And I Thought That Thinking Was Good? Stillness & The Yoga Sutras

"Stop talking, stop thinking, and there is nothing you will not understand"- Seng-Ts’an

Hmm… no talking, no thinking… radical.

Is it really that simple to come into a state whereby all things are understood? Can one can actually bust out, break free, loose the grip of ignorance simply by shutting up both externally and internally?

According the the Yoga Sutras, “Yes”.

Now, this may not be so simple experientially, but theoretically it sounds pretty clear cut. Be quiet (no speaky) and silence the thought-waves of the mind (no-thinky), and you get a pass to freedom... a busting out of the prison of ego. The Sutras maintain that this lack of freedom (ego-prison) is built by our ignorance due to false identification of the Self with the mind and it’s contents (thoughts).

Well, okey dokey.

I am apparently, then, not my mind or it’s contents. And, as long as I mistakenly identify myself with my mind (and it’s noisy thought-waves), I will remain in darkness… ignorance. The Absolute Supreme Truth or knowledge of my deepest, truest Nature, will continue to elude me. Good grief, I will not be “In-The-Know”… ouch!

Those annoyingly loud thought-waves that clutter up our minds with all sorts of lies and distortions will continue to act as perfect and pesky distractors of True Knowledge as long as we let them. This veil of illusion (Self mistakenly believing that it is the mind and it’s thought-waves), is the only thing that keeps us from a complete and profound understanding of everything.

Let’s reiterate for the sake of clarity.

Mind and it’s contents too loud and distracting… silence them. Practice coming into a state of sustained thought cessation (meditation) and “Know” that by which all things are known. Experience Self as not mind and it’s contents, but as Supreme Consciousness, Pure Being.

Supreme Consciousness or Pure Being is defined here as the eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient one life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death, yet also contained within that myriad of form from mineral to plant to lower animal to human at it’s innermost, indestructible essence. Supreme Consciousness is our truest, unchanging Nature. It is what sets of free, liberates us, breaks us out of the prison of ego.

Whew! That is a lot of information to digest.

Let me take a turn here and get to some yoga history so that we can have a context for the philosophy I am espousing. I will be better prepared to validate the importance of yoga as an effective practice for attaining Supreme Consciousness if I can help you to understand its deep and ancient richness first.

This article started out with a quote that infers we can understand everything there is to be understood by not talking and not thinking. I went on to back this inference up as viable, by referencing the Yoga Sutras. It would seem, then, that having a bit of information on the Yoga Sutras would be beneficial if I am to legitimize my reference.

What are the Yoga Sutras anyway?

What they are not, is an original philosophical system. The Sutras are a compilation, a reformulation of the Vedas into 196 threads (sutras) so that they can be more easily transmitted by memorization from Guru to disciple. They were compiled by a man named Patanjali a long, long time ago (no-one is really sure when, and not a whole lot is known about him). He restated the philosophy of yoga for his contemporaries as the yoga doctrine is believed to be as old as pre-history.

So now you ask, “What are the Vedas?” Good question. The Vedas are believed to be the authentic spiritual insights that were revealed to ancient Seers as they explored the inner realms of Consciousness. They are the oldest known religion of Self-knowledge that could be taught as a methodology.

Okay, so what is the methodology? It is an 8-limbed path called Ashtanga Yoga (as distinct from the Vinyasa Flow Style of Ashtanga Yoga founded by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois). And, in the Yoga Sutra translation “How to Know God” by Isherwood and Prabhavananda, yoga is defined as a method, one of many, by which we may become united with Supreme Consciousness or the one true Reality that underlies the apparent, ephemeral universe of manifestation.

Yoga is, according to Patanjali, an EFFORT to separate the Absolute Reality from the apparent relative reality. A coming into union with that which we are… an individualized manifestation of Supreme Consciousness. It is an 8-limbed path comprised of various techniques that facilitate this Self-realization. The Yoga Sutras, then, are a means to liberation or re-membering our deepest, truest nature… Supreme Consciousness or Pure Being.

In essence, we do not practice the methodology to become spiritual or to become Supreme Consciousness, because we already are. We practice the methodology and use it as a path to facilitate stillness and purity of mind (because remember that it is the moving, noisy, impure thoughts in the mind that distract us from knowing) in order to re-awaken to, re-member and ultimately experience that one Truth that we already are which is beyond name and form.

We use the methodology, we effort (it should be noted that a relaxed effort is best as trying too hard or clinging and attaching to an outcome can actually impede progress) to patiently and diligently practice the techniques in order to prepare ourselves for Spontaneous Awakening (your own magnetic power of attraction toward awakening to your inner divineness that requires no effort on your part). We may not be able to pick the time when this “Awakening” will occur, but we can have faith that with sustained effort, it will come, and it can come in this incarnation.

A caterpillar, in it’s ‘caterpillariness’ simply follows its dharma or instinctual, divine, self-determined path by efforting (a relaxed effort, I am sure as what else does the caterpillar have to do) to build a cocoon and then it simply waits for transformation -- magnetic pull whereby no effort is required by the caterpillar -- into a butterfly. The caterpillar does not worry that it will not turn into a butterfly for it just knows, call it faith, that it will indeed become a butterfly.

So just as the caterpillar attains Self-realization (it is not a caterpillar at all, but a butterfly), we too can experience Self-realization and be established in it. We sit still and study our own Consciousness, and then wait for Samadhi (direct knowledge). We can then abide in this as Self-Actualized beings knowing all that is to be known.

I like this, but that is mute. Let me continue.

The Yoga Sutras have 8 limbs: Yama - abstentions like non-lying, non-stealing, non-harming, chastity, non-greed; Niyama - observances like contentment, cleanliness, mortification, Self-study, devotion to god; Asana - physical postures that are practiced with steadiness and ease and keep the body balanced; Pranayama -breath regulation to control prana (universal enlivening force); Pratyahara - withdrawing the mind from sense objects; Dharana - concentrated focus; Dhyana - sustained, uninterrupted focus on a single object for 2 minutes and 24 seconds or meditation; Samadhi - direct knowledge, enlightenment (this has several stages).

The first 6 limbs can be practiced using that relaxed effort that I alluded to earlier, but the last 2 can only be “caught”. In other words, that is the part where you sit still and wait with alert attention for “spontaneous awakening” or the pull of your own magnetic power of attraction toward union with Supreme Consciousness which requires no efforting on your part… this is where the caterpillar (you) waits in it’s cocoon (gets still) until it naturally transforms (remember, it doesn’t have to do anything for this to occur nor can it make it occur) into a butterfly.

Easy peasy, right? Well, if it isn’t it should be. Perhaps, we make it too hard. I mean, you cannot get there by thinking. You have to feel it, experience it, live it. And, for some the methodology is not necessary. They do not need to practice the techniques. Some individuals experience spontaneous Self-realization… lucky so and so’s. And, others use the techniques until they no longer need them. Then there is me who seems to need every technique available and it looks like I will continue to need them right on through several more life times. But, I am okay with that… really, I am!?!

I am going to leave it at that for now for I am weary and my head hurts from so much thinking (see what I mean, several more lifetimes).

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About the Author
Jeri has been involved in yoga for over 30 years. Currently, she has taken up beekeeping and states, "I thought I had been grounded in breath work in the past and then I started working with my girls, the bees. These girls are totally selfless working for the good of the social organization that is the hive.
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