Transforming Consciousness, Transforming Matter


As we proceed through Chapter 3 of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, we are coming to realize the power harnessed by a changing consciousness. With the integration (samyama) of concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and ultimate freedom within the consciousness (samadhi) we gain pure, unadulterated knowledge of Self (purusa) and Nature (prakrti) and their relationship. For the last Yoga Sutras III.9-13, we discussed the modes and transformations of consciousness, essentially the awareness needed to observe and discipline the fluctuations of the consciousness.

Three transformations (parinama) are mentioned in these sutras and it needs to be understood that these are not static states, but dynamic mental initiatives.

  1. Nirodha Parinama – acknowledgement and awareness of the pauses or silences between rising thought patterns, and beginning to apply some restraint to those arising thoughts to lengthen the pauses
  2. Samadhi Parinama – taking those silent moments and expanding them into a longer experience
  3. Ekagrata Parinama – pure, uninterrupted, dynamic silence of consciousness

When we look at these thought waves and transformations, it is also important to understand them on a continuum of deeper and deeper sensitivity. Being in the third chapter, we have to assume that all the previous 8 limbs have been mastered and that that amount of discipline and practice gives rise to some pretty intense experiences. First from the external discipline of action in the Yamas and Niyamas, then the discipline of the physical body in asana and pranayama, and then deeper still into the senses and mental functions with pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana. The freedom derived in the consciousness of samadhi leads towards these more subtle transformations and take place at a level that for most is impossible to explain in words.

That said, this deep transformation of consciousness does lead back outward to external powers and abilities that might for many of us also seem beyond human capability. But for me, even on the simple and superficial level of physical asana and mental responses, what I previously have believed to be impossible for myself has been made possible through yoga practice, so I have learned to keep an open mind.

In Yoga Sutra III.13 and the following sutras we will discuss in our next meeting on July 25th, we start to look a bit more deeply at these transformations of consciousness and their effect on the elements, the senses, and the mind itself that lead toward the promised vibhutis (powers) of yoga. The following are from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar.

Yoga Sutra III.13 – Through these three phases, cultured consciousness is transformed from its potential state (dharma) toward further refinement (laksana) and the zenith of refinement (avastha). In this way, the transformations of elements, senses and mind takes place.

Yoga Sutra III.14 – The substrata is that which continues to exist and maintain its characteristic quality in all states, whether manifest, latent, or subdued.

Yoga Sutra III.15 – Successive sequential changes cause the distinctive changes in the consciousness.

Yoga Sutra III.16 – By mastery of the three transformations of nature (dharma), quality (laksana) and condition (avastha), through samyama on the nirodha, samadhi, and ekagrata states of consciousness, the yogi acquires knowledge of the past and the future.

Prakrti (nature), including human beings, is all made up of the same “stuff” and that “stuff” can be looked at on many different levels according to our sensitivity. Yoga practice is the process of us uncovering and realizing our pure essential Self (purusa) and acting from that place instead of from the numerous other conditions that we have created for ourselves through nature. This direct perception and ultimate wisdom is what cuts through our own individual biases and prejudices and clears the way for the total knowledge and experience of life.

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Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.