Sutras 16 through 22 of Book Two of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Sutra 2:16. The misery which is not yet come can and is to be avoided.
This is an extremely important sutra because it is implying that all karma can be expunged and never experienced in the future.
This is in complete consonance with the view of Shankara that the liberated person (jivanmukta) has absolutely no karma, that so-called prarabdha karma–karma that has become activated and begun to manifest and bear fruit in this life, karmic “seeds” that have begun to “sprout”–ceases to exist for the liberated.
The present majority view in India is just the opposite, mostly to cover up for the obvious fact that the supposedly enlightened and liberated gurus and yogis of modern times are completely under the sway of karma. So the dogma of the ineradicability of prarabdha is being promulgated. (Two other dodges of reality are “it is just a lila” or “guru is taking on the karma of others.”)
The real point is: liberation is the only way to avoid suffering.
Sutra 2:17. The cause of that which is to be avoided is the union of the Seer and the Seen.
“The union of the Seer and the Seen” has already been covered in Sutra 1:4. There I wrote: “Outside the state of being centered fully in the Self, there is vritti sarupyam–such a close identity with the experiences of relative existence that the person seems to be assimilated by them, overshadowed and rendered completely forgetful by them, mistaking them for reality and for his Self-nature. This is the state of being “lost” from which we must become “saved.”…“Therefore, become a yogi” (Bhagavad Gita 6:46).
Sutra 2:18. The Seen [drishyam] consists of the elements [bhuta] and sense-organs [indriya], is of the nature of cognition [prakasha], activity [kriya] and stability [sthiti] (sattwa, rajas and tamas) and has for its purpose (providing the Purusha with) experience [bhoga] and liberation [apavarga].
This sutra is a bit tangled in wording, though the meaning is clear. First, here are some definitions to help us:
- Drishyam: The seen; the object seen.
- Bhuta: The five elementary constituents of the universe.
- Indriya: Organ. The five organs of perception (jnanendriyas) are the ear, skin, eye, tongue, and nose. The five organs of action (karmendriyas) are the voice, hand, foot, organ of excretion, and the organ of generation.
- Prakasha: Pure Consciousness; cognition.
- Kriya: Action; activity.
- Sthiti: Steadiness (in this case: inertia).
- Bhoga: Experience.
- Apavarga: Liberation; release from the bondage of embodiment.
All that is perceptible–both gross and subtle–consist of the three gunas, and exist for the purpose of providing the evolving spirit-consciousness with experience that leads to the ultimate knowledge (vijnana) which produces liberation (moksha). So the drishyam which is an obstacle for the non-yogi is a means to freedom for the yogi.
Harking back to this, commenting on sutra 23 Vyasa observes: “Purusha is the possessor who is joined to his own seen object for the purpose of seeing. Awareness of the seen object, arising from the conjunction, is experience; but awareness of the nature of the Seer is release.”
Sutra 2:19. The stages of the gunas are the particular, the universal, the differentiated and the undifferentiated.
As we evolve, the energies (gunas) of our makeup progress from the particular to the universal. The personal conditionings of the energies begin to fade away as we move toward our original nature, and we begin to become increasingly in tune with the universe, more at one with it, for creation itself is a bridge to the Infinite. As has been said in the previous sutra, its purpose is our evolution and eventual liberation.
Sutra 2:20. The Seer is pure consciousness but though pure, appears to see through the mind.
When Sri Ramakrishna was asked to define the Self (atman), he simply replied: “The witness of the mind.” No better definition could ever be given–it says it all.
The Self witnesses all that the mind does and perceives, and mistakenly believes that it is the doer and perceiver. The mind sees a tree and the Self mistakenly thinks it is the seer, when it is only the witness of the seeing. This is not easy to grasp if we really ponder it and try to figure out all the implications of this fact. The yogi, however, need not approach the matter intellectually but experientially–which makes all the difference. Even so, it takes a great deal of separation from the mind through meditation to really understand the situation. But it does come in time.
Sutra 2:21. The very being of the Seen is for his sake (i.e. Prakriti exists only for his sake).
This has already been covered in sutra 18. However, one new point is introduced. In the Sanskrit text, the word eva (only, or alone) a is used, meaning that the entire range of relative existence exists solely for the sake of the evolving consciousness–it has no purpose in relation to Brahman. It is not for “lila” (play or sport), nor is it to fill some lack or desire in Brahman (a patent absurdity).
Sutra 2:22. Although it becomes non-existent for him whose purpose has been fulfilled it continues to exist for others on account of being common to others (besides him).
Prakriti has two modes: one is universal or cosmic, and the other is individual. Just as the cosmic prakriti is the extension of Brahman the Absolute, in the same way each individual consciousness (atma) has its own prakriti through which it is evolving. When the individual becomes liberated, his prakriti resolves back into consciousness and exists no more as vibration. Merging with him, nothing remains but spirit. However, the other consciousness still possess their own prakriti and continue to experience the cosmic prakriti as well through it.
This would seem pretty obvious, but some people have been egotistic enough to postulate that the universe and other beings exist only in their minds and will cease to exist when they transcend the mind. Others have postulated the same regarding after-death states, teaching that everything experienced after death is nothing but a projection of the individual’s mind. In this way they avoid accepting the existence of heavens, hells, and supernatural beings encountered by those who have died and returned to tell about it. “Oh, that was only what he wanted or believed would be there” is their feeble avoidance of reality. This exists in the West in the popular “you make your own heaven or hell right here on earth” of those who fear the possible consequences of immortality. Ostriches may not bury their heads in the sand, but human beings certainly do.
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