What we have seen so far that yoga hypothesizes and then tries to establish that our understanding of ourselves as physical entities is simply a convenient local perception. Slight retrospection would reveal that our physical existence is too momentary to explain the nature of life in the universe.  The universe is indeed larger than any physical entity we know about or can think of.  In a more cosmological manner, all happenings in the universe are likely to have a cosmic cause and such cause is what creates “intent” in all beings.  The discovery of such cause is beyond our senses and we resort to meditation if we wish to investigate.  Meditation does not necessarily “show” a cause, but makes us dissolve in an infinite ocean of nothingness where we could cease to retain any experience in memory when we get fully immersed.

The basis for such “out of the world” excursion, as yoga would establish, is due to our ability of identifying and controlling the mind movements.  Yoga enunciates that mind is the most powerful organ in the body and we heal our bodily pain by directing the mental energy to the section of the body.  It tacitly assumes that mind has energy and it draws energy from the environment through our individual will-power in the form of prāṇa. In time of need the mind can draw as much energy from the environment as our will power would permit.  For a yogi there is no upper limit to what can be obtained, it is a function of how “good” a container we are to receive the flow of energy.  While it may sound hyperbolic to read, we do possess individual experiences where we accomplish tasks by sheer prayer and determination.  We know that prayers make us focused to the task and empower us with that extra push.


Though success through the prayers is somewhat statistical, yoga would advise that our prayers would work all of the time.  Actually it is a bit tricky than that.  A yogi would know what to pray for and so no prayer goes waste.  But in a more practical way, a yogi does not pray because there is nothing to pray for.  A yogi has already integrated himself or herself with the universe, so whatever happens is the right outcome for the yogi.  The yogi operates in the infinite ocean of positive energy where there is no competition, nobody is superior, apparent differentials are only local and have little relevance to the flow of life and the nature of the universe.  While a yogi lives in the world, he or she remains unaffected by the happenings in the world.  The fear of death that scares all beings has no relevance to a yogi!


The question comes if such a yogi state is hypothetical or real.  Some individuals are born with high spiritual discipline and they exhibit extraordinary control of their minds very early in life.  Patanjali’s yoga text advocates that any person can pursue the path of yoga by following certain rules of conduct.  The history of discovery of the rules has not been explored, we can assume that the rules have been developed through empirical reasoning and through hundreds of years of trial and error.  While they may look ideal and too rigorous, the outcome in life with even a fraction of the discipline is manifestly rewarding.  The unfortunate part is that the discipline needs practice and observance, and it is not academic or analytic.  The change in one’s life is subtle but empowering.


Patanjali lists a set of ten attributes to create a complete set for journey to be a yogi.  As we may deduce from personal experiences, the attributes are linked to each other and a practice of one can and does create outcome in the rest.  Moreover some of the attributes need be invoked as a matter of conduct while others could be practiced in the process of life.  Two attributes in the areas of conduct are most important and most rigorous.  I wish to discuss these further.


The first attribute that Patanjali champions goes by the label ahiṁsā, an extremely difficult concept.  Popularly translated as “nonviolence” in English, some of the academic scholars equate it loosely as vegetarianism.  The concept is far deeper and has little to do with food.  It is a negative concept to recommend restraint from aggression.  Somewhere in the study of man, observation was made that a human being inherits the animal characteristic of usurping another object that might appear weaker.  Because of endowments of mind and intellect, the human being can create crooked plots and hurt others while not in direct confrontation.  The human being does have the potential to join in teams to harm others in the guise of self-made rationalization emanating from a sense of insecurity.


A verb root hiṁshas been used from very old days to mean “to hurt.”  The act of hurting is hiṁsā, and the negation of it is ahiṁsā. To put ahiṁsāin one’s conduct would mean that the person does not hurt.  Since any action we do can cause hurt to someone, the early practitioners tried to live life in deep penance with as little interaction with society as possible.  Some sects of Jaina monks breathe through air filters to reduce the risk of any insect being sucked in.  But from yoga point of view such extremes are artificial.  The goal is that we do not hate anyone nor do we think negatively against anyone.  We must not kill for the sake of killing rather we are always aware of the life in the other object.  The attribute restricts us in tampering another life in order to protect our life.  We are asked to respect life in all forms everywhere all the time.


The conduct of ahiṁsāhelps us to treat another life same as ours and we learn to respect the life force that sustains the universe.  We recognize that though wemay physically restrain ourselves, we may harbordeep resentment in heart.  Accepting everyone as a friend and no envy or enmity with anyone is the deeper conduct that we need to strive to achieve.  Deeper introspection would reveal that our difficulties in life are self-induced through our own artificial needs and our path of destroying a foe is meaningless because a foe is ourown artificial creation.  A person in ahiṁsāhas compassion for all objects without any special consideration to the individual well-being.


The question then naturally is how we may live life on earth practicing ahiṁsā. It was discovered that hiṁsāis an outcome of two instincts we have.  The first among these is kāma“desire.”  Desire is our drive for ownership of objects and results from our built in ignorance in creating a false sense of security in ourselves to ward off death.  We tend to create our own mini world placing ourselves as the beneficiary without realizing that such a process is unnatural.  We utterly fail when we break the natural rhythm of life that respects all creations in the universe.  We do these unknowingly with an instinctive desire to survive forgetting that our life and living are connected to everything else in the universe.  Isolating ourselves from the rest of the world is the origin of desire.  Yoga advises the elimination of human desire and to operate on the flow of the cosmic desire that binds all with an unseen binding force of love. We immerse ourselves in that ocean of love.


Practicing the immersion in the cosmic ocean of love has been called satya, translated again loosely as “truth”.  Satyais that attribute in our conduct that accepts the universe as such than making judgments.We develop the conduct of “witnessing” events and objects than “seeing” them.  We live in the world, interact with everything but stay detached such that our link with our cosmic support remains our driving force than any local happening.  Unlike hiṁsāwhich has a physical aspect to it, satyais internal and purely spiritual.  It defines our conduct in every moment in life where we not only respect our own physical existence but also respect everything else in existence.  Through satyawe transcend from our own little frame to the large expanse of the universe and blend ourselves in that larger realm.  When we are in satya we have no actions to perform; we are instruments for a much larger cosmic cause.


The question does come how we practice satyain our daily life?  We start with a simple analysis that our life’s events are not entirely determined by us but there is another unseen factor that operates over us.  Discovering this we assign this unseen factor a label and make ourselves a “friend” to the label.  Through this process we shift our accountability to this label and try to make our friendship stronger.  Gradually we realize that all human failures are similar and we begin to discover our own failings and correct them.  The correction process which can consist of long periods of reflective meditation helps us to bridge the gap between us and any label we had conceived.  We live our life closing this gap as much as we can till we declare a complete merger.  Life becomes a journey to explore this path called tapa in yoga literature.


Establishment of satyain life is the process of elimination of a negative attribute called krodha“anger” the second instinct we hinted earlier.  The entire goal of tapa is to get rid of the instinctive anger that we have.  Yoga theorizes that anger in us results from a perceived complex that we could be less than anybody else.  As we can see that the remedy is in our own acceptance of ourselves by discovering our own inner sense.  This discovery process is tapa.

I thank all who read these articles on Patanjali’s yoga.  We will conclude with one final article on tapa later.

Let Sai bless all.

Bijoy Misra

November 1, 2013