Mind and Self: On Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras

Vasiṣṭha’s Yoga

What you have called the body does not exist in the eyes of the sage. Even the conception of the world as dream is not correct since there is no dream in the infinite consciousness. There is neither a body nor a dream in it, and neither a waking state, nor sleep. Between this and that is the body of consciousness: it is unity and diversity. Fullness expands in infinity; and then the infinite alone exists as the world. Wherever consciousness conceives of creation, materiality emerges. Indivisible consciousness exists everywhere, and all that is also this creation. Though this universe seems to have existed for a long time and though it seems to be a functional reality, still it is pure void and it is no more than an imaginary city. Though people have experienced its existence, it does not exist: even as one sees one’s own death in a dream. The unreal appears to be real. The reality and the unreality of the world are two aspects of the Supreme Being.

Yoga is enormously popular around the world although for many it is nothing but the practice of āsanas or physical postures. The āsanas are the first step to deepen the understanding of self since physical practice keeps the body healthy which is essential for the exploration of mind and of inner life. We need to be mindful of our body as the artificial environment of our lives increasingly alienates us from our nature. Twenty five years ago, in Patañjali and Cognitive Science, I examined how the understanding of the Yoga-sūtra is validated by several modern insights of neuroscience. I have enlarged my commentary on the Yoga-sūtra and juxtaposed it with newer relevant results from science. Since then I have also written the Prajñā-Sūtras, which book complements this one.

Patañjali’s text on yoga is from India’s early middle period. To get an idea of yoga’s earlier history, it is good to consult the Mahābhārata, of which the great yoga classic, the Bhagavad Gītā, is a part. According to the Mahābhārata and the Yājñavalkya Smṛti, Hiraṇyagarbha, which is an epithet for Brahmā, was the original teacher of yoga, and it was the practice of the Vedic way. One can obtain somewhat different insights about the tradition from the Yoga Vāsiṣṭha or the much later Haṭha-Yoga-Pradīpikā, or the many texts of tantra. I trust in its new incarnation as Mind and Self, my commentary will make yoga more accessible both to laypersons and scientists and scholars.

Click here to read the full manuscript of “Mind and Self
On Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras
by Subhash Kak

originally published in January 2015