The yoga sutras teach yoga students to realize our true nature. We become aware of how we spend our lives distracted by things that attract the senses and boost the ego. We learn to still our minds and recognize that our minds are not who we are. Who are we, then? According to Patanjali, we are pure consciousness.
In what Reverend Jaganath Carrera calls the grand finale of the sutras, we realize that even time is an illusion. We then let go of it and all other illusions.
The sequence (of transformation) and its counterpart, moments in time, can be recognized at the end of their transformation. (sutra 4.33)
We don’t perceive time until it has passed. But if we look closely, we see that what seems to be a seamless movement from one moment to the next is really a series of disconnected moments.
When we think about moments, we realize the present moment is the only moment. In that sense, time is an illusion. It is always now.
Pure Consciousness is the End of Yoga
I don’t know if the sutras say this specifically, but what I take from the last two verses is this: Once we shine forth as pure consciousness, we no longer need yoga. We also no longer need our bodies, our minds, our senses, or our misguided egos.
In a sense, this “ending” is like the ending we think of as death. We can let go of the tools we thought we needed to get through human life, even the ones that lead us to enlightenment. Our life as we know it ceases.
But something new emerges. We become pure consciousness.
For yogis, knowing we are pure consciousness, even before we experience it, helps us get through the trials of human life. We use our practice to stay on higher ground, vibrate at a greater frequency, find bliss—whatever we care to call it.
A Lifelong Journey to Enlightenment
At the same time, we accept that we will experience pain and setbacks. To think we won’t just because we practice yoga will lead us in the wrong direction. Only when we break through as pure, enlightened beings—which will not happen while we are in human form—can we drop our false selves entirely.
What’s important here to accept imperfection. As a younger yogi, I longed to experience pure consciousness now. I thought if I practiced well enough, I could become enlightened in this lifetime and be free from human pain and suffering.
I’d inevitably have a setback, of course. Then I’d question the value of my practice and wonder if I should quit. If it couldn’t give me a perfect life, why practice?
Eventually I realized yoga couldn’t give me a perfect life, but it could make my life much better. When I accepted yoga as a journey, I found the faith to continue the practice.
The Final Sutra
Sutra 4.34 is the last of Patanjali’s 196 aphorisms. It explains that once we shine forth as pure consciousness, we no longer need the gunas. That is, we are no longer dependent on sense perception or false identification with the ego.
We have become pure consciousness. We have returned to our source. Now we know who we truly are.
Thus the supreme state of independence manifests, while the gunas reabsorb themselves into Prakriti, having no more purpose to serve the Purusha. Or, to look at it from another angle, the power of consciousness settles in its own nature. (sutra 4.34)