Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:44: Self-study deepens your connection with your chosen object of meditation/Ishta devata/deity.
Defining the Sutra
This is where being a Sanskrit Scholar would come in handy. Just to be clear, I am not one. The etymology of Svadyaya is “sva” which means “own” and “dyaya” which means ” contemplating” or “thinking”. All together now= contemplating yourself. However, it is commonly used to mean study of the scriptures and mantra.
The etymology of “ishta”. In this instance, “ishta” is added to denote that the noun is something you are really into. Similar to the way we put “ista” on stuff. “Fashionista” someone who loves fashion.
The etymology of “deva” is “shining”. All together now =something shiny that you are are really into.
Ishta Deveta is often translated as being “chosen deity”.
If you want to go down the etymology rabbit hole, the resources are at the end of this article.
A study of the Sanatana Dharma, belief systems of the South Asian area, make it clear that “deity” is not a simple concept. You can go down that rabbit hole if you like. There are many books written on it.
Honestly, it doesn’t even matter.
The purpose of Svadyaya and Ishta Devata is connection. The philosophy of Yoga, which is also backed by science, is that everything is made up of the same energy. Nothing happens in a bubble. Everything is connected.
We are suffering because we feel that we are separate. We have lost the ability to deeply feel our connection to our inner energy/soul/spirit. Yoga is there to help us feel connected once again.
Scriptures, mantras and deities are jumper cables. If your car battery dies, you use jumper cables to start the car. Eventually, you either get a new battery or the old one gets charged up and you can connect. Scriptures, mantras and deities help us until we can self connect to the energy/spirit within.
Modern Day Application
Yoga is not religious. You get to choose what you connect to. The path of Yoga, when married with whatever belief you have, will ultimately take you to the same place. Yoga was woven into whatever aspect of sanatana dharma the Yogi chose. Because of this, it is often mistaken as being a religion. As a matter of fact, there are recognized branches of sanatana dharma that are atheistic. You can be an atheist and still be connected to the energy that creates worlds. That energy becomes your Ishta Devata.
It is important to choose our Ishta Devata wisely. Yoga tells us that it must be satvic or representative of the qualities of purity and truth. It must take us towards connection and not away from it.
Why Is it Important?
Everything in this world, that is labeled as “evil”, is a result of disconnection. If someone tried to cut off their own arm, we would label them as delusional, crazy or insane. If we are all connected, just like our arm is connected to our bodies, anyone who purposely hurt another would be insane, right? There would be no racism, classism, or sexism. We would be free to love whomever we choose simply because they are us.
“The achievements of humanity are impressive and undeniable. We have created sublime works of music, literature, painting, architecture and sculpture. More recently, science and technology have brought about radical changes in the way we live and have enabled us to do and create things that would have been considered miraculous even two hundred years ago. No doubt: the human mind is highly intelligent. Yet its very intelligence is tainted by madness. Science and technology have magnified the destructive impact that the dysfunction of the human mind has upon the planet, other lifeforms, and upon humans themselves. That is why the history of the twentieth century is where that dysfunction, that collective insanity, can be most clearly recognized. A further factor is that this dysfunction is actually intensifying and accelerating.”
“The First World War broke out in 1914. Destructive and cruel wars, motivated by fear, greed, and the desire for power, had been common occurrences throughout human history, as had slavery, torture and widespread violence inflicted for religious and ideological reasons. Humans suffered more at the hands of each other than through natural disasters. By the year 1914, however, the highly intelligent human mind had invented not only the internal combustion engine, but also bombs, machine guns, submarines, flame throwers, and poison gas. Intelligence in the service of madness! In static trench warfare in France and Belgium, millions of men perished to gain a few miles of mud. When the war was over in 1918, the survivors looked with horror and incomprehension upon the devastation left behind: ten million human beings killed and many more maimed and disfigured. Never before had human madness been so destructive in its effect, so clearly visible. Little did they know that this was only the beginning.”
“By the end of the century, the number of people who died a violent death at the hand of their fellow humans would rise to more than one hundred million. They died not only through wars between nations, but also through mass exterminations and genocide, such as the murder of twenty million “class enemies, spies, and traitors” in the Soviet Union under Stalin or the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. They also died in countless smaller inner conflicts, such as the Spanish civil war or during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia when a quarter of the country’s population was murdered.”
“We only need to watch the daily news on television to realize that the madness has not abated, that it is continuing into the twenty-first century. Another aspect of the collective dysfunction of the human mind is the unprecedented violence that humans are inflicting on other lifeforms and the planet itself – the destruction of oxygen producing forests and other plant and animal life; ill-treatment of animals in factory farms; and poisoning of rivers, oceans, and air. Driven by greed, ignorant of their connectedness to the whole, humans persist in behavior that if continued unchecked, can only result in their own destruction.”
“The collective manifestations of the insanity that lies at the heart of the human condition constitute the greater part of human history. It is to a large extent a history of madness. If the history of humanity were the clinical case history of a single human being, the diagnosis would have to be: chronic paranoid delusions, a pathological propensity to commit murder and acts of extreme violence and cruelty against his perceived “enemies” (his own unconsciousness projected outward), criminally insane, with a few brief lucid intervals.
Eckhart Tolle-A New Earth
PS. The Rabbit Hole
Any Yoga Sutras commentary you can get your hands on, LOL