A Sutra a Day: III-36 – What is Real?

Nov 14, 2012 | Being a writer, Wisdom, XSutras, xTmp, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali | 2 comments

I taught a class to an amazing conglomerate of students today. Of the eleven who presented, the age range went from early 20’s to mid-60’s and comprised various levels of ability. The 4 ‘youngsters’ had very little experience but youthful energy; the ‘older’ group had more experience but less verve, plus an accumulation of injuries and conditions – the ones that come with living longer.
My husband Daniel was missing from this session, his regular yoga class, as he is doing a Mindfulness Meditation course in Taree. He is practical about learning to meditate and does it because the meditation is enjoyable and makes him feel better.
Daniel, I’ve said before in earlier posts, is a skeptic. I don’t think he would be in any way meditating to cultivate the extraordinary powers that Patanjali presents in the third chapter of the Yoga Sutra. In fact, he would probably challenge the idea that humans are capable of such powers as premonition, clairaudience and clairvoyance.
I’m not much of a skeptic. If you viewed acute critical thinking as a sharp knife that cuts through baloney, well, my knife would be rather dull. I’ve taken on faith a lot of the concepts of yoga and weighed them against my life experience to see if they seem valid but some, like reincarnation, I can’t quite get with. Others fit quite comfortably.
Our book club selection this month (suggested by Daniel) is The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by astrophysicist Carl Sagan. It’s written for laypeople, like me, so we can learn critical thinking, so we can see if ideas that we encounter will stand up to rigorous questioning.
I’m hoping to learn the jargon at least. I may finally remember what Occam’s razor is and not get hung up on what a razor has to do with logic. It wouldn’t hurt for me to be able to identify ‘fallacious arguments’ and avoid being tripped up by ‘statistics of small numbers’.
I think even Patanjali would be cheering for me as I try to sharpen my knife. I just wish I could get into the book.

Tatah pratibha-sravana-vendana-adarsa-asvada-varta jayante

It is then that the faculties of premonition, clairaudience, subtle touch, clairvoyance, refined taste, and sensitive sense of smell appear.*
*The Essence of Yoga – Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Bernard Bouanchaud.


  1. Good questions to chew over, Eve! I’m a dyed in the wool skeptic (I’ve been reading Bad Science recently and am VERY down on homeopathy as a result!) and am going to ferret out that Carl Sagan book for myself. The Siddhis certainly do provide a conundrum for me – I quote Patanjali like he’s the ultimate source of wisdom on everything, and then we get to those troublesome Sutra about the magical powers. Are they metaphor (are the cakras and nadis metaphor?) I don’t know. I do know that my ability to judge potential scenarios intelligently (premonition), my ability to truly hear others (clairaudience) and awareness of all my senses have most certainly been refined (and there’s still a long way to go!) by my yoga practice. Magical? Sometimes it feels that way. Still got to work on the levitation, though…

    • Hi Nik,
      I walk a thin tightrope on the question of the efficacy of homeopathy. Friends of mine are practitioners and very much believe in the utility of it.
      My skeptic husband has shown me all the proof of why acupuncture does not work, but it’s worked wonders for me. Go figure.
      If I just developed ahimsa to an exceptional degree, I would be completely happy with my yoga practice, but then, I equate ahimsa with sensitivity.


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