yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ
The difficult word, of course, is vṛtti. Yoga is the cessation of the vṛtti of the citta, mind.
The ways in which this has been explained have mounted up like dunes in a great desert. Do any of the explanations work (help us produce useful results)? Patañjali himself offers explanation in the following sutras, but just why his explanations seem to go unnoticed or unexplored remains a mystery to me. Many people seem to think he is saying that yoga is stopping the mind! Yet, it is perfectly clear that he is saying that yoga is stopping the vṛtti OF the mind.
One way to understand vṛtti is through a simple example: suppose you are looking through a kaleidescope. You can stop the light/citta/mind easily enough. But then what do you have? Nothing. It’s very difficult to make do with nothing.
Or, you can take the kaleidescope away and you are left with light/citta/mind. This is much more useful, especially in the dark. Yoga is taking away, removing, just dropping like something useless the distractions to the light.
All well and good. You don’t stop thought, you stop the distractions that obscure the thought. What is thought? For me, Mahesh has been woefully inadequate in clarifying this. We all, of course, say we experience thought. No mystery there. However, what are we experiencing and what are we calling “thought”?
If we remove the kaleidescope/vṛtti then what remains? We can make vague references to consciousness, but what is that? What is it that tells us about what we see when we look through the kaleidescope? Awareness, I think, is something relatively uncomplicated here. How do I know I am aware? Obviously, I only need to ask myself what I am aware OF.
When I take away the thing I am aware OF, then there is just awareness. When I let the vṛtti subside, then what is left? Awareness.
Yoga is letting the kaleidescope of the mind simply fall away, yoga is abandoning the obscurations to awareness. “Letting” is an important word here. We are not “trying” to do anything, to make something happen or cease happening. That is built-in, automatic and something even Mahesh had to recognize in his checking procedure.
We notice quiet and silence. It is just there. It always has been.
We do not have to add any more steps by adding some new distraction, some “better” kaleidescope. Some name of a god, as if that somehow greased the wheels of some mechanism or some meaningless word, which itself seems kind of meaningless when you think it through.
What we really and truly need, we have always had.
We only have to rest in the awareness of our own awareness. No big deal, yet a very big deal, indeed. Almost all of life’s activity is based upon what we are aware OF as opposed to awareness itself. Yes, we have unknowingly let awareness itself become obscured, like dust gathering on a surface as opposed to awareness itself unobscured being the primary mover in the processes of living our lives.
Cultivating yoga, then is a really good thing. We were born with awareness. We don’t need Mahesh’s more and more obscuring it. We only need to be aware of it, just as it is.
There is no other purpose in writing this than to demonstrate how simple Patañjali’s teaching is and how unnecessary the sand dunes of Maheshism are. Paul has beautifully demonstrated his understanding of Patañjali and Hugo has confirmed that he does not find it unrewarding.
The real secret is that there is no secret. You have always known the secret, you just didn't know you knew! Now, you do.