Some people are born (bhava) in the state of Yoga (pratyaya) and can reach deep states (videha).
PRACTICAL WORLD The interpretations of this sutra in the lineage of TKV Desikachar summarize the teachings in two different messages:
1. Firstly, people are born with their own specific nature (svabhava). This makes us unique and different from anyone else. This means that I have strengths and weaknesses in combinations that others don’t. My path of growth is also unique. This thought requires acceptance. Acceptance that I will never be like someone else. I am me. I have my own blend of wonderfulness and comparing myself with others is rather useless since my complex genetic concoction (for lack of a better expression) only belongs to me. In the path of yoga, this means that there is room for growth, but how much growth happens in a period of time is dependent on that concoction: we are not starting from the same place. Some of us learn some things faster than others. Why did I quit medical school after the first semester? Partially because I could not learn/memorize the information as fast as most of the other students. It’s neither bad nor good, but just a reality that I was fortunately able to face at the end of semester (and boy was I relieved to leave!). Studies on identical and fraternal twins have shown that we have what Positive Psychology calls a happiness “set point”. Basically it says that 50% of our happiness is pre-determined at birth. This is often a difficult concept to accept. But Patanjali is telling us something similar as well. On the other hand, we have 40% to work with! Yay! That’s where all the tools that Patanjali offers us come into place (the other 10% of happiness is determined by our external circumstances).
Some people are born in a state where they seem to not suffer and see things clearly (saints, enlightened people). These people are rare and according to TKV Desikachar should not be emulated since they don’t have any problems and therefore they don’t suffer. These people: (a) often cannot give you practical advice, (b) they can become a drug to you (you experience temporary highs in their presence); (c) they can exploit you; and (d) they can confuse you. These people have not walked the path and therefore have typically little practical guidance to offer. It may feel wonderful to be in their presence, but when we are not, we go back to our suffering and stuck patterns.
2. Secondly, Patanjali warns us that we must remain alert, no matter how far we have gone in the journey. Some may succumb to worldy practices and lose their superior qualities. This warning can be applied for anything in life. Whenever we achieve something big, often we work less hard than before since we may think that we’ve reached a place where we don’t have to work so hard anymore. Patanjali warns us that this is dangerous. When the ego kicks in and makes us think we have reached a high state, we should be extra careful. Abhyasa (effort) and vairagya (letting go) are a continuous practice we need to maintain.
IN THE YOGA WORLD The Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali have been interpreted by numerous traditions and individuals (see REFERENCES for the ones I have using in this blog). Since most of life is interpreted through our senses and experiences, it is not surprising that there are differences in these interpretations. Some texts define this sutra saying that some people are pure spirits (videha) or special envoys (prakrtilaya) responsible for helping others and showing them the way. Since my objective is to keep the blog as practical as possible, we will focus more on the definitions above.
Jerry, my gringo father, is a magnificent human being. Like all of us, he had his challenges growing up. But there is something about the way he talks about his past that touches me. The reality seems a lot harsher than what he makes it seem. The youngest of four, he seems to have been born with an amazing capacity of detachment from drama. His stories are filled with love, joy and an excitement for life. My teacher, Robert Birnberg (see Sutra I.6) says that the hardest addiction to overcome is the addiction to drama. Well, for Jerry that does not seem to be the case. He is a lover of life, he enjoys being with different types of people and attracted to adventure. I am so grateful to have such a delightful gringo Dad! Thank you Jerry. Your presence makes me calmer, makes me smile and makes my gringo life happier :). Love you!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look one of the key ingredients to trusting and loving life next week!