A rainy day here in Boulder, Colorado – which is a nice change, actually, for a city whose strongly consistent weather habit is: clear and sunny, as far as the eye can see. Though I love the blue skies, rainy days like this serve as a sweet counterpoint – an overcast, occult, yin energy, mostly quiet save of course for the sound of the raindrops and occasional thunder.
And today the rain is reminding me of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, in particular the final three limbs of the eight-limbed (ashtanga) yoga path: dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (absorption).
A metaphor often used to illustrate the relationship between these three limbs begins with a raindrop, which is likened to a moment of concentration (or we might say mindfulness) – which condenses out of the mist, fog and clouds of dualistic ignorance. These points of concentration/mindfulness – appearing like rain on an overcast day – is what Patanjali calls dharana.
Eventually the rain makes its way to a river, at which point it becomes a flowing continuity. The drops can no longer be distinguished, one from another – though the river as a whole is bounded by its banks. In similar fashion: a relative continuity of moments of concentration or mindfulness is what Patanjali calls meditation (or, as its sometimes translated, contemplation). The banks of the river represent the lingering assumption of a separate, limited, autonomous “me” who is the instigator and/or owner of the concentration. It represents assuming continuity to be a relative phenomena – instead of understanding that the only true continuity belongs to Pure Awareness, Dharmakaya, the Tao.
Eventually the flowing river empties into the ocean, at which point all sense of limitation and separateness dissolve: the river is no longer bounded by its banks, but merges instead with the infinity of the ocean. In the same way: concentration flows eventually into Samadhi – nondual absorption, within which the subject/object polarity has fully dissolved, along with any residual perception of limitation. The illusion of separate-self dissolves into its original wholeness.
And from the point of view of the ocean, it is seen that the fog, mist and clouds are actually nothing other than a product of the ocean, as a bit of its water evaporates. Just so: from the point of view of Pure Awareness, it is seen clearly that the “fog” and “mist” and “clouds” of dualistic ignorance are, in essence, nothing other than Pure Awareness – which enjoys this play of weather, every now and again.
Sort of like today, in Boulder, Colorado …