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The Consciousness of Liberation According to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra

“Patanjali's Yoga Sutra” – One of the most widely translated and researched texts of the philosophy of Yoga.
What state of consciousness does the text aim at?

As in most things that are written (if not all…)
Formulating a position on the matter is a direct function of the translation…
The translation of Dr. Yochanan Grinshpon expresses a full experiential extinction – Nivriti.
In other translations of the Yoga Sutra there is a slightly different approach to extinction:
it is an extinction of suffering and not necessarily an extinction of consciousness or experience.

In my opinion, Yoga oscillates somewhere between total extinction – Nivriti, and
unification with the stream of pure absolute consciousness.
The experience of oneness with Brahman can take part in this world.
This can be called Samadhi.
It is the supreme state beyond words: beyond the concept of consciousness.
Samadhi is beyond every usual sensual experience and beyond time, space and causality.
Samadhi is the purpose of existence.
All living creatures are advancing towards it.

Raja Yoga is the scientific approach of Yoga (one of the four paths of Yoga), which is built step by step. Consciousness is built systematically.
Raja Yoga teaches ways to control consciousness and to achieve higher levels of awareness.
As explained by Patanjali Maharishi, Raja Yoga is also called Ashtanga Yoga because the exercises are divided into eight parts, from the coarsest (imperatives, restraints) to the most subtle – Samadhi.
It should be noted that in the two secondary paths of Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga, one works first with prana (the life force), and then the dormant Kundalini energy is stimulated.
Then consciousness can be controlled automatically.
Patanjali apparently felt a need for a verbal definition of all the details contained in the spiritual practice.
He collected and organized several traditions together.
In essence he integrated the different approaches and turned them into one tradition with a text and a defined system of rules whose leading direction involved detaching the object from the subject and seeking release from consciousness.

The Yoga path is one of personal experience, or direct experience.
I will share an interesting experience, from my personal practice.
For twenty-four years I have been practicing yoga and during the past 12 years I have also been teaching.
During all this time I have read, learned and heard many stories about the Samadhi experience and all the questions that surround it.
I can only form an opinion about the state of consciousness in this kind of experience.
It should be noted that I experienced out-of-body experiences (during meditation and under other circumstances) through which I did not experience a feeling of oneness, the sense of “self” was very strong despite not being in a physical body (a fact that clearly showed me that the "self" is not the body).
In any case these experiences were far from being Samadhi or anything near it.

A few years ago, during a trip, I was in the mountains practicing the observation of nature.
At some point (it is difficult to say exactly after how much time) I felt a kind of expansion.
That is the exact word to describe the state I had entered.
It was not extinction and it was not an exiting.
It was an expansion.
For quite a while I felt at one with the tree I was observing, with the rock upon which I was sitting and the land we were on.
I felt at one with the entire universe in the full sense of the word.
During those moments I had no questions and I cannot say that I received any answers.
I simply was and everything was understood and at peace.
Like an ocean without waves.
I definitely can say that I experienced oneness with nature and with my inner nature, they were one and the same.
In my opinion it was a direct experience of verse 1.2 from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra:
“Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” – stilling the fluctuations of the mind (which allows pure consciousness to arise).
As verses 1.3 and 1.4 describe, the result was being in essential nature (1.3) in a state without activity (1.4.).
It is important for me to note that in this experience the most suitable translation of Nirodhah is silencing (calming, serenity).
I experienced complete silence as I had never experienced before even in my deepest meditations.
The serenity was so deep and wide that it may be said that it was an experience of nothing, or emptiness. The big paradox is that I did not feel extinguished.
I felt myself strongly and completely alive.
This is a paradox that is difficult to explain in words and even I, after the experience, have difficulty explaining it intellectually.
Continuing ordinary life in the world during such an experience seems impossible to me.
While I was in this state, I felt complete bliss (Ananda), I did not feel hunger, thirst, cold, heat, or anything else – I had no desire for anything.
I could continue to remain in this state forever and I imagine that if that happened the body would fall off after a few days.
In my opinion, the final state of eternal Samadhi to which Patanjali leads in Ashtanga Yoga is not a condition experienced over time in the physical body, hence the continuation of ordinary life in the world is not possible.
I base this also on Yoga Vasishta -the famous dialogue on the subject of Niana Yoga between the teacher Vasishta and his student Rama.
It provides a benchmark with which to assess the progress of a spiritual aspirant through the seven Bhumikas– stages of wisdom.
The seventh stage (after the long path of Sadhaka – practitioner) is Turiya.
A yogi in the Turiya state is called Brahma Vidvarishta.
The yogi who experiences perpetual Samadhi, does not fulfill his duties either by self-will or when pushed by others, his body will fall off about three days after entering this state.
The state I was in is far from being Turiya since “I returned to reality” (subjective reality…) a while later and since then I have not been able to recreate the experience.
It was a one-time gift.
So, with regard to the state of consciousness to which Patanjali aims, based on my personal experience of course – I see the interpretation of the word Nirodha as silencing and the Samadhi as a fusion or expansion.
The central verse in the text for understanding Patanjali’s spiritual path is verse 1.2:
Chitta Vritti Nirodhah”– stilling the fluctuations of the mind.
In verse 1.3 Patanjali shows there is a separation between the essential – the real and the subjective.
So long as there is an object, we do not experience the real thing.
In verse 1.4 he points out what happens if we are not in our essential nature: this is a condition accompanied by activity / oscillations. Then there is an extensive list of all types of activity (perceptions) and the way to overcome them (not identify with them- to silence them).
Patanjali systematically disconnects the reader from his ways of thinking.

Additional important verses in the first chapter are 1.15 and 1.16 in which he writes about practicing the absence of attachment (1.15) and knowing the subject – Purusha – awareness (1.16).
When there is knowledge of the subject the desire for Gunas (the qualities of nature) which constitute the Prakriti (the illusionary reality – product of patterns and conscious activity)
is absent.
Practicing makes the Gunas (qualities) more and more sattva-like (calm, pure) because the sattva (one of the qualities) by its nature is more like the quality of the purusha – awareness.

According to Patanjali the Prakriti exists in order for the Purusha to know itself (this is very similar to the Kabbalistic concept according to which the light of Infinity wanted to know itself and thus created vessels of the Infinite and from there the ladder of creation).

I jump ahead to the forth chapter of the Yoga Sutra – he speaks about being in true isolation (Kaivalya). This is a sort of summary chapter, with the most important verse in my opinion being the last 4.34.

“Freedom is at hand when the fundamental qualities of nature, each of their transformations witnessed at the moment of its inception, are recognized as irrelevant to pure awareness; it stands alone, grounded in its very nature, the power of pure seeing. That is all. “

When the Prakriti goes out of balance the world is created and when the qualities are balanced or return to balance there is no world. A balanced state happens for the yogi when he goes into himself, complete isolation of the subject.
In this condition the object has become so fine it no longer has any properties.
The object unites with the subject and so we see the way things are held together – the cosmic order. The real order of things is “a special object” which cannot be understood analytically.

In summary, information about the universe is accumulating, but human consciousness is never satisfied, and it will always ask for more knowledge.
As Kant put it, the intellect arrives in the end to a place beyond which it cannot penetrate.
The intellect cannot answer questions such as: “What is the purpose of life?” “Who am I?” “Where am I going?” “Is the death of the body the end of everything?”
It may seem foolish to look for the truth using a limited tool such as the intellect, to try to measure the unknown depth of eternal questions using a finite tool.
Every person needs to experience the truth within himself, only then will doubt and suffering disappear.
The purpose of any yoga practice is to reach the truth. Where the individual soul identifies itself with the supreme spirit.
Beyond the always changing awareness of consciousness and intellect, there is a spirit that does not change, is not influenced by anything and it is revealed in the individual according to the level of his spiritual development, that is, by the level of closeness of each of us to himself.

Tags: Patanjali Yoga Sutra of Patanjali Nivriti Ashtanga Yoga Dr. Yochanan Grinshpon Raja Yoga Samadhi Brahman Prana Kundalini Niana Yoga Yoga Vasishta

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