Patanjali's Yoga Sutra I.16
The highest state is non attachment to the ever-changing qualities of nature, and clearly seeing the constancy of pure awareness.
Man, this is getting pretty heady, now. So, to review a bit and give us some context here, We're in the last of a set of sutras (I.13, I.14, I.15, I.16) that describes the nirodha part of Patanjali's definition of yoga (I.2): yogas citta vrtti nirodha. Patanjali enumerated in great detail all he could of the vrttis in I.5- I.12. So now we've come to the highest state of nirodha, or the calming of our fluctuating natures. This is a state even more profound than that complete non attachment to the physical experience of life, vairagya. Now, we move to vaitrsnyam, non attachment to the very atoms of which everything is made, which to yogis are the gunas. You'll remember the gunas from our discussion about sutra I.2: tamas, rajas, and sattva to be precise. These are the basic building blocks of all matter, whether physical or mental, and they combine in an infinite number of configurations to make up everything that we perceive, experience, or think. The only thing that is not made of gunas is that which perceives them: the purusa, pure consciousness itself. Here, in the state of vaitrsnyam, one is not only detached from the objects of sensory perception but also from the very stuff of which they are made, leaving only that sole constant at the center of it all: the purusa, or the Self, pure awareness, or the soul, if you like.
At this juncture, I'd like to introduce to you a new sutra text that I'll being using in conjunction with Edwin Bryant's, because it's just so beautiful and offer a practitioner's perspective aside the scholarly one. It's called The Yogi's Roadmap and it's written by Bhavani Silvia Maki, who is one of my teacher's teachers. On this sutra she remarks, "While all of creation is known through the fluctuations of protons, neutrons, and electrons, nirodha is our ability to tap into the current of consciousness itself, which like energy, is never created nor destroyed, but simply always fluctuating." (91) To me, it's like scaling a huge mountain: as we climb through the ever changing climes of our experiences, we ultimately emerge fromt the clouds of constant change to rest on the summit in our soul's sunshine. Boy, won't that be nice?
I did warn you that this was getting into pretty heady territory, didn't I? If this philosophical and psychological stuff just isn't your cup of tea, you're certainly not alone! One of the biggest reasons I committed myself to doing this Sutra Sagacity series is to keep myself working on something that would otherwise fly right over my busy little head. I have to read about most sutras a few times before they even start make any sense at all. Most of them leave me feeling very small in my very humble understanding. We have to remember, yoga is a very long game, one which is believed to take countless lifetimes to master. That's why there are 8 limbs of yoga and not just one or two. If you're just into the asana, fine. if you're just into the social practices, fine. The method doesn't matter so much as the sincerity and the intention do. The sutras are here for us now and later: whenever we happen to open that door. I have to quote Bhavani again:
Yoga is compressed evolution, and time is the best teacher... As we are seasoned and mature in our life process, we gradually learn to no longer be blown away by the vrtti, and the turbulence we encounter in life. We enter a state of spiritual maturity and resilience, and recognize that change is the nature of nature.
So, keep cruising on your path and enjoy the climate wherever you happen to be at the moment and know that it will change. Stay open to the lessons as they come: some will land, others will take time to germinate. If you keep the faith and do your practice everyday, less and less will make you rock and sway.