Sutra Sundays with Reverend Jaganath Carrera
Following A Giant's Steps
Imagine what it would be like to follow a giant's directions for traveling to a desired destination. It is a long journey that requires traveling from town to town, through cities and across plains, over mountains and across rivers. The giant's strides, inconceivably longer than ours, would span miles effortlessly. Striding from mountaintop to mountaintop, over rivers and lakes, he would miss many of the landmarks so vital to us. In following a giant's directions, we certainly get the highlights, but not enough of the details we would find helpful.
This is what it can be like studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Each sutra is like the footprint of a spiritual giant. We see the imprints, but we can't always see how they got from point A to point B. This weekly course of study is an attempt to fill in some of these gaps.
* * *
The Inspiration Behind This Course
The eighteen weekly lessons you will be receiving are based on Patanjali's Words, Reverend Jaganath Carrera's upcoming new and original exploration of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
This fresh approach is based on an in-depth examination of the words that make up the Yoga Sutras. Words are the building blocks of ideas, with each word adding nuance, richness, and detail. In many cases, this examination will give rise to a better grasp of what Sri Patanjali might have intended. His words are also used as launch pads for further exploration of the Yoga Sutras, that includes insights from Buddhism, Jainism, Ayurveda, mythology, and history.
More and more, students and experienced Yoga teachers are recognizing the great benefit of studying the Yoga Sutras. It is widely considered, along with the Bhagavad Gita, as one of the most authoritative resources for Yoga theory and practice.
However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do if you don't act on them?
How to Use This Course
Welcome to eighteen weeks of Self-Exploration and Self-Discovery.The following weekly lessons emphasize the practical. Each one is about self-transformation and proven ways to navigate the life experiences needed for personal growth and for helping to bring peace, joy, and harmony to your life.
Action: Make time in the coming weeks to reassess your Yoga life. Are you regular in your practices? Are there any that you would like drop or take up? Are there any practices that have become stale?
Asses what you hope to take away from devoting more attention to your Yoga practice. Would you like to reduce tension? Improve concentration? Be more loving and forgiving? Improve your health? Increase happiness and satisfaction? Reduce fear and anxiety?
Are you moved to enliven or refresh your involvement with your faith tradition through Yogic teachings and practices? Would you treasure the chance to feel a closer connection to God/Self/the Absolute? Perhaps you would like to find a way to increase your faith to help you through difficult times.
Does only the experience of full enlightenment satisfy your goal?
You might like to record your thoughts and questions and keep them as a reference and destination guide for the next eighteen weeks. There is no doubt that the timeless wisdom found in the Yoga Sutras can shine a bright and clear light on the path to achieve any and all of the above goals. We just have to get up and walk the path.
* * *
The Biggest Question
There are many things we know and many, many more that we would like to know. We would love to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease, understand how to prevent war, and know if there are other planets with intelligent life out there somewhere. But by far, the biggest, most important, and most impactful question for each of us to answer is: "Who am I?" From this question flows other vital questions: "Why am I here?" "What is the purpose of life?" 'What causes suffering?" "What is happiness and how I can attain it?"
On this journey we will find that the Yoga Sutras answers these questions and more. We will learn about the universe and why it exists, the nature of the mind, and explore guidelines for finding peace and harmony in our relationships ourselves and with others. In fact, the Yoga Sutras answers the biggest question. It explains who we truly are, and - this is the big bonus - it gives practical ways to experience this reality for ourselves. This is the essence of Yoga.
Another way to explore the biggest question can be found in the aphorism: know the knower. We know things, all kinds of things, but how do we know? What is the nature of our awareness?
The things we know change, but the knower does not. We know that the body changes and the mind does too, but knowing - awareness - stays the same. It is as if life is a parade passing by this inner knower. The parade changes, but the knower, unchanged and unaffected by the elements of the procession, continues to simply know. It is the witness. It sees the changes in the natural world. Nature - prakriti in Sanskrit - is anything and everything that can be perceived. It includes the mind. Who is that knower, then? That knower is our True Self, the Purusha. The Purusha is our transcendent source and essence. It is unconditional peace, joy, and love. It is Spirit, pure eternal consciousness, the Divine. It is what we call God.
That's why it is said that we don't have to create peace, or wisdom, or joy. It is already within us, waiting to be uncovered. Discovering that reality for ourselves, and experiencing it directly, is the ultimate goal of the Yoga Sutras.
How Far Down the Path of Yoga Do You Wish to Travel?
Sometimes the principles of Yoga might sound extreme, as though they require renouncing some or many of your most treasured joys in life. One student, who was required to study the Sutras as part of a teacher training program, remarked that she found the text, "morbid." I think that perhaps she was referring to a practice such as nonattachment (which can be misinterpreted as not caring) as well as to the terse structure of the contents that makes comprehension difficult, even alien, at times.
No doubt, the teachings and practices of Yoga can be life-changing in unexpected ways. Even minor efforts bring forth transformation.
Here is what the Bhagavad Gita has to say on this subject:
In these (Yoga) practices no effort made is lost, nor are there adverse effects. Even a little of this dharma protects one from great fear. (2.40)
A similar teaching is found in sutra 1.22, which describes practice as being either mild, medium, or fervent.
The principles and practices of Yoga are there for you to use according to your own goals. Not everyone is in it for the experience of Self-realization. That is fine. Take from the Sutras whatever resonates with you. The teachings that do not appeal to you or do not fit into your vision of life, put aside. Don't toss them out; they may come in handy later.
Are You Really Ready for Change?
The Yoga Sutras are a holistic, nondenominational, multi-faceted approach to spirituality. Every aspect of who we are as human beings is embraced and included in a symphony of principles and practices. If you incorporate these teachings into your life, expect to change. Expect peace, joy, love, and compassion to increase. Expect doubt, fear, envy, and other such disturbing emotions to decrease.
You will find yourself being more forgiving of your own shortcomings as well as those of others. Your knowledge of the world around you and the ways of life will grow exponentially. Your mind will be more focused, clear, and tranquil. You will be stronger and more courageous in the face of challenge. Your enthusiasm regarding life and Yoga will soar.
This is Yoga. Too good to be true? The long history of Yoga also declares . . .
No one believes until they discover for themselves.
* * *
We will conclude this week's lesson with a brief introduction to the background theme - or plot - of all spiritual life. Introducing the Cosmic Drama, in which we are all key players.
The Cosmic Drama
We are all, knowingly or unknowingly, part of a cosmic drama, a life-long journey of hopes and dreams, challenges, struggles, successes, and failures. All of our efforts, our entire lives, the reason we exist, is to be happy. Everything we do has happiness as its ultimate goal. All beings look to experience something that will give the mind and heart a deep, unshakable peace and fulfillment. At some point, we may find that the world can't deliver what we seek. That is when we may go within and search for the treasure that is there.
The basic elements of the drama are three: Spirit, matter, and ignorance.
Spirit. There is one ultimate truth: Self, Atman, cosmic consciousness, Purusha, Brahman, God. The nature of this truth is pure, unchanging, eternal, all-pervading consciousness. This also describes our True Nature.
Matter. There is also a universe of matter (prakriti). Matter is in a constant state of flux. What it can give us in terms of satisfaction and pleasure is therefore limited. What it gives, it ultimately takes away.
The material universe is not evil. It is a valued teacher. But because it is constantly changing, the pleasures it gives eventually morph into the discomfort and ultimate disenchantment of satisfied cravings gone wrong. When desires are not met or our object of desire grows old, breaks, passes away, or changes in a way that we do not like, we experience suffering.
Ignorance (avidya). Our lack of an abiding fulfillment is not an error of Mother Nature, but instead lies in our unrealistic expectations of what she can provide. These expectations are due to our misidentification with (or misperception of) that aspect of Nature that is most close to us: our body and mind. We see ourselves as a mind encased in a body, when truly our essence - our source - is infinite, unchanging Spirit/consciousness/peace/joy.
The Game of Thrones
This fundamental misperception is ignorance. It is the greatest obstacle for Yogis to overcome. The first born of ignorance is egoism: identifying ourselves as body/mind. But, we don't have to destroy the ego. We need to dethrone it from the center of our universe, where it has placed itself. Know that it is the self-centered ego that leads us to perceive life as a fragmented, untrustworthy place. Attachment to self-interests blinds or distorts what life is truly offering us. That is why ego in Sanskrit is ahamkara, the I-maker. It creates its own world composed of expectations of the way things should be and of the things we desire. It is based on what we have seen, experienced, and were taught as children, and from friends, teachers, TV shows, movies, music and more. We see this in bold relief when people are interviewed after a tragedy. They often say something along the lines of, "My world was shattered that day," or "My world was shaken."
That is why Yoga theory and practices work to accomplish dethroning the ego as the false sovereign of our lives. Patanjali affirms this in sutra 4.18:
All of the mind's seesaw whirling excursions (vrittis) - all its changes and fluctuations - are always known to the mind's transcendent sovereign - the eternal changeless consciousness (Seer, Self, Purusha).
The Light of Yoga
Yogis seek to awaken to who they already are. The world is not condemned; it is not a tangled mass of snares meant to punish us. Life is to be enjoyed. Life is for fun. Yogis are seekers of maximum fun.
Experiencing this is what is called Self-realization, enlightenment, and samadhi (absorption) among other terms. Patanjali uses the term liberation (kaivalya), to refer to the experience of freedom from ignorance and the suffering it brings.
May you all enjoy the path to liberation.
* * *
Thank you for your interest in Sutra Sundays.
It is our heartfelt wish that the upcoming weeks bring an increase in your wellbeing, peace of mind, and joy.
Reverend Jaganath will answer your questions at our monthly satsangs.
If you cannot attend a satsang, you will be able to access the video recording.
You can also submit your questions
OM Shanti Shanti Shanti
May the entire creation be filled with peace and joy; love and light.