Break Free from Misery: Patanjali’s Wisdom
Misery is like being in a negative state, and actually, it’s just the absence of ecstasy and joy.
Imagine it as darkness. We can’t fight or struggle with darkness. it’s like fighting with an absence—it’s not something that’s there to fight. Darkness isn’t real; it’s the lack of light. So, instead of battling darkness, we need to light a candle and suddenly, there’s no darkness.
In the same way, misery is not something that can be tackled directly. If we fight against it, we’ll only end up with more misery. It’s a sign that life is struggling to find its light, just like an unlit candle. Misery is the absence of joy, and there’s something we can do for joy, but nothing to directly tackle misery.
Misery, the Absence of Joy
The ignorant person tries to fight and push away the misery, avoiding situations that make them unhappy. On the other hand, the real yoga practicnor seeks joy, bliss, and a deeper connection with in —trying to find the light, the presence of joy and happiness. Yogi stops fighting darkness rather than start finding the light.
Chapter 2: Sadhana Pada
2.15 – परिणामतापसंस्कारदुःखैर्गुणवृत्तिविरोधाच्च दुःखमेव सर्वं विवेकिनः
Discerning individuals realize that everything leads to suffering due to constant change, anxiety, past experiences, and clashes between human attributes and the mind’s variations.
Patanjali speaks of the ‘discriminating person’—one with awareness, consciousness, and the ability to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not, between cause and effect.
This aware individual realizes a striking truth: everything seems to lead to misery, hate, it brings misery; love, it can lead to misery as well. It might seem illogical or chaotic. There’s no straightforward system where doing the opposite guarantees joy. It’s puzzling and seems like no matter what path we choose—be it hate, love, anger, knowledge, or ignorance—misery awaits at the end. The journey to misery seems inevitable, regardless of the choices we make.
The essence of what Patanjali expresses is that in life, everything keeps changing. This constant change makes it impossible to have solid expectations. For example, you might love someone for their happy and cheerful nature, but the next day, they might be completely different—sad, angry, or gloomy. This change is a part of life.
If life were unchanging, it might seem more predictable, but it would get boring. Imagine if everything and everyone stayed the same—always happy, always beautiful. It might sound nice, but it would lack excitement and newness.
Patanjali points out that change creates anxiety and misery. For instance, if you’re poor, you worry about becoming rich. If you become rich, you worry about staying rich. There’s a constant fear of losing what you have or not getting what you want.
Our past experiences shape us, and we often crave excitement and change. But too much change can also make us anxious. It’s like food—eating the same thing every day becomes boring, but changing food constantly can upset your body’s rhythm.
Life is flux and three gunas
Our mind is always changing. Imagine your mind as a battleground where different qualities and thoughts fight each other. According to Patanjali, these battles happen between three key elements—sattwa (purity and goodness), rajas (energy and strength), and tamas (inertia and laziness). These three elements are present in everyone, pulling them in different directions.
The mind can create trouble by getting influenced by these conflicting qualities. For example, Tamas too much laziness make a person sleepy all the time and Rajas too much energy can lead to insomnia. This conflict between these qualities is seen not just in individuals, but in societies as well.
In Western societies, the abundance of energy (rajas) leads to a highly active lifestyle, causing people to rush around, often leading to exhaustion. On the other hand, in some other cultures, there might be a tendency towards laziness (tamas), causing people to be less productive.
This inner conflict affects individuals too. Imagine a person who wants to rest but feels pressured to work by their partner. Even if the partner is no longer around, the habit of being pushed to work remains, making it difficult for the person to relax.
There are instances where people become so accustomed to a certain way of life that even when they retire, they find it hard to enjoy leisure time. This struggle between habits and desires leads to restlessness.
The Path to Freedom
2.16 – हेयं दुःखमनागतम्
Emphasizes the Transcendence of future distress.
Patanjali suggests that it’s essential to avoid future suffering. You can’t change the past, but you can prevent unhappiness in the future. His remedy lies in the real practice of yoga, which involves breaking the link between what you see the seen or experience and the one who is observing or seer and experiencing it—this connection is what causes misery.
22.17 – द्रष्टृदृश्ययोः संयोगो हेयहेत
Encourages breaking the connection between the Seer and the Seen, the source of misery.
Just see this fact, observing your habits, thoughts, past experiences, and expectations as an impartial witness. The crucial point to remember is that whatever you can see or observe about yourself, you are not that thing. For example, if you can recognize your lazy tendencies or your constant need to keep busy, you are not merely those habits. The one observing is separate from what is being observed. You are an awareness that goes beyond all that you observe.
This awareness or transcendental consciousness is what great masters like Buddha attained and consistently stayed in. While achieving this constant state might be challenging, even a moments of this practice can bring immense relief. It’s like seeing a clear blue sky after the clouds vanish—freedom and joy come with this clarity.
In the past, there might have been suffering, but in the future, you don’t need to go through the same. If you do suffer, you become responsible for it. The key here is to always remember that you are beyond what you observe. If you can see your body or observe your thoughts, then you are not just your body or thoughts. The observer is always something more, something beyond. This awareness of being beyond what you observe is the pathway to Transcend future misery.
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