and commentaries. There are some beings out there, although probably only a handful, that can read this second sutra and reflect on it and say “Yes it is. This is the answer to life. I understand it now. I am satisfied.” This is probably not us.

We need something more. Intuitively we can comprehend, but reading this sutra gets us no closer to the truth than we were before.

If we take this sutra as the absolute truth and then hold on to it tightly, then we have an immediate shift in our awareness. We immediately realise that all the foundations, associations and teachers out there, who are arguing that “yoga is original and pure” are not actually arguing about yoga. They are arguing about yoga practices, because if the definition of yoga/union is what Patanjali says then there can be no argument. There can only be an argument on how to get there.

Patanjali in his compassion has not let us down. He knows our problem. We can say, “Ok sir, that definition is good, but what do I do now?” This is where the other one hundred and fifty verses come in and this is where all the arguments and disagreements on “purity of practice” start. For now, we let those discussions rest because we are not interested in the journey. We want to know the destination. We are like the kids in the back seat asking the parents “are we there yet?”

So again, let’s go back and take an overview. First Patanjali gives us the definition of yoga. Then he gives us the benefits of obtaining that state. Then he gives us the reasons why it is so difficult to obtain that state and what is stopping us. Then he gives us some possible practices to alleviate or clear those blockages. Then he gives us some possible signs that the practices have progressed. Finally, we end up right back where we started with the last pada, which is titled Kaivalya. Kaivalya means aloneness.

This is the set-up of the entire collection of sutras. They are like a pyramid. The first two sutras are the tip of the pyramid and as Patanjali keeps expanding, it gets broader and wider.

You see the truth is the truth no matter what. There can be no differentiation or shades of truth. It is exactly what it is. That is why only one sutra is needed. If we can just fully understand this concept and see that all of our disagreements are only based on the practices, or journey, and not the truth, or destination, then we can go ahead with what we are doing with peace in our heads and hearts. Peace.