This episode is part of a course.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Artwork
Season 11 - Episode 5

Sutra 2.21

45 min - Talk


In sutra 2.21, tad-artha eva drishyasya atma, we learn that Nature is not accidental, rather it exists so that we may become truly present and see ourselves clearly.
What You'll Need: No props needed

About This Video

Aug 19, 2022
Jnana, Raja
(Log In to track)


Read Full Transcript

Chapter 1

Sutra 21, tadartha eva adrishyasyatma. So this is a very beautiful sutra, so potentially in the previous sutra has told us that our conscious essence is only pure consciousness. Based on that, he's described the realm of manifestation, and now he says, he's just described the seer, the underlying pure consciousness in Sutra 20, and now in 21 he says, tadartha eva adrishyasyatma, so the being of the drishya, the existence of the seen world is only for the purpose of the seer. In other words, what is the point of all of this existence is for consciousness to recognize itself, is for the seer to come to the understanding of what it really is. In other words, this whole realm of miraculous nature in which we experience from the yogic perspective according to the insight and experience of the great rishis of the yoga tradition, the realm of nature is not an accidental thing but has no aim or intention or desire.

The idea is nature exists for the sake of consciousness recognizing itself. The idea being, consciousness needs something to experience so its innate experiencing capacity can be brought out and brought forth, and this is the point of the existence. So some people say, what is this world for? What is this universe for? Because consciousness wanted the thrill of recognition.

The purpose of the known is for the underlying consciousness to know, recognize, experience itself. It needs to experience something in order to experience its underlying experiencing capacity, if that makes sense. So what does this mean for us? Nature has a purpose, life has a purpose, for the soul to actually know itself, for the purusha, the conscious personhood, to recognize itself. So this has significant consequences for our view of existence and one of the implications of this teaching is that nature is not entirely neutral but actually it is a benevolent existence.

Sometimes people look out at existence and think that nature is this unfeeling thing. The yogic seers recognize that there is truth in that perspective but there are other aspects of that truth as well. And one is that all of nature rejoices when a person becomes truly present. Now sometimes people say, we are living in a dark age of Kali Yuga and people are very distracted and there's so much distraction and there's so much confusion. And yet in the yoga tradition it is said, and that makes this a particularly potent time to practice because generally speaking there is so much confusion, there is so much distraction if a human being makes the effort which may involve swimming against the current of the mainstream, which may involve resisting the inertia of our previous habits and established patterns, then nature will rejoice and support.

There's many beautiful stories to illustrate this and there's one story which, I only heard this once, I heard it from Roberts for Boda, I was listening to him recently, I've listened to him a lot in the last year. I don't know the story very well, normally I don't tell stories that I haven't heard several times but I'll kind of sum it up. And this story tells of a group of great practitioners, great saints who were on a little expedition let's say, and they've been out walking across the land, this is back in India back in the day, and they've been walking a long time, it is hot, it is dry, it is dusty and they come to a well, they're relieved to find water, but this well, the rope and bucket is not there, they can see there is a water source but the normal means of accessing the water isn't there, no problem, we have some superpower issues in the small group and one of them is a jhana yogin and he is a tantric master, he has mastery over the elements so he can, as it were, how to say this, he can manipulate them or he can manage them, collaborate with them in particular ways to enable things that might seem like superpowers to us to happen and so he says, oh don't worry, and so he takes a couple of the pots that they have with them and he flies down into the well, collects the water and brings up the water pots and they share out, they have a refreshing drink, they mop their brow, but it's very hot, they've been walking for a long long time, it's very dusty, they would like more water. Also in the group is a great bhaktin, a great bhakti yogin, one who is full of devotion and he says to his friend, his colleagues, ah you've done your work, we're all feeling more refreshed now, everybody just sit and enjoy now, I'll do my work now, and he starts singing the name of God with one pointed awareness and he keeps singing the name of God with one pointed awareness, total presence, he is doing it fully, completely, leaving nothing out, he's fully into his song of veneration, and what happens, all of nature bends closer to lend its ear to the beautiful harmony of his joyful celebration. The nearby trees lean in, the flowers turn towards the sound of his song and before very long the water in the well can no longer resist and it searches up and starts to overflow and then they all can have a refreshing bath and fill their water pots.

This is to say, in my own experience this bears, one can put this to the test in the arena of one's own life, nature actually appreciates when we meet her, I'll personify mother nature like that, that's how it feels to me but you don't have to take that, you can just think of nature or manifest existence, responds when we meet it with presence. Another example, there is a living tantric master who I have met in India and I visited him in the north of India in Bengal where he has his base, you might say, where he spends most of his time. In the tradition that he is part of, when there is a tantric marriage, the couple will be initiated into the practices which are intended to take them to liberation and they will be given practices that they do together as a couple for the whole of their life because the marriage is a vow, much more than a promise, they're wedding their souls for the purpose of expediting the path of realisation because it is the idea that the man and the woman, they have within them complementary potential, we have it all within us, each as an individual but for most people within this tantric tradition, it's the idea that another person of the opposite sex can help us expedite that process, so in this tradition when a couple get married, the wedding, which will take 10 days or so, is an opportunity for the whole community to be reminded of the principles of practice and how to interact with and relate to life and existence and nature and so the couple get taught the foundations and basics of the practice they will do together, the meditation practice they will do together in the ceremony and then after that 10 days or period, then they will go on the honeymoon and during the honeymoon they will have to do, for 28 days, they will have to do hardcore practice in the sense that that's what their responsibility is for those 28 days, is to really really kind of carve out the groove of how they will practice supporting each other and now it's no longer under the public gaze, so now the practice may involve, they may be naked and they may be joined and in this practice they are going to, so the same tantric master says you know tantric sex is not about pleasure, it's about liberation, so basically the two partners, one will use the partner's water to clean one's earth, the partner's fire to purify one's water, the partner's air to cleanse the fire and so on, so it's this practice, this process in which the two people can really expedite and help each other purify, help each other clarify the lens of their awareness and the teacher says you know when this happens, so there's a place in their tradition where people can go for that period and he says it's so beautiful because when people are doing that process of establishing that practice there's the idea that for those 28 days they will really kind of set in motion a deeper connection, they'll do lots of different work to create that stronger bond between themselves, so they can basically tune into each other more and more subtly and then for the first year they will never be apart, they will practice and sit together, do their meditation together every day, it doesn't mean they have to do the whole procedure every day but they will sit and do the basic thing every day and then after that first year there's the idea they're so connected then they can be apart but they can still practice together because they've established this groove of practice, they've established this affinity and they've also established an intimacy which is so so so deep and so subtle that even if they are pierced by one of Cupid's most potent arrows, not even that, even if they are inundated with Cupid's arrows the power of that Eros will be just like a pale candle in comparison to this effulgent sun which is now illuminating the whole solar system of their shared sphere. All this is to say that so the teacher says when the people are doing this practice and join that honeymoon he says you go into the precincts, the ombreons of that space, he says it's so beautiful you get these beautiful misty mornings and he says it always happens that when people are doing this nature seems to be even more beautiful which is to say when we do our bit, when we play our part more consciously more fully, when we walk through the woods with greater presence the woods appreciate it and there this extends to the whole of existence when we start to interface and relate to life, to existence as our school, as our playground, as our guru. Guru means literally heavy, any person place thing experience the influence of which is heavy duty enough to shift us from one state of awareness to another that is vasta. When we start to actually practice engaging with a reality like that, reality responds. It's like when we bring that deeper degree of presence we open ourselves to grace and nature will bless us. Now this may sound to some people like kind of pie in the sky. Try. What happens when I start connecting to the earth, to the water, to the fire, to the air, to the space around me with greater reverence when I start paying closer attention? Try and see. Yoga we don't have to believe anything. We put it to the test. The yoga sutra as my teacher told me he says the yoga sutra it can sound especially when you go into chapter three with the powers that can come to a yoga practitioner. It can sound or it can appear at first cursory glance like the fairy tale of enlightenment but it is not. It is the practice manual of enlightenment. It is the description of things that can happen that can be encountered as we continue that journey. And so it's very thorough. It's very comprehensive. But the key idea I wanted to share here is that is the idea that nature wants us to recognise ourselves because that's the point. Consciousness wants the thrill of recognition. So when we make an effort in that direction we will be supported. Now, making an effort in that direction, what does that mean? Here I am and I am subject to my own limitations, my own misunderstandings, my own misperceptions. And so it feels to me like my grandmother would like to enter the teaching space now. And my grandmother died not long ago in just about less than three years ago. So she liked this prayer that Robert Dona really liked and she had this recording of him reading it and it was only after she died and we discovered that she'd asked for it to be read at her funeral.

I heard Robert Dona reading this poem or this prayer. It's on a collection of poems that he read. And the prayer of St Francis of Assisi is translated in various ways in English. The translation that Robert Dona reads is I think very appropriate for what this sutra is inviting us to do. Can I make myself a channel through which consciousness can flow to help me illumine my own experience? But in order for me to be a channel I have to kind of take responsibility for how I use my instrumental powers. Can I bring myself into greater cohesion so I can be a channel? So the prayer, it goes something like this. It says, Lord, make me a channel of thy peace, that where there is hatred I may bring love, that where there is wrong I may bring the spirit of forgiveness, that where there is discord I may bring harmony, that where there is error I may bring truth, that where there is doubt I may bring faith, that where there is despair I may bring hope, that where there are shadows I may bring thy light, that where there is sadness I may bring joy. And he goes on, he says, Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than be comforted, to understand than to be understood, to love than to be loved. For it is by giving that one receives. It is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. And it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life. So there's a very, very beautiful prayer that almost every line maps very directly onto the teachings that we encounter here in the Yogashastra. Can we make ourselves a channel? So where there are shadows I may bring by light. So we think, where there are shadows in myself, can I make myself open to experience a vision that is vaster than that which the existing configuration of my being is clouding or shrouding? Can I make myself a channel that's going to allow me to experience in a vaster, fuller, richer, deeper, subtler way that I've experienced up to now? Now, I'm conscious that when I refer to a prayer from the Christian tradition, some people might find this rather jarring. But I would say one of the things that yoga really wants us to do is to escape the shackles of the cultas, of the associations that would trigger us in ways that disconnect us from wisdom or guidance that is readily available. So I'm aware that for some people, anything that's associated with Christianity is triggering.

But I would suggest, can we bring ourselves into a place where we can discern the beautiful teachings of Jesus Christ, the great master or the great teacher or the great example of a yogic master from the degradations of those who have exploited institutional religion for their own selfish or exploitative ends? And I think this is one of the things that yoga really is asking us to do. I would suggest that yoga is the antidote to division. So when we find something triggering, this is one of those things that creates significant ripples on the surface of our awareness. And sometimes, when we muster the courage and the presence to examine what is underneath that triggering, then it can actually reveal something that can actually be very healing. But I find that the words of the prayers of Saint Francis of Assisi are really very relevant and instructive as to how we can invite this greater clarity so we can actually get a clearer read, a clearer understanding of that underlying conscious essence. When our awareness is perturbed, we're not going to be able to see clearly. So all those things that the prayer reminds us of, our doubts, our sadness, our despair, can we feel these things? Can we, as it were, turn towards the antidote? And Patanjali is going to tell us a very similar thing in really quite similar language in a few sutra's time. But one more thing I'd like to say about this illustration is that this is that ongoing, almost never-ending housework. The cleaning, the clearing, can I make myself a channel for that inspiration, that light, that insight to flood the field of my awareness and bring that cleansing influence into it. Like we mentioned before, I can scrub my car or my bicycle or my body after I go out walking or riding or driving on the roads and ways of life. How do I scrub the lens of my awareness? I don't know how to, I can't scrub it physically. But can I soak it in the influence of samadhi? Can I soak it in, let's say, can I grant myself the space of opening so that I might receive or be able to perceive in a way that is vaster than my habit? Can I look in a way that reaches beyond my habitual way of looking? So continuing

Chapter 2

to look at this very rich sutra, what is the point of all of this seen manifest existence? What are we here for? Patanjali says, all of this exists for the sake of the seer, of the conscious essence. So we might say, remember what we're here for, remember why we came, remembering our real identity beyond any name. The sun, the light of consciousness, the sun's the living witness, the source, the real true friend, shining, vivifying from beginning to the end. No human being's an island, our actions they reach wide. Though we may like to blind eye, there's really no place to hide because we reach a microcosm, a conglomeration of cells, a living cooperative, functioning pretty well. And all the parts belong to one whole, isolated, they won't stand. But when we come together, we begin to understand that the earth, she is our mother, the soil, the sea, the home, the sun, the light of consciousness, is the very light of your soul. The earth, she is your mother, the soil, the sea, the sky, the sun, the light of consciousness, without those rays we die. So remember what we're here for, remember why we came, remembering our real identity beyond any name. So that's one way I would interpret this sutra. What's the point of all of this known manifest phenomenological existence for us to remember who we really are, what we're really made of, that conscious underlying essence. Remember, we do not have to become anything that we are not. All we need to do is allow ourselves to remember, bring ourselves back into togetherness, into wholeness, recover our true selves, recognize our true selves. Now, one of the great archetypes that links into this idea of remembering and also working skillfully in the field of manifestation, which is what yoga's all about, is Shiva, who's one of the great icons of yoga. Now, one of Shiva's names is YogiÅ?wara, meaning the Lord of Yorgins, because Shiva as YogiÅ?wara, when he was speaking to his beloved Parvati and the Saptarishis, the great sages came to listen, he gave all of the techniques of yoga to humanity, so it is said. And YogiÅ?wara is depicted as sitting very, very steady. Another of Shiva's names is Stumba. He's steady like a great pillar, like a great mountain. But another of Shiva's names is Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance. And when Shiva's depicted as Nataraja, he's in a very dynamic representation.

He's dancing. He's dancing and whirling so fast, and so gracefully, but it's so fast that his long, matted locks, they are out on a horizontal plane because he's whirling so fast. And yet, he's beautifully poised. He's able to be there in equipoise. And he's dancing on a dwarf called Appa Smara, called forgetfulness. So, Patanjali has told us, what is the field for all of our false understanding, for all of our partiality? It is avidyara. It is this not seeing the whole picture. But if we can remember the real perspective, the full perspective, the perspective beyond partiality, then we can actually become more like Nataraja. Here in the middle of the whirling wonder of life, with all of its variegation and dynamism and beauty and contrast and diversity, right here, right now, we can actually remember and recognize drastre, that pure seeing essence, without which we wouldn't be able to have any experience at all. And so in the song, I kind of personified it like the sun is our father, the earth is our mother. Without the earth supporting us, without the light of consciousness animating us, we can't have any experience at all. But as long as we have any experience, yoga says, let's not waste this experience. This is such an amazing gift to be born as a human being. Because we are animated by this light of consciousness. We do have a pilot light of conscience that is illuminating our heart of heart. So let's do what we can to tune back into that. And then remember all of who we really are. Now, when people hear the teaching or the idea from the yoga teachings, that we are pure consciousness. And all we need to do is remember. Sometimes people have to question, well, okay, that all sounds very nice. But if it is the case that really, I'm only pure consciousness, why do I get so kind of deluded and confused? And why do I feel so weighed down by some of the trials and travails of existence? Why do I not recognize it? Why is it so difficult? You know, even the texts say it's the work of so many lifetimes. Why is that? So, later in the chapter, we've spoken about how when consciousness manifests and kind of emits overflows from that original wholeness and emits prakriti, the world of change and nature of birth and death and change. As soon as the person, the individual Purusha, who is part of this field of nature, looks at something else or looks back at the source, we start to have a hankara, the sense of I, and we start to have all these different perspectives. And there are so many gazillions of perspectives. And yoga reminds us of this. Yoga always reminds us, remember, there are many, many more than two sides to any story. There are infinite sides to every story. Life, existence, is a field of so many perspectives. And so life is really rather a complex field. It's not surprising that we find ourselves feeling under the grip of avidya, of that partiality, because we need a perspective just to navigate life skillfully. We need a perspective just to cross the road safely. But some people say, yeah, but if really I'm pure consciousness, why is it so difficult? So by way of answer, I would like to share a story, a story that I would refer to as a Purana. Purana is one of my favorite Sanskrit words. It means that which is ancient, but always fresh. It means many things, but that's one of the ways we can interpret Purana. Purana means long ago.

Purana is a story, a symbol that is always relevant and valid, even though it is ancient. The idea being it's really timeless. So Puranic story is a story that is perennially valid. So it's not just Sanskrit stories that are Puranas. We have Puranas from all sorts of traditions. Just today, I was doing some work in the garden and I was remembering a line from a play that was written in Elizabethan England 400 years ago. And that line had this Puranic quality. So we can find Purana all around us. And this Purana that I'd like to share here is a story of my grandmother who died a couple of years ago. And all her life she lived in the ancient city of York in the north of England. Now, perhaps you've heard of York, perhaps not, but I imagine that most people watching this, if not all of you, have heard of the city called New York. And, you know, there's been all those songs about New York, Frank Sinatra and Alicia Keys and many more I'm sure. People have a very high opinion of this great city called New York. So imagine the original. This is York. This is where my grandmother lived her whole life. Now, York, ancient city. And one of the Roman emperors was a maid emperor in York thousands of years ago. And York, it's a world city. It's very historic. The Romans were there, the Vikings were there. It's played a significant role in the history of these islands. And it's quite beautiful. And one of the great icons of the city of York is a building called the Minster, which is the cathedral in York. It's a very beautiful Gothic cathedral. But York, being an ancient city, the town planning all occurred long before anybody thought about the needs of photographers or tourists able to get a good snap of the iconic building that is one of the symbols of the city. York's streets were built up along with our motor cars. So they're not particularly spacious. And the Minster, as you can imagine, it's a great Gothic cathedral. It's a big building. So it's hard to capture a lovely image of the Minster on your camera. Now, my grandmother, she lived all her life in York and she had met my grandmother, big family. She had five children and I can't remember exactly how many grandchildren, but there's a lot of us.

And I had a very close relationship with her. And any time I would come back to England when during the last 20 years, I would always go and visit her. And this is probably about 10 years ago, something like that. And I was studying in India at the time already, I think. And it was the summertime and I was here for a month or so maybe. And I would go and visit my grandmother at least once or twice a week. Now, my grandmother, if you are related to her, you will receive a birthday card and you'll receive a Christmas present. And she has a big family and everybody likes to give her something at Christmas time. But what does she need? What does she want? One thing my grandma loved to do was jigsaw puzzles. Now maybe you've done a jigsaw, you know, all those little pieces you've got to fit together. How many pieces in a good jigsaw? You know, at least 500, yeah, or 1,000, something like that. So it can occupy you for a good time, yeah. Now, I was visiting my grandmother in June, but do you know what jigsaw she was doing? It was a Christmas themed jigsaw. This wasn't because she's no good at jigsaws and she was preparing. It was because she completed all the other jigsaws that she'd had been given at Christmas already. And so she said to me, well, son, I've done all the others already. So even though I was saving this one for December, I thought I might as well start this one now and just do it. So there we were. I went to visit her and we did, let's do a bit of jigsawing together. And as we were doing this, I looked on the side of the box and on the side of the box, it said in four different European languages, doing a jigsaw is like doing a yoga exercise. It leaves you feeling clear and refreshed. And I thought, hmm, something in this. My grandmother, the great Yorgini. And I would go and visit her and the next week she's done a bit more. It's quite a hard jigsaw, this one. It's got a lot of the same blue background all over the place. So it wasn't easy to do. But the third week I arrive and see her and the jigsaw is complete. So what state is my grandmother in? Now you might, maybe you've taken the cue and you might say, well, she's in Samadhi because doing a jigsaw is a great yoga exercise. But the state my grandmother was in was of a woman in search of a new jigsaw because she'd completed all the others that she'd been given the previous Christmas and she wanted a new one. Anyway, it so happened that my grandmother had been featured in the local newspaper and they had taken a photograph of her and they called her up that very morning. So Mrs. Bogue, that photograph we took of you, if you just come to the press office, we'll give you the original. I said, oh, that's very kind. And at that time she was still using, she was still walking a little bit. She was using the, what we call in England, a Zimmer frame. I think in the US, in America we used to talk like a walker. And she lived very close to the newspaper office, just really down the street. So she went and she enters the newspaper office lobby. Can you imagine what this space is like? What do they have on the walls? They are photographs of recent news articles. This is my grandma's looking.

But straight away, her gaze is attracted to a particular picture. And what is on that picture? It is the York Minster, this great icon of the city that is so hard to take a good photograph of. But obviously this photographer, maybe he went super early one June morning when it's already light at 4am. And he lay down on the road and set his camera up. And he's got this fantastic photograph. So my grandma goes closer, oh, what a lovely photo. But then she sees a piece of information that kindles her excitement. It's not just a photograph. It's a jigsaw. She gets even closer. I wonder if you can buy it. She sees the price. She recoils in horror. What a great picture. And then she looks more closely again. And she sees a piece of information which, well, it disgusts her. And she recounts this to me later that same day when I call in to see her. And she tells me the story and she tells me, she says, James, do you know how many pieces it had, this jigsaw? Sixteen. One six. You get it home. You throw out the box. It's done itself. Where's the fun in that? Indeed. Where is the fun in that? A jigsaw is only fun because it does. It's only the yoga exercise when it does engage our awareness, when it invites us into greater presence, when it invites us to focus and concentrate and become absorbed. Then it becomes a yoga exercise.

Similarly, the game of life. If it was just click your fingers and it's done, not only would it not be so much fun, not only would it not be so rewarding, but it would not allow us to actually access the depth of the consciousness that we are really constituted of. Think of this consciousness that is holding all of this vast existence. That is our essence. So in order to come to the recognition of that, once we have become identified with change and limitation in all the myriad ways that we have, then this is a jigsaw with gazillions of pieces. And so it requires constant, steady presence. But that is what we are here for. We are here to remember. So, a jigsaw, a puzzle, it's a bit like a game. And so one thing I would say about this sutra is we have been told by, potentially, this great, compassionate, very humanitarian yogic master, all of existence is here for you to realize who we really are. So enjoy your life. Be playful. Maintain some lightness. One of my friends, a wonderful yoga teacher in the Czech Republic, she teaches a class called Yoga Play. And she mentions that some scientific researchers have discovered that, more or less on average, it takes to create a new synaptic connection to form new habits, perhaps. I haven't seen the scientific study in depth, but this is the idea that I'm recalling. My friend might have expressed it much more specifically. But to make a new synaptic connection, to fire a new synapse in the brain, to bring in something new, it requires about 400 repetitions. Unless those repetitions are experienced in play, in exploration, with that sense of enjoyment and wonder and curiosity. And when those connections are experienced in a playful situation, then, not 400, just 10 to 20 repetitions can fire a new synapse and can facilitate the establishment of new habits. So when we are on this lifelong project of the jigsaw with an infinite, almost infinite number of pieces, let us maintain that attitude of the child who's maybe doing the jigsaw for the very first time. And with that sense of wonder, then we can explore the myriad diversity of life in a more empowered way.


Caroline S
Thank you James for all the funny and moving stories in this episode.  And it is fitting that you ended by saying that we can learn and experience more, easier, quicker, when we "play".  So here is to having a more playful life existence.  With gratitude x

You need to be a subscriber to post a comment.

Please Log In or Create an Account to start your free trial.

Footer Yoga Anytime Logo

Just Show Up

Over 2,900 yoga and meditation practices to bring you Home.

15-Day Free Trial