What is the "dualism" in the Yoga Sutras?

A key aspect of yoga philosophy, and in many ways the one true goal of yoga is to bring a practitioner into a place of seeing that the reality that they are experiencing appears to be unified, but in fact is actually not at all one, but rather, two distinct aspects that only appear united due to the false perceptions (avidya) of thoughts taking place in activity. Ironically, the word “union” gets associated with yoga and creates more confusion than it does clarity at times, because the real goal of yoga, as explained in the yoga sutras, is to actually separate these two fundamental aspects of reality (purusha and prakriti).

Sometimes students come in already fully aware of the distinction between these two things. I would think that people in this position have already suffered for their point of view, but once you see things in this way it’s really hard to change it, despite the social pressure to see things as “one”.

More often than not, though, students simply cannot grasp this aspect of the yoga sutras no matter how often we talk about it. On one hand you could take the words of Pattabhi Jois, of “99% practice and 1% theory” and assume that with good effort and faith, that this aspect of philosophy isn’t needed for the student to progress…. but I disagree. There are many aspects of our practice that can be taken away from us; our bodies are aging, and our ability to access yoga diminishes by the day; I believe that if we have the desire to learn about yoga, then we should take some time to try and understand what Patanjali means in these quintessential sutras mid way through the second chapter.

In yoga sutra 2:24 it states that the cause of the perceived correlation between purusha and prakriti is ignorance (sanskrit; avidya). Because yoga itself is the method for removing ignorance and helping a person exist in the true nature of their consciousness, we could make the argument that the whole purpose of yoga Is to remove ignorance. If ignorance is the cause of all types of suffering, attachment, misinterpretation, and the only way, and in fact the direct way of removing ignorance is by simply recognizing and holding steady in the knowledge that these two phenomena are distinct from each other, then I’d say yoga is offering a very simple solution to a very complex problem. Perhaps it is that simple.

Luke BaughComment