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Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Artwork
Season 12 - Episode 3

Sutra 2.27

35 min - Talk


Sutra 2.27, tasya saptadha pranta bhumih prajna, says that a state of pure unadulterated awareness becomes established in 7 successive stages. These stages build upon eachother when the preceding stage is fully realized and integrated to its truest extent.

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Sep 02, 2023
Jnana, Raja
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Sutra 27 is, as we'll see, a bit of an epic sutra in classic Potangilian style distilling and encoding a lot in just a few syllables. This is one thing I need to say as well. I need to say at one point in this course. When we get to the end of this course, it does not mean that we have studied the yoga sutra in the past simple tense. It means we've just begun to make a gesture in that direction.

Cause with these texts, these miracle mirror texts is the idea every time we look into them, They can show us new things. But hopefully, what this course will be allowing and deepening each time we return to it is that it gives us that way to kind of engage with the text so it can reveal more and more of these depths of practical meaning that are encoded in these ultra condensed sutra form. So here in sutra 27, let's just remind ourselves of the context. So 25 potentially is said Tadababa, San Diego, Harnam Taabrashire. So when we can remove a video, and we can remove San yoga, then there is the Kevalu, the all oneness of the sear.

And then he tells us the upaya, the means to do this, to bring about this Harlem, this removal, is this undisturbed clear seeing. And now in sutra 27, a bit more detail, a bit more depth about what it means to bring about that state of undisturbed clear seeing. And potentially says So pragya refers to that state of being able to see clearly without impediment. So it's like the pilot of our deep intuitive wisdom and awareness is able to shine its illuminating light, excuse me, for the tautology there, but it's able to shine its light without impediment without shrouds, without veils. And he potentially says, it proceeds in 7 stages. It stands on 7 different types of ground, we might say, each one that builds on the previous one.

It's like one stage begets the next stage, you might say. Once a stage comes to its fullness, its ripeness, you might say, then it flows or carries over or crosses over into the next stage. And one thing that's also important to mention here is that these stages, not like, oh, I complete stage 1 and leave stage 1 behind. No. We'll look at this at the end of this sutra as well. We see one sutra excuse me, not one student. One step, one stage is the basis or the substrate for the next stage. Now, we'll look at the 7 stages in just a moment, but before that, a couple of more general points.

So, here potentially is saying that the journey of removing the Avidya that partiality that non total seeing is a process step by patient, steady step, It develops. It unfolds. It builds incrementally. Sometimes people talk about this as creamer. Sounds good word. It means that sequential incremental development. One way we can think of it is like, okay, here I am, and I am subject to Avidya.

I am subject to partiality. I don't see things completely clearly. We could say, for example, I'm used to a certain degree of imbalance. If all of a sudden I introduce complete balance, that might be very destabilizing. Similarly, if I'm used to seeing an a partial distorted picture.

And then all of a sudden, I see everything It might be too much. It might short circuit the whole system of my being, and so yoga's very pragmatic. Wherever we are, that's where we work. And step by step, step by patient's step, we invite that incremental, sustainable, easeful, developmental adjustment, and recalibration over the whole system of our being. So, yes, it's true.

Change does happen in an instant, but that instant of transformation is often preceded by long, diligent, steady process. Remember in chapter 1, how to potentially describe yoga practice for long term, unbroken, wholehearted, steady effort to foster steadiness. So this is really kind of echoing that practice proceeds through stages that build upon each other. That allow the next stage to emerge unless the ground is stable, unless the root system is well established, then that next level of blossoming or growth cannot occur. So one more general point I'd like to mention here is that Remember we said before in the back in 2526, we need to remove Avidya, and we also need to remove the the overly strong conjunction with our false limiting beliefs, and we said that we can remove for a while, perhaps, or for a moment, that sun yoga, and we can access, we can glimpse, we can get moments of yoga, But as long as the underlying Avidya persists, then that suffering, that false identification is likely to reemerge.

So a peak experience is not the same as real enlightenment. The peak experiences can let some light in, so can some very challenging experiences. But, for example, the let me see if I can get this right. How do they call it? The Ayahuasca DMT tantric ecstatic outer body transcendent mythical mystic journey beyond the known transformation journey trip process, practice, experience at Burning Man, for example, it might be a hell of a ride but it's not necessarily gonna bring you all the way to enlightenment.

It might facilitate a glimpse. These peak or ecstatic experiences that ecstasy in its literal mean that take us out of our current state of awareness into a vaster one, They can be very transformative, but not necessarily. For example, if one visits, if one has the good fortune to go and visit varanasi and hang out by the Monica Gut where the most one of the most sacred places for to be cremated in the Indian tradition. That is not an initiation to the art of living and dying. It could be, or it could just be a tourist snap.

It's what we do with the experience. So same idea here. It's a little bit like that life changing book that you might have heard about. Some of these life changing books, lots of people read them, and it doesn't change their lives. But what makes the book life changing is that it has an impact on us that actually brings about changes in the way we relate to ourselves.

The people around us and the environment around us. So, for example, for myself, when I was about 20, I read a life changing book. It was called sequester in Italian, you know, if this is a man in it's translated in English. By Primo Levy, who was a survivor of Auschwitz, and it was a very, very powerful experience for me to read it. The title, if this is a man, this book made me ask some very significant questions in my life.

There's this very powerful episode, this description. There is a selection in this death camp, and everybody knows what's happening. And levy describes a scene where there is a selection and some people are sent off, and everybody knows where the people are being sent off to, to their death, to be gassed to death. The other people get sent back into the dormitory because they're gonna do more work tomorrow. And Levy describes this scene in which after the selection, a man who has not yet been sent to his death, is praying to a god thanking that god that he was spared.

And let me ask the question. What god is he praying to? To thank him that he has been spared when all of his brothers and sisters have been sent to their deaths. What god is he praying to? And this episode, and the book as a whole, made me ask that question, what what god am I praying what what god do I believe in? And what does it mean to be a man?

What does it mean to be a human? And how do I know that I would not be a concentration camp guard. And this book made me ask these questions in very, considered ways. Not once, but ever since. So it changed my life because it made me think about things in a new way, and it actually made me about them in a different way, but somebody else might read that book.

It doesn't have that same impact. So same with our practices, same with the process of yoga. We can have these beautiful experiences we can have these challenging experiences, but it's really up to us to be an active participant in that process, if it's actually gonna afford the transformation and the development, the growth that takes us away from a state of being chained and limited and very much enmeshed in a limiting partial idea of of India, and the ensuing associated clashes of these things that bind us to that limitation. Whether we will actually then make those attentive careful steps with real presence to facilitate real growth and transformation. So, potentially, it's already told us the 3 foundation ingredients for that change in transformation, right at the beginning of the chapter, Tapaher, Sadaya, Ishwodapronidana, Tapaher, the steady illuminating fire of yogic balanced discipline. Spadhi, that constant inquiry and study that attitude of studentship, and each for Pranidana, consecrating our actions.

Offering our actions something greater than what we consider ourselves to be now at least. So Here, the sutra mentions 7 stages. So what are the 7 stages? Potentially does not seem to mention them explicitly. So in order to, expand on this sutra, I turn to Vyas's commentary.

So The commentary by Yasser is the, let's say, 1st major principle canonical commentary. Some people consider potanrias yoga Sutra, and Vyas's commentary to be like one text of yoga. Others differ from that view, Vias' commentary in my opinion is distinct in its flavor from potentially. It's a little bit more particular in its framing, I would say. It's less universal, less vast, less inclusive than potentially.

But potentially, as we've mentioned already, he has this jaw dropping linguistic genius, and he is using the sutra form. Any commentary of course, is going to put a little bit of a certain slant on things. And Vyours' slant is I would say often quite sankhya heavy. And remember, this is the yoga sutra, not the sankhya sutra. However, there are a few places where Vyasa's commentary is kind of indispensable to help us Be a little bit sure about what is being stated. And pretty much every commentator that I've come across they all refer to Vyasa for this sutra.

These 7 stages, so I prepared a little, visual, which we'll now put on the screen, of these 7 stages. So these 7 stages They're in two sections. The first four stages are all about the purification or clarification of our vehicle. Let's remember, we are cultivating Viveca Kyarti, Avi Plava, the unsinkable clear discerning awareness. So making our vessel very robust in its clear sightedness.

And so vyas in the commentary spells out, lays out these 7 stages. The first four, basically, the problem is understood. What is the problem that okay. I'm I am experiencing pain that can be avoided. So I've thoroughly apprehended what that pain is. 2nd stage, the causes of that pain, this to be removed that can be avoided, have been worn away, have been attenuated, have been worn through.

I'd like that rendering worn through. I've been through them. I've worked with them. And then, 3rd stage, the removal of those things that are causing me pain that is actually avoidable. I've had the direct experience of their removal owing to the power of my own Samadhi.

What does that mean? So okay, I have some tendency that causes me to become enmeshed in a video and suffers a consequence. I've apprehended it. I've noticed it. I understand it. And now I've taken it down to its root cause, and I've worked it out.

I've worked through it. And then that old habit was about to grip me again, and what happened, I noticed it, And the 4th shield of Samadhi deflected it, diffused it, vaporized it. And I witnessed all that without charge, without rancor, with a smile on my face. Almost like I was laughing at myself that I could even have got caught up in that old story ever again. There's a lightness there. So I witness it, but it's not like I'm witnessing it as a struggle anymore.

That's already been done at stages of 1 and 2. Stage 3, it's like the power of the Samadhi of the evenness is such that it's like I'm exuding a field of a harmony. So when this harmony comes into the field, the power of the harmony is such that it neutralizes and harmonizes that de harmonizing influence. Stage 4, in Vyasa, he uses the word. So now it's like It's not that I am exercising this power of my Samadhi to mitigate the potentially destabilizing influence of those limiting tendencies, I have become established in that state.

So spontaneously, those tendencies get dissolved or vaporized. If you refer back to the yoga switch's chapter 1 course, a certain point there, I talked about these 4 stages of learning from Unconscious incompetence where I cannot do something, but I don't even know I cannot do it to then conscious incompetence where I know I cannot do it but I can't do it. So then conscious competence was when I'm really paying attention, I can do it competently. And then eventually the unconscious competence where I no longer need to pay attention, automatically I respond in that skillful way. So it's a little bit like that.

So, spontaneously, it's not that I now need to make an effort to muster the harmonizing power of my Samadhi the Samadis become so fully established that automatically spontaneously it flows from me. If those destabilizing, de harmonizing influences, we're gonna rear up their ugly heads. They just get pacified, like, reflexively, spontaneously. Now, I don't know if that sounds a lot to you. It sounds a lot to me. That's like, woah.

That's a long that that's that doesn't seem like it's what I'm gonna experience perhaps tomorrow, but let's remember Yoga Sutra is a very comprehensive practice manual. And wherever we are, we can relate to this. Oh, yes. Steadily step by step. When I apprehend the problem, that is empowering. Once I have owned that there is something that needs to be harmonized, I can actually positively constructively invite harmonization.

And that will be a process of working through getting down into the roots and the causes. And as I this is the beautiful thing about this description. As I get down to the roots and the causes, that's gonna necessitate a greater degree of calm, of composure, of breath of vision, to actually taken all those different factors that have been causing me to get caught up in these, confusing ways. And as I kind of undo the confusion and get down into the root system and clear it all out, The depth of presence that requires then at the same time bolsters the Samani and then eventually perhaps one day or one birth sooner or later, I will become established in that state in which my Samadhi is a very, very robust and protects me from the further enmeshment. So those are the first four stages Let's look again at the, visual. The last three stages, these refer or these relate to the gunners themselves.

So the first four stages, it's all about clarifying, purifying harmonizing the bodily vessel, this vehicle. The last three relate to the gunners. So what I'd like to do now is You can refer back to this sheet at any time, but let's look at 2 other sheets for a moment. Let's look at the yellow Tatford sheet first. So the first four stages, they are basically harmonizing everything that we can see on this sheet from the Panjumahabutah at the bottom up to the So those 23 tutfers, these last three stages, they're getting up to that subtle level of when preparatory first sprouts.

So let's now look at the Sanke evolution visual. So on this sheet, you can see at the top, it says moola prakriti and sat for Rajas and Thomas, in the state of equilibrium. So this is what Viasat is describing is happening. So those first four stages, we've harmonized everything kind of below that dotted line. At the level of our individual intelligence, our sense of self and identity, and through manners the, the Karimindra, the Karimindra, the tantra, the Panjima, Bouda.

So all of those touches, they have been brought into harmony as we've moved through those first four stages. These last three stages, they're really relating to that level of the first Sprout of cosmic intelligence and how we're relating to as an individual. This is what is gonna free our chipta in its subtly sense from the need to become more and more enmeshed in the realm of change and manifestation. And so stage is 567. According to Vyasa, stage 5, the gunners, he says they become like stones.

That have rolled off a mountain peak into the void. In other words, into a space in which they no longer have a ground to become wound up in that whole play of dynamism and movement and manifestation and creation. The governors have resolved back to their source. Remember back in the beginning of earlier in the chapter, sutra number 10. Veiling influences of everything in existence, they can be neutralized when they are returned to their soul. This is what he's describing here.

This also relates back to what potentially described in chapter 1. When he says, when he describes a valued archaea, the the consequences of practice. So this is Sutra 1 of 15 16. So the first four stage is the The practitioner who becomes very established in yoga practice is no longer perturbed by things that we have seen or heard about previously experienced in the realm of change and manifestation. And then Then the stage is 5, 6, 7. Nothing in the realm of the gunas can perturb this person anymore. Why not? Because the gunas have resolved back to their souls.

So stage 6, the gunners are back in that state of equilibrium. They've returned to their source. And that then begets or brings up into being into experience, into the state where it can be relished and known and recognized stage 7, which is where the Purushan, the individual consciousness, is in the Kevalya state, the state of being all one. And pure nudmala without blemish, without impurity, without differentiation. And it's there in its essence.

And Vyasa says this then leads to Kushala Now Kushala is a very beautiful word in Sanskrit. It's come from Kushka Grass, and Kushala means skillful or adept. So the idea is when we move through all of these 7 stages, as we clarify all the different parts of our bring ourselves more and more into that equilibrium, deepen the robust, grounded harmonizing quality of the vibration of our own being in Samadhi. We become more and more attuned with the vibration of the cosmos. We're able to sit at that level of the first sprouting of infinite creative potential without perturbation.

When that happens, Viasa describes that soul as an adept one who is Kushala. Now Kushka Grass, is, like, you can this mat is is woven. It's a tatami mat, like a Japanese style mat, but it's woven with a type of grass or type of read. Now, Kousha Grassmat is one of the types of mat that in the Indian tradition is most, preferred to weave a mat to sit on for yoga, for example, for meditation. But the kosher reads are very sharp. So Kushala describes a person who can weave a mat from these very sharp reads without cutting him or herself.

And this is so beautiful because it reminds us it's easy to nick ourself when we are weaving the complexity of life into wholeness. We've described these sutures as the stitches that weave together the fabric of unity. When we are making the effort in the reality of a human life to weave our life in greater cohesion and unity. It's normal. Now, and again, we'll snag the stitch. Now, and again, we'll miss a stitch.

It's all part of the game. It's all part of the play. And this idea of becoming crucial adept. It reminds me of an experience I have when I lived in Japan. A long time ago now. And I was out with a group of friends, and it was one of our party's birthday.

She was a very attractive young lady, and there were lots of attractive young ladies in the party, and this may have influenced what then transpired. When the but not the people were very nice the restaurant anyway, but what happened was the people in the restaurant, when they heard it was her birthday, they came out and they brought us all these extra special foods. And the young chef who no. It wasn't the way to brought this out. The the young chef came from the kitchen to present this special gourmet dish. And then he started charming us all, telling us about his training. Now, One thing about Japanese cuisine that really struck me when I lived in Japan is that in Japan, there is no bad quality food.

You at the train station, you wanna get a quick meal, it's all fresh, healthy, beautifully prepared. I don't know if it's still like this, but this is how it was 20 years ago. There's no bad quality. It's all good. And the way that a Japanese chef is trained is a little bit like this, step by patient, step, So this chef came out of the kitchen, and the lady asked him whose birthday it was, who spoke Japanese very well, she was also an English teacher like Albert at the time.

And she asked him about what he was doing in the kitchen. He said, oh, no. I don't I didn't get to make this. This is my my that the real, the top chef, he made this. And he explained that no, no, right now, I'm still at the stage where I only am able to perform certain tasks. And then he explained how one proceeded from one stage in the kitchen to the next.

And he brought out a daikon, which is a Japanese radish, like a white, a little bit like a carrot, They call them mauley in Karnataka. They're part of India where I spent a lot of time, and they're a very standard vegetable. You encounter a lot in Japanese food. And he said, what you need to do before the sushi chef will let you do anything with, fish You have to be able to cut the daikon with your sushi knife, your, your Japanese chef's knife, so that you can read the newspaper through the daikon without any break in the daikon and without any nicks or cuts on your hands. So you've got this long round vegetable knife that's about this long, And you're gonna use that knife to basically transform this carrot like white object into a film so thin you can read the newspaper through it.

And then some of the people are saying, but don't you cut yourself in the garden? Yeah. Yeah. Many times you cut yourself, but when you no longer do, that's when you're ready for the next stage. Because there's the idea that in Japanese cuisine, you don't want the chef's blood in your food. You need to be crucial. You need to be adept in order to progress to the next stage.

So this takes us back to the idea of the peak experience. The glimpse of yoga doesn't make us established. The real work is always taking things back into the root system, and it can be rather painstaking. It can be somewhat prolonged Sometimes when we're practicing, we will have the experience like, I've fallen down that old hole again, and we realized, oh, I thought I'd left that old habit behind, but I was like, no, I haven't quite understood everything that it has to teach me yet. So we have to be patient.

We have to be diligent, constancy, again, and again, is emphasized in the yoga method. So that's one of the things that this sort of really emphasizes. We can look at Vyas's 7 stages, and they're very helpful. But I'd like to also show you an illustration I made that kind of sums this sutra for me. So now on the screen, there'll be another visual, and this is the idea of how one stage becomes the other.

So You see it says we've got 7 stages. They're successive. They're integrating. 1 flows over or crosses over into the next. So I've said it's not like you've got one level.

And then the next step and the next step, it's not like a ladder, but it's more like these things that these bodies of understanding that then become or allow a greater, becoming just like, for example, I've been planting. I planted some beet root recently. And with some varieties of beet root, You can see they have like ring. Like trees have rings that show the years of their lives. Some beet root, they have rings that show the the moons, the months of their growth.

But the inner growth is enabling the outer growth. If there's no inner growth, it's not gonna be able to expand and reduce you and strong and come to that fullness and ripeness. And then on the bottom left, we have this some people call this like a hollow key rather than a hierarchy that's one thing. And then the next, it's a hierarchy where everything is included. So stage 1 becomes stage 2. It's not that stage 1 is left behind.

It is thoroughly integrated into stage 2. And so you can see there's 1, and 2, and 34, and 5 6, and 7. And then perhaps my favorite is I've tried to do like a spiral, like you see in a shell Like, we see these fractal patterns throughout nature, and it's like from the center, it grows out in this organic way. And that's what I think is really being encoded in this It's not like a stage 1, tick, stage 2. No. It's not like that. It's that as we do the work, of owning, apprehending, acknowledging where we're getting in our own way.

What are the causes of my becoming enmeshed in this suffering that I can avoid? When I do the honest, diligent work of looking into that, that then sets in motion patterns that can actually help me grow into more of myself and help me see in a faster, more inclusive way. So if you ask this commentary very helpful, but the basic idea, yoga is a constant steady effort. So let's just keep steadily working at it.


Caroline S
1 person likes this.
Thank you James for this talk about what is a challenging Sutra - your explanation was clear and it certainly invites me to reflect and research further.  The diagrams are very helpful - one needs to sit with them for a while - I can read the seven stages but it requires time to really "see" what I am reading,  Like you have said frequently, patience and diligence help...with gratitude x
Elizabeth M
1 person likes this.
Thank you for being here, Caroline S 🙏 

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