Sutras, pt. 3-4
(Note: I compared my first entry with Satchidananda’s commentary. We agree that the world around us is simply our senses being filtered through our nervous system/brain; however, he expands more on the perception part. In his words, “if you can have control over the thought forms and change them as you want, you are not bound by the outside world…[you] can make it a heaven or a hell according to your approach.” Henceforth, I’ll be adding his perspective on each Sutra to my own, after writing my own commentary of course.)
Namaste! Let’s start with a brief exercise. Ask yourself: “What am I?” and think of an answer. Do it again. In fact, try repeating the process and note down the answers. Wasn’t that fun? It’s also intended to set the tone for this part of the Sutra analysis. Read on…
“Then, the Seer (Self) abides in his own true nature.”
“At other times, the Seer appears to assume the forms of the mental modifications.”
Get it? Let me explain. First two Sutras defined yoga as the restraint of the modifications of the mind. Now, we are the Seer. What is our true nature? I take “abide” to mean “immersed within”, and our “true nature” is our feeling of being at home, in every sense of the word. The “other times” are those when we’re not doing yoga (i.e. practicing said restraint). That’s when we’re “assuming the forms” of our “mental modifications.”
To convey my understanding of this, I ask you you refer back to your answers to the “what am I” question. If you’re like me, your answers run the gamut from your identity (“I am Sachin”), to how you feel at the present moment (“I am hungry!”), to your relationships (“I am a son”), and so on. For most generally self-aware people, there is little doubt in the truth of all these answers. What, then, is our “own true nature”? In my humble opinion, we’ll never know but we can get close.
Imagine all your answers written along the circumference of a circle (or surface area of a sphere). Now imagine that who you really are is the point in the middle. In other words, the only way you can be “all of the above” is to be equidistant from everything you say you are. This may be your “true nature.”
“But wait,” you might be thinking, “aren’t all these answers our mental modifications, and by being in the circle/sphere, we’re just assuming the forms?” Good question, and my only answer is that if you meditate on it long enough, your list of words will be endless. I.e. the circle/sphere is ever-growing. Consequently, so is your true nature! We know so much, yet we accept so little. We know we’re made of the same stuff as the stars (like Moby said), we know we have the genetic code of our ancestors, we know how the environment is constantly shaping us, and we know that we have a near-infinite ability to learn things. Yet, we so frequently accept (and get frustrated) with our losses, our limitations, and our situations, and desire for more without believing that we can have it.
Maybe, just maybe, Patanjali is hinting that by practicing yoga, we can actually enhance our potential for growth? Or maybe, since we are already growth (say it to yourself “I am growth!”), the Sutra is merely intended to inform us that by not practicing yoga, we limit ourselves to our current state (of mind, and therefore being). Whatever the answer is, it’s probably true! Cogito ergo sum. In other news, I’m really hungry, so it’s time for dinner before I turn into a giant ball of monstrous hunger. Thanks for reading!