Sutra 1.1

Last Wednesday at our Fundamentals class we started briefly to consider the significance of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Chapter 1, Aphorism 1 or Sutra 1.1: अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१॥ “Atha yoga anu-sha-sa-num” which amongst many possible interpretations means: Now starts the instruction on yoga, OR, This is yoga. Join us each week as we continue to explore these foundational concepts. 

May the road ahead be direct and clear! 

PatanjaliChris Johnson
Sutra 1.2
Picture of the Grand Canyon from sipra's trip this spring. 

Picture of the Grand Canyon from sipra's trip this spring. 

In Sutra 1.2 Patanjali states, ‘yogash chitta vritti nirodha ha’ or योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः॥२॥ Yoga is learning to stop the waves of thought that continue their own ‘drum-beat’ in our consciousness. How can we stop the chatter? A regular practice of Yoga is a pretty good start, as is helps to access the parasympathetic nervous system, calming down the heart and relaxing us. What is your sure-fire way to bring yourself to the present?

PatanjaliChris Johnson
Sutra 1.3
Picture from sipra on her trip to the Southwest last Easter. Gratitude to her daughter Tai for planning such a thoughtful and spectacular trip.

Picture from sipra on her trip to the Southwest last Easter. Gratitude to her daughter Tai for planning such a thoughtful and spectacular trip.

 तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपेऽवस्थानम्॥३॥

tudaa drashtuha svaroopey vasthaanum

To me, Barbara Miller’s translation is really apt. In her words, ‘When thought ceases, the spirit stands in its true identity as observer to the world.’ This is the essence of meditation, to be so quiet in the brain and beyond it in the mind, that we can step outside the body and simply be an observer looking at ourselves in awe and amazement – for that is truly who we are. 

PatanjaliChris Johnson
Sutra 1.4
  Picture of a wild and chaotic tumbleweed (Russian thistle) from sipra's spring trip to the Southwest.

 

Picture of a wild and chaotic tumbleweed (Russian thistle) from sipra's spring trip to the Southwest.

वृत्तिसारूप्यमितरत्र॥४॥

vrit-tee svaroop-yam iter-rutra

This aphorism may be translated as, ‘When not submerged in stillness, the distracted mind connects to random thought patterns and believes they are real.’ How many of us take the time daily to actually connect to the 'still-point' within and observe ourselves?

PatanjaliChris Johnson
Sutra 1.5
From sipra's trip to the Southwest

From sipra's trip to the Southwest

वृत्तयः पञ्चतय्यः क्लिष्टाक्लिष्टाः॥५॥

vrittaya-ha pancha-ta-i-ah-ha klishta aklishta-ha

Barbara Miller’s translation of this sutra or ‘thread’ is: ‘The turnings of thought, whether corrupted or immune to the forces of corruption, are of five kinds.’ How many thoughts do you have that are a clear stream of absolute truth? No matter what the quality of each thought, all thoughts either are painful or free of pain.

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.6
Petrified wood from sipra's trip to the Southwest. Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified wood from sipra's trip to the Southwest. Petrified Forest National Park

प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतयः॥६॥

pramaana, vipara-yaaya, vikalpaa, nidraa, smrutaa-ya-ha

All mental processes can be reduced to one or more of these five: correct and informed knowledge; indiscriminate and false understanding; verbal delusion leading to imaginary fantasies; sleep and the dream state; memory. Pay attention to each thought all day long with awareness. Notice how your stress level is reduced. Learn more about the depth and power of yoga.

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.7

प्रत्यक्षानमानागमाः प्रमाणानि॥७॥

prat-yaksha-anumaana-agamaa-ha pramaa-naani


Ravi Ravindra translates this as "True knowledge is based upon perception, inference, and valid testimony." We have to start observing all our random thoughts that are not so random after all, since they are based on and are derived from our personal experience.

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.8
Picture from sipra's trip to the American Southwest.

Picture from sipra's trip to the American Southwest.

विपर्ययो मिथ्याज्ञानमतद्रूपप्रतिष्ठम्॥८॥

vipara-yayo mithyaag~gyaanam atad-roopa pratisht-tham
"Illusion is false knowledge without an objective basis."

Conflicts often arise from our varied and differing perception of the same things. Just observe the political scene right now. You would think the two opposing sides in the US electoral battle lived on two different continents or in two different worlds. What appeals to our particular circumstance or experience becomes our reality but that is not necessarily the truth. 

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.9
Picture from sipra's trip to the Southwest.

Picture from sipra's trip to the Southwest.

शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः॥९॥

shabda gyaanaanu paathee vastu-shunyo vikalpa-ha

 ‘Imagination is thought based on images conjured up by words devoid of substance.’ - Prof. Ravi Ravindra. 
We live in our minds, recreating our past experiences and imagining our future. Yoga is about creating stillness in the mind which is attentive to the present moment, so that we may observe through silence the pure consciousness of our Being.

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.10
An ancient door knocker from sipra's relative's home in Pune.

An ancient door knocker from sipra's relative's home in Pune.

Sutra 1.10: अभावप्रत्ययालम्बना वृत्तिर्निद्रा॥१०॥ 
(abhaava pratya-ya alam-banaa vrttir nidraa) 

Sleep is the mind state without any objective awareness. Why is it so difficult to find this state of rest, so close to the condition known as Samadhi in yoga? It is where we can find release and healing. Learn about simple ways to get to sleep and reach the state of non-dreaming deep sleep through regular pre-bedtime practices, diet and yoga poses. 

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.11

अनुभूतविषयासंप्रमोषः स्मृतिः॥११॥
anubhuta vishayaa sampra-mosha-ha smriti-ha
‘Memory is recollecting past experience.’ Ravi Ravindra

Our memory is unique to each of us, since our experiences in life are so different. An extension of this thought is that for each of us, reality or what we feel is real is actually very different from one person to the next, no matter how close our relationships.

 

https://www.facebook.com/YogaWellBeing.MovementArts/posts/10154352447417211

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.12
Bridge at the Vivekananda Retreat in Ganges, Michigan. http://chicagovedanta.org/ganges.html

Bridge at the Vivekananda Retreat in Ganges, Michigan. http://chicagovedanta.org/ganges.html

अभ्यासवैराग्याभ्यां तन्निरोधः॥१२॥

abhyaasa vairaagya aabhyaam tun nirodha-ha

Ravi Ravindra’s translation is, ‘Stillness of the mind develops through practice (abhyaasa) and non-attachment (vairaagya).’

In yoga, the expression, ‘Aham Brahamasmi’ means ‘I am in Brahman, or ‘I am the Infinite Reality’. Being intelligent, I have a deep recognition of the ultimate spiritual creature that I am. But to get above my commonplace needs, desires and stresses, I have to discipline myself repeatedly, and daily practice non-doing in doing, and living life not being affected by the result of each incident and its consequences. When you can live in vairagya through abhyasa there will be no stresses, just serenity.

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.13

तत्र स्थितौ यत्नोऽभ्यासः॥१३॥

tatra sthhi-thau yatno ‘bhyaasa ha

Of the two, sustained and disciplined practice keeps one in a state of yoga (where the mind is still). Of the two fundamentals, commitment and surrender, committed practice needs to happen first and constantly. We can only surrender our need for approval after we determine what our goal in our life is, and then committing to our goals. If we can constantly be aware of what is going on in the mind, just watching it all the time instead of reacting, we become observers simply watching the objects/thoughts/emotions dancing in our heads. It allows us to step back and stop reacting to every single thought and emotion that comes our way. Our tendency generally speaking, is to go the other way and add to the commotion in the mind by adding constant chatter and technology to our lives, which cause even more disturbance in our composure. 

Try this:
⚫ Take away one source of chatter: could you reduce the number of phone/texts calls daily?
⚫ Add some ways to connect with nature and silence. A walk by yourself daily?
⚫ Find your obsession! What really motivates you? How can you use it to be of service to the Universe?
 

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.14
Picture from Sipra's trip to the Southwest in the spring.

Picture from Sipra's trip to the Southwest in the spring.

स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यसत्कारासेवितो दृढभूमिः॥१४॥

sah tu dirgha-kaala-nairantarya-satkaaraa-sevito dhruddha-bhoomi-ha

When practice is maintained with sincerity, without a break, and for a long time, it becomes rock solid.

Whatever the reason we may have for starting on a practice, be it salvation or for glorification of the ego, it’s a good place to start. In the words of Ravi Ravindra, "Continuous care and attention in seeing ourselves more and more impartially, suffering ourselves as we are, and being compassionate to ourselves, slowly establishes a stillness of the mind and the heart." 

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.15
Taken at the Park of Roses

Taken at the Park of Roses

दृष्टानुश्रविकविषयवितृष्णस्य वशीकारसंज्ञा वैराग्यम्॥१५॥

drista anu-shravika vishaya vitrish-nasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam ॥15॥

Swami Prabhavananda: Non-attachment is self-mastery; it is freedom from desire for what is seen or heard.

Non-attachment and detachment are essentially different in practice. In a detached state of mind there is no connecting with emotions at all, a sort of non-caring. With a non-attached mind, one can act with feeling, love and concern for others and with compassion towards oneself, but whatever the effect it doesn't affect the doer. 

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.16
This week's photo taken at the Park of Roses.

This week's photo taken at the Park of Roses.

Sutra 1.16 तत्परं पुरुषख्यातेर्गुणवैतृष्ण्यम्॥१६॥ (tat-param purusha-khyaater-guna-vait-rush-nyam ॥16॥)
Kofi Busia’s translation: Non-participation (detachment) is a conscious awareness and mastery over mental movements created by objects, whether these are seen or heard spoken of. 

What one finds through ongoing and continuous practice simply following a routine without focus on gain will lead to a supreme detachment and a calm contentment over time.

Kofi Busia, son of a former Prime Minister of Ghana, teaches in California and is a student of B.K.S. Iyengar. Check out his interview at http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/contemplating-infinite

 

Chris Johnson
Transition to 1.17
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in samadhi

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in samadhi

With Sutra 1.17 Patanjali begins to explain a more esoteric phase of yoga. It deals with making the ultimate connection with the Source, or with God, no matter how you perceive the Divine Spirit known as samadhi in yoga. Let’s review what needs to happen before we can connect to the Ultimate. As ego-driven beings buffeted by our own desires, fears, hopes, ambitions, and uncertainties we need to find an anchor to latch on to. This anchor is right within us; it is the soul or the energy of Ultimate Reality that animates our being. Ramakrishna Paramhansa, a modern mystic from India describes it well, “The fabled musk deer searches the world over for the source of the scent which comes from itself.” 

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.17
At the Whetstone Park of Roses

At the Whetstone Park of Roses

वितर्कविचारानन्दास्मितारूपानुगमात् संप्रज्ञातः॥१७॥
vitarka vichaara ananda asmitaa rupa anugamaat sampraj-jaata-ha ॥17॥

Swami Sivananda: ‘Samprajnata Samadhi or concrete meditation is that which is accompanied by argumentation, deliberation, happiness, egoism and form.’ This means that the end result of the meditation or the union of self and Self is not formless/abstract but is concrete.

Based on committed practice and non-attachment, the practitioner or meditator moves through the four stages to a state of objectless concentration. Patanjali explains each stage in turn. 

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.18

 विरामप्रत्ययाभ्यासपूर्वः संस्कारशेषोऽन्यः॥१८॥
viraama pratyaya abhyasa purva-ha samskaara shayshow nya-ha ॥१८॥
The other kind of samadhi (one-pointedness in meditation) is asamprajnata samadhi, meaning "without any object into which attention is absorbed". Through constant practice all thought recedes into silence. This the point of connection with Pure Consciousness.

Chris Johnson
Sutra 1.19

भवप्रत्ययो विदेहप्रकृतिलयानाम्॥१९॥ 
bhava-pratya-yo vide-ha-prakriti-lay-aa-naam॥19॥ 

With a few word changes, Barbara Miller says, in essence: “For Beings and beings unencumbered by physical bodies, but still enmeshed in the material or physical world, the cessation of the streams of thought is limited by reliance for all perceptions on the phenomenal world.” Sutras 17, 18 and 19 are addressing the slow cessation of mental activity as we continue to practice yoga (referring not only to the practice of the physical form of exercise, but to all eight limbs of yoga) and meditation to curb our ‘monkey mind’. This is a very simplistic way of looking at the deep significance of Patanjali’s thoughts, but it’s a worthy start.
 

Chris Johnson