Yoga Sutras 1.25 & 1.26: God and the Guru

Vyasa grants Sanjaya divine vision

The next two sutras continue discussing Isvara pranidhana and the nature of Isvara or God. Before we go on, I want to point out that the translation I’m using (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda) uses the masculine pronoun for Isvara. On one hand, what we’re talking about is far too big to be limited by our ideas of gender: God is neither male nor female yet encompasses all the attributes of both. On the other hand, we reserve words like “it” for inanimate objects and things that lack intelligence. If you don’t believe that God or the universe is intelligent, bear with me for a minute and you might change your mind.

TATRA NIRATIŚAYAM SARVAJNA BĪJAM. 
In Him is the complete manifestation of the seed of omniscience.

In other words, Isvara or God truly is the alpha and the omega and contains everything in between as well. God is the big bang. God is time and space. All knowledge, all events, all beings are contained within this one ultimate reality.

Perhaps you’ve played that mind game where you try to imagine what exists outside of the known universe, beyond the edges of space, before the big bang, etc. When you do that, you’re basically exploring the possibilities of the ultimate reality. Patanjali says that ultimate reality is Isvara.

SA PŪRVESĀM API GURUH KALENĀNAVACCHEDĀT.
Unconditioned by time, He is the teacher of even the most ancient teachers.

I admit, this one makes me scratch my head — hey I never claimed to know it all!

Notice the word “guru” tucked into the Sanskrit above? Let me refer you to Pandit Rajmani Tigunait for an excellent discussion of what guru really means. If you don’t have time to watch it right now, bookmark it and come back to it later because this is powerful and essential information!

The short version is that guru means “one who dispels the darkness of ignorance.” That teacher or guru can come in infinite forms, and the ultimate guru and source of wisdom is what we call God. This is why when we devote ourselves to that ultimate truth and try to live our lives in alignment with it, we make great progress.

Seriously, though, watch the video because Panditji does a perfectly beautiful job of describing the common misconceptions about gurus and how to correct them.

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the lineage of their suffering

I have a good friend who’s going through a bad time. His downfall is that he believes more in the world’s cruelty more than its possibilities. He’s fascinating because he’s incredibly smart and motivated and full of ideas, yet essentially a pessimist. He believes that things are meant to be done the traditional way, and that they are meant to fail — love in particular — that life is a struggle and work is misery, even if it’s work you love. I like him, but I don’t buy his shtick. I’ve seen it before. Some people just are that way. And I do wish I could change their minds, but it doesn’t work. You have to enter their orbit to even talk to them on that level, have to adopt their vocabulary and in so doing even their worldview for a moment. These people are so convinced of the inescapability of their misery that they come across as disarmingly, startlingly, overpoweringly intelligent. They speak eloquently and with conviction of how they’ve been wronged and how they fucked up. As if reciting from the Bible, they trace the lineage of their suffering and point to their names at the end of this long list an say, “See? I was born for this.” And they’re wrong, but you can’t argue, so I guess that makes them right by some bushy logic.

What would I even say to convince my friend otherwise? If not the words of a friend, what experience could make him shake off that sense of misery’s unavoidability?

He would have to be tired of his misery. Tired of wallowing. But further, he would need to experience a deep sense of wrongness. Some animal inside him would need to screach loud enough to be heard by the guy in the next cubicle. He would have to wake up. He would have to feel fear — true fear — not just the anxiety of a little rejection but the full weight of reality — that you exist, that you are alive, that this is it. That this is your life for real now and if you’re waiting for the starter gun to go off, you’ve already conceded defeat.

And that’s a realization nobody can give. I sure as hell can’t, and believe me, I’ve tried. And I continue to try even though it’s no business of mine. Because they’re on their own path, to use a cliche. Because I can’t know where they’ve come from or where they’re headed. Because this moment is as much a step in their evolution and my evolution as the eons that lie behind us and ahead.

We’re getting into karma territory here, which gets tricky. Let me unravel for a second.

There is, within each of us, a wisdom that is sharper and brighter than the rest. We are each like planets with molten wisdom cores. Call it a divine spark or a shard of God if you like. Call it instinct if you must, but there is something in each of us that knows where we’re going and how to get there. Around that spark is constructed the temple of the heart. The spark can’t be diminished or destroyed. It’s always there, always shining, always sharp and ready. It can, however, be burried if we neglect the temple. We can forget it’s there and begin to see ourselves as just this pile of rubble. Sometimes we can be reminded by a friend or lover. We can remember when we let the world stir us with art or nature. Once we remember, all we have to do is call to it — silently, inwardly — and the ember begins to glow. Breath into it, and this little flame begins its work, burning up the debris of the years.

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