Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, a Guide for Yoga Teachers and Students
The preparation of Joseph Le Page's new book, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: a Guide for Yoga Teachers and Students, achieved a milestone recently as he completed his 100th sutra. Joseph looks forward to publishing the new book by the end of 2017. His approach is to study all the original Sanskrit commentaries, reflect on the essential teachings of each sutra, write a descriptive commentary, and then rest in meditation to receive inspiration for his verse commentaries. He has been sharing these verse commentaries in classes for the past five years and students are excited to hear that the final project will be available soon.
Joseph is writing the book in collaboration with Carlos Eduardo Barbosa, Brazil's leading Sanskrit scholar. Carlos has an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire Yoga tradition from the Vedas to the Upanishads and into the vast variety of Tantric texts. He is an exponent of Spoken Sanskrit and regularly attends conferences in India where Sanskrit is the medium of communication.
An excerpt from the forthcoming book is included below:
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras 1.12 Effort and Non-attachment
- effort, practice, application, will; vairagya - dispassion, non-attachment, uncoloredness, ābhyāṁ - of these two; tat - of those; nirodhaḥ - cessation, bringing into stillness, resolution
The cessation of those (vṛttis is accomplished through the balance of) practice and non-attachment
This sutra states that stilling the vṛttis requires a balance of practice and non-attachment. Practice is consistent effort over a long period of time to release our limiting conditioning in the form of habits and core beliefs. This effort is also directed toward cultivating new, more positive ways of seeing and being. Sincere, continual practice results in deeper levels of meditation, Samadhi, which from the perspective of the Yoga Sutras, is the foundation of spiritual awakening. This idea is reinforced in sutras 1.21 and 1.22 where we see an emphasis on sustained, intense effort in order to achieve success in practice.
This focus on practice can give the impression that progress along the spiritual path is linear like becoming proficient in any sport, art, or science. In fact, some people engage in Yoga in this way, perfecting more advanced poses as if this were an end in itself rather than a means to spiritual awakening. Practice, however, is only one leg of the spiritual journey because the transformation that takes place through Yoga is completely distinct from any other kind of learning. In Yoga, there is no distance to be covered and nothing to achieve because the journey is ultimately from "me" to "me." In essence, Yoga just removes the layers of limiting conditioning that keeps us from recognizing our true being. The removal of this conditioning does require effort, but non-attachment is equally important. Practice tends to direct us toward the future and what we will be, while non-attachment reminds us that all we need is to let go of what we are not, in order to recognize our true Self which is already present.
As we align more deeply with our true being, there is a growing recognition that we are inherently whole and complete and can therefore gradually release all the layers of conditioning that give the personality's likes, dislikes, wants, and needs a sense of urgency. Releasing our attachment to people, places, things and even ideas and beliefs, that prop up the personality is a recognition that what we seek will not be found in our surroundings, but only within our true being. Non-attachment also allows us to focus our time and energy on clarifying our life's true purpose and meaning along the spiritual journey
Initially, releasing attachment requires effort and energy because we are so identified with the personality. As we develop greater autonomy, however, we are able to gradually release all forms of codependency, thereby allowing us to choose consciously that which we wish to bring into our lives rather that allowing our conditioning to choose for us. As we deepen our alignment with puruṣa, our inner being, we not only recognize that we are inherently whole and complete but also experience our unity with all of creation and thereby see that we already possess everything!
This growing alignment with our inner being eventually leads to self-mastery which allows us to release even our attachment to non-attachment! For, it is not really the things we need to release, but the belief that they are going to provide us with happiness and meaning. Once we have developed self-mastery, we need not reject anything because we have the ability to discern between those relationships and material possessions that support our journey (the akliṣṭa vṛttis) and those that lead to further bondage (the kliṣṭa vṛttis). Ultimately, Yoga is not about having or not having relationships or things, it is an experience of freedom that comes from the recognition that we are whole and complete within our own being.
The practice of non-attachment ultimately leads to surrender to life itself, through an experiential understanding that everything is a gift from Ishvara, the source energy, who guides us unfailingly to our true purpose and destiny. Through surrender to our source, we experience joy and fulfillment far beyond what we could ever have imagined at the level of the personality. This surrender, rather than separating us from life, allows us to participate more fully, free from the limiting beliefs with its demands, judgements and needs for success and achievement. Freed from stress and anxiety, we invest our full energy and vitality on those projects that have true meaning both for ourselves and for all beings.
: Practice and non-attachment are essential legs of the spiritual journey. How well do you balance them? Which is most challenging for you?
Practice and non-attachment are the two legs that support our spiritual journey; they must be balanced and in harmony in order to unite with our true inner being.
Practice is making the spiritual journey our first priority; it is a sacred meeting with our inner being which we keep no matter what is happening in our body, mind, or surroundings.
With dedication and sincerity, this sacred meeting becomes a sanctuary where we develop the clarity to discern between the limited personality and our limitless true being.
Practice is motivated by seeing that we are both the source and solution to our own suffering and that lasting peace will only be found through transformation and awakening.
As our practice deepens, it encompasses all of our activities, allowing us to witness limiting thoughts and feelings without identifying with them so completely, gradually releasing us from the spell of the vṛttis.
We test our ability to witness each time we meet a challenge and, rather than reacting habitually and unconsciously, welcome it as an opportunity to reveal the limiting beliefs that sustain negativity.
But practice is only one leg of the spiritual journey, because effort alone will never allow us to see that which is already present and waiting to be revealed - our limitless true being.
In fact, striving for success as an end in itself is a hallmark of the conditioned personality, and if effort were sufficient for spiritual awakening, all of the type "A's" and Ph.D.'s would already be enlightened beings.
For, striving to achieve without a clear vision our life's deeper meaning tends to lead to suffering, so practice must be balanced with non-attachment - releasing all that binds us to the conditioned personality.
In order to release all the layers of conditioning, we cultivate non-attachment to the people, places, and things that sustain the misperception that the personality is our true being.
Simultaneously, we deepen our alignment with our inner being, allowing us to see that we are inherently whole and complete and that the material world is not an end, but a means for learning and awakening.
Through letting go and at the same time aligning with our inner being, we no longer look to the world to feel complete, thereby releasing the need to get and keep all that provides relief from feelings of insufficiency.
As our sense of wholeness deepens, our practice requires less effort, because rather than something we need to find peace, it becomes a loving reunion with our own being that occurs naturally.
Practice and non-attachment are inseparable companions along our spiritual journey - effort provides direction and energy while dispassion reminds us that all we need is already present within our own being.
This balance of effort and release is essential even for guiding our day-to-day activities, allowing us to make plans and decisions consciously, while reminding us that the results are only vehicles for awakening.
Through the balance of effort and non-attachment, we come to see that everything is ultimately a gift from Ishvara, the source energy who has provided this mind, body, and senses as vehicles for awakening.
Through this recognition of Ishvara as the source and seed of all things, both effort and non-attachment are released, allowing us to rest in the wholeness of our true being in unity with all of creations majesty.