Pantanjali was not a dualist – at the Prison Yoga Practice


Patanjali begins the yoga sutras by saying “Now the exposition of yoga begins” and then states the meat of his message “Yogas citta vrtti nirodha” or “Yoga is the cessation of the mental modifications.”  You can see elsewhere on the blog another translation of this but basically, Patanjali is pointing to the central experience of yoga as being a quieting of the thoughts and other mental forms.  He goes on eventually to say “then the seer abides in his own nature.”  For some reason this is seen as “dualist.”  I have heard this in my yoga teacher training and from a recent blog post at Elephant journal by a friend of mine named Ramesh Bjonnes.  Allow me to challenge my friends.

The competing definition of yoga is that “yoga is the uniting of the unit consciousness with the supreme consciousness.”  This uniting or unification fulfills the students urge to take the word yoga which means a yoking or a unification and show two things that are being united.  The problem with looking at things this way is that it may lead to dualist thinking. 

Keep in mind that the reality seen by Patanjali is the same reality seen by Buddha is the same reality seen by Anandamurti.  The idea that two things are being united in yoga may give the impression that the two things were distinct and separate in the first place.  It is my opinion that dualist thinking was not in Patanjali’s mind or Buddha’s or Anandamurti’s but that we are looking and analyzing without understanding.

In order to understand Patanjali, I will use Buddha’s term authentic nature.  This is what is at the core of our being.  This bare awareness always exists and is always active.  This is why Zen masters reject the idea of attainment.  How can one attain that which was always existing and was never lost or gone or not in existence?  In other words, each human being is already a Buddha and contains this authentic nature.  It is just covered up with thoughts and other mental forms.  Furthermore, this authentic nature is indistinguishable from the supreme consciousness in Anandamurti’s definition.  In other words, at the base of every human being is supreme consciousness.  Is this a little piece of supreme consciousness?  Is it a piece of supreme consciousness that is connected to the whole?  Is it the whole enchilada?  Go there and ask the question for yourself.  I believe the answer to this is much less important than the experience.

Patanjali could stop writing immediately after saying “then the seer abides in his own nature” but he goes on.  Upon first hearing these words, a person may immediately be thrust into enlightenment.  The Buddha talked about some people being so close that one merely had to “blow the dust out of their eyes for them to see.”  However, Patanjali goes on to describe much more detail abou the operation of the mind and attachments and to give practices designed to allow the seer to discover her authentic nature and then abide in it.

Dualism, no.  Different messages, no.  Patanjali, Buddha, Anandamurti.  One reality, one vision, one message, different words.

If you want to argue about it, then let’s argue.  Just keep doing your meditation!



About sordog1

Shiva Steve Ordog is a Yoga Instructor certified by Yoga Alliance - RYT 200, a Thought Field Therapy Practitioner (TFT-Algo) and a Zen practitioner. He is the author of a book on meditation, mindfulness, and yoga called "Hey, Yoga Man!: Yoga Practices for Everyday Life from a Prison Yoga Practice"
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