September 1, 2011

threads of yoga: a remix of patanjali

by Matthew Remski and Scott Petrie

This post is republished from the www.yoga2point0.com. Matthew has published an apocryphal essay on the translation process here.


The following is our experimental translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras — insofar as trans means “to cross over or beyond”, and latus means “to carry”. To translate is to carry something over, and beyond.

The sounds of  the word “translation” evoke even richer meanings. Trans cues “trance”. And latere means “the hidden”, but comes into English as “lateral”. So, with panache: “to translate” is also to carry something hidden, over and beyond, yet beside us, while entranced.

Sutra means “thread”. Any translator of the yoga sutras is carrying threads across time and culture, through revolutions of thought, and sentiment, to be woven into new cloth, on new looms.

The warp-threads are vertical and constant: these are the questions of language, culture, audience, place, purpose, bias. The weft-threads are our multiple answers, of various colours, shuttling across to bind the cloth. The warp is circumstance, the weft is creativity.

Ours is not a direct translation from the Sanskrit, as is the assumed ideal. We are all juggling too many sources of input and interference to even hope for a 1:1 rendering. We are distracted by the old text itself, and its aura, by dozens of previous translations and commentary, fragments of oral tradition we have heard through the years, incredible cultural and historical divides, and the silent fruit of our own practice. Thus, we’ve called it a “remix”. We’ve tried to infuse the language with equal measures of tactility, functionality, and poetry. We don’t want to leave anyone out.

Our translated sources include the work of Aranya, Taimni, Houston, Miller, Satchidananda, Prabhavananda, Vivekananda, Feuerstein, Ranganathan, and Hartranft. As our remix plays, we teeter out our dance on the shoulders of giants.

The purpose of a remix is equal parts homage, adventure, reclamation, and pleasure. It collects the raw beats and hooks of the past and brands them, transparently, honestly, with the pulse of the present.

In the yoga 2.0 idiom, this pulse says a few key things:

  • relationship is more important than private bliss,
  • metaphysics distracts from presence,
  • consciousness is evolving new questions, and —
  • yoga is always changing, because its practitioners are.

We should explain our usage of the word “consciousness”. For us, this word refers to an embodied aspect of human experience. We see purusha(consciousness) and prakriti (mind/body) as interdependent aspects of being within space and time. Consciousness is always ‘consciousness-of’ what we sense, feel, think, wish, and dream. It is intrinsic with its material supports and conditions.

With this in mind, here is an overview of a few views that Patanjali holds that we are obliged to experimentally overwrite:

  1. Consciousness is not an abstract ideal: it evolves through history, and in relationship.
  2. Our suffering is not the result of our connection with the world: our experience of disconnection is suffering.
  3. Our flesh is continuous with the world: we cannot find a division between them.
  4. Samadhi – the transcendent moment – is made meaningful by everyday immanence.

We should also remark on the obvious: we have completely retranslated Patanjali’s chapter 3 to reflect the new magic of the intersubjective. This is part of our project to re-locate the mystical in the material. Also: we have stripped chapter 4 of everything we judge to be dissociative, in order to draw out its intimate quantum theory. It is in padas 3 and 4 that we stray farthest beyond the pale.

We have already been asked: “Why use or even refer to the original at all? Clearly, you are simply creating a new philosophy.” Well, that is becoming more and more clear. So in a way, this text is the record of our process of individuating from an older stream. By engaging with this project, we saw more clearly what the old book contained, and how it scanned against what we have come to value because we practiced in the older stream. We wouldn’t publish this as a book: its liminal status — neither translation nor fully-formed position — is ideal for the ephemeral space of the blog.

We worked on this text in a barn on a mountain in Vermont, during one of those months in our lives that felt like everything was pulled, through gravity, into our hearts. Quite unexpectedly, we found ourselves animating this gleaming artifact of our adopted tradition with our eccentric and uncertain breath.

We invite and depend on your feedback.



the book of integration

1.1 We inquire into yoga.

1.2 Yoga happens through the stilling of thought.

1.3 Through yoga, consciousness can observe its interdependence.

1.4 Otherwise, consciousness can be alienated.

1.5 There are five common thought patterns than can lead to pleasure or pain:

1.6 perception, misperception, imagination, dreamless sleep and remembering.

1.7 Valid perceptions may be witnessed, inferred or believed.

1.8 Invalid perceptions are the misalignment of thought and reality.

1.9 Imagination is metaphysical knowledge.

1.10 Dreamless sleep is a thought pattern about nothingness.

1.11 Remembering is the present experience of the past.

1.12 These thought patterns can be stilled through consistent practice and presence.

1.13 Practice is any intentional re-patterning of the mind towards interdependence.

1.14 Re-patterning may occur over a period of consistent and focused effort.

1.15 Presence is felt when you hold no expectation or assumption.

1.16 Awareness of interdependence is the fullest presence.

1.17 Reasoning, reflection, wonderment and the awe of being alive are the initial gateways to integration.

1.18 Through integration, these gateways dissolve, leaving unseen traces.

1.19 At death, these unseen traces are dissolved into their surroundings, and recycled.

1.20 In yoga, this dissolution can come through the efforts of confidence, energy, deep memory, focus, and intelligence.

1.21 The intensity of practice reveals yoga’s nearness.

1.22 Intensity has many different facets,

1.23 including the focus of devotion.

1.24 Devotion can feel timeless and resolved.

1.25 In that feeling is the awareness of inter-connectedness.

1.26 We have always felt it.

1.27 It can be heard in primal sound,

1.28 which, when sung, can reveal hidden things.

1.29 Then, obstacles to inner space become transparent.

1.30 Those obstacles are disease, apathy, doubt, carelessness, joylessness, addiction, false perception, unsteady focus, and restlessness.

1.31 Their symptoms are stress, pain, depression, trembling, and irregular breathing.

1.32 Practice alleviates these symptoms.

1.33 Calmness arises from friendship, empathy, delight, and equanimity of opposites,

1.34 or calmness of breath,

1.35 or a feeling of stillness in sensuality,

1.36 or when experience is light and joyful,

1.37 or when you observe the senses without expectation or assumption,

1.38 or by meditating upon dreams or sleep,

1.39 or by holding in your heart something you love.

1.40 In time, the heart can hold the smallest thing, and the uncontainable.

1.41 When stillness is held, experience absorbs and reflects the qualities that surround it.

1.42 This experience can hold language,

1.43 or it can be silent.

1.44 It can have qualities, or not.

1.45 In deep meditation you can witness how experience is woven together.

1.46 Such witness leaves traces.

1.47 Your hidden aspects become integrated.

1.48 A feeling of authenticity arises.

1.49 It is deeper than what you can hear or study.

1.50 It begins to unravel future patterning.

1.51 Bearing no future patterns, you become unbound.




the book of practices

2.1 Yoga applies endurance, learning, and commitment.

2.2 It reduces alienation and cultivates empathy.

2.3 Ignorance, individualism, addiction, dissociation, and the afterlife: these alienate.

2.4 Ignorance enables alienation in all forms, from seed to tree.

2.5 Ignorance involves not recognizing change in objects, ideas, sensations, or self.

2.6 Individualism sees things instead of relationships.

2.7 Addiction turns pleasure into a thing.

2.8 Dissociation runs away from experience.

2.9 The afterlife devalues life.

2.10 Understanding the causes of alienation nurtures empathy.

2.11 Concentration stills alienating thoughts.

2.12 Alienating patterns of thought tend to repeat.

2.13 This repetition can impede self-perception, relationship to time, and the capacity for enjoyment.

2.14 Alienating patterns predispose you to continued alienation.

2.15 For one who takes responsibility for his or her condition, life is seen to be ever-changing, echoing with loss, limited, unknowable and chaotic.

2.16 But the future is unwritten.

2.17 Pain is caused by the blending of authenticity with fabrication.

2.18 We feel passion, inertia and clarity through the media of elements, and these feelings can lead to ecstasy.

2.19 Passion, inertia and clarity appear in all energies, movements, and forms.

2.20 Consciousness seems distinct from bodymind experience, and yet pours through it.

2.21 Consciousness delights in giving meaning to bodymind experience.

2.22 As consciousness evolves, meanings change or are taken away, for different people at different times.

2.23 Consciousness projects meaning onto things, but then, forgetting its projection, assumes those given meanings belong to those things.

2.24 These assumed meanings are another kind of ignorance.

2.25 When ignorance fades, the original source of projected meaning is acknowledged as consciousness, and not the thing.

2.26 This becomes clear through contemplation on the difference.

2.27 As veils of assumption fade, the depth of perception expands, and begins to explore the unknown.

2.28 The practices of yoga diminish alienation, allowing for the radiance of clear sight.

2.29 The eight practices are relationship to other, relationship to self, poise, freedom of breath, freedom of senses, focus, contemplation, and integration.

2.30 Good relationship to others involves protection, honesty, fair trade, sexual responsibility, and self-possession.

2.31 These five means of relationship are for everyone.

2.32 Good relationship to oneself involves ecology, contentment, endurance, learning, and commitment.

2.33 Negative thought patterns can be altered by thinking of their opposites.

2.34 When thoughts driven by ignorance are held or acted upon, they result in alienation, but can be healed through opposing thoughts.

2.35 When one protects others from harm, this produces a feeling of connectedness and safety.

2.36 In the aura of honesty, causes and their results make sense.

2.37 When you practice fair trade, your sense of value is balanced.

2.38 Sexual responsibility enables intimacy.

2.39 Self-possession allows you to define yourself on your own terms, while revealing your interdependence with all things.

2.40 Ecology allows you to honour your body, and the bodies of others.

2.41 Ecology enables clarity, brightness, joy, insight, sensual harmony, and inquiry.

2.42 Contentment brings happiness.

2.43 Endurance allows the body and senses to be more fully enjoyed.

2.44 Learning connects you with your archetypes.

2.45 Commitment invites integration.

2.46 Poise is steady and well-spaced.

2.47 This occurs when restlessness fades and feeling is boundless.

2.48 Then, even oscillations are peaceful.

2.49 Breath is free when its movement is first easy and then voluntary.

2.50 You can feel the breath become smooth and subtle by observing the number, length, and placement of inhalations, exhalations, and pauses.

2.51 A fourth freedom of the breath is its stillness during your wonderment over an object you see or intuit.

2.52 This feels like an unveiling of light.

2.53 And concentration blossoms.

2.54 As consciousness draws inward, it becomes the object of the senses.

2.55 When the senses are free, they will not disturb contemplation.




the book of wonders


3.1 Focus can channel diffuse thoughts into one thought.

3.2 Contemplation is focus that resonates with its object.

3.3 Integration can dissolve the subject-object barrier through resonance, allowing both to share a single form.

3.4 These three work together.

3.5 They give flashes of brilliance and understanding.

3.6 They unfold in stages.

3.7 They are more internal than the first five practices.

3.8  Yet they can feel external to even deeper states.

3.9 Deeper states are cumulative, building momentum and depth through feedback.

3.10 Meditative feedback can create a continuous flow that overwrites other patterns.

3.11 As this happens, pattern-fragments dissolve, and the feeling of integration deepens.

3.12 As integration deepens, there is equanimity between thoughts rising and dissipating.

3.13 Such integration gives insight into what we sense, how we sense, and the passage of time.

3.14 All forms share the same basic particles.

3.15 Interacting with particles creates narrative time.

3.16 Understanding what we sense, how we sense, and the passage of time can yield narrative intuition.

3.17 Deconstructing the blend of sounds, meanings, and intentions gives insight into our shared grammar.

3.18 Uncovering latent patterns gives insight into your past.

3.19 Understanding your mind gives insight into another’s mind,

3.20 but not insight into the things the other sees.

3.21 Meditating on the body resolves the feeling of being objectified.

3.22 Understanding the narrative of events gives insight into how things end.

3.23 Contemplating the grace of others inspires you.

3.24 Meditating on the non-human world gives shamanic intuition.

3.25 There is an intuitive relationship between internal light and the night sky.

3.26 Meditating on the sun gives insight into the earth.

3.27 Tracking the moon teaches you the stars.

3.28 Meditation on Polaris reveals how you move.

3.29 Meditation on the core shows the elegance of physiology.

3.30 Mindfulness of orality gives insight into appetite.

3.31 Focus on the thyroid can give bodily stillness.

3.32 Meditation on the aura connects you to the heritage of contemplation.

3.33 All such insights can be spontaneous.

3.34 The heart shows you the mind.

3.35 Seeing the difference between consciousness and the clarity of things sharpens self-awareness.

3.36 From this can come heightened sensuality.

3.37 But sensuality is not always the point.

3.38 When your body is free and relaxed, you are open to intimacy.

3.39 Rising energy can make you buoyant amidst oppressors, thieves, and puritans.

3.40 A shining heart can be seen.

3.41 The art of listening is the marriage of ear and space.

3.42 Movement feels like flight when the body is wedded to space.

3.43 Abstract consciousness seems to blaze with light.

3.44 By living intimately with nature and learning the large and the small, the still and the dynamic, and how things work together, one feels blessed by the world.

3.45 Experience can then shrink into a bead of pleasure.

3.46 Experience can also display countless facets.

3.47 When you see how the sense organs work, weave you together, and commit you to the world, they become gateways of pleasure.

3.48 These gateways open onto internal worlds as well.

3.49 Seeing the difference between consciousness and the clarity of things makes all of these experiences possible.

3.50 Equanimity towards even these wonders is liberating.

3.51 Otherwise, one can become attached to spiritualism.

3.52 Meditation on both a single moment and the flow of time gives holographic insight.

3.53 This insight reveals the raw data of experience.

3.54 This raw data communicates to consciousness all possibility at once.

3.55 Then consciousness can see even itself as raw data, and co-creative with materiality.





the book of overflowing


4.1 The wonders of integration can also come through nature and nurture, intimacy with plants, communication, or ardour.

4.2 Evolution is the overflow of identity.

4.3 The overflow is natural, and only needs gardening.

4.4 Individuation creates selves.

4.5 These selves share collective consciousness.

4.6 Within the collective, individual insight still occurs.

4.7 For those experienced in integration, the judgment of moral actions becomes subtle.

4.8 Action binds a memory; circumstance unlocks it.

4.9 Memory can overshadow the details of identity.

4.10 Memories, like desire, are without beginning.

4.11 A memory releases when its cause, effect, context, and neurosis are integrated in present awareness.

4.12 An object reveals its past and future as its particles dance.

4.13 The particles dance to the music of passion, inertia, and clarity.

4.14 The dance is so entrancing, a dancer appears.

4.15 Each person will see a different dancer.

4.16 But the dancer is unaffected by their gaze.

4.17 Knowledge is a property of consciousness, and not the thing.

4.18 Matter produces and is known by consciousness; consciousness produces and is known by awareness.

4.19 Consciousness and awareness oscillate.

4.20 It is difficult for the mind to see itself seeing.

4.21The attempt leads to a hall of mirrors and an alienation from time.

4.22 When consciousness is still, it can feel itself.

4.23 Consciousness is fulfilled when blended with both matter and awareness.

4.24 It delights in being observed.

4.25 Being aware of this process imbues individuation with connection.

4.26 This awareness re-integrates the part and the whole, and feels inexorable.

4.27 At this point, alienating thoughts are fleeting memories.

4.28 And you already have experience in releasing them.

4.29 The exalted is common, and the common exalted, and life feels like a summer downpour.

4.30 Standing in it washes away thoughts and footprints.

4.31 Under a clearing sky, the desire for knowledge wanes.

4.32 In the microcosm, passion, inertia and clarity agree.

4.33 You see the flow of time behind you, and you know how it happened.

4.34 With passion, inertia and clarity harmonized, consciousness sees itself evolving.

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