#yogasutrachallenge: To the wise, everything is suffering because of pain itself, the consequences of action, and the impressions on our minds, and mental turmoil from the opposing forces of nature.
- Patanjali Book II Sutra 15
The Buddha told us ‘life is suffering’. This important yogic sutra also defines the suffering (dukkha, also possibly more appropriately translatable as frustration) we experience being bound to earthly life. Reflecting on this every day can bring a wonderful sense of perspective, and perhaps bizarrely, even more joy!
Essentially, Patanjali’s saying that nothing in the world beyond our own soul can ever bring true happiness. A nice car? Definitely not. That freshly baked piece of cake and cup of coffee at the table next to you? Nope. The love from another and the esteem of you colleagues and family? Not even those things. Because to have them means fear of losing them, or the pain of actually losing them, and anyway they are not built to last (the experience of them can’t even be pinned down as one definite thing at one definite moment).
Also, your attitude to things changes all the time, reflecting a constant need to find equilibrium between opposing forces of rajas (fiery energy), tamas (cooling inertia), and sattva (intelligence and equilibrium). That cup of coffee you had may taste great on the first sip, but too much coffee may give you the jitters, make you thirsty, create too much heat in the body and so on. Nothing is innately pleasurable or painful, it’s all about how we react to things at any given moment.
Patanjali’s not saying we can’t enjoy things – of course we should take pleasure in the love of another or whatever nourishes us emotionally, physically or spiritually. But by detaching ourselves from them as our source of happiness we are actually free to enjoy them properly. To love purely without fear of loss; to eat without emotional guilt, cravings or actual guilt at harming another living being; to make a real difference and find true satisfaction through our work and not just boost the ego; to act in accordance with our life’s purpose without distraction or aversion to discomfort; and to follow what best serves you now rather than try to relive an experience that brought pleasure at another time. This is as liberated from suffering or frustration as we can become in our lives on earth.