Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 151 - Samyama - Settling in with Your Sutras
Date: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:20am
Q1: I am a little bit confused over how we are supposed to relate to the sutras. Radiance and Unity are for me very vague and ambivalent – for me they are pretty much context words where as Love is self-explanatory. Why do we choose the particular sutras, take “strength” -somebody would argue that agility can be more useful. What about pratyahara and akasha? If you’ve never experienced those things then they are as meaningless as mantras. Where does the eventual effect then come from? Can you add personal sutras or is this hazardous? Some people may for example desire more humility in themselves. I hope this will help you with filling the gaps of my understanding. Thanks for all the time you put into this group – it’s a real goldmine!
A1: At first I thought to give specific definitions for each sutra, but decided not to, as each person will find their own “ecology” with meanings within their own language and culture, just as you are finding yours now. It is as it should be. Some settling in time is normal.
Someone else wrote saying they don’t know what Love is, and liked all the rest. So, everyone will be different. The individual meanings are not as crucial as the overall practice, for everyone will eventually come into their own right meanings. Samyama will stimulate the rise of inner silence using the full range of sutras, which, taken all together, purify and open the entire nervous system.
As for changing sutras, it is up to you. If “humility” is not contained in “Love” for you, then add it. If “Radiance” is not clear, use “Divine Radiance” or “Outflowing Light.” If “Unity” is unclear, use “Oneness.” Or, maybe those clarifications will give you comfort in using the originals.
Akasha is best understood as living inner space – alive emptiness. Almost pure bliss consciousness itself. Our body is that – energy in vast empty space. There is nothing much here. Only the appearance of something. Akasha means that. Then, in the sutra “Akasha – Lightness of Air” we let it go into silence, and everything moves in us to manifest lightness. Whoosh! Don’t worry too much about meanings. The necessary knowledge is inside. It doesn’t take much to set the right direction.
Pratyahara is not offered as a sutra – “Inner Sensuality” is, which will enliven the senses inward. There is a lesson a month or so back (#121) on pratyahara which should make the meaning of this clear. It is also discussed in the lesson before last on the eight limbs of yoga.
Picking sutras is not exact science. Commit to a good list for yourself and go with it. You can’t wander too far off track if you stay with the basic range of meanings. There are plenty more in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, many far more abstract than the ones given here. The idea is to cover the whole of body/mind/heart, stimulating inner silence out through it. This will purify and open the important channels (nadis) in the nervous system. Once you settle in with samyama, it is suggested you not change sutras around often. We want to go deep, and that will be difficult if we keep moving the location of our digging. For the same reason we stay stable with our mantra, except for occasional enhancements when we are ready to “shift gears” to broaden our presence in pure bliss consciousness.
As your habit of samyama develops through daily practice, you will gradually find all of your thinking and feeling during daily activity naturally originating deeper inside. This is the ultimate benefit of doing samyama practice. It cultivates the habit of living and expressing from the level of divine silence in us. Then we find increasing success and happiness in everything we do. It is a habit of thinking and doing we are cultivating. So, while the choice of each sutra is important, it is the overall effects of the full range of sutras in our everyday life we are really after.
Q2: Thank you very much for your reply. It clarified things. I just wonder, some people say that Akasha has the meaning of spirit. It’s the fifth tattva, in the European esoteric tradition equivalent with the fifth element spirit – ruler of the other elements. I’m not familiar with the Indian words, but it is interesting anyway.
A2: Akasha is the last stepping off point before unmanifest pure bliss consciousness, the infinite silence within us which is the essence of all that is. In all traditions there is a necessity to assign mythological deities, rulers, authority figures, to the various levels of functioning in nature. It has to do with the natural human need for an ishta (chosen ideal), which stimulates bhakti and spiritual growth. This is how bhakti works, and it is very important that we have it in some form. However, we don’t want to get all wrapped up in flights of bhakti during the practice of samyama. We just easily pick up the sutra very faintly and let it go into silence. It is important not to favor flights of contemplation with the mind or rituals of worship during samyama. We can do that later. Samyama, like deep meditation, is a specific practice that we favor during the time we are doing it.
The body as “akasha” (living empty space) is the first step of the two-part lightness sutra. The second part, “lightness of air,” moves inner silence, and our akasha-body with it. But it can only happen if we let the sutra go into silence. So it is with all divine manifestation, which includes everything in the cosmos. Everything we see and know emanates from vibrations flowing out from pure bliss consciousness.
John 1.1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things were made by the Word…”
The basic principles of samyama are behind all temporal manifestation.
For the sake of our enlightenment, we can enter into this divine creative process within ourselves.
Click here for additional lesson content on the finer points of Samyama practice.
The guru is in you.