Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sutra 1.23

sutra 1.23


Liberation can be attained also with total devotion to Isvara (God). 

There are two things I know for sure.
1) I have no idea what God is, where God is , or what God does.
2) I know exactly what God is, where God is and what God does. 
Here are some things I have thought God was/is:

A very angry bearded guy lurking in the sky ready to punish sin
A hippie version of himself known as Jesus
Non-existent (my atheist phase: please see Sutra 20  )
A possibility
A void
A sound in the void
A thought
All thoughts
Total Surrendering Love
My children
All children
Everything and Nothing

Up till now, Patanjali has been discussing methods with us that require time, discipline and single-minded determination that will lead to a path of lessening our ignorance. I think of it as the muscle-bound path. You work really hard, sweat some blood and a few results may show over time. Then suddenly, good ol' Patanjali lightens up and announces, "Hey, you know there's this other way. Fall totally, madly, irrevocably in love with God!"
I was so moved by this idea the first time I read it,  I ran (well, walked really quickly) to the nearest tattoo shop and got it permanently marked on my leg, so that every time I bowed while practicing, I would be reminded to turn my attention to the most confusing and most reassuring feature of my life. God. 

But how, you may ask, can you devote yourself to something if you don't know what it is: Well in the famous words of a Supreme Court Judge—I know it when I see it. Or better still. I know it when I feel it.

What I find now so endearing and wonderful about this sutra is that it introduces the idea of pleasure. Being truly in love with something or someone is fun. It's thrilling. It's consuming and makes you feel that all is possible. And when love is unfettered, it's easy. 

Do you remember your first best friend. Do you remember how you just could NOT wait to hang out. How a sleep-over was just about the greatest thing in the whole wide world because then you got to be with your BFF the whole night? Remember the pain of separation or fighting with your BFF? In yoga it's understood that these high, exalted and almost scary experiences of love and ego dissolution are provided for us from time to time so that we can get a glimpse into the joy of devoting oneself to God. 

We'll talk more about what Patanajali thinks God is in the next sutra, but it should be clarified here that in yoga Isvara can be explained as a part of the Great Endless Consciousness, purusha. Isvara is a part internalized in you. We search for symbols, sounds and words that represent what we feel and know of God. It is hard to have a loving and affectionate relationship with Great Endless Consciousness. To me, the idea of Consciousness itself seems sort of impenetrable. It seems large and shapeless. Billions of people find it more friendly and inviting and let's face it, practical, to place their attention on symbols of that Great Giant Consciousness in order to direct their loving attention.

Everything in our path—obsticals and joys, rocks and cows, pleasure and sorrow are existing for us to realize our true nature.  And it turns out the work can be simple enough. When one lovingly cultivates a relationship with God Consciousness, affection and passionate devotion grow and from that loving practice,  surrender becomes more natural. In yoga, devotion to Isvara is a point on the internal compass. One simply must refer over and again to this sacred navigational system, once that resides in all our hearts.  Over time, it seems that this devotional practice removes not only ignorance, but fear. As fear dissipates perhaps it may be that you will be able to give and receive love and kindness with joyful freedom. You may fall in madly in love with the whole wide world —a world that exists to set YOU free.

To what or who do you devote your unconditional love?

Have you ever been madly, passionately giddily in love? Remember one instance and write about it with total abandon, even if that love has transformed into a different feeling in the present. 

What was the over-riding feeling when you were in mad love?

What fears hold you back from diving into the deepest reaches of your spiritual heart?

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