This week we will take a look at Sutra 2.18 which will provide us with an opportunity to review the three gunas, or qualities of nature according to yoga philosophy.
Here are some translations and commentary on Sutra 2.18:
Nature, its three qualities, sattva, rajas and tamas, and its evolutes, the elements, mind, senses of perception and organs of action, exist externally to serve the seer, for enjoyment or emancipation. The visible objective world consists of elements of nature and sense of perception comprising three qualities or attributes (gunas), which are illumination, motion or action, and inertia or dormancy. All these exist eternally to serve the seer (the subject) for the purpose of experiencing the pleasures and infatuations (objects) of the world, or for emancipation. (Iyengar)
What awareness regards, namely the phenomenal world, embodies the qualities of luminosity, activity, and inertia; it includes oneself, composed of both elements and the senses; and it is the ground for both sensual experience and liberation. (Hartranft)
What is the purpose of life? Our lives are played out on the material stage of the universe. Why should it be so? Why have we been put here? Are all the good and bad times, choices, accidents, successes, and failures of our lives leading us to a goal? Or is life a random series of events, with our free will battling to create comfort, security, and joy from chaos? For the yogi, each and every event, whether marvelous or difficult to bear, is filled with meaning. Everything that happens is for the purpose of giving experiences to the Purusha (pure awareness). Or, more correctly, the experiences are for the mind, since the the Purusha is by nature free. All Yoga theories and practices are for the sake of liberating the individual from the limitations of the ego and the obscuring power of ignorance. (Carrera).
Nature is here to give you experience and ultimately to liberate you from its bondage. Even if people do not want to be liberated, it educates them gradually so that one day they will come to feel, “I’m tired of the whole thing. I don’t want it anymore. I’ve had enough.” When will we feel this way? Only after we’ve gotten enough kicks and burns. The purpose of Prakriti (nature) is to give you those knocks. So, we should never condemn nature. (Satchidandanda)