(From the ENLIGHTENMENT book by MSI)
The Yoga Sutras of Maharisi Patanjali are the most concise formulation in history of the mechanics of the growth of consciousness from the Waking State to the highest degree of human consciousness, Unified Consciousness. They present a systematic and complete understanding of the psychological, emotional and physical transformations that occur as an individual develops full enlightenment. This process of development is called Ascension, or rising beyond the boundaries of ignorance.
Maharisi Patanjali was also known as Govinda Yogindra, the “The Light-Filled King of the Yogis.” He was commonly considered to be the Teacher of the first Shankaracharya, who revitalized the knowledge of Ascension some five centuries before the birth of Christ. Maharisi Patanjali was a fully consciousness human being. Maharisi, literally means “great sage.” A rishi, a sage, is an individual who has Ascended to the first stage of enlightenment, Perpetual Consciousness, which is characterized by recognition that the inner Self is Infinite, not limited by space, time or causation, one with the omnipresent One, the Creator of All that Is.
A Maharisi is an individual who has Ascended to Unified Consciousness, in which the inner experience of Infinite Awareness is also experienced outside, as the essential Reality of everyone and everything. Patanjali was established in this ultimate level of human consciousness. His text of Yoga was designed to help anyone rise to this state of human perfection.
Sutras are very short and concise statements. Sutra literally means “thread.” The Yoga Sutras are the threads that together constitute the tapestry of Yoga. Yoga comes from the root, yog, which means to join together. So the Yoga Sutras are the threads that join together. Yoga is the science of joining together the individual lower self with the universal higher Self, the indivisible spark of God that resides within everyone. Yoga is not a belief system or a religion nor even a philosophy — it is an extremely practical methodology for systemically expanding the conscious mind. Said another way, Yoga is the Science for overcoming the self-destructive and limiting beliefs and internal programs that keep individual life bound to the experiences of the Waking State of Consciousness — the state in which life is alternately happy and sad, loving and hating, healthy and sick — in short, dual. Yoga provides a systematic ladder for climbing beyond the often painful experiences of the Waking State of duality into the state of non-changing Unified Consciousness, a.k.a. full enlightenment.
This is not a mystical nor even a difficult or complicated process. Those who have thought that Yoga was difficult and/or complicated were doubtlessly basing their thinking on their personal experience, but that level of experiencing is not the whole story of human life, as this text will make clear. Perfection is within every human. Given this fact, it is surprising that so very many have failed to realize this.
Part of the problem has been very faulty translations of the texts that can serve in the development of consciousness. The Yoga Sutras are a prime example. Properly understood, they provide a straight and broad path for realization of the highest degree of human consciousness. Improperly understood, they are at best useless and at worst quite damaging.
Indian society is today caught deep in a quagmire of mistaken belief about the mechanics of realizing enlightenment. The custodians of the system of Yoga have so poorly managed its essential teachings that practically no one in the world anymore understands that Divine Union is perfectly easy to attain. The typical interpretation of the path to enlightenment is through renunciation, or giving up of the world. Expansion to Infinity by giving up! Nothing could be more ludicrous, given a true perception and understanding of higher consciousness.
Without full enlightenment, the attempt to understand, translate or teach the Yoga Sutras is doomed to inevitable and inglorious failure. The reason for this is only partly found in the vast dissimilarity between Sanskrit and our Western languages — even the commentators on the sutras who wrote in Sanskrit did a woefully poor job of understanding Patanjali’s meaning. The root cause of the perennial failure of the translators and commentators has to be traced to the dissimilarity of the translators’ and commentators’ level of consciousness with that of Patanjali. Even those commentators who were experiencing a low level of enlightenment did not much succeed in unraveling the knots of Patanjali’s meaning. The greatest of the authors and commentators of antiquity was Vyasa. But the commentary attributed to him is deficient in several significant respects. It must be that Vyasa did not actually write it and someone borrowed his name for it, or else one of his later followers tried to embellish it and instead ruined it.
The prime problem area of all the commentaries is in the interpretation of key verses that make the practice of Yoga seem complicated or difficult or suitable only for those that are renunciates — those that have dedicated their entire lives to being monks or nuns. With this as the standard interpretation of this system of mental development, small wonder that Yoga has been considered valueless by many in the West! Who wants to give up all enjoyment of life to realize enlightenment? Give up enjoyment to realize Infinite bliss? It even sounds absurd! Fortunately, it is absurd. It is not necessary; it is actually easier to continue with a regular, balanced life in the world and add the effortless and natural techniques to Ascend from the Waking State and accomplish Union. The mind is quickly absorbed by the experience of the Infinite when it has the use of valid techniques for the growth of consciousness; it is never a laborious, difficult or slow process.
As the growth of consciousness proceeds, every area of life develops — heart, mind, body, environment. Yoga, properly understood, is not a system of giving up life. It is a system of adding to life.
When the world hears and understands this Teaching, all the age-old problems which have seemed so intractable for centuries will melt away with graceful and perfect solutions. There is no problem, mental, emotional, physical, societal, or environmental that can withstand the wholly beneficial power of Infinite Mind. When the world hears and understands this Teaching, world peace will be assured for all ages to come. When the world hears and understands this Teaching, global health and happiness and progress will be achieved for all future time. May this day come soon!
First Quarter: Ascendant Consciousness
YOGA is the Science of Union. The union of what with what? The union of the Waking State of Consciousness with its most expanded state. This fully developed state is called enlightenment. There are four stages of this development of higher consciousness; these are discussed in the four quarters of the Yoga Sutras.
The first stage is called Ascendant Consciousness. Ascendant Consciousness is the experience of the conscious mind settling down into its own essential nature. The self of the Waking State, with its myriad of contradictory and self-defeating thoughts and beliefs, is only a shadow of the Self that lies within. The Self within is quite literally indescribable (Christianity has done as well as possible by calling it, “The peace which passeth understanding” (2) for it lies forever beyond the power of any words to describe, beyond the ability of the mind even to contemplate. It can, however, be experienced — this is the purpose of the Yoga Sutras, of Yoga in general, and specifically of the First Quarter of the text. The experience of this transcendental Union is the topic of the first fifty-one sutras.
(2) “The peace of God, which passeth understanding…” Philippians 4:7. Cf., John 14:27.
The First Quarter of the Yoga Sutras describes Ascendant Consciousness. Ascendant Consciousness is called satori in Japan, Samadhi in India, often “the Fourth” in the ancient literature, the One or the Absolute or the Transcendent or the Infinite or Unbounded Awareness or Pure Consciousness in English. This experience is a fourth major state of consciousness, distinct subjectively and physiologically from Waking, Sleeping and Dreaming. In this text, we typically call it Ascendant Consciousness, for it lies beyond the normal experience of the Waking State. The name is irrelevant, the experience is everything.
To qualify as a distinct state of consciousness (unlike an altered state of consciousness, such as one produced by hypnosis or biofeedback), the physiological correlates must be significantly distinct and so must the subjective experience. The Ascendant State of Consciousness is characterized by expanded awareness and deeper rest than that of sleep — the mind requires less energy to experience consciousness without thought; this causes the body to settle down to deep relaxation. In that silence and rest, stress dissolves.
The experience of the Ascendant is not enlightenment, but it is required to grow into enlightenment. The Second Quarter of the Yoga Sutras defines the first stage of enlightenment, Perpetual Consciousness; the Third Quarter deals with the second stage, Exalted Consciousness; and the Fourth Quarter describes the ultimate fulfillment of human evolution, Unified Consciousness.
The Yoga Sutras have been misinterpreted as the means to walk down the path to enlightenment. They are not. They are a description of the nature of enlightenment. Patanjali included no actual techniques of Ascension or Yoga in this text. His descriptions of the mechanics of enlightenment are so brilliant and clear, however, that many of the sutras have been widely misunderstood as actually being the techniques themselves. One purpose of this translation and commentary is to correct such unfortunate misunderstandings. Attempting to move ahead in consciousness by taking the Yoga Sutras as techniques for Ascension is impossible — that would be rather like attempting to build a working electrical system and wire a house by reading a text on the nature of electricity.
Pada I. Sutra 1
Atha Yoga anushasanam.
Now, the Teaching of Yoga.
The typical experience of the adult human mind is that awareness is rarely in the present moment. Scientists have estimated that the average adult thinks some 50,000 thoughts every day; these are almost without exception concerned with the past or the future or the distant. There is little or no experience of life as it is Now and Here. When we do rarely for an instant slip beyond the continuous barrier of our unending thought streams, we find that life suddenly becomes vastly different from our typical Waking State experience. Instead of being caught by regret for the past or worry for the future, we are free to experience life as it is right now, free from self-defeating beliefs and judgments, free from the limitations imposed by past experience, established in peace and joy.
Therefore the Science of Yoga begins and ends in the present moment. Everything to be understood about the transformation of life from suffering to permanent happiness, from failure to success, from ignorance to enlightenment is to be found in the present instant of time. Life in freedom is the result of learning to turn from the imperious demands of our past experience. Nothing can be done for the past, it is over; nothing can be done for the future, for it never comes; all that can be done is to make the present Ideal. Then the future will take care of itself. Perfection of the present instant is at once the goal and the means of the Science of Union.
In this, the very first sutra, Patanjali describes the entire process of the growth of consciousness from bondage and suffering to enlightenment. With the grace of a consummate artist, he opens his sutras in a wholly traditional manner that nevertheless contains in seed form the entire story of the 195 sutras that follow. All the rest are a commentary on the first three words: Now, Teaching, Yoga. But Patanjali is generous. In case anyone fails to catch this (and we have to assume, since no other commentator has mentioned the magnificence of the teaching in this first sutra, that very few if any have caught this), he will elaborate in detail.
The first word, Atha, is built up of A + th + a. “A” is the representation of the Universal sound of creation, the cosmic hum, the Alpha and the Omega of the West. It contains in the fullness of its silent vibration the totality of all that is at this moment of time. “Th” is derived from Dha, which means “bestow” or “give” or “compassion.” The Universal wholeness of “A” with compassion gives the totality of the Universe. And to what is it given? Back to “A” again! The Wholeness gives itself to Wholeness, over and over again, eternally. The Eternal Now is recreated from within its own Self. Atha therefore describes the essence of the Ascendant: it is universally expansive, it is ever new, it is eternally the same. “A” is fullness; it moves from fullness to fullness by passing through fullness; it recreates itself perfectly in itself. The Universal Force for Good of the cosmos manifests itself in the Universal Force for Good in the individual. The Universe is contained within and furthermore is given to every spark of individuality. And all of this is contained, continually new and ever-new, in the present instant of time, in the Now. All of this and much, much more is hidden within the vibratory matrix of Patanjali’s first word, Atha.
“The Teaching of” translates anusashanam. Anu means “again” — this is the repeated sequence of experiencing the Now over and over again until it becomes permanent. A wise Teacher repeats the lessons with great patience and compassion until the student fully understands. Yoga or Ascending is a process of gradually refining the perceiving mind and senses until consciousness fully remembers its Infinite status. Anusasanam can also be translated as “rules, royal decree or governor” — the role of the Eternal Now is to be forever in charge of the life, of the process of the growth of consciousness, of Yoga, of the creation of Ascendant Consciousness.
By deriving the word a different way (from sham instead of from shas), this first sutra could be translated, “The attitude of repeated Praise creates Union with the Now.” Praise is one of the fundamental tools of Ascension. Another valid translation is, “Sitting in stillness again and again creates Union with the Now.” Stillness, sham, can also be translated, “quietness, tranquillity, cessation.” When the mind stills its noisy activity, consciousness experiences the Now, which is eternal peace. All activity ceases in that silence. By repeating this experience over and over, the mind becomes habituated to the Silence and stays there permanently, even in the midst of the most dynamic activity.
Which is the correct translation? They all are. The glory of this discourse is that so many equally valid meanings can be found in a single series of vibrations. The Yoga Sutras are a perfect expression of a fully enlightened mind. Anyone who desires to free life from suffering need only follow through on this wonderful, magical Teaching. All secrets of space and time are open to those who sincerely ask; there are no limits to the human other than those we artificially impose.
Life is meant for freedom, joy and continual progress. How is this to be accomplished? By freeing our experiencing machinery from bondage to past experience. Union with the universal Higher Self is easy to accomplish; it is only necessary to turn the mind away from the noise of the internal programming and experience the perpetual peace of the present instant, already present within.
Force or effort is often included in the typical translation of this sutra — it is commonly said that Union is the result of repressing or restraining the movements of the mind. This thinking betrays an unfamiliarity with the natural condition of the mind. The natural condition of the mind is silence. If you drop a handful of pebbles into a still pool, the surface erupts in chaos. If you continually barrage consciousness with the movements of thought, it will be impossible to see what consciousness really is. But let the movements still — even for an instant! — and consciousness recognizes its Union with its higher Self, the omnipresent spark of Eternity that exists inside everyone, everywhere, always.
It must be emphasized that this sutra does not tell how to still the movements of consciousness. Nor does it suggest that strenuous effort is required. It is precisely the misinterpretation of sutras such as this one that has led to the demise of the effectiveness of the Science of Yoga. If we wish the mind to still, introduction of strain or effort will not serve us. On the contrary, by trying to force the mind to calmness, we will raise the physiological rate and tire the mind. Have you ever studied hard for a test? It is tiring work. Stimulants such as caffeine will succeed for only so long — eventually the mind will be exhausted and impose stillness — but it will be the stillness of sleep, not the stillness of expanded consciousness.
What is required to still the mind is an object of attention that charms the mind, thereby allowing it to settle down to more and more universal and silent levels of functioning. This object could take any number of possible forms, but the one universal requirement of the practice of Ascension must be that it is increasingly effortless. If it is desirable to still the mind, it is necessary to begin from where the mind is, active in the midst of motion.
Systematically quieting down the mind is the purpose of the Science of Yoga. It is not only natural, it is extremely easy. There are only three requirements. There must be 1) a functioning nervous system, capable of thought. There must also be 2) a suitable vehicle for the mind to follow in this process of stilling, a vehicle which naturally and effortlessly pulls the mind inward to ever deeper levels of silence, until even the faintest level of activity is Ascended and the conscious mind experiences its true form, the higher Self. And there also needs to be 3) competent guidance to ensure the necessary feedback that verifies the correctness of the practice. Thus it is extremely difficult for tapes or books to teach techniques validly, for the third requirement is missing. Even if the prospective student is proceeding completely correctly, how would he or she would ever know without verification from a qualified instructor?
What happens if the movements of thought do still?