Here, Patanjali says the world is our gift in the truest sense. But this seemingly simple one-liner is steeped in philosophical and scientific exploration spanning centuries and is highly controversial. In yogic philosophy, the view is that there was originally only a single consciousness – pure, infinite, formless light. Similarly to (but much older than) the Big Bang theory, it is thought that something triggered this light to start to differentiate into various kinds of energy, knocking it out of its equilibrium state, and triggering a process of manifestation.
But as these realms manifested, a little essence of this consciousness remains infused within every piece. Just as scientists now think that every subatomic particle has an infinite “understanding” of time and space in order to explain their mind-bendingly odd behaviour, so Patanjali is saying consciousness underpins the manifest world at every level – from the Universal to subatomic, with us yogis somewhere in between!
As we saw in the previous sutra, Patanjali says our minds are filters of the manifest world for the soul, or own consciousness that resides within us. As we travel through time and space in all the various bodies we incarnate, everything we experience nourishes us, helps us learn and gives us a chance to find our way back to that pure light. And even within this single lifetime (which is helpful if you’re not quite ready to accept the idea of reincarnation), it helps us find peace and an acceptance of the poignant beauty of all the experiences we have – good or bad.