The Yoga Sutra seeks to answer this one question: where should I rightfully place my sense of “I.” Should my identification be with my body, which is quite tangible and discrete? Or should my identification be with my awareness? Awareness is harder to identify. We can call it our perception, or our consciousness, or our soul. Awareness is the sense that “I am.” The subject of awareness is so abstract that some of you will start to zone out after this one paragraph.
To get to an answer, lets ask one specific question: Does awareness exist inside the body, or does the body exist inside awareness? Conventionally, we believe that the awareness exists inside the body. When the body passes away, so does awareness – we believe. So awareness is dependent upon the existence of the body, right? Yet, we do not know that for certain. We are actually just guessing what happens to our awareness at the moment of our death.
On the other hand, while we are alive we can observe that our body exists inside our awareness. In fact, our awareness contains not only ourselves, but everyone and everything we know. Our awareness contains the world we live on, and the solar system and the galaxy. In fact, our awareness contains the universe within it. But even if that is true, so what? Where do I rightfully place my sense of “I”?
Simply ask the question sincerely of yourself, and wait. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that a sincere question draws an answer out of the depths of your soul. The Buddha said you only have to believe what you learn through direct experience. Meditation offers direct experience, but so can a sincere question.
Because you are alive, you can expect Desire and Fear to periodically march into your life seeking to enslave your attention. The bag that you saw on the internet and now lust after? consider yourself enslaved by a Coach or Gucci bag. That really big bill that came in the mail? a slaver.
The bag and the bill simply exist in the world. But until you have the power of choice over how you will respond to them, you can be enslaved by them.
Freedom then is simply the power of choice over how you will respond as desire and fear arise in your perception. If you can witness this arising, you will have the power of choice.
The Yoga Sutra, purported to be written by a sage known as Patanjali Maharishi, is the the most comprehensive text on Yoga (meaning meditation) existing in the world.
The first challenge I give myself is to review one Sutra (aphorism) a day, until I have covered the entire text.
You may have heard the biblical phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven” is within. Suspend your disbelief for a moment and assume that that is true.
If the Kingdom of Heaven is within you, where exactly does the Kingdom War occur? And how is a War that is within you, won?
Meditation begins with an exercise of will to witness all internally and externally arising phenomena. The act of witnessing without conceptualization, and without distraction, leads to self mastery. This self mastery has variously been known as enlightenment, liberation and redemption.
But so what?
You may not meditate for the purpose of “enlightenment.” But you can meditate expecting greater peace of mind, contentment, clarity and purpose. These are the initial benefits. Keep going, and you will get to enlightenment.