Summary of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
SECTION ONE - SAMADHI PADA
Basically sums up yoga and the mind, the essence of which Patanjali conveys very well in just his first four sutras.
No. 1. Atha Yoganusasanum
Implying a person has to be ready to undertake a process of change for the good of themselves as a whole.
No. 2. Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah
When the thoughts slow down and there is more space from them, this is yoga.
No. 3. Tada Drastuh Svarupa Avasthanam
Then the part of you that watches your thoughts come and go is revealed. This awareness is energy and intelligence in pure and expanded form.
No. 4. Vritti Sarupyam Itaratra
At all other times the mind takes the form of 5 fluctuations – correct knowledge, incorrect knowledge, imagination, memory and sleep.
The nine distractions of the mind are –
carelessness, doubt, dullness, false view, instability, inability to concentrate or get started, laziness, sickness of the mind and sense addiction.
ABYASA AND VARAGYA
In section one of Patanjali’s sutras two key aspects stand out that are required to cultivate the mind – Abyasa and Varagya.
Abyasa is constant, regular practice over a long period of time with love. In other words doing the work without being too intense.
Varagya is remaining non-biased or dispassionate to the truth, this allows you to move through any situation and learn.
SECTION TWO - SADHANA PADA
Deals with the practices of yoga, including the first five limbs of Raj Yoga.
The first two are intellectual defects –
Avidya is lack of knowledge. Through not understanding, ones thoughts and actions become out of context with truth and reality which create suffering.
Asmita is the part of the mind that separates from wholeness. It puts yourself up to be better than everyone else or down to be worse than everyone else, either way isolating you.
The next two are emotional defects –
Raga causes you to get to close to things, putting pressure on you to have it.
Dvesh results in trying to avoid things, putting pressure on you to not experience things.
This last one is an instinctive defect –
Abhinivesha is basically clinging to things staying the same. This resists one of the most natural realities of life, thus creating suffering when situations change or come and go.
Patanjali prescribes the three essential ingredients needed for transformation to occur in yoga:
Tapas (heat) – there needs to be heat generated to burn off impurities of mind, body and emotion. This happens when you enter into restrictions or blockages.
Svadhyaya (Self enquiry) – essential in order to see what is really happening within you and then understand what’s happening externally. Much like a pitch fork turning over the soil, removing weeds to create fertile soil, so too, self enquiry sifts through and allows the truth to come through.
Ishvara Pranidhana (letting go/surrendering) – this needs to occur to allow your higher Self to come through. In other words not trying to control everything.
A key word in section two is Vivek which means discrimination. It implies one is able to distinguish between what is of worth and can be relied upon and what is counterproductive and can’t be relied upon. Vivek avoids the dissatisfaction of getting caught in the web of blame and praise, which traps you into needing praise to feel good and not feeling good when you get blamed.
These first two limbs, the Yamas and Niyamas, really harmonise ones relationships and provide a foundation for communication. They allow for trust, respect and the ability to feel safe.
The Yamas work more on refining the organs of action:
Non-violence leads to abandonment of hostility or not being compelled to react to things.
Non-greed or non-possessiveness allows for faith in how things come and go as needed. By not clinging to external possessions you retain the space to connect with your one eternal possession, your higher Self.
Non-stealing develops appreciation. This also applies to not supporting others taking what’s not theirs.
Moderation of the energy through the senses allows you to retain more vigour. This energy can then be used for higher purposes.
Through truthfulness you get to see the results of your actions. Even if it’s not appropriate to speak the truth in a situation, you can still live the truth with what you do and how you do it.
The Niyamas refine more the organs of perception:
Purity really starts with first purifying your motive. If your motive is to be conscious, it takes into account the whole situation and what is best for the bigger picture.
Contentment allows you to be happy right now and unify with the present moment. Work with the cards you have been dealt.
These last three are the same as explained previously in Kriya Yoga –
Tapas (heat), Svadhyaya (self enquiry) and Ishvara Pranidhana (letting go).
Whilst practicing the third limb Asana or postures works the body, it is essentially developing the ability to sit back from the mind.
There are many different techniques of Pranayama, all of which should be learnt over time and with guidance.
Ujjayi pranayama is the foundation these techniques. Ujjayi literally means “victorious” (victory over the mind) and is achieved by breathing a deep, full, even breath through the nose into the back of the throat whilst giving the breath a sound you can clearly hear.
This draws the mind from thinking and takes it towards breathing and feeling, resulting in awareness.
Pratyahara is a great skill that allows you to take your focus from the outer world and use the awareness of your senses inwardly. You do this to see what is happening inside, to become more connected to the energy vibrating within, to feel what is tense and release it.
Initially this is far more accessible with the eyes closed then slowly you develop the ability to do it with the eyes open.
SECTION THREE - VIBHUTI PADA
Deals with more penetrating and powerful areas of oneself. It includes the last three limbs of Raj Yoga which are the results or effect of practicing the first five limbs.
The sixth, seventh and eighth limbs of the Raj Yoga combined are called Samyama. Patanjali presents that Samyama on a given subject brings understanding, integration and unity with whatever that subject is.
My teacher would sometimes explain the sixth and seventh limbs simply as:
Dharana is when you focus the attention
Dhyana is taking the tension out of the attention
The eighth limb, Samadhi, is the ability to remain in a state of meditation regardless of what you are doing. For this to happen a person would need to put in a lot of time and energy connecting to Self.
Really most of yoga is unwrapping the Karma a person has created for themselves through past actions. At anytime something can trigger these Samskaras or past imprints that come up and influence a persons ability to feel at peace.
The reason they come up is because they haven’t yet been integrated or understood.
Just as a fire will burn out if you don’t keep putting more fuel on it, so the Samskaras will dissolve by simply breathing and not continuing to hold on to that way of thinking and feeling.
THE GUNAS AND PURUSA
As mentioned earlier in Patanjali’s section two, following the eight limbs of yoga develops unfaltering discrimination – Vivek. He now presents that through this highly evolved Vivek a person can always keep sight of the difference between the changing Gunas and the permanent Purusa. This gives freedom from the suffering caused by attachment to things that are changing. In other words once you know something is going to come and go, you know longer put all your eggs in that basket.
As simple as it may sound, the inherent characteristics of all created things are always changing and evolving between the three basic qualities of nature called the Gunas.
Going from (1) heavy and stuck,
to (2) movement,
then becoming (3) light and functional
and over time back to (1) heavy again.
On the other hand you have Self or Purusa which is pure existence and is beyond change. Just as in physics it is proven that the sum total of energy doesn’t disappear, matter just changes form. In a human being this permanent energy and intelligence takes the form of awareness or the witness which is the backdrop of everything that happens in a person’s life.
SECTION FOUR - KAIVALYA PADA
Deals with absolute liberation which is really summed up by the final sutra.
When a person goes back to the essence of all experiences in nature or the external world having gained knowledge and understanding, they are totally free of any compulsive involvement.
Instead they retain a conscious choice of how and when they interact in life.