Yoga Sutra of Patanjali
We will continue with Chapter 2.
A small note on what we are doing. This is part of the practice of Svadhyaya. We will learn more about this also in the current chapter of Patanjali Yoga Sutras. But as a little seed i have copied the following sutra below:
2.44 From self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), one attains contact, communion, or concert with that underlying natural reality or force.
(svadhyayat ishta devata samprayogah)
In other words, we study the texts and for example listen to masters and guru’s talk to be inspired, guided and as a reference point for our own practice. When you travel it is always better to have someone local as a guide and interpreter. You always have a more in depth experience of the place you are visiting…
Chapter 2 of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras: Sadhana Pada, deals with the Practical aspects of yoga.
Below the overview of the chapter:
Practices: Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras is entitled Sadhana Pada, which means the chapter on practices. Chapter 2 outlines specific tools of attention that are used to systematically carve out, or cut away the obstacles of the inner mental shield that is blocking the light of the Self within. This includes the first 5 of the 8 rungs of yoga, known as ashtanga yoga.
The 55 sutras of Chapter 2 have been divided into 9 sections:
- Minimizing gross coloring (2.1-2.9)
- Dealing with subtle thoughts (2.10-2.11)
- Breaking the alliance of karma (2.12-2.25)
- The 8 rungs and discrimination (2.26-2.29)
- Yamas and Niyamas, rungs #1 and 2 of 8 (2.30-2.34)
- Benefits from Yamas and Niyamas (2.35-2.45)
- Asana, rung #3 of 8 (2.46-2.48)
- Pranayama, rung #4 of 8 (2.49-2.53)
- Pratyahara, rung #5 of 8 (2.54-2.55)
Let’s look at the first 3 sutras for the first section:
There is alot of information in this text. And you will need a few years to understand it intelectually AND practically. But for now, try to investigate and then ponder the following terms:
- Ishvara Pranidhana
tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana kriya-yogah
Yoga in the form of action (kriya yoga) has three parts: 1) training and purifying the senses (tapas), 2) self-study in the context of teachings (svadhyaya), and 3) devotion and letting go into the creative source from which we emerged (ishvara pranidhana).
- tapah = accepting the purifying aspects of painful experience, purifying action, training the senses
- svadhyaya = self-study in the context of teachings, remembrance of sacred word or mantra
- ishvara = creative source, causal field, God, supreme Guru or teacher
- pranidhana = practicing the presence, dedication, devotion, surrender of fruits of practice
- kriya-yogah = yoga of practice, action, practical yoga
These three practices work together: A bit of reflection will show clearly how the three principles (tapas, svadhyaya, ishvara pranidhana) work together. The principles are really familiar to us all, but seeing them clustered together as a single mode of spiritual practice is very useful. The mind can easily remember the three principles together as a single practice; it becomes a companion in daily life.
Reminding yourself of Kriya Yoga: When thinking about life and spiritual practices, it is easy then to remind yourself of this foundation by internally saying such words as, “I need to train my senses, explore within, and let go of these attachments and aversions.” Contained in a simple sentence like this is the outline of Kriya Yoga (that simple sentence contains tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvara pranidhana). Then, the many other practices of the Yoga Sutras, along with other practices you might do, can be done in this straightforward context. Remember that this is the gross level of weakening the colored thought patterns, and that this is preparation for the subtler part, which is done in meditation (2.10-2.11).
Ishvara pranidhana: The emphasis of ishvara pranidhana practice is the release or surrender that is done in a sincere, dedicated, or devotional attitude. It is easy to get caught up in debates over the nature of God, Guru, creative source, and teacher. Yoga is very broad and non-sectarian, leaving it open to each individual how to perceive these realities. The more important part is that of letting go rather than holding on to the images and desires of the senses (tapas) and the personal characteristics and makeup uncovered through introspection (svadhyaya). Without such a letting go, the other two of the three practices in this sutra would be of little or no value; you would have knowledge but little freedom.
Meaning of Ishvara: In the Upanishads, the word Īśvara is used to denote a state of collective consciousness. Thus, God is not a being that sits on a high pedestal beyond the sun, moon, and stars; God is actually the state of Ultimate Reality. But due to the lack of direct experience, God has been personified and given various names and forms by religions throughout the ages. When one expands one’s individual consciousness to the Universal Consciousness, it is called Self-realization, for the individual self has realized the unity of diversity, the very underlying principle, or Universal Self, beneath all forms and names. The great sages of the Upanishads avoid the confusions related to conceptions of God and encourage students to be honest and sincere in their quests for Self-realization. Upanishadic philosophy provides various methods for unfolding higher levels of truth and helps students to be able to unravel the mysteries of the individual and the universe. (from Swami Rama in the section What God Is from Enlightenment Without God)
Modern versions of Kriya Yoga: Some modern teachers and institutions consider the entire Yoga Sutras to be Kriya Yoga, although Patanjali only relates the term Kriya Yoga to these three foundation practices. Often, breathing practices with attention along the spine (sushumna) are included, along with other physical practices. It is useful for the student of Yoga to be aware of these different approaches, so as to not get confused by the various public offerings. These adjunct practices themselves are very useful, whether or not you consider them to be a part of Kriya Yoga, or separate practices coming from Pranayama (breath practice, 2.49-2.53), Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, or Tantra Yoga, for example. In addition, the word Kriya literally means actions, and one might ask a teacher or ashram, “What is your Kriya?” meaning to inquire, “What kind of practices do you do and teach here?” Thus, many practices might be included in the phrase Kriya Yoga. To the Himalayan Masters, Kriya Yoga is a part of the whole of Yoga.
samadhi bhavana arthah klesha tanu karanarthah cha
That Yoga of action (kriya yoga) is practiced to bring about samadhi and to minimize the colored thought patterns (kleshas).
- samadhi = deep absorption of meditation, the state of perfected concentration
- bhavana = to bring about, cultivate
- arthah = for the purpose of
- klesha = colored, painful, afflicted, impure
- tanu-karana = minimize, to make fine, attenuate, weaken
- arthah = for the purpose
- cha = and
Reasons for Kriya Yoga: This sutra provides the context and reason for doing the Kriya Yoga (tapas, svadhyaya, ishvara pranidhana):
- Kriya Yoga purifies the mind, allowing the gross level of the colorings (2.3) to be weakened (2.4).
- Kriya Yoga is an early stage of the journey, which leads directly towards samadhi.
Seeing the systematic process: It is most useful to see the systematic nature of these practices, whereby you first do the gross level of stabilizing the mind, such as through the methods in Chapter 1 (1.30-1.32, 1.33-1.39). Then, the gross colorings (kleshas) are attenuated through Kriya Yoga, which is the subject of the sutras discussed in this section (tanu-karana means attenuating the kleshas or colorings, afflictions, or impurities). Then, building upon that foundation, the subtler attenuation is done (2.10-2.11), and the breaking of the alliance with karma (2.12-2.25).
There is a very important principle in this sutra. That is, the means of reducing the kleshas is suggested. We might encounter many explanations, definitions, discussions, or debates about the meaning of the word klesha, but it is clear from the next sutra (2.3) that they have something to do with mental habits like attractions and aversions, with which we are all familiar. It can be argued that the meaning of klesha is extremely subtle, however, it also has very practical application to even the beginning level of meditator. Again, every one of us knows the problems caused by our attractions and aversions.
Here, this sutra is telling us that the means of weakening (though not yet eliminating) those negative habits of mind is the three-fold method in the last sutra (2.1). While students of meditation might struggle with all of the seemingly complex principles, here is a simple suggestion that has only three parts. That is very, very useful in that these three principles of tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvara pranidhana are relatively easy to understand at some level, and are highly effective in weakening the mental clutter.
avidya asmita raga dvesha abhinivesha pancha klesha
There are five kinds of coloring (kleshas): 1) forgetting, or ignorance about the true nature of things (avidya), 2) I-ness, individuality, or egoism (asmita), 3) attachment or addiction to mental impressions or objects (raga), 4) aversion to thought patterns or objects (dvesha), and 5) love of these as being life itself, as well as fear of their loss as being death.
- avidya = spiritual forgetting, ignorance, veiling, nescience
- asmita = associated with I-ness
- raga = attraction or drawing to, addiction
- dvesha = aversion or pushing away, hatred
- abhinivesha = resistance to loss, fear of death of identity, desire for continuity, clinging to the life of
- pancha = five
- klesha = colored, painful, afflicted, impure; the root klish means to cause trouble; (klesha is the noun form of the adjective klishta)
See also the Five Kleshas section of Witnessing Your Thoughts
A most important practice in Yoga: Cultivating self-awareness of the five kleshas is one of the most important foundation practices in the entire science of Yoga. Note that in Chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutra, the first four sutras describe or define Yoga, and that the very next sutra (1.5) introduces the concept of the many levels of thought patterns being either klishta (colored) or aklishta (uncolored). Now, in this current sutra (and Kriya Yoga in general), the concept is expanded, describing the nature of the five individual kleshas. In Kriya Yoga, the gross level of coloring is dealt with (2.1), while the next few sutras begin the process of dealing with the subtler colorings (2.10-2.11, 2.12-2.25). It works in stages, first reducing the gross, and then the subtle. To be aware of the practice of self-awareness or witnessing of the kleshas of our own mind is a very useful thing to do.
The five kleshas: Each of the five kleshas are described separately in the forthcoming sutras:
- Avidya (2.4, 2.5) = spiritual forgetting, ignorance, veiling, nescience
- Asmita (2.6) = associated with I-ness
- Raga (2.7) = attraction or drawing to, addiction
- Dvesha (2.8) = aversion or pushing away, hatred
- Abhinivesha (2.9) = resistance to loss, fear of death of identity, desire for continuity, clinging to the life of
Four stages of kleshas: The five colorings (klishta) of individual deep thought patterns are in one of four states. These are described in the next sutra (2.4), as part of introducing specifics about the nature of the five kleshas themselves.
Allow streams of individual thoughts to flow: One of the best ways to get a good understanding of witnessing the kleshas (colorings) is to sit quietly and intentionally allow streams of individual thoughts to arise. This doesn’t mean thinking or worrying. It literally is an experiment in which you intentionally let an image come. It is easiest to do with what seem to be insignificant impressions.
For example, imagine a fruit, and notice what comes to mind. An apple may come to mind, and you simply note “Attraction” if you like it, or are drawn to it. It may not be a strong coloring, but maybe you notice there is some coloring. You may think of a pear, and note that there is an ever so slight “aversion” because you do not like pears.
Experiment with colorings: Allow lots of such to images come. One of the things I have done often with people is to grab about 10-15 small stones in my hand, and ask a person to pick one they like. Then I ask them to pick one they are less drawn to (few people will say they “dislike” one of the stones). It is a very simple experiment that demonstrates the way in which attractions and aversions are born. It is easier at first to experiment with witnessing thoughts for which there is only slight coloring, only a small amount of attraction or aversion.
You can easily run such experiments with many objects arising into the field of mind from the unconscious. You can also easily do this by observing the world around you. Notice the countless ways in which your attention is drawn to this or that object or person, but gently or strongly turns away from other objects or people.
Though it is a bit harder to do, notice the countless objects you pass by everyday for which there is no response whatsoever. These are examples of neutral impressions in the mind field.
Gradually witness stronger colorings: By observing in this way, it is easier to gradually witness stronger attractions and aversions in a similar way. When we can begin the process of witnessing the type of coloring, then we can start the process of attenuating the coloring, which is discussed in the next section.
If you are very curious the above mentioned website is a jewel! You will spend hours there!
Or maybe you already have your books to look into further. It is always good to have another perspective (in the form of someone else’s comments) on the Sutras.
And now, the real work start, how do you integrate these sutras in your life and practice?
Tell me about in in the comments or let’s talk about it soon after class!