The Happy Yoga Podcast

The Yoga Sutras

August 12, 2022 Jo Hutton
The Happy Yoga Podcast
The Yoga Sutras
Show Notes Transcript

The yoga sutras are a composition of texts which offer practical wisdom for reaching enlightenment (like a "how-to" guide).

In this episode, Jo looks at the path of enlightenment and why the open invitation to find it is a rather radical concept.

The origins of the Sutras is unknown but there are so many different stories over different cultures and the truth has become a little muddy.

Not only are the Sutras a path, they also serve as a kind of map of human consciousness.

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Hello. And welcome to this episode. We're gonna be talking about the yoga sutures. In this episode, we're gonna be talking about where they're from, who wrote them and why they're important to modern yoga. So let's get started. The yoga sutures are basically a manual for rich and enlightenment. They are a written out guide. To how to practice yoga so that anybody and this is very radical, anybody can reach enlightenment. Why that's radical is because even in a modern context, even until very recently the idea that anybody at any time could reach enlightenment was. a shocking thing, cuz normally it would be people reserved, you know, it would be people with certain power or people with certain stairs. So to say that like, it doesn't matter what sex, what cast, what class, who your dad was, any of that. And that actually just any human being can reach enlightenment is a very, very shocking thing to say really. And. It, it basically outlines not just the path to enlightenment through yoga, but also it works as a kind of map of human consciousness. So it's like this idea of, of what different states do we have in mind as humans and also what are the barriers to reach an enlightenment that every human has? So what are the. Of discontent in our minds, what are the things that make our minds jumbled up and sad and, and upset? How can we decode them and reach a state of peace and enlightenment. So it works as a path, but also as a map and where this is really interesting is that, well, all of it is interesting. It, it meets modern science quite nicely because. The cutting edge of science at the moment is human consciousness. So, because we are developing things like AI, we're developing things like you know, clones. Well, I don't know. I, I remember that sheep. We, we did a sheep once didn't we, I don't know whether we're still ethically making clones, but you were growing organs and labs. We're doing lab meat where like, you know, as we're. As we are able to create life as humans now at the KU edge of science. This question about what is consciousness, what counts as consciousness and How is it mapped? Is it the cutting edge of science right now? So I think that it's really interesting that it's where the old meets the new and the yoga sutures is definitely an really interesting book. So even if you're not interested in the yoga aspect, even if you're not interested in like the philosophical aspect, just as a way to understand your mind is really. Is a really interesting book. So where does this book come from? Well, the answer is we don't really know. And the reason why we don't know is because it was such a long time ago and obviously India is such a massive country. There's so many different stories. There's so many different histories. There's so many different cultures. There's a lot of things that have been lost. There's things that have been deliberately destroyed. By colonizing nations, I E the British you know, it was such a long time ago. There wasn't a print in Paris, so a lot of the history has been passed down by word of mouth. So, and also just the way that we understand texts has changed a great deal. So as a modern. Reader. We tend to see a text through the lens of wanting to know exactly who the author was and about the author's life. So if you do GCSE English,, if you're looking at Shakespeare, you are gonna be asked questions about, well, who was Shakespeare? What did he believe? You'll be like, oh, he was a Protestant in the whatever century. I should probably have looked this up before I start this podcast. And he believed this. And so when he says this about women, this is what he means, because this was the understanding of women at the time. And that's kind of how we interpret. Texts. It's very difficult for a modern reader to take the author away from the, the writing or the artwork, the, the, the artist, because what the artist meant is kind of the lens that we see. Work through. That's how we kind of understand texts and art and things as a modern audience. And that isn't how it used to be. So it's very difficult for us when looking at. Ancient things. And when we're looking at things from cultures that maybe we're not, we're not from, it's very difficult for us to ever experience them through a lens that isn't the lens that we have because our lens is the only way that we have to see the world. I hope that makes sense, as well with the translations of the yoga sutures we, there's a lot of concepts in the yoga sutures that don't necessarily exist in the English language. So. Some of the concepts. We've kind of had to decode through through the things that already exist within our language. When you're reading it, it's very tempting to be like, oh, that's a little bit like this, but it's only like that because that's the way that we've got to understand it. And it's very important that we allow. To exist on its own. And we don't just kind of dilute it through the knowledge that we already have. That was a bit of a rambling, I dunno if that made any sense, but what what I'm trying to say is that when the yoga sutures were first interpreted or translated into English, it was. Interpreted through it was interpreted through a Christian lens. Humans can only explain concept with the languages, with the language that we have. So we're very constrained. We're very constrained by language because it's very difficult to, for me to articulate something to you. Without using the English language. And if that thing doesn't exist in the English language, then it, it it'll have to be interpreted in a way that maybe isn't exactly what the original meaning was bit of a side note. So what we do know is that the author ascribed to the yoga Sutra is called potentially. And we also know that it was written sometime between two BCE and four CA. So that might not seem like that long like that. Oh, between two and four. That's not that long, but remember that We're jumping across time zones there. So it's actually 600 years. So the time that we can say that this was written, the window is 600 years. And to put that into context 600 years ago from now was 14. 22. So 1422. I believe again, I should probably have Googled this before I did this, but I'm pretty sure 1422 is a roundabout the medieval times. And think about how much our understanding of the world, how much our cultures have changed, how much our shared mythology has changed within that 600 years. So we're not saying that this was written 600 years ago. What we're saying is that is the window that it might have been written in. So when we're talking about times when we're having these conversations around the ancient texts and. The philosophies, we are talking about time scales that our brains, well, my brain can't even comprehend, for me, that just goes, that was a long time ago. And I can't really, I dunno about you, but my brain doesn't really differentiate between 600 years ago and 3000 years ago, like it's all just a long time ago to me, but I just wanted to put that into context of how long, when we're talking about ancient texts, I. We're talking about into text, like really, really, really long time ago. So when we're, so when we're trying to understand the culture and the context of the time, it's pretty much impossible to do because we just don't have any understanding of it from a modern point of view. But I quite like that. Cuz what, for me, one of the things that I find difficult about being human is a sense. Being on my own. So, you know, you, you live as a human on your own. You're completely in your own head. No one will ever understand what it's like to be. You, there's only one, you, you are unique and we are, we are constrained by language and communication, but we will never ever be able to quite experience what it's like to be someone else. And someone else will never be able to completely understand what it's like to be you. And I find that, you know, I'm sure everyone does. That's like, oh, having one of the things about being human. So what I like about the yoga Sutra and these philosophies from a long time ago, and I actually like it when it comes to not just the not just Indian, but also you know, like the Roman times, the Greek times All religious writings where it's somebody trying to understand the world. What I love is I'm like, oh, I'm not alone. So even though I'm experiencing this humanness as one person, I'm also part of humanity there are some things about being human that everybody experiences. So even though you are individually experiencing being. You are also a part of a human experience, which I just find really comforting. Some of the things in the yoga sutures that are like, you, you're gonna find this difficult about your brain when you're trying to meditate. And I'm like, yeah, do I do find that difficult. And I'm like really struck by how that joins me to other people. I don't know if that makes sense, but I'm like, oh my brain isn't broken. It's just human, which I, I really, really like. So potentially the, the writer of the orchestration is we don't know if it was a person. Obviously somebody at some point wrote it. But there's a mythology around who wrote it. So who actually individually wrote it doesn't really matter. So what was really common in Indian ancient Indian times was that there would be a pseudonym. So a writer would appear again and again. So there would be texts written by a name, but that name would appear again and again. So potentially hasn't just written the yoga sutures. They also wrote a book about grammar and they wrote the Roe sutures about like wellness as well. So like medicine. But there's the, those things are supposed to have been written like centuries apart. So it's obviously not just one person who's written it. It's like a pseudonym that comes back again and again. And that happened quite a lot in ancient times, not just in India, but it happened a lot where a name, a pseudonym would appear again and again, haven't written things, but like centuries. And the mythology around who potentially is is actually depends. Again, there's lots of conflict messages as there would be as it's thousands and thousands of years old. So obviously there's gonna be conflict messages. But the most common one is that. Pat means serpent and angel is a moodra. So a moodra is something that you do with your hands. A moodra is like a symbol that you do with your hands to invite certain things in during prayer or meditation. And the angel mood. Is where you put your hands together at the front of the chest. So if you imagine somebody placing their hands together at the end of a yoga class and Bowen, that would be an angel moodra. So when you place your hands together and then you place them at your chest, it's probably the most common. Like if you imagine someone doing a moodra like, it's a, it's a one that's used again and again, it's not just it's not just. Used in yoga setting. You know, if you Bowen placing your hands together and then putting your thumbs kind of at your sternum that's probably used across cultures. So angel, the angel mood is that when you do that with your hands and pat means serpent and the mythology is that Vish knew who is a Hindu God. His serpent fell from the sky into a woman's hands, as she was meditating with her hands in angel, and potentially this serpent half man, half serpent serpent gave her. The gift of the knowledge of how to attain yoga. So the yoga sutures were like a gift from the gods to the humans to show them how to reach enlightenment. And they fell from the sky onto a woman. And so that's potentially means serpent. And then that hand moodra. And it came fully formed and that was the yoga sutures. Sutra basically means a combination of knowledge. So it's like It, it's kind of like a text written in order to impart some knowledge. And the sutures there's four of them. So the yoga sutures are split into four and the different sutures, the four different sutures map out the the path to enlighten. So within the yoga sutures, they talk about something called the eight limbs of yoga. And that is the path to yoga. Distilled down is the eight limbs. And this is probably where most modern yoga classes take their yoga. From, so obviously there are exceptions to the rule. There are definitely yoga classes that will have a lineage from the bag of Aita. There'll definitely be other lineages. But I would say the majority of modern yoga classes probably come from the eight limbs of yoga in the west in now. Obviously that might not be true. My knowledge again, there is always an issue with knowledge because you can only ex know what you know. So I don't know whether that's true of yoga in different parts of the world, but definitely the yoga that, that I experience in the Northeast of England is most of it comes from most of it comes from the, a LIMS of. And these eight limbs I'm gonna talk about in more detail. So the next couple of episodes are gonna be me breaking down the different limbs of yoga, but these limbs are that they start from the outside. So they start from the outside world and they basically move inwards to yourself. So they start from the outside and then you kind of move inwards to more. To more stillness basically. And the eight limbs are, it starts with your restraints. So things that you shouldn't do. So there's five of them. I'll go into more detail. I don't have time to do it in this episode unless you want like a 10 year episode. But I'll the next episode's gonna be about the restraint. There's five of them. And there are five things that you shouldn't do if you want to be peaceful enough to move on to the next one. And then the next ones is the observances. So things that you should do, things that you should observe in your everyday life, then you have the Asana. So that's your, the movements of your physical body. Then you. The PR Yama. So PR Yama is your breathing techniques and breath and PR is the link between the outside and the inside world. So if you think about your breath, when you breathing in, you're literally taking the universe and bringing it into you, and then you are bringing you back out into the universe. So the breath is seen as the link between the outside and the inside world. then we have withdrawal of the senses. So the withdrawal of the sensors is basically moving your attention from the outside world to the inside world. So we're not being. We're not being distracted by pleasure and noises and, and bright lights. And we're, we're, we're moving away from this need to always have things from outside of ourselves and we're withdrawn the senses inwards so that we can start to observe our inner state. Then we have concentration. So concentrating on one thing. So being able to meditate and hold your concentration on one thing at a time. Whoa, really hard. it's probably the hardest one for me. And then we have meditative absorption. So with this you're not just concentrating on one thing. You're not concentrating on anything. You're just able to sit there and. So you're not having to be distracted or put your mind on one object. You can literally just sit and you, you're not being distracted by thoughts or anything. You're just able to sit and exist. And then the last one. Is Sansia, which means contentment. And it's just, again, it's, it's been able to exist, but it's been able to exist in a state of bliss. So that feeling of being at one with the universe. So we've probably all experienced that we've probably all sat on holiday or we've probably like had a moment where we've been it sometimes just sneaks upon you where you are like. and you probably noticed it in the aftermath as well. So you're probably not noticing it at the time, but afterwards you're like, oh, I was really content there. I just had a moment of just complete bliss and that's the last of the limbs. So I hope you enjoyed that. Hope you found it in. Interesting. If you have any questions about anything that I've said, please do get in touch. The next episode is gonna be all about the restraints. And I'm probably gonna have to break that into more than one episode. So see soon. Bye