Sutra Study Group
An ongoing exploration of yoga principles as expressed in The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. The group chants and discusses one or two aphorisms each week.
Fridays, 2:30-3:45. All welcome!
December 6, 2013
draṣṭṛ-dṛśyayoḥ saṁyogo heya-hetuḥ
“The preventable cause of all this suffering is the apparent indivisibility of pure awareness and what it regards.”
prakāśa-kriyā-sthiti-śīlam bhūtendriyātmakam bhogāpavargārtham dṛśyam
“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.”
–translations by Chip Hartranft
“It might seem paradoxical that Sri Patañjali cites ‘the union of the Seer and seen’ as the cause of pain. After all, isn’t union—Yoga—what we’re seeking? This sūtra seems to suggest that Oneness, instead of bringing the end of ignorance and pain, is the cause of suffering.” —The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on II.17
“The seat of the ego or small self is the seat of the brain, and the seat of the great Self is the spiritual heart. Though intelligence connects the head and the heart, it oscillates between the two. This oscillation ceases through right knowledge and understanding. Intelligence is then transformed: free from polarity, pure and unbiased. This is true meditation, in which ego dissolves, allowing the great Self (puruṣa) to shine in its own glory.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.17
“The commentators correlate the illumination, prakāśa, noted here, with sattva (the light inherent in buddhi); activity,kriyā, with rajas (all movement and effort); and inertia, sthiti, with tamas. These three guṇas are always in flux, as long as the world is manifest, and their nature is to assert themselves in various proportions and then ebb away, thus giving rise to the ever-changing world of manifest forms.” —Edwin Bryant, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.18
Having said in the last sūtra that suffering can be prevented, Patañjali here states that that suffering is a conflation of the Seer and the seen (notice the similarity to the definition of the affliction asmitā, in II.6). He proceeds to describe the nature of the seen, that is, the nature of Nature (prakṛti).
• Has yoga helped you become a better observer of yourself?
• Have you observed in yourself an “oscillation between the head and the
heart”? What does that mean to you?
• Can an understanding of the flux of nature and its constituent parts bring
equanimity? What is an example of this in your own life?
• How do light, activity, steadiness, inform your āsana and prāṇāyāma practice?
November 22, 2013
pariṇāma-tāpa-saṁskāra-duḥkhair guṇa-vṛtti-virodhāc ca duḥkham eva sarvam vivekinaḥ
“The wise see suffering in all experience, whether from the anguish of impermanence or from latent impressions laden with suffering or from incessant conflict as the fundamental qualities of nature vie for ascendancy.”
heyam duḥkham anāgatam
“But suffering that has not yet arisen can be prevented.”
–translations by Chip Hartranft
“Patañjali is saying that yoga is a preventive healing art, science and philosophy, by which we build up robust health in body and mind and construct a defensive strength with which to deflect or counteract afflictions that are as yet unperceived afflictions.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.13
“The First Noble Truth of Buddhism, sarvam duḥkham, all is suffering, consists of the exact same terms adopted by Patañjali. Indeed, the other three Noble Truths are predicated upon the first (that there is a cause of this suffering, that there is a possibility of putting an end to suffering, and that there is a path to accomplish the removal of suffering)….This sūtra is actually the pivot of this chapter, which in turn, is the heart of the entire
text.” —Edwin Bryant, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.15
Patañjali states that to the person of discernment, all is suffering. From the very movement of the guṇas, pains arise: change, loss, the imprints of past pains, bring suffering.
• How have the physical or mental benefits of the yoga practice helped you face
• Has yoga practice brought you greater sensitivity to the suffering of others
(consider sutra I.33)?
• In what sense might it be important to bring pain in to greater awareness?
Past, present, future?
• Are there circumstances where denial of pain is important?
November 15, 2013
sati mūle tad-vipāko jātyāyur-bhogāḥ
“As long as the root of actions exist, it will give rise to class of birth, span of life and experiences.”
te hlāda-paritāpa-phalāḥ puṇyāpuṇya-hetutvāt
“According to our good, bad or mixed actions, the quality of our life, its span, and the nature of birth are experienced as being pleasant or painful.”
–translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“According to the law of karma, all conditions in the nature of our birth and life stem from our past actions, and are responsible for the experiences, pleasant or otherwise, which we meet in life.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.13
“Vyāsa dedicates a long commentary to this sūtra. He begins by reiterating that karma can bear fruit only when the kleśas exist. Just as grains of rice can germinate only when they are not burnt and when they are connected with the husk, and not when the seeds are burnt or removed from their husks, so karma cannot fructify when burnt or removed from its husk or its root, mūla, of the kleśas.” —Edwin Bryant,The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.13
“As long as thoughts and actions are rooted in disturbances, three kinds of conditioning are imposed:
- the form of our existence—our nature and social and cultural behavior, which reflects our values;
- time—both the subjective perception of passing time, and the objectively measurable duration of an experience;
- pleasure or the lack of it—the way we experience events. …
“Patañjali thus links our intentions, our actions, our well-being. He once more questions our natural tendency to think that unhappiness comes from others and suggests we be very careful about our real motives in the present, for they condition our future.” —Bernard Bouanchaud,The Essence of Yoga, commentary on sutras II.13-14
Patañjali continues the discussion of karma and describes how actions rooted in the afflictions fructify.
• Do you believe your happiness is your own responsibility? In what way?
• Punya means a good, virtuous, or pure act. What do you consider to be virtuous or non-virtuous action? skillful action?
• Has the practice of yoga helped you appraise the consequences of your actions more clearly? Your motives? What are examples of that?
November 8, 2013
klēśa-mūlaḥ karmāśayo dṛṣṭādṛṣṭa-janma-vedanīyaḥ
“Acts stemming from mental disturbance leave imprints that always show themselves in some form or other, visible or invisible.”
–translation by Bernard Bouanchaud
“‘What goes around comes around.’ Karma is the universal law of cause and effect; action and reaction. Actions and experiences are linked….All experiences of pleasure and pain are and have always been in our own hands.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 115
“Afflictions and actions intermingle and interact, and the cycles of birth and death roll on. Actions rooted in desire, greed, anger, lust, pride and malice invite affliction, just as those which are free from the spokes of the wheel of desire lead towards the state of bliss. The effects of both types of action may be visible or invisible, manifest or latent; they may surface in this life or in future lives.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.12
“When mental disturbances (kleśa) cause our actions they produce effects that themselves produce other effects. This mechanism is unavoidable, whether we are conscious of it or not and whether these effects are immediate or sometime in the future. A conditioned and historical way of reacting is handed down from generation to generation through atavism, heredity, and imitation. The infinite chain of causality stops when we act in a way that is pure, thoughtful, and not engendered by suffering.” —Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 89
Patañjali introduces karma, the principle of cause and effect, and relates it to the afflictions. We will continue this week to reflect on pratiprasava and dhyāna.
• How might the practice of pratiprasava or dhyāna change a habitual way that you act? What is an example of that?
• Bouanchaud mentions historical ways of acting handed down by generations (see excerpt above). Do you see yourself as undoing any such patterns in your behavior in the present?
• What do you consider a pure action?
November 1, 2013
te pratiprasava-heyāḥ sūkṣmāḥ
“Subtle afflictions are to be minimized and eradicated by a process of involution.”
“The fluctuations of consciousness created by gross and subtle afflictions are to be silenced through meditation.”
– translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“In the performance of āsanas two avenues or paths are involved. One is the evolutory, expressive or exhibitive path, taking the self towards the body, towards the pores of the skin, towards the periphery. The other is the involutory, intuitive or inhibitive path, where the vehicles of the body are made to move towards the self. The union of these two paths is the divine marriage of the body with the soul and the soul with the body. It is meditation.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Tree of Yoga, p. 64.
““The Lord Buddha is stated to have told his disciples that if they wanted to untie a knot, they must find out how the knot was tied. The above sūtra [II.10] is akin to that instruction. If one wants to find out how the mind can be unconditioned then all that one must do is to see how the mind gets conditioned. The prati-prasava is indeed a process of going back.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 117
“Ordinarily we answer the call of aversion by fleeing from painful perceptions. This psychosomatic tendency manifests itself both internally in the individual and in our modern culture, which teems with commercial and political messages subtly promoting the view that life can and should be uninterruptedly pleasant. Turning to the perception itself, though, and letting awareness stabilize in it, is the essence of nonreaction, or vairāgya, and transforms our experience of both the perception and the perceived object. As we observe them, we come to see that their contents and qualities are in flux.” –Chip Hartranft, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p. 24
Patañjali now gives two means for overcoming afflictions: dhyāna (meditation) and pratiprasava (involution). The verb prasu means “to flow forth” and the prefix prati means “back,” “counter”; thus there is a sense of reversing the flow of our consciousness.
• In what ways do you experience yoga practice as a “counter-flow”? As a movement “toward the self”? What does “involution” mean to you?
• What shift in the consciousness does a movement outward, say, to the pores of the skin, bring? What has helped you move your awareness in?
• When you experience difficulties, do you tend to reflect on them directly or do you tend to try to forget about them? What role does your practice play?
October 25, 2013
sva-rasa-vāhī viduṣo ‘pi tathārūḍho ‘bhiniveśaḥ
“The will-to-live, flowing on by its own momentum, is rooted thus even in the sages.”
– translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“Love of life is sustained by life’s own force. This urge for self-perpetuation is so strong that it does not spare even the wise, and is an affliction for them and the ignorant alike….While practicing āsana, prāṇāyāma or dhyāna, the sādhaka penetrates deep within himself. He experiences unity in the flow of intelligence, and the current of self-energy. In this state, he perceives that there is no difference between life and death, that they are simply two sides of the same coin. He understands that the current of self, the life-force, active while he is alive, merges with the universe when it leaves his body at death. Through this understanding, he loses his attachment to life and conquers the fear of death.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.9.
“It is one of the strangest things of life that man seeks security and continuity for that which is forever in flux.…Life can be experienced, it cannot be held. Abhiniveśa is an attempt to hold life in the framework which the sense of I-ness has created. In other words, it is an attempt to catch life in the network of the mind. It needs to be realized that what is caught and held is something dead—it has no quality of livingness in it.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, The Art of Integration, p. 115
“Change, even if it is beneficial, can be stressful. Yogis need to be prepared to let go of any conceptions of who they are and what life is about. They need to be primed for the transformation that results from the yogic life. They are like snakes constantly shedding their skins, being reborn as new and better beings.” –Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 114
The final kleśa (universal affliction) is abhiniveśa, the will to live, fear of death. The term derives from a verb that means to “enter, dwell, occupy”; its literal meaning could be understood to be “toward continuing to dwell.”
• Consider the pose śavāsana. What is the experience of it for you? What is it like after standing poses? Backbends? Forward bends?
• How do you react to change? What are the physical, mental responses?
• How does yoga practice affect your experience of the life force in you? What is the shift of intelligence or perspective that it brings?
• Has yoga practice influenced your views of death?
October 18, 2013
“Unhappiness leads to hatred.”
– translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“Dveśa (aversion) is an emotional repulsion and flight from pain, manifesting as prejudice and hatred and making it impossible for us to learn from life’s hardships and our own mistakes.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 200
“When we are harmed by another’s actions, it is wise to recognize the harm, to rectify it, and to avoid future harm. Aversion (dveśa), on the other hand, is not seeing (avidyā) the distinction between awareness and the self and thus reflexively carrying the hurt forward by becoming identified with it. It becomes part of ‘me,’ and the one who harmed becomes the ‘hurter.’ Mired in these identities, both we and they will have a more difficult time moving forward from a painful experience. Righteousness and guilt can seem worthwhile and may certainly appear to promote personal or social goals, but they actually prolong suffering. Neither is the same as clear awareness, the true foundation for taking responsibility.” –Chip Hartranft, The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjal, p. 23
“Resulting from the same mechanism as attachment (II.7), though the opposite, aversion may lead one to isolation or conflict. It is an active negative attitude of rejection and is one of the chief causes of failure in family, professional, and personal relationships.” – Bernand Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on II.8
The fourth kleśa (universal affliction) is dveśa, aversion, hate, dislike. It comes from the root dviṣ, to hate.
• How can an attempt to flee pain lead to more pain (in your experience)?
• When you have an experience of dislike or aversion, how do you experience it physically? What does it teach you?
• How does hatred prevent full awareness and understanding? Can it bring more understanding?
• Do you lean toward righteousness or blaming others? Do you identify with being a victim? Do you have frequent feelings of guilt or shame? How hasyoga practice or life experience affected these tendencies?
October 11, 2013
“Pleasure leads to desire and emotional attachment.”
– translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“Rāga (attachment or desire) is an emotional bondage to any source of pleasure, manifesting in extreme forms as an inability to let go of anything, a sort of addiction to the furniture of life rather than a celebration of the joy of life itself.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on LIfe, p. 199
“It is in the nature of pleasure to want to renew it….Attachment shows itself not only with regard to material possessions (food, sex, honors, power, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and so on), but to spiritual ones as well (tossing aside responsibilities and taking refuge in badly interpreted spiritual values, or excessive attachment to the spiritual endeavor in question).” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on II.7
“Our life is based on the pleasure principle in which is included the ceaseless effort to avoid pain. In fact, in all pleasure-seeking there is always cast the dark shadow of pain. And so even in the midst of pleasure, one is concerned about avoiding pain.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on II.7
The third kleśa (universal affliction) is rāga, commonly translated as attachment or desire. It comes from the root raj, to be colored, to be pleased or excited.
- How do you balance caring and commitment with non-attachment?
- Has yoga practice affected your experience of your emotions? How?
- What is the relation between feeling and rāga (for you)?
- What are the objects of your attachment? Are they material (people, places, and things); artistic and intellectual; spiritual (perhaps spiritual practice or signs of accomplishment)?
September 27, 2013
“Egoism is the identification of the seer with the instrumental power of seeing.” – translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“The Sanskrit words used in the above sutra are dṛg-śakti and darśana-śakti. These are perceiver and the instrument of perception respectively. To regard these as identical is obviously to be caught in false identification.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on II.6
“Ego has been compared to the filament in a light bulb, which because it glows with light, proclaims itself to be the light’s source, electricity. In reality the light that shines from I-consciousness devolves from another and deeper source, one unknowable in daily life, but which mankind has always felt intuitively to exist.” —B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on LIfe, p. 120
“Asmita, our unique and stainless individuality, can, through the saddening and obscure years of life, harden into an exclusive shell of selfishness, of me, of pride. this pride lies in difference, not in equality.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on LIfe, p. 194
In last week’s sūtras, Patañjali declared avidyā (ignorance), the first affliction or cause of suffering, to be the field out of which the other afflictions grow. From avidyā, then, grows asmitā. The word derives from asmi (“I am”) and the suffix –ta, which makes the verb an abstract noun. Thus it means “the sense of ‘I am.’”
- How well do you listen to others? How can asmitā stop you from listening well? What aspect ofasmitā helps you listen better?
- Do you suffer from superiority complex or inferiority complex? What role do asmitā and avidyā play here?
- How has āsana practice affected your sense of who you are? Prāṇāyāma? Dhyāna?
- Do you locate a kind of pride (in yourself) that you consider to be healthy? (Note that Patañjali introduces asmitā as a stage of samādhi in sutra I.17.)
September 20, 2013
avidyā kṣetram uttareṣām
“Not seeing things as they are is the field where the other causes of suffering germinate, whether dormant, activated, intercepted, or weakened.”
“Lacking this wisdom, one mistakes that which is impermanent, impure, distressing, or empty of self for permanence, purity, happiness, and self.”
–translations by Chip Hartranft
“Patañjali speaks of ignorance as a condition of mistaken identity. The transient or fleeting is regarded as Eternal, the impure or the compounded is regarded as Pure, that which is unreal is regarded as Real. In the course of time, man builds up an acquired nature. This is the product of mind’s reactions and resistances. The acquired nature assumes such importance that it completely overlays the original nature….To regard the habitual nature as the original is avidyā or ignorance.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on II.5
“These statements about Ignorance are challenging. There are various ways to explain them. They are mostly so revolutionary that they require the use of paradox. The Lord Jesus explained it well. He said that if you build a house on sand, it will founder. If you build it on a rock, it will stand firm. This means that a life must be built on a foundation of reality that is firm. Unfortunately, what seems firm, that is to say the things of life that offer us security, wealth, possessions, prejudices, beliefs, privilege, and position, are not solid at all.” —B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on LIfe, p. 192
In sutras II.4-5, Patañjali further describes the causes of suffering (the kleśas) and defines the first of them, avidyā, ignorance or not-knowing. Avidyā is a noun that comes from the prefix a (“not”) + the root verb vid (“to know, perceive, feel, learn”).
- Continue to reflect on what you consider to be your afflictions. How do they relate to avidyā, as Patañjali has defined it? (What does avidyā “want to say to you”?)
- Has yoga practice affected how you learn, how you feel, how you see? What truths about yourself has it revealed?
- Have you experienced a form of suffering—perhaps a sorrow, a jealousy, a resentment–that you considered past return again? What do you make of that?
- What foundational beliefs have you built your life on?
September 13, 2013
samādhi-bhāvanārthaḥ kleśa-tanū-karaṇārthaś ca
“Its purposes are to disarm the causes of Its purposes are to disarm the causes of suffering and achieve integration.”
“The causes of suffering are not seeing things as they are, the sense of ‘I,’ attachment, aversion, and clinging to life.”
–translations by Chip Hartranft
“The goal of yoga is not to obtain something that is lacking; it is the realization of an already present reality. Yoga practice does not bring about samādhi directly–it removes the obstacles that obstruct its experience.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on II.2
“We are like a man who has put his shirt on inside out and back to front. The only way he can rectify his error is to take it off, work out how it should be, and start again. Through yoga, we take off the shirt of our ignorance, study it, and put it back on correctly, as a shirt of knowledge.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 193
“The word kleśa which has been translated as affliction really means both suffering and the cause of suffering. The preliminary discipline of Yoga enables one to understand the cause of suffering, and this surely is necessary if one is to find freedom from sorrow.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 108
In these two sūtras, Patañjali threads back to chapter one, to the goal of yoga, and deftly states the fundamental predicament of our lives.
- Looking back to I.5-6 and I.30-31, what connections do you make between the vṛttis, the obstacles, and the kleśas defined in II.2?
- What do you consider to be your afflictions?
- Has your yoga practice led to a thinning out or reduction in afflictions? Which ones?
- How do you know when you are experiencing avidya?
September 6, 2013
“Burning zeal in practice, self-study and study of scriptures, and surrender to God are the acts of yoga.”
–translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“Action in yoga is tapas. This term stands also for zeal or passion for the subject. Extending and expanding the intellect of the head with the intelligence of the mind in the practice of āsana, prāṇāyāma and dhyāna is svādhyāya. Making the core of the being to come in contact with, intermingle and make his presence felt in the cells of the body is īśvara praṇidhāna.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sūtras, p. 111
“The path to realization, or sādhana, is of no use unless one travels it. Action, or kriyā, is required for most of us…. For Patañjali, discipline, or tapas (literally, “heat”) provides the energy; self-study (svādhyāya) serves as the road map; and pure awareness, as exemplified by the divine īśvara, is the destination.” –Chip Hartranft, The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali, p. 22
“In this section, Patañjali gives a detailed map of the land of Yoga for those spiritual aspirants who wish to traverse that land. … Yoga requires instruments which are precise and delicate like physical science. But while science deals with matter, a comparatively inert substance, Yoga is concerned with mind, which is intensely dynamic and therefore tremendously elusive. The genius of Patañjali has, however, transformed Yoga into a veritable science where the elusive mind is rendered an effective instrument, utterly precise and extraordinarily delicate.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 105
The second chapter of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras concerns Practice. In the first sutra, Patañjali describes a threefold aspect to this practice: tapas (discipline), svādhyāya (self-study) and īśvara praṇidhāna (surrender to the core of being).
- How do the three aspects of practice—tapas (discipline), svādhyāya (self-study) andīśvara praṇidhāna (surrender to the core of being)—balance each other?
- Are you more attracted to one of these aspects?
- How does yoga practice affect your actions in the world?
June 21, 2013
“A subliminal impression generated by wisdom stops the formation of other impressions.”
tasyāpi nirodhe sarva-nirodhān nirbījaḥ samādhiḥ
“When the turnings of thought cease completely, even wisdom ceases, and contemplation bears no seeds.”
–translations by Barbara Stoller Miller
“It would be an illusion to try to live without any habits at all. It is preferable to replace negative conditioning little by little with positive attitudes….Remaining available, present, and open enables one to see clearly—immediately.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on I.50
“Even this distinctive knowledge of insight (I.50) has to be restrained, subdued and contained. Then, as a flame is extinguished when the wood is burnt out, or as rivers lose their existence on joining the sea, all volitions and impressions of the unconscious, subconscious, conscious and superconscious mind cease to exist. All these rivers of consciousness merge in the ocean of the seer.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.51
“Patañjali says in the sūtra that sarva-nirodhan nirbīja samādhi, meaning that the nirbīja samādhi can come only when there is a total cessation of the functioning of all reactive centres with not even a subtle centre of identity remaining. There is absolutely no centre to which impressions of experience can cling. It is a state of experiencing without accumulation. The mind in this condition is ever fresh and vital. It is able to meet life anew from moment to moment.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on I.51
In the final sūtras of chapter one, Patañjali describes the ultimate progression of transformation in citta. Truth-bearing knowledge gives birth to a saṁskāra that checks the formation of new saṁskāras. Then that saṁskāra undergoes nirodha: seedless samādhi is realized.
• In what ways have you experienced yoga as a progressive process? For example, has there been a progression in your practice of vairagya (detachment)?
• Are you aware of having removed or lessened an old samskāra (habit of mind)? Have you prevented any new samskāras from forming?
• Has yoga brought you freshness of perception?
• What is nirodha?
Note: We have completed this Spring’s study, and this Friday will be the last meeting before a summer break. We will begin Pada Two in September. Have a wonderful summer!
June 14, 2013
ṛtambharā tatra prajña
“When consciousness dwells in wisdom, a truth-bearing state of direct spiritual perception dawns.”
śrutānumāna-prajñābhyām anyaviṣayā viśeṣārthatvāt
“This truth-bearing knowledge and wisdom is distinct from and beyond the knowledge gleaned from books, testimony, or inference.”
–translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“This wisdom is gained through insight. It is a special, direct knowledge arising from the soul, not from the perception of the senses or from the ordinary intellect. Hence, it has a peculiar property of its own. The knowledge that springs from one’s inner self is intuitive knowledge. It is also known as ‘listening to the inner voice.’” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.49
“Truth is the intrinsic existence of things—not dependent existence. It is the original nature of things, and to see things as they intrinsically are is Wisdom in its purest form.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on I.48
“Hundreds of people might sit in front of someone and he might talk for hours and hours about God. They might sit and listen for hours and hours, but it’s all nonsense. Yes. He has said nothng about God, and they have heard nothing about God. He has only said something about the God that he could fit into his own mind, and they have only understood the God that they could grasp with their own minds. That’s all. Nobody has said anything about the real God. It’s unexplainable. So, in that ṛtambharā prajña you transcend the mind and gain a knowledge that is realization. For that, the mind must be completely silent.”
– Sri Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, commentary on I.49
In Sutra I.7, Patañjali states that right knowledge can come from direct perception, inference or authoritative testimony. Here he describes the primacy of direct perception, and a falling away of dependence on intellectual analysis and the teachings of others.
• Have you become more aware of and do you rely on an “inner voice”? How does yoga practice help you listen to that voice?
• What does direct perception look like, what does it feel like? That is, what are the conditions in your body and mind when you are perceiving more directly?
• How has a reliance on reasoning and analysis, on the teachings of others helped you develop your practice? Have you experienced letting go of that reliance?
• Has yoga practice brought you more acceptance of others? Yourself?
June 7, 2013
tā eva sabījaḥ samādhiḥ
“All these samādhis are sabīja [with seed].”
“In the pure clarity of nirvicāra samādhi, the supreme Self shines.”
–translations by the Reverend Jaganath Carrera
“It is interesting to note that the six samāpattis mentioned so far belong to the functions of the brain. The source of analysis (savitarka) or absence of analysis (nirvitarka) is the frontal brain. For investigation and examination (savicāra) or absence of the (nirvicāra), the source is the back brain. The source of joy (ānanda) is the base of the brain, and of individuality (asmitā), the top of the brain.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.46*
“The ‘seeds’ are the subconscious impressions remaining in the mind. They can sprout at any time, given the proper time, place, circumstance and karma. When they do sprout, they can deprive the mind of the intuitive knowledge of samādhi and reopen the door to the influence of ignorance and egoism.” – Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.46
“One cannot go to Truth. Truth comes to man, but only when the consciousness is rendered completely empty, where not even a seed of thought remains. It is only when there is existence without identity that spiritual illumination comes. An illumined person is a nameless being.”
–Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on I.47
The classic commentary of Vyāsa divides samādhi in to seven stages. See Table 5 (p. 100) in Mr. Iyengar’s Light on the Yoga Sūtras to see a summary of these stages. Commentators on the text, however, do differ in their interpretations of the stages of samādhi and in the meaning of sabīja.
*In his most recent book, Core of the Yoga Sutras, Mr. Iyengar locates vitarka (analytical mind) in the left hemisphere and vicāra (synthesizing) in the right.
• Continue to consider vitarka and vicāra. How are they alike? How different? Observe your own perception.
• What is the physical manifestation—in your own body—of employing the analytical mind? the synthesizing mind?
• Observe the use of words in your practice. When and how do you employ them? How are they a useful tool in undoing habit and refreshing the perception? How have they limited your awareness?
• How does shifting your attention from the gross to the subtle affect your sense of self? What is it to be a “nameless being”?
May 31, 2013
etayaiva savicārā nirvicārā ca sūkṣma-viṣayā vyākhyātā
“In the same way, coalesced contemplation [samāpatti] of subtle objects is described as reflective or reflection-free.”
“Subtle objects can be traced back to their origin in undifferentiated nature.”
–translations by Chip Hartranft
“Transformation of the consciousness by contemplation on subtle objects such as the ego (ahaṁkāra), intelligence (buddhi) or the counterpart of the elements (sound, touch, sight, taste and smell), or the qualities of luminosity, vibrancy and dormancy of nature, conditioned by space, time and causation, is savicāra samāpatti. … In nirvicāra samāpatti, the sādhaka experiences a state without verbal deliberations. … He is free from memory, free from past experiences, devoid of all past impressions. This new state of contemplation is without cause and effect, place or time. The inexpressible states of pure bliss (ānanda) and pure self (sāsmitā) rise to the surface….” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.44
“The province or field of samādhi that is connected with the finer objects extends beyond the manifestation of the guṇas (the forces of nature) to the formless (aliṅga) state of subtle energies, that is to say, up to prakṛti or supreme nature.” –Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, The Yoga Sūtras of Patanjali, commentary on I.45
To understand the Sankhya philosophy that underpins the commentary for these two sūtra–in particular, the idea of “subtle objects”–see Table 9 in Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, B.K.S. Iyengar (pp. 132-33).
• In your yoga practice, what do you consider the gross elements? The subtle?
• Have you become aware of more subtle layers of perception through yoga? What is an example of this shift of awareness?
• How does a contemplation of the gross and the subtle affect your sense of self?
May 24, 2013
Note: Sutra study WILL NOT meet on May 24. The next Sutra Study class will take place on May 31.
Also, as many of you know Yogathon is coming up on June 2nd. One of the great community events that will be happening that day will be 15 minutes of chanting (from 1:45-2:00 p.m.). The chanting is free and open to all, and we hope all of you new and returning Sutra Study participants will take part! View the full schedule of Yogathon events here.
May 17, 2013
tatra śabdārtha-jñāna-vikalpaiḥ saṁkīrṇā savitarkā samāpattiḥ
“Savitarkā samāpatti is the samādhi in which one apprehends physical objects of the universe by means of the mixture of word or sound (śabda), meaning (artha) and direct feeling vibration, knowledge (jñāna), together.”
smṛti-pariśuddhau svarūpa-śūnyevārtha-mātra-nirbhāsā nirvitarkā
“Nirvitarka samādhi is experienced when memory is purified and the mind is able to see the true nature of the physical objects of the universe as they are directly, without distortion, without the mixture of words and meaning (śabda and artha).”–translations by Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati
“There is the external reality of a cow, the word ‘cow’ that we use to think about matters bovine, and ideas about cows—that they moo, give milk and chew their cud. We are not normally aware of the three distinct factors. We just ‘see’ a cow, and all sorts of related ideas appear in the mind. In savitarka samādhi, the mind gradually learns to isolate and focus on the object itself, leaving behind the relatities of our knowledge of it and its name. This prepares the mind for the next step in samādhi nirvitarka.” –Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 87
“Memory is the recollection of past thoughts and experiences. It is the storehouse of past impressions. Its knowledge is reflected knowledge. The sādhaka should be aware that memory has tremendous impact on intelligence. By perseverence in yoga practices and persistent self-discipline, new experiences surface. These new experiences, free from the memories of the past, are fresh, direct….” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.43
“Kant maintained, quite rightly, that the ‘thing-in-itself’ cannot possibly be known by the senses or the reasoning mind, since the senses and the reason can only present us with their own subjective reactions. ‘It remains comepletely unknown to us,’ he wrote…. Patanjali tells us that there is a higher kind of knowledge, beyond sense perception, by which the ‘thing-in-itself’ can be known. And this is, of course, the fundamental claim made by the practicing mystic of every religion.” – Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, p. 81
In the upcoming sūtras, Patañjali presents samādhi as progressive. Review the vṛttis defined in sutras I.7-11. Compare sūtra I.43 to Patañjali’s definition of samādhi in III.3.
• Has yoga practice helped you see the apparatus of your mind? Are you aware of distortions that your mind introduces?
• How is the memory purified?
• In your experience, does āsana and prāṇāyāma practice bring a freshness of perception? Mr. Iyengar writes that in āsana practice, spiritual understanding “begins with the inner skin.” What does he mean?
May 3, 2013
paramāṇuparama-mahattvānto ‘sya vaśīkāraḥ
“Mastery of contemplation brings the power to extend from the finest particle to the greatest.”
kṣīṇa-vṛtter abhijātasyeva maṇer grahītṛ-grahaṇa-grāhyeṣu tat-stha-tad-añjanatā samāpattiḥ
“The yogi realizes that the knower, the instrument of knowing and the known are one, himself, the seer. Like a pure transparent jewel, he reflects an unsullied purity.”–translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“This sūtra describes how the ordinary mind is transformed into a super-mind, able to penetrate the boundless regions of space, and the deepest regions within.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.40
“A tree has millions and millions of leaves. Each leaf is different, yet they are all part of the same tree. You also have numberless leaves in your various thought-waves, actions, reactions, fluctuations, feelings, failings and restraints, but they are all connected to the same root, the core of the being. You should aim to see yourself in totality, to see the tree in totality without naming it as flower, fruit, leaf or bark.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga, p. 71
“Samāpatti is not an altered state but rather a clearer, more accurate view of experience. It means ‘when everything falls together’ and is a completely natural way of being that arises sooner or later from the process of settling (nirodha).” – Chip Hartranft, The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali, commentary on I.41
“The fusion of the jewel with the colour of the surface on which it rests is not a characterless condition. In fact, such a jewel has a great integrity of character. What after all is character?… [It] is that which shines in a condition of complete vulnerability. That which is afraid of being vulnerable lacks character altogether. It is the acquired nature which seeks to remain invulnerable. It is the intrinsic nature which prefers to remain completely vulnerable, for it has nothing to protect due to the fact that it has no accumulations or accretions. The mind that is free from all accumulations is indeed a transparent mind.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, The Art of Integration, p. 7
• Has yoga increased your ability to attend to details? To perceive subtlety?
• Does yoga help you keep a wide perspective?
• In what way—in your experience—might a willingness to be vulnerable bring you to a clearer perspective?
April 26, 2013
“Or, by recollecting and contemplating the experiences of dream-filled or dreamless sleep during a watchful, waking state.”
“Or, by meditating on any desired object conducive to steadiness of consciousness.”–translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“Meditation on knowledge that comes in the form of dreams or during sleep brings evolution and stability of the mind.” –Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.38
“The mind is like an iceberg, for only a small portion of its functioning is on the surface while the major part is below the surface. The subliminal layers of the mind reveal the real motivations of the conscious mind. … Dream indicates the functioning of mind immediately below the conscious level, while sleep signifies the mind functioning at a deeper strata of consciousness.”–Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 70
“On the face of it this sūtra [I.39] is simple: it describes meditation on a pleasing object. Its deeper, hidden meaning is harder to comprehend. Having explained various methods of meditation with support, Patañjali now comes to subjective meditation. The most ‘pleasing’ object of meditation is in fact one’s very existence, the core of the being. Patañjali advises us to trace the seed of that core, the living spirit that pervades everything from the most infinitesimal particle to the infinitely greatest.”
–B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.39
“Though the practitioner is a subject and āsana an object, the āsana should become the subject and the doer the object, so that sooner or later the doer, the instrument (body) and the āsana become one.”
–B.K.S. Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga, p. 53
Sūtras I.38 and I.39 conclude the list of “ors,” methods to bring clarity to the consciousness and overcome obstacles.
• Do you reflect on dreams and sleep as a practice?
• What knowledge have you received from dreams?
• What is the object of your awareness in āsana practice? Do you consider your āsana practice to be a meditation?
• What benefit comes from considering the āsana a subject and the “doer” an object (see above quote from Tree of Yoga)?
April 19, 2013
viśokā vā jyotiṣmatī
“Concentration may also be attained by fixing the mind upon the Inner Light, which is beyond sorrow.”
vītarāgaviṣayam vā cittaṁ
“Or by meditating on the heart of an illumined soul, that is free from passion.”
–translations by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
“Here, the concentration is on the innermost core of the heart, wherein alone the sorrowless, effulgent light glows. That is the seat of the soul.”–B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.35
“Let your mind dwell on some holy personality—a Buddha, Christ, a Ramakrishna. Then concentrate upon his heart. Try to imagine how it must feel to be a great saint; pure and untroubled by sense objects, a knower of Brahman.” — Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, p. 74
“‘How does he who is steady in wisdom speak? How does he sit? How does he move?’” –Arjuna, The Bhagavad Gita, II.54 (translated by Winthrop Sargeant)
Sutra I.37 can also be interpreted as picking an object for contemplation that does not create attachment (rāga).
• Is there an object or place that conveys to you a sense of “sorrowless light”?
• What does fixing your attention on the area of your heart bring you?
• Is there a person in your life that has been a model for you of mental stability or non-attachment?
• Do you tend to rely on the assistance of more experienced people—whether teachers or other authority figures? Are you reluctant to receive such assistance?
April 12, 2013
pracchardana-vidhāraṇābhyām vā prāṇasya
“Or, by maintaining the pensive state felt at the time of soft and steady exhalation and during passive retention after exhalation.”
viṣayavatī vā pravṛttir utpannā manasaḥ sthiti-nibandhanī
“Or, by contemplating an object that helps to maintain steadiness of mind and consciousness.” –translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“One should inhale and exhale slowly and pause, maintaining the retention for as long as is comfortable. This practice ensures a state of consciousness which is like a calm lake.”
–B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.34
“This sūtra shows how to develop awareness and sensitivity in intelligence. In so doing, one may gain insight into the phenomena of nature (prakṛti) as well as into the nature of the seer (purusa).” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.35
“Senses by themselves do not linger on their objects; it is the coming in of the mind which induces activity of clinging to or holding on to objects. In this the mind, as it were, forcibly takes over the normal functioning of the brain, not allowing the latter to complete its act of percept making.…The mind forces the brain to give instructions for action even before the percept is completed.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integraton, p. 65
Patañjali here introduces the first two of the “ors,” methods to realize citta-prasādanam, a clarified, serene, benevolent consciousness.
• Mr. Iyengar emphasizes softness and passivity in his translation of sūtra I.34. What has finding softness in the breath and attending to the pause after the exhalation taught you about your mind?
• What object have you found to be helpful as a focus of contemplation?
• Has yoga led to a finer attunement of your senses? To greater perceptiveness?
April 5, 2013
maitrī-karuṇā-muditopekṣāṇaṁ sukha-duhkha-puṇyāpuṇya-viṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaś citta-prasādanam
“Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favourably disposed, serene and benevolent.”
–translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“If we meet someone who is happy in his way of life, we are inclined to envy him and be jealous of his success. We must learn to rejoice in it, as we take pleasure in the happiness of a friend. If someone is unhappy, we should feel sorry for him, instead of despising him or criticizing him for bringing mifortunes upon himelf. The virtue of others is apt to irritate us, because we take it as a reflection upon our own shortcomings. We are tempted to sneer at it and suggest that it is only hypocrisy. On the contrary, we should delight in it and see it as an inspiration to ourselves to do better. As for the wicked, we must remember Christ’s words: ‘Be not overcome of evil.’” –Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, p. 66
“These two sutras [I.17 and I.33] opened up my thoughts, enabling me to understand the necessity for balance, harmony and concord between the intellect of the head and the intelligence of the heart.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sūtras, p. 16
“We should remember to apply [these] to ourselves. We need to cultivate:
• Friendliness toward our own happiness. This is one instance in life when a little indulgence is good, especially when our happiness has its roots in spiritual acts or values.
• Loving compassion for our own sorrow. Be kind to yourself.
• Joy when we manifest virtues.
• Strength, patience, and equanimity when working to eliminate our weaknesses. Forgiveness plays an important role with this.”
–Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 85
This important sūtra addresses our relation to others and to matters of the world. It can be applied to our inward attitudes as well. It mirrors the Buddhist practise of meditating on the four “stations of Brahma.” Swami Satchidananda says that even if one has no interest in samādhi or Yoga, it will be a benefit to know this one sūtra.
• How do you experience these four principles in your relationships with others? Or not?
• How do you apply these four principles in your yoga practice – in your relationship with yourself?
• When you experience their opposite (distant, frustrated, negative and angry, etc.), how do you get back on track?
• B.K.S. Iyengar will often refer to a point in a posture when “citta prasādanam” has been reached. What do you think he means?
March 29, 2013
“In order to prevent the blocks, the practice of a single truth.”
–translation by Vyaas Houston
“Correct adjustments in the unrhythmic musculoskeletal structure of the body, and the feeling of the non-movement or movement of intelligence in the various sheaths of the body through āsanas, which I practised with single-minded effort, became the keynote in my sādhanā.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.32, p. 109
“The word eka-tattva is significant, for it means the principle of oneness. To explore this principle of oneness is what is indicated here. It is not concentrating on a thought, but an exploration of the very condition of oneness. This would obviously mean one-pointed attention.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 56
“Just as we have discussed inner integration within our own bodies, this naturally leads to integration with all other life. Integrity means one. One is the number that can go into all other numbers. The fully sensitive and sensible being becomes not a ‘somebody’ but the common denominator of humanity. This takes place only when the intelligence of the head is transformed by humility and the wisdom of the heart and compassion is kindled.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 58
Traditionally, commentators have understood eka-tattva to mean Īsvara, in the sense that Īsvara is Truth, Īsvara is Oneness. Eka-tattva means “one Truth,” or, literally, “one-thatness.”
• Consider the principle of Oneness in practice and in life. How does Oneness influence your practice? Your relation to others?
• Have you had a specific experience of movement or rhythm being restored to a part of the body?
• What does Mr. Iyengar mean by the movement of the intelligence through the sheaths of the body?
• Have you been able to stay with one practice over time? Do you have a tendency to switch between practices or traditions?
March 22, 2013
“They [the blocks] have the accompanying disruptions of pain, depression, restlessness of the body, inhalation and exhalation.”
–translation by Vyaas Houston
“I think these four can be observed when we are faced with major obstacles and present as symptoms that can be recognized by modern medical science. These are grief or sorrow; mental pain, dejection or despair; shakiness or tremors in the body; and laboured breathing. Like oil to fire, these four factors act as fuel for the main nine obstacles in distracting the practitioner.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sūtras, p. 96
“In life, the obstacles don’t necessarily appear to us as presented in the previous sūtra. Not many practitioners have felt, ‘I am experiencing false perception these days.’ The obstacles are like viruses. We can’t directly perceive their presence in our systems. We need to learn to recognize the symptoms. This sūtra presents the main symptoms of the obstacles.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.31
“Freeing ourselves from suffering is one of the basic tenets of yoga. It is often recognizing our lack of well-being that brings us to yoga. Often, we do not know the source of our suffering.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on I.31
• Reflect on the obstacles that you experience most often. Is there one that is at the root?
• Can you identify with clinging to the obstacles? Why?
• What are the “symptoms” of these obstacles? Are you able to recognize them before it is fully expressed?
• How do you use your yoga practice to free yourself from the suffering?
March 15, 2013
vyādhi-styāna-saṁśaya-pramādālasyāvirati-bhrānti-darśanālabdhabhūmikatvānavasthitatvāni citta-vikṣepās te’ntarāyāḥ
“Sickness, density, doubt, carelessness, lethargy, sexual preoccupation, erroneous perception, failure to obtain grounding, and instability are disruptions in citta.These are the blocks.” –translation by Vyaas Houston
“This sutra describes the nine obstacles or impediments which obstruct progress and distract the aspirant’s consciousness. [They] can be divided into physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual [obstacles].” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.30
“We have to find out what mechanisms come into our meditation, how our mind behaves, how the consciousness reacts, how the intelligence reacts, what thoughts come between us and the pure light of the soul, what thoughts come between us and awareness inside and outside.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Tree of Yoga, p. 135
“The first five obstacles arise out of the distractions of the mind caught in tamas, the next four arise out of the conditions of rajas. Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness and laziness are obviously the distracting conditions of a mind steeped in tamas. …Similarly the obstacles of craving, delusion, non-attainment of desired objective and unsteadiness are rooted in the distortions of rajas.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, The Art of Integration, p. 53
• What do you consider your greatest obstacle? Which of this list of nine do you most relate to?
• How would you classify the obstacles that you encounter? Are they physical, mental or spiritual? Are they interconnected?
• Are you more likely to drift toward tamasic distractions or rajasic?
March 8, 2013
tataḥ pratyak-cetanādhigamo’pyantarāyābhāvaś ca
“From that [the repetition of Om] comes the attainment of inward directed consciousness, and also the disappearance of the blocks.”
–translation by Vyaas Houston
“The repetition of the praṇava mantra with feeling and understanding of its meaning leads to the discovery of the Self, and helps to remove impediments of Self-Realization.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.29
“Spiritual realization is the aim that exists in each one of us to seek our divine core. That core, though never absent from anyone, remains latent within us. It is not an outward quest for a Holy Grail that lies beyond, but an Inward Journey to allow the inner core to reveal itself.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 3
“This sutra introduces a key theme in Raja Yoga: the practices do not directly bring spiritual progress; they simply remove obstacles that prevent it.” –Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 72
• This sutra concludes the “direct route” to inward consciousness that Patanjali describes in I.23-I.29 through Īśvara pranidhāna. Has your perspective of OM or your experience chanting it changed in studying these sutras?
• How do you practice “removal of obstacles” when they appear to be outside of you? Do you have a different approach when they appear to be inside of you?
• Do you experience it as a process of removal or an acquisition of something? If so, what is that something?
• When you mentally repeat the sound of OM, where is it? Who is the listener? What is the sound made of?
March 1, 2013
tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ
“He is represented by the sacred syllable āuṁ, called praṇava.”
“The mantra āuṁ is to be repeated constantly, with feeling, realizing its full significance.” –translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“Sound is vibration, which, as modern science tells us, is at the source of all creation. God is beyond vibration, but vibration, being the subtlest form of His creation, is the nearest we can get to to Him in the physical world. So we take it as his symbol.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary of I.28
“Since Om is the whisper of the Spirit it needs a remarkable sensitivity of consciousness to listen to its still small voice. Praṇava represents the Voice of the Silence, the Soundless sound. How can one listen to it without rendering the consciousness utterly pure and infinitely sensitive?” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 50
“AUM stands for the supreme Reality.
It is a symbol for what was, what is,
And what shall be. AUM represents also
What lies beyond past, present, and future.”
–The Mandukya Upanishad, translated by Eknath Easwaran
“Even without your repeating it, the basic sound is always vibrating in you. It is the seed from which all other sounds manifest.” –Sri Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, p. 45
• What role does sound play in your personal practice? Listening?
• How important is repetition in practice?
• How do you balance keeping to a routine and keeping practice sensitive, with feeling (bhāvanam)?
February 22, 2013
tatra niratiśayaṁ sarvajñatva-bījam
“There (in īśvara), the seed of omniscience is unsurpassed.”
sa pūrveṣām api guruḥ kālenāvacchedāt
“That (īśvara), being unlimited by time, is also the teacher of the ancients.” –translations by Vyaas Houston
“In the Bhagavad Gītā, Sri Krishna describes himself as the eternal seed of all beings. Here Patanjali says that īśvara or the Ultimate Being is the seed of omniscience. The seed contains all manifestation, and so the Supreme Being is the container of all that is to be manifested. Described as the very seed of omniscience, He is the container of all that was, is and will be.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 46
“The obstacles, trials and tribulations in the path of Yoga can be removed to a large extent with the help of a Guru. (The syllable gu means darkness and ru means light. He alone is a Guru who removes darkness and brings enlightenment.) –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, p. 28
“This spiritual Puruṣa, the Supreme Spirit, is the first and foremost teacher, neither bound by place, space or time. He is all and all is He.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary of I.26
• Is there a benefit–in your experience–of surrendering to a Source of All Knowledge?
• Have you encountered obstacles in an attempt to “go it alone” — in practice or in life?
• Have you had the experience of a teacher helping you past difficulties or blocks to your learning and growth?
• Can a close relationship with a teacher in itself become a limitation (in your experience)?
February 15, 2013
kleśa-karma-vipākāśayair aparāmṛṣṭaḥ puruṣa-viśeṣa īśvaraḥ
“God is a special unique Entity (puruṣa), who is eternally free from afflictions and unaffected by actions and their reactions, or by their residue.”
–translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“God or Universal Consciousness (īśvara), the universal I-AM, is the supreme ruler and author of the universe. It is of the nature of transcendental consciousness and is unaffected by the afflictions of relative life, actions, and their results.” – Ramamurti S. Mishra, MD, The Yoga Sūtras of Patanjali, p. 12
“Man is subject to the laws of birth and death, the laws of karma. Īśvara is unborn, undying. Man is subject to his saṁskāras—the deeply rooted tendencies which drive him on to further actions and desires. Īśvara is free from saṁskāras and desires. He is not involved in the results of action.” –Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, p. 55
“There is a principle permeating everything, due to which there is order in the world, due to which there is harmony in the world, due to which the movement of life becomes possible…. Life is a dance of the nameable and the unnameable, of temporary imbalances and eternal equipoise, or equanimity, of emergence and dissolution. Life is a dance of all that. If we recognize īśvara, the presence of the all-permeating principle, then we understand the dance of Life, the cosmic dance of Life.” –Vimala Thakar, Glimpses of Raja Yoga, p. 37
• Do you relate to the concept of īśvara? How would you describe it? Has practice informed this concept in any way?
• Does your practice lead you to a timeless, spacious experience of pure being-ness? How?
• When it doesn’t lead you there, what is getting in the way?
• What effect does an experience of pure being-ness have?
February 8, 2013
Or [samādhi is gained] through devotion to the Lord.”
–translation by Georg Feuerstein
“[Īśvara-praṇidhāna] is the most theistic of all aspects of yoga. Īśvara is Divinity in a general and nondenominational sense. What it definitely does not mean is using the ego to second-guess the will of God. It is, on the contrary, the surrender, through meditation (dhyāna) and devotion (bhakti), of the ego itself.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 261
“The idea of sudden awakening is to be found in all mystical approaches…. Patañjali says that there is an intensity which can be described only by sudden turning towards God. There cannot be any action more intense and swift than this. This is turning in a new direction in the course of one’s spiritual endeavour. God in this context is the Ultimate Reality or the Ultimate Principle of Life.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, The Art of Integration, p. 44-45
“And in the Gita we read: ‘Whatever your action, food or worship;/ Whatever the gift that you give to another;/ Whtever you vow to the work of the spirit:/ Lay these also as offerings before me.’ This kind of devotion requires, perhaps, a special temperament. It is not for everybody. But to be able to feel it is a very great blessing, for it is the safest and happiest way to liberation.” –Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, p. 53
Īśvara-praṇidhāna is an important concept in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras. The phrase itself occurs four times (I.23, II.1, II.32, II.45), and the next six sutras (I.24-29) expand on its meaning.
• Does devotion assist you with the surrendering process?
• How has your personal sense of Divinity developed over time? Have you ever let go of an image or concept of God?
• Have you experienced “a sudden turning in a new direction”? Would you describe this as an awakening?
February 1, 2013
“The goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice.”
mṛdu-madhyādhimātratvāt tato ‘pi viśeṣaḥ
“There are differences between those who are mild, average and keen in their practices.”
–translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“To the door of Reality one must go with an intensity of thought-emotion, for this is like the Lover meeting the Beloved. Patañjali uses the word tīvra-samvega meaning a great intensity of impulse.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 43
“Motivation and action vary according to temperament. Gentle people are slow to start, level-headed, and thoughtful. They are like the tortoise in the fable. Lively people are impetuous and rapid. They hurtle into action, sometimes with great vivacity, like the hare. Moderate types have an intermediate temperament, at times gentle, at times vivacious.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 31
“Theoretically, there is no reason why we should not achieve the state of perfect yoga within the space of a single second.” –Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, p. 52
• Consider your motivation and commitment to practice. How did it begin? What has helped build or deepen motivation?
• Do you experience the goal as near or far? (What is the goal?)
• Can intensity be an obstacle to vairagya?
• How do you maintain cheerfulness about practice?
January 25, 2013
“The last two rewards; bliss (ānanda) and auspicious self (asmita) are no doubt a great success in sādhana. But from these achievements one has to get recharged to continue practice through (a) faith and trust, (b) ethical and mental vigour, (c) unpolluted memory and (d) supreme absorption with devotion and right judgement.” –translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“The attitude of the aspirant is like that of a lover ever yearning to meet the beloved but never giving way to despair. Hope should be his shield and courage his sword.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, p. 25
“Faith is surely not blind belief. It is a sensitive response to the intimations of the Unknown. It has no relevance with regard to the known. It awakens only when the whisper of the Unknown is heard. The whisper of the Unknown can be heard only when the mind is completely silent—not superficially but deeply silent.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 42
“The word śraddhā means ‘faith in God’ and also ‘self-confidence’—in anybody else or simply in life. The loving confidence that parents create enourages a child to become confident, courageous, and full of energy to act.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 29
Mr. Iyengar has described śraddhā-vīrya-smŗti-samādhi-prajñā as the “vitamins of yoga.” They are supports on the path.
• How is faith or trust active in your practice? How does practice affect your feelings of faith or trust? Self-confidence?
• How do you define faith?
• Has your practice brought you strength? Courage? Has this made a difference in your life? In what ways do you consider these important qualities on a spiritual path?
• What is a non-afflicting use of the vṛtti of memory?
January 18, 2013
virāma-pratyayābhyāsa-pūrvaḥ saṁskāra-śeṣo ‘nyaḥ
“Noncognitive (asamprajñāta) samādhi occurs with the cessation of all conscious thought; only the subconscious impressions remain.”
“Yogis who have not attained asamprajñāta-samādhi remain attached to prakṛti at the time of death due to the continued existence of thoughts of becoming.”
–translations by the Reverend Jaganath Carrera
“The samprajñāta-samādhi takes the mind from a passive to an active condition. In asamprajñāta-samādhi the mind comes to a state of pure alertness—not alert in terms of a particular activity. ” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 41
“The nearest we come to virāma pratyaya in ordinary experience are those few moments before falling asleep, when the intellect relaxes its hold on thoughts and objects and the mind becomes silent. … Like a river joining the sea, the mind is dissolving into the self. The moment one loses the feeling of ‘I,’ one is in this state.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.18
“It is beyond and superior to the preceding state of contemplation with an object. It occurs unexpectedly after being immersed over the years in contemplation with an object, and after persevering practice to stop the wandering mind. The believer attributes it to divine grace.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 27
“The principle of individual I-am is transformed into universal I-AM beyond the body and mind, and it shines like the blue sky. This is the natural state of the still mind: ‘Be still and know I am That I-AM.’” –Ramamurti S. Mishra, M.D., The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali
After describing samprajñāta-samādhi (could also be considered samprajñāta-nirodha) in sutra I.17, Patañjali begins to describe an “other” samādhi (or nirodha) that comes after ongoing practice of thoughts toward cessation. Commentators vary in their interpretations of these two sutras. Some see I.19 as a state related to that described in I.17, while others pair it with I.18. There is agreement that sutras I.17-I.21 describe a progression within citta to pure awareness, an awareness not dependent on an object of contemplation.
• Consider the practice of yoga as defined as moving the mind toward nirodha. Are you better able to experience this alone or in a group? With your eyes open or closed? In an activity or in stillness?
• What for you has been the most useful object of contemplation in this process of stilling the mind?
• What does Rohit Mehta mean by “negative mind”? Compare his description of asamprajñata-samādhi to Mr. Iyengar’s or to another commentator.
January 11, 2013
“Samprajñāta-samādhi is the state of cosmic consciousness that is accompanied by inner logic (vitarka), reflection and discrimination (vicāra), bliss and tranquility (ānanda), and the sense of universal I-AMness (asmitā).”
–translation by Ramamurti S. Mishra, M.D.
“It is true that Yoga is a movement beyond the frontiers of the mind, but it is useless to talk of “beyond the mind” unless and until one has developed the mind to its utmost possibilities. One can understand the limitations of the mind only when one has explored the possibilities of the mind.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 37
“Take for example the performance of an āsana, or movements of breath in prānāyāma. In the beginning, these are done at a physical level. As understanding deepens, the body is penetrated internally, its movements are connected with the intelligence, and the āsana is grasped as a single unit in all directions: front to back, top to bottom, side to side. It is absorbed and held by the body’s intelligence for the soul to perceive. One learns that one’s body is the bow, the āsana is the arrow, and the target is the soul. When the āsana is perfected, the target is struck: the field and knower of the field are united. The logic and reasoning of the āsana are fulfilled. The sādhaka, having lost the consciousness of the āsana and of his body, is one with himself. His āsana, his breath, his effort and his very being are one with the millions of cells in his body. He has reached sāsmita, the auspicious state of asmitā.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.17
Sutras I.17-21 describe two types of samādhi: samprajñāta, or cognitive, a state dependent on an object for contemplation, a state tied to the world of objects, and asamprajñāta, a state beyond cognition and free of objects.
• How has yoga practice affected your power of Reasoning? Observation? Concentration?
• Consider how, in āsana practice as taught in the Iyengar tradition, the āsana is an object of contemplation. How might you describe—in your own experience—the different levels or aspects of this contemplation?
• Reflect on the levels of cognitive samādhi Patañjali presents in sutra I.17 and consider your own mind and consciousness: what is the difference between reason and intuition? between impartial observation and compassion? In what way is joyful contemplation its own distinctive state?
December 14, 2012
tat param puruṣa-khyāter guṇa-vaitṛṣṇyam
“At its highest level, nonattachment means having no desire for any of the constituent qualities of nature, because one has become conscious of the spiritual principle.” –translation by Bernard Bouanchaud
“This sutra relates to the ultimate freedom achieved through paravairāgya: here phenomenal nature ceases to exist for us, as the guṇas are transcended, drawn back into their noumenal root.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.16
“To allow the guṇas to function without the intervention of the mind is the highest form of detachment.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 32
“To love someone, even in the usual human manner, is to get a brief, dim glimpse of something within that person which is tremendous, awe-inspiring, and eternal. In our ignorance, we think that this ‘something’ is unique. He or she, we say, is like nobody else. That is because our perception of Reality is clouded and obscured by the external manifestations–the character and individual qualities of the person we love–and by the way in which our own ego-sense reacts to them. Nevertheless, this weak flash of perception is a valid spiritual experience and it should encourage us to purify our minds and make them fit for that infinitely greater kind of love which always awaits us.” –Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, p. 32
In sutra I.16, Patanjali suggests that there are levels, or stages, of vairāgya, nonattachment, and he states that the ultimate stage is a thirstlessness for nature itself.
This sutra concludes a section of Book One that is often looked at as the foundation of yoga principle. On Friday, we will chant the first sixteen as a group.
• What are the stages of giving something up, as you have experienced them? (See Mr. Iyengar’s example of giving up coffee.) What are the stages of desire?
• Is nonattachment indifference?
• Consider the Bhagavad Gita, verse II.70.:
Water flows continually into the ocean
But the ocean is never disturbed
Desire flows continually into the mind of the seer
But he is never disturbed.
He knows peace who does not desire desire.
December 7, 2012
“Nonattachment is the manifestation of self-mastery in one who is free from craving for objects seen or heard about.” –translation by the Reverend Jaganath Carrera
“Detachment brings discernment: seeing each and every thing or being as it is, in its purity, without bias or self-interest. It is a means to understand nature and its potencies.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p. 17
“Nonattachment is not a negation of the world but the cultivation of the appropriate relationship to the transitory pleasures and pains of the world.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 45
“Dispassion is a condition free from all motives.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 28
“Someone prone to strong attachment, for example, dependent on tobacco or alcohol, frequently becomes attached to religious commitments or a yoga practice. The result is an excess of one or the other, sometimes to the detriment of health and a balanced personality. Even though the new attachments are less destructive than the first and progress is certain, the difficulty is not yet resolved, simply displaced.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, the Essence of Yoga, p. 21
• Are you more attached to material things (things that are “seen”) or to intangible, invisible ones (things that are “heard”)?
• What might it mean, for you, to be “free from all motives,” even in yoga practice? Is this the same as being free from feeling?
• Continue to consider sutra I.14 and the three components to practice becoming well-grounded. What role does time play in learning vairagya? Continuousness? Devotion or cheerfulness?
• What experiences have deepened your understanding of vairagya?
November 30, 2012
Sa tu dīrgha-kāla-nairantarya-satkārāsevito dṛḍha-bhūmiḥ
“Practice becomes well-grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break, and with enthusiasm.”–translation by The Reverend Jaganath Carrera
“A firmly grounded practice is not simply an ingrained routine of spiritual exercises but an anticipated time of connection to deeper levels of self.”–The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 38
“Practice implies a certain methodology, involving effort. It has to be followed uninterruptedly for a long time, with firm resolve, application, attention and devotion, to create a stable foundation for training the mind, intelligence, ego and consciousness.”–B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p. 16
“Yoga is not a Path of Woe; it is indeed a Way of Joy. If the effort is prolonged and uninterrupted and yet lacks this quality of joy then it is hardly of any worth at all. The effort must have an element of passion about it, for one cannot go to the door of Reality like a skeleton, completely squeezed out.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 28
• Do you approach practice cheerfully or with a grudging acceptance? What brings you enthusiasm?
• What does it mean to you to practice with devotion?
• What has been your experience of lack of continuity in practice—because of illness, schedule, lack of motivation? Have you discovered approaches to help you be more continuous?
• What role have time and repetition played in practice for you? Have you experienced time bringing no change? Quick change?
November 16, 2012
“The dissolution of the reactive centres of the mind is achieved by Practice and Dispassion.”
tatra sthitau yatno ‘bhyasaḥ
“Practice denotes an effort for the purpose of being firmly established in a state free from all reactive tendencies.”
–translations by Rohit Mehta
“A bird cannot fly with one wing. In the same way, we need the two wings of practice and renunciation to soar up to the zenith of Soul realization.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p. 16
“Practice without nonattachment can lead to a superinflated ego that relishes using power to satisfy self-interest regardless of consequences. Many demons in Hindu mythology were advanced yogis who fell from the path of righteousness when they succumbed to a tragic flaw, usually a burning craving. On the other hand, without the strength and mental clarity gained from practice, true nonattachment may never really dawn. Instead, the mind can slip into apathy. This faux nonattachment can provide a temporary haven for the fearful—a spiritual façade where they can hide in order to avoid challenges and responsibilities. When fears remain untouched, innate capacities remain undiscovered. We become Clark Kent, never knowing that Superman lies within. It is practice that mines our untapped inner resources.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 35
Patañjali here describes the How of yoga: abhyāsa (practice) and vairāgya (nonattachmnt or dispassion). The word abhyāsa derives from the prefix abhi, towards, and the root ās, to throw or to apply oneself; it could be understood to carry a sense of aiming at something. Vairāgya comes from the prefix vi, away from, and the noun rāga, passion.
• Commentators emphasize the interconnected nature of abhyāsa and vairāgya. What is the interplay of these two aspects of yoga in your experience? Are they sequential or simultaneous?
• Are you temperamentally more attuned to making an effort or to letting go?
• How do you find a a balance between effort and non-effort? What does an imbalance look like (for you)?
• Has yoga practice brought you greater mental and physical stability? Has it improved your perseverence? Your ability to focus? Has it changed your expectations of what a peaceful state of mind might be?
November 9, 2012
“Memory is the recollection of experienced objects.”
–translation by Reverend Jaganath Carrera
“Memory is the collection of correct knowledge, perverse knowledge, illusory knowledge and sleep [the first four vṛttis]. As perception changes, memory too may alter, but correctly used, it enables us to recall experiences in their true, pristine state. This ability is the foundation of the practice of discrimination.”–B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.11
“Memory is basic to Patañjali’s epistemology. No thought is ever lost; rather, it is preserved as a subliminal impression or memory trace. These traces not only allow us to recall past events and perceptions, but they also actively shape future experiences in a never-ending process.” –Barbara Stoller Miller, Yoga: Discipline of Freedom, p. 32
“While memory is indispensable to progress (sutra I.20), it can also be an obstacle, or screen, to perception, because it is linked to prejudice, cultural conditioning, and our own desires.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 16
Patañjali defines memory as holding-on-to (literally, not-allowing-to-be-stolen) past experience. This Friday, we will consider kliṣṭa and akliṣṭa aspects of memory.
• What role does memory play in your yoga practice?
• Has yoga practice brought greater discrimination to your memory? Has it uncovered aspects of memory you were unaware of?
• Have you experienced memory as an obstacle?
October 26, 2012
abhāva-pratyayālambanā vṛttir nidrā
“That mental modification which depends on the thought of nothingness is sleep.”
“Memory is the recollection of experienced objects.”
–translations by Reverend Jaganath Carrera
“In sleep, the senses of perception rest in the mind, the mind in the consciousness and the consciousness in the being.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.10
“Great masters affirm that we return temporarily to God during deep sleep. They explain that after a good night’s sleep, we feel refreshed not from physiological rest, but from the fresh energy that flows to us from God. This energy nourishes thes spiritual, psychological, and physical levels of the human being.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 15
“Memory is the collection of correct knowledge, perverse knowledge, illusory knowledge and sleep [the first four vṛttis]. As perception changes, memory too may alter, but correctly used, it enables us to recall experiences in their true, pristine state. This ability is the foundation of the practice of discrimination.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.11
The last two types of thought-waves are sleep and memory. Sleep, as Patañjali defines it, is a movement of the consciousness toward not-being, or nothingness (abhāva). He defines memory as holding-on-to (literally, not-allowing-to-be-stolen) past experience.
• Continue to consider what states of mind support direct perception. Which support nirodhaḥ?
• Notice the moment of falling asleep, the quality of your sleep when sleeping, the nearness of the moment of waking, your dreams. What do you consider restful sleep? (Thanks to Bernard Bouanchaud for this question.)
• What role does memory play in your yoga practice?
• Has yoga practice brought greater discrimination to your memory? Has it uncovered aspects of memory you were unaware of?
October 19, 2012
viparyayo mithyājñanam atad-rūpa-pratiṣṭham
“Illusory or erroneous knowledge is based on non-fact or the non-real.”
śabda-jñānānupātī vastu-śūnyo vikalpaḥ
“Verbal knowledge devoid of substance is fancy or imagination.”
–translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“The consequence of misperception is that mental impressions (vṛtti) that do not correspond to actual facts become stored and treated as true knowledge.” –Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras, p. 30
“Imagination uses thought to create nonexistent realities. An architect walking over the land creates a house in his or her mind. A composer writing pages of musical notes hears a symphony in the heart. Although it cannot be seen in the surroundings, imagination lets us glimpse reality in ourselves.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 14
The term Patañjali uses for wrong knowledge is viparyayaḥ. Formed from the root y, “to go or flow,” it literally means “to go away and around.” A viparyayaḥ thus misses or mistakes the object of perception. Imagination, as Patanjali defines it, has no object; it is formed from a concept.
• Reflect on what misperceptions you have “stored and treated as true knowledge.” Have some of these served a useful purpose for you? Have some caused you additional suffering?
• How do you make use of imagination in practise? In life? Have you experienced a downside to fantasy?
• What states of mind take you away from direct perception? Observe instances of denial, disassociation, or distraction.
October 12, 2012
“The sources of right knowledge are direct perception, inference, and authoritative testimony.”
–translation by Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras
“Whatever our senses perceive is right knowledge, provided there has been no element of delusion. Whatever we infer from our direct perception is also right knowledge, provided our reasoning is correct. The scriptures are based on the superconscious knowledge obtained by great spiritual teachers while in the state of perfect yoga. Therefore they also are right knowledge.”–commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God: the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, p. 25
“The practice of āsana brings intelligence to the surface of the cellular body through stretching and to the physiological body by maintaining the pose. Once awakened, intelligence can reveal its dynamic aspect, its ability to discriminate.” –commentary on I.7 by B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali
“Perception is superior to any other sources of knowledge—indeed, the other sources of knowledge are based on it.” –Edwin Bryant, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p. 36
In sūtra I.7, Patañjali explains the sources of correct knowledge and lists direct perception first. The tradition of yoga places a high value on the practitioner’s experience, rather than on intellectual inference. Indeed, Patañjali’s text is considered more of a manual for practise than a philosophical treatise.
• Continue to reflect on Patañjali’s classification of thoughts/feelings as being either afflicting or non-afflicting. Which of your thoughts—in your estimation—promote citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (the calming of the fluctuations of the consciousness). Are you aware of thoughts that take you toward avidya (ignorance)?
• Is any thought that could be classified as “correct knowledge” non-afflicting?
• In your practice this week, notice the role of direct perception. What is the effect of practice on sense perception?
• What inferential knowledge is important to you? Who are your authorities?
October 5, 2012
vṛttayaḥ pañcatayyaḥ kliṣṭākliṣṭāḥ
“The fluctuations [of consciousness] are fivefold; afflicted or non-afflicted.”
“[They are] valid-cognition, misconception, conceptualization, sleep and memory.”
–translations by Georg Feuerstein
“A ‘painful’ wave [kliṣṭa vṛtti], according to Patañjali’s use of the term, is not necessarily a wave which seems painful when it first arises in the mind; it is a wave which brings with it an increased degree of ignorance, addiction and bondage.” –commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God: the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, p. 22
“These five-fold fluctuations or modifications of consciousness are based on real perception, or correct knowledge based on fact and proof; unreal or perverse perception, or illusion; fanciful or imaginary knowledge; knowledge based on sleep; and memory.” –commentary on I.6 by B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali
Patañjali describes the fluctuations of the mind by category and also by their effect: afflicting or non-afflicting, painful or non-painful.
• What do you consider an afflicting thought? Is it simply a thought that is painful?
• Are there thoughts or feelings that you try to avoid?
• In your daily life, observe and consider the categories of thought that Patañjali describes. When do you function from real perception or correct knowledge? Illusion? Imagination? Projection?
September 21, 2012
tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe vasthānam
“Then, the seer dwells in his own true splendour.”
vṛtti sārūpyam itaratra
“At other times, the seer identifies with the fluctuating consciousness.”
–translations by B.K.S. Iyengar
“Patañjali says that when the very centre of reaction or habit is broken up there comes to view the original nature of man.” –commentary by Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 11
“Let us imagine [citta] to be like an optical lens, containing no light of its own, but placed above a source of pure light, the soul. … worked upon by the desires and fears of turbulent worldly life, it becomes cloudy, opague, even dirty and scarred, and prevents the soul’s light from shining through it.”–commentary by B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali
In these next two sutras, Patañjali elaborates on the purpose of yoga: to reach draṣṭṛ, the “seer” that is within, described by Mr. Iyengar in his commentary as the soul, by Rohit Mehta as the original nature.
• Does yoga take you toward inner illumination? How?
• Does your practice feel like a return, a journey forward, or a discovery of something new?
• What have you let go of in order to recover/uncover what is original?
• Where is home?
September 14, 2012
“Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.”
–translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“There is built within the mind a chain of reactions. These reactive tendencies become our habits…. Yoga is a state of mind completely free from all reactive tendencies.”
–commentary by Rohit Mehta, Yoga, The Art of Integration, p. 9
“Yoga shows ways of understanding the functionings of the mind, and helps to quieten their movements, leading one towards the undisturbed state of silence which dwells in the very seat of consciousness.” –commentary by B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali
In this week’s sūtra, Patañjali defines yoga and introduces the true subject of yoga: citta. Though often translated as “mind,” there is no good equivalent to this word in English. It comes from the root cit, to perceive, to observe, to know. It is often referred to as the “field of consciousness.”
• Have you learned more about your mind through the process of yoga?
• Have you had the experience of undoing a habit of your mind?
• How are habits of the mind related to habits of the body?
• Has yoga brought you increased freedom?
We hope you can join us this Friday.
September 7, 2012
“With prayers for divine blessings, now begins an exposition of the sacred art of yoga.”
–translation by B.K.S. Iyengar
“This sutra may be taken to mean: ‘the disciplines of integration are here expounded through experience, and are given to humanity for the exploration and recognition of that hidden part of man which is beyond the awareness of the senses.’” –B.K.S. Iyengar, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, commentary on I.1
“The fundamental need of the modern civilization is the integration of man at all levels of his being.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga and the Art of Integration, p. 1
We begin the fall session of Sutra Study at the beginning of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Sanskrit word atha is traditionally used at the start of a treatise. The very sound of the word is considered to indicate auspiciousness, as it is said to be the word uttered by Brahma at the start of creation. It is translated as “now” or “here.”
• What is the significance of the idea of “now” for your yoga practice?
• In what way is yoga for you a discipline of integration?
• Why do you do yoga?
Whether you are new to Patanjali’s work or have a thorough knowledge of the sutras, we hope you will join us. Every new reading brings new discoveries. We hope you will come share your study with us. We will meet Fridays, 2:30 to 3:45.