Final Liberation: Chapter 4 of the Yoga Sutras is entitled Kaivalya Pada, which means the chapter on final liberation. Chapter 4 explains how the mind is constructed and veils the inner light of the Self. It describes how the yogi deals with the natural breaches in enlightenment, and how the primal building blocks of the mind resolve back into their cause, allowing final liberation.
Yoga Sutras 4.1-4.3:
Means of Attaining Experience
Thinning the veils: These three sutras (4.1-4.3) explain methods of opening the barrier or veil between our typical waking state of consciousness and layers that are underneath, higher, or beyond (4.1).
Barriers were built by a filling in process: These barriers are constructed somewhat like a blue print of a house gradually gets filled in from the ground, to the foundation, to the walls, and then to the roof, so that stage after stage, layer after layer, our final construction as a completed human being takes place (4.2).
Reversing the process by removing the veil: By following that process of veiling and projecting in reverse order, going inward instead of outward, Self-realization comes. It does not mean disassembling the house, but tracing our awareness back through the stages of construction.
Opening the gate of the Self: Experiencing the eternal Truth or Self is a process of allowing the natural consciousness to flow forward, much like a farmer opening a sluice gate to irrigate a field (4.3), rather than a process of further construction of new information and identities. In other words, we cannot build or construct Self-realization; we can only allow it to naturally flow forward when the barriers are removed.
Meaning of Kaivalya: The fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras is entitled “Kaivalya Pada.” The word “Kaivalya” literally translates as “isolation.” It is usually taken to mean liberation or enlightenment. However, the way in which “isolation” is a quite effective term is that pure consciousness or purusha is now standing alone, separate from all of the manifestations of prakriti, including literally all of the manifestations or swirlings of all levels of the mind field. In Sutra 1.16 supreme non-attachment is mentioned as a stage beyond the many other levels of attachment. Sutra 4.32 explains how the primary elements called gunas have finished their purpose and recede in perfect equilibrium into that from which they arose. These are aspects or byproducts of the process of the isolation (kaivalya) of pure consciousness (purusha).
4.1 The subtler attainments come with birth or are attained through herbs, mantra, austerities or concentration. (janma osadhi mantra tapah samadhi jah siddhyayah)
Five ways to thin the veil: Five methods are mentioned by which that barrier or veil of ignorance (2.3) is thinned, or eventually removed entirely, allowing Self-realization (1.3) and liberation (4.26). Here’s the five ways of thinning the veil:
- Birth (janman): Some rare ones are born with a natural ability to drop the veil between the conscious and unconscious. Recall that in sutras 1.19-1.20, two kinds of people were mentioned. First were those who naturally are predisposed by virtue of having attained a high level of experience in a previous life, though that experience was not complete. Second, were those who (like most of us) need to follow a path of faith, energy, memory, concentration, and knowledge. Here, in this part of the sutra, it is simply being acknowledged that some experience beyond the barrier or veil by virtue of birth.
- Herbs (ausadhi): There is said to be an ancient elixir that when ingested, breaks down the barrier. It is also said to be an inner elixir, in the subtle aspect of our own being. At a more surface level, we are all familiar with the way in which various drugs or chemicals break down the barrier between conscious and unconscious. Throughout spiritual and religious history of humanity, herbs have been used responsibly in this way by many cultures. While we are not suggesting drug use here as a means to spirituality, it would not be complete that it not be mentioned as one of the ways people can remove the barrier between conscious and unconscious. In light of herbs as a means of removing the barrier, it is imperative to remember that the foundation principles are of non-attachment and attaining a natural state of stable tranquility (1.12-1.16). The way in which the ancients used such herbs is vastly different from drug abuse and addiction.
- Mantra: Here, the use of mantra goes beyond being just a religious affirmation or prayer, however pleasant and useful that may be. The constant repetition or awareness of mantra is like the persistent tapping, tapping, tapping on a closed door. Eventually the door is open. The mantra goes further, not only opening the door, but also becoming a guide to the deepest, subtlest, absolute reality from which it arose in the first place. For many people, mantra is a very comfortable means of gradually, gently thinning that barrier or veil between the known and unknown.
- Training senses (tapas): It seems that we humans are ever engaged in our relationship with the external world, except when we lose consciousness completely in sleep. Tapas means training the senses, and this can be done gently in daily life, or it can be done with great intensity through quite austere practices. The principle is that, if you gently train your senses, your attention will naturally, gently come inward. If you not only train your senses, but strongly restrict the engagement of the senses, attention will decidedly come inward. One is the gentle way, while one is living an active life in the world. The other extreme is for those who have renounced the world and are willing to suffer any consequence to substantially speed up the process of going inward to attain direct experience.
- Concentration (samadhi): The path of samadhi is well outlined in the Yoga Sutras, and in particular, is explained in the eight rungs of Ashtanga Yoga (2.29). Systematically, step after step, the veils are encountered, explored, pierced, and gone beyond, one after the other. Samyama is the three part process of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi taken together. When the samadhi of samyama is available, that is the finer tool (3.4-3.6) for piercing the subtler veils that cloud (1.4) the center of consciousness (1.3).
Siddhis are exposed: Siddhis (attainments, powers, perfections, subtle experiences, psychic abilities) are exposed from the subtle level by the thinning of the veils between the conscious and the unconscious. However, for the absolute reality to be realized, there also has to be non-attachment (1.15), and setting aside of experiences (3.38), so as to move ever closer to the direct experience of the center (1.3). Otherwise, removing the veil in one of these five ways can serve only to achieve subtle experiences and powers.
4.2 The transition or transformation into another form or type of birth takes place through the filling in of their innate nature. (jatyantara parinamah prakriti apurat)
Filling in is like the blueprint of a building: This process of filing in is somewhat like having a blueprint of a building. First you design the building on paper, then you go to the land to stake off the outline, start digging, and begin construction. Step after step you fill in so as to complete the finished building as was started with the blueprint. Similarly, we start with a blueprint in the causal level of our being, from which we then “fill in” with the subtlest material (prakriti) so as to become a complete, whole person.
Trace your way backwards for enlightenment: The significance of this filling in process is in understanding that enlightenment comes by awareness tracing its way back, in reverse order. While this current sutra is describing the filling in process as the way in which manifestation occurs, it is the next sutra (4.3) that describes how to reverse this filling in process, so as to realize the truth that has been there all along. Recall that the first few sutras of the Yoga Sutras explains the process of gaining mastery over the modifications of the mind field, and that then, the true Self comes shining through (1.1-1.2).
Filling in comes with birth: The same process of filling in comes when one incarnates into a body.
4.3 Incidental causes or actions do not lead to the emergence of attainments or realization, but rather, come by the removal of obstacles, much like the way a farmer removes a barrier (sluice gate), so as to naturally allow the irrigation of his field.
(nimittam aprayojakam prakritinam varana bhedas tu tatah ksetrikavat)
We are taught that only action brings learning: In daily life it seems that most events happen because of some other action first occurring. We are trained from birth that we must do something to cause some other thing to happen. There is cause and effect; if we want an effect, we have to perform some causative action. If we want to build a house, we have to bring together the bricks and boards and make it all come together. This is the way we are taught in our families and schools, and our society in general, whether building a house, a relationship, a family, or a spiritual life. We are taught that we must learn more, so that we can build more. While this is definitely true in the outer world, the opposite is true for the pursuit of enlightenment.
Learning how to unlearn: When we apply this process of learning to our spiritual evolution, we can easily, and mistakenly think that the process is the same. We can unintentionally become mere actors on a stage, only pretending to be loving and kind towards others. We develop a spiritual persona, as if this mask is the meaning of enlightenment. What is more true, is that our innate nature is already pure, perfect, or divine, etc. If that is so, then why do we not experience that, and have that true Self directly emerge outward from the core of our being? The reason is because of those obstacles or barriers that are blocking the inner light. What we need to learn is how to remove those obstacles, so that the pre-existing reality within can shine forth. It is not a process of learning, so as to build more, but a process of learning how to unlearn, and experience what is already there.
Opening the sluice gate: This is where the story of the farmer comes in. A farmer’s field will have many many rows of plants, all of which need water. The farmer does not just carry bucket after bucket of water to the plants, nor does he walk around with a long hose for watering. Rather, he designs the rows of the field so that there is a little door, or a pile of dirt at the beginning of each row; these are called sluice gates. Imagine a small stream that pass by the area. When he wants water to go down a certain row, he simple opens the door, or moves the little pile of dirt away with his hand. Then the water naturally starts to flow down that row. The plants are thus nourished.
Meditation is like opening the sluice gates: In meditation, we are not trying to attain anything, but are trying to open the sluice gates. We cannot really attain anything in meditation, but can only realize what is already there. This is why the phrase Self-realization is used for enlightenment. We definitely have to learn the methods and apply them, but it is imperative that we remember we are trying to open, encounter, and set aside, so that our true Self can come shining through, just like the farmer watering the field by opening the sluice gate.