My earliest childhood memory ~ which may well be a memory of a memory ~ is of my sister and brothers and our cousin-brother and sister, all gathered around the kitchen table. There was chocolate cake, and silly little hats lopsidedly perched atop every little head. And balloons. I recall biting into something hard which earned shouts of glee from around the table. Turns out, the memorable event was the celebration of my own second birthday: the something hard was a copper penny carefully ‘hidden’ in the birthday cake by my mother and marked with a B. Not for Baby, as the nursery rhyme has it, but for Betsy ~ my childhood sobriquet. (Later changed to Elizabeth, which was entirely more befitting to my delusions of grandeur.)
I had no notion what birthday or being Birthday Girl meant, or how it was that the Birthday Boy or Girl always got the penny, but it brought such happiness to the day that it had to be something special. And so it was that an impression of birth was introduced to my budding consciousness ~ along with a sense that it was synonymous with happiness.
Flash forward a few years, say four or five, to a second incident that forged an unforgettable groove in my young mind. On this occasion, I was sitting with my dear dad, watching something on the television. (The name ‘Dragnet’ springs to mind, but why I was permitted to watch such a program when our customary television viewing was confined to My Friend Flicka and Walt Disney World and Dick van Dyke remains an unsolved mystery to this day.)
Not to digress, however: the memory is of witnessing a woman being chased by a phantom-like figure. Cut to the next scene, where she is found lying on the cold hard ground, a single street lamp shining bleakly on her motionless body. Baffled, I turned to my dad and asked: “Why is she sleeping on the street? Did she run away from home?”
If memory serves me well, this happening took place around the same time that I had run away from home, but reaching the end of the block and sensing that it was more than a little like stepping off the end of the known world, I somewhat abashedly retraced my steps home to the familiar conditions that prompted me to take flight in the first place. In that instance, fear triumphed over freedom. But then again, I was only six or seven.
Back to the salient memory…
Dad answered: “She isn’t asleep. She’s dead.” Trying to make meaning of his words, I was left with only a question mark… along with an unimpeachable awareness that since death had no meaning, it was therefore not true. But true or untrue, the suggestion of death ~ accompanied by a sense of uncertainty and even fear ~ was introduced into my susceptible mind.
Flash forward yet again, to this present day. We have just bid farewell to my darling Aunt Cappy, and to my sweet sister Merry not long ago. Holding fast to my memories and to the belief that the esse, the essence of these beloved beings was only ever a body form, I am left to conclude that they are no longer here and to mourn their passing.
Meditating brings me to a place of observing my memories and a mind whose nature is to treat what is perceived by the senses as real, calling what comes and goes as gospel truth.
Realising that life is eternal and has never become anything other or separate, I give thanks to the One who gives life to each being and incarnation just for the joy of celebrating never-born and ever-pure perfection.
“Here begins the description of Yog, without beginning, without end, the ever the same existence of one Whole, all-permeating.”
~ Patanjali Yog Darshan/Samaadhi Paad I:1
Where and when does description begin?
At which precise moment in life does mind begin to make truth out of everything that is introduced to its purview?
Who is it, what is it, that makes a meaning of life which has no beginning or end?
Who or what places life within the limited parameters of birth and death?
And who is that one who knows that life is eternal, and ever the same?
Is it not the same pure and free consciousness which, through experience and injunction, seemingly gets conditioned into celebrating when form appears and suffering when it disappears?
Consciousness is pure: it cannot become anything other than pure. It is ever the same, everywhere the same.
Human consciousness, conditioned consciousness calls the changing as real, and the unchanging as unreal. This modification is defined in Patanjali Yog Darshan/Samaadhi Paad I:8 as Viparya Vritti: “A wave of perception by which one understands something to be other than what it is.”
A technique or practice is required for transforming the confused human consciousness back into its original state of pure consciousness.
It’s a little like doing a headstand in God’s lap! But in truth, a complete transformation ~ or rather, dissolution ~ of the human consciousness is called for. Human consciousness sees flames in the fire. Waves on the ocean. Wind in the sky.
Pure consciousness sees, not flames in the fire or even fire in the flames, or ocean water in the waves, or sky in the wind. Pure consciousness sees only pure consciousness, everywhere the same.
The conditioned human consciousness is infatuated with change, with appearance and disappearance, with body, with form, with nature.
“Nature is bound to follow the law of birth, increase, decrease, and death. Nature’s elements constitute your body, and therefore, the body is bound by its laws. Your thinking mind is in association with the body, the forms, and events of nature. If you rely on the changing body and the mind’s ever fluctuating nature to bring about a state of freedom, you will get frustrated and ultimately feel unfulfilled. Yet having this remarkable body and thinking system, it is possible to live a state of liberation. Your true Self encompasses the physical and yet is never bound by the physical.
Life is the indestructible power that animates the body and therefore is forever free from creation or decay. Life is not bound by change, not bound by time or space, not bound by cause and effect, not bound by thoughts, ideologies, concepts, memories, feelings, experiences, imagination, or any aspect of nature ~ gross or subtle.”
~ Rebecca Williams: The Understanding of What Life Truly Is
Life is that which has no beginning, no end, and is ever the same, all-permeating. The awareness of this is Yog.
The question is: how to awaken it?
“Yog is realised in that mind in which identification with the waves of perception has ceased to arise, so that the ocean of the mind remains without the slightest ripple. When this state of mind appears, the person and the Absolute Existence are one and the same. Now it is said that the person has attained the perfection of Yog.”
~ Patanjali Yog Darshan/Samaadhi Paad I:2
The perfection of Yog. Realised in that mind in which identification with the waves of perception has ceased to arise. The ocean of the mind remains ocean alone, without beginning, without end.
The internet is replete with an unending flow of yogis and yoginis posing in perfected Yog Aasanas. Many have devoted years, if not lifetimes, to refining their skill. Such steadfast devotion and application is more than just commendable: it’s worthy of a thousand salutations.
Yet so long as the sense of identification remains established in body, mind, and ego, then the ultimate outcome will be
because body, mind, ego, and experience belong to the changing field, of appearance and disappearance, of beginning and end. So long as one identifies as body alone, he will not be free from birth and death.
I once met a renowned Soma Yoga instructor, who was at the time teaching at the world’s largest Yoga gathering in Toronto. (It was BW ~ Before Wanderlust ~ but still, the world’s largest.) She was fascinated to hear that Hatha Yoga is one of eight limbs of a holistic science evolved to refine the energies of the practicant, so that he or she may sit in stillness and silence and observe a mind that frolics in the field of change and is rocked in the cradle of happiness and unhappiness, and allow it to be immersed in its unchanging essence. The attributes of unchanging essence, because it is unchanging, are boundless wellbeing and bliss.
“Yog practice is one, but it consists of eight limbs or parts:
• Injunctions for the improvement of the mind (Yam);
• Injunctions for the purification of the mind (Niyam);
• Posture, or seat (Aasan);
• Regulation of energies (Praanaayaam);
• Stability of the mind in itself (Pratyaahaar ~ which my Autocorrect converted to Party ah ha ha!);
• Stability of the mind on any point in time and space (Dhaarnaa);
• The unbroken flow of consciousness toward one object, person, or space (Dhyaan);
• The state in which the mind loses its individual awareness (Samaadhi).”
~ Patanjali Yog Darshan/Saadhan Paad II:29
The first five limbs are the external parts of a Yog practice. They are meant to purify the human system, and dissolve the crystallized tendencies resulting from immersion in the field of change and the pairs of opposites. The following three are its internal aspects, meant to maintain the mind in a state of concentration and inward contemplation.
When, while one is meditating, there is only space and no sense of a mind as separate remains, this is Samaadhi.
When Dhaarnaa, Dhyaan, and Samaadhi merge into Oneness, this is called Yog. In the state of perfect Yog, internal and external are non-existent. All sense of otherness is annihilated. Oneness alone is.
Though he may otherwise continue attending to his actions and activities, when a yogi engages in meditation, a condition of the mind unfolds in which no waves of perception arise; no configuration of beginning and end, no conjecture of appearance or disappearance takes place. The main purpose of meditation is that the Kaivalya state ~ Oneness alone, without beginning or end ~ be brought into manifestation. This is perfect Yog, the liberation of the mind from the state of ignorance of its true nature. So, until the Kaivalya state arises, one has to continue meditating.
Close your eyes, dear one. Take your own time, which means time out from the body’s ongoing engagements and the mind’s endless machinations. Tune in to meditation: offer the whirlwind of energy and activity and thoughts a chance to subside. Let your breath be soft. Keep your Mala lightly and lovingly in your hands. Sing your Mantra with love and awareness: when you say something 108 times, it will come true. And allow your awareness to take rest in the space that is free from beginning and end.
You will know your true nature, which is One without a second state of existence… Life Eternal.
Urvashee Saakshee is still tying Malas. And singing the Mantra “Amaram Hum Madhuram Hum ~ I am immortal, I am blissful.” And meditating on its essence. It just doesn’t get any better. Find her here at firstname.lastname@example.org