Practicing and understanding yoga is about practicing and understanding key principles. From these fundamental principles or sources, flows the plurality of technique, expression, systemization and method. If the technique follows from the source, there can be alignment, systematic intelligence, and authenticity. Yoga comes from the source and takes us back to the source. The journey to the source passes though layers of our being which may not be fully known to us. Yoga is a process of self-discovery and penetrating deeper within to understand, and ultimately transcend our limitations, afflictions, and pains and to reveal the light and truth within.
What is the source?
The source of yoga is the light of the Self, which is inherent in all beings. The Self, core, or source (I am using these terms interchangeable) is beyond the influence of nature, prakrti, and the fluctuations of consciousness, vrttis. The myriad technologies and techniques of yoga, and the eight limbs of practice, are meant to guide us to ever increasing purity and sensitivity so that the light of the source may be perceptible and increase in radiance to illuminate our lives. As wisdom and discrimination clearly discern the causes of pain, the veils which obscure the brilliance of the source may be removed. This wisdom and discrimination is not a conventional wisdom or discrimination based in duality, but one that arises from seeing the undifferentiated source and the unfathomable connection and inter-relation of all things. The way to the source is the eight limbed path, which enables the awareness to become aware of awareness, like an eye seeing an eye.
Yoga was realized by historical and contemporary masters surely as a result of their practice and renunciation (abyasa and vairagya), but also no doubt through devotion to their teachers, gurus and those who came before, and to those divine beings who represent the divine within. A guru guides seekers from darkness to light, this is the literal meaning of the word guru. The concept of grace arises from turning ourselves over with deep faith to that which is beyond the scope of our will and intellect, yet is is something that our instinctual intelligence knows to be true. This is an aspect of vairagya. B.KS. Iyengar writes: “Spiritual wisdom does not decide, it knows.” (Light on the Yoga Sutras p. 58, Sutra I.7)
Through our practice, abyasa, we also must learn to be our own guide and to move through the dark and shadowy places into the unknown, which slowly becomes known. We shed the light of awareness on places that we have ignored or bypassed. The practice of citta vrtti nirodha, or cessation of the fluctuations of consciousness, is moving towards and maintaining connection at the substratum of awareness. It is a consciousness that moves ever closer to its true self, until there is oneness.
As we travel on the path, our problems, obstacles, afflictions and pains begin to show us parts of our being that may have been in darkness. New layers begin to reveal themselves. Evolution in yoga is not possible without making a long journey though the unknown, through darkness. It is only by shedding the light of awareness and maintaining observation on these places of nescience, pain, difficulty, habit and emotional afflictions (klesas) that we can begin free ourselves from the suffering that arises from being under their sway and identified with their story. The path is long and can take a lifetime, or many lifetimes, but at times we catch a glimpse of the light and over time we witness ourselves changing, transforming in the direction of light. We are happier and more at peace because of it – and those around us are too.