Sutra II.23 – Chapter II, Sutra 23

स्वस्वामिशक्त्योः स्वरूपोपलब्धिहेतुः संयोगः I

sva-svāmi-śaktyoḥ svarūpa-upalabdhi-hetuḥ saṁyogaḥ

The confused association (saṁyoga) between matter and spirit acts as a catalyst (hetuḥ) to recognize (upalabdhi) the true nature (svarūpa) of these two energies (śaktyoḥ): one being that of the master (svāmi), and the other being the servant (sva).

PRACTICAL LIVING     This is perhaps one of the most positive and optimistic sūtras. Here Patanjali says that even though we have a deep misperception (saṁyoga) believing we are only bodies that think and feel (not seeing the potential for profound love and wisdom within) which causes a lot of suffering, this is all necessary as part of our journey. Patanjali is telling us that suffering may not feel very good, but it may actually lead us to a beautiful place within. Samkhya, the philosophy that Yoga is based on (see History), says that since we are identified only with our bodies and minds (which are constantly changing), we think that the emotional highs that we experience are the peaks of happiness. We therefore avoid anything that does not feel good and are very attached to that which feels pleasant. But Patanjali is asking us to embrace the moments of suffering since they are just as part of who we are as pleasure is. And just like pleasure will end, so will pain.

Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun, says that “making friends with our own demons and their accompanying insecurity leads to a very simple, understated relaxation and joy”. What brings most of us to read this blog or study Yoga? To a large extent, it’s suffering.

The question is: can we begin to look at pain, discomfort or suffering as a teacher? Can we change our perspective that suffering is ‘bad’ to one that says that suffering ‘can lead to awareness’?

IN THE YOGA WORLD     One question that has been asked frequently is: why does consciousness/soul/spirit/puruṣa get involved with the external world? Why doesn’t the soul just maintain its peace? In this sūtra Patanjali explains that both matter and spirit rely on each other. Puruṣa cannot see on its own, it just is. In order to recognize its magnificence it needs a mirror. The mind (prakṛti) acts as that mirror. Just like we need the darkness of the night to see the brilliance of the stars, so we need the mind to reflect the light of puruṣa.

Saṁyoga is the forgetting that we are both the body that thinks and feels, plus an infinite supply of peace deep within – awareness. The more we are able to practice awareness both when life feels good or bad, the more we remember that we have this capacity to just observe and not get involved in our drama. But the drama itself is the one that leads us to remember. Suffering is a red flag that can serve as a constant reminder that we need to back off of the strong current and position ourselves in the position of the lifeguard and simply watch.

INSPIRATIONAL PERSON     A profound encounter with a beautiful woman this past week reminded me of the SUTRA II.23-MELINApower of Yoga. She has the courage to look deep inside of herself, and I admire that in her. She cares for others in a beautiful way. And I also simply love this woman for being who she is. She is energetic, funny and has a love for making life fun! She pours her heart into her cooking and needless to say, everything she makes is delicious and packed-filled with love. Her devotion to her family is awing. And her smile: it makes her eyes twinkle and sends rays of light all around her. Mel, thank you for your friendship and for reminding me that these tools that Yoga offers us can be life-altering! Te amo amiga!

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 what lack of awareness leads to!

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