Patanjali’s eight-limb path is a benchmark in Yoga for those looking to delve into a more meaningful and purpose filled life.
These guidelines pave the way to self-awareness and realization through action, and observation.
Amongst the second limb of the eight, lies the Niyamas- or self- restraints/observances. Within the Niyamas one ideal I would like to focus on today is Svadhyaya: Self Study.
Krishnamurti spoke once:
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
Svadhyaya suggests that we commit our lives to continuing our thirst for knowledge, and exploration of our selves and the universe.
Here are some terms to continue your study:
Many of us are familiar with the Sanskrit term “Om,” the all-encompassing vibration that is said to be the universal sound of all things. When chanting Om, it’s said to help us connect with the universal consciousness of all .
“Ong,” often chanted in Kundalini Yoga (a lineage brought to the United States by Yogi Bhajan) differs from Om in that it is a mantra of action.
It helps to root us in reality, and access the energy of the earth. Chanting Ong stimulates the pituitary gland in your brain, which can inspire creativity through the awakening of your sacral chakra- Svadhisthana.
Manas are the first of 3 of our aspects of consciousness. Our perception of the world, whether based in a sense of ego, or more of a cosmic awareness is filtered first through the stage of our senses.
When you take a walk in the forest and you see large beautiful trees, smell fresh air, feel the shuffle of leaves under your feet, hear the call of a bird, our basic mind via the Manas begins to take in that awareness.
The Manas which manifest as our senses, allow us to experience what is happening around and within us through this realm.
The Buddhi mind is what comes naturally next after we experience the world through the window of our senses. Buddhi allows us to assign identity to the world around us that we experience through the manas.
When we see a tree, (manas/sense) our mind then says: “That’s a tree.”
The Buddhi mind is like a file cabinet in our brain, it allows us to organize our reality so that we can separate and understand it.
While this is a natural second step to our perception of the universe, the Buddhi mind does not see how all things are energetically connected since it’s limited to the perceptions of your 5 senses.
The aspect of Chitta allows for us to assign emotional reaction to what we experience in the Buddhi mind. Let’s say for example we eat a piece of Chocolate Cake. Our Manas’s mind senses a sweet taste, the Buddhi mind kicks in and organizes familiar taste sensations as chocolate cake, then our Chitta mind assigns emotions to the process by saying “Yum, this is sweet, I like chocolate cake.”
The issue with the aspect of Chitta, is that it causes a lot of noise in our thoughts from the constant emotional labeling and attachment.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, spoken second is “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha” which can be translated to “Yoga is the calming of the fluctuations of the mind.” It’s suggested here that yoga is used to neutralize or calm the Chitta of our busy minds.
The aspect of Ahankara is what allows us to incorporate our ego into this mind story. It’s how we decipherer self- awareness, and organize the world into a sense of what we believe is ours.
A continued example of these aspects of consciousness linked would be:
While walking in our back yard we use our sense of sight, which live in the manas mind, to see a flower. The Buddhi mind then recognizes it as a flower. The pretty colors of it activate the Chitta mind to assign a sense of peace and joy to the experience. Lastly, our Ahankara mind concludes the statement by leading us to say: “I like this beautiful flow in my backyard.”
The sanskrit word Prakriti is derived from the rootpra meaning beginning, and kriti meaning to create. At the most basic level, Prakriti is everything that we think is real in the world. It’s our perception of the earth, of matter both concrete and subtle. Even our thoughts are considered Prakriti.
How our consciousness witnesses and grasps reality is through the realm of Prakriti and our other before mentioned aspects of consciousness. The issue with Prakriti however, is it limits our soul from it’s connection to all things by rooting and attaching us firmly to the material world. It’s like the clothing on our soul.
Purusha in Yoga is our true self. It is our soul or spirit that lives within the flesh confines of our bodies. Purusha witnesses the world around us through Prakriti and our aspects of consciousness.
In some philosophies, Purusha is believed to be the part of god or the greater universal energy that lives within each of us.
In the way that our soul can observe joy, grief, and other states of existence, Purusha allows guidance of our self-awareness by providing a sense of intuition. An example of this could be: If you were watching a movie called life, Prakriti is the observer of the movie, and Purusha is the essence sitting behind Prakriti watching it watch the life-movie.
As described based on content in the Mandukya Upanishad, our mind alternates between three states of being:
A: Jagrata: the waking state.
This is when we are awake and have a conscious state of ego. In Jagrata, we have a sense of “identity” from which we classify our self, our surroundings, and our thoughts.
B: Svapna: the dreaming state.
This is when we are sleeping and aware of the subtle energies of the universe. We are still aware of our thoughts, but have less of a sense of ego.
C: Susupti: the deep sleep state.
When we reach Susupti, it’s said that we’ve dissolved our ego and arrived in a state of pure and true self. We are no longer conscious of “mine,” or “I,” but rather connected with the universal truth of existence.
Turiya is a beautiful idea discussed specifically in verse 7 of the Mandukya Upanishad, and referenced as well in the older Upanishad’s.
Turiya is the fourth state of being where one exists in a state of complete unending bliss.
This ever-lasting state of bliss, cannot be truly comprehended by our minds- but rather (as the Mandukya Upanishad references) it will be realized by our one true self.
In this fourth state of being, one trandcends the previous states of being Jagrata/awake, Svapna/sleep, and Susupti/deep sleep to the highest level of connection with the universal infinite.
Thanks for taking time to continue your Svadhyaya, self-study.
You can also find a guide to Sanskrit lingo here.
Be well, stay curious, and seek the truth.