This, the fifth of 6 articles, comments on the third chapter of The Yoga Sutras. In the first chapter it was noted that Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the consciousness, and that in the modern world, the only practical route to achieving yoga is by dedicating all your actions to God (Ishvara Pranidhana). The whole universe is God and so your actions need to be focussed on helping your fellow man and Mother Nature.
The first sutra of the second chapter states that yoga practice consists of moderate austerities (careful diet, etc, aimed at generating spiritual heat), study of one's self (both through reading of scriptures and yoga practice) and Ishvara Pranidhana. The second chapter then proceeds to examine the psychology of man and describes traditional yoga practice.
The third chapter begins with a description of various states of the mind, specifically the last three stages of yoga. When one has mastered Pratyahara (the senses are under control) and one's life force through Pranayama, one can practice the sixth stage of yoga, Dharana: yogic concentration, fixing the consciousness on one thought. Dharana involves some decision making: what to focus on. Control of the life force is not a simple thing. It means for example that you can stop or start your heart at will. All your body functions are totally under your control.
Dhyana or yogic meditation differs from Dharana because it is not just one part of the brain that is focussed. There is in Dhyana an equilibrium of tranquillity between the analytical, the bliss, the 'I'-consciousness and the meditative parts of the brain. With this equilibrium, there is no disturbance from any aspect of the brain and Dhyana can therefore last for a lot longer than can Dharana. A typical spell of dharana may be 10 minutes whereas Dhyana can last 100 minutes or so.
An object when held in the consciousness of the brain is coloured by its interaction with the four lobes of the brain. It is not observed as it really is but the observation is influenced by the observer. When there is no such interference and the object is seen as it really is, this is called Samadhi. Any object is an energy form and an exact replica of this energy form appears as content in your consciousness rather than the image seen in Dhyana. This transmutation involves the light of the Soul or God shining on the object held as an image. The two energies, of the Soul or God and of the image, merge and become the form experienced in Samadhi. One therefore perceives an aspect of the Soul or God as well as the image during Samadhi.
The Yoga Sutra then explains the process for understanding the truth about any subject or object: Samyama: one sits for Dharana, brings a state of Dhyana into being and then proceeds to remove one's own influence from the object perceived. The yogi becomes wise and can expound on any subject.
Having mastered the process of Samyama, God gives the yogi different 'miraculous' powers, according to the type of object being studied. These powers include, for example:
· An ability to see the past of any object, to know the future of this object;
· Knowledge of the speech of all living beings;
· Knowledge (of one's) previous birth(s);
· Knowledge (of) another's consciousness;
· An ability to become invisible or to not be heard;
· Knowledge of death;
· The physical strength of an elephant;
· Knowledge of all the worlds;
· Knowledge of the body;
· Cessation of thirst and hunger;
· Knowledge of the Soul.
These and various other powers that God may give you are obstacles to the highest purpose of Yoga and the Yoga Sutra advises the student to not follow one's own inclinations with regard to such powers (but to do God's will).
Lord Patanjali notes that one should decline any invitation by deities to their home, and not be amazed or wonder-struck that they should ask you. The practitioner is warned that certain deities will try and distract you from achieving your goal of liberation.
He notes also that there is no higher or further knowledge than that ultimately gained through Samyama. Intuitive knowledge is knowledge communicated directly from your Soul or God to you.
When the purity of your self becomes equal to that of your Soul you obtain eternal emancipation. Your Soul is a God or Goddess having the one God as its soul.
It may be asked, why are these various powers important and possible? Why does Lord Patanjali devote a whole chapter to this subject?
According to Indian philosophy, God is all powerful. If He wants you to have certain powers then you will have certain powers. The yoga student needs to develop faith in yoga. With the destruction of the earth's natural resources, with the use of chemical and other additives into our food chain and medicines into our bodies, my view is that there will within a few years be widespread disaster - famines, flooding, and disease - in the world. Crime will become rampant with the decline of civilization in the world. Hence one can speculate that some of the powers of invisibility etc. will become increasingly useful to the yoga practitioner.