The Enlightenment of Yoga

The Enlightenment of Yoga

In the Yoga Sutra, the description of enlightenment sounds a lot like clear Cosmic Consciousness or Self Realization. But the “perfections” in book 3 and 4 that come with it are from another age when the environment is “cleaner”. Nonetheless, a number of them do tend to show up over time.

But there is also another distinction. Patanjali uses the word kaivalya for enlightenment. In the last verse, 4v34:
In the absence of activity (the gunas), the purpose of purusha (spirit) is fulfilled, and what remains is kaivalya (singularity) – the infinite power (shakti) of consciousness established in its own nature.

Put another way: Purusha is spirit in duality with prakriti, nature. Nature is composed of the 3 gunas. When nature is resolved, the purpose of its duality is complete and the power behind nature and conciousness are united in a singularity.

Note that kaivalya means singularity. That’s not how enlightenment is popularly described these days. This is when you recognize yourself as the point of awareness, the point from which the knower/ experiencer arises. After the initial spiritual awakening, boundless awareness usually dominates. The fact that all experience comes through a point may not be noticed at first. But when the witness becomes less of a contrast or duality, the point-value becomes more apparent.

In time it is recognized there is both boundlessness and a point of focus of attention. (samyama) Later this is recognized in a still larger context. That cosmic, global awareness is seen to become aware of itself at every point – not just this one. We are this singularity in a field of singularities. Each kaivalya is yet another point waking up to its wholeness, another step in the boundless awakening of all beings.

Further along and we transcend global awareness (Atman) into Brahman. Kaivalya becomes seen as the starting point or doorway to totality. Vedanta follows Yoga.

Then we can recognize Brahman is the actual knower and all those points of awareness are actually devata – not knowers but rather the process of experience, the means by which Brahman knows it’s expression. No seer or seen, just seeing. There is no separate knowers or experiencers. Devata are just expressing what comes through them, our muse.

From this perspective, nothing has ever happened or is happening. There is simply a kind of musing within itself that expresses an apparent form that is never formed. No illusion, just a play within itself. There is only ever a process, a means of knowing, a profound sense of holy.

Last Updated on May 21, 2014 by

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  4. Blanche

    Hi David,
    In your book you mention that Kaivalya (singularity) refers to a model that describes the process of awakening of a different time that is not relevant now (p.37). I search your blog, and found this entry. It describes the realization process here, the waking up in a point recognizing unbounded awareness of being. Each of us is a pushpin that comes free from the constrains of the identifications with the body-mind-ego. As each pushpin comes free from the false identifications, the degrees of freedom of all the pushpins (singularities) increase. I also recognize the constrains of our times, and it feels sometimes that outter influences hold down the group awareness and the rate of awakening that should occur naturally for all human beings. Could you elaborate more on this idea that it is not common this days to recognize that the singularity awakens to the wholeness? What was different at the time when Patanjali wrote Yoga Sutra?
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, experience, and insight.

    1. Hi Blanche
      First, consider the point (pushpin). When you look at your day-to-day experiences they all are from a specific point we usually experience as here. This is true in dreams and refined perception as well. When we’re unentangled from the body-mind, we can move that point of observation other places, like experience what it is to be a bird, but it always defaults back here. We’re simply moving the point of focus within the larger field.

      In the current time, I’ve observed that people usually experience their shift subjectively one of 5 ways. This is described in the book and briefly mentioned here:

      With enough clarity, we come to recognize ourselves as boundless awareness, observing this point from which we have perceptions. But it’s not usually until later on that we observe the mechanics of consciousness and recognize it was the wholeness that woke up to itself in the point, kaivalya.

      The fourth book of Yoga talks about awakening in a way that suggests kaivalya is the typical way it’s experienced, along with physical perfections and abilities that are not typically experienced in the current time – like your physical body being invincible and able to be any size.

      It’s the same process taking place now but the subjective experience is different and the degree of embodiment is different.

      Vedic texts don’t consider when important so it’s not recorded. Academics generally attribute the Yoga Sutra to a Patanjali who wrote on grammar but the sage Vyasa, who first compiled the core Vedas in their present form, also wrote a commentary on them, making them centuries older.

      You could say it’s like that, unpinned. It can also be experienced as lit up. You can sometimes notice one of the other points “switching on” in global awareness.

      Another way this is recognized is the falling away of the mesh of karmic constraints and entanglements with others.

      Yes, the group consciousness can feel like it’s holding us back. But at the same time, we’re raising it up. It’s actually rising at a rapid pace at the moment so it’s good there is a bit of inertia to moderate the rate of change.

      In the time the Yoga Sutra was compiled, what it describes were much more common experiences. Yogic flying was commonly seen, for example. The world had no written languages and a much lower level of technology as they were not required. The presence of the Divine was obvious. Life was different in many, many ways.

      Still, we live in a remarkable time where we can watch the world wake up from a long slumber.
      That address your thoughts?

  5. Blanche

    Well put, David. Kaivalya as “singularity” reflect better the process here than kaivalya as “liberation,” the common translation. The singularity lights up, and reveals its lack of dimensions. The space-time constrains fall away, allowing the wholeness to reveal itself, and the access to other singularities, a paradox for sure. Patanjali talks in the third chapter of YS of the possibility of transferring one’s awareness in another body-mind. This technique is also mentioned in the Tibetan Mahamudra text, and suggests an embodied access to other singularities.

    Yoga Sutra opens with “atha yoganusasanam,” which could be interpreted as an indication that Patanjali admits that he selects and integrates in a system ascetic practices and contemplative techniques tested along centuries. These practices were known in India from time immemorial.

    The fact that most siddhis are not embodied in the current time may be related to the fact the present culture does not allow their existence even as a possibility. This makes me wonder if we can recognize a siddhi when we see one. A flying yogi would probably be dismissed as a balloon or a trick of the eye. Many people see Lorne, but how many recognize his transparent state of being? How does the world look from Lorne’s singularity?

    1. Hi Blanche
      Yes, but usually at first we’re more aware of expanding from an ego me into infinite presence. That it was the point value that woke up tends to become more clear later.

      Yes, as we are concurrently that global awareness, it’s nothing to shift attention to a different point. It’s not really a “transfer” of anything but attention (unlike something like “astral travel,” for example). The key to understand is that we always experience from where we are rather than where they are, so the experience is different. We do get a sense of other though.

      YS 3:20-21 puts it like this:
      “From a mental impulse comes knowledge of another’s mind.
      But that knowledge does not include the cause of another’s thoughts, because their object of perception is not possible to know.”

      The last bit I suspect is a slight mis-translation. We can experience what they’re experiencing and their history that led to this point. But their relationship with it is relative to their relationship with consciousness, not ours. We get an overview rather than their direct experience. This also relates to this verse:

      YS 4:21 observes:
      “If the mind was seen by another mind, there would be an over-occurrence of intellect observing intellect and confusion of memory.”

      This is somewhat akin to a mirror reflecting a mirror. Consciousness can observe another mind easily though.

      “atha yogaanushaasanam” is translated as ‘Now is the teaching of Yoga’, a common way some old texts begin. The Brahma Sutra does similar. More literally, it’s Now, Yoga, belonging to, position. ie: now, a position or posture on union.

      Myself, I don’t associate ascetic or contemplative to the YS. I know many have, but if you see Samyama as open awareness in focus on an object of attention (which works very well), it gives very different meaning to the parts of Ashtanga, the 8 limbs.

      But yes, even Patanjali was simply making note of existing understanding. And some verses refer to understanding that’s been lost. But here and there, old texts are being discovered unlabeled or in someones basement.

      I don’t think culture disallows expression of the siddhis but it would require someone very potent to move through that resistance. I remember reading about a group of western archeologists in remote India over 100 years ago running into a community where there were a number of people expressing the more overt siddhis. They demonstrated walking through fire, being in 2 places at once and some of the others. Notably though, others there viewed them as normal but didn’t believe they had the capacity.

      The less overt siddhis, like knowledge of past lives, are easier to arise in the current time as there is less community resistance. We do have to work through our own though. (laughs)

      India also has a tradition of fakirs. You can find Youtube videos of people levitating, for example. Much of that is staged.

      Recognizing someones presence requires some value of presence to be lively. Thats somewhat different. Also, I doubt Lorne would describe his experience as related to a singularity now, except perhaps of sense perceptions. 🙂
      Here, it’s simply a reference point for the human experience which is a small part of the totality.

  6. Blanche

    Hi David,

    Thank you for a detailed answer. Yes, in a way the singularity is only a point of reference for the human experience. In another way, the singularity is all there is, only one, without dimensions, containing and expressing everything through it.

    I would love to learn more about your understanding of the Yoga Sutra. Hope to make it to another retreat with Lorne and Lucia.

    Best wishes for 2018!

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