The last few verses of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras remind us what we need to be free from affliction. In short, we need to continue a practice of discriminative discernment. When we catch ourselves clinging to worldly success, craving attention, or worrying about our image (among other things), we can return to our yoga practice to eliminate these distractions.
To one who remains undistracted in even the highest intellection there comes the equal-minded realization known as The Cloud of Virtue. This is a result of discriminative discernment. (sutra 4.29)
Discriminative Discernment and The Cloud of Virtue
The reward of discriminative discernment is Self-realization, also called the Cloud of Virtue. In this state, we are free from attachment, aversion, suffering, and pain. It sounds a lot like Heaven!
To remain in the Cloud of Virtue, we must stay aware of our true nature and avoid the distractions and desires that get in the way. In earlier sutras, Patanjali teaches us to recognize these distractions. He also gives us tools for avoiding them, so we can remain connected with our higher self.
And lest we give up when the practice seems to let us down, we are encouraged to accept setbacks and get right back to the work of becoming who we are!
The Shrinking Universe of Perception
An amazing thing happens to adept yogis, Patanjali tells us. Their needs shrink. They spend less time wanting more or thinking they are miserable without this thing or that accomplishment. In fact, they spend less time thinking in general! Sutra 4.31 explains this:
The infinity of knowledge available to such a mind freed of all obscuration and property makes the universe of sensory perception seem small.
Most of us are not ready, or even able, to give up our thoughts, our desires, or our property. And that’s okay. Patanjali notes that we all have “in between” times when our yoga practice seems not to work. The important thing is to keep coming back to the practice.
Keeping Up the Practice
Through discriminative discernment, we can put things in perspective. We may become less sensitive and take ourselves less seriously. This opens the way to be more joyful and productive. It also helps us overcome fear. When we learn to align with the universe and be who we are meant to be, we find power and purpose. Yoga offers tools for all of this.
We are nearing the end of the 196 verses of Patanjali’s sutras. As the sutras conclude, the sage tells us that once (or if) we achieve enlightenment, we will no longer need the lessons of this human life.
If you remember, there are three states—or gunas—that create matter, energy, and consciousness. The interplay of these states creates our lives. In a sense, they create a unique expression that exists in human form for a time. We take this form to learn something, and once we have learned it, we are liberated.
The question is what can we do to learn the lessons? The Yoga Sutras are a set of answers to that question.