Yoga Sutras – Understanding freedom, the state of kaivalya

“Along with detachment from the intellect comes the dissolution of any sense of agency, the illusion that we are the doer. There follows the destruction of the seeds of future karma and rebirth. From this destruction of all shackles and bonds arises the state of cosmic consciousness or kaivalya. “

Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy, Gregor Maehle, 2006

Interpretation of Sutra III:50.

Through supreme detachment toward even sovereignty and omniscience, the seeds of future karma are destroyed, which results in freedom (kaivalya).       III.50


I would like to simply ask you to read the book if you have an interest in the yogic path the enlightenment as prescribed by Patanjali’s sutras. Gregor Maehle is blowing my mind right now. 

These levels of realisation are at best theoretical, certainly in my understanding and most other people too I can only imagine. I thought I was getting somewhere very deep in my practice when I first got into and started reading the Sutras, especially the philosophic chapters 3 & 4. But pinning more and more understanding reveals that what I thought I knew before was far lighter than the depth of understanding now.

So if this trend keep on, the complexity will grow inexorably beyond my understanding and wherever I get to will be always somewhere I look back later on and say, I’m not developing enough to understand this.

Well, taking from the above advice, the detachment would be that I don’t NEED to understand it the way I think I do, simply the knowing now is of most importance, anything outside of now is inherently unknowable anyway.

You know, the same is true in asana. To only know what you can, hone the intellect on that. Stay in the present and you will know all there is to be known. The only thing that will drag you away from the present is a lack of faith, or some other unexpected manifestation of fear. It doesn’t matter whether this isn’t stretching or reaching this and that, or this bit is tighter than yesterday, these poses are infinite tools, not one use only.

The point of asana is to make the body supple, during a lifespan with asana we are always in the process of becoming more and more supple. I might never get my leg behind my head, well, good. Because in that case, if that was my goal in asana, I would only want to put it down to my shoulder or bum or wrap it round twice for my next goal wouldn’t I? 

If i remove my sense of goals and achievement to the practice what does it become then? Pointless? I don’t think so. A lot of the time in my practice I notice resistance more than desires. e.g. “ooh I’m getting tired now, maybe I’ll skip this vinyasa” checking this panic escape response earlier and earlier, it loses power with each repetition. I can recognise the ego’s complaints of fatigue and know that it’s a very temporary complaint of the mind, and so often surely enough, a breath and the pose come and the doubt is eliminated sometimes quicker than it turns into thought. Of course with flexibility its a slightly different matter, we can simply ignore the complaints of the mind but use them as a basic and foundation for enquiry of the body. This is what yoga is more that continuing goals as we “complete” one pose and then the next variation.

Is this what is said by detachment? Doesn’t sound like it huh? Sounds like the opposite. If I’m supposed to detach from sovereignty, then wouldn’t this mean I gave up when the thought arose? Well no because it also says omniscience, so yeah, this sutra is talking about when yogis gain siddhis or special powers. Haha, way beyond.

Okay I did it again, went too deep in this thing. It’s all theoretical at this point but thinking about the extremes, leads to insights along the path. Maybe the insight this time is that, there’s always an extreme in theory, and not need ing to reach that with full self acceptance is the yoga. This totally fits the asana analogy, where we all know there’s extremes best not attempted for the sake of health and wellbeing, not just theoretical fancy.


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