3.44 Beyond the physical body and the ways of being (vrtti), the great disembodiment removes the veil over the inner light of awareness.
Similar to the section in Chapter One of the Yoga Sutra that talks about the highest levels of meditation and their characteristics, the previous sutras present increasing depth in exploring the subtlest aspects of existence. You may remember that sutra 1.19 mentioned two categories of existence beyond the physical plane: the disembodied (videha) and the merged in nature (prakritilaya). This sutra talks about the great disembodiment, or the ability to leave your physical body. Aphorism 3.39 indicated already that to enter somebody else’s body the yogi needs to be able to release attachment to the physical body. In addition to releasing attachment to your physical body, you also need to release your ways of being (vrtti) to uncover your inner light of awareness.
As it was suggested in the “What is Yoga?” episode and extended explanation in the same chapter in the book, all of yoga is a lifelong process of noticing and regulating our ways of being (vrtti). Attachment to your ways of being and to your body results in confusing your body and ways of being with your true nature (1.2 to 1.4). The first five limbs of the yogic process lead you to decrease your ways of being and your attachment to your physical body. As you deepen your meditation practice, it becomes easier to remain focused effortlessly on a specific object of concentration. This sustained focus results from releasing your beliefs, worries, and fears, as well as from being so at ease in your body that you do not feel your body. This happens naturally any time you are absorbed in something that captures your attention and imagination, like when you are listening to your favorite music.
Would it be possible to explore this sutra by finding a very relaxed position that can be maintained for a good amount of time and then choosing to notice your body from the inside, starting at your bone marrow where your red blood cells and white blood cells are made? Then feel your bones and the continuous process of storage and release of minerals taking place in your bones. In your own time, feel the multiple layers of connective tissue and muscles intertwined with blood vessels and nerves into a living web that is adaptive and highly responsive. Feel also your organs and the exquisite connections and interrelations between them. Gradually move your attention towards your skin, the intelligent membrane regulating your molecular interaction with the world around you. Feel your skin as clearly and accurately as possible. Pay close attention to the outermost portion of your skin in its interaction with the world around you.
Can you increase your focus on the outside?
How far beyond the skin can you feel?
The object of your external focus is akasha, the notion of space mentioned in the sutras before this one.
How long can you remain with this external focus beyond your sense of the body and beyond your thoughts and emotions?
Can you remain anchored in awareness while letting go of any notions of me, myself and I?
What happens then?
Might it be possible that this practice can be taken even further?
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:
3.44 bahirakalpitā vṛttiḥ mahāvidehā tataḥ prakāśāvaraṇakṣayaḥ
बहिरकल्पिता वृत्तिः महाविदेहा ततः प्रकाशावरणक्षयः ॥४४॥
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually:
If you prefer, you may listen to the podcast:
This is an excerpt from the book Unravel the thread: Applying the ancient wisdom of yoga to live a happy life