Sutra II.21 – Chapter II, Sutra 21

तदर्थ एव दृश्यस्यात्मा I

tad-artha eva dṛśyasya-ātmā

The only (eva) role (artha) that nature (drśyasya) has is to serve the soul (ātmā).

PRACTICAL LIVING     A few sutras back in Sutra II.18 we mentioned that nature (the body and mind) has two functions: (i) to give the soul life experiences; and (ii) to help in spiritual transformation. In this sutra, Patanjali emphasizes the point that the body and mind have no purpose of their own. They exist to set the soul free. The soul needs the mind. By itself, it does not have a way to manifest anything in the world. The body is a house for the soul, and the mind is like the big glass windows in that house. The yoga journey is doing what many of us dread: housecleaning. Though in this case, we cannot hire anyone to clean our windows for us – we need to do the work ourselves. Others (friends, psychologists, yoga teachers, etc.) can lend us tools so that we go and do the cleaning. The cleaner our windows are, the more our inner light can shine out into the world. All the tools we encounter in a yoga class are tools to clean the windows. We all clean in different ways and at different speeds. It is useful to remind ourselves of Sutra I.14 that said that the best results are seen when we practice for a long time (dirgha-kala), with perseverance (nairantarya), positive actions and devotion (satkara), and intense enthusiasm (adara).

IN THE YOGA WORLD     This sutra reminds me of the Indian image of 5 horses pulling a carriage. The horses represent the five senses (hearing, vision, taste, touch and smell) that drive our emotions, the carriage represents the body, the driver represents the mind, and the passenger – the soul, it simply observes. In this metaphor, we clearly see that the function of the horses, the carriage and the driver is to serve the passenger – consciousness. Clarity or discernment, which is our goal for the mind, leads us to a profound understanding of this concept. It is very easy to get caught up in the galloping of the horses, going from exciting person, event and belief system to another one. The word “understand” can be divided into two words: ‘under’ and ‘stand’. Awareness is ‘standing’ ‘under’ our current position so that we can gradually deepen our perspective of ourselves – body, mind and spirit.

INSPIRATIONAL PERSON     I attended a beautiful retreat recently where one of the teachers SUTRA II.22-ROSHImentioned several times the concept of having a strong back and a soft front. Roshi Joan Halifax did not only speak those words, she was those words. She shared some of her story with us and we could feel the strength that she needed to undergo all of the challenges she did, yet she has trained herself to maintain a soft front, a soft heart. Looking into her eyes is enough to give you that experience. She has a deep look, yet there is a tenderness, a love that touches you and makes you feel loved like a teddy bear being hugged by a child. Her teachings are practical. She shows strength by having ferocious courage and being actively engaged with the world. She serves the world just like the horses and carriage serve the passenger. And she shows softness in her smile, in her eyes, in her heart. Thank you Roshi for touching me deeply!

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 purpose of matter when the inner light is able to shine!

2 thoughts on “Sutra II.21 – Chapter II, Sutra 21

  1. When I remember the present, the occurrence of here and now in relation to defining the role of nature, the Seen to the Seer, I begin to understand.

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