Patanjali Yog Darshan: Wisdom of Meditation
Patanjali’s Yog Darshan or Vision of Oneness, is the ancient handbook for yogis. As this commentary will show, it is especially applicable to meditators, for meditation is the most encompassing, and direct, of the many practices that come under the heading of techniques of Yog. Meditation expands the meditator’s individual vision to become one with the Whole. The meditator’s expanded consciousness realizes that what had been thought of as one’s individual self is, in actuality, one infinite, immortal, blissful Self. Only One—Kaivalya.
The ideas presented in Yog Darshan help the yogi to understand, to grow into, and to unfold the Vision of Oneness. Indeed, Yog Darshan is the owner’s manual for the human incarnation. It offers a life-style and philosophy that enables human beings to live in the freedom that results from knowing one’s true nature. In doing so, it pinpoints on the one hand the vision that is forgetful of what life is all about and, on the other, the true vision, the Vision of Oneness.
Philosophically, the main purpose of this manual is to develop the student’s discernment of these two forms of knowledge— individual and eternal—so that he or she can steadily practice to become established in the eternal Vision of Oneness that is our birthright. The yogi’s life will then flow in health, prosperity, fulfillment, and the sense of immortal blessedness, and he or she will automatically begin to help other beings to the same completeness of understanding and joy.
There have been many guesses, educated and uneducated, concerning the date of origin of Yog Darshan, from two thousand five hundred years ago to ten or twenty thousand, or even beyond. In fact, Yog Darshan is timeless and its teachings eternal. This is the main point about these sootras as far as the meditator is concerned: their universal applicability. Patanjali is sometimes said to be simply the compiler of these sootras, or aphorisms. The Yog Sootras are really the shorthand distillation of wisdom passed down from yogi to yogi through the guru-shishya paramparaa, the yogic tradition of teacher-student relationship. This tradition is based upon the fact that one who becomes aware that everything is the Self projects the truth of the Self through word and action. The tradition really, then, is the tradition of direct contact with Self-knowledge. If this direct union with the Vision of Oneness does not take place, then the teacher-student tradition remains at the level of conditioned training.
Yogic wisdom began with the first sages who searched for the life of perfect peace, freedom, and fulfillment. Inasmuch as the sootras are direct expressions of divine experience, they are thoroughly in tune with the Vayd, the eternal realm of Truth and are as such mantras; that is, their truth is revealed through the student’s meditation and thoughtful repetition of the sootras. In this way the study of the philosophy of Yog Darshan progresses hand in hand with meditation.
To rephrase this point: without meditation, there will be no true grasp of the meaning of the Yog Sootras. There may be erudite, intellectual comment, useful for sharpening the mind, but no true wisdom, which is the unfolding in the intellect of the divine awareness of one’s true, unchanging nature. Study of the sootras undoubtedly develops the intellect, for sootr means “thread,” the thread that runs through the cloth of knowledge holding it together; but only through meditation will the intellect be enlightened directly from the source of Being. Only then will the sootr fulfil its purpose of being the divine thread that connects the mind, from wherever it happens to start, to its source, the Self.
Given the general sluggishness of the mind in expanding its horizons, the necessity of meditation cannot be over expressed. Meditation releases the inner potential of the mind to consider higher meanings and grasp the nature of the Self. The fact of meditation is unavoidable if one wishes to reach the Truth.
Our contemporary world culture of rational, theoretical, material thought once emerged from a contemplative, inquiring tradition, but became lost in physical empiricism. The need of the day is now to employ our inherited, adventurous spirit of empirical investigation in the inquiry into the perennial questions that material empiricism cannot answer: Who am I? What is the purpose of life? What is the cause of the universe? Where is it going? Yog Darshan presents for the aspiring seeker a practical, time-tested method for transcending the limitations of human perspective and remerging one’s identity with the eternal Self, the ever-present source and foundation of all being, whether individual or cosmic.
Yog is one of the traditional six darshans, or philosophies, of Indian philosophy, the others being Nyaaya, Vaishashik, Saankhya, Mimaansaa, and Vedaant. All being based upon the ancient Vedic knowledge, the six systems may be seen as six perspectives of the one Whole. Thus, while there has arisen endless discussion of which perspective is most correct and which agrees or disagrees with which, the genuine inquirer should keep in mind that liberation from the problematic condition of the human mind is the goal; and in this the six systems do not disagree.
Yog states that there are four things to be understood:
Heya: the problem, pain.
Haytu: the cause of the problem, ignorance.
Haan: the solution, liberation.
Haanopaaya: the cause of the solution, knowledge of the Self.
In other words:
Human beings want to be free from pain and anxiety.
There is a cause of pain, and it is ignorance of the Self.
There does exist liberation from pain.
The means to liberation is knowledge of the Self.
The sootras of Yog Darshan provide an in-depth understanding of these four points.
The most important of all the sootras is the second sootr in the first chapter. This sootr is particularly relevant for the practicing meditator as it defines what the state of Yog, or Oneness, is in terms of an attained state in the human mind. The reader will find that as a result more space has been accorded the discussion of this sootr in the commentary.
Although a curious reader will undoubtedly benefit from perusing this book, it was written primarily for those meditators who wish to spend some time in the study of a work that historically has been the yogi’s handbook. The discussions of the sootras therefore have as their focus the turning of the reader’s mind towards a consideration of his or her own Self as one with all. Aware that the purpose of Yog Darshan is exactly what its title suggests—the Vision of Oneness—I have written this commentary with the aim of interpreting this knowledge in terms of meditation and the essential, underlying unity of consciousness.
This commentary has been written with students of meditation in mind. In my classes on Yog Darshan, many people have expressed the wish that I would write a book on the subject. I toyed with the idea for several years until in the winter of 1990-91, I began taping some of my classes with the intent of formulating my ideas. Commencing the writing in the summer of 1991, I soon discovered the divergence between the present moment dynamics of a class and the writing of a book. This book, then, is really no attempt to duplicate what goes on in a class on the Patanjali Yog Sootras.
I have written this book to present a study of Patanjali Yog Darshan that I would have liked to have when discovering the subject myself. Fortunately, in the early years of my study I had my guru, Swami Shyam, as a living, present teacher and interpreter of this profound subject. It is my hope that as much as possible of what he taught me has entered this work.
In many ways while writing this book it was as if I was writing to myself, or for myself, telling myself what is important in life, and what I should keep my mind focussed on. In this way it has been a wonderful opportunity to keep my own mind set on the track of Self Knowledge. That is the main purpose of Yog Darshan: though scholars may study it for various reasons, its ancient relevance remains to lead human consciousness to Self Knowledge and liberation.
Yog Darshan, and particularly this commentary, is a work for those who have reached the conclusion that, more than the material world, it is the mind of man which needs development, and that until this vast, indeed highest, work of unfolding human potential is taken up, all other solutions to mankind’s problems will of necessity be merely palliative.
May your vision truly be Yog Darshan, the Vision of the Whole.