A daoist interpretation of the yoga sutras of Patanjali
Deaton, Keith A.
A Daoist Interpretation of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
I recently read The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated by James Haughton Woods, 1927, with interest. Not expecting a fresh insight because it was an unabridged republication from almost a hundred years ago, I wasn't shocked to find this text true to the writing style of an earlier time.
Personal experience on unrelated adventures greatly assisted in my understanding of this text. Many years ago and housed in a four man cell with three other prisoners I was frustrated on being incarcerated. One day we all got our thoughts together deciding to go on a hunger strike for what we perceived as "cruel and unusual punishment" by our keepers. Our assigned jobs were physically demanding in the extreme; the food was terrible; we were housed in cells often hotter than being outdoors in 100 degree plus heat or so cold as to see your breath condensate in winter; plus we weren't paid for working and had nothing but a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and a pouch of Top tobacco issued to us. Our plight was printed in a small article in one of the local newspapers. If I remember correctly, it was the Pine Bluff Commercial (Arkansas). After three days on our hunger strike the others decided to quit the strike and I began having second thoughts being the last one to quit. Rationalizing "Is my circumstance really cruel and unusual?", I thought "my actions that put me here were cruel and unusual," but my health was excellent; I could run all day even in 100 degree plus heat even though my job was demanding. It was extremely hot in the cell (not to mention the mosquitoes, as the prison was practically in the middle of a rice field) and the food was still terrible (capital "T"). Now you may be asking how that experience could aid in the comprehension of Patanjali.
Book III. 1-5... As a result of mastering this constraint, there follows the shining forth of insight. This insight into "how" yoga is able to heal a person physically and psychologically is simple and understandable. There is no mystery here. Examples of the body's "how" it protects itself overcoming physical and mental traumas and disease are:
1. When someone works with their hands in physical labor they may develop callouses on their hands. These protect the persons hands.
2. When a person becomes ill from a bacterial infection, the white blood cells attack the infection overcoming the illness.
The body has natural ways to heal itself. Why shouldn't matters of mind be similarly healable.
Book III. 36. As a result of this constraint upon that which exists for its own sake, there arise vividness and the organ of supernal hearing and the organ of supernal feeling and the organ of supernal sight and the organ of supernal taste and the organ of supernal smell. This being the five senses. Thus, when constraint is placed on these senses, when allowed to return, a person feels a heightened sense of hearing, feeling, sight, taste and smell. Hyperaesthetic sensations are realized ultimately leading to "Karya", intuitive knowledge of Self.
In mind and body we can call this constraint, fasting, etc. When a person feels imprisoned for a long period, he or she feels a heightened appreciation for life. Studied in a true form viz. "yoga", all things in mind and body increase in value, "transcending". Practiced in balance, health of mind and body attuned...Professionals and scholars from all fields of occupation are invited to reply. Yoga, acupressure, and other related practice are real sciences with almost unlimited body and mind healing potential.
Only from a few ancient blunders, modern misrepresentation and misinterpretation, is true Daoism often misunderstood. See ancient texts attributed to Chuang Tzu and Ssu-K'ung T'u which reveal "true" Daoism.
Dedicated to my teacher and spiritual guide, Tracy Davis. She provided the foundation and invites our own interpretation, of which she may have reached a differing conclusion.
Keith A. Deaton
April 2, 2019
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