yoga sutras – seventh exploration: explosion of existential authenticity


Beach Cave Where I Spent Time in Contemplation

Beach Cave Where I Spend Time in Contemplation

When the objects of the mind no longer hold attraction one explodes from the center into existential authenticity. This authenticity is new and fresh moment to moment. It is spontaneous seeing and doing without separation or lag.

One is drawn to the emptiness in the break between thoughts, between breaths. As one remains there longer and longer the emptiness increases. It becomes the only thing that one desires and it holds one’s attention, like a beloved, even in the midst of all other movements.

When allowed, the body attunes itself to the existential quality of inertia, which is one of the three-fold fundamental qualities of existence. That is the posture in which one remains with great patience. This stability free of physical movement brings one to the realization of the space devoid of all mind movement that occurs in between thoughts. One’s energetic interest is perked by this emptiness and so one is drawn to it increasingly.

The pause at the end of the outgoing breath begins to hold one’s alert presence as this pause extends itself effortlessly and spontaneously. In that effortless emptiness of mind and body one loses all interest in measuring the length of time or space and timelessness accompanies the emptiness. This space is vast and full of significance and fulfils one’s spirit.

The following excerpt from The Authentic Yoga points out the dynamic of this process which leads to stabilization of consciousness free of the conditioned mind-flow that keeps humanity imprisoned in suffering. There are several technical terms in these passages and I suggest that the interested reader just continue with the flow of the text as best possible as the consciousness process being described will become clear as one proceeds through the whole excerpt.

It is pertinent here for me to sketch briefly the core of this dynamic so that it may be more easily recognized. This text points to the three-fold energies of nature. These are, according to this understanding 1) inertia (sthiti) 2) the active principle (kriya) and 3) the principle of illumination (prakasa), or that principle that allows anything to be seen or manifest. These three are actually integral aspects that together make op the manifest world we experience.

The dynamic of this consciousness process is one in which the human being aligns himself with each of these principles in succession, although the sequence of the process stages are fluid. The first principle, inertia, is aligned with on the level of our physicality, the body. The second principle, the active energy, is aligned with on the level of the breath. The third principle, illumination, is aligned with on the level of perception and psychology. Now the text:

“On the body posture:

“One sees the necessity of total relaxation of all effort (Sutra 47), and of letting the body find its own natural angle of repose. One sees that all effort is egocentric and, therefore, capable of infinite mischief. As one discards effort and relaxes, one discovers a posture in which one can stay with steady comfort without being bothered by time or impatience.

In this Yogic posture (asana) one finds oneself in a state of mind in harmony with the state of repose which is endless (Sutra 47). It is as though a cosmic ‘angle of repose’ in which inertia (sthiti), an integral constituent of the three-fold energies of nature, becomes aware of itself. Inertia, as it were, gets illumined by ‘pure seeing’. Cosmic inertia and one’s bodily inertia coexist on the same wave-length. The body is in harmony with the world around at the inertial level, a harmony charged with the energy of ‘pure seeing’.

One who finds himself in such a Yogic posture discovers that variations in temperature, within and without, heat and cold, and other pairs of opposites, leave the body unaffected (Sutra 48). …

While one is well established in asana, one naturally observes that, just as one’s body in a steady state discloses the essence of the inertial principle (sthiti) of the three-fold energies of nature, the rhythm of breathing, that naturally goes on in the body at all times, discloses the essence of the active principle (kriya) of those three-fold energies. This is action in the existential sense, as opposed to activities triggered by ideational movements of the mind. Actually, these latter are not properly speaking actions but reactions to the existential situation. Action, in the existential, or Yogic sense, is action that follows pure perception of ‘what is’. Any time-lag between such perception and action is the result of avidya and avidya-born activities.

Pranayama is the discovery of a break (vicheda) in the continuity of incoming and outgoing breath. Just as vrtti-nirodha is a break in the continuity of ideation, so pranayama is a break in the continuity of breathing. Again, just as energetic interest in the void devoid of vrttis is abhyasa (I-13), so energetic interest in a break in the continuity of the breathing movement is pranayama (II-49).

This energetic interest discloses four varieties of pranayama:

(i) the break at the end of the outgoing breath;

(ii) the break at the end of the incoming breath;

(III) the time-duration and length of space covered by the outgoing breath which discloses the prolongation and the subtleness of the void during the breaks, and

(iv) the void during the break in which one loses all interest in measurements and the objects served by such measurements (Sutras 50 and 51).

Sutra 52 and 53 speak of what happens as a result of pranayama. Two things happen” (i) the realization of the existential nature of kriya, or the action-principle of the three-fold energies of nature, is seen to remove the coverings of the mind which came on it through temporal conditionings; and as a result, (ii) the emergence of the quality of mind necessary for dharana, which is explained in Sutra 1 of Part III.

It is pertinent to note here that the eight-fold Yoga brings about a pure perception of the existential nature of sthiti, kriya and prakasa which are the three-fold energies underlying the whole observable world of nature (Sutra 18). The interplay of these three-fold energies of nature results in the manifestation of the objective world. To perceive and realize this is to be aware of ‘what is’ or of the existential situation.

Sutra 1 of this Part III describes the sixth aspect of astangayoga which is called dharana. Pranayama and pratyahara together create conditions necessary for this extraordinary state, called dharana. It is a state in which sthiti and kriya, the two constituents of the three-fold energies of the objective world, including one’s psychosomatic organism, are so slowed down that almost all the temporal coverings over the mind are removed and the third constituent, namely, prakasa, now dominates the whole scene.

In the radiance of this prakasa, the mind gets emptied of all objects and is held within the confines of inner space. Man sees objects only when his senses are operative. But when they cease to be operative and their tendency to move towards their respective objects gets arrested as a result of pratyahara, the objective world, as it were, gets emptied of all sensuous objects. And even if objects are seen, they cease to attract the mind, which is now wholly interested in discovering the reality underlying the objective world.

There is now emptiness within and emptiness without. This mind is held in this vast space (desa), as though it had been created in order to have this single experience of emptiness, an emptiness devoid not only of vrttis but also of objects (drsya) with which they tend to get identified – an emptiness which is full of immense significance, as thought it was the very womb of reality.

In-tuneness with this single act, experiencing of the pure emptiness of space is called dhyana (Sutra 2). When all other experiences merge in one experience of the total emptiness of space, time comes to a halt. Temporal movement is signified by a succession of experiences, coming one after the other. When this succession gets dissolved in one, single experience of empty space, within and without, time must necessarily come to a stop. This extraordinary state of pure experiencing without particular experiences is called dhyana or meditation.

And when one is established in dhyana, a pure experiencing without the experiencer, that is to say when one’s identity loses all magnitude, or any identifiable mark or attribute, the objective world as it were, explodes into a radiant objectivity in its existential authenticity. This is Samadhi (Sutra 3).

One who goes through this wondrous process of the eight-fold way of Yogic living becomes an authentic human being who sees the world as it is in its existential purity. Such a one gets established in his existential identity in which pure seeing and real action go together. Such perceptual action is creation. It is capable of radically transforming the dark forces of nature into self-illumined energies of creation in total freedom.”


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