Sivaratri 2016: The Meaning of Yoga


Hinduism defined is trying to be in the highest state of consciousness you can, right now. Quieting our thoughts down to the point where there aren't any. Separate from body, mind and will to attain liberation. Through meditation we can detach awareness from our own five states of mind and experience the consciousness of other forms of life, which is all God Siva. What happens to you is created by you; break the cycle of reaction, make life much more sublime. Find that part of us which is God Siva, that pure energy powers everything.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

Guru Chronicles

Master Course, Merging with Siva, Part Four, Cognizantability the Conquest of the Mind

Unedited Transcript:

Good evening everyone.

Thought I would talk this evening a little bit about Patanjali and comparing that to some of Gurudeva's teachings. I've been focusing on that as one of my projects for the last couple of years.

For those of you who don't know, Patanjali was a Saivite Natha Siddha circa 200 BCE. So that's 2200 years ago. Codified the ancient yoga philosophy which outlines the path to enlightenment through purification, control and transcendence of the mind. His system is one of the six classical philosophical systems, darshanas of Hinduism and is known as Yoga Darshana. In English it is called Classical Yoga.

So the story I use to show the importance of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is from Guru Chronicles. So this is while Gurudeva's visiting Yogaswami.

"While awaiting the refreshments, Yogaswami asked his guest if he had read Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms. In fact, he got the book down from his shelf, commenting that it was the only book he kept. Gurudeva said yes,he had read it. In fact, it was the only book he had really studied during his early training. He had read and practiced it for years. Yogaswami tossed a few penetrating questions about the pithy yoga classic. Gurudeva answered quickly and clearly. Recounting the experience later, he said that the answers came immediately, not as an intellectual memory but from within."

So I thought that's interesting, huh? Gurudeva was not one for reading books. It was easier to write a book than read somebody else's. Easier to create a language than learn somebody else's. Cause he was more a mystic but he did take to the Patanjali, that's for sure.

So looking at a few verses.

"Now, the exposition of yoga."

So it's very interesting that the word yoga has evolved since 2,200 years ago. Say the word yoga today: "Oh I practiced yoga every morning." What does it mean? Hatha yoga, right? That's the popular idea of what yoga is; it means the yoga postures. Don't know quite how that happened but it did happen.

But back then, 2200 years ago, yoga means the control of the mind and senses. That's the sense in which the word originally was used in Hinduism. Just meant one thing, yoga. It's wasn't hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, this kind of yoga, that kind of yoga. It just was yoga and it meant controlling the mind and senses. So that's the sense in which Patanjali uses it and he says:

"Now the exposition of yoga."

Verse two:

"Yoga is the restraint of mental activities."

That verse, you could write a book on that verse in itself. But just to take part of it, it's using the word "chitta" which gets translated as mental. Chitta means mind and if you think about it, this is a long time ago. Two thousand, two hundred years ago. And, we're talking about controlling the mind, studying the mind. It's really sophisticated statement, 2,200 years ago. We're not talking about going to heaven, we're not talking about this, we're not talking about that. We're talking about controlling the mind or controlling our state of consciousness. As Gurudeva was using the terms consciousness in his talk there, right at the end, higher consciousness and lower consciousness.

So we're talking about controlling our state of consciousness and that's how I like to define Hinduism. Hinduism is trying to be in the highest state of consciousness you can, right now. Not tomorrow, not when you die, not then, it's right now! And not now and not tomorrow but each right now. So that's a simple way of looking at it and that's what Patanjali's book is about. He doesn't state it so clearly as Gurudeva does cause it's a different style. Gurudeva's writing prose.

And something I'll read from him; this is a just an aphorism. So it's supposed to be explained to you by a teacher. Palm leaves were expensive and hard to write on. Very short scripture. Very terse. So it's about the mind as I think it's amazing. And restraining mental activities. Which just means quieting our thoughts down to the point where there aren't any. That's the way Gurudeva likes to describe it in some of his writings.

Says: "When I'm meditating I rarely have a thought and if I do it's like a fish swimming by."

Kind of so visible, you know. There's so few of them. So that's, that's the goal is to, not sitting there struggling with your thoughts but somehow learn the practices so that we end up without any.

Verse three:

"Then awareness abides in itself."

That in itself would be another long one.

"The restraint of these activities is achieved through practice and dispassion."

So the key, as we know, and as is pointed out by many teachers is practice. We need to be practicing something in order to make progress in our ability to restrain the mental activities.

"Practice is the exertion to achieve steadiness in the state of restraint."

That's self explanatory.

"This practice becomes firmly rooted when it is cultivated properly and uninterruptedly for a long time."

In other words we need to be consistent. The kind of practice where if we do it five hours today and then skip four days and then an hour and then nothing for a week, we don't make the progress as if we had done it ten minutes a day every day. Certain activities are that way where you really need to repeat them on a daily basis. Others aren't. But meditation is that way. You're retraining the mind.

Gurudeva would often use the comparison to dance. Because he was a dancer in his youth. He would say: "If you stop dancing for a month you go back to the beginners class. Because you could hurt yourself. You've lost your limber, limberness. Just in one month of not practicing. You've got to start over and build back up to where you were. So, meditation is the same way. You can get up to a certain point and then if you discontinue it for a while you, you really drop down.

So the consistent daily practice is what Gurudeva stresses and to quote Patanjali saying: You've got to know what you are doing. Have to be practicing it properly. So, it's good to have a teacher explain it to you and get you on the right track because meditation is much more subtle than temple worship. You don't have to have someone teach you how to worship in a temple. You can kind of figure it out on your own. But to make sure you're meditating properly you should have a teacher and go through the basics and get on the right track.

Then a comparison to Gurudeva's writings. Hadn't really thought about the date before but popped out at me when I was researching this. Gurudeva wrote his first book in 1950. I don't think he printed it until 1959. He printed it himself on some type of mimeograph machine or something back then.

So it's "Cognizantability." And it's very much in the style of Yoga Aphorisms. Short profound statements. But he has explanations right in the text. This is the introduction. So, what did Patanjali talk about in his second verse? The mind, right? The mind, so I am controlling the mind.

So here goes Gurudeva:

"Have you ever seen the mind? No, you have not! You have seen the effects of the mind through its may phases and its many ramifications. Also, you have felt the results of the mind in your own life and in the lives of others. Come on a tour of the mind with me, into its depths, and find out how simple, or how complex, it can be. See for yourself how easily it is for you to control your mind and fathom your problems from the innermost recesses of your being. All that and more Cognizantability will awaken in you.

"Cognizantability is comprised of aphorisms and their explanation of the interrelated five states of mind. An aphorism, as you know, is a short easy-to-remember statement. I have given a brief explanation of each aphorism, with some practical examples of how the study of the five states of mind can help you gain a greater control of the mind. The mere reading of the precepts will do no great good, other than perhaps stimulate some intellectual thought along psychological and philosophical lines. (So what do you need to do? Practice, right.) The practical, consistent practice of certain keys to be found by you in the precepts will, however, produce results. As the time element is involved in our daily lives--so much so that very often we do not have time to do the things we feel we should do, let alone we would like to do--I have often told my students that the consistent practice for even five minutes a day after many days will definitely produce remarkable results."

So, focusing on two things, right? The mind and practice. Both Patanjali and Gurudeva in Cognizantability. I thought that was very interesting.

And we have a few more verses here. So repeating what we said to get continuity for another sequence.

"Yoga is the restraint of mental activities."

"Then awareness abides in itself."

"At other times awareness takes on the form of the activities."

"The identity of awareness, the experiencer, with what is experienced is the cause of what is to be overcome."

Or, said another way:

"The identity of the seer with the seen is the reason that the essential form of the power of the owner is perceived to be that of the owned."

"This identity is caused by ignorance."

So, comment on that. In general usage the Sanskrit word yoga means union. The union referred to is that of the individual self with the Supreme, also described as atman with Brahman and jiva with Siva.

The Paingala Upanishad states:

"As water poured into water, milk poured into milk, ghee into ghee become one without differentiation, even so the individual soul and the Supreme self become one."

But, that's how we look at it.

However, the process to which the term "yoga" refers to in the Yoga Sutras is one of separating rather than joining. Separation!

Merriam-Webster's definition of yoga captures this subtlety: (Which I was really surprised at.)

"Yoga (capitalized): a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation."

So it's trying to separate from body, mind and will in order to attain liberation.

The late Dr. Georg Feuerstein was an Indologist who was considered an expert on the Yoga Sutras. He stated this idea as follows:

"According to one definition especially popular among Vedanta and Neo-Vedanta followers, Yoga means union. Although this may be correct as regards certain forms of Yoga, it is definitely inapplicable to Patanjali's Yoga whose essence consists rather in a 'disunion', namely the disjunction of the purusha and the world."

So, in Patanjali's system you have purusha and the world, prakriti, (It's very hard to pronounce this time of night.) Easier in the morning, prakriti. Purusha and prakriti, or the world. Trying, purusha identifies with the world, with the ego and everything and it's trying to unidentify and separate and be unto itself. That's Patanjali.

So this is the introduction to our Shum Meditation Book. Gurudeva says:

"Consciousness and awareness are the same when awareness is totally identified with and attached to that which it is aware of. To separate the two is the artful practice of yoga. (Sound familiar? Sounds like the same thing, huh?) Naturally, the Shum-Tyeif language is needed to accomplish this. When awareness is detached from that which it is aware of, it flows freely in consciousness. A tree has consciousness. Awareness can flow into the tree and become aware of the consciousness of the tree."

Let me share an interesting anecdote. This is just me; that's the end of the quote temporarily.

Gurudeva, in the early years of teachings, was working with someone in Nigeria. And when a mystic like Gurudeva works with someone closely, he ends up projecting his consciousness to that country. In our terminology I should say "awareness." He ends up projecting his awareness to that country. So, Gurudeva was totally, he saw himself in Nigeria flowing through these huge leaves in the jungle. So he was aware of the consciousness of the leaf because of his student in Nigeria. He ended up experiencing the consciousness of the leaves in the jungles of Nigeria.

Continuing the quote:

"A tree has consciousness. Awareness can flow into the tree and become aware of the consciousness of the tree. Consciousness and mind are totally equated as a one thing when awareness and consciousness are a one thing to the individual. But when awareness is detached from it, it can flow freely through all five states of mind and all areas of consciousness, such as plants and the Earth itself, elements and various other aspects of matter.

"Here we find awareness separate from consciousness and consciousness separate from the five states of mind attributed to the human being...Consciousness, mind, matter and awareness experience a oneness in being for those who think that they are their physical body, who are convinced that when the body ends, they end and are no more."

So what, what Gurudeva is saying. Normally our awareness...Gurudeva defines awareness, energy and willpower as one thing. He was talking about energy earlier. But he uses the three words interchangeably: energy, awareness and willpower.

Our awareness is kind of stuck in our own five states of mind, in our own self concept as an individual. That's where it's stuck. And Gurudeva's saying through meditation we can learn to withdraw it from that so it's just sitting inside of all of that without being in it. But at that point it can also experience the consciousness of other forms of life. Not just people but animals and plants. Just like it was able to experience the five states of mind of you it can experience what other beings are experiencing if it stays detached enough. That's the key. Has to be totally detached otherwise it gets pulled right back into you as a person. But you have, if you can be detached from you as a person enough then you can end up experiencing what Gurudeva did which is the consciousness of trees and other beings if you're interested in that. Which is all God Siva cause it's all life.

Let me just comment on Gurudeva's talk, really a wonderful talk. I was talking to someone earlier today about the point Gurudeva was making about what happens to you is all created by you. He made the same statement that I sometimes jokingly do that if things go well, our ego takes credit. Things go poorly, we blame someone else. Human nature. So, it's really, as he said, limited; it's a partial. That's the word he used. You're seeing a partial pattern if you do that.

Whereas the overall pattern is, if you think of yourself as having a big magnet inside of you. That magnet is the sum total of all your past experiences which is also called your karma. That if you think it as your past experiences it can also be another way of looking at it. Everything you ever experienced is in summary form sitting inside of you. Everything you ever did is sitting inside of you in summary form. Because of that, you attract certain events and certain people, certain interactions to you. But you're the creator of it. And, if we can really see that it's a great relief. A relief! And helps us stay out of the cycle of: He attacked me, grumble grumble, now I have to attack him back, you know. Get into this reactive, retaliatory state of mind which a lot of the world lives in but it's missing the whole point. If he hadn't attacked you somebody else would have to. Somebody out there's gotta to do this. You have a big magnet in there that's going to attract somebody to you to do this. If it's not that person it'll be someone else. So if we can see it in such an impersonal way it helps us break that cycle of reaction and makes it much, our life much more sublime.

And then a point I made to someone else recently, talking to me about "How do you see God in someone?" And I said: Well, a good starting point is to make sure you're seeing God in yourself. You know, if you're not seeing God in yourself today, you might not be able to see God in anyone else cause we tend to project whatever we're experiencing on someone else, see it there. So, that's a good addition to what Gurudeva was saying, you know that, how do we get by the person's personality. Well we have to make sure we're getting by our own personality and finding that part of us which is God Siva, that pure energy powers everything. And then it's easier to see God Siva in someone we're challenged to see God Siva.

Thank you very much.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
God Siva is in all things and everywhere simultaneously, at every point in time.
—Gurudeva