It doesn’t take a linguist to interpret this sutra. It is an affirmation, a reminder that when the going gets rough, before you get going, you must remember that the condition you’re seeking to overcome is already heading toward its close.
Change is the only constant. As the journey of life continues, keeping this sutra in mind helps bring that truth home. The more it is recalled, and the more it is recited as a mantra (translated: mind-wave), the easier it gets to experience the impermanence of suffering.
This acknowledgment brings consolation, but not an instantaneous resolution to bad feeling. The compunction to replace the “bad” with the “good,” is a natural inclination of the mind, but one directly admonished by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras. As opposed to Buddhism, which holds desire is the starting point of all suffering, Patanjali suggests ignorance is the culprit. He goes on to say that ignorance springs from specific sources, two of which are the aversion to pain and the attachment to pleasure.
These two phenomena, which take place in the mind, stem from a simple misunderstanding, rather than from desire itself. At its base, each of these desires arise from the wish to change the situation. In other words, there is momentary ignorance in a basic failure to acknowledge that circumstances will change.
Yogi Bhajan was so insistent that his students have a daily sadhana (spiritual practice) for this very reason: to convey the relationship of constancy to change to each person on the experiential level. Each day, new challenges arise to prevent the practice from taking place. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
Eventually, after some failures and some triumphs, the difference the changes in circumstance become as regular a part of the consideration as the practice itself; in short, change is experienced as a constant. Completing each day’s practice ceases to entice, but neither is it a chore or something that should be done.
Instead, there comes a moment when the continuum of pleasure and pain is surpassed, when there is neither a desire to do the practice nor a desire not to do it. It simply is accomplished or not. This moment is curious – it often presents itself in the face or incredibly challenging circumstances.
In that moment, there is a weird feeling – the sense not of relief but of plain absence. You’ve exhausted your own capacity for desire and yet there it is. You know and can feel that you want for nothing and yet there is a distinct part that wanting left, a desire for something, coupled with the acknowledgement that was is sought after has no form.
That internal compulsive force, what Yogi Bhajan called “the longing to belong,” creates a habit. By continually skipping over the simple causal relationship, Patanjali points out, the mistaken impression begins to form: that something isn’t right here. That error becomes the foundation for anger, depression, or even just a bad attitude.
But it is an error! Thus the affirmative quality in the sutra: saying it, there is no doubt. Every wall will be broken crumbled. Every weight will be lifted. Yogi Bhajan said, “Let the one who rotates the cosmos take care of your routine.” In the face of a creator with such power, and given Patanjali’s simple logic, humility and clear understanding can provide a guiding light through whatever “block” life erects in your path.
If you’ve never tried to complete a sadhana for 40 days, start with the Kriya for Elevation, from Sadhana Guidelines. The times are short and the effect is, well, elevating.
To plug into your inner power, try Ashtang Agni Kriya in Master’s Touch, which calls for the song Gobinde Mukande by Mata Mandir Singh Khalsa. The version on “Yoga of Sound” works great. If you really break through to the space beyond desire, try Meditation for Brosa (Trust), also in Sadhana Guidelines.