I spent the first month of 2016 in NYC for Yoga Works Teacher Training.
During Yoga Works Teacher Training (YWTT) we spent many hours reading and discussing the yoga Sutras. Many of them have similaries to scripture from the Bible, many do not. Some I think of as mindful words to help me grow in my journey with Christ, some I have just chosen to ponder, pray about, and work out what Patanjali was searching for.
God’s Words are never to be added to or subtracted from. However, His Words are able to guide us in the truth when we are in need of discernment. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper then any double-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
Never be afraid to think. God have us our minds for a reason – our mind is to use! I think for so long, the typical christian has left the hard questions to clergy, and instead of truly seeking God for wisdom when hard topics and questions arise, they just turn to their leadership. It reminds me of the Israelite’s and their relationship with Moses and God. God was right there, at their camp, and aside from Moses, Joshua, was the only human that was willing to go near His tent of meeting. They didn’t want to trouble themselves with the matters of God. Follow His rules, but not let Him change their hearts seemed to be their motto. With that in mind…
Sutra 2.18 is one of those ‘ponder and pray about’ Sutras.
2.18. The seen is of the nature of the gunas: illumination, activity, and inertia. It consists of the elements and sense organs, whose purpose is to provide both experiences and liberation to the Purusha.
If you are new to the Sutras, some definitions for you:
the seen: Nature or Prakriti (active consciousness, fundamental category of nature)
gunas: one of the three qualities of nature that provide experience to liberate the Purusha
Purusha: the divine self which is placed in all beings…
This sutra is attempting to answer the question of “why are we here?” The answer being, that everything thing that happens holds a purpose to teach and correct our thinking, in order for the Purusha (our consciousness) to find its divine and true self.
I have two shorts stories. The first is from Inside the Yoga Sutras, written by Reverend Jaganath Carrera.
“Nature teaches us by exposing its limitations. In this sense, Nature is like a playpen which limits the movement of the child while he plays with his toys. Sooner or later the child tires of the toys and the restriction of the playpen. He turns to the only one who can help—the one who put him there in the first place—his mama. He cries out loud, and the mama drops whatever she is doing and rushes to the side of her baby.
Likewise, the transitory nature of worldly pleasures becomes tiresome sooner or later. Another way we can learn form Nature is that God* cannot help but leave “fingerprints” all over creation. Every aspect of Nature reveals a bit of the Creator’s presence to a mind with a receptive contemplative disposition. From observation of Nature we an find examples of qualities such as strength, patience, caring, selflessness, order, and perseverance that eloquently speak to the existence of a Divine Intelligence.
All of Nature is at our service; ready, wiling and able to teach us the way to liberation.” (p. 123)
The second story is one of my own.
Last summer, I needed help in the garden and with my blackberry vines. There were many weeds that needed to be pulled, and dead vines needed to be removed, and I had the help of my son (who was 14 at the time). The earth was hard, so I knew the vines would be the easier of the two jobs, so I taught him how to find and trim the dead vines and weeds away from the healthy vines. After making sure he had learned the difference, I then I left him to work. And I headed to the garden to dig up the weeds. After a while he came to me, and had accidentally cut some of the healthy vine. By time he was finished, over half of our berries had been cut away and were lying on the ground, never to make it to our table to enjoy. He felt terrible about cutting the healthy vines, and so did I. We had a mom-son discussion about paying attention, working slowly to make sure you only remove the dead; and I practiced patience and headed back to the garden full of weeds.
All summer I would think about the lost berries, and how we obviously needed to learn more about living with patience. Until I read the lines about the child in the playpen…
I should have given him the garden to tend to. I intentionally gave him the easier of the two jobs. It did not need to be a lesson about patience. It had the potential to be a practice in perseverance for him, and a crop full of berries for our family. But, I was like the mama who grabbed the crying baby out of the playpen.
God—the one and only omniscient God—created us, loves us and has a plan for each of us. He also gives us all the choice to follow Him, or not. To make wise and hard choices, or take short cuts and the easy way out. God loves us so much that there are times, He will wait for us to quit crying, and seek Him, out of desire, rather then out of our selfishness. Maybe people think that He must be too busy helping someone else, or He doesn’t think we deserve to be helped… that is not the truth. From before time, as we understand it, began. He already had His plan in place. When He sent Jesus to earth, to live as an example of how we should live in this world, and to take our sins and die for them—that was part of His plan. He already took care of our deepest need-to be united with Him.
Lesson 1: Sometimes, we can read, study and live from only our own perspective. When we do this, we can miss out on what God desires us to learn. Our perspective if human sized, not God sized. We must be seeking out His truth with the desire to know Him, not from the need of personal justification and/or encouragement.
Lesson 2: In Romans 1:20 (ESV)“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Creation was created by God, to point humans to Him. The second half of the story over Sutra 2.18 is partially correct in teaching that nature is here to help teach us about God and ourselves. However, the truth to keep in mind is that God has placed eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The divine self that Patanjali teaches is that we will find our self-realization: god within ourselves. If we accept Christ into our lives, then we have the Holy Spirit living within us, but that does not make us God. Becoming a follower of Christ gives us freedom to live a new life, with freedom and adoption into His family, but does not make us gods.
Life application: To learn, I often need to just get out of the way and pay attention to what is going on around me. God has me (and you) here for a specific and beautiful purpose. When I am caught up in living life my way—even if it includes Bible study and time praying—if I am only living from my vantage point—then I may be missing what freedom in Christ really looks like. (Galatians 5)
*The Sutras were written in Sanskrit, it is likely that the writer’s beliefs were similar to Hinduism and believed that the universe is identical to divinity (the Creator is the mind or soul of the universe). Not the same as the God’s Word. The Bible teaches that God is omnipresent. God’s presence is everywhere—He created the universe—He isn’t the universe.
The original sharing of this story was during our closing ceremony at YWTT in NYC – January of this year. Photos taken from previous summers.