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Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Artwork
Season 9 - Episode 3

Review of Sutras 1.1-1.28

90 min - Talk


James begins our review of Chapter 1 with Sutras 1.1-1.28. He discusses the antarayas, or “obstacles” of everyday life, which fragment our awareness, and the tools we are offered through yoga to invite ourselves into greater presence and centeredness through skillful, steady effort.
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Jun 20, 2021
Jnana, Raja
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So as we begin our exploration of the second chapter of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, whenever I do this, I always like to remind myself of what has been laid out in chapter one. Because Patanjali doesn't do things in a kind of random or accidental fashion. The structure of the Yoga Sutra is very, very beautiful, and my perception at least is that chapter one gives us the whole teaching. And chapter two begins to elaborate this. So being efficient, and yoga is described as efficiency in the Bhagavad Gita.

One of the classic definitions of yoga is Karmasu Kaushalam, which means skillfulness in all the things that we do. And so Patanjali, Maharishi Patanjali, has a great yogin. He demonstrates this in the way that he encodes and distills so much practical wisdom into this very condensed form of the Sutra. And one thing that this allows is, let's say you're a very, very advanced adept yoga practitioner, when you come to the Yoga Sutra, you want to clarify something, for example, just the idea that the first chapter can answer all your questions. They say, if you are really, really adept, then just by hearing the first Sutra at the Yoganushasanam, so interestingly, this first Sutra begins with the first syllable of Sanskrit UH, which is also the first syllable we're able to pronounce as a human being.

Just try it. The first sound you can possibly make, UH, and what's the last sound we can make? Mmm. So this is like the first and the last, and everything in between, just like the mantra, Aum, from UH, the first place in the throat of potential articulation to Mmm on the lips, the last place we can possibly articulate anything. So Aum means everything.

It symbolizes everything. Ata Yoganushasanam. That's the idea that the very, very adept yoga, just by hearing the vibration of this first Sutra, they can connect to the ultimate reality, job done, and they don't need to continue. In the second Sutra, Patanjali then defines yoga. And then he says what happens when we're in the state of yoga.

And if the very advanced practitioner recognizes him or herself there, job done. And then for the rest of us, in his great humanity, Patanjali then elaborates the yogic method. And in chapter one, we get everything in a nutshell, everything in a condensed form. Now the whole Sutra is very, very condensed, but chapter one is an encoding of all the principles which then get elaborated in chapter two. So before we embark on our journey into the rich ocean of the second chapter, we're going to spend a little bit of time just familiarizing or refamiliarizing ourselves with some of the foundational principles that are set out in chapter one.

So Patanjali begins, ata yoga anushasanam, which basically means ata is a word for now. And yoga, so now yoga anushasanam, now will follow the shasana of yoga, the instruction of the yogic method. And when Patanjali uses the word anu, this means following. So he encodes here very clearly that he is not the originator of yoga. He is just distilling and encoding a vast body of practical teaching that has already been thoroughly tested.

And this is important to remember, the yoga sutras did not originate with Patanjali. Patanjali's work encoded the yoga sutra as a shastra, as a body of codified knowledge that is robust, that can withstand counter positions, that has been thoroughly tested and is now being presented in this condensed, adaptable, antifragile, robust form. Ata, so now yoga, a couple of important things about this now, there's more than one way of saying now in Sanskrit. This ata has several important connotations and these are things we may need to remind ourselves of as we are practicing. Ata is a now that exists in contrast to a previous then.

So the previous then was, you know, I was looking out into the world, all these things that come and go. Maybe I thought that if I just got that job or I just met that person or I just lived there, all my problems would be over. Or if I could just get rid of that thing, then I'd be okay. And we've played that game enough to realise actually, this is a game with no end. And if I look to external things for my satisfaction, it's never quite going to bring me to that place of fulfilment.

Now I have realised that, now I am ready for yoga. Now I am open enough to the reality that I haven't got it all figured out. That there are more things in this reality than I've been able to perceive and apprehend and understand. And I recognise that if I adopt and cultivate an attitude of wonder and curiosity and reverence in the face of my experience, I can allow space and make room for new insights to dawn. So now I know that I do not know.

Sometimes when we're practising yoga, we will feel troubled. We will feel difficulty. We will feel doubt and potentially talks about this. And we'll come to this shortly and we'll get into it more in chapter two. What to do when we encounter these difficulties and potentially give us lots of practical guidance and support.

But going back to the very beginning, now I know that I don't know. Once I acknowledge that I'm not in a state of yoga, I'm empowered to do something about it. So now I've recognised that I'm not in yoga, let me do something about it. Finally also, there's the idea that this is signalling now that I've... how to say this. Traditionally there's the idea that when one begins studying Shastras in the inner tradition, one studies grammar and logic and epistemology first.

In other words, we study language and we study how we decide if something is real or not. So we learn how to reason, we learn how to think for ourselves and so we're then empowered to explore other Shastras, other bodies of knowledge from a solid point of departure. If for example, we are susceptible to propaganda and fallacious reasoning, then we leave ourselves more susceptible to being misled. So the idea is if we are really interested in understanding reality, it's important that we have a good relationship with knowledge in the sense that we do not allow ourselves to be swayed by misinformation or disinformation. We have prepared the ground of our awareness as well as we can to be able to make an honest appraisal of the reality of our current situation and interact with new information skillfully.

Now that might all sound quite a lot but thinking about the world that we live in when we're exposed to so many different pieces of information, this is very important and this is one of the reasons, one of the many, many reasons why yoga is perhaps even more crucial and helpful for human beings than ever before because in the world we live in now, we are bombarded with so much information but as the great masters of the Indian tradition point out, there is a significant difference between information and knowledge and between knowledge and wisdom. In the yoga tradition, knowledge is always experiential, there's the idea that the theoretical knowing only becomes real, only becomes full, only becomes reliable when it is savoured, when it is tasted, when it is experienced, when it is embodied and so in the yoga tradition study and practice always go together, we cannot have the one without the other. So as we embark on this journey of yoga, Patani says ata yoga anu shasana, this is a shastra, this is a codified body of knowledge so we have to engage with it using all the different tools, resources of our collective intelligence. So now we'll follow the sequential unfolding of the yoga shastra in a distilled form. Second sutra, Patanjali defines yoga and then in the third he tells us what we experience when we come to that state of yoga.

So Patanjali says yoga chitta vritti nirodha and then in the third sutra tadah then drashthuhu svarupi avastanam. So the second sutra, yoga is the nirodha of the vrittis of the chitta. So nirodha, one way we can consider this word is it means checking, becoming aware of. The vrittis of the chitta. What is vrittis?

Vritt is from the verb which means to live and to rotate, to move. So sometimes we may encounter a definition of this sutra in English that says something like yoga is the cessation of the vacillations of the mind for example. Now this translation is not wrong, it's not inaccurate but it doesn't maybe represent the whole reach of those Sanskrit terms. Because vritt, vritti is a movement, it is a vacillation, it is a modification but it also means a rotation, it means a cycle. And vritt means to, say for example somebody was to ask me where I lived, they could use that verb vritt vartati.

Where does that person live, where does that person vritt? So vrittis, these different movements, these different pulsations, the different cycles are understood in the Indian system and through this Sanskrit word as being part and parcel of life. So ultimately there's the idea when we become fully established in yoga we will leave this mortal coil and we will remember our deathless essence and we'll have no more need for the physical embodiment and we will return to the source. And this is one of the things that is absolutely amazing about Patanjali's yoga sutra is that so often his sutra's work at all these different levels from gross to subtle. So yes Patanjali is describing a state of yoga in which thought ceases, in which bodily identification ceases and one becomes established in awareness of one's deathless essence.

But yoga chitta vritti nirodha is also a definition that is valid as we are practicing. So I may not be in that state of ultimate samadhi, ultimate integration, but when all the different movements and cycles and pulsations of the different parts of my awareness, when they come into balance, when they come into cohesion, when they are no longer distorting my perception of reality, then I experience yoga. And what happens when we experience yoga? Tada, then, drashthuhu of the seer, of the one that sees svarupi in its essential form of asthana. So the idea is when we come to the state of yoga then we recognize our witness consciousness.

We get to experience, to relish, to feel, to perceive and notice and experience that part of ourself that is enabling and underlying all our experience. So for example, I may not be a fully enlightened yogin, but if, for example, and you can do this with me if you like, I take a comfortable seat, asthirasukam asanam, a posture that is at once steady and easeful, and perhaps I close my eyes, and I, with my internal vision, my internal senses, I scan my body and invite it into a place of greater steadiness and greater ease, and then I begin to allow myself to notice the phenomenon of my body breathing. And I may notice that I'm not really required for this bodily breathing. The body, by itself, is really an expert breathing, and if I allow myself to get out of the way, the body can take care of that quite happily, and I can observe that, and as I observe the experience of the inhalation, and I observe the experience of the exhalation, I can start to tune in more to this part of myself that witnesses my experience. And as we tune in more and more to this witness consciousness, there's the idea that we can glimpse our essence, and as we tune into it more and more, we can become more attuned to that underlying conscious essence.

So yoga is a state of integration in which the movements of our awareness here, there, and all around is no longer creating distortion or muddle or dispersal in the way we are perceiving reality. We've come into a place of relative togetherness and clarity, and we know that we're really in the state of yoga when our apprehension, our recognition of that witness consciousness becomes clearer and clearer. So this is the state of yoga. So in just three sutras, Patanji just told us, I'm going to tell you about yoga, he tells what yoga is, and he tells us what we experience when we come to the state of yoga. And this experience of yoga is the recognition of the witness consciousness that is already inside us.

So practicing yoga, we do not need to become anything we are not. You do not need to buy any special equipment. We don't need to go to any special place. We have all the equipment we need right here. And so already is encoded this idea that we are this witness consciousness and this state of yoga is innate within us.

Now when we encounter this idea, we might think, well, yeah, that sounds rather nice, but I don't always experience this. I don't always experience clarity. I don't always experience myself as witness consciousness. I get identified with my thoughts and my ideas and my beliefs, and if some part of my body is hurting me, I'm very identified with my body, for example. So what if we have within us this capacity for yoga and oneness and the recognition of ultimate reality and pure consciousness?

What's going on that means so often we don't experience that? So potentially says, vritti sarupyamitaratra. So when all of those vrittis, all of those movements of our awareness come into togetherness and balance and cohesion, then we experience yoga. But other times our awareness becomes identified with the things that our awareness is moving towards and becoming localized on. So yeah, that makes sense.

When I'm, for example, if one is having a tough time with a colleague or a family member or there's some great sorrow in our life, this can be a great weight. It occupies our awareness so much. Or if one is really waiting eagerly for some, you know, you're going to see a beloved friend after a long interval, our awareness will be focusing there. Or we're doing something we really enjoy and we're really getting into it and our awareness is there. Or we're doing something that we really would rather not be doing.

And we're dwelling on that. It's very easy for our awareness to become localized and it can become localized in so many different ways, thousands of ways. Would you agree? Like I can think of so many ways that just today my awareness has become localized. But Patanjana does a staggering thing.

He basically sums up all the different ways that our awareness can become fragmented and localized in five categories. This is vrittayav panjata yaha klishta klishta ha. These vrittis, vrittayha in the plural, panjata yaha, they are five-fold and they can be klishta or a klishta. And this word is important and we're going to get into this word a lot more in chapter two when Patanjana talks about the clashers. So Patanjana talks about how the whole point of chapter two is to attenuate the clashers and to boost samadhi.

So to increase yoga and reduce the clashers. Clashers are afflictions and we'll deal with them in much more detail as we begin chapter two. But it's very important that right here, right at the beginning of the text, Patanjana says the way that our awareness moves, that's just natural, that our awareness will get localized. And he says these movements, they can be klishta or a klishta. So it's not that the awareness moving here and there is a bad thing, not at all.

This is important. This is necessary for life. So the awareness will move in these different ways. That's not a problem. And this is made very clear, it can be that the way the awareness moves blocks our experience of yoga.

But the awareness moving through these different states of awareness need not necessarily block our experience of yoga. So what are these five ways that Patanjana defines how our awareness can move? Premana, viparyaya, vikalpa, nidra, smriti. Smritayaha is in the plural because there's five of them. So he introduces these five new terms and then what does Patanjali do?

He defines them. First, pratyakshanumanagamavpramanani. So first, pramana. And pramana basically means seeing something accurately. Now I mentioned already in the yoga tradition, in the Indian philosophical tradition, there is great emphasis on logic and epistemology as a foundation for any type of investigation into reality.

And it is customary, traditional, a standard thing that in any shastra, any codified presentation of a system of knowledge, pretty much near the beginning, right at the get go, we make clear which pramanas, which means of valid knowledge are accepted in this shastra. And Patanjali here does two things at once. One, he says the first type of vritti, the first way our awareness can localize or become like let's say rather than focused on total oneness and ultimate reality, but focused on something local is that we can be seeing something accurately. And this is known as pramana. But also, Patanjali here lays out the three means that are accepted as means of valid knowledge in the yoga method.

What are they? First, pratyakshan, second, anumana and third, agama. So what can we use to help us understand reality according to the yoga shastra? First, and it's very important, and this is first because the other two actually proceed from the first one. The first is pratyakshan, which means direct perception.

Aksha means I, so pratyakshan in front of our own senses, with our own sense powers we experience it. So for example, I'm now looking at my shirt, and I am looking at it, I am feeling it, so I'm having the pratyakshan of the linen fabric, the linen fabric which I bought from a shop in Mysore, the place in India where I have spent a lot of time in which I've been rather missing this year as I haven't been able to go. But right now, I have the pratyakshan of the shirt. I'm seeing it, I'm feeling it. It's a means of valid knowledge.

Pretty much all schools of philosophy, even the materialists accept this as the means of valid knowledge. Yoga also, however, accepts anumana. Now anu as a prefix means following. Mana is related to man, which is the verb to contemplate, to think about, and it's related to perception. So anumana means a thought, a recognition, an understanding that follows something else.

Inference. So the classic example in the Indian system is there is smoke on the mountain. So I look out, and there's a mountain in the distance, and I see some smoke. And because smoke is universally concomitant with fire, I can perceive that there is a fire on the mountain, even though I cannot perceive the fire, I can just perceive the smoke. And yoga says this is a valid means of knowledge.

Later, potentially, we'll say that when it comes to ultimate reality, when it comes to the full experience of yoga, your own direct experience is the only valid means. But generally, as we're practicing, let's be practical. Yoga's always practical, so let's use all the means that are available to us to help us apprehend more of reality, to help us broaden our understanding. So we can use anumana. And the third type of knowledge is agama.

Now agama literally means that which has come. And this includes two key areas. One is what sometimes gets referred to as scriptural authority. So when we are consulting the yoga sutra, there's the idea we can use this as a means of valid knowledge. It does not replace pratyaksha, it does not replace direct experience.

But it can help guide us towards our direct experience. And how did Patanjali set down this understanding? What Patanjali's done in the yoga sutra and the way he's done it makes very clear, demonstrates that he was a real yogin. Because the way he's condensed so much into this very concise form proves, at least in my opinion beyond any doubt, that he is only writing about his own direct experience. And we can benefit from that.

The other way we can think about this sometimes gets translated as reliable testimony. And then sometimes people think, well how can a testimony be reliable? But the way that I would understand this is say for example, say I'm going hiking with some friends and we're hiking in the mountains. And let's say you're hiking in Scotland, a place where the weather can change in the blink of an eye. And there you were hiking in the beautiful spring sunshine but now the clouds have swept in and you're on a ridge.

And you know there is a precipitous drop off to one side. You're hiking with some friends. The friend who's in the front, and there's very bad visibility now, the friend who's walking in front, as he or she very carefully steps forward, they might turn back and say oh careful, here there's a really loose rock. Because he or she has had that direct experience and can then turn back to us offering us the benefit of what they have actually experienced. So it's not that we surrender or give up our sovereignty.

It's not that we believe something just because we've read it in a book. It's not that because somebody tells us it is so we go along with that. Absolutely not. In yoga it's always about our own experience. Yoga does not ask us to believe anything.

Everything that is set out in the yoga sutra is an invitation to practice for us to come to our own experiential understanding. But as we're doing that, let's work with all the means at our disposal. So if we are practicing with friends, if we are practicing as part of a group, we can learn from each other's experience. Yoga also recognizes when we're a human being and we have but two eyes, there'll always be more that we cannot see than we can. But when we come together, like for example if we come together in a circle, the centre point we could say that represents the truth, each of us can perceive some slight portion of that.

So we can benefit from others' insight that they have come to through their own pratyaksha, their own direct perception. So what means of knowledge are accepted in yoga? Direct perception, inference and reliable testimony that could be in a text or it could be from somebody who's had the experience themselves, remembering of course the people who have set down the authoritative yoga texts, such as Patanjali with the yoga sutra, such as Bhagavan Vyasa who made the Bhagavad Gita into a poem, these are great rishis. So they knew what they were doing and they've bequeathed us amazing teachings that have proven themselves over millennia. They've stood the test of time and they are perennially relevant and helpful.

So we can work with them, but as I mentioned later Patanjali will say, when it comes to actually experience yoga at the ultimate level, it all comes down to pratyaksha. But Agama and Anumana, they all proceed from pratyaksha. And what's the first way our awareness can become localised? We can be seeing something as it is, so I'm seeing the shirt as a shirt. That's another way that our awareness can become localised, viparyaya.

Now viparyaya basically means to see something as it is not. So for example, imagine the power's gone out and I want to get dressed and I'm looking for my shirt and it's made of linen and I think I've got hold of the shirt and I start to put the shirt on and realise it's a dishcloth, for example. So I'm perceiving something as something it is not. In the dark, oh it feels like my shirt, oh but it's not. And we can do this in so many ways, at a very gross physical level like that, but we can also misperceive reality.

We can get the wrong end of the stick, we can have ideas and beliefs that we then later realise were erroneous or misperceptions. So we can be perceiving things accurately, pramana, or we can be perceiving things in an inaccurate way, viparyaya. Third, vikalpa. And vikalpa is a very important vritti. Vikalpa is the whole realm of association based on language.

So I gave the example earlier about this shirt being from Mysore. Now Mysore is a place in South India where I have spent a significant part of my life. Usually around this time of year, I've been there at this time of year more than ten times. So just when I mentioned that this shirt was from a shop in Mysore, there are associations that get triggered by me mentioning that this came from a shop called the Linen Club. And I can see the particular road, it's almost like I can taste the air, I remember what it feels like to be there in the South Indian warmth of an evening at this time of year.

I'm speaking today from North Yorkshire in England. The air quality is different. But just the word Mysore, when I remember going into that shop, it triggers all these associations for me. And this is the power of language. So vikalpa is the whole realm of association based on words and their associated ideas.

So if, for example, I say the word pen, P-E-N. Now imagine that you are a writer and you don't like typing, you like to hand write. The word pen will have different connotations and associations for such a person than it might for somebody who always types, for example. Just a word has tremendous transportative powers. So the third way that our awareness can vrit, can move, can cycle, can go from here to there is that we hear a word or we think of a word and that word is like it carries our awareness off.

So I gave the India example. Here I am in England, but it happened to me very powerfully last week. I was singing a song to Ganesha, which I have also sung many times in India, and it was like, ah, I was carried off. For a moment it was like I wasn't quite fully here. Part of me was really remembering and feeling what it was like to be in India.

Also vikalpa could transport me to a place that is only imagined. I could dream of a particular place and this is also said to be based on language because if I am thinking of this place, if I'm visualizing it or imagining it, it's like my senses are deployed there towards something that I could describe with language. So vikalpa, the whole realm of association and a classic example of this is wherever we are, somebody says a word and our awareness jumps off somewhere else. So there are some words, for example, that can be inflammatory for some people. Some words, some people hear them and they have a lovely feeling and other people don't feel nice about that at all.

This is the power of language and association. Fourth vritti is nidrÄ쳌, which means sleep, when it is as if there is an absence of awareness. But of course there is still some awareness there because when, for example, we sleep at night, we wake up and we know that we have slept and we know more or less how we slept. NidrÄ쳌 can also happen when we are apparently awake, we're just gone for a moment, we just zone out for a moment. It's like our awareness just wasn't there, but of course it was in the background to some degree.

And then the fifth is smritti, which means memory, and Patanjali describes it as when something we've experienced previously as sampramoshah, it does not fleet away, it does not steal away, it stays with us. Now I gave the example of this shirt which is from India. I have memories of India. So when I hear the word maisur, when I see the shirt, and I'm accurately seeing the shirt, but I associate it with maisur, I can then go into memory, and I can also go into projected idea of a possible return there. So what does this show us?

These five vrittis, it's not that they operate in isolation, they're always vrittiing all together. And so very beautifully, very concisely, Patanjali has given us a map or a frame, a structure to understand all of these countless ways that our awareness can move here and there and get localized and fragmented. Hopefully that sounds fairly familiar and we can relate to that. Then comes the question, okay, yeah, that does make sense. I can recognize all of those five vrittis, and I do recognize that perhaps they could get in the way of me being in a state of yoga.

I could be seeing something accurately, but I'm just focused on some small minor concern, or I could be seeing something inaccurately and it's clouding my awareness, or I can be off with the fairies, as it were, in imagination, or I can be a bit dull and sleepy and not paying close attention, or I can be lost in memory and dwelling on the past and all of these things, they will stop me being fully here now. Now the only time I ever have to experience anything and the only time I can ever experience the fullness of presence, which allows me to experience yoga. So what to do about it? And now it potentially tells us there is a two-fold method in order to overcome this tendency for our awareness to get dissipated and dispersed so we get identified with all of this change and limitation. In order to come back to that state of oneness, it potentially says there are two things we need to do, apyasa and nvedagya.

So the twelfth sutra potentially says apyasa vairagya pyaam tan nirodha, so tan refers back to all of those vrittis. Remember we said yogis when the vrittis are niroded, when they are checked, when they are brought within our awareness, when we've become aware of them, so they're no longer pulling us here and there, we're on top of them if you like, we're able to monitor them. Rather than being pulled all over the place by them, we have them within our awareness. So in order to do that, apyasa vairagya pyaam, pyaam is a dual ending and it's in the instrumental case so it's by these two things, first apyasa and then vairagya. So he's introduced these two new terms, first apyasa, second vairagya, what are they, potentially now defines them, apyasa, tatra, amongst those two, first is apyasa, tatra stitao yatna pyaasa ha, apyasa is the yatna and yatna means the effort, stitao, for the sake of steadiness.

So initial definition of yoga practice, the effort, the engaged effort to foster steadiness. How is that effort, potentially continue, satu furthermore, dheer gakkala nairantari satkara sevito dridabhumihi, for that practice to become dridabhumihi, well-rooted, firmly grounded so it can grow, it needs to be dheer gakkala, long-term, nairantari, uninterrupted, satkara, attended to with true presence, aa sevita and a spirit of dedication, then it will become well-established. So what does this tell us, long-term, uninterrupted, whole-hearted, with a spirit of dedication? When is yoga practice? Long-term, uninterrupted, all the time. What is yoga practice? Everything that we're doing. So yoga recognises everything we do is training, everything we do is practice. It's always time to practice. And what is practice? It's the effort to foster steadiness.

So one important thing to note here is that yoga practice is not the same as yoga technique. Sometimes people think, oh, I'm practising yoga when I'm doing my asana or my breath work or my meditation or my singing or my study or whatever it might be or whatever it might be, there's so many techniques. But the idea is the techniques are intended to train us in the ways of cohesion, in the ways of doing whatever we are doing in that integrated yogic way. In other words, the time we spend with technique is intended to make it easier for us to practice the rest of the day. So a classic yoga technique is to, let's say, perform a meditation technique. Let's just say, for example, that in the morning we decide that we are going to do a little bit of movement to connect the dots of our physiology and our neurology. Then we're going to recite, let's say, a beautiful Sanskrit hymn that also connects the dots. It harmonised the field of our being. And then we're going to do a silent meditation practice. And during that one hour, what is happening? We are training our awareness to be here now, to be inviting harmony. And then when we are singing to the supreme reality, we're training our awareness to leave aside the thought patterns, the way it vritz here and there with this concern and that concern and that old memory and this desire and that thing I need to do on the to-do list. And instead we are interrupting that habit, that pattern, and installing a new habit of leaving aside all of that commotion, all of that fragmentation and actually inviting ourselves into greater presence here and now. And I do that every morning, for example. I do it twice a day, whatever it is. But the idea is that at that time, that effort towards steadiness then extends and expands out into the rest of the day. It says that the technique is intended to help us practice more easily in everything else that we do. So when I work with a technique, I'm practicing giving myself wholly fully to whatever I'm doing here and now. And then as I go into my day-to-day and I'm interacting with my friends, my family, my colleagues, my environment, I am confronted with perhaps the weight of my past and things I need to attend to in the present moment. But rather than getting spread thin with my awareness being pulled into anxiety over the future and the burdens of the past, I have practiced being here now in this place where I can draw most fully on my true resources. So a piazza is the effort to foster steadiness. And it's important also to recognize that sometimes the technique that fosters steadiness for one person may do the opposite for somebody else. In the Indian system, I probably have said this before, I expect to say it again. It's a very useful thing to remind myself of. Everything in existence can be poison. Everything in existence can be medicine. It all depends on the situation, the constitution and the dose. So some days if I want to foster steadiness, it may be entirely appropriate for me to do some very vigorous exercise.

And another day for me to foster steadiness, it may be entirely appropriate for me to be very still and quiet. Some days in order for me to foster steadiness, it may be very important that I help my neighbors with that project. Another day it may be very appropriate to foster steadiness for me to keep to myself, for example. So am I fostering steadiness? Am I fostering balance and cohesion? If I am, then we can say this is actually yoga practice. So practice the long-term, unbroken, whole-hearted, dedicated effort to foster steadiness. And then comes vairagya, which is kind of like the effect of practice. Dhrishtanu shravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sangya vairagya. So vairagya is when there is a, vitrishna means thirstlessness, when I'm no longer thirsting for things that I have seen or previously experienced or things I've just heard about. So in other words, vairagya is a state in which I'm not hankering after things outside. Why not? Because I'm feeling fulfilled inside. The external things that come and go no longer hold such a strong allure. Why not? Because I've invited myself to a place of fulfillment here. So basically practice fullness. What does that mean? Practice making whatever I am doing its own reward by giving myself to it wholeheartedly. Say for example I have to do some housework. Well do it cheerfully. Do it appreciating my sense and action capacities and my capacity to focus as I'm doing it and then it becomes a yoga practice. It becomes its own fulfilment. So the guide is that as we train ourselves to do whatever we're doing with greater presence, each moment becomes more and more its own fulfilment and so we are less pulled here and there by possible potential things we could enjoy in the external realm of things that come and go. And Patani says that the ultimate vairagya is when nothing in the realm of manifestation has any grip over us anymore. Why not? Not because we are saying, oh I'm a yogin so no I must not be pulled here and there. There's no forcing in it. The idea is that I'm just feeling that sense of internal wholeness and satisfaction. So when lovely things come I can enjoy them without being attached. When difficult things come I can navigate them without getting overwhelmed. Why? Because I've practiced feeling that state of internal cohesion. So yoga practice is not about any specific technique it's about fostering steadiness and the idea is that as we practice that steadiness naturally we'll become less susceptible to being pulled here and there by all these external things that are bound to keep coming and going in so many different ways. So how does that actually work? How is it that a yoga technique can help us practice in the rest of the day and navigate reality more calmly, more steadily? So having said what practice is, the effort to foster steadiness and its consequence, that we become less attached to the comings and goings, Patanjali now says basically in a nutshell how the yogic method proceeds and how it works from gross to subtle. It's this amazing sutra, 17, vitarka vichara anandnas mita rupa nugamah sampragyata han. So here Patanjali defines sampragyata samadhi. So samadhi basically means yoga. Sama means evenness, evenness of our awareness. And sampragyata samadhi means we're cultivating the evenness of awareness by giving the powers of our awareness something to focus on. This is one of the ways yoga is very practical. If I want to experience togetherness, I want to experience cohesion, but I notice that my sense powers have the tendency to roam and meander all over the place, well it could be a great help to give them something to focus on, or orient towards, or gather around. And so this is the basic yogic method. If I'm going to do a meditation technique, I want to cultivate the state, the medistate, the state of being centered, then I need to have something to center on. And Patanjali says as we do that, then the awareness is naturally invited through these states of being sa vitarka with vitarka and then sa vichare, sa ananda, sa asmita. What does these words mean? So say for example, I'm going to meditate on, let's go back to that example, of the experience, the phenomena of the breath moving in and out of my body. So if for example I decide I'm going to meditate on the breath, I'm going to observe the breath, I'm going to, I'll just allow myself to experience the breath. So here I am and I'm allowing myself to experience the breath and then what, it's like I'm orienting towards the breath with a sense of curiosity, with a sense of wonder, with a sense of inquiry. I'm open to be surprised. I'm open to see something I've never seen before because I have that curiosity. So I've got that kind of childlike wonder and I'm focusing on the breath. When I maintain that focus, it may happen then that my awareness starts to become a little bit sharper, keener, subtler. And when I'm orienting towards this object, the experience of the breath in the example, it's almost like the object starts to reveal more of itself.

When I orient towards it with more sustained focus and that spirit of open curiosity. And so it's the idea that Savitarka with a sense of curiosity and inquiry, I look into the object of meditation or I look into the reality of existence. But when I look and I start to focus, it's like my powers of awareness become more concentrated and then they can reveal more to me. And so now my inquiry becomes subtler and this is known as Sattvicara Sampragyata Samadhi. So I'm becoming a little bit more centered and my awareness is kind of pulsating or moving in a slightly more concentrated subtler realm. So in the example of observing the breath, to begin with, I'm just allowing the body to breathe, I might feel that the breath is silent. But as I continue, I may notice like a very subtle wave sound within the body, for example, or I might notice that, oh, I start to notice how the breath moves in a different part of my body in a way I hadn't noticed before. I feel, oh yeah, it's going a little bit into the back of my ribcage there. And I didn't notice that before. To begin with, I'm noticing down in the belly and the abdomen is moving. And then I notice as I continue, the breath also is likely to become subtler and that invites my awareness to become subtler. I start to notice subtler and subtler things and what happens to my focus, it becomes more fine tuned. Then what happens if this fine tuned subtle focus is maintained for a while? It can happen that it's like, whatever I'm doing, I'm getting into it more and more. And as I really get into it, it becomes its own fullness. And so can emerge this feeling, this experience of ananda, blissfulness. This can happen in a gross type of concentration as well, gross in the sense, let's say for example, I'm playing tennis, there I am hitting the ball. But as I get more and more into it, it's like all my powers of awareness are really into the activity. And I become more absorbed like nothing else exists. I'm just there in the game that I'm playing. And that can be, I can get in the zone. I can start to feel really high because I'm fully there. It's like everything else has faded away. And so it becomes its own fullness and I experience this blissfulness. Going back to the example of the breath or any subtle internal meditative support, I'm focusing on that object when the awareness and the spirit of subtle inquiry is maintained it opens up the realm to subtler perception. And as that's sustained, I might have these feelings, these experiences of blissfulness. And what is the consequence of that? In an internal meditative support, the experience of the breath, for example, these waves of bliss come, where did they come from? They're not dependent on any external object. It's not that I needed to taste that thing or see that person or have that experience out there. It was just something I experienced here. So this bliss arises inside myself. And so then what happens is, Asmita, my sense of myself starts to get rewired or recalibrated. I start to realize, oh wow, it's a reality that within me there is this field of fullness, of blissfulness. And so there's the idea that this impression starts to rewire our whole understanding of existence. So when I rely on the external things that come and go for my sense of wellbeing, I can guarantee sooner or later that I'm going to experience some disappointment. There's the idea through yoga practice, when we take this journey from gross to subtle, we start to realize that real satisfaction doesn't really depend on external things. The real satisfaction is relished by the way that we meet reality. So when I'm focusing on the object, but my focus becomes fuller, then this experience becomes its own fullness. And so this is a really powerful way that yoga practice can make a person much more independent and much less fearful. Ultimately to the point where the yogin no longer fears death because he or she has recognized that inside is this realm that is always full or that is always its own richness. And so as we become more and more attuned to this internal richness, this internal fullness, it bolsters us to be able to meet the predictably unpredictable comings and goings of the external world from a steadier foundation. So this is a description of samadhi with a support. Like for example, the support of the experience of the breath.

But what can also happen is that if I'm focusing on some subtle internal meditative object, such as the experience of the breath, there may come a point where that object has served its purpose as it were. It's brought me from gross to subtle. So I started observing the breath and I started to experience subtler aspects of the experience of the breath. Then I started to experience this sense of blissfulness and that started to have this recalibrating effect on my neurology, but also my understanding of who I am. It's building this internal resilience and it's helping me escape the false ceilings and limiting beliefs of my conditioned ideas that I'm only this and I'm only that. Actually no, I am this repository of conscious intelligence. I am consciousness. I do have this internal realm that nobody else can touch. And so this can be very fortifying for the practitioner. But also as that happens, there's the idea that the meditative support, it can sometimes then almost like fade away. It served the purpose of helping me become concentrated and centered and in that meditative state. But once I enter that meditative state, perhaps I'm no longer focusing on the object. I'm just experiencing focusedness or focus. And this is the samadhi without a support. So Patanjali is very practical. In order to center, it's really great to have an object to center on, to orient towards, to gather around. But once I become gathered, once I become centered, it may happen, the object can then fall away and I have the pure experience of centered awareness. And Patanjali says, this experience of pure centered awareness, it arises when there is the repeated experience of centering that allows it to emerge. So it's not that I can practice at will, oh, a sambragyata samadhi. I'll just invite myself into that state of deep focus. No, there's the idea that as I prepare the field of my awareness to go on that journey from gross to subtle, I make it more and more easier to access that. It's like, as I repeatedly invite my system into that state of cohesion, I can tune to it more and more easily. But start where we are. And this is the beauty of yoga. Wherever we are, however spread thin and confused or troubled we may be feeling, wherever we are, we just invite ourselves to the center as best as we can. And we do invite a little bit more centeredness. And perhaps sometimes that centeredness will rise to the degree that we no longer need the object. And we get a moment or maybe an extended period of just pure presence. And that will have this very significant effect in rewiring our understanding of who we are and helping us access a state of greater calm and resilience to face the different challenges of life. So very beautiful, very practical. Now okay, I know the basic mechanism of practice. I invite all my powers of awareness to center.

So for example, when I'm doing yoga asana, I'm using the, we could say the principle or the concept of balance and steadiness and dynamic equilibrium as one of my focus points. I could also use the breath and the movements of the breath. I could also use the drishti where I'm focusing my visual awareness as tools to support me to be more and more centered in that thing that I'm doing. Potentially says though, that some people, in the 19th sutra, some people, they're just born into the state of that deep integration. So fantastic for them. But what about the rest of us? Potentially says for the rest of us, the state of samadhi, the state of deepening yoga will be preceded by four qualities. So in the 20th sutra, potentially tells us these qualities, these principles that are vital to cultivate and invite and practice when we're aiming towards yoga. Shaddha, virya, smriti and samadhi. So the first is shaddha. The second is virya.

Shaddha is a very beautiful word. Often it gets translated as faith. But the connotations and the associations of the Sanskrit word faith, as shaddha, are not the same as the connotations and associations of the English word faith. Remember that word vikalpa, association based on language. If we hear the word faith, there is a high likelihood that it will have some particular connotations and they may be different person to person. So some people may hear the word faith and they think of like, oh, that's about trusting something and having confidence. Somebody else might think that means organized religion. Somebody else might think, hmm, that's to do with God and I've never really felt clear about what God means. Somebody else might hear the word faith and think of the 1980s pop song by George Michael. For example, all this is to say that this is the power of vikalpa. We hear that word and our awareness can become localized. But shaddha, yes, it means faith, but what type of faith? Shaddha, etymologically it's from the Sanskrit root rit, which means heart. So shaddha is a faith, but it's a particular type of faith. It means the faith that comes from a heartful exploration in the realm of our own experience. It's not a blind faith. It's not about believing anything. Rather, this is the faith or the confidence, the conviction. The contemporary American teacher, Eric Schiffman, renders it beautifully as self trust. It's that self trust that comes from heartfully exploring in the realm of our own lives. And there's an interesting thing here is if we're going to find out if something works, then we have to give it a faithful exploration. If I want to find out if yoga works for me, then I've got to give it an honest try. Let's say, for example, you have been afflicted by some difficult condition for a long, long time. And you had the perception that this condition there was nothing that could be done. And then one of your friends says, oh, wow, there's this new thing. Have you heard about this? No, I've tried it. It's amazing. And look at these research papers. They're saying that they can use it for this type of condition. Do you want to try? Now, imagine that the person is very, very skeptical and they try half heartedly, this new method, this new protocol, this new intervention.

Will they find out if it works or not? I don't think we can honestly say if something works or not unless we're giving it a faithful try. In other words, to give it an honest try. Never abandoning our discernment, of course. But if I want to find out if yoga works for me, say, for example, I hear, okay, you want to find out if meditation works, then do it every day for 90 days without missing a day. Do it at the more or less the same time every morning and evening if you can, for example. And if you do it and you work with the technique and you really invite yourself into that state of centered awareness as best as you can, then you'll know for yourself, you will have Shraddha. You will have that conviction, that trust that lets you know whether it works or not because you'll know from your own experience. Not because somebody else told you, because you gave it an honest thorough examination in the laboratory of your own experience. And so the idea is in yoga, you've got to have that faith, that self-trust, that conviction, that confidence to honestly explore. And so this links to the next quality that potentially says right from the get-go is absolutely vital, virya. And virya is related to the word vira or vira in the feminine. And virya is a hero. So it's laid out here right at the beginning. You want to practice yoga? You've got to be a hero. Now, what does this mean? Hero. It's one of those four letter words. And these four letter words, often through casual overuse, their true power, I feel gets lost. Sometimes people get described as heroes for joining a popular cause, for example. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that it could be a heroic thing to join a popular cause. However, jumping on the bandwagon is very, very seldom a heroic act. The virya that potentially lays out here as being absolutely foundational for yoga practice is what I would say real heroism is courage. It means the courage to stand true to what your heart is telling you is right, even if, even when the rest of the society is flooding in the opposite direction. So my teacher gave the example. Imagine you're in that metropolis called London and you're on the underground, the underground train network where hundreds of thousands of people are milling around and it's Friday and it's the time when people leave work and you're at Piccadilly Circus, a very, very busy station, and you're going to go up the down escalator.

He says, sometimes this is what it will be like to practice yoga. You will have to muster the courage, the valor, the vigor, the will, the determination to actually stand in the face of the inertia of your previously accrued habits and face them down and push through them into a new way of being in the world. Because when we practice yoga, remember the first word, and now, now I've recognized I'm not in a state of yoga. Now I've recognized that I haven't got it all worked out. Now I've recognized that sometimes I allow my awareness to get scattered all over the place and so I'm stealing from myself the only time I ever really have to feel what I would like to in this amazing gift of a human life. So let me do something about it. And when I start to do something about it, what do I realize? I realize that I have been harboring within me many tendencies and habits that are kind of self-sabotaging that get in my own way. So in order to work that out, this will require courage. This will require valor. This will require determination. So you have to be a hero. Third quality, smriti, and fourth quality, samadhi. So samadhi we've mentioned already is the quality of balance integration. The idea is we have to actually keep inviting that integration. Wherever we are, as best we can, we invite centeredness. Perhaps I noticed that I'm not in the center, no problem. I invite myself back to the center. Now when I come to that state of samadhi, as we mentioned before, there's the idea it can start to recalibrate our understanding of who we really are and what we're really made of. When I do, in my broken fragmented state, invite myself a little bit more into a cohesive state, I can experience a bit more calm, a bit more ease, a bit more peace. When I invite all the powers of my awareness to flow together here in this present moment, I can feel a little bit easier, a little bit calmer, a little bit fuller. So there's the samadhi. When I make an effort in that direction, what happens to my shantar, to my faith, my self-trust, it grows. When my faith and self-trust grows, what happens to my courage and my heroic valor? It gets bolstered. And then this becomes part of my samadhi. It's like I've developed a memory bank that when I make that effort towards yoga, it is worth it. So when all my old habits that are flooding away from yoga, when I have to confront them, rather than be intimidated by that, I've got more faith, I've got more support, because I've got past experience of how, ah yes, I've felt those moments of doubt, but I know when I make that effort to meet the challenge, it is its own reward. So shantar, faith, self-trust, virya, the qualities of a great here. And one more thing about virya, the Sanskrit word vira, as well as meaning hero or heroine, it also means human being. It's one of the words to denote a human, but it denotes specifically the human being who musters the courage to wrestle with all that it means to be a human. When we're a human being, it's quite likely, if not guaranteed, that sometimes if we make an honest, heartful, open-hearted, courageous effort to look in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking, we may see that we have harbored false beliefs. We may see that we have been standing in our own way. This can be a lot to stomach. This can be hard to digest. And so we have to have that heroic courage. But every time we go through that process, this becomes part of our memory. Also, the idea of smriti is that the more we make this effort, the more we actually remember what we're really made of, who we really are. And so we can use that to support us, to keep on with the effort of practice. So Patanjali told us practice is a constant effort that will require shantar, that faithfulness, that self-trust, that conviction. It will require virya. It will require that honest, courageous, valiant effort. As we make that effort, we will remember more of our real capacities and we'll build up a memory bank that helps us face down our internal resistance and those internal foes that would block our onward journey back to remembering more of who we are. And as we keep practicing, we attune more to our innate capacity for nadi. So these four principles are really foundational. And as we go into chapter two, and we see more about the method of yoga practice, we'll see how it often comes back to these foundational principles. We'll often be reminded how useful and supportive they can be. So having told us about these essential foundational qualities for practice, Patanjali says, he says, basically, if you're really intent on it, yoga is right here. The idea again, we do not have to become anything we are not. It's all right here. It's sitting right here within us. I think there's a quote from the Quran. I could be wrong about this. I saw it somewhere written on a wall and it says, God is closer to the human being than the arteries in his or her neck. Yeah. Same idea in the yoga tradition that ultimate reality, it's not some far off thing. It's right here. And Patanjali says the same, if we're really intent on it, it's right here. And then he defines what it means to be intent. And he says, basically, you can have the people who are really, really intent and the people who are not so intent. So if it's the case that not a breath goes by, that we're not connecting to the ultimate reality, then likely we may be able to experience yoga very, very quickly. But you know, if 48 hours go by and we are, we lose the thread of our awareness, it might take a bit longer. And if like most of us, you know, a few seconds go by and lose the thread of our awareness, it'll take a little bit longer. But the more that we're able to become attuned to that than the closer it is. So up to now, Patanjali has basically defined the whole yogic method in a nutshell. Yoga is the constant wholehearted steady effort to foster steadiness. And the qualities you need to do that is this heartful, courageous, valorous persistence. You need to keep cultivating samadhi. That's what it's all about. He's basically told us the whole method. And now in the 23rd sutra, Patanjali introduces an additional or an alternative method. Ishwara pranidhanad vah. So vah, very beautiful Sanskrit syllable in the yogic sutra context. Vah means and or, in addition as well, optionally. So as well as this basic method that's already been laid out, in addition, alternatively, we can bring about chitavrittin nirodha, we can bring about this integration of all the powers of our awareness, Ishwara pranidhanad, by Ishwara pranidhanad. What is this? Pranidhanad basically means to place at the feet of, to consecrate, to offer towards Ishwara. And Ishwara means the Supreme Reality, the Lord or the G-word, God. Now, the Lord, the Supreme Reality, the G-word, what am I going to say about those words? They're all great examples of vikalpa, the power of words and association based on language. Some people, they hear the word God or Lord or Supreme Reality or Ultimate Reality, and they feel lovely. They feel warm, they feel motivated. Some people hear those words and they think, I'm not sure about that. This is all a bit airy-fairy, this is a bit woo-woo, like this. However, those words land with you, it doesn't really matter because we've already been laid out the whole yogic method. But what does Patanjali do next? He now defines Ishwara in a very, very beautiful way. So his definition of God or the Lord or the Supreme Reality is so beautiful because it is so inclusive. Now, already Patanjali has demonstrated his beautiful inclusivity because what's he done so far? He's given the whole method without mentioning the Supreme Reality or God. So if you are a person who doesn't feel any affinity with ideas of God or a Supreme Reality, you've already got the basic method to work with. But what about if you are a person who does feel some affinity for the idea of a great mystery or the Supreme Reality? What does that mean, the word Ishwara in this yogic context? So Patanjali says Ishwara basically is a Purusha Vishisha, which means a distinct type of consciousness. We are also Purushas. The English word person has come from this Sanskrit root. We are conscious beings, but we also experience limitation of time and place. I can speak the English language. I am not able to speak the Chinese language, for example. I am here in England. I'm not there in India. I experience limitation and I'm here today. It's a Monday and I'm not, you know, I'm not able to experience last week at the same time. So I experience, I experience things because I'm conscious, but I also experience limitation of time and place and capacity. But basically Patanjali says Ishwara is a consciousness that is beyond limitations. So Ishwara is a distinct type of Purusha that is not limited by having a body or any of the things that having a body is related to. So when I am an embodied being and I'm significantly identified with my body, when my body is paning in some place, it gets my attention. And I can do certain things with this body and other things I cannot do. For example, when I was a boy, I used to love to play basketball. Last year I was at the basketball court and I was not able to jump as high as I used to be able to. I was quite shocked by how much less I was able to jump, how much less high I was able to jump. But I have capacities that I am identified with or are things that I think I can and cannot do. It's the same for all of us. But Ishwara, no, no limit of time, place, capacity. And Ishwara is the very seed of all knowing and omniscience. In other words, Ishwara is a consciousness that is all inclusive, that all knowledge exists within it. So it's like it's the container of all conscious experience. And it is not limited by kala, by time, because Ishwara was the guru of all those who have come before. This is very significant. Ishwara was the guru. What is the guru? The guru is any person, place or thing, the influence of which is heavy duty enough to shift our awareness from one state of awareness to one that is vaster. In other words, it's that which allows us to learn, to grow, to evolve.

That allows us to learn, to grow or evolve our consciousness. So Ishwara is the consciousness that allows learning, that allows growth, that allows development. And Ishwara is beyond name and form. Ishwara is beyond denotation. It can be connoted by the pranava, which means the syllable om. So as I mentioned earlier, think about it, om. Make the sound om from u, the first possible sound to m, the last possible sound. Om means everything. Ishwara is connoted by the sound that signifies everything. So in other words, there is nowhere God is not. By the repetition of that idea, one comes to its embodied understanding. In other words, by the practice of the attitude that everything is divine, that everything is consciousness, when I look out at reality with this sense of wonder, with this attitude of seeing the divine and the consciousness all around, when I practice that, I start to embody and understand it more and more. I get that knowledge underneath me. I become established in it. So Ishwara pranidhana, consecrating my actions to that which I consider the highest. But this highest is everything. It's not exclusive. There's nowhere it is not. So I find this such a beautiful way of representing this, which is beyond representation of the ultimate reality. It's a very inclusive vision of God. And when I first encountered the yoga teachings, I found this so resonant. It's like, yeah, this feels like home. It's not a God that excludes anybody. It's not a vision that excludes anybody. Ishwara means the consciousness in which everything exists, the force of nature, you might call it, the life force. So when I dedicate my actions to that which I consider the highest, what does that entail? If I'm going to consecrate my actions, to make my action sacred, to make an offering to that which I hold most dear, how will I need to do that action? I'll have to do it with a great deal of presence, yeah? So what was the basic practice potentially said earlier? Constant steady heartfelt dedicated effort to foster steadiness. In other words, I've got to be present. If I'm going to make my action an offering, how am I going to do that? Only by being present. So this alternative method, it has the same effect as the method that's already been elaborated. But if a person is of devotional or emotional persuasion, then having that attitude of making my actions an offering is a wonderful way to actually make it easier to practice. If I have the attitude that here, every step I take, I am walking on the body of Mother Earth who has blessed me with this gift of life, such a precious gift, and everything I do is my opportunity to show my appreciation to her, how will I walk on this earth? I will endeavour to make my steps a massage on her beautiful, munificent body. I will not go ravaging the earth. I will not go desecrating the gift of this life. It will make it much more likely that I'm actually more present, more attentive, more caring, more loving in the way I interact with the field of my own bodily vehicle and with the world and all the beings around me. So Ishwarapranidhana, even if a person does not have a sense of affinity or relationship to a higher entity or God, this principle of consecrating our actions is very, very helpful and very, very practical. Let me do whatever I'm doing like it's the opportunity to express my gratitude for this gift of life. And that's a great recipe to bring ourselves more into the present.


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James you always make it sound so easy!  I have some thoughts about tehchnique - liking a technique, can this affinity to a technique be a path to blissfulness rather than merely a strong attraction towards something?  Can a narrow liking, e.g. a particular devotional song or a yoga posture become that support that brings me closer to Samādhi?  And can sticking to one technique become an "obstacle", eventually?
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Caroline S I love your question here. Coincidentally, I'm about to go on a journey tomorrow, and I've been feeling that life is constituted of one leave-taking after another. Leaving here for there, leaving there for here, in an endless cycle. I think you're quite right to point out that the clinging to one thing eventually becomes an obstacle. This also brings to mind my favourite line from a favourite play - Hamlet - "The readiness is all." 
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Kate, yes, and my wishful thinking, I suppose, is that attachment to a thing / technique, can become less of an attachment and more of a support that doesn't bind me and that I know when to "move on"
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Yes, this is a great question Caroline. And I think it can be both. As long as we are crossing the body of water, our boat is the perfect vessel, but when we reach dry land with mountains ahead, it may be time to leave our boat (at least for this part of our journey) and walk on without it. Our time working with/travelling on that vessel has reconfigured our vessel for this next stage. As my teacher said, the point of all techniques is to take us to yoga. Ultimately we have to leave all technniques behind and reside in that state. Meantime, our challenge is to work with the support of technique as skilfully and discerningly as we can!

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I love your comment too Kate! Life as one leave-taking after another certainly resonates with me. And I like the Hamlet reference. It's also one of my favourite plays and I would very much like to give a course on the Hamlet Purāṇa, drawing out the yogic teachings from this great English text!

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