Patanjali Yoga Sutras
Chapter 1 - Samadhi Pada
Chapter 1, Sutra 1
अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१.१॥
अथ , योग , अनुशासनम् ॥
The word “Aatha” is very commonly used in Hindi to denote “Therefore”. In Sanskrit, it means Now/Beginning. Anusashanam means discipline. Not in terms of “discipline” in school but like a subject in university. A discipline of yoga is being imparted. The literal meaning of Yoga is the union of individual consciousness with the higher consciousness. To elevate the human being from normal existence to higher existence.
Merriam Webster defines yoga as, a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation. I feel the definition as partly true and yoga involves suppression of activities of body, mind, and will which will ultimately help in realizing the self, by connecting the inner self with the outer self.
I feel the short and correct definition of yoga is “to connect”, Connect the ‘anthahkara’ with nature. Yoga is basically a way of life to make the connection. Yogic postures and the life of yoga basically tune the body to receive the right kind of waves, like tuning in a radio is being done to hear the best station. Patanjali yoga system involves eight parts and is called “Astha-anga “yoga.
Chapter 1, Sutra 2
Extending the definition further Patanjali defines yoga as the discipline which stops the different manifestations of conscious and subconscious mind (Chitta)
What is Chitta? As per ancient Indian wisdom “Antahkarana” the creator inside our body has four parts. 1. Manas 2. Chitta 3. Buddhi 4. Ahamkara. Manas is the one which is responsible for cognition with the help of sense organs. It takes inputs from the sense organs and perceives the existence of objects or things. The eye sees an object, the light from the object falls on the retina and from the retina, the image goes to the brain and the neurons of the brain convert the electrical signal from retina again into an image of its outside. All this is done by the “manas”. For example, If a 2-year-old child sees a rose flower he can see there exists a flower but cannot say it is exactly a rose because he does not have any memories related to rose. This is the function of “Manas”
Now Chitta comes into play. Chitta is the memory function. Subjective function. Based on the memory it has, the Chitta tells exactly what cognition has seen and perceived. For example, Chitta runs the memory program and finds out what the image is as seen by the eye. Chitta not only runs the memory program but it also extrapolates the thoughts into the future and what can happen in the future. Chitta also delves in the past. Chitta has many manifestations. it keeps going here and there.
Chitta is one basically memorizing and also thinking of the future. Chitta is the one which makes the man a “meaning-making machine”. It manifests into past, tries to find out what it is the sense organ which has just perceived and extrapolates the usage in the present and future.
During normal times Chitta is very much necessary for existence because it helps in survival so that a human being need not repeat every and every step, every time. Like for driving, once it is learned it is stored in memory and a person need not learn driving every time. Chitta though very helpful for survival it plays a role in not making a human being peaceful. Because of its constant manifestations into past and future, it makes a human being loose peace.
Yoga basically helps in controlling the manifestations of Chitta and making Chitta do its basic functions and bring peace to a human being.
Yoga basically helps in concentrating the chitta to one point. IF we are studying then chitta will be focused on one thing with help of Yoga. In the same way, if a person is working then he can concentrate on the work with the help of Yoga.
Chapter 1, Sutra 3
तदा द्रष्टु: स्वरुपेSवस्थानम् ॥१.३॥
When the manifestations of the Chitta (mind) are stopped as mentioned in the earlier sutra then the person comes to see his real self . Tada means when: drastuh means the person who is doing the yoga practice. The person who has stopped his Chitta from having the vrittis . Such a person when the vritties of the Chitta are stopped, then he sees his real self (swarupam) and stays in that state.
What is real self?
Take the example of a pot. Its basic nature is clay. A pots real self is clay. What is clay? It is nothing but molecules and atoms. In the same way, if we analyze a human being , a human being is also atoms and molecules . What is the difference between other objects to a human being? It is his intelligence (Buddhi) and consciousness that makes him different from other objects. The intelligence and consciousness(purusa) are the real self of a human being. He doesn’t see them in a normal state because he is masked from his real self by the vrittis of his mind.
The key to open the door to see the real self is yoga. With yoga in the meditative state when we can train the mind to stop its various manifestations to past and future and we can see the present state.
Chapter 1, Sutra 4
वृत्तिसारूप्यम् इतरत्र ॥ १.४ ॥
Other than the time when the person is not in yoga, the person identifies himself with the thoughts he is having.
What are this vrittis, that we tend to associate ourselves with? They are just the thoughts that emanate from our mind both from the conscious state and unconscious state. For detailed analysis of them please read the link <https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/v%E1%B9%9Btti
They start in our mins because of the knowledge we acquired. (knowledge through learning, action or company of people). When a child is born he/she doesn’t know anything. It is just pure consciousness. That’s why children are equated with Gods. Then as age keeps growing the child learns words and gets knowledge from society. It is basically “words” that give the person the knowledge. Whatever our thoughts are they are basically words. Thinking is always done in words. It’s only when a person is in the state of yoga, the person stops affiliating himself with words in the mind.
Thus we can see that the roots of thoughts are all words. Then there are feelings and emotions. We may not express our feelings and emotions but we feel them without words. They are also vrittis. All these things make a person away from his real self.
Swami Vivekananda said that Vrittis are like waves on the lake. They do not allow us to see the bottom of the lake which is the clear ground. So we should calm the waves to see the clear ground.
During the normal time (99.99999% of the times) an individual affiliates himself with the thought whatever it is and forgets the real self.
Chapter 1, Sutra 5
वृत्तयः पञ्चतय्यः क्लिष्टाSक्लिष्टा: ॥ १.५॥
There are 5 subtypes or vritti is made up of 5 elements. Or at any state mind is in either of five types of vritti. And these five types of vrittis causes two types of feelings, reactions in the body of an individual. They are pain and pleasure. The other meaning is Vrittis are either difficult or easy, painful or not painful. Thus, when a person has painful thought in his mind, then he feels pain. When a person has a good vritti /thought in his mind then he feels happy /pleasure. These two categories of vrittis are responsible for two categories of feelings in humans, i.e., love and hatred. Raag and dvesha the primal feelings emanate from aklistha and klishtha type of vrittis.
To summarize we can say that human being can exist in two states: Yogic and non-yogic state. In a yogic state, all the modifications of mind are ceased/paused. In the non-yogic state, the mind wanders here and there as per the thoughts of the mind. The thoughts/modification in the mind is two types painful and pleasure which is further divided into 5 types.
Chapter 1, Sutra 6
प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतयः ॥ १.६ ॥
Unless a mind is in the state of yoga, it is in the following states: 1. Pramana state. 2.Viparyaya state.3. Vikalpa state. 4. Nidra. 5. Smrtayah.
Pramana state: The mind is imbibing/thinking the right knowledge. That’s why they say spend most of the time reading good books, hearing good music, looking at good things, so that mind is in that state for that particular period of time.
What is right and what is wrong is for the person to decide. For me whatever increases the energy of the person is the right thing and whatever decreases energy is not the right thing for a human being. The concept of right and wrong differs from person to person, culture to culture and country to country. What is right and what is wrong also changes ass per time. Some things like early marriage, sati and others might be right at one point of time for certain people and they are wrong now.
The individual person has to choose what is right and what is wrong. If anything is as per dharma and if it creates harmony in person and increases energy state of a person that is right knowledge.
Viparyaya state: The state of viparyaya is exactly opposite of Pramana. The mind may be perceiving/thinking wrong knowledge. For example, we may be talking wrong about a person at his back. In that state, a mind is in the viparyaya state. Whatever thought reduces energy after the thought is called a viparyaya. That is why the emphasis is placed on the three monkeys “don’t see wrong, don’t talk wrong and don’t hear wrong”.
Vikalpa state: Imagination. Most of the times we imagine things. This should happen, that should happen, if this happens then things would be like this. There is no end to imagination. We keep imagining all kinds of things most of the time. People spend almost 30-47% of their awakened time in the state of vikalpa i.e, almost 6 hours. For more information read this
Nidra: 1/3rd time of a person is spent in this stage. It’s the nidra . The mind is in this state and activities are happening in it all the time though it is resting. It is said a person living for 75 years, he will spend 25 years/9100 days/2,30,000 hours sleeping in a lifetime. In sleep, there are 5 cycles of 90 minutes each. In each cycle, a person is basically in the dream state and the neurons in the brain are quite active during this stage.
Smriti: Memory state: Mind going to past to retrieve information is this state. Memory helps in planning for the future.
Thus, if a person observes himself, he can find that his mind is in any one state at any given point of time. The mind cannot be in two states, at any given point of time. The purpose of yoga is to free a person of all these states and unite him with his real nature.
Chapter 1, Sutra 7
प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि ॥१.७॥
Of the five vrittis/modifications of the mind Patanjali explains the first one. Pramana. We call it as knowledge. Knowledge is gained through three processes:
- Pratyaksha. Direct cognition though sense organs.
- Anumana: Inference.
- Agama : testimony by learning or asking others.
Imagine a child of 6 years ( they say cognition develops properly by this time, that’s why schooling starts at 6-7 years) and an adult . let’s see how they gain knowledge.
Pratyaksha A child sees a rose. He doesn’t know it’s a rose . A child hears twinkle twinkle for the first time but he doesn’t know what it is. A child touches fire but doesn’t know it burns. So, all these are cognition. Experiencing directly by the senses. Whatever is experienced directly by senses is called pratyaksha An adult sees a rose, and he knows it’s a rose . hears twinkle and he knows it’s a rhyme and feels touch of fire. All these are previously experienced cognitions by sense organs. In the same way if an adult sees something which he is seeing for first time (but he sees it ) like some people living in villages sees iphone or any gadget for first time. That is pratyaksha. Whatever seen/felt by sense organs is pratyaksha
Aumana(Inference) Once a child sees something for the first time he tries to infer what it is , but his mind doesn’t have any data related to it , so he can’t make any inference The adult after seeing/perceiving a thing he runs the data in his mind and comes to a conclusion that it is a rose, or nursery rhyme or fire. So prior data in mind is important to come to inference
agama If the child doesn’t know a thing, he asks a parent, teacher or any relative and they explain it to him. This is testimony In the same way, if the village person if he sees something and doesn’t understand it , he asks some people around and comes to conclusion. Agama is basically coming to a conclusion from the data of others.
Now we can see that knowledge in a mind is formed because of three elements. If anything is missing knowledge cannot be formed. For a child, if he doesn’t know what a rose is and no one explains what it is, he will never have knowledge of rose. In the same way for a villager if he doesn’t know something and no one explains what it is , he will remain ignorant of that for life. For a vritti of knowledge these three are important.
Chapter 1, Sutra 10
अभावप्रत्ययालम्बना वृत्तिर्निद्रा ॥१.१०॥
The mental process which rests on the notion of non-existence is sleep. Valid Knowledge (pramana), illusion(viparyaya) and logical construction( vikalpa) happen in the waking stage of a person and sleep happen when the above three stages are not there. Nonexistence here basically is nonexistence of waking state. Sleep has two mental states dreaming state and dreamless state. There has been a lot of research on sleep and it is observed that brain is active even in the sleep state. There are two kinds of sleep REM sleep and non REM sleep. REM is rapid eye movement.
Sleep plays an important role in a human being apart from being a thought modification or state of modification of the mind. This year Nobel prize is given to scientists for research into sleep and circadian rhythm. They say that sleep should be coordinated with circadian rhythm. i.e, sunlight.
So for better thoughts, we should sleep well.
Chapter 1, Sutra 12
अभ्यासवैराग्याभ्यां तन्निरोधः ॥१.१२॥
In the second sutra, Patanjali says yoga will stop the various modifications in mind. After explaining the various modifications now in this sutra he explains how the thought modifications can be restrained. It can be done by two actions: 1. Abhaya .Practise 2. Vairagya. Detachment.
BY these two actions takes simultaneously we can reach the stage of yoga. We will be knowing more about them in coming verses. The English quotation “practice makes a man perfect” in the same way practice of what will be taught in the coming lines will make a man/woman perfect. This practice should be accompanied by its twin “detachment”/Non-Attachment. Whatever work we do if we do it without attachment we get perfect results. Detachment basically gives freedom. If we get detached from desires we get freedom from them and we can take the right decisions in life.
Chapter 1, Sutra 13
तत्र स्थितौ यत्नोऽभ्यास: ॥१.१३॥
Here it is explained what is Abhyasa. Abhyasa is basically the effort made to cause a state of mind where the mind is in tranquility or peace. The necessary factor which causes peace of mind is “effort”. Without effort, if we try to still the mind it will be temporary. We can cause peace in mind by going on a vacation or listening to good music but all these are temporary. IF we want permanent peace or steady state of mind we need to do the effort. What is an effort? An effort is the one where we spend energy and time. If the effort is done periodically we can achieve tranquility over a period of time.
Abhyasa means practice ( spending energy and time continuously) over a period of time to stop the thought modifications.
Chapter 1, Sutra 14
स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यसत्कारासेवितो दृढभूमिः ॥१.१४॥
After mentioning what abhyasa and what it leads to, in this sutra Patanjali explains what are the components of Abhyasa(practice).
Abhyasa should be done for a long time, it should be continuous, done with positive attitude and attention. This will then lead to a solid foundation. These are the principles laid for success in any venture we do in life.
The book by Malcolm Gladwell -Outliers, it is mentioned that to be extraordinarily successful, we need to practice a task for 10,000 hours. The 10,000-hour rule applies to all successful people. Also, another quality of practice is it should be continuous. There should not be any breaks except for ill health. So, decide a level (30 mins/day or 60 mins/day or 2 hours /day) and keep doing yoga for that time. It is said that to form a habit we need to do a task for 41/61/81 days continuously and then it becomes a habit. This emphasis on continuous is for habit formation.
To practice anything for a long-term and continuously we should develop a positive attitude towards that task. We should not hate the task. Even if negative thoughts or doubts come about the task we are doing, just do not fight with the thought and gently let the thought go with positive affirmations in mind about the task.
Another quality of practice is doing it with attention. Usually these days we are doing multi-tasking. It is not good for any task so give 100% attention to the task whatever we are doing.
Chapter 1, Sutra 15
दृष्टानुश्रविकविषयवितृष्णस्य वशीकारसंज्ञा वैराग्यम् ॥१.१५॥
We learned earlier that the two pillars necessary for control of thought modifications are practice and vairagya. We learned the components of abhyasa in 1.14, now Patanjali explains what is meant by vairagya. Vairagya means consciousness of self-mastery, of one who has no thirst for any object either seen or heard about. Vairagya has two components. Self-mastery and having no thirst for objects. The person should be aware that he has mastered himself in overcoming the desire for objects. it is a state when all that is called desirable is recognized to be capable of being mastered, the state when it is realized that senses have been mastered, or when the mastery becomes conscious.
Chapter 1, Sutra 17
वितर्कविचारानन्दास्मितारूपानुगमात् संप्रज्ञातः ॥१.१७॥
Once the mind’s thought waves become calm because of abhayasa and vairagya then it is ready for the first state of samadhi. Samadhi is the inward journey that begins with the concentration on physical objects. Like imagining the form of God, mantra, concentrating on the breath. Once we cross this stage then we concentrate on the subtler aspects, then if we continue further we will reach a stage of Ananda or bliss. This is the happiness that many people speak when they do meditation. Once we cross this stage then we reach the stage of “I” ness where we see ourselves everywhere.
( I didn’t cross the first stage till now, maybe in future, I keep crossing the layers one by one)
Chapter 1, Sutra 18
विरामप्रत्ययाभ्यासपूर्व: संस्कारशेषोSन्यः ॥१.१८॥
I have been trying hard since morning to understand the meaning of this sutra, how is it different from the yesterday one. What are these two types of samadhis etc. I feel I do not understand the whole concept but I will make an attempt to explain what I understood.
Samadhi can be attained through two ways. With thoughts of the mind ( With Cognition)and without thoughts of the mind ( Without cognition). Thoughts should not be confused with thought modifications here. Once the thought modifications are inhibited by abhyasa and vairagya then we can attain samadhi through two different ways. This is closely linked the way we reach vairagya. In sutra 1.15 we have seen that vairagya can be attained by losing interest in objects, this will lead to samadhi as mentioned in 1.17. vairagya is also mentioned in 1.16, where the person doesn’t even have thirst for his Guna’s, this will lead to the samadhi of 1.18, where the person has no thoughts in his mind and whatever exists in mind re only sanskaras. (Past). If a person stops all his thoughts then what remains is only past in his mind. Past of this life and past of previous lives.
Chapter 1, Sutra 20
श्रद्धावीर्यस्मृतिसमाधिप्रज्ञापूर्वक इतरेषाम् ॥१.२०॥
For other people like you and me, there is another method prescribed where we can reach Samadhi.
- Sraddha: Doubtless Commitment. Faith in what we are doing. There should not be a thought to us whether Yoga will give benefit or not, it’s been many days since I am doing yoga but I do not find any benefits etc. These doubts should not be there. Faith is like a mother of the entire practice. Faith protects us from falling back in our practice, so we should have a strong faith and do not falter no matter what.
- Virya: Energy commitment. We should devote energy to the activity of yoga and we should commit daily.
- Smriti: Memory Commitment. We should commit our memory to yoga. We should always remember our goal as to why we started yoga and we should keep remembering it whenever we get demotivated from the practice.
- Samadhi: Meditation commitment. That we will do meditation come what may.
- Pragna: Knowledge commitment. This is very important because we should keep updating our knowledge as to know for our self what we are doing is right or not. Like reading this Sutra is also getting the right knowledge.
All these 5 are prerequisite commitments for other categories of people who are not born with samskaras of Yoga in them.
Chapter 1, Sutra 21
तीव्रसंवेगानाम् आसन्न: ॥ १.२१॥
This is one of the shortest Sutra but having a deep meaning. Patanjali says to attain Samadhi for people who are not born naturally with “karma” of previous births, they have to cultivate 5 commitments. The five commitments are given in 1.20( Commitment of faith, energy, memory, contemplation, knowledge). In this sutra, Patanjali adds one more quality on how fast you can attain samadhi in this life. It depends on the intensity of commitment and how intensely you want to improve your present state. This can be explained in the form of an equation:
Time taken to arrive at samadhi=K ( commitments)+1/INTENSITY.
The more intensity you have to attain samadhi, the faster you attain it, followed by having commitments. If we have these 5 commitments and intense desires then we do abhayasa (practice) and vairagya accordingly.
How do we get intensity? Intensity arises from samveganam .
Meaning of samveganam : The oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle.
Chapter 1, Sutra 22
मृदुमध्याधिमात्रत्वात् ततोSपि विशेषः ॥ १.२२॥
Patanjali makes a further classification among people who practice yoga. Let me recap the past classifications:
- People who attain samadhi by meditating on objects and people who meditate on the absence of thoughts.
- People who are born with past samskaras of yoga/samadhi with them so they attain samadhi in this life faster and people who do not have many past samskaras in them and are practicing in this life.
- for people who are practicing in this life those who are having intense desire to attain samadhi and those people who are putting mild, medium and ardent.
I searched for the meaning of Adhimatra and got the following meaning for all the terms in the book “Dictionary of Indian Philosophy” by John Grimes.
Sddhaka - – one who practices spiritual disciplines (from the verb root siidh = “to go straight to the goal”); a spiritual aspirant 1. According to the Siva Sarhhitd, there are four types: the soft practitioner (mrdu) who lacks zeal, is dull witted, sickly, greedy, attached, etc., who don’t carry out the guru’s commands, even when asked; the middling practitioner (madhya) who is even minded, patient, desirous of virtue, etc., who carries out the guru’s commands when asked; the ardent practitioner (adhimiitra) who is steady minded, disciplined, constantly engaged in spiritual disciplines, who anticipates the guru’s commands; most ardent practitioner (adhimiitratama) who gains realization very quickly.
Patanjali says the results are based on the effort kept. This is similar to Newton’s third law F=M(A).
The amount of force determines the acceleration/speed in the body. If we put efforts ardently/intensely then we can achieve goal speedily.
Chapter 1, Sutra 23
ईश्वरप्रणिधानाद्वा ॥ १.२३॥
Rishi Patanjali introduces the concept of God in yoga system here. He says people can do all the things in the above sutras from sutra 1 to 1.22 or they can get absorbed in the devotion for Lord and attain realization and attain union with god.
Chapter 1, Sutra 24
क्लेशकर्मविपाकाशयैरपरामृष्ट: पुरुषविशेष ईश्वरः ॥१.२४॥
In this sutra, it is explained what Iswarah is. Though it’s quite difficult to explain what God is it can be understood as a Consciousness which does not have the coloring of past actions, not affected by Maya. It is also mentioned that it is special kind of Purusa (consciousness). For other beings, Purusa has the memory of the past. The purpose of yoga is to get merged with this special consciousness “Ishwara”.
Chapter 1, Sutra 25
तत्र निरतिशयं सर्वज्ञबीजम्॥१.२५॥
Explaining the qualities of purusa Patanjali explains that it is limitless. In maths, it means it is infinite. We cannot measure it. And it is the seed for everything in the universe. They say when the big bang happened when the whole universe is formed, 11 billion years ago, the size of the universe was a small pinhead. Can anyone imagine all this earth, sun, solar system, stars what we see in the sky all compressed into a pinhead? From that seed, everything is born.
So lesson to learn: We are all born with the same element, so we need not fight with people and waste time.
Chapter 1, Sutra 26
पूर्वेषाम् अपि गुरुः कालेनानवच्छेदात्॥१.२६॥
Here it is said that the supreme consciousness is not limited by time. It taught the ancient gurus and it is teaching the present day gurus also. The supreme consciousness is available to every person who ever seeks him.
Buddha said that do not follow any teacher, discover your own path through practice. This applies here because it is clear that the supreme consciousness is available to each and everyone on this planet. We just need to work hard to realize him.
Chapter 1, Sutra 27
तस्य वाचकः प्रणवः॥१.२७॥
We use words to express something which we did not express indirectly. In the same way the word used to express ishwarah is the sound pranavah – OM. Pranava means basically the sound which pleases him. Sound basically travels in the universe in the form of electromagnetic waves. God can be simply described by the sound om. More information at the Wikipedia site: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om
Chapter 1, Sutra 28
Patanjali conveys the path to devotion, as for how we can reach Ishwara. It is by repeating the representative word of the God “om”. If we can chant the word Om at frequent intervals and remember him we can reach the goal of self-realization soon.
Chapter 1, Sutra 29
It is mentioned that constant remembrance of the Pranava sound “om” will lead to the removal of the obstacles in the path of self-realization and the person will attain self-realization.
To summarize the first 29 sutras, initially, it is mentioned what is yoga- stopping the modifications of thoughts and union of self with supreme consciousness. Then there were different types of thought modifications that do not allow us to unite ourselves with supreme consciousness.
Then it is explained how to stop these thought modifications, through practice and renunciation. What states are possible if we practice regularly with the concept of renunciation in mind is explained: we will attain samadhi. The types of samadhi and the categorization of people according to samadhi is explained later. Then it is explained that state of samadhi can be achieved not only by yoga but also intense bhakti to Ishwara. Then the concept of Ishvara and what sound is used to describe ishwara and what happens by the intense devotion is explained.
Chapter 1, Sutra 30
In the earlier sutra, it is mentioned that constant remembrance of “Om” ( Pranava sound) will remove the obstacles and the person will attain self-realization. In this sutra, it is explained what are those obstacles. If we know the obstacles in the path of the journey we will be well prepared to make the journey, we can plan strategies to overcome those obstacles. It is just like if we know that there is a 5 feet wall obstacle in the journey to reach a place we will practice to cross that 5 feet wall. That is why Patanjali is giving us the list of obstacles in the journey. the obstacles are
- Illness. A person doing practice may fall ill at any time.
- Doubt: A person having doubts about the methodology being followed ( whether the yoga practice he is following will benefit or not) etc
- Laziness: this is a big obstacle for yoga. Whether we can get up in the morning to do yoga or better to sleep for some more time.
- Lack of enthusiasm: This is the biggest obstacle to yoga. Enthusiasm will be there when the goal is clear and when there are no doubts about the goal being pursued. We feel very happy doing something for the people we like, why can’t we have enthusiasm in yoga practice which is going to help us in a better way?
- Carelessness: We sometimes take a very easy approach and we are not serious about yoga practice. This becomes an obstacle. If we are serious about the task we will prioritize it in comparison to other tasks.
- Distractions of Chitta: when we are not focused we will be involved in activities that will not help us reach yoga. So once we pursue the path of yoga then we should concentrate on activities that allow us to reach the final goal.
- Instability: this is another major obstacle that occurs because of lack of enthusiasm and seriousness and doubt. We keep falling down, again and again, to pursue the path again. Valuable time will be lost because of instability.
- False perception/knowledge: Sometimes we may get influenced by some other knowledge which may take us from yoga. This is very important in the age of the internet where there is too much information.
- Lust: Bodily desires take us away from final goal.
Patanjali says by remembering om continuously we can easily overcome the obstacles.
Chapter 1, Sutra 31
In this sutra, it is explained what happens when there is the distraction of the mind because of obstacles. It also means how do we identify obstacles. What things arise simultaneously in the body whenever we face the nine obstacles.
- The way we breathe changes. If we keenly look whenever we get angry, confused, lazy the way we breathe changes immediately.
- The way we move, shake our legs and hands is also a symptom.
- Sadness: the whole mood will be sad because of mental pain.
- Despair: we will not have interest in any activity of life.
Whenever if we have these feelings, then if we immediately introspect we observe that these feelings are caused because of some obstacle we faced in the path of yoga/general life. Obstacles are causes given in sutra 1.30 and symptoms, manifestations are given in sutra 1.31.
Chapter 1, Sutra 32
The method of overcoming the obstacles and the symptoms caused by them is given in this sutra. It is mentioned that if we can concentrate on “one principle” then we can remove obstacles. What is that one principle? It can be ishwara or self-realization or can be a goal in life for a person. Once after careful thought that one principle is finalized than the person should totally dedicate himself to the oneness. In this sutra, the word Abhyasa is again used. Earlier in sutra 1.12, we have learnt that “abhaya”(practice) and “vairagya”(detachment) will stop different manifestation (vritti) of the mind.So we can see those thought modifications( Vritti) causes obstacles which can be detected by some symptoms.
Chapter 1, Sutra 33
मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम्॥१.३३॥
Though every Sutra of Patanjali is a gem, I feel this as one of the most powerful sutras I have read till now. It is described that we should develop the feelings of Maitri(friendship), karuna(Compassion), Mudita(goodwill), upekshanam(indifference) towards virtues, sins to calm the Chitta.
Earlier we have seen that Chitta (our mind) has thought modifications which keeps us away from yoga. And the thought modifications can be kept calm by practice and vairagya. One of the components of practice is developing good thoughts. Whenever negative thoughts spring up in the mind, then deflect the mind towards positive thoughts.
This is applicable to our inner voice also. Whenever we get thoughts like is yoga useful, did it benefit anyone, why should I do this, till now in life you didn’t achieve anything what will you achieve now? You couldn’t get up in the morning so you are a failure. Such thoughts keep coming to our mind, them immediately develop the 4 positive feelings.
If we get in mind the person we don’t like or hate develop any one of the four feelings towards that person. In such a way we will calm the Chitta slowly and slowly.
Chapter 1, Sutra 34
प्रच्छर्दनविधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य॥१.३४॥
It has been explained in 1.32 that the process of removing obstacles is to calm the mind and the mind can be calmed by meditating on one principle. The practice of friendliness towards all people who are happy, compassion towards people in pain, goodwill towards habitually virtuous and difference towards sinful people. By practicing these attitudes and meditating on these feelings we can calm the mind.
The mind can also be calmed by meditating on breathing. I feel that Sutra 1.33 explained more about how to live life in society, our day to day dealings with the society when we are dealing with people. We should constantly practice these 4 feelings so that we get gradually detached from the feelings of desire, envy, hatred, greed, and attachments.
Then when we are alone or not dealing with people or when thoughts trouble us so much then , we can concentrate on the breath to make the mind calm.
Meditation on the breath is called “ana-Pana” meditation in Buddhism.
Chapter 1, Sutra 35
विषयवती वा प्रवृत्तिरुत्पन्ना मनसः स्थितिनिबन्धिनी॥१.३५॥
Another form of meditation is explained here to calm the mind. In1.33 about the states of experience in the world, in 1.34 meditating on breathing and here it is mentioned that meditating on the sensory perception of the five senses. The skin, nose, eyes, tongue, ears the five sense organs perceive the world. In this sutra it is mentioned that we can concentrate on the act of sensing, and not on the objects of senses. Suppose we like the smell of a perfume, as per this sutra we will not concentrate on perfume, we will not concentrate on the smell of perfume but we will concentrate on the activities that are happening when we smell the perfume. First the smell touches our nostrils, then it increases and then it stays and goes away. We will be concentrating on the whole process of perception and what changes it makes in the body and mind.
Chapter 1, Sutra 36
विशोका वा ज्योतिष्मती ॥१.३६॥
The other method is if we can concentrate on the luminosity(light) of state of non-sorrowfulness. It is usually advised that we concentrate on a light at the forehead during meditation. This will help in fixing the mind and slowly clearing the mind.
We can see that we have been given many options as per the personality of the person and we are not forced to follow any certain method. We can choose what works best for us. We can also concentrate on a state of non-sorrowfulness because if we concentrate on the sorrow that will sap our energies and make us sad.
Chapter 1, Sutra 37
वीतरागविषयं वा चित्तम्॥१.३७॥
Another form of meditation is mentioned here. It is stated that without any desire or hatred we can concentrate on objects. The necessary condition is we should have neither liking or dislike for the object of meditation. We should be neutral on the object of meditation. Or we can also concentrate on the consciousness of the mind itself. Take a thought of the mind and concentrate on it. Not on different thoughts but on one thought.
Chapter 1, Sutra 38
Another technique of meditation is given here. This is the first time I am reading of such a technique. Here it says we can also meditate on the state of sleep or on the state of dreams. Here we should maintain caution that we should not meditate on the content of the dreams but we should meditate on the state of the dreams. ( I do not know how to do this as I have never tried).
Chapter 1, Sutra 39
In this sutra, complete freedom is given to the person who is meditating. A person can meditate on anything that he desires, which elevates him. This is the kind of flexibility provided in the yoga, that a person can choose anything that elevates him or makes his mind calm. The ultimate objective should be that the mind should become calm by the object of meditation. A person may try each one of the above-mentioned methods and try to meditate, whatever fits his personality he can select it and continue to meditate. For me meditating on breathing is quite suitable. Developed this technique after a lot of practice indeed.
Chapter 1, Sutra 40
परमाणु परममहत्त्वान्तोऽस्य वशीकारः॥१.४०॥
By practicing meditation as mentioned in any of the earlier mentioned methods, the person is able to meditate on the smallest object, i.e atom or on a mighty object which is infinite like the universe. Thus, we can see that as mind becomes calmer and calmer in meditation, it can concentrate on the smallest object and also on universe. So the pre requisite is we should meditate. Right now I am practicing 25 mins meditation/day which I plan to take it to 60 mins by the end of the readings of this sutra.
Chapter 1, Sutra 41
क्षीणवृत्तेरभिजातस्येव मणेर्ग्रहीतृग्रहणग्राह्येषु तत्स्थतदञ्जनतासमापत्तिः॥१.४१॥
What happens due to meditations is mentioned here. Earlier we studied that there are thought modifications in mind which cause disturbances. In this sutra it is mentioned that because of meditation, the vrittis(though modifications) become weak. The thoughts in the mind stabilize. Once the thoughts stabilize then the mind becomes clear like a transparent crystal without colorings and its able to see things clearly.
The mind starts seeing things clearly ass they are and identifies itself with the object of meditation. Earlier we studied that vrittis are two types klishta and aklishta. These are the colorings of the mind which will not help us to see things clearly. Meditation helps in clearing the mind, calming the mind.
Chapter 1, Sutra 42
तत्र शब्दार्थज्ञानविकल्पैः संकीर्णा सवितर्का समापत्तिः॥१.४२॥
Please read 1.9 and 1.17 for a better understanding of this sutra. In 1.9 the meaning and definition of “vikalpa” are given How we tend to form an imaginary world because of words and knowledge.
In 1.17 it is mentioned that vitarka is the state of application of mind towards an object. It happens in the initial stages of meditation. Here in this sutra, two mental processes are explained. Imagination and application of mind on an object. The object here is knowledge which is in the form of words and has a meaning.
Thus we can say that sampatti ( Samadhi)/ absorption state, is achieved by meditation when the mind is able to concentrate on an object which has a meaning and can be expressed through words.
Chapter 1, Sutra 43
स्मृतिपरिशुद्धौ स्वरूपशून्येवार्थमात्रनिर्भासा निर्वितर्का॥१.४३॥
In the earlier sutra 1.43 we talked about savitarka sampatti. In this sutra we will talk abour nivitarka samaptti. The components of savitarka sampatti are word, knowledge and essence of the object that comes n mind on which we meditate.
In nivitrka sampatti , we move to the memory level and meditate and achieve samadhi. When we meditate on an object there are stages of meditation. First it is the word, secondly, the knowledge associated with the word and third the memory associated with the word.
Let us take an example of an object of meditation – Breath: If we are meditating on the breath, we observe that we are breathing. This is the word. Then the knowledge of breathing that we are inhaling and exhaling. (words). Thus, we know whether we are taking a breath inside or outside.
How did we know that we are inhaling or exhaling? we were told in class and in our childhood by our elders that the act of taking air inside is called inhaling and act of giving out breath is exhaling. This is knowledge. If we go beyond that then the act of only breathing remains. Just observe it then the memory of knowledge slowly and slowly fades away and we only meditate on the object of breath itself.
This state is called nivitarka sampatti or nivitarka samadhi.
Chapter 1, Sutra 44
एतयैव सविचारा निर्विचारा च सूक्ष्मविषया व्याख्याता॥१.४४॥
Here two further stages of meditations are mentioned. Stage one meditation is wholesome thoughts about the object : savitarka samadhi.
Stage two meditation is dissolving of wholesome thoughts of the object called nirvitarka samadhi.
Stage there of meditation is all the external thoughts about the objects dissolve and only subtle thoughts remain. Stage four is dissolving even the subtle thoughts about the object. Thus when we cross the stages of meditation crossing one layer and another layer we enter to the minutest subtle thought about the object.
Chapter 1, Sutra 45
Once even the subtle level has crossed we tend to reach the state of Prakriti. People might have experienced stages given in 1.44 and 1.45 during meditations though for a very brief period of time. Where we feel we entered into some area which is totally non-explainable. Basically, it is moving from conscious state (Savitarka sampatti) to subconsciousness ( Nivitarka sampatti ) and then the stage of unconsciousness and then cross that stage too in the final one.
Chapter 1, Sutra 46
ता एव सबीजः समाधिः॥१.४६॥
Here Patanjali introduces the word samadhi for the first time. He uses the word sabija samadhi. We have seen the word SA-vitarka sampatti and NI-vitarka sampatti, then he uses the words SA-vichara sampatti and NIR-vichara sampatti , now he uses the word SA-Bija samadhi. This is the first stage of union with the universal soul. We unite with the seed that created the universe which is in the unconscious state of the mind. It’s not that we become unconscious we are conscious but reach that stage where we reach the seed stage of the thoughts. The thoughts start ceasing slowly and slowly as we go deeper and deeper in meditation.
Chapter 1, Sutra 47
As the mind attains nirvichara , when the subtle thoughts are crossed then we are blessed with the adhyatma. The meaning of adhyatma is supreme self. Here it is explained that ass we keep crossing various stages of meditation then we reach the stage where we can realize the adhyatma. This happens when we cross the seeds of our thoughts and as we dive deeper then the person doing meditation is blessed with looking at supreme self in meditation.
Chapter 1, Sutra 48
ऋतम्भरा तत्र प्रज्ञा॥१.४८॥
At that stage when we cross the state of meditation and we are blessed with the contact of supreme consciousness then the real knowledge is revealed to the person. All the time we are in a state of acquired knowledge (learnings from childhood till the present), but through meditation when we go deep the real knowledge is revealed to us. Gautama Buddha has reached that stage and knew what the real knowledge is , Patanjali has reached that stage and they knew what it feels and they said every seeker can achieve this by sincere practice of yoga. As the five steps given in Sutra 1.20. (shraddha virya smriti samadhi prajna purvakah itaresham).
Chapter 1, Sutra 50
The knowledge we get from the world is either we hear from elders or in school or from our friends or from our interactions with the society. This worldly knowledge is also obtained by our direct perception. In sutra 1.7 we have seen how this knowledge comes to us. (direct perception through sense organs and from being told what it is ) The type of knowledge we get in the meditation when we reach the last stages is entirely different. That knowledge is knowledge about the truth. The knowledge of ultimate consciousness.
Chapter 1, Sutra 51
तस्यापि निरोधे सर्वनिरोधान्निर्बीजः समाधिः॥१.५१॥
This is very positive sutra, which gives a lot of hope to the practitioners of yoga. We always heard that the samskaras of the past cannot be wiped out. Here is a hope that the latent impressions of the past can be removed by the new knowledge that is acquired. Once we get a glimpse of the new knowledge of universal consciousness we will feel so happy that we don’t crave for anything on earth and new sanskaras stop happening. At the same time once we get liberate from the past impressions we get freed from them slowly and slowly.