विशेषाविशेषलिङ्गमात्रालिङ्गानि गुणपर्वाणि I
The three qualities of nature (guṇa) exist in different combinations (parvāṇi): un-evolved matter, before the world’s creation (aliṅgāni); the first stage of evolution of matter (liṅga-mātra); the dimension of feelings and individual perspective (aviśeṣa); and the objective external world (viśeṣa).
PRACTICAL LIVING In the last sutra we mentioned that nature (the body and mind) can be in a state of stability, movement or lightness. In Yoga, these qualities are referred to as the guṇas. In this current sutra, Patanjali describes the different stages of nature – from the grossest or most obvious to the most subtle. They can be interpreted in the following way:
1. aliṅgāni: nature in a very stable stage, existing just as a potential but not doing anything. This is often the stage that people refer to as before the world existed, before the Big Bang. As human beings, this stage is the sperm and the egg. They are both seeds that exist, but they have not manifested anything yet. They are in a stable environment.
2. liṅga-mātra: when nature begins to evolve, the intellect arises – the highest intelligence, our capacity for discernment and clarity. The sperm and egg coming together is the beginning of creation. It’s the encounter – a magical moment of the beginning of a living being. It’s pure matter with a soul.
3. aviśeṣa: the next stage of evolution is the ego and 5 senses. A child begins to develop their senses while in the womb. The ego, the sense of “I-ness” is vividly observed as a child exchanges experiences with the external world, more clearly seen after 12 months. Suddenly, “no” is a toddler’s favorite word and everything has to happen their way. These are signs of the ego, a sense of identity, of understanding that my body and mind are separate than my mother’s. Together with that come the emotions, anything from pure joy to ravishing anger. Fascinating to watch!
4. viśeṣa: and finally, the 5 elements – space, air, fire, water and earth. The five elements make up our bodies and the external world. This is the part of life that we are most aware of since it’s the most obvious and so perceivable by our senses.
Awareness, which is one of yoga’s goals, allows us to understand the relationship between all of these stages. We trace the nature of our being from our current surroundings to the seeds that initiated the entire evolution.
IN THE YOGA WORLD The process of evolution is the movement from subtle to gross. In Yoga, however, we are trying to practice the process of involution – moving from gross to subtle. Why has āsana (the yoga poses) become so popular? Primarily because they are the grossest tool that Yoga offers us and most of us want to or are ready to work on that level. As we will see in a few weeks, Yoga takes us deeper and deeper to more subtle places. Does that mean that we stop taking care of the more external layers of ourselves? No! We are all of these layers so every part of us needs love and care. Gradually, at our own pace, we begin to explore less obvious realms.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON In my car, my computer, my phone and my stereo at home this person is always with me. Krishna Das has been my companion for many years now. He chants for me and touches many layers of my being. When I hear him sing, my body wants to dance, my mind stops its internal war and my heart, it simply smiles. His devotion is inspirational. His stories make me laugh. His music, well, it takes me to a place inside that I yearn to stay in. Thank you Krishna Das for being a vehicle of love. Your voice vibrates all over the world!
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 next week we look at the relationship between consciousness and the mind!