3.14 The characteristics of an object can be dormant, active, or potential, yet there is an essence underlying the object.
Yoga philosophy is one perspective among many views developed over centuries in the region currently known as India. Some views maintain that the world we experience is a very convincing illusion that covers an unchanging reality that is eternal, while other viewpoints argue that there is no real enduring essence but a confluence of ever-changing streams of stimuli coming together at each moment. This sutra can be interpreted as saying that the world is real instead of being an illusion, and that there is an essence to any object in existence. That essence is independent from whoever perceives that object. Each essence has inherent characteristics that can be in three states. In the first state, inert or dormant, some characteristics of the object are at rest and thus not manifesting. In the second state the characteristics are active, so they are manifest and therefore can be perceived by an outside observer. The third state consists of latent or potential characteristics that are yet to manifest.
One way to illustrate this is by thinking of a mango. The fruit hanging from the tree no longer shows the characteristics of the pollinated flower from which the mango developed. That same fruit does not show the characteristics of the mango trees that are directly linked to this particular mango over centuries. The mango fruit hanging from the tree presents the characteristics active at the time in its color, fragrance, and shape. If the fruit is not ripe yet, it will not have its typical sweetness, so the sweetness is potential. Also potential in the seed at the core of the fruit is a full mango tree that, if planted under the right conditions, will take several years to produce new mangoes. Also potential in this mango fruit are all the mango trees that could be planted from the mango seeds produced by the mango trees resulting from the seed of this mango. Thus, each mango fruit has a dormant set of characteristics, a past. It also has a set of potentialities that have not manifested yet, a future. Its current characteristics are its present. Comparing this mango to other mangos on the same branch of the tree may show that, despite all their shared characteristics each mango is slightly different.
This sutra suggests that beneath all the subtly changing characteristics there is an essence, something that makes each mango unique. This underlying essence makes all the characteristics of the mango come together in a particular way, yet its characteristics manifest at different times in a variety of ways. This is another concept where there may be various perspectives:
Does the essence of the mango exist as a pure idea somewhere beyond physical reality?
Or, is that essence purely physical? In that case, does the essence of something relate to its DNA?
Or, is the essence of every mango connected to a virtual network of information connecting all mangoes of that species overlapping in turn with a similar network encompassing all mangoes, which is embedded in a larger network of fruits and so on?
Or, does the essence of a mango manifest as a result of the interaction between awareness and the natural world?
Is it possible that the essence of each object is part of what some people call consciousness, a distributed, dynamic, multi-dimensional matrix connecting all of existence, with the myriad of manifestation of objects in space and time being only the tiny fraction available through our senses?
Can that consciousness be what is called God, the Absolute, Supreme Being, the Source?
These large questions can offer you a point of departure for contemplation. Remember that whatever response you arrive at consists only of thoughts, ideas, or words, it is only a pointer to that ineffable wholeness. If samyama is one way of tapping into that deep interconnectedness, then it makes sense that the following sutras present specific ways of accessing that matrix of existence.
At a more personal and concrete level, you may explore your ways of being – physical, mental, and emotional – to find out if they are dormant, active, or latent.
If your ways of being change continually, consciously and unconsciously, who is noticing these changes?
Can the observer of your ways of being be observed?
You may also choose to contemplate these questions about whatever you experience:
Is there an essence to it?
Is it an illusion?
Is it a temporary confluence of sensory input and awareness?
You may also inquire into your own ways of being, such as how the characteristics of your body have changed over time.
Are there areas of your body that now (active) seem stronger/weaker or more rigid/flexible than they were before (dormant)?
Are some of your thoughts and beliefs different (active/dormant) depending on the context or company you are in?
Do your feelings and emotions regarding yourself change during your day with feelings of self-acceptance being active at some points while feelings of self-criticism are dormant?
Do these and other feelings change or are they always the same?
Are some of your feelings towards your loved ones varied as well?
Is it possible that there is an underlying essence to all these changing ways of being?
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
3.14 śāntoditāvyapadeśyadharmānupātī dharmī
शान्तोदिताव्यपदेश्यधर्मानुपाती धर्मी ॥१४॥
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually:
If you prefer, you may listen to the podcast:
Unravel the thread is now available as a book!
If you find Simple-Yoga.org and Unravel the thread useful, consider supporting my labor with a donation, you may also donate using PayPal or Venmo. Thank you!