Embracing Change

As we are now in the fourth month of the ‘lockdown’ I wanted to share some reflections on the situation based on the Yoga Sūtra. 

परिणाम ताप संस्कार दुःखैः गुणवृत्तिविरोधाच्च दुःखमेव सर्वं विवेकिन
pariṇāma-tāpa-saṃskāra-duḥkhaiḥ guṇa-vṛtti-virodhāt-ca duḥkham-eva sarvaṃ vivekinaḥ

If we refer to Chapter 2 of the Sūtra, specifically 2.15, we see that Pariṇāma (change) is one of the key causes of duḥkha (suffering). Here, we are, as it were, victims of change. Things happen that we haven’t asked for, or planned for, hence we cannot necessarily control the suffering! 

So, what can we do? At the beginning of Chapter 2 Patañjali introduces Kriya Yoga, which consists of three concepts we can use to help stabilise the system:

  1. Tapaḥ – a sense of self-regulation, creating some structure and order in our lives, taking care of the basic essentials such as good sleep hygiene, appropriate diet, and activities.
  2. Svādhyāya – self-study, to which there are two key aspects. First, we must develop the capacity to self-reflect, to know ourselves and understand what helps us and what challenges us. Secondly, we have our personal study of Yoga, in which reference to the Śāstra (the key texts – Yoga Sūtra, Bhagavad Gītā and the Upaniṣads, etc.) forms a guide for our journey, almost like maps we can use to find our way forward.
  3. Īśvara Praṇidhāna – an understanding and acceptance that we are not the centre of the universe, that there is much beyond our control and much that we do not understand. The key here is acceptance; we are as we are, we are where we are, and can only move forward from there!

So, these three very important concepts can allow us to take control of any situation by giving us a degree of stability from which we can assess our situation and, with increased clarity, move forward.

This important concept of change is presented again in the Yoga Sūtra at two more key points in chapters 3 and 4. Here we are in control of the process of change and using the idea that, as change is inevitable, we can harness this process to allow ourselves to transform. Thus, we do not change the world, BUT change ourselves so that we are more at peace with the world we find ourselves in.

जात्यन्तरपरिणामः प्रकृत्यापूरातः
jāti-antara-pariṇāmaḥ prakṛti-āpūrāt 

As Radha recently pointed out in one of our sangha sessions, in Chapter 4.2 Patañjali tells us that we ALL have this potential. We have within us ALL we need for this change to take place. I personally find this very reassuring, that I do not need to get anything, find anything or buy anything. I simply need to allow myself to acknowledge and accept the amazing potential I have within me, that we all have within us.

एतेन भूतेन्द्रियेषु धर्मलक्षणावस्थापरिणामा व्याख्याताः
etena bhūta-indriyeṣu-dharma-lakṣaṇa-avasthā-pariṇāmā-vyākhyātāḥ

Further, in 3.13 Patanjali explains what is necessary for this transformation to take place:

  1. Dharma pariṇāma – potential for change which, we ALL have!
  2. Lakṣaṇa pariṇāma – an appropriate intervention to facilitate the change, a practice, guidance of a teacher or some other life experience.
  3. Avasthā pariṇāma – timing. This must happen at the right time as fruits which ripen in their season. Also, it may take time to come to fruition.

So, Yoga allows us the possibility of changing our relationship to change, rather than being subject to it. Through yoga we can harness the possibilities for change and allow ourselves to evolve, grow, and develop towards our true, extraordinary and entirely natural potential.   

Andy Curtis-Payne

The TSYP Online Annual Gathering this year, 13 -15 November, is devoted to the theme of Change. Do join us! For more information click here.

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