Chapter 1 of Yoga Sutras Simplified

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January 31, 2022
  1. OM: Here are the Instructions for Union.

Union [yoga] means union of:

  • the individual soul with the Oversoul
  • the personal consciousness with the Divine Consciousness

In union, the mortal becomes immortal, and enters the Eternal.

Therefore, salvation is:

  • first, freedom from sin and the sorrow which comes from sin
  • then a divine and eternal well-being, wherein the soul partakes of the being, the wisdom and glory of God.
  1. Union, spiritual consciousness, is gained through control of the versatile psychic nature.

The goal is the full consciousness of the spiritual man, illumined by the Divine Light. Nothing except the obdurate resistance of the psychic nature keeps us back from the goal.

The psychical powers are spiritual powers run wild, perverted, drawn from their proper channel. Therefore our first task is, to regain control of this perverted nature, to chasten, purify and restore the misplaced powers.

  1. Then the Seer comes to consciousness in his proper nature.

Egotism is but the perversion of spiritual being. Ambition is the inversion of spiritual power. Passion is the distortion of love. The mortal is the limitation of the immortal. When these false images give place to true, then the spiritual man stands forth luminous, as the sun, when the clouds disperse.

  1. Heretofore the Seer has been enmeshed in the activities of the psychic nature.

The power and life which are the heritage of the spiritual man have been caught and enmeshed in psychical activities. Instead of pure being in the Divine, there has been fretful, combative, egotism, its hand against every man. Instead of the light of pure vision, there have been restless senses nave been re and imaginings. Instead of spiritual joy, the undivided joy of pure being, there has been self-indulgence of body and mind. These are all real forces, but distorted from their true nature and goal. They must be extricated, like gems from the matrix, like the pith from the reed, steadily, without destructive violence. Spiritual powers are to be drawn forth from the psychic meshes.

  1. There are psychic activities. They are either subject or not subject to the five hindrances (Book 2, 3).

The psychic nature is built up through the image-making power, the power which lies behind and dwells in mind-pictures.

These pictures do not remain quiescent in the mind. They are kinetic, restless, stimulating to new acts.

Thus the mind-image of an indulgence suggests and invites to a new indulgence; the picture of past joy is framed in regrets or hopes. And there is the ceaseless play of the desire to know, to penetrate to the essence of things, to classify. This, too, busies itself ceaselessly with the mind-images. So that we may classify the activities of the psychic nature thus:

  1. These activities are:
  • Sound intellection
  • unsound intellection
  • predication
  • sleep
  • memory.

We have here a list of mental and emotional powers; of powers that picture and observe, and of powers that picture and feel. But the power to know and feel is spiritual and immortal. What is needed is, not to destroy it, but to raise it from the psychical to the spiritual realm.

  1. The elements of sound intellection are: direct observation, inductive reason, and trustworthy testimony.

Each of these is a spiritual power, thinly veiled. Direct observation is the outermost form of the Soul’s pure vision. Inductive reason rests on the great principles of continuity and correspondence; and these, on the supreme truth that all life is of the One. Trustworthy testimony, the sharing of one soul in the wisdom of another, rests on the ultimate oneness of all souls.

  1. Unsound intellection is false understanding, not resting on a perception of the true nature of things.

When the object is not truly perceived, when the observation is inaccurate and faulty, thought or reasoning based on that mistaken perception is of necessity false and unsound.

  1. Predication is carried on through words or thoughts not resting on an object perceived.

The purpose of this Sutra is, to distinguish between the mental process of predication, and observation, induction or testimony. Predication is the attribution of a quality or action to a subject, by adding to it a predicate. In the sentence, “the man is wise,” “the man” is the subject; “is wise” is the predicate. This may be simply an interplay of thoughts, without the presence of the object thought of; or the things thought of may be imaginary or unreal; while observation, induction and testimony always go back to an object.

  1. Sleep is the psychic condition which rests on mind states, all material things being absent.

In waking life, we have two currents of perception; an outer current of physical things seen and heard and perceived; an inner current of mind-images and thoughts. The outer current ceases in sleep; the inner current continues, and watching the mind-images float before the field of consciousness, we “dream.” Even when there are no dreams, there is still a certain consciousness in sleep, so that, on waking, one says, “I have slept well,” or “I have slept badly.”

  1. Memory is holding to mind-images of things perceived, without modifying them.

Here, as before, the mental power is explained in terms of mind-images, which are the material of which the psychic world is built, Therefore the sages teach that the world of our perception, which is indeed a world of mind-images, is but the wraith or shadow of the real and everlasting world. In this sense, memory is but the psychical inversion of the spiritual, ever-present vision. That which is ever before the spiritual eye of the Seer needs not to be remembered.

  1. The control of these psychic activities comes through the right use of the will, and through ceasing from self-indulgence.

If these psychical powers and energies, even such evil things as passion and hate and fear, are but spiritual powers fallen and perverted, how are we to bring about their release and restoration? Two means are presented to us: the awakening of the spiritual will, and the purification of mind and thought.

  1. The right use of the will is the steady, effort to stand in spiritual being.

We have thought of ourselves, perhaps, as creatures moving upon this earth, rather helpless, at the mercy of storm and hunger and our enemies. We are to think of ourselves as immortals, dwelling in the Light, encompassed and sustained by spiritual powers. The steady effort to hold this thought will awaken dormant and unrealized powers, which will unveil to us the nearness of the Eternal.

  1. This becomes a firm resting-place, when followed long, persistently, with earnestness.

We must seek spiritual life in conformity with the laws of spiritual life, with earnestness, humility, gentle charity, which is an acknowledgment of the One Soul within us all. Only through obedience to that shared Life, through perpetual remembrance of our oneness with all Divine Being, our nothingness apart from Divine Being, can we enter our inheritance.

  1. Ceasing from self-indulgence is conscious mastery over the thirst for sensuous pleasure here or hereafter.

Rightly understood, the desire for sensation is the desire of being, the distortion of the soul’s eternal life. The lust of sensual stimulus and excitation rests on the longing to feel one’s life keenly, to gain the sense of being really alive. This sense of true life comes only with the coming of the soul, and the soul comes only in silence, after self-indulgence has been courageously and loyally stilled, through reverence before the coming soul.

  1. The consummation of this is freedom from thirst for any mode of psychical activity, through the establishment of the spiritual man.

In order to gain a true understanding of this teaching, study must be supplemented by devoted practice, faith by works. The reading of the words will not avail. There must be a real effort to stand as the Soul, a real ceasing from self-indulgence. With this awakening of the spiritual will, and purification, will come at once the growth of the spiritual man and our awakening consciousness as the spiritual man; and this, attained in even a small degree, will help us notably in our contest. To him that hath, shall be given.