Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:22: To one who is liberated, the world of the senses becomes unreal but it remains real to all other beings.
Defining the Sutra
Once the Yogi stops attaching his sense of self to the things of the world, he becomes unaffected by the things that effect everyone else. They become unreal to them while staying real to others. The Yogi becomes “unmessablewith”.
Modern Day Application
I started studying the Sutras because I wanted to be”unmessablewith”. This became problematic. I started two bad habits. The first was denying what I was feeling and the second was beating myself up for feeling it. This is spiritual bypassing.
A spiritual bypass or spiritual bypassing is a “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks”. Wikipedia
The Yogis are not asking us to deny our feelings when they are still real for us. This stage, is a very evolved one and often misunderstood. Another misinterpretation is that Yogi’s are feeling-less zombies who live in squalor and deny themselves the so called good things in life. It is simply that because of their deep understanding of the nature of the world, they don’t get worked up over it.
A simplified example would be the transition from child to teenager to adult. With each phase, we have more knowledge. As a teenager, the things that sent us to tears as a child, don’t effect us anymore. As an adult, the things that made us feel like our world was going to end as a teenager, don’t effect us anymore. As we mature, we still have love and compassion for those who are still going through it but a broke Barbie doll or a pimple ceases to send us into an emotional tailspin. The same is true for the Yogi. Things that would send some people over the edge like Trump becoming president, losing all their money or aging, doesn’t effect them. The Yogi may choose to speak about Trump or support organizations that help the poor but they don’t go into an emotional abyss about it. They just see where they could do some good and go for it.
Another important part of this verse is that the Yogi understands that the world stays real to others. They allow people to have the experiences they need. Going back to the Barbie example, the Yogi would not say, “It is stupid for you to cry over that Barbie because it is not real”. They understand that the Barbie is very real to the crying child and that the experience is valid for the child. They don’t try to force their way of life on others.
Another way to look at this is the rabbit hole of, if we take our attention off of something, does it still exist? Quantum physicist have done numerous experiments about this very question. These experiments have indeed concluded that nothing exists until we measure it or become aware of it. Though interesting, this is way over my head. Better to ask Google. My husband is a science nerd and he came home super excited when these findings were announced. That is the only reason I know about them! As it relates to this topic, the idea that sense objects become unreal to Yogis, could be literal. Either way, once it becomes unreal to them, they are no longer effected by it.
Why It is Important
This is freedom. In this state, we can enjoy the world without a story and without taking life too seriously. We can choose where to put our focus and awareness and everything else becomes unreal.