Overcoming Obstacles To Yoga: Hidden Barriers to Spiritual Life

Unravel the complexities of the human mind and explore the barriers that hinder your path to self-realization. In this thought-provoking conversation, you'll discover how egoism, attachment, aversion, and the primal fear of death often shape our perceptions, leading us away from our true selves. Drawing wisdom from ancient texts like the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you’ll discover practical insights for navigating life's challenges and gain a fresh perspective on how these barriers often shape our perceptions, driving us towards ignorance and away from our true selves.


HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Welcome everyone. And thank you very, very much for being here for our first community conversation. This is our monthly get together to speak about spirituality in yoga philosophy and how it applies in a practical way in our lives. Today we are going to speak about the obstacles to yoga, and we're going to cover Yoga Sutras chapter two: three through ten. Chapter two or pada two and sutras three through ten are the ones that deal with this question of obstacles. 

And here's what I thought I would do. I thought that we would just go through these sutras and look at the obstacles and what Patanjali has to say about them, and then go back and look at them individually and speak about which ones that particularly impact our lives or how we understand them. 

Because if you know what something is and how it works, then we know how to respond to it. If we know how a toaster works, then we know how to turn bread into toast. So if we know what the obstacles are, if we know what the impediments or the afflictions on consciousness that keep us from experiencing ourselves as we truly are, well, then we've got a better idea of what we can do about them. So that's how I'm thinking about this. And let's find out what you're thinking about this. 

So first of all, just to make sure we're all on the same page… as far as the Yoga Sutras themselves, the Yoga Sutras are codified instructions on practices that can lead to the extrication of consciousness from the influence of illusion and the subsequent experience of one's true nature. 

A lot of times we think of yoga as linking, as union, which is legit. In order for union to happen, there has to be disunion. Specifically, what that means is the separation of consciousness from the influence of illusion. So especially in the Yoga Sutras, in the process that Patanjali is prescribing for us, yoga is defined not so much as connection as it is defined as the removal of consciousness from its current union with illusion… with the qualities of material nature that bewilder the consciousness in a way that we’ll hear about in just a moment. So. Sutra three, in Pada two or Chapter two, and I'm just going to read the English. The Sanskrit is there in the transliterated Roman alphabet, but I'm just going to focus on the translation. 

So the obstacles are ignorance, egoism, attraction, aversion and clinging to life or fear of death. Ignorance is the field where the other forces of corruption develop, whether dormant, attenuated, intermittent, or active. Ignorance is the perception of the self - which is naturally joyful, pure and eternal - to be that which is not the self, which is naturally painful, impure, and temporary. 

Egoism is to believe that the one who sees is not different from the instrumental power of seeing. Attraction arises from experiences of happiness. Aversion arises from experiences of suffering. Clinging to life is an inherent tendency. Even the wise are affected by it. These obstacles are subtle, they are overcome when the mind dissolves back into its original state. 

So those are our sutras that are concerned with the obstacles. And I would be interested to hear from you what your first impression of these obstacles is. Just from reading the sutras. Before we get into any kind of commentary or elaboration on their meaning. First impressions. Feel free to just … you can raise your hand if you like, or you can just unmute yourself and, share some thoughts. Go ahead.

R.M.: Hi. I guess egoism is the one that struck me as challenging. Like obviously all of them I think are challenging, but that's the one that stood out to me as oh, that feels complex.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: The idea, the definition of egoism as mistaking the instruments of perception for the person who is perceiving.

R.M: Yeah. Like, I feel like we all pretty... I mean, I'll speak for myself. I continuously get lost in that distinction, so. Yeah.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Okay. Thank you. Anybody else get lost on that particular distinction? Find it challenging? Henry. Go ahead. 

HENRY: One of the key things about the kleshas for me is it's just part of being in this human earth suit that I happen to be wearing at the time. It's not different from my life. It's not different from this inhale or exhale. It's just something that I need to deal with.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: That's an interesting phrase. Earthsuit. It's a really interesting way to think about the material body that we are walking around in as an Earth suit. 

HENRY: Thank you. It came to me from a First Peoples Native American philosophy.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: I would love to know more about that. If you have any source to point us to, please post it up in the chat, because I would really love to find out a little bit more. I'm always really interested in those kinds of connections to yoga philosophy when we find it elsewhere. Lulu. Go ahead.

LULU: So I found attraction the most difficult one because upon first glance, it seems like when you look at all of them together, that one seems to be the most positive, and that's what stuck out to me. Like ignorance, aversion. Okay. Yeah. That's bad. Too much egoism. Yeah. That's no bueno. But like, you know, attraction is so powerful. So I would like elaboration on that one.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Okay. Yes. I would be happy to speak on that one. That one, actually, for me, is the most difficult, because of exactly what you said. It seems like a positive thing. It's things we like. 

And to think of the things that we like or that we're attached to and particularly, when we think of attachments to people that we really care about, how can that be a negative, or where does that come from? So yeah, that is actually a particularly challenging thing and we can talk a little bit more about that. Thank you. Any other thoughts on how these kleshas, obstacles strike you? Just on first blush.

CELESTE: Hi, this is Celeste. I think of all of them as difficult, as kind of the human condition. Just because, you know, when we're born, we develop into a one and two year old and what a two year old's say mine, mine, mine. It's about ego and it's normal. 

I don't see aversion as a bad thing. Aversion to pain is what helps us survive as humans. If we like pain, we'd all be dead because we'd be being run over by trucks and you know, holding ourselves against boiling hot water. Even babies prefer sweet tastes to sour. So maybe the grasping is the problem, but sort of all of those things seem just part of the normal human condition to me. So rising above them seems extraordinarily difficult.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Yes. This is actually something that's very challenging about yoga philosophy. It tells us that things we think are normal are not. And not only are they not normal for a spirit soul, but they're presenting a problem to us. And that can be really, really challenging. Yeah. Thank you for that. There are other parts of yoga philosophy… If you look at the 16th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, there is a description of a state of being that strikes us as very common. And it's actually a condition that's not favorable to our spiritual development. Yeah. Thank you. All right. Shayna. Hi.

SHAYNA: Hi. The one that stood out to me. I was actually just rereading the Sutras the other day, and this jumped out to me as well… the desire to cling to life as one of the primary afflictions? Because that seems like the most basic human instinct to live, you know, and that to be described as an affliction to be overcome, I thought was interesting.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Yeah. Clinging to life or fear of death? Yeah. And the commentators do speak to that issue. It's common, even in newborns, that there is an aversion to death. And how is that possible if they have no understanding of what it is? They shouldn't, at least not up to this point.  So basic survival stuff. The most basic human instinct. And yet, from the standpoint of yoga, it's an obstacle. That's weird. Glenna, nice to see you. Go ahead.

GLENNA: Thank you. Nice to see you, too. The one that struck me was ignorance, and it struck me because from my perspective, a lot of what's happening in our country is driven by ignorance now. But, you know, my perception of what constitutes ignorance and somebody else's perception who may have very different views than me, might see me as being ignorant. So that is just kind of interesting to me to think about, because it has to do with perception. It has to do somewhat with context, I guess, but that also can drive aversion, at least it does for me. To those who vary so significantly from my perception or my view or my values or the people I think are doing harm in the world. So it's an interesting thing to consider. We aren't all going to think what ignorance is is exactly the same thing.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Yes. This brings up a really important point. You know, the literary form of sutras is to introduce an idea and then define the terms used on a list that, make up the elements of that idea so we can, you know, in a relative way, we may think ignorance is the condition of a person whose attractions and aversions don't align with my attractions and aversions. If they don't have the same sense of good and bad, right and wrong etc. then that must be a symptom of ignorance. And in order to transcend that kind of relative conception we need to step back. And look at, well, what does Patanjali mean when he speaks of ignorance? You know, it's a little, little different than what we were just talking about with the relative sense. 

Just quickly, Jill, before I get to you, Sara put in the chat, aspiring to not be dependent on happiness based on the aversion or attraction of others perception of me, meaning I am not avoidant just because the reflection I receive is not appealing to me. My sense of self is more stable. Yeah. This is something that yoga offers us a place of certainty about the nature of who we are that acts as a kind of shield against responding to other people's perceptions of who we are, negative or positive. It's a formula for cultivating a healthy detachment where we don't ignore useful or instructive critique. But we also don't have our sense of self-esteem invested in what other people think of us. Thank you. 

Also, Ron. Relative reality versus absolute reality. Yeah. You know, transcendence means stepping out from relativity, and that's challenging from a very modern or particularly postmodern point of view, because as soon as you use the word “absolute”, as opposed to the primacy of subjective experience, then you have a philosophical duel going on between a traditional conception of an overarching metanarrative within which our relative experience is nested, and the idea that there is no such thing as an overarching metanarrative. Jill. Go ahead.

JILL: Thank you. So along these same lines with what Glenna was speaking, it really made me think of Yoga Sutra four, chapter four verse 15, because in this idea of where we are ignorant and where we view other people's ignorance, really speaks to it. It says that the characteristics of an object appear differently - depending on the different mental states of the observer. And so that works really well as we as we try to understand and acknowledge our own ignorance in a situation, then if we can overcome that ego that says, I think that I know everything and realize that everybody else also thinks that they know everything, and that if I can admit ignorance on myself, then I have to, you know, in essence, be gracious of the fact that everybody else who thinks that they know everything is also just like me, right? And so we all grow and we all kind of peel back the layers of ignorance as we go. If we could all see one another like that, it might be a little bit easier to accept other people's ignorance.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Yes, there are two things at play in this issue because there's a multiplicity of minds perceiving an object. Even though the object is its own truth unto itself, there are going to be different points of view as to what this object is. And so the question comes up, well, if we take this position that my ignorance and other people's ignorance are just relative ignorances and we just need to learn to accept all these. 

Then it brings up the question of well, are there not values of yoga?  In other words: wiping out attractions and aversions, attachments and aversions. Does that mean we're neutral? Does that mean we have no position or no point of view? Does it just all disappear into some kind of cosmic nullity of indifference? 

The answer actually is no, it does not. Because earlier in the Yoga Sutras Patanjali speaks about states of mind that can be either klishta or aklishta, favorable to self-realization or unfavorable to self-realization. So yoga is not just the negation of thoughts and feelings, but rather, when ignorance is dispelled on a yogic level, then our actions.. our thoughts, words and deeds become conducive for self-realization, our own and the self-realization of others and our actions are based on spiritual values rather than material values. 

And to the untrained eye, a spiritual value might just look like another relative material value. This is why study and contemplation is so important. Because it is not an effect of egoism that we might think we know something. And we perceive the absence of knowing as other people's ignorance. Because we're dealing with two different general ways of being: spiritual consciousness and material consciousness. So that's the important distinction to make, I think. And there is a commentary in the edition of the Yoga Sutras I have to this effect - which is, by the way, the edition by Edwin Bryant - and I'll try to dig it up before we're done here. 

But yes, that is what you said. It speaks to the function of humility in the cultivation of spiritual consciousness. In order to overcome our own state of ignorance is to recognize that at least in our starting point, we have the same problem as everyone else, and it just manifests differently. And recognizing that and having compassion for people - including ourselves - who are afflicted by ignorance and everything that follows from it, is an important step in our own spiritual development. So thank you for bringing that up. 

Let me go back to the chat for a second because something else popped in there. Carrie, the more we know, the more we recognize how little we know. Yeah, that's how it works. In other words, the people who know less hold tightly to being right sometimes. It's a rule of both logic and experience that the less qualified we are in any given area of knowledge, the more likely we are to think we are an expert. 

We see this happen all the time. So when we begin the process of yoga, when we get that first realization and we think, oh, wow, I know something I didn't know before and this is an important piece of information. And then we take one step deeper into it and we realize how much more there is to know, and it can be even overwhelming. So much so that we think, well, I'm never going to be able to go the whole distance of yoga. 

It's kind of like opening up a closet that hasn't been cleaned out in like, 4000 years. And you move one thing to try to rearrange it, and then you realize how much is actually going to be involved in cleaning out this closet. All right. Carrie. Thank you.

Let me step back now. We've got egoism, the challenge of making a distinction between the instruments of perception and the person who is perceiving through them. Kind of like my mistaking my glasses for my eyes or something like that. There is the issue of the Earth suit…. you know, the afflictions just kind of go with the territory of being on planet Earth and wearing an Earth suit so that we can survive in this environment.  Which is related to the idea of ego as also part of the normal human condition is evidence from the behavior of babies and toddlers, children the challenge of dealing with attraction because it seems like a positive thing and therefore how can it be a negative thing which is also related to clinging to life, a basic human instinct? How can survival instinct be a bad thing? It keeps us from swimming in the ponds, in golf courses in Florida that are full of alligators. And then lastly ignorance, the relative perception of ignorance versus the yogic principle of ignorance. 

So let's start there and work our way back, because that's really where all of the afflictions or obstacles begin. So I'm going to share my screen with you once again because I have a few notes on, on a few of these. 

So. What is Patanjali speaking about when he speaks about ignorance? Well, first of all, he's thinking about it in two different aspects. And by the way, just so you know, this is derived from traditional commentaries on the Yoga Sutras as opposed to just my own speculation as to what it might mean. 

The commentators tell us that ignorance is a product of amnesia plus misperception. So the word avidya has the negating prefix – “a” meaning not or the absence of vidya, usually translated as knowledge. Avidya is the etymological root of the word video projection of light. So avidya means darkness. No light, can't see, and therefore it doesn't really have to do with intelligence. 

And because what we can't see is the true nature of the self, it really doesn't have to do with some relative set of attachments or aversions, of likes or dislikes. It's the cause of the variety of likes and dislikes in the minds of living beings, but it is not a product of likes and dislikes. So that's an important thing to remember; because of the absence of light - we cannot see the true nature of the self. Plus there's a misperception. We identify with matter rather than with spirit. Matter coming in both physical and metaphysical elements. Earth, water, fire, air, and ether being the five physical elements that make up our physical bodies and this physical world that we find ourselves in. And the metaphysical elements of prana, the life force, the mind, the intelligence, and the ego, which is related to egoism, which I'll talk about in just a second. 

So “ignorance” really means here the inability to distinguish spirit from matter or the self from that which is not the self. Illusion is practically synonymous with ignorance. Or you could say that illusion is the natural product of ignorance. The self disappears from view in this state of ignorance, and in the darkness, we think we see something. And we think we know what it is, but it's actually not what it appears to be. And that's the meaning of the word maya: that which is not.  Something that appears to be one thing but is actually something else.

So this gives us a working definition of ignorance as far as yoga is concerned, and we can proceed from that. Egoism is understood to be almost like a function of ignorance or an element of ignorance. It's very closely related, and this is one reason why I think Patanjali calls them subtle. Egoism is specifically thinking that the instrument of perception in this life is who I am, or I am this body. What happens to this body is happening to me. 

Now, instinctively, we speak about the body that we have in the possessive. This is my body. Well, who's the me that owns this body? My mind, my thoughts. Well, there's a me there who has a mind and who has thoughts. But we tend to identify so much with the mind and with the thoughts that we think that's who we are. I am the kind of person who thinks like this. I'm the kind of person who likes this and doesn't like that, and that's who I am. And that misperception is the illusion. And it's really hard to shake because we're really attached to this sense of identity that we've developed. 

Now “egoism” is different from “egotism”. Egoism is this sense of identification with a particular set of senses that are coherently organized into a body and a particular mind, and a particular quality of intelligence, as well as a quantity of intelligence and all of that adds up to a sense of identity.

And then if we think that sense of identity is really special, that's egotism. So there's a subtle difference here between egoism and egotism. Attraction arises from experiences of happiness and experiences of happiness are impressions on the mind called samskaras that are associated with pleasure. And it's important to remember that the baseline assumption of yoga philosophy is that we are not these bodies. We are eternal spiritual beings having temporary material experiences, which means that there was an experience prior to the experience of this life that created an impression on the mind of happiness. And when we come into this life as little babies, we are not blank slates. We bring the impressions of the mind from previous lives with us, and we have already a sense of what will make us happy. 

Now there are basic things, of course, that make babies happy, but as we develop, as we get a little bit older, we have an attraction for certain things and a repulsion for certain other things within the categories of things that are naturally attractive to a young person based on their body. So you know, if you really want to see aversion in a toddler, put broccoli rabe in the spaghetti sauce when you give them their dinner.

I've seen tears develop in children over this travesty of spaghetti sauce and had to just make a whole new, just plain spaghetti sauce for them. So the point here is that impressions on the mind associated with pleasure follow us from previous lives. So if we have an attraction to something that just doesn't make sense. Like why that? Why is that the thing we like? I'm not even sure I like liking this thing that I like, and yet I like it making problems in my life. Where the hell did that come from? Why that? Well, because somehow or other that impression is carried from a previous life. 

And then the same thing with aversion. There were things we didn't like in previous lives and they made impressions on the mind, those carry forward. Now here's an important thing to know: when we leave these bodies, these physical shells, our earth suit, when we have to like, just get out of the earth suit and just let it dissolve back into the earth, or burn it at the side of the river or whatever someone decides to do with it, there's a vehicle that takes us to our next life. And that vehicle is the subtle body made of the mind, the intelligence and the false ego, a sense of identity. 

So there's the understanding that there's two layers to an Earth suit: the external layer that we leave behind, and the internal layer that acts as the vehicle to take us to the next external layer. And the external layer is an outward expression of the internal layer, whatever kind of consciousness we cultivate in this life that's going to show up as an outward expression of that consciousness in a next life. Which brings us to fear of death. The most basic human impulse. And it's the thing we like the least. 

The biggest aversion that we have is an aversion to death. And Patanjali says it's so deeply rooted in our consciousness that even the wise who kind of understand what's going on, they also have it. That's how intense that particular attachment is: the attachment to living. And here's an important piece of information that explains why that attachment is so intense. Going back to sutra number five, where Patanjali explains what ignorance is, he gives us a very important bit of information here. Ignorance is the perception of the self, and here's the really important information - which is naturally joyful, pure and eternal. To be that which is not the self, which is naturally painful, impure and temporary. Our natural condition is to be joyful, pure and eternal. 

Joyful means no cause for lamentation. Pure means no artificial ingredients. Just like you go to the store and get orange juice and there's no artificial ingredients. There's 100% pure orange juice. So in our natural condition, we're 100% pure spiritual consciousness. Matter Integrated into that consciousness is like artificial ingredients. And yoga is the process of filtering out all of the artificial ingredients so that all you're left with is pure spiritual consciousness. And eternal. 

That's an important piece of information because as we were speaking about earlier, like, how do you get to that point of appreciating that our ignorances are relative and getting into a humble position of being able, uh, to accept different points of view? Or at least have some perspective on those points of view that isn't just a I'm right, you're wrong, or yeah, you're on my team and we're against them - getting back to what Glenna was saying. If we understand that we're eternal spiritual beings having temporary material experiences, it reframes the whole experience of seeing someone who has a different point of view than we have. 

So let me stop here once again. Sara had a comment in the chat. In order to have a peaceful mind, it seems like we have to honor the likes and dislikes. Unless it's really harmful. Interesting point. Yes, it's not as if yoga is a blanket invalidation of our likes and dislikes. It's a matter of putting our likes and dislikes into some perspective so that we can see our likes and dislikes from an enlightened position and respond to them in the most constructive possible way in order to move us in the direction of the experience of yoga. 

You cannot artificially renounce our attachments and you certainly can't artificially renounce aversions. But what we can do is cultivate spiritual attachments and keep a safe distance from those things which are not helpful to us. So if we have an attachment, that's not helpful - all right. We learn to let go of that attachment by cultivating the opposite, a spiritual attachment that pushes back on the material attachment and gradually one replaces the other and we develop an aversion to those things which are obstacles to our progress on the path of yoga. While still honoring whatever aversions we have. 

For example, I like representative democracy. I think it's a good thing, and I can make some connections between that ideal or that idea and the values of yoga. So as long as I am connecting my attachment to a particular way of politics or governance to the values of yoga and not getting caught up in some relativism, trying to maintain a big picture view of how this all works relative to the project of yoga, then that particular attachment can be leveraged into an asset rather than a liability.

So that's an example. One more from the chat and then I want to take your comments and questions on this. How do samskaras, the prior learning, work when one transitions from one life form to another- human to animal downward, or plant to animal upward? Ron. Thank you. That's a really great question. 

You ever meet anyone who looks like their dog? You know, I mean, I see that all the time now, the question is just, are they coming or going? You know, which way is which way is that trajectory pointing? The samskaras can exist in several forms just like these obstacles also.  They can be dormant for a very long time and then pop out later as active. They can be fully active or they can be weak, or they can be intermittent. Sometimes shows up and then other times goes away. You know, if we develop samskaras that are suitable for an animal body rather than a human body, then we will get a body according to our karma that matches those samskaras.  The shape of the mind, the subtle body determines the shape of the physical body. So if we shape our mind like the mind of a bear, we'll get the body of a bear. Now that only works on a downward trajectory. You know, there's no guarantee that we'll always take a human birth.

We can just as easily take birth in another life form. I mean, somebody has got to inhabit all those different life forms. However, going upward. Upward is like a bubble floating to the surface of the ocean. You're just obeying the laws of material nature and running out, you know, running out the string of whatever karma you've got as the laws of nature just gradually take us back up to a human birth. 

So here in the human life, it's pivotal. What we do really matters. Whereas if we take birth in a life form that is considered lower from the standpoint of what opportunity do we have for self-reflection, asking the big questions and engaging in actions that put us on the path of yoga? It's on autopilot. You know, there's no karma for a cheetah that chases down an antelope and kills it and eats it, because that's just what the law of nature demands that they do. So I hope, Ron, that that's helpful in answering that. 

Let's get some other comments about how we've defined these obstacles, what they really mean, and if anything is different from your perception of them from 45 minutes ago to now. Any additional thoughts on how these might be working in your life, or what you might do in response to them. Henry. Go ahead.

HENRY: Hi. Just a short one on the fear of death. One of the ways that helped me understand that is fears of little death. Like, I lose this relationship. I lose this job. Oh, my gosh, my life is over. Well, not really. So when I put the larger perspective of where I am. So this person I am now in the larger perspective of everything. Yeah, this is not so important. It's important for me right now. But not the key. So when I look at the little deaths, that helps me understand my relationship to the big death. And then on the concept of likes and dislikes. I like vanilla ice cream and Oreo cookie ice cream. But I'll eat chocolate. But I prefer one than the other. No, no big deal.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: That's a very constructive kind of detachment. I applaud your ice cream consciousness. When we're in high school, boy, all those little deaths can really, really matter. And then when we become adults and we have children of high school age, then it's like, oy vey I never want to go through that again. And now they're going through it, and I have to like, you know, help them deal with, you know, little children, you know, the littlest thing becomes the most gigantic tragedy. And for an adult it's like, oh, come on, you know, it's like just not that big a deal. 

Yes, all the little deaths roll back to fear of the big death. Death itself actually is kind of low on the list of things people are afraid of. Fear of public speaking is actually higher on the list, and so if any of you have an aversion to public speaking or fear of public speaking as a little death, please let it go and raise your hand. Just unmute yourself if there's something on your mind, because I would love to hear it. Sri Radha, go ahead.

SRI RADHA: Hi. I was thinking about the egoism and how being too much like this is me. I'm wondering where that is, like on the degrees of like. It's kind of helpful to know what type of person I am and like the person that I am but then I understand the like going too far. So I'm wondering… and I know like in today's culture sometimes it goes too far with certain things.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: So yes, there is. I hear what you're saying because… and this is especially important when we feel attacked like, you know, vulnerable communities, marginal, marginal or marginalized communities. And even just individually, you know, there is a need for self-love. And that's a legitimate need. So how to not take that too far that it becomes just a bigger investment in egoism? Yeah. That's a delicate thing. 

Now I will look at that from the perspective of Bhakti yoga, as opposed to just what we find in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. From the standpoint of Bhakti yoga, where our sense of identity is also connected to the identity of the Supreme Person whom we understand ourselves to be a part of. 

My ishtadevata is Krishna. The ishtadevata means the particular expression of God who speaks to me. So I think, when I'm down on myself, I think Krishna thinks I'm so cool that he wants to hang out with me, and he's actually going out of his way to make it easy for me to do that. So that's how I deal with the other end of the spectrum. But that also reinforces this idea that even in the state that I'm in now, I'm loved. 

So we attenuate that investment in self-love so that it doesn't become an investment in egoism by thinking that whatever I am, whatever it all adds up to all the wonderful qualities that I have are gifts that were given to me. Not something I manufactured out of thin air. If I am a wonderful person, and I have good reason to believe that I am just as I am because whatever I think needs improvement, I'm trying to improve. And whatever talents, natural gifts I have, I'm trying to use them constructively so I can feel good about myself in that respect. But my position is to be a servant of something higher than myself. Something greater than myself. And when we in endow our lives with meaning by becoming servants of something greater than ourselves, then we can at the same time feel good about ourselves. And not let it get to our heads. 

So that's one formula for dealing with that. And I'm going to give that some more thought also because that's a really good important deep question. So let me see what else I come up with. It is not unusual 15 minutes from the end of a class or talk for me to realize, oh, that was the answer I wish I'd given. So I'm going to give that some more thought and I'll get back to you, too. All righty. Thank you so much for that wonderful question. Glenna. Go ahead. And then, Shayna.

GLENNA: I just wanted to say the kind of reframing of ignorance in Sutra five and that ignorance equals amnesia plus misperception. And that fact that it really it's about not being able to see the true nature of ourself. And it's not a product of likes and dislikes. That was very helpful to shift kind of what I was saying before about how easy it is to get into thinking the us/ them or I'm right/ they're wrong kind of perspective. So that yoga emphasis there is very helpful. So thank you.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: All right. Good. Glad that was helpful. Thank you. Glenna. Shayna. Go ahead.

SHAYNA: So this whole conversation, but also a few minutes ago talking about the fear of death and that being an ignorance. It made me think of how amazing it is to be in the presence of someone who is dying and who doesn't have that ignorance, particularly who doesn't have that fear. My dad is probably one of my greatest spiritual teachers. And that's how he died. He told me that basically he was just sort of stepping through a door and that it was no big deal and that I was going to suffer a lot more than he was.  And just that's just my only comment is that it's one thing to read and study all this conceptually, but to see someone actually go through it is, is pretty amazing. So that's my only comment.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: All right. Thank you very much. And yes, when we have an example - someone who can show us how it's done - that can be really, really inspiring and really, really helpful. And also very, very reassuring. For that moment of departure, for someone that we love and someone that we really care about to know that, we'll suffer because we will miss them, because we want them always to be in our life, but they are not afraid. That can be a really good thing, a really wonderful thing. Thank you for sharing that, Shayna. Jill. Go ahead.

JILL: Yeah, I guess my final thoughts on this really come down to something called the three A's of recovery, like a 12 step recovery program. It's really important to first have the awareness of these obstacles and what they are, so that you can work on having the acceptance of the fact that these are absolutely obstacles, that every person in a skin suit is going to be dealing with when they come down to take on their physical body, having a human experience. And then it brings you to the third A, which is action. And so when you are no longer in ignorance of the obstacles, you can accept them and then move towards overcoming those obstacles as best you can.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Jill. That's such a great point and a good place to wrap things up, because in the sutras that follow, uh, immediately after these sutras that we've spoken about Patanjali tells us that these obstacles can be overcome by meditation. And elsewhere in the sutras, his recommendation for the ultimate object of meditation is Ishvara, or the Supreme person, the Supreme Lord. And he goes to describe Ishvara with more ink than any other topic in the Yoga Sutras. 

The idea here is that Ishvara is not just a meditational prop, but an active participant in our pursuit of self-realization. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad Gita in the 10th chapter, where Krishna says that for those who are devoted to him, he makes all the necessary arrangements for them to come to him. He says, I, dwelling in their heart, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance. So there's this idea that there's an active principle here, that the obstacles are not something we have to overcome in our own power, that help is available and not just available, but really required because the obstacles are formidable, bigger than we are. And it's always better to have help overcoming such major obstacles.     

Some of you have been kind enough to tell me what you would like to speak about during these conversations, and I have that information. And please send me more. All of you who haven't written to me yet with suggestions as to what we ought to do, please do so. If there's something on your mind in yoga philosophy that you'd really like to explore or something in your life where you want to connect spiritual values or spiritual principles to what's going on in your life, let me know because I want this community conversation to be driven by you. Thank you all so very much for being here. I really, really appreciate your presence. I'm looking forward to hearing from you and seeing you all next time. 

Community Conversations is a free monthly study online group with Hari-kirtana das for people who take pleasure in keeping company with fellow travelers on the path to higher knowledge, deeper understanding, and a more meaningful sense of connection to the world.

Conversations take place at noon on the second Wednesday of every month.  Sign up here: https://hari-kirtana.com/community-conversations/