Yoga Sūtra Verse 1.16

June 30, 2012 § 1 Comment


tat – that [detachment]
param – the very best (in this case: better than)
puruṣa – the absolute nature of Self; Consciousness, both the soul and the source of the soul,
khyāti – knowledge, perception, it can also mean renown, fame, celebrity, being familiar with…
guṇa – fundamental particles (threads) of matter [sattva, raja, guna]
vaitṛśṇa – indifference to, quenching of thirst [lit], freedom from material desires


” Greater than detachment  from the material world is to lose all interest in the very fabric of our reality. This comes from experiencing the nature of Consciousness.”


The path to enlightenment does not exist.

Enlightenment is the endless journey of the awakening soul. Since it is endless there is no destination. It’s all journey.

In the absence of destinations, spiritual joy is the product of personal effort. This means you no longer have to think in terms of having arrived. You just think that there is always something new to discover. From this perspective, the journey of self discovery is not about where you go, but how you get there.

This is a very freeing concept, because it gives you, the aspirant, relief from either worrying whether you are not far enough along, or worse, thinking you are further along than you are.  Sadly, thinking we are further than we are is a frequent obstacle  among the modern-day seekers. A flaw made worse by the cultural tendency to avoid self-deprecation at all costs. We are, sadly, a bit too hung up on “good esteem” at all costs.

Spiritual life is not about reinforcing the ego. It is about humility. Which, as it happens, is the only defense the yogi has against  the false ego’s influence. Consequently, the  safest position for  the modern yogi to take is to assume they have made little or no progress. This, however, does not mean that milestones do not exist, or that there is no criteria for describing spiritual progress. This verse, and many others show that many such criteria do exist.  None of these criteria are destinations as much as they are milestones or markers that indicate where you are in the unending exploration of Consciousness.

All of this is to say, that Patañjali is describing in this verse, a very high and rarefied state of consciousness. He is describing a state of being that is even greater than the detachment discussed in the previous verse.This is exciting news and should both humble you and inspire you. Who can imagine the extraordinary spiritual adventures that await the practicing yogi.

Patañjali is also providing an important clue to the inferred importance of Bhakti Yoga.  A central tenet of Sanskrit philosophy is that all yoga is dependent upon Bhakti or devotion for spirit. Even though Patañjali does not use the word Bhakti directly in the sūtras, he implies it many times over. The word Bhakti’s absence does not negate its importance to the process;  but its absence is logical because the sutras are by design, compact and distilled. Patañjali’s does this so that commentators will unpack the sūtras according to time and circumstance. In some eras, Bhakti yoga is implicitly taught; and in others, like ours, it is explicitly taught.

Additionally, this verse hints at a state of being where the individual soul is completely free from matter and material desire’s influence, even though they may still be in a human body.

This indicates that some deeper and far richer state of awareness is possible. And, more significantly, that it is not  voidism or some sort of spiritual coma. It suggests an inconceivable experience of Consciousness: intense, personal, and intoxicating. It suggests the possibility of a higher taste. In other words no matter how good it is here, something even better awaits.

So it is ok to slow down in your estimation of where you are spiritually. You can feel joy and gratitude about your pursuit of Consciousness just because you are in pursuit of Consciousness. This is one of the intoxicating paradoxes of modern yoga: you have arrived and not arrived simultaneously. 🙂



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