Yoga Sutra 1.19: Conservation Law Applies to Yoga

by DemonDeLuxe (Dominique Toussaint)

BHAVAPRATYAYO VIDEHA PRAKRTILAYĀNĀM. 
Those who merely leave their physical bodies and attain the state of celestial deities, or those who attain the state of celestial deities, or those who get merged in Nature, have rebirth.

At this point in the sutras, it’s easy to get discouraged. We’ve been talking about these high levels of spiritual progress, and we start thinking, “I’ll never get there. I can’t even sit for five minutes without making a to-do list in my head.” So, with sutra 1.19 Patanjali gives us a bit of encouragement.

Here we meet the concept of rebirth, which you don’t necessarily have to take literally, although I think it makes the most sense if you do. Basically, nothing you do is lost. If you do good works, that energy goes somewhere, helps someone, makes the world a better place. If you spend your money, you no longer have the money, but it goes somewhere and has an effect in the world. All of your actions are this way, and that’s why we have karma.

Likewise, if you spend your life meditating and doing yoga, you might die before you reach your enlightenment (sorry to be a downer, but it happens), but that doesn’t mean your efforts are lost. Patanjali says people who leave this world after making even a little progress will come back to continue their journey. They will pick up where they left off and continue to grow. Even if you think reincarnation is a bunch of mumbo jumbo — and it might be, but it makes as much sense as anything else in the world, so I’m willing to roll with it — then you can still see that the goodness you put into the world does not go to waste.

Some translations focus on the fact that some people due to their karma are born with what appears to be an advantage or a leg up on enlightenment. Don’t worry about them. The runner with the most advantageous placement in a race may still be the slowest. Don’t spend any energy comparing yourself to others, and do not assume that because someone started out ahead of you that they will always be ahead. Pursue your yoga and no one else’s, and your effort will never be wasted.

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Yoga Sutra 1.8: Don’t Let a Misconception Ruin Your Day

A crocodile

VIPARYAYO MITHYĀJNĀNAM ATADRŪPA PRATISTHAM.
Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form.

We humans have a hard enough time of things when we’ve got our facts straight. Even knowing the truth of a situation doesn’t mean we know how to make peace with it, but even worse (and harder to correct) is when our view of the world is based on misconception.

The other day, I was opening a package of crackers, and I was alarmed because I thought there were bugs inside. I saw these little black specks, and I thought they were the first wave of an infestation. But I opened the package, and as the plastic untwisted itself, I realized the specks were just numbers printed on the package. It was some meaningless bit of manufacturing that had confused me, and the problem I foresaw was totally in my imagination.

Very often, we see something strange or unclear, and we make an assumption about what it is or what it means. If I hadn’t finished unwrapping that package, I would’ve thrown out a perfectly good pack of crackers. It’s not the world’s greatest mistake to be sure, but how often do we repeat it in other areas of life. If someone honks at you in traffic, you think, “What a jerk!”  But maybe they weren’t even honking at you. Maybe they were trying to warn the person who almost merged into them. Not knowing the cause, you go on with your day thinking people are jerks. You arrive at the office ands say, “I’m having a bad morning.” Why? Because of a misunderstanding.

So, we’ve got two options in the case of misconception.

  1. Look closer. Find out that the bugs are actually just ink. 
  2. Let it go. Realize that even if that guy in traffice was honking at you (and you can’t always know for sure), it doesn’t have to ruin your day.

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