The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1978) is a classic text on yogic philosophy and practice. Written in ancient Sanskrit, it explains the core metaphysical, spiritual, psychological, moral, and ethical ideas of yoga. It also lays out the principles of how to practice yoga, so you can put those ideas into action and use them to achieve lasting happiness and inner peace.
Introduction: What’s in it for me? Learn the true meaning of yoga.
Sri Swami Satchidananda interprets the Yoga Sutras in a way that makes them open to people of any spiritual background.
The practice of yoga produces results that you can verify for yourself through experience.
The philosophy of yoga teaches you to stop identifying yourself with external things – including your mind and body.
The True Self is spirit, and the same spirit is inside everyone and everything.
As Prakṛti, the mind is a distorted, egoistic reflection of Puruṣa.
Ignorance of the True Self leads to egoism and suffering.
Practicing yoga makes your mind calm and clear so you can behold the True Self.
Yogic practice contains a variety of physical and mental exercises that help you reach a spiritual state called Samādhi.
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Mindfulness and Happiness, Religion and Spirituality, Social Sciences, Philosophy, Indian Eastern Philosophy, Yoga, Philosophy Movements, Religion, Health, Hinduism, Self Help, Cultural, India, Classics
Introduction: Learn the true meaning of yoga.
When you hear the word “yoga,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re from the modern West, it’s probably an image of someone stretching.
But if you dig into yoga’s ancient Eastern roots, you’ll find that it’s much more than just a form of physical exercise. Dating back thousands of years, it’s a spiritual philosophy and practice that promises self-transformation and encompasses a wide range of topics: mind and body, morality and ethics, and metaphysics and psychology, to name just a few.
As a philosophy, yoga can seem a little esoteric at times. But as a practice, it’s pretty down-to-earth. It lays out a straightforward, step-by-step path to achieving inner peace and happiness, teaching you how to overcome the obstacles you’ll encounter along the way.
In these summaries, you’ll learn
- why the reality of the self is not what it seems;
- why the ego is at the root of suffering; and
- how the practice of yoga is meant to help you overcome that suffering.
Sri Swami Satchidananda interprets the Yoga Sutras in a way that makes them open to people of any spiritual background.
Sometime between 500 BC and 300 AD, an Indian spiritual teacher named Patañjali described the core principles of yoga in a series of 196 aphorisms, which are called sutras in Sanskrit. The result became known as the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali.
This is one of the main ancient texts about yoga, so if you want to learn about yogic philosophy and practice, it’s a natural place to start. There’s just one problem: the way it’s written.
Each sutra is a short, dense, often cryptic sentence or sentence fragment. Many don’t even have clear subjects and predicates. Some believe that’s because they’re just shorthand notes Patañjali’s students jotted down as reminders of what he said in lectures. As a result, the sutras require thoughtful translation and interpretation.
Enter twentieth-century Indian yoga master Sri Swami Satchidananda.
The key message here is: Sri Swami Satchidananda interprets the Yoga Sutras in a way that makes them open to people of any spiritual background.
As a young adult, Satchidananda studied agriculture, science, and technology, but he grew dissatisfied and eventually gave them up to devote himself to yoga. For years, he regarded the Yoga Sutras as the guiding text of his spiritual journey. In the late 1970s, after becoming an internationally renowned yoga master, he decided to write his own translation and interpretation of the Sutras in order to bring it to a religiously diverse modern audience.
Now, the Sutras are considered a Hindu scripture, but Satchidananda didn’t identify himself as belonging to Hinduism or any particular religion. He saw yoga as just one of many ways of expressing, understanding, and applying the same basic truths contained in other religions and spiritual philosophies, such as Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Consider the word yoga itself. In Sanskrit, “yoga” means “union.” In practicing yoga, you’re trying to achieve union – which raises an obvious question: Union with what? Like the world’s many different spiritual traditions, Satchidananda calls it many different names: God, Puruṣa, Atman, Īśvara, the Seer, and the cosmic mind, among others. But to him, the name isn’t the important thing; it’s the underlying truth that matters.
And what is that truth? Well, ultimately, it surpasses the limits of language, but it’s the idea that there’s some sort of spirit, substance, principle, consciousness, being, or force lying beyond and manifesting itself within the material universe.
Call it what you will. The point is to recognize it, connect to it, and let its power transform you.
The practice of yoga produces results that you can verify for yourself through experience.
If you have a purely scientific outlook, you might be put off by all this talk of God, the cosmic mind, or whatever else some yogi wants to call the mysterious something supposedly underlying the universe.
But consider this: If a scientist told you that everything is ultimately just energy manifesting itself in various ways, would the idea of something underlying the universe seem more reasonable?
If so, and if the word “energy” resonates with you, go with it. Satchidananda doesn’t ask you to subscribe to any particular vocabulary, doctrine, or set of concepts for describing, explaining, or understanding the world. He simply invites you to use yoga as a tool for changing yourself and your relation to that world. And here, as in science, one thing ultimately matters most: producing verifiable results.
Here’s the key message: The practice of yoga produces results that you can verify for yourself through experience.
In Satchidananda’s view, the philosophical ideas and scriptures of yoga exist only to satisfy the intellectual side of the mind. They’re attempts to express the ultimately inexpressible truth about the self and the universe. But according to those same ideas and scriptures, that truth cannot be apprehended by simply thinking or reading about it. It can only be fully grasped through direct experience.
That’s where the practice of yoga comes in. It has eight components: the practice of abstinences, observances, posture control, breath control, sense control, concentration, meditation, and contemplation. We’ll go into each of these components later, but for now, the point is simply that the practice of them is supposed to either produce or prepare you to produce experiences of the truth.
And what exactly are those experiences and that truth? Well, this goes back to the meaning of the word “yoga”: the act of coming into union with God, the cosmic mind, or whatever you want to call the mysterious something underlying the universe. That union is the experience. And the existence of that underlying something is the truth.
According to Satchidananda, Patañjali, and other yogis, the experience of that truth will bring you transformative joy and peace, and the practice of yoga is just a way of gaining that experience. But you don’t have to take their word for it: just try it and see for yourself.
The philosophy of yoga teaches you to stop identifying yourself with external things – including your mind and body.
At this point, you might be eager to jump straight into the practice of yoga. After all, that’s what it’s all about, at the end of the day.
But to understand the practice of yoga on an intellectual level, it helps to know the philosophy behind it. Now, depending on your background and sensibilities, that philosophy might seem a bit arcane – but don’t get hung up on it. Think of it like a ladder: it’s useful for getting to the top of something, but once you arrive where you want to go, you can leave it behind.
The point of the philosophy of yoga is to help you embrace the practice. Once you do that, you can be done with it, if you want to.
The key message is this: The philosophy of yoga teaches you to stop identifying yourself with external things – including your mind and body.
The easiest way to get a handle on the philosophy of yoga is to start with yourself. Who or what are you? All sorts of answers might come to mind. “I’m a man or woman, mother or father, lawyer or doctor. I’m short or tall, rich or poor, black or white,” or whatever the case might be.
But here’s the thing. All these words express ideas your mind has about certain aspects of your body, your life, or your relationships with other people or things.
In saying things like “I am a parent” or “I’m rich,” people are essentially identifying themselves with their ideas about those other things. However, in and of themselves, they aren’t those things. A mother isn’t her child. A rich man isn’t his bank account. These identifications are therefore false.
If you get rid of all your false identifications, what does that leave you with? “Well, then I’m just my body or my mind,” you might say. But notice your language here: my body, my mind. These are things that belong to you – a body and mind you can observe. But to whom, exactly, do they belong? And who’s observing them?
Well, you are! That means you can’t be your body or your mind either, so there must be something else that’s the real you.
But what’s left?
The True Self is spirit, and the same spirit is inside everyone and everything.
Think about it like a math equation: Subtract your body, your mind, and everything else that’s external to you – things like your job, wealth, gender, and so on. What remains? Well, there’s just you. To put it more philosophically, all that’s left is the pure “I,” cleansed of all false identifications with everything that’s not your self – that is, non-self. Let’s call this pure “I” the True Self.
This applies to every other person, too. Shorn of false identifications, each of them is also just a pure “I.” For them, that’s the True Self as well.
But wait a minute – if the True Self of both you and your neighbors is just a pure “I” that can’t be distinguished in terms of anything you’d normally use to identify people, how can you draw a distinction between you and them?
Well, you can’t – that’s precisely the point!
The key message here is: The True Self is spirit, and the same spirit is inside everyone and everything.
If the True Self underlying your mind and body can’t be differentiated from the True Self underlying everyone else’s mind and body, they must be the same thing. The nature of that thing defies language, but to talk about it, we need to give it a name. “True Self” is one. “Spirit” is another.
Now, the same argument can be extended further to all living beings and even inanimate objects. Take anyone or anything in the universe, subtract the qualities with which your mind falsely identifies it, and eventually, all you’re left with is another True Self or spirit, which cannot be differentiated from any other.
Thus, the same spirit pervades everyone and everything in the material universe – from humans to dogs to rocks. Beneath all of their outward appearances of difference, all these things and beings are essentially the same True Self.
In the Sanskrit terminology of yogic philosophy, the totality of the material universe is called Prakṛti. It includes everything you’d normally describe as matter, like everyday objects and bodies. But it also includes your mind, which yogic philosophy sees as simply the product of matter taking on an especially subtle, complex form.
The True Self or spirit underlying Prakṛti, in turn, is called Puruṣa. The relationship between Prakṛti and Puruṣa is at the heart of yogic philosophy. And as we’ll see, it’s also the point at which that philosophy turns into practice.
As Prakṛti, the mind is a distorted, egoistic reflection of Puruṣa.
“But wait,” a skeptic might object. “That still doesn’t answer the question, ‘What is the True Self?’ Sure, it can be given other names, like ‘spirit,’ and it’s the same spirit in everything and everyone – but what exactly is it?”
Good question – and the very fact that you might feel a need to ask it poses a problem in itself. If the True Self exists, how can you even be wondering what it is? After all, if you are the True Self, then presumably no one should know what it is better than you! So why the mystery? And why do people normally identify themselves with things that aren’t the True Self?
To answer these questions and resolve this apparent paradox, you need to delve into one of the deepest layers of yogic philosophy.
Here’s the key message: As Prakṛti, the mind is a distorted, egoistic reflection of Puruṣa.
Imagine the mind is the surface of a lake. If you look at it, you see a reflection of various things, including the other parts of your body, of which your mind is just a part. They also include the other beings and objects of Prakṛti, or the overall material universe, which the mind perceives through the body’s senses, and of which it is also just a part.
Now, think of what happens to the surface of a lake when it’s disturbed by something like mud or wind – it becomes cloudy or wavy. In that case, its reflections become distorted, like those of a funhouse mirror.
Something similar happens to the mind. Negative thoughts, emotions, desires, attachments, and false beliefs fill the mind with turbulence and impurities. These make the mind’s “mental water” murky and wavy, leading to distorted reflections of reality.
But here’s a question that brings you to the crux of the matter: If the mind is like a mirror, who is looking at it? The answer is Puruṣa, or the True Self. But if the True Self is looking at a distorted mirror, the result will be a distorted reflection of the True Self. And we can give that distorted reflection a well-known name: the ego.
As we’ll see in the next few chapters, the ego is at the root of all people’s woes – and the point of practicing yoga is to help overcome it.
Ignorance of the True Self leads to egoism and suffering.
Okay, so let’s recap: there’s the mind, which is like the surface of a lake. There’s the True Self, which is reflected on that surface. And then there are things like negative thoughts and emotions making the surface distorted. As a result, the mind produces the ego, which is a distorted reflection of the True Self.
Now, if you look at the surface of the lake – in other words, if you look at your own mind – what do you see? Who’s there? “Well, it’s me,” you might say. But it’s not really you. It’s the ego, rather than the True Self.
But in looking at the surface and saying, “That’s me,” you’re ignoring the True Self and identifying with the ego – and the word for that is egoism, which can land you in all sorts of trouble.
The key message is this: Ignorance of the True Self leads to egoism and suffering.
By looking at your mind’s distorted reflection of the True Self and saying, “That’s me,” you’re not only identifying with the ego, but with all the baggage that comes with it. After all, what do you see in the reflective surface of your mind? A distorted reflection of your True Self, yes – but remember what’s distorting it. Everything you’re seeing on the surface of your mind’s “mental lake” is getting tinted and rippled by the negative thoughts, emotions, desires, attachments, and false beliefs that are contaminating and agitating it.
What you’re seeing in the ego – in your distorted reflection of the True Self – is therefore a reflection of these mental impurities and disturbances that are producing the ego. In identifying with the ego, you’re also identifying with them.
For example, if you have a desire for wealth, an attachment to possessions, or a belief that you are your body, you’ll identify with that desire, attachment, or belief, as well as the things that they’re about. As a result, if something bad happens to them, you’ll interpret it as something bad happening to you, rather than to them – that is, rather than to things that exist outside of yourself, as part of the non-self, which is what they really are. And even if nothing bad happens to them, you’ll worry about all the bad things that could happen to them.
Either way, you’re now suffering because of how you view yourself and the world around you, thanks to the distorted – and distorting – mirror of your ego.
Practicing yoga makes your mind calm and clear so you can behold the True Self.
So how do you transcend your ego and escape your suffering?
Well, it’s simple – at least in theory: make the turbulent, tainted “mental water” of your mind calm and clear. Then you’ll see the truth: an accurate reflection of your True Self. Replaced by this reflection, your ego will then disappear from your mind, along with your egoism and the suffering it produces.
For example, when something bad happens to your business, career, or anything else you falsely identify yourself with, you’ll no longer see it as happening to you. Instead, you’ll experience it as happening only to that other thing. It may be damaged or even destroyed, but you – the real you, the True Self – will be unaffected.
But how do you make the mind’s “mental water” calm and clear? Well, that’s where the practice of yoga comes in.
The key message here: Practicing yoga makes your mind calm and clear so you can behold the True Self.
If you want to make water calm and clear, you have to start by removing the things that are stirring it up and contaminating it. The same goes for the mind and its “mental water.” That means getting rid of all your negative thoughts, emotions, desires, attachments, and false beliefs.
Of course, that’s much easier said than done. Where do you even begin?
Well, in yoga, the answer is to begin by practicing a set of five abstinences and five observances called yamas and niyamas, respectively. The five yamas are to avoid stealing, lying, greediness, lustfulness, and violence. The five niyamas are to dedicate yourself to purity, contentment, acceptance of pain, the study of spiritual texts, and service to God, the Supreme Being, or whatever you want to call it.
By practicing these abstinences and observances, you begin to turn away from the external, material world and start to focus on purifying your mind. How? By improving your moral and ethical conduct, loosening the hold of bodily desires and worldly attachments, ceasing to look for truth and happiness outside yourself, and beginning to look for them within yourself. Or, to be more precise, you start looking for them in the True Self – the spirit inside you.
Yogic practice contains a variety of physical and mental exercises that help you reach a spiritual state called Samādhi.
The moral and ethical principles of the yamas and niyamas might seem easy to follow. For instance, unless you’re a pathological shoplifter, stealing doesn’t seem that hard to avoid.
But this is a simplistic, overly literal understanding of what it means to steal. Stealing is more than just running off with an item from a store. It’s taking away anything that doesn’t or shouldn’t belong to you, misusing it, or keeping it to yourself.
Do you own more possessions than you really need? That’s stealing from other people who lack the things they need. And unless you’re using your every breath to do good deeds, even your breathing could be considered a theft of air from the world.
Point being, unless you become a saint, you will always have room for moral and ethical improvement. In the meantime, there’s plenty of other work for you to do to make your mind calm and clear, so it can behold the True Self.
Here’s the key message: Yogic practice contains a variety of physical and mental exercises that help you reach a spiritual state called Samādhi.
You’re probably familiar with one way of calming and clearing your mind: meditation. But if you’ve ever tried it, you also know it’s not as easy as it looks. It’s hard to focus on one thing – especially when your body aches, your mind’s aflutter, and various unwanted thoughts, sensations, and emotions keep popping into your awareness.
The physical and mental exercises of yoga are meant to counteract these obstacles to meditation. Posture control exercises help you train your body to keep still for an extended period. Breath control exercises help you gain the ability to produce the slow, steady, balanced breathing that both accompanies and encourages deep focus and mental tranquility. Sense control exercises help you to tune out distracting sensations. And concentration exercises help you to strengthen your ability to focus your mind on simple, everyday things, sensations, images, qualities, and ideas.
Once you’ve got those down, you can move on to meditating on one thing that matters most: the True Self, God, spirit, or whatever you want to call it. At some point in your meditation practice, your mind may become so calm and clear that it will eventually lose any sense of you as a subject meditating on an object. The subject and object will fuse together, and any sense of separation between them will disappear.
At that moment, you’ll have reached the final step of yoga: Samādhi, or contemplation, where the True Self is finally revealed in all its glory.
The key message in these summaries is that:
Suffering comes from people identifying themselves with their egos. They see their egos as their selves because of a lack of mental clarity and tranquility that derives from negative thoughts, emotions, desires, attachments, and false beliefs. By following the moral precepts, ethical principles, and physical and mental exercises of yogic practice, you can remove these disturbing and contaminating factors from your mind, making it calm and clear. This enables you to see an accurate reflection of the True Self, which will allow you to transcend the ego and achieve inner peace and happiness.
And here’s some more actionable advice: Be good.
Samādhi may be the final step in yoga, but it’s also just the beginning of the next stage of your spiritual journey. This stage circles right back to where you started: morality and ethics. Once you’ve reached Samādhi, you don’t just sit around like a statue and contemplate the True Self all day. Remember, the True Self is the spirit inside everyone, not just you. So to serve that spirit, you need to serve other people. The more you understand the True Self and see it as the same essence of both you and your fellow beings, the more you stop seeing any distinction between you and them and start to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
About the author
Sri Swami Satchidananda was one of the first Yoga masters to bring the classical Yoga tradition to the West. He taught Yoga postures, meditation, a vegetarian and more compassionate lifestyle to westerners when he was invited to America in 1966 by the iconic pop artist Peter Max. The distinctive teachings he brought with him blend the physical discipline of Yoga, the spiritual philosophy of Vedic literature and the interfaith ideals he pioneered. These techniques and concepts influenced a generation and a spawned Yoga culture that is flourishing today. The organization founded on his teachings, Integral Yoga International, is now a leading institute for Yoga teacher certification. Integral Yoga is the foundation for Dr. Dean Ornish’s landmark work in reversing heart disease and Dr. Michael Lerner’s noted Commonweal Cancer Help program. Sri Swami Satchidananda is the author of many books on Yoga and is the subject of the 2008 documentary, \”Living Yoga.\”
Table of Contents
Guide To Sanskrit Pronunciation xvii
Book 1 Samadhi Pada (Portion on Contemplation) 1
Book 2 Sadhana Pada (Portion on Practice) 73
Book 3 Vibhuti Pada (Portion on Accomplishments) 159
Book 4 Kaivalya Pada (Portion on Absoluteness) 195
Glossary of Sanskrit Terms 225
Stories, Examples and Analogies 247
Sanskrit Quotes 250
Selected Reading 252
This valuable book provides a complete manual for the study and practice of Raja Yoga, the path of concentration and meditation. This new edition of these timeless teachings is a treasure to be read and referred to again and again by seekers treading the spiritual path. The classic Sutras (thought-threads), at least 4,000 years old, cover the yogic teachings on ethics, meditation, and physical postures, and provide directions for dealing with situations in daily life. The Sutras are presented here in the purest form, with the original Sanskrit and with translation, transliteration, and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda, one of the most respected and revered contemporary Yoga masters. In this classic context, Sri Swamiji offers practical advice based on his own experience for mastering the mind and achieving physical, mental and emotional harmony.
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For a long time students have been requesting a pocket edition of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali to use as an easy study guide and companion on their yogic path. I am happy to see that the present day Yoga students find the Yoga Sutras as useful today as they have been to me and to a long succession of spiritual aspirants for the past several thousand years.
I recommend that this book be studied slowly and carefully. Meditate on each sutra. If you memorize them they will come into your mind just when you need them most. Remember that practice is the most important part of all. Find those sutras that are particularly meaningful to you and practice them to the best of your ability. You will have success and peace.
Let us know that all these ideas and practices are there to help us to forget our personal selfishness and broaden our minds more and more. Every day let us check our progress and see that we grow a little better. Every day should elevate us a little, broaden our attitudes, reduce our selfishness, and make us better masters over our own body, senses, and mind. This is the kind of Yoga that will really help us.
Let that highest goal toward which Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras point be our goal: that one day we should all attain the highest samadhi, the totally liberated state. This liberation is not for the remote future, or for when we die; it is to be lived in the very midst of the world. OM Shanti.
May each one of you be blessed with peace and joy, love, and light.
Ever yours in Yoga,
Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville, Virginia
I gratefully acknowledge the generous assistance of the late T. M. P. Mahadevan, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, University of Madras, for his scholarly assistance in checking over the translations from Sanskrit to English.
I would especially like to thank Vidya Vonne for editing this book from the original edition of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
To them, and to all others who directly or indirectly aided in this work, I offer my sincere thanks. May they all enjoy the peace and joy of Yoga.
When the word Yoga is mentioned, most people immediately think of some physical postures for stretching and stress reduction. This is one aspect of the yogic science, but actually only a small part and relatively recent in development. The physical Yoga, or Hatha Yoga, was primarily designed to facilitate the real practice of Yoga—namely, the understanding and complete mastery over the mind. So the actual meaning of Yoga is the science of the mind.
Traditionally the word Yoga by itself refers to Raja Yoga, the mental science. With the current burgeoning of interest in expanding consciousness and in mental science in general, it is natural that we turn to Raja Yoga. The primary text of Raja Yoga is called The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
There are, of course, many Western approaches to the study and control of mind, each advancing various different concepts and techniques. Compared to these, however, the ancient yogic science is a great grandsire. For thousands of years the yogis have probed the mysteries of the mind and consciousness.
Sutra literally means “thread,” each sutra being the barest thread of meaning upon which a teacher might expand by adding his or her own “beads” of experience for the sake of the students. There are almost 200 sutras, traditionally divided into four sections.
The first is the Portion on Contemplation (Samadhi Pada) that gives the theory of Yoga and a description of the most advanced stages of the practice of samadhi, or contemplation. This probably was given first as an inspiration to the student to begin the practices.
The second is the Portion on Practice (Sadhana Pada). There is philosophy in this section also, but of a more practical nature. In this section the first five basic steps out of the traditional eight limbs of Raja Yoga are expounded, along with their benefits, obstacles to their accomplishment, and ways to overcome the obstacles.
The third is called the Portion on Accomplishments (Vibhuti Pada) and discusses the final three inner steps of Raja Yoga plus all the powers and accomplishments that could come to the faithful practitioner.
The final section is called the Portion on Absoluteness (Kaivalya Pada) and discusses Yoga from a more cosmic, philosophical viewpoint.
It is not known exactly when Patanjali lived, or even if he was indeed a single person rather than several persons using the same title. Estimates of the date of the Yoga Sutras range from 5,000 B.C. to 300 A.D. In any case, he did not in any sense “invent” Raja Yoga, but rather systematized it and compiled the already existing ideas and practices. Since that time he has been considered the “Father of Yoga,” and his Yoga Sutras are the basis for all the various types of meditation and Yoga that flourish today in their myriad forms.
May the grace of Sri Patanjali Maharishi, and all the enlightened beings, be upon us so that we may succeed in realizing the supreme peace and joy, love, and light that is our own true nature.
Book 1 Samadhi Pada (Portion on Contemplation)
This begins our study of Raja Yoga, or Ashtanga (eight-limbed) Yoga as it is sometimes called. The Yoga Sutras as expounded by the sage Patanjali Maharishi comprise the first and foremost scripture of Yoga. It was Patanjali who carefully coordinated yogic thought and explained it to his students. As he expounded these thoughts, his students jotted them down in a sort of shorthand using just a few words that came to be called the sutras.
The literal meaning of the word sutra is “thread,” and these sutras are just combinations of words threaded together—sometimes not even well-formed sentences with subjects, predicates, and so on. Within the space of these two hundred short sutras, the entire science of Yoga is clearly delineated: its aim, the necessary practices, the obstacles you may meet along the path, their removal, and precise descriptions of the results that will be obtained from such practice.
Now the exposition of Yoga is being made.
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.
In this sutra, Patanjali gives the goal of Yoga. For a keen student this one sutra would be enough because the rest of them only explain this one. If the restraint of the mental modifications is achieved, one has reached the goal of Yoga.
Then the Seer (Self) abides in Its own nature.
You are the true Seer. You are not the body nor the mind. You are the Knower or Seer. You always see your mind and body acting in front of you. You know that the mind creates thoughts; it distinguishes and desires. The Seer knows that but is not involved in it.
To understand that eternal peaceful You, the mind must be quiet; otherwise, it seems to distort the truth. If I explain this through an analogy, it will probably be easier to understand.
Have you seen your own face? You have to say no because it is the face that sees. The face itself is the seer or the subject. What it sees in the mirror is its image. If the mirror is corrugated, curved, concave, or convex, will you be able to see your true face? No. It will appear to be awful—too big or too high or full of waves. Will you be worried seeing this? No. You will immediately know something is wrong with the mirror. You are seeing a distorted reflection. Only if the mirror is perfectly smooth and clean will it give you the true reflection.
In the same way, the Seer, or true you, reflects in the mind, which is your mirror. Normally you can’t see the true Self because your mind is colored. If the mind is dirty, you say, “I am dirty.” If it’s polished and shining: “I am beautiful.” When the mind ceases to create thought forms or when the chitta is completely free from vrittis, it becomes clear and you see your true Self.
At other times [the Self appears to] assume the forms of the mental modifications.
There are five kinds of mental modifications, which are either painful or painless.
They are right knowledge, misconception, verbal delusion, sleep, and memory.
The sources of right knowledge are direct perception, inference, and scriptural testimony.
Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form.
An image that arises on hearing mere words without reality [as its basis] is verbal delusion.
That mental modification supported by cognition of nothingness is sleep.
When a mental modification of an object previously experienced and not forgotten comes back to consciousness, that is memory.
These mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment.
Of these two, effort toward steadiness of mind is practice.
Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.
The first qualification for practice is that it should be done for a long time. Unfortunately, we just want the result immediately. If I ask you to repeat a mantra and say that you will become more peaceful and realize beautiful things within, you will go back home, repeat it for three days, and then call me: “I’ve repeated it for three days but nothing happens. Maybe this is not a suitable mantra for me. Can you give me a different one?” So, Patanjali says, “for a long time.” He doesn’t say how long.
And then it should be without break. I often hear, “Oh, I’ve been practicing Yoga for the past ten years but I’m still the same.” “How often?” “Oh, off and on.” So it must be continuous practice also.
And the last qualification is “in all earnestness.” That means with full attention, with the entire application of your mind, and with full faith in your achievement. Even when you want something or somebody on the worldly level, you will be after it day and night. You don’t sleep, you don’t even eat—you are always at it. If this quality is necessary to achieve even worldly success, how much more so for success in Yoga. So let us not be like little children who sow a seed today and dig it up tomorrow to see how much the root went down. We need all these three qualities: patience, devotion, and faith.
The consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving for objects seen or heard about is non-attachment.
When there is non-thirst for even the gunas (constituents of Nature) due to the realization of the Purusha (true Self), that is supreme non-attachment.
Samprajnata samadhi is accompanied by reasoning, reflecting, rejoicing, and pure I-am-ness.
By the firmly convinced practice of the complete cessation of the mental modifications, the impressions only remain. This is the other samadhi [asamprajnata samadhi].
Those who merely leave their physical bodies and attain the state of celestial deities, or those who get merged in Nature, have rebirth.
For the others, this asamprajnata samadhi could come through faith, vigor, memory, contemplation and/or by discernment.
To the keen and intent practitioner this [samadhi] comes very quickly.
The time necessary for success further depends on whether the practice is mild, medium, or intense.
Or [samadhi is attained] by devotion with total dedication to God (Isvara).
Isvara is the supreme Purusha, unaffected by any afflictions, actions, fruits of actions, or by any inner impressions or desires.
In Isvara is the complete manifestation of the seed of omniscience.
Unconditioned by time, Isvara is the teacher of even the most ancient teachers.
The word expressive of Isvara is the mystic sound OM. [OM is God’s name as well as form.]
There are hundreds and thousands of names for God but none of them conveys the exact idea of God. They may give a picture of one aspect of God, but not the fullness. God is, was, and always will be—without beginning or end, infinite, and omnipresent. For such a great One, there should be a name that conveys those same ideas.
The name “chair” can remind you of a chair, but you can’t sit on it. But God’s name should not only denote the fullness of God and itself represent God, it should also bring God to you. And such a name cannot be anything but OM.
Let us see why it is so. The name OM can be split into three letters: A, U, and M. Every language begins with the letter A or “ah.” A is pronounced by simply opening the mouth and making a sound. That sound is produced in the throat where the tongue is rooted. So audible sound begins with A. Then, as the sound comes forward between the tongue and the palate up to the lips, U or “oo” is produced. Then closing the lips produces the M. So the creation is A, the preservation is U, and the culmination is M. A-U-M includes the entire process of sound, and all other sounds are contained in it.
After the verbal sound ends there is still a vibration. That is the unspoken, or anahata sound, which is always in you even before saying the A and after finishing M. It is heard only when all the other sounds cease. Even thinking creates a sound, because thought itself is a form of speaking. By thinking, you distort the original sound that transcends the beginning, continuation, and end of the OM sound. To listen to that sound you have to keep your mind quiet, stop the thinking process, and dive within.
OM represents God in the fullest sense. It has the power to create everything. If you make an apple out of clay, paint it beautifully, and put it on a table with a real apple, an ordinary person cannot see the difference between the clay apple and the real one. They look alike and have the same name. But if you plant them both, your clay apple will not create an apple tree, but the real one will. The true apple has that creative capacity within itself because the seed is there.
Likewise, other words are just like the clay apple, while the seed word OM has the creative capacity to manifest the entire world. The entire world evolves from that and goes back into that again. That is why God’s name should be OM. It is a variation of this OM that we see as the “Amen” or “Ameen” which the Christians, Muslims, and Jews say.
To repeat it with reflection upon its meaning is an aid.
Here we come to the practice of japa. It’s a very powerful technique, and at the same time, it’s the easiest, simplest, and the best. Almost every religion advocates the repetition of God’s name because all the prophets, sages, and saints experienced and understood its greatness, glory, and power.
In the Hindu system, a mystic word or mantra is given to the student to repeat. The meaning of mantra is “that which keeps the mind steady and produces the proper effect.” Its repetition is called japa. So Japa Yoga is communion with God through the repetition of holy names. In the Catholic religion you see japa of Hail Mary practiced with the aid of the rosary. In the Greek Orthodox Church they repeat, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me” continuously. In Tibetan Buddhism japa is a predominant practice also.
We say it is the easiest because you need not go to a particular place or have a particular time for it. It is not somewhere outside you, but always within. Wherever you are, your mantra is with you. To worship a form you have to have a picture or image and a place to keep it. But in mantra practice it is always in your heart, the most sacred place, because it is your beloved.
And that’s why your mantra is to be kept sacred and secret. You don’t even reveal it to others, lest you lose the reverence for it. By repeating it constantly, a part of the mind gets linked to that. It is like going down into a tunnel with a life-rope tied around the waist and one end of the rope fixed to a peg outside the tunnel. Whenever there is any danger, you can just shake the rope and get pulled out.
In the same way, a part of your mind is tied to God through your mantra while the other part is engaged in worldly pursuits. You dive deep to get all the pearls you want to gather: name, fame, money, position, friends, anything you want. You need not stay away from anything as long as you do not lose hold of the rope. Sensible climbers see to that first, and even pull it a few times to see whether it is strong enough. Only after making sure do they begin to climb. But, alas, many people do not bother about any rope. It is a golden cord between you and God or the Cosmic Force.
Do not bother about meaning in the beginning. Let the repetition become a constant habit. When it becomes a firm habit, then you can think of the meaning without forgetting the repetition itself because it has become a habit already.
A holy name that will elevate your mind should be taken as a mantra. For a special benefit, a special mantra is called for, but the basis of them all is OM, just as cotton is the basis for cloth, which is then cut in different designs according to its purpose: a pillowcase, a bed sheet, a tablecloth, or a napkin.
From this practice all the obstacles disappear and simultaneously dawns knowledge of the inner Self.
Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach firm ground, and slipping from the ground gained—these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles.
They are like a chain. The first obstacle is physical disease. Disease makes you dull, and a dull mind will doubt everything because it doesn’t want to penetrate into a thing to understand it. When doubt is there, there is a carelessness, a sort of lethargic attitude or laziness. When the mind loses the interest and alertness toward the higher goal, it has to do something else so it will slowly descend to the sensual enjoyments. Actually, all these things could be summed up as the qualities of tamas or inertia, dullness.
Another obstacle is slipping from the ground one has gained. This puzzles many people. Beginners, for example, will practice with intense interest. Every day they will feel more and more interested and feel he is progressing steadily. They may even be proud of their progress. All of a sudden one day they will find that they have lost everything and slipped down to rock bottom. It happens to many people. If we know it is a common occurrence on the spiritual path, we won’t get disheartened.
Accompaniments to the mental distractions include distress, despair, trembling of the body and disturbed breathing.
The practice of concentration on a single subject [or the use of one technique] is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.
The point here is that we should not keep changing our object of concentration. When you decide on one thing, stick to it whatever happens. There’s no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down. If you leave that to dig another well, all the original effort is wasted and there is no proof you won’t hit rock again. Before you start digging, analyze well and find out which spot is good. Then, once you decide and begin, you should not question it further. Go right at it, because it will be too late then to think whether it is worthwhile or not; you should have done that before.
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.
Whether you are interested in reaching samadhi or plan to ignore Yoga entirely, I would advise you to remember at least this one sutra. It will be very helpful to you in keeping a peaceful mind in your daily life. In my own experience, this sutra became my guiding light to keep my mind serene always.
Patanjali gives four keys: friendliness, compassion, delight, and disregard. There are only four kinds of locks in the world. Keep these four keys always with you, and when you come across any one of these four locks you will have the proper key to open it.
When you see happy people, use the “friendliness” key. Why should Patanjali say this? Because even four thousand years ago there must have been people who were not happy at seeing others happy. It is still the same way. Suppose some people drive up in a big car, park in front of a huge palatial home and get out. Some other people are standing on the pavement in the hot sun getting tired. How many of those people will be happy? Not many. They will be saying, “See that big car? Those people are sucking the blood of the laborers.” We come across people like that; they are always jealous. When a person gets name, fame, or high position, they try to criticize that person. “Oh, don’t you know, that person’s brother is so-and-so. Some strings must have been pulled somewhere.” They will never admit that the person might have gone up by his or her own merit. By that jealousy, you won’t disturb the other person, but you disturb your own serenity.
Those people simply got out of the car and walked into the house, but you are burning up inside. Instead, think, “Oh, such fortunate people. If everyone was like that how happy the world would be. May God bless everybody to have such comfort. I will also get that one day.” Make those people your friends. That response is missed in many cases, not only between individuals, but even among nations. When some nation is prospering, the neighboring country is jealous of it and wants to ruin its economy. So we should always have the key of friendliness when we see happy people.
And what of the next lock, the unhappy people? “Well, Swami said people have their own karma; they must have done some wretched thing in their last birth. Let them suffer now.’” That should not be our attitude. Maybe they are suffering from previous bad karma, but we should have compassion. If you can lend a helping hand, do it. If you can share half of your loaf, share it. Be merciful always. By doing that, you will retain the peace and poise of your mind. Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds. Whether our mercy is going to help others or not, by our own feeling of mercy, at least we are helped.
Then comes the third kind, the virtuous people. When you see virtuous people, feel delighted. “Oh, how great they are. They must be my heroes. I should imitate their great qualities.” Don’t envy them; don’t try to pull them down. Appreciate the virtuous qualities in them and try to cultivate them in your own life.
And, lastly, the wicked. We come across wicked people sometimes. We can’t deny that. So what should be our attitude? Indifference. “Well, some people are like that. Probably I was like that yesterday. Am I not a better person now? They will probably be all right tomorrow.” Don’t try to advise them because wicked people seldom take advice. If you try to advise them, you will lose your peace.
Or that calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or retention of the breath.
Or the concentration on subtle sense perceptions can cause steadiness of mind.
Or by concentrating on the supreme, ever-blissful Light within.
You can imagine a brilliant divine light that is beyond all anxieties, fear, and worry—a supreme Light in you. Visualize a brilliant globe in your heart representing your Divine Consciousness. Or imagine your heart to contain a beautiful glowing lotus. The mind will easily get absorbed in that, and you will have a nice experience. In the beginning one has to imagine this Light, which later becomes a reality.
Or by concentrating on a great soul’s mind which is totally freed from attachment to sense objects.
Many people do not have much confidence in their own hearts. They think, “Oh, how could I have such a wonderful heart with all this rubbish inside?” In that case, you can think of the heart of a noble person. Meditate on a heart that has given up all attachments to sense objects, on a heart that has realized the goal. If you can’t imagine that your heart is full of that Light, at least you can imagine it in his or her heart. The mind should be allowed to dwell on something high, something serene; that is the main idea.
Or by concentrating on an experience had during dream or deep sleep.
Or by meditating on anything one chooses that is elevating.
It should not just appeal to you but should appeal as elevating and good. Many people ask, “On what should I meditate? Where should I get initiation? Is there just one way to meditate?” Here Patanjali clearly says, “No, you can meditate on anything that will elevate you.”
If you can select for yourself, go ahead. If you can’t, then ask for a suggestion from somebody in whom you have faith. It is only then that a teacher or initiation comes in; otherwise it is not necessary. But there is this advantage in it; instead of your trying this and that and wasting time, you ask a person who already knows the way. Such a teacher gives you his or her blessings, which are even more important because they give you momentum. Normally our batteries are weak; the guru’s battery is always fully charged, so he or she brings the car close to yours and uses a jumper cable, puts a little current in your battery, and you go ahead. But if you can crank yourself and put a little current into the battery, go ahead. There is more than one way to start a car.
Gradually one’s mastery in concentration extends from the primal atom to the greatest magnitude.
Just as the naturally pure crystal assumes shapes and colors of objects placed near it, so the yogi’s mind, with its totally weakened modifications, becomes clear and balanced and attains the state devoid of differentiation between knower, knowable, and knowledge. This culmination of meditation is samadhi.
The samadhi in which name, form, and knowledge of them is mixed is called savitarka samadhi or samadhi with deliberation.
When the memory is well purified, the knowledge of the object of concentration shines alone, devoid of the distinction of name and quality. This is nirvitarka samadhi or samadhi without deliberation.
In the same way, both savichara (reflective) and nirvichara (super or non-reflective) samadhi, which are practiced upon subtle objects, are explained.
The subtlety of possible objects of concentration ends only at the undefinable.
Each of the above kinds of samadhi are sabija (with seed), which could bring one back into bondage or mental disturbance.
In the purity of nirvichara samadhi, the supreme Self shines.
This is ritambhara prajna or the absolute true consciousness.
This special truth is totally different from knowledge gained by hearing, study of scripture, or inference.
The impression produced by this samadhi wipes out all other impressions.
When even this impression is totally wiped out, there is nirbija [seedless] samadhi.
Only now does Patanjali describe the highest samadhi. Even with the ritambhara prajna the subtle mind is there. There is still a division between the prajna or wisdom, and the owner of that wisdom. Even the feeling, “I have realized God,” should go. Then you are completely free. You have attained nirbija samadhi. There is no more birth or death for you; you realize your immortality.
Book 2 Sadhana Pada (Portion on Practice)
In Sadhana Pada, Patanjali gave us the aim of Yoga in a theoretical way, explaining it as the control of the chitta vrittis, or thought forms. Then the rest of the sutras in Book 1 could be classified into several groups: the different kinds of thought forms, the practices to control them, and the different kinds of superconscious experience culminating in the highest experience of nirbija samadhi, the seedless contemplation. But it is not that easy to get into samadhi, so in this book he tells the student not to get frightened but to prepare himself or herself by laying the proper foundation, then gradually build until that level is reached. For this Patanjali gives a number of simple directions.
Accepting pain as help for purification, study of spiritual books, and surrender to the Supreme Being constitute Yoga in practice.
Using the Sanskrit terms, Kriya Yoga comprises tapas, svadhyaya, and Isvara pranidhana. Tapas is generally misunderstood, because it gets translated as “mortification” or “austerity,” when it actually stands for something different here. Tapas means ‘”to burn or create heat.” Anything burned out will be purified. The more you fire gold, for example, the purer it becomes. Each time it goes into the fire, more impurities are removed.
But how does this burning process occur when it comes to our mental impurities? By accepting all the pain that comes to us, even though the nature of the mind is to run after pleasure. We will actually be happy to receive pain if we keep in mind its purifying effects. Such acceptance makes the mind steady and strong because, although it is easy to give pain to others, it is hard to accept it without returning it. Such self-discipline obviously cannot be practiced in our meditation rooms, but only in our daily lives as we relate with other people.
Tapas also refers to self-discipline. Normally the mind is like a wild horse tied to a chariot. Imagine the body is the chariot; the intelligence is the charioteer; the mind is the reins; and the horses are the senses. The Self, or true you, is the passenger. If the horses are allowed to gallop without reins and charioteer, the journey will not be safe for the passenger. Although control of the senses and organs often seems to bring pain in the beginning, it eventually ends in happiness. If tapas is understood in this light we will look forward to pain; we will even thank people who cause it, since they are giving us the opportunity to steady our minds and burn out impurities.
Next comes svadhyaya or study. This means study that concerns the true Self, not merely analyzing the emotions and mind as the psychologists and psychiatrists do. Anything that will elevate your mind and remind you of your true Self should be studied: the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, the Koran, these Yoga Sutras, or any uplifting scripture. Study does not just mean passing over the pages. It means trying to understand every word—studying with the heart. The more often you read them, the more you understand. For thousands of years, so many people have been studying the Bible. Every day, thousands of people read this same book.
On the other hand, we have millions and millions of books that, after we read them once, we throw away as trash. We don’t exhaust the Bible even after reading it hundreds of times. Each time we read it we see it in a new light. That is the greatness of holy scriptures. They are that way because they were created by holy prophets who experienced the truth. Each time we read these works we elevate ourselves to see a little more.
The last part of Kriya Yoga is simple but great. It is surrendering to the Supreme Being. I understand this to mean dedicating the fruits of your actions to God or to humanity—God in manifestation. Dedicate everything—your study, your japa, your practices—to God. When you offer such things, God accepts them but then gives them back many times magnified. You never lose what you have given. Even virtuous, meritorious deeds will bind you in some form or other if you do them with an egoistic feeling. Every time you do something feel, “May this be dedicated to God.” If you constantly remember to do this, the mind will be free and tranquil. Try not to possess anything for yourself. Temporarily keep things but feel you are just a trustee, not an owner.
Let us all dedicate our lives for the sake of the entire humanity. With every minute, every breath, every atom of our bodies we should repeat this mantra: “Dedication, dedication, giving, giving, loving, loving.” This is the best japa, the best Yoga, which will bring us all permanent peace and joy and keep the mind free from the disturbances of the chitta vrittis.
They help us minimize obstacles and attain samadhi.
Ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and clinging to bodily life are the five obstacles.
Ignorance is the field for the others mentioned after it, whether they be dormant, feeble, intercepted, or sustained.
Ignorance is regarding the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant, and the non-Self as the Self.
What is Self and what is non-Self? The Self is the eternal, never-changing One. It is always everywhere as the very basic substance. All things are actually nothing but the Self, but in our ignorance we see them as different objects. Thus, we take the changing appearances to be the unchanging truth. When something changes it can’t be the Self. For example, our own bodies are changing every second. Yet we take the body to be our Self; and, speaking in terms of it, we say, “I am hungry,” or “I am physically challenged”; “I am black” or “I am white.” These are all just the conditions and qualities of the body. We touch the truth when we say, “My body aches,” implying that the body belongs to us and that therefore we are not that.
Well, who is practicing Yoga then? Who does japa, who meditates? It is the mind along with the body. “You” need not do any practice. When you fully realize this, even japa will become an ignorant business. But for now we can get rid of ignorance with ignorance. Take a better ignorance to get rid of a worse one. In the final analysis, only the light of understanding will remove the darkness of ignorance.
Egoism is the identification, as it were, of the power of the Seer (Purusha) with that of the instrument of seeing [body-mind].
Attachment is that which follows identification with pleasurable experiences.
Aversion is that which follows identification with painful experiences.
Clinging to life, flowing by its own potency [due to past experience], exists even in the wise.
In subtle form, these obstacles can be destroyed by resolving them back into their primal cause [the ego].
In the active state, they can be destroyed by meditation.
The womb of karmas (actions and reactions) has its root in these obstacles, and the karmas bring experiences in the seen [present] or in the unseen [future] births.
The Sanskrit term “karma” can mean two things: action and/or the result of action. When you do karma, you reap karma. Every action will leave its result; every cause will bear its effect. It is impossible to say which comes first. For instance, how does a tree grow? You sow a seed. But where do you get the seed? From another tree. Which comes first, the tree or the seed? It’s impossible to find out. Likewise, it is impossible to know the origin of karma. But it is here, we see it, and we should try to put an end to it.
So, no action goes without its reaction, and these don’t go away but are stored. Patanjali calls the receptacle for the karmas the womb of karmas. The karmas wait for an opportunity to come to the surface and bring their reactions. The kleshas, or obstacles, cause these karmas, which may bear fruit now or in a future life; in other words, they are seen or unseen. According to the number of our karmas, we will have births.
But there need not be a separate birth for every karma. Karmas may group together. One strong karma may call for a body, and all other similar karmas that can make use of that particular vehicle to bring their reactions will join in. When you take a birth, you are not only enjoying the reactions to previous actions or purging karma, but you may be creating new karma also. There are, then, three kinds of karmas: those being expressed and exhausted through this birth (prarabdha karma); new karmas being created during this birth (agami karma); and those waiting in the karmasaya to be fulfilled in future births (sanjita karma). These are something like the paraphernalia of an archer. There are a number of arrows in the quiver. A really expert archer can take one arrow, fit it into the bow, aim and release it, and immediately take up a second arrow to fit. The arrows would then be in three different stages: one has already left the bow and is on its way. You have no more say over it. You can neither stop it now nor draw it back.
This is like the prarabdha karma that has caused this birth. As long as the body stays, the karma allotted to it will continue. Even a person who has transcended the mind and realized the Self still appears to be doing something because the momentum created by birth is still continuing.
The second arrow, ready to be aimed, is like the new karma you create at each moment. You have full control over it. And the quiver represents the karmasaya. If you want, you can aim the arrows from the quiver. Otherwise, you can take them out. It is in your hands. They are called the sanjita karma. We control the agami and the sanjita but we can’t do anything about the prarabdha; we just have to accept it. This cycle continues until Self-realization comes.
With the existence of the root, there will be fruits also: namely, the births of different species of life, their life spans and experiences.
The karmas bear fruits of pleasure and pain caused by merit and demerit.
To one of discrimination everything is painful indeed, due to its consequences: the anxiety and fear over losing what is gained; the resulting impressions left in the mind to create renewed cravings; and the constant conflict among the three gunas, which control the mind.
In this world, all experiences that come from outside through the world, through nature or material things, are ultimately painful. None can give everlasting happiness. They may give temporary pleasure but they always end in pain. Even the enjoyment of our present pleasures is usually painful because we fear its loss. It’s all right to have anything, as long as you don’t let it bring you anxiety and fear. If things come to you, let them come; enjoy their presence. But when they go, enjoy their departure too. When they come, they come alone, so allow them to go alone without losing your mind along with the external object.
I am not saying that because everything is painful we should run from it. That doesn’t work. Wherever we go, the world follows. If you don’t understand the world and attempt to run away, you can never succeed. Wherever we are, we have to learn to handle things properly. We can’t always change environments, running here and there. The world is a training place where we learn to use things without getting attached. Instead of saying, “To one of discrimination, everything is painful,” it becomes, “To one of discrimination, everything is pleasurable.” A person with such an understanding has the magic wand to convert everything into happiness. Pleasure and pain are but the outcome of your approach. The same world can be a hell or a heaven.
Pain that has not yet come is avoidable.
The cause of that avoidable pain is the union of the Seer (Purusha) and the Seen (Prakriti or Nature).
The seen is of the nature of the gunas: illumination, activity, and inertia; and consists of the elements and sense organs, whose purpose is to provide both experiences and liberation to the Purusha.
The stages of the gunas are specific, nonspecific, defined, and undefinable.
The Seer is nothing but the power of seeing which, although pure, appears to see through the mind.
The seen exists only for the sake of the Seer.
Although destroyed for one who has attained liberation, it [the seen] still exists for others, being common to them.
The union of Owner (Purusha) and owned (Prakriti) causes the recognition of the nature and powers of them both.
The cause of this union is ignorance.
Without this ignorance, no such union occurs. This is the independence of the Seer.
Uninterrupted discriminative discernment is the method for its removal.
This is called viveka in Sanskrit. You try to understand and see the permanent aspect in everything and ignore the impermanent aspect.
One’s wisdom in the final stage is sevenfold. [One experiences the end of 1) the desire to know anything more; 2) the desire to stay away from anything; 3) the desire to gain anything new; 4) the desire to do anything; 5) sorrow; 6) fear; 7) delusion.]
By the practice of the limbs of Yoga, the impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discriminative discernment.
The eight limbs of Yoga are:
- Yama (abstinence)
- Niyama (observance)
- Asana (posture practice)
- Pranayama (breath control)
- Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (contemplation, absorption, or superconscious state)
Yama consists of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-greed.
These great vows are universal, not limited by class, place, time, or circumstances.
Niyama consists of purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, study of spiritual books and worship of God [self-surrender].
When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.
Here, Patanjali gives us a very nice clue on how to control the mind and obstruct those thoughts we don’t want. The best way, he says, is to invite opposite thoughts. If the thought of hatred is in the mind, we can try to bring in the thought of love. If we can’t do that, we can at least go to the people we love and, in their presence, forget the hatred. Although the hatred comes to the surface, we can keep it from coming out or staying long by changing the environment.
Sometimes we see this work between married partners. When sparks fly between them, if their little one crawls up to them, what will happen? Those of us who have had this experience will immediately know. The sparks instantly cool down. Either the mother or father picks up the child and hugs the child. That’s because they both love the baby. In the form of the child, love comes in and the anger or hatred is immediately banished.
We can create a positive atmosphere by looking at a holy picture, by reading an inspiring book, by meeting with an uplifting person, or simply by leaving the disturbing environment. This is a very practical point. It is very difficult to control negative thoughts while staying in a negative environment unless we have extraordinary strength. The easiest way is to change the environment.
Another way to control a negative thought even before the thought overpowers us is to think of its after-effect. Stop and consider, “What will happen if I allow this thought to continue? I’ll lose my friends. If those friends are strong, they may not even be affected at all. They might just laugh at me and go away. But even before others are affected by my anger, I will be affected. I’ll shake up my nerves. My blood will boil.”
When negative thoughts or acts such as violence, etc., are done, caused to be done, or even approved of—whether incited by greed, anger, or infatuation—whether indulged in with mild, medium, or extreme intensity, they are based on ignorance and bring certain pain. Reflecting upon this is also pratipaksha bhavana.
In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease.
Starting with this thirty-fifth sutra, Patanjali covers the ten virtues one by one. When the vow of ahimsa is established in someone, all enmity ceases in his or her presence because that person emits harmonious vibrations. If two people who have enmity between them come to such a person, they will temporarily forget it. Even wild animals forget their nature of causing pain in the presence of one established in ahimsa. In ancient Hindu mythology, it states that in the forests where the saints and sages lived practicing ahimsa, the animals would only kill when they were hungry. At other times, a cow and a tiger could drink water side by side.
To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.
By the establishment of truthfulness, yogis get the power to attain for themselves and others the fruits of work without doing the work. In other words, things come to them automatically. All nature loves an honest person. You need not run after things; they will run after you. If you are always truthful, if no lie comes from your mouth, a time will come when all you say will come true. Even if you say something by mistake, it will happen, because by the practice of satya the words become so powerful and clean that honesty observes you. It wants to be with you always. If a curse is spoken, it will happen. If a blessing is said, it will happen. The more we lead a life of honesty, the more we will see the results, and that will encourage us to be more honest.
With establishment in honesty, the state of fearlessness comes. One need not be afraid of anybody and can always lead an open life. When there are no lies, the entire life becomes an open book. But this comes only with an absolutely honest mind. When the mind becomes clear and serene, the true Self reflects without disfigurement, and we realize the Truth in its own original nature.
To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.
By one established in continence, vigor is gained.
By getting established in continence or celibacy we save energy. The seminal fluid gives strength and stamina to the brain and nerves. Nervous debility is caused by a lack of stamina because it has all been drained away. If stored properly it can bring a lot of energy. When absorbed into the system it gets transformed into prana. Conserved sexual energy in women also gets transformed. It is that vital force that allows you to really help people and have good relationships. Without much prana, we can never give anything to anybody, just as only a fully charged battery can give power, never a weak one. In observing brahmacharya, we build up this energy.
Expressing your love and affection without overindulgence is not wrong. It is part of nature. Even couples that don’t plan to have children should have limitations. Even animals have restrictions. Once a female dog is pregnant, no male can come near her. A lioness brings forth a cub once a year. Certain animals won’t even mate in front of others—elephants, for example. So, in your own way, according to your stage of life, have limitations.
By observing celibacy, we preserve not just physical energy alone but mental, moral, intellectual, and, ultimately, spiritual energy as well. Sexual energy that is preserved gets transformed into a subtle energy called ojas. This is similar to personal magnetism. It tones the entire personality, builds the nerves, improves brainpower, and calms the mind. There is a similar word to ojas in English: ozone. In the early morning before sunrise we can go out and breathe the ozonic wind, which has a special vibration and energy to it. But once the sun’s rays fall, this effect is lost. That’s why the period between four and six a.m. is called the Brahmamuhurta, the Brahmic time or divine period, and is a very sacred time to meditate.
Ojas, when stored, creates tejas. Tejas is the aura or the glow. A newspaper reporter once wrote an article about me called, “The Swami Makes the People Glow.” How can the Swami do this? Is it some peculiar yogic makeup? No. Everyone can glow and can transmit that energy when they preserve a lot of ojas.
This is why continence is a very important part of Yoga. If a handful of people come forward with strong wills, nothing is impossible. One Buddha changed half the globe; one Jesus, three quarters of the world. We all have that capacity. Let us know the value of brahmacharya; that it certainly will make us strong, happy, healthy, wealthy, and blissful.
When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why of one’s birth comes.
By purification arises disgust for one’s own body and for contact with other bodies.*
Moreover one gains purity of sattva, cheerfulness of mind, one-pointedness, and fitness for Self-realization.
By contentment, supreme joy is gained.
By austerity, impurities of body and senses are destroyed and occult powers gained.
By study of spiritual books comes communion with one’s chosen deity.
By total surrender to God, samadhi is attained.
Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.
Asana means the posture that brings comfort and steadiness. Any pose that brings this comfort and steadiness is an asana. If you can achieve one pose, that is enough. It may sound easy, but in how many poses are we really comfortable and steady? As soon as we sit in a particular position, there is a small cramp here, a tiny pain there. We have to move this way and that. Continuously we are reminded of our legs, hands, hips, and spine. Unless the body is perfectly healthy and free from all toxins and tensions, a comfortable pose is not easily obtained. Physical and mental toxins create stiffness and tension.
What we need is the strength of steel, but with steel’s flexibility—not like crude iron, which is very strong and hard but breaks. The body must be so supple it can bend any way you want it to. Such a body will always be healthy and tension-free. The moment we sit down for meditation in such a body, we’ll forget it.
In order to achieve such a meditative pose, we may practice many preliminary cultural poses. This is why Hatha Yoga was created. People trying to sit quietly found they couldn’t. They encountered pain, stiffness, bile, gas, etc., and thought, “What is the reason for these things and how can we get rid of them?” They realized it was due to toxins from eating the wrong foods, at the wrong times, and in the wrong quantities. These people pondered, “What is good food that won’t leave toxins? What should the limit be? When is the proper time to eat?” And they formulated the yogic diet, free of meat, fish, eggs, stimulants, and excessive use of spices.
The next problem was what to do with the toxins already inside the body. They concluded that these could be gotten rid of by squeezing the body in all different directions. For example, they found the way to cleanse the liver, spleen, and intestines was by doing the forward bending pose, paschimotanasana, which is bending forward and crushing the stomach a bit. If this wasn’t enough, they developed Yoga mudra in order to crush it more. If toxins were still present they came up with mayurasana, the peacock pose. If this still wasn’t good enough, they created uddyana bandha, the stomach lift and nauli, the stomach churning. When the spine was stiff and didn’t want to move, they employed postures that bent it forward, backward, sideways, and upside down. Although Hatha Yoga is several thousands of years old, it never becomes outdated. The truths of it are always current. They are like gold. Although other things lose their value according to time, gold is always the same.
By lessening the natural tendency for restlessness and by meditating on the infinite, posture is mastered.
Thereafter, one is undisturbed by the dualities.
That [firm posture] being acquired, the movements of inhalation and exhalation should be controlled. This is pranayama.
The modifications of the lifebreath are either external, internal, or stationary. They are to be regulated by space, time, and number and are either long or short.
There is a fourth kind of pranayama that occurs during concentration on an internal or external object.
As its result, the veil over the inner Light is destroyed.
Patanjali now comes to the benefit of pranayama. We destroy the veil that covers the inner light. Prakasa, the light within, is covered by a veil of mental darkness. What is the best way to remove a veil? By pulling the threads out, one by one, until it exists no more.
The mind is a veil woven of thoughts. It has no substance by itself. If we pull the thoughts out one after the other, when they have all been removed, there is no mind left. It is like a heap of sugar. If we remove each grain of sugar one after the other, the heap no longer exists. In fact, the name “heap” is absurd; because, in reality, no heap exists, only sugar. Wood, arranged in various ways, gets called different things: chair, table, bench, or firewood. Different appearances get different names. But it is only the appearance that changes; the basis can never be destroyed. Our basis is the Self. As long as we identify with the body or mind we feel we are mortal. Pranayama indirectly helps us understand the Oneness, the never-changing One, because it removes the veil. And it is an easy practice. Not many people come to meditation class, but hundreds and thousands come for asanas and pranayama.
And the mind becomes fit for concentration.
When the senses withdraw themselves from the objects and imitate, as it were, the nature of the mindstuff, this is pratyahara.
With pranayama, the mind is still not completely fit, because there are other things that will try to pull the mind here and there—namely the senses. They will always tell the mind, “Ah, there is a wonderful thing in this showcase. Come on, why not buy it?” Or, “Do you smell that wonderful odor? Get ready. Wash your hands. Some nice things are being cooked.” The mind might even be quiet but the nose won’t allow it to remain so. And the moment the nose says that something is being prepared, the tongue says, “The saliva is ready,” and the eyes say, “Can I have a look at it?” We must have a good rein over these turbulent senses.
When the mind is withdrawn from the sense objects, the sense organs also withdraw themselves from their respective objects and, thus, are said to imitate the mind. If the senses are allowed to see outside, they try to grasp pictures of the outside world. If they are turned inward, they will see the purity of the mind and won’t take the color of the world outside.
The senses are like a mirror. Turned outward, they reflect the outside; turned inward, they reflect the pure light. By themselves, the senses are innocent, but when allowed to turn outside they attract everything and transfer those messages to the mind, making it restless. Turned inward, they find peace by taking the form of the mind itself.
The senses are, in effect, a gateway that allows externals to come into the mind. For example, if we look at a cabinet, we can only understand it as a cabinet if our mind takes that form. This is the law of perception. That’s why when we concentrate on something holy, the mind takes that form. When the mind retains it, we get those pictures even in our dreams. When we have sense control we only allow the mind to take the forms we want.
Then follows supreme mastery over the senses.
*Editor’s Note: This sutra should be understood in the light of a particular stage of discrimination on the part of a spiritual aspirant, where, for the sake of the higher goal, one develops a natural disinterest in the body and in intercourse with other bodies. However, it should be remembered that this “disgust” is not the same thing as aversion and that, as all the sages and scriptures have said, it is only in the human birth that a soul can attain spiritual realization. With realization, comes the perception that the body is the temple of the Divine Consciousness and is, in fact, nothing but that same Divine Consciousness.
Book 3 Vibhuti Pada (Portion on Accomplishments)
This third book is called the Vibhuti Pada. The vibhuti are all the accomplishments which come as by-products of your Yoga practice. They are also sometimes called the siddhis or supernatural powers. These powers begin to come with the practice of the final three limbs of Raja Yoga: dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (contemplation).
Dharana is the binding of the mind to one place, object, or idea.
When the chitta, or sum total of mind, is being bound by one thing or bound in one place, it is in dharana. Normally, we see the mind running here and there. When we try to fix it on one thing, within a fraction of a second we see it somewhere else. Concrete objects, symbols, or idols are very helpful for our beginning practice. It’s not that easy for the mind to grasp something abstract or even to visualize something. So, keep a rose or a flame or a picture in front of you. If it is an idea on which you wish to concentrate, at least have something physical to remind you of that. While you look at this object, think of the idea connected with it. This is where the practice of tradak, or gazing, also comes in handy.
Tradak is actually gazing at something, sometimes without even blinking. Don’t strain the eyes. Just look at your object as long as you can. You’ll be able to look longer if you put your mind on the idea behind the object: how beautiful it is, what a great gift has come from the thorny bush, etc. When you get involved in those things even the gaze will be forgotten; but you will still be gazing without blinking. Don’t try to gaze just for the purpose of gazing; if you do that the eyes will get tired quickly.
After a while, you can gently close the eyes and try to bring a mental picture of your object of concentration. First it is outside; then you try to bring it within the mind. It might come for a while, and then you lose it. Again, open the eyes. Slowly learn to grasp it within the mind alone. That means you will be developing that impression in your mind. It is something like in photography: you take a picture; it’s there on the film. How do you know whether it’s there or not? You develop it. If nothing comes, you have to make another picture. It is the same with the practice of tradak.
All this is part of dharana. As you look at the rose, the mind will try to go somewhere. The minute you begin, the mind will say, “Ah, yes, I remember, she sent me a rose like that for my last birthday.” See? Then the rose is gone from your mind; she is there. And then, “After that we had dinner. Ah, it was the best dinner. Then we went to the movies. What was that movie? King Kong?” It will all happen within two minutes—from the rose to King Kong in two minutes. Even less than two minutes. So on what are you meditating now? Not on a rose, but on King Kong.
The mind is like that. But it doesn’t matter. That’s the nature of the mind. There’s no point in getting frustrated. At least at that point, say, “God, where am I? How far have I come from the rose to King Kong? Shame on you, my little fellow; come on, let’s go back to the rose.”
Never give up. And never think, “Oh, I am unfit for meditation.’” That is the biggest mistake people make. They think the minute they sit and close their eyes everything should be beautiful. If the mind runs here and there they say, “Meditation is not my thing.” No, it’s like practicing piano or playing guitar or cooking. How many times have you have cooked your fingers instead of the vegetables? So, keep trying. Persevere. Remember what Patanjali says in Book 1, sutra 14: “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness.”
Dhyana is the continuous flow of cognition toward that object.
The Hindu scriptures give a beautiful example of this “continuous flow.” They say it is like pouring oil from one pot into another. It is a continuous string; it doesn’t break. The mind is fixed. Communication between meditator and object of meditation is steady. That’s what you call dhyana. Normally what we are doing is dharana and gradually the “flow of cognition” gets a little longer and it becomes dhyana.
When would you know that you have really meditated? There are some signs for that. Say you come and sit for meditation at 4:30 a.m. Meditation is assigned for an hour. The bell rings at 5:30. If you feel, “What, who rang the bell this soon? I just sat down five minutes back,” then you may have been meditating. But when you feel five minutes as one hour, you are not meditating; you are still concentrating.
Time has no meaning in meditation and space also is lost. You don’t know where you are. If you break that meditation all of a sudden, you may wonder, “What happened to my body?” Even the body is forgotten in real meditation. You are above time and space; you are out of the body. When I say “out of the body,” don’t think I mean you are traveling in space or anything like that. I mean the mind transcends body consciousness.
There are other signs of meditation also. In the beginning you feel so light when you transcend the body. Sometimes you get beautiful visions connected with the object of your meditation—or sometimes not connected, but something beautiful and elevating. Sometimes you won’t see visions, you will simply see beautiful light; you will seem to be bathed in beautiful moonlight. Or sometimes you may just hear beautiful sounds like the roaring of the ocean, the sound of a gong, or the beautiful notes of a flute. These are all various signs you may come across. Normally, I don’t say these things much because once you hear that, you may imagine it is happening to you. Instead, it should just happen.
Samadhi is the same meditation when there is the shining of the object alone, as if devoid of form.
There is not much I can say about this sutra. You will easily understand when you have a little experience. Meditation culminates in the state of samadhi. It’s not that you practice samadhi. Nobody can consciously practice samadhi. Our effort is there only up to meditation. You put all your effort in dharana. It becomes effortless in dhyana, and you are just there, knowing that you are in meditation. But in samadhi, you don’t even know that. You are not there to know it because you are that. You think first with a lot of interruptions; that is dharana. Then when you become what you think, that is samadhi.
In meditation you have three things: meditator, the meditation and the object meditated upon. In samadhi there is either the object or the meditator. There is no feeling of “I am meditating on that.” It’s rather difficult to put it in words. If you keep working, you will know what samadhi is. Of course, there are different lower samadhis, as we talked about in the first book, where you attain that level and then come back. These are samadhis connected with form, with idea, with bliss, and with pure ego (savitarka, savichara, sa-ananda, and sa-asmita samadhi). All these four still leave some parts of the mind with hidden desires. You are not completely free. The ideas in the mind are not completely roasted. They could still germinate again. That’s why these four are called sabija samadhi. Bija means seed. They are with seed. Don’t think you are all clean and everything is okay. As long as the seed is in the bag it seems to be innocent. But the minute you take one seed out, dig a little hole, put it in, and pour a little water, then up it comes again. The sprouting tendency is still there. As long as you have that tendency you are still in the sabija or savikalpa samadhi. But once you get completely roasted, even that germinating capacity goes away. The seeds are still there. In all external appearance they are the same. But even if they are put into holes and watered they won’t germinate.
What does this mean? All the thoughts, all the desires, become selfless. Selfishness is the germ that sprouts, saying, “I want it!” When the selfishness is completely taken out, you become germless. That is called nirbija samadhi or nirvikalpa samadhi.
One who has achieved this may look similar to anyone else. But the burnt nature of his or her mental seeds is the difference between ordinary people and the jivanmuktas (liberated beings). They also eat, sleep, and do everything like everybody else. They may be doing anything, but they are not affected by what they do. There is no moisture of attachment to cause sprouting. They are living liberated people. Liberation is not something you experience when you die. While living, you should be liberated. Jivanmukta: mukta means liberated, jivan, while still living.
The practice of these three [dharana, dhyana, and samadhi] upon one object is called samyama.
From this practice come the siddhis. You dive deep into an object or idea and it releases its secrets. In a way, a scientist would have done samyama on the atomic particles. They released their energy, and he got the knowledge of it. He accomplished the truth behind it. Samyama is usually done on objects or ideas connected with some results. When the results come you call them siddhis or vibhuti.
By the mastery of samyama comes the light of knowledge.
This means that the truth behind the object on which we do samyama becomes known to us. That is what we call discovery. The truth was “covered” before; now we “discover” it. It’s not that anyone creates anything new. Some truth is hidden. By samyama, we understand what it is. That’s the true meaning of discovery.
Its practice is to be accomplished in stages.
These three [dharana, dhyana, and samadhi] are more internal than the preceding five limbs.
Even these three are external to the seedless samadhi.
The impressions that normally arise are made to disappear by the appearance of suppressive efforts that, in turn, create new mental modifications. The moment of conjunction of mind and new modifications is nirodha parinama.
The flow of nirodha parinama becomes steady through habit.
When there is a decline in distractedness and appearance of one-pointedness, then comes samadhi parinama (development in samadhi).
Then again when the subsiding past and rising present images are identical, there is ekagrata parinama (one-pointedness).
By this [what has been said in the preceding three sutras], the transformations of the visible characteristics, time factors, and conditions of elements and senses are also described.
It is the substratum (Prakriti) that by nature goes through latent, uprising, and unmanifested phases.
The succession of these different phases is the cause of the differences in stages of evolution.
By practicing samyama on the three stages of evolution comes knowledge of past and future.
A word, its meaning, and the idea behind it are normally confused because of superimposition upon one another. By samyama on the word [or sound] produced by any being, knowledge of its meaning is obtained.
By direct perception, through samyama, of one’s mental impressions, knowledge of past birth is obtained.
By samyama on the distinguishing signs of others’ bodies, knowledge of their mental images is obtained.
But this does not include the support in the person’s mind [such as the motive behind the thought, etc.] as that is not the object of the samyama.
By samyama on the form of one’s body and by checking the power of perception by intercepting light from the eyes of the observer, the body becomes invisible.
In the same way, the disappearance of sound [and touch, taste, smell, etc.] is explained.
Karmas are of two kinds: quickly manifesting and slowly manifesting. By samyama on them or on the portents of death, the knowledge of the time of death is obtained.
By samyama on friendliness and other such qualities, the power to transmit them is obtained.
By samyama on the strength of elephants and other animals, their strength is obtained.
By samyama on the Light within, the knowledge of the subtle, hidden, and remote is obtained. [Note: subtle as atoms, hidden as treasure, remote as far distant lands.]
By samyama on the sun, knowledge of the entire solar system is obtained.
By samyama on the moon, comes knowledge of the stars’ arrangement.
By samyama on the pole star comes knowledge of the stars’ movements.
By samyama on the navel plexus, knowledge of the body’s constitution is obtained.
By samyama on the pit of the throat, cessation of hunger and thirst is achieved.
By samyama on the kurma nadi (a subtle tortoise-shaped tube located below the throat), motionlessness in meditative posture is achieved.
By samyama on the light at the crown of the head (sahasrara chakra), visions of masters and adepts are obtained.
Or, in the knowledge that dawns by spontaneous enlightenment [through a life of purity], all the powers come by themselves.
By samyama on the heart, the knowledge of the mind-stuff is obtained.
The intellect and the Purusha (Atman, Self) are totally different, the intellect existing for the sake of the Purusha, while the Purusha exists for its ownsake. Not distinguishing this is the cause of all experiences; and by samyama on the distinction, knowledge of the Purusha is gained.
From this knowledge arises super-physical hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, and smelling through spontaneous intuition.
These [superphysical senses] are obstacles to [nirbija] samadhi but are siddhis (powers or accomplishments) in the worldly pursuits.
By the loosening of the cause [of the bondage of mind to body] and by knowledge of the procedure of the mind-stuff’s functioning, entering another’s body is accomplished.
By mastery over the udana nerve current (the upward vital air), one accomplishes levitation over water, swamps, thorns, etc. and can leave the body at will.
By mastery over the samana nerve current (the equalizing vital air) comes radiance to surround the body.
By samyama on the relationship between ear and ether, supernormal hearing becomes possible.
By samyama on the relationship between the body and ether, lightness of cotton fiber is attained, and thus traveling through the ether becomes possible.
By samyama on thought waves unidentified by and external to the body [maha-videha or the great bodilessness], the veil over the light of the Self is destroyed.
By samyama on the gross and subtle elements and on their essential nature, correlations and purpose, mastery over them is gained.
From that comes attainment of anima and other siddhis, bodily perfection, and the non-obstruction of bodily functions by the influence of the elements.
(Note: The eight major siddhis alluded to here are:
- anima—to become very small;
- mahima—to become very big;
- laghima—to become very light;
- garima—to become very heavy;
- prapti—to reach anywhere;
- prakamya—to achieve all one’s desires;
- isatva—ability to create anything;
- vasitva—ability to command and control everything.)
Beauty, grace, strength, adamantine hardness, and robustness constitute bodily perfection.
By samayama on the power of perception and on the essential nature, correlation with the ego sense and purpose of the sense organs, mastery over them is gained.
From that, the body gains the power to move as fast as the mind, the ability to function without the aid of the sense organs, and complete mastery over the primary cause (Prakriti).
By recognition of the distinction between sattva (the pure reflective nature) and the Self, supremacy over all states and forms of existence [omnipotence] is gained, as is omniscience.
By non-attachment even to that (all these siddhis), the seed of bondage is destroyed and thus follows kaivalya (independence).
This means that all these siddhis are beautiful, but they will bind us, because siddhis are the outcome of the mind. They are beautiful; they are good. When? When they come to you. When you run after them they are bad. That’s all the difference. Let the siddhis come and beg, “Hey, can’t I do something for you?” Then they are beautiful. If you don’t run after them and you don’t crave them, they are not yours. They want to have you as theirs. They want to be with you and serve you. Then they are okay. That’s why, even in the Bible, you come across these powers. Everything will come to you. When? When you seek the Kingdom. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven; everything else will be added unto you.” You don’t need to run after small jobs. Not only these vibhuti, these siddhis, but everything is like that: beauty, money, power, strength, scientific knowledge. All these things are becoming terrible and the whole world is trembling with fear. Why? Because we have not sought God first. What is God? Peace, contentment, egolessness.
The yogi should neither accept nor smile with pride at the admiration of even the celestial beings, as there is the possibility of getting caught again in the undesirable.
By samyama on single moments in sequence comes discriminative knowledge.
Thus, the indistinguishable differences between objects that are alike in species, characteristic marks, and positions become distinguishable.
The discriminative knowledge that simultaneously comprehends all objects in all conditions is the intuitive knowledge that brings liberation.
When the tranquil mind attains purity equal to that of the Self, there is Absoluteness.
We are not here to grasp a little of this and a little of that. What is the biggest fish you can catch? The “self-ish.” Hook that fish. Then you can probably have a nice big aquarium. You don’t need to kill the self-fish. Just keep it in your aquarium. Show it to others: “See, this is my fish.” That would make the best aquarium.
We should never lose sight of this and simply settle for little things. That’s not good business. Don’t settle for these tiny, tiny things. Sometimes they come and tempt you, “Hey, come on, I am here, I am here. Use me.” Say, “No; my purpose is something different. I am going straight ahead. I don’t even want to stand and wait and watch the sideshows here and there.”
I say this because, as you progress along the spiritual path, the sideshows will tempt you. It’s like a king is sitting there ready to give you everything. He has invited you to come to his party and be his friend, and you are going toward that party. On the way, you see all kinds of variety shows, magician’s tricks, some music being played. But you should know that they are all on their way to the party to play according to the king’s orders. When you go there, all of them will also be there; and you can see them while you sit by the side of the king. But when you forget that, you stand on the pavement and see only them and miss the king.
Never, never settle for these little things. Our goal is something very high. It is eternal peace, eternal joy. Don’t settle for a little peace, for a little joy, for petty happiness.
Book 4 Kaivalya Pada (Portion on Absoluteness)
Book 4 has the heading Kaivalya Pada, or the portion that talks about absoluteness. The root of kaivalya is kevala, which means without qualities or conditions, that which is cosmic. The one who has the quality of kevala is called kaivalya. It’s an experience of absoluteness, unlimitedness.
Siddhis are born of practices performed in previous births, or by herbs, mantra repetition, asceticism, or by samadhi.
Patanjali begins this book by reviewing the methods by which the siddhis can be obtained by the Yoga practitioner. Some people attain the siddhis without even doing any practices in this life. They don’t know what they did to have these kinds of powers. That is the proof that they have done something in their past lives to merit such powers in this one. He also gives us some clues about the people who get some experiences through psychedelic drugs.
Siddhis also come by the practice of mantra japa or by asceticism. Asceticism, or tapas, means accepting suffering willingly, thus exercising your will power and gaining control over the mind. Finally, Patanjali says that the siddhis can come through samadhi gained by the proper procedure of concentration and meditation.
So, there are various ways of accomplishing the psychic powers. But normally it is recognized that all the others except samadhi are not natural. For example, using herbs means inducing siddhis by the use of certain external stimuli. It’s not an “organic” siddhi. It may come and then fade away. So, siddhis should come in the regular process of Yoga.The transformation of one species into another is brought about by the inflow of Nature.
Incidental events do not directly cause natural evolution; they just remove the obstacles as a farmer [removes the obstacles in a water course running to his field].
It is like the sun outside; it is always there, ready to come into your house. The obstacles are the closed door and windows. If you simply open them, the light shines in.
A yogi’s ego sense alone is the cause of [other] artificially created minds.
Although the functions in the many created minds may differ, the original mind-stuff of the yogi is the director of them all.
Only the minds born of meditation are free from karmic impressions.
The actions of the yogi are neither white [good] nor black [bad]; but the actions of others are of three kinds: good, bad, and mixed.
Of these [actions], only those vasanas (subconscious impressions) for which there are favorable conditions for producing their fruits will manifest in a particular birth.
Although desires are separated from their fulfillments by class, space, and time, they have an uninterrupted relationship because the impressions [of desires] and memories of them are identical.
Since the desire to live is eternal, impressions are also beginningless.
The impressions being held together by cause, effect, basis, and support, disappear with the disappearance of these four.
The past and future exist in the real form of objects which manifest due to differences in the conditions of their characteristics.
Whether manifested or subtle, these characteristics belong to the nature of the gunas.
The reality of things is due to the uniformity of the gunas’ transformations.
Due to differences in various minds, perception of even the same object may vary.
Nor does an object’s existence depend upon a single mind, for if it did, what would become of that object when that mind did not perceive it?
An object is known or unknown dependent on whether or not the mind gets colored by it.
Due to Its changelessness, changes in the mind-stuff are always known to the Purusha, who is its master.
The mind-stuff is not self-luminous because it is an object of perception by the Purusha.
The mind-stuff cannot perceive both subject and object simultaneously [which proves it is not self-luminous].
If the perception of one mind by another mind be postulated, we would have to assume an endless number of them and the result would be confusion of memory.
The consciousness of the Purusha is unchangeable; by getting the reflection of it, the mind-stuff becomes conscious of the Self.
The mind-stuff, when colored by both Seer and seen, understands everything.
Though having countless desires, the mind-stuff exists for the sake of another [the Purusha] because it can act only in association with it.
To one who sees the distinction between the mind and the Atman, thoughts of mind as the Atman cease forever.
Then the mind-stuff is inclined toward discrimination and gravitates toward Absoluteness.
In-between, distracting thoughts may arise due to past impressions.
They can be removed, as in the case of the obstacles as explained before. [See Book 2: sutras 1, 2, 10, 11, and 26].
One who, due to perfect discrimination, is totally disinterested even in the highest rewards, remains in the constant discriminative discernment, which is called dharmamegha (cloud of dharma) samadhi.
[Note: the meaning of dharma includes virtue, justice, law, duty, morality, religion, religious merit, and steadfast decree.]
Here Patanjali talks about a samadhi called dharmamegha samadhi—the cloud of dharma samadhi. Dharmamegha means that all the beautiful qualities are there. One gets into that state when even the desire to be high is gone. Why? Because who desires to get high? Is it the one who is already high? No, as long as the desire to get high is there, you are not high; and when you really get high the desire fades away. You will have attained what is to be attained, and all the desires drop out of you. It is only then you are totally liberated.
From that samadhi all afflictions and karmas cease.
Then all the coverings and impurities of knowledge are totally removed. Because of the infinity of this knowledge, what remains to be known is almost nothing.
What is impurity? It is like the sensitive coating on photographic film. The “I” and “mine” coat our mental film and then want to “catch” everything they see. If not for the sensitive film, you may see many things, but they wouldn’t affect you because nothing would get recorded. A jivanmukta’s mind is like an uncoated crystal-clear mica sheet. It runs through the camera and pictures are shot, but nothing gets recorded. There’s nothing to process, nothing to develop, and nothing to fix. That means there are no “fixations.”
Then the gunas terminate their sequence of transformations because they have fulfilled their purpose.
The sequence [referred to above] means an uninterrupted succession of moments that can be recognized at the end of their transformations.
Thus, the supreme state of Independence manifests while the gunas reabsorb themselves into Prakriti, having no more purpose to serve the Purusha. Or [to look from another angle], the power of pure consciousness settles in its own pure nature.
Patanjali does not mean here that the gunas and Prakriti are really different. But we use the term Prakriti when the gunas are not manifesting separately. When the gunas manifest, Prakriti functions with the Purusha. Once that job is over, the gunas withdraw their action from that Purusha. Or you can put it another way: “The power of pure consciousness settles in its own pure nature.” That means when the gunas withdraw, finishing their job, the Purusha—having gotten completely cleaned—stops running around. It is settled. It is happy in its own true nature. It is no longer seeking happiness and peace from outside because it realizes it is happiness personified.
Now, if we go all the way back to the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras, the second sutra in the first book says, “Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah.” “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.” The third sutra is “Tada drashtuh svarupe’vasthanam.” “Then the Seer (Self) abides in Its own nature.”
The entire four books are the explanations of these two sutras. Chitta vritti nirodhah is the practice. Svarupe’vasthanam is the experience. That’s why he again talks about the experience at the end. You just abide in your own true nature. You have played your games, you have gotten all your experiences, and now you are resting. By abiding he means the true you is resting while your body and mind function.
It’s not that your body and mind necessarily rest always. They have to continue to fulfill the jobs for which they were created. According to the prarabdha, a momentum has been created like a wheel that has been set in motion. You gave a push earlier and the body and mind are facing that now as prarabdha. When you attain the jivanmukta state, the pushing hand is taken away, but the wheel won’t stop immediately. It will continue until the momentum is lost. While the momentum continues, you just rest and watch what is happening as a witness. It’s like an old grandpa watching the children but not being affected by them.
In one sense you are the witness; in another, you are the actor. It depends on where you put yourself. In reality, you are the witness, but if you miss the reality, you are the actor. When you become the actor you are responsible for your actions. When you are the witness you are not responsible for your actions. When you are the witness you are not responsible because you are not acting. So, either act and be responsible, or allow the mind and body to act and be a witness, totally free.
If the body and mind do something wrong, they will undergo certain sufferings. If my mind wants to push my finger into the fire, I am watching. My mind is pushing my finger into the fire. But because I am watching and not doing anything doesn’t mean the finger won’t get burned or that the mind won’t feel the agony of it. When the mind cries, “It got hurt,” I must still watch that. The finger got hurt; the mind is suffering.
Normally, yogis do actions only for the sake of others. They aren’t affected by them because they are not doing anything for their own sake. Whatever the outcome, it goes to somebody else. Karma Yoga—selfless service without personal expectation—is done by the mind.
In fact, it is the mind that does all Yoga practice, not the real you. That’s why we rarely even talk about the true you. You can leave the real you alone. It is the image-you or the ego-you that needs Yoga. It is to the ego that the teaching is given: “If you want to be quiet and happy, perform actions for others’ sake.” No scripture is necessary for the true Self. The entire practice is for the ego or lower self, the individual self.
So, let the lower self or ego or chitta free itself from its egoistic activity. Then, it can also rest in peace, reflecting the Self. The mind need not always be functioning; and even if it is functioning, it can function peacefully and joyfully. Then it won’t be a burden for the mind to function. When a yogi performs something, he or she enjoys it. It’s a play—a game—to enact.
Scriptures talking of the Self are just for the sake of our intellectual understanding. But the practical truth for the ego is very simple. Just learn to be selfless. Learn to lead a dedicated life. Whatever you do, do it for others. The dedicated ever enjoy peace.
That’s the reason I really don’t speak about the scriptures very much. My students wanted to make a book about the Yoga Sutras, so I have said all this. But for myself, I feel we don’t really need scriptures. The entire life is an open book, a scripture. Read it.
Learn while digging a pit or chopping some wood or cooking some food. If you can’t learn from your daily activities, how are you going to understand the scriptures?
In conclusion, it is my sincere wish and prayer that each one of you experience the peace and joy of Yoga through the help and grace of the great Yoga adept Patanjali Maharishi and that you all attain the supreme achievement to which his Yoga Sutras point. May you go beyond mere book knowledge and attain realization through purity of heart in your very lives.
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
The Sanskrit words in this book would ordinarily be written in another alphabet (Devanagari). Throughout the text, they are written phonetically for ease of pronunciation in English. In the standard edition of this book and in this glossary, however, the following letters and diacritical marks are used to represent the sounds of the Sanskrit words more accurately.The Sanskrit letters are arranged in sequence according to their origin when spoken: throat, palate, roof of mouth, teeth, and lips.
Given below are the letters of the Sanskrit Devanagari script, the letters and diacritical marks used to represent their sounds, and some examples of those sounds in English.
a as in up, soda
ā as in father
i as in fill, pin
ī as in feed
u as in full, bush
ū as in fool, rule
ṛ as in Christmas (but not pronouncing the “i”)
ṝ as ṛ (but held twice as long)
ḷ as in slur (but not pronouncing the “l”)
Please note: the letters ṛ, ṝ and ḷ are vowels, and are not to be confused with the consonants r and l.
e as in they, pray (always long)
ai as in aisle
o as in go
au as in how
ṁ as in hum
ḥ is a final sound pronounced with a stronger puff of air and the suggestion of the vowel preceding it. For example, aḥ sounds like aha; iḥ like ihi.
k as in seek
kh as in back-hand
g as in good
gh as in dig-hard
ṅ as in sing, monkey
c as in pitch
ch as in Church-hill
j as in joy
jh as in hedge-hog
ñ as in canyon
ṭ as in tub
ṭh as in hit-hard
ḍ as in deer
ḍh as in red-hot
ṇ as in not
t as in pat (with the tongue touching the back of the teeth)
th as in hit-hard (with the tongue touching the back of the teeth)
d as in dense (with the tongue touching the back of the teeth)
dh as in red-hot (with the tongue touching the back of the teeth)
n as in nut
p as in pin
ph as in up-hill
b as in bird
bh as in abhor
m as in mud
y as in yes
r as in ladder (when said quickly)
l as in light
v as in voice
s as in sun
ś as in shun (with the top of the tongue against the palate)
ṣ as in sure (with the tongue pulled back and the tip touching the ridge of the back of teeth)
h as in honey
The syllable jña commonly occurs in Sanskrit. It sounds more or less like gnya.
The vowels and consonants are pronounced the same whenever they appear in a word. Each syllable of a word is stressed equally, with the long vowels held twice as long as the short. Because each short and long vowel is a different letter in Sanskrit, it is important to pronounce them correctly. Mispronunciation changes the Sanskrit spelling, making another word with another meaning. For example, rājā (long “a”) means king, while raja (short “a”) means dust.
Glossary of Sanskrit Terms
abhiniveśa—clinging to bodily life
ābhyantara vṛtti—internal retention of breath
Adiśeṣa—the thousand-headed cobra upon which the world rests according to Hindu mythology
āgami karma—karma being performed in the present
Agni—fire; the deva (god) or ruling power of fire
ahimsā—non-injury (one of the yamas)
ānapānasati—(Pali) Buddhist meditation technique involving watching the incoming and outgoing breath
anāgata—not yet come (refers to the silence beyond the OM vibration, the unpronounced praṇava); the heart cakra
apāna—energy descending from the navel pit within the human body
aparigrahā—non-greed, non-hoarding, non-acceptance of gifts (one of the yamas)
asamprajñata—undistinguished samādhi (see Book 1, sūtra 18)
āsana—pose (the 3rd of the eight limbs of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga); seat
āsana siddhi—accomplishment of an asāna
asmita—egoity, ego sense, egoism, I-ness
āśrama—a spiritual community where seekers practice and study under the guidance of a spiritual master; every stage of life, such as brahmacarya, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, and sannyāsa
Aṣṭāṅga Yoga—the Yoga of eight limbs; another name for Rāja Yoga (see Book 2, sūtra 29)
asteya—non-stealing (one of the yamas)
Ātma, Ātman—the Self
Āyurveda—(lit. scripture of life) one of the Indian systems of medicine
bāhya vṛtti—external retention of breath
Bhagavad Gītā—Hindu scripture in which Lord Kṛṣṇa instructs his disciple Arjuna in the various aspects of Yoga
bhāvana—thought, feeling; attitude
brahmacarya—(lit. relating to Brahman) continence, sense control, celibacy (one of the yamas); the stage in life of the celibate student
brahmamuhūrta—two-hour period before sunrise (between four and six a.m.), especially conducive to meditation
Brahman—the unmanifest supreme consciousness or God;
buddhi—intellect; discriminative faculty of the mind
cakra—(lit. wheel) one of the subtle nerve centers along the spine which, when concentrated upon, yields experiences of various levels of consciousness
cit—the principle of universal intelligence or consciousness
citta-nāśa—(lit. death of the mind) dissolution of mind in meditation
Dakṣiṇāmūrti—(lit. south-faced deity) an aspect of Lord Śiva in which he instructs through silence
darśana—vision or experience of a divine form or being
deśa—space; place of concentration during Yoga practice
deva—celestial being; controller of an aspect of nature
deva loka—the plane where the gods abide
dhāraṇā—concentration (the sixth of the eight limbs of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga)
dharma—duty, righteousness, moral
dharmamegha samādhi—cloud of virtue” samādhi (see Book 4, sūtra 29)
dhyāna—meditation (the 7th of the eight limbs of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga)
ekāgrata pariṇāma—mental modification of one-pointedness
gṛhastha—householder stage of life
guṇa—one of the qualities of nature (sattva, rajas, and tamas or balance, activity, and inertia)
guru—(lit. remover of darkness) spiritual guide, teacher
hāno-pāya—method for the removal of sorrow
hatha—(lit. ha—sun; tha—moon)
Hatha Yoga—the physical aspect of Yoga practice, including postures (āsanas), breathing techniques (prāṇāyāma), seals (mudras), locks (bandhas), and cleansing practices (kriyas)
hiṁsā—injury or pain; violence
Indra—the king of the gods or ruling powers of nature
Iṣta devatā—one’s chosen deity
Īśvara—the supreme cosmic soul; God
Īśvara praṇidhāna—worship of God or self-surrender (one of the yamas)
japa—repetition of a mantra
Japa Yoga—science of mantra repetition
jīvanmukta—liberated living soul
jñāna—wisdom of the Self; knowledge, idea
Jñāna Yoga—Yoga of Self-inquiry
jyotiḥ—illumination, effulgence, light
kaivalya—experience of absoluteness; non-qualified experience
karma—action and reaction
Karma Yoga—performing actions as selfless service without attachment to the results
karmāśaya—womb, or bag, of karmas
kāya-kalpa—a tonic for physical rejuvenation
kevala—without qualities or conditions
kevala kuṁbhaka—natural, automatic breath retention during deep meditation
kleśa—obstruction or obstacle
kriyā—action, practice; (Hatha Yoga) cleansing practice
Kriyā Yoga—according to Patañjali: the three preliminary steps in Yoga (tapas, svadhyaya, and Īśvara praṇidhāna or austerity, study, and self-surrender)
kuṇdalinī—(lit. coiled energy) the energy stored at the base of every individual’s spine
loka—a world of names and forms
mahāvrata—(lit. great vows) refers to the yamas
manas—the desiring faculty of the mind-stuff
Māṇḍukya Upaniṣad—the Upanishadic treatise of OM, considered the crest jewel of all the Upaniṣads
mano-nāśa—death or dissolution of the mind
mantra—(lit. that makes the mind steady) a sound formula for meditation
mayūrāsana—(Hatha Yoga) the peacock pose
mudrā—sign, seal, or symbol
mukta—set free, released, liberated
musu-musu-kkai—(Tamil) herb used for Ayurvedic healing; it also means “hand of monkey” and “monkey”
nāḍī suddhi—(Hatha Yoga) nerve-cleansing prāṇāyāma in which one breathes alternately through left and right nostrils
Nārada—a sage and celestial singer of divine names
nauli—(Hatha Yoga) stomach kriyā where one isolates and then churns the abdominal recti muscles
Nāyanārs—the sixty-three Saivite saints of South India
nirbīja—without seed, seedless
nirodha parināma—the moment of conjunction of a thought and one’s effort to restrain it
nirvāna—(lit. nakedness) in the Buddhist teachings, the state of liberation
nirvicāra—without reflection (see Book 1, sūtra 44)
nirvikalpa—without thought or imagination
nirvitarka—without reasoning (see Book 1, sūtra 43)
niyama—observance (the second of the eight limbs of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga; see Book 2, sūtra 32)
OM—the cosmic sound vibration which includes all other sounds and vibrations, the basic mantra, the absolute Brahman as sound
ojas—the subtle energy resulting from the preservation of sexual energy
pādārtha—a thing; the substance and its meaning
pāñca indriya—the five senses
Pāñca Tantra—(lit.) five attitudes or approaches
Parabrahman—the supreme unmanifest consciousness or God
paścimotanāsana—(Hatha Yoga) the full-forward bending pose
Patāñjali Mahārṣi—yogi and sage who compiled the Yoga Sūtras; considered to be the “Father of Yoga”
prāṇa—the vital energy
prāṇa-apāna—the ascending and descending energy within the human body
praṇava—OM, the basic hum of the universe
prāṇāyāma—the practice of controlling the vital force, usually through control of the breath (the fourth of the eight limbs of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga)
prārabdha karma—the karma which has caused one’s present birth
prasādam—consecrated food offering; grace
pratipakṣa bhāvana—practice of substituting opposite thought forms in the mind
pratyāhāra—sense control; withdrawal of the senses from their objects (the 5th of the eight limbs of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga)
Puruṣa—the divine Self which abides in all beings
rāga—liking, desire; tune
Rāja Yoga—the “Royal Yoga;” the system of concentration and meditation based on ethical discipline
rajas—activity; restlessness (one of the three guṇas)
Rām(a)—a name of God; a powerful seed mantra
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886)—saint of India; Guru of Swami Vivekananda
Rāmana Maharṣi—(1879-1950) sage of Thiruvannamalai; jñāni of India
Rāmāyana—epic telling the story of Lord Rāma as a dutiful son, brother, husband, warrior and king
ṛtaṁbharā prajñā—absolute true consciousness
sa-ānanda—samādhi on the sattvic mind (see Book 1, sūtra 17)
sa-asmita—samādhi on the egoity alone (see Book 1, sūtra 17)
śabda—sound, word, or name
sadhu—a spiritual person, often a wandering mendicant
sahasrāra (cakra)—thousand-petaled lotus; the subtle center at the crown of the head, where the consciousness and energy go in the higher samādhis
Śaiva Siddhānta—a philosophy which leads to the worship of the Absolute as Lord Śiva
Śaivism—sect of Hinduism which worships the Absolute as Lord Śiva
śakti, Śakti—energy; the Divine Mother
samādhi—contemplation, superconscious state, absorption, (the eighth and final limb or culmination of the eight limbs of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga)
samādhi pariṇāma—development in samādhi
saṁkyā—count in prāṇāyāma
saṁprajñāta—distinguished samādhi (see Book 1, sūtra 17)
saṁsāra—round of births and deaths; family
saṁyama—practice of dhārāṇa, dhyāna, and samādhi upon one object, usually for the attainment of a particular power
sanjita karma—karma awaiting another lifetime to bear fruit
sannyāsi—a renunciate; member of the Holy Order of Sannyās, having taken formal initiation from another sannyāsi