Understanding the Yoga-Sutras
Kaivalyam: Absolute Freedom
by M. Govindan Satchidananda
What is the ultimate goal of
Yoga? In the fourth and final pada (chapter) of the Yoga-Sutras,
Patanjali elaborates on this question, and defines it as: Kaivalyam.
Most translators and commentators have translated this term as
"Aloneness," particularly those who have emphasized
Patanjali's philosophical dualism. They have concluded that the
final goal of the realized soul is departure from the physical
plane. Divorce between the spirit and the flesh again, so often
repeated in spiritual literature. While Patanjali's Kriya Yoga,
is based upon the Samkhya philosophy, as exemplified by purusha
(consciousness, the Self, the Seer, the subject) versus prakriti
(Nature, the Seen, the object) in my book, "The Kriya Yoga
Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas," I have shown the influence
of Tantra, in general, and Siddhantha in particular, on Patanjali's
philosophy and theology. Based upon this new perspective, another
meaning of the word "Kaivalyam" as "Absolute Freedom,
is more precise.
As kaivalyam is the goal of
Classical Yoga, it is important to have a clear understanding
of the meaning of this term. Most commentators, such as the noted
scholar, Georg Feuerstein, have concluded rather bleakly that
the goal of "Aloneness" as described by Patanjali, requires
that one leave behind this world when one reaches the highest
state of "non-distinguished cognitive absorption," (Sutra
I.18) known as asamprajnata samadhi. This conclusion is perhaps
rooted in the bias against Nature, and especially "human
nature," which seems to pervade spiritual traditions in general,
and renunciant traditions in particular. In this bias, there is
the assumption that the laws of Nature are immutable, and that
therefore the only way around them, so to speak, is to leave this
world behind. This ignores the great potential for the Self-realized
soul to transform its human vehicle, including the intellectual,
mental, vital and even the physical bodies. The Yoga Siddhas,
and more recently Sri Aurobindo and contemporary writers such
as Ken Wilbur have however, affirmed our potential for such a
transformation of our human nature on a collective scale. But
there are many older sources in the literature of the Yoga Siddhas.
Unfortunately, until recently, these sources have been largely
ignored outside of very limited circles of initiates.
At the beginning of the Yoga-Sutras,
(I.3) Patanjali informs us of this when he says: "The
Seer abides in his own true form (svarupa)." That
is, the individual soul or jiva, assumes by expansion, its true
nature or form, Siva, the Supreme Consciousness. The perfection
of cognitive absorption, in its progressive stages, as described
by Patanjali and the Siddhas, brings about a radical transformation
at many levels. The ordinary human nature, previously motivated
only by the constituent forces of nature (the gunas) is replaced
by a higher nature (svarupa) according to Patanjali in the fourth
pada. ( see IV.34).
IV.34: "Thus the
supreme state of Absolute freedom (kaivalya) manifests while the
qualities (gunas) reabsorb themselves into Nature, having no more
purpose to serve the Self. Or (from another angle), the power
of pure consciousness settles in its own pure Nature (svarupa)"
The term svarupa means literally
"ones own true form or pure nature nature." Tirumular
and other siddhas have referred often to svarupa as "self-illuminating
manifestness." In Tamil, this may be pronounced as "soruba"
and the state of samadhi which Babaji and the 18 Siddhas have
attained is referred to in their literature as "soruba samadhi,"
wherein the body glows with a golden luster. IV. 34 means essentially
that the laws governing our ordinary human nature, including those
of the physical body, including the play of the constituent forces
(gunas) are replaced by that of a higher nature. Sri Aurobindo
referred to this higher nature as the "supramental."
In verse II.25 Patanjali defines
kaivalyam as follows: "Without this ignorance (avidya) no
such union (samyoga) occurs. This is the absolute freedom (kaivalyam)
from the Seen." Avidya is defined by Patanjali in verse II.5
as "ignorance." There he states" "Ignorance
is seeing the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure, the
painful as pleasurable and the non-Self as the Self."
In verse II.17 Patanjali informs us of samyoga,
"The cause (of suffering) to be
eliminated is (samyoga) the union of Seer and the Seen."
Samyoga may be understood as
that ordinary state of human consciousness where the Self is identified
with the objects of its experience. For example, when we say,
"I am tired," or "I am concerned." Or "I
want that," we are manifesting the state of samyoga, the
union of the Seer and the Seen.
In the fourth pada, verse 27,
Patanjali informs us that the method to free ourselves from this
state of samyoga is to continue to detach from the false identification
with the vrittis or fluctuations arising within consciousness
and their attendant klesas or afflictions. This method is explained
in sutra I.12:
"By constant practice and with
detachment (arises) the cessation (of identifying with the fluctuations
And in verse II.26 he says: "Uninterrupted
discriminative discernment is the method for its removal."
The term Siddhantha
means the final end of perfection or accomplishment for the Saivite.
A siddha is one who manifests siddhi or perfection or special
powers. "I am the Supreme one" says the Vedantin.
"I shall become the Supreme One" says the Siddhantin.
While kaivalya refers to the final attainments, it also
marks the beginning of unlimited possibilities. But kaivalyam
understood as a beginning of "absolute freedom" is synonymous
with the state of a Siddha, who has allowed the Supreme
Being to descend within himself or herself at all levels, in complete
surrender. This brings about an integrated development at all
levels, not simply a vertical ascent out of the world, as in most
spiritual traditions. Only such an all encompassing transformation
merits recognition with the term "perfection." To be
spiritually awakened in a diseased body, and a disturbed mind
and vital, is not perfection. Whether a Siddha continues
to remain on the physical plane is unimportant. If he or she does,
it is only to be instrumental in the awakening and transformation
of the human race. If they depart, it is not because they are
forced to do so, due to a degeneration of the human organism.
And unlike the bodhisattva vow in Buddhism, where one promises
to return until all sentient beings reach final liberation, the
Siddhantin is dedicated to the transformation of this world, which
is not illusionary or without value. This world is intrinsically
divine. It is our collective divine "edge" where the
Lord, through us, realizes its greatest potential.
Thus the fourth pada, is not
the final one. The final one is yet to be written by all of us,
as we realize our evolutionary potential.
In Sutra IV.2, Patanjali informs
us of not only the possibility, but the likelihood that the human
species will evolve into something new, with as yet undreamed
"The transformation into another
species (is due to) the vast possibilities inherent in Nature."
What the Siddhas attained individually
can be a goal, or final attainment, for the rest of us, even collectively.
The collective transformation of the human species is rarely referred
to in spiritual liberation literature. Modern siddhas such as
Sri Aurobindo and Ramalinga Swamigal have also provided much guidance.
By following their example, and teachings, sincere students of
Yoga may work towards such a goal of Absolute Freedom. They have
shown us the path to such a complete surrender and transformation.
Only then will our highest potential as human beings be realized.
Only then will kaivalyam, absolute freedom, be realized.
Copyright 2003 by Marshall Govindan.
All rights reserved.
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