त्रयमन्तरङ्गं पूर्वेभ्यः I
These three (trayam) limbs (aṅgaṁ) are more intimate (antar) when compared to the five previous ones (pūrvebhyaḥ).
PRACTICAL LIVING A quick review: in the second chapter Patañjali introduced the path of the eight limbs. The first five are explained at the end of the second chapter, while the last three are explained in the beginning of the third chapter. One of the explanations for this division is that the second chapter offers us with very practical tools of how to enhance self-awareness and decrease suffering. The third chapter, on the other hand, is more subtle and describes the results of our practices. Here, Patañjali is affirming that idea. It is a good idea to begin with the first five limbs:
i. Relationships: observe ourselves with others. Are we kind and honest? This is a practice that we can engage in every interaction we have on a daily basis.
ii. Lifestyle: what is our attitude towards my life? Am I always looking into the future and constantly wanting to change my present life? Or am I hopeless and accept whatever comes my way? We are invited here to practice a combination of gratitude for who I am and what I have, as well as wanting to change and envisioning a better version of ourselves – a calmer and more loving one.
iii. Body: practice self-care to maintain a healthy body. Here we are invited to practice movement that will keep the spine both strong and flexible to gradually practice seated meditation.
iv. Breathing practices: daily meditation practices that lengthen the breath to calm and clear the mind. Our physiology is closely linked to our state of mind: the longer the breath, the calmer the mind.
v. Senses: are our senses the masters of our lives? Do we allow our senses to dictate what we do unconsciously? The senses have a huge influence on the mind. If we are not aware, they will lead us to live a life of constant pleasure, making us think that pleasure equals happiness.
The five arenas above are the more external, more gross, and on some level, the more tangible practices. The more we practice those, the easier it becomes to practice or experience the next three: concentration, meditation and complete integration.
IN THE YOGA WORLD The Yoga Vāsiṣṭha, an important text in India, offers the metaphor of a bird that requires both of its wings to fly: one wing represents knowledge and the other, action. Action is linked to the first five limbs, which require our personal commitment to do and act in order to change. Knowledge is a result of action and is attributed to the last three limbs. Freedom (the flying bird) is acquired when both happen simultaneously. More specifically, through action we are able to attain the last three limbs:
vi. Concentration: the ability to direct our minds in a particular direction, leading to a sharpening of intelligence.
vii. Meditation: the ability to develop a faultless connection with that which we desire to understand, leading to a purification of consciousness.
viii. Complete absorption: total integration with the object of choice, leading consciousness to turn towards the soul.
It is every difficult to turn towards the soul when our relationships are messy. The mind, which is required for the last three limbs, needs to be cleansed on a daily basis. The external sheaths affect the internal ones. We need both wings in order to fly. Action leads us to awareness. Awareness paves the way to the heart. The mantra that Ram Dass teaches “I am Loving Awareness” is a powerful meditation practice.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON A 15th century Indian poet and saint, Kabir has touched me
through his deep yet petal-like fragrant poetry. His understanding of the whole game of life is profound. Below is just one example of his brilliancy. Thank you dear Kabir for guiding us towards love, towards understanding, towards the heart.
“Are you looking for me?
I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
you will not find me in the stupas,
not in Indian shrine rooms,
nor in synagogues,
nor in cathedrals:
not in masses,
not in legs winding around your own neck,
nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me,
you will see me instantly —
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.”
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 at the relativity of all the steps of evolution!