Sanskrit and the Yoga Sutras

by Vyaas Houston, M.A.

The "certainty of freedom" is a striking concept. Although the concept of spiritual freedom expressed through a word such as "liberation" exists in the English language, the actual meaning as we hear it is quite abstract, somehow foreign to the reality of our day to day lives. In Sanskrit the concept of spiritual freedom exists as a certainty. It exists within the context of an ancient proven science, equally precise as our modern science which has managed to send human beings into outer space and have them actually walk on the moon. For modern science to accomplish that extraordinary feat, there had to first exist the certainty that it was possible. For this to even be considered, there had to be an already existing language, that could gauge the precise requirements to get a vehicle beyond the gravitational field of the earth, find the moon, land and return. The necessary language was that of mathematics and physics. Because of the existence of mathematics, some scientists conceived of the certainty that they could land human beings on the moon.

The language that long ago established the certainty of freedom was Sanskrit. Like mathematics, Sanskrit is a language of infinite subtlety and functional precision. While the sciences of mathematics, physics, astronomy etc. continue to evolve, as scientists use them as tools to probe deeper into the nature of the universe, Sanskrit has not changed since 500 B.C., when it was meticulously codified by Panini. If the ultimate task of science, as well as the ultimate goal of life, had been to get a man on the moon, there would have been no need for science and mathematics to develop any further. It could have stopped right there. Sanskrit stopped being further refined precisely because it had become the sufficient instrument to facilitate human liberation, the ultimate purpose of human life. There simply was no need to go further. The enlightenment of the Buddha at exactly the same time in history could be viewed as an auspicious confirmation of the culmination of millennia of yogic research.

Although a wide range of manuals document the certainty of freedom by means of the technical language of Sanskrit from virtually every possible human perspective, there is one which stands apart as a jewel of scientific clarity, precision and brevity — the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Written sometime after the codifying of Sanskrit and the enlightenment of Buddha, the Yoga Sutras bring home the certainty of freedom as the inevitable outcome of the journey through life. A sutra is a short word equation that conveys a potent truth. A collection of sutras, such as the 196 in the Yoga Sutras, represents the interlocking correspondence of many potent truths from multiple perspectives to create a mandala, a cosmology, a complete and universal perspective of life, specifically the life of an individual progression from an unknown beginning through change and evolution to kaivalyam, being established in that which is beyond change. The truth of each individual equation is a convincing proof contributing to the ultimate perspective of the whole and conversely, the whole, a context for the essential truth of the individual sutra.

Before taking on such a perspective it's essential to be convinced of the need to do so by the necessity of one's own life. The process of adopting the perspective contained in the Yoga Sutras is well documented in the sutras themselves. It is perhaps the most significant rocket stage of insight that exists to accelerate momentum towards kaivalyam.

Consider the impact of the "certainty of freedom" as the fundamental context of your life. If you woke up every morning and went to bed every night, living life in the certainty of freedom, how would things be different?...