YOGA PHILOSOPHY from our Yoga Teacher Training Manual-
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Yoga Sutra 1.1 & 1.2
The first four sutras define Yoga, with that definition being expanded upon in the other sutras. In a systematic process of meditation, you gradually move your attention inward, through all the levels of your being, gaining mastery along the way. Eventually you come to rest in your true nature, which is beyond all of those levels. This action and the realization of this center of consciousness, is the meaning of Yoga.
Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah.
Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam.
Yoga is the mastery of the activities of the mind-field.
Then the seer rests in its true nature.
There is a fundamental simplicity to the process of Yoga that is outlined in the Yoga Sutras. While the process might appear very complicated when reading the Yoga Sutras and many commentaries, the central theme is one of removing, transcending or setting aside the obstacles, veils or false identities. The many suggestions in the Yoga Sutras are the details or refinements of how to go about doing this. By being ever mindful of this core simplicity it is much easier to systematically progress on the path of Yoga. Once the obstacles and false identities have been temporarily set aside, the true Self, which has been there all along, naturally comes shining through. The rest of the time, we are so entangled with our false identities that we literally do not see that this misidentification has happened. It is the reason that sometimes it is said that we are asleep, and that we need to awaken. That awakening to the Self is the meaning of Yoga. Consciousness looks outward and sees a reflection, like a mirror. Consciousness looks outward, through the intellect, through the mind, and then through the senses and body. It sees a reflection, like a mirror. It sees reality, a world, a self-identity, which it falsely thinks to be “me” or “mine.” Through the forgetting power of avidya or ignorance, pure consciousness says, “I am this or that!” This is not all bad, for it gives the opportunity for the joy of awakening, through a journey called Yoga, returning to the wholeness that was never really divided in the first place.
The process of realization through Yoga rests on the discovery of pure consciousness, purusha, as separate from all the many false identities, which are considered to be a part of the evolution of primal matter, prakriti. These principles of purusha and prakriti are part of the philosophical system known as Sankhya.
Yoga and Sankhya are two of the six systems Indian philosophy. To put it simply, Purusha is consciousness and Prakriti is matter & form. Yogi’s observe the dance or purusha & prakriti in their daily lives.
Yoga is samadhi, the high state of perfected concentration or complete absorption of attention. Yoga means union, literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join or to integrate. It means to bring together the aspects of ourselves that were never divided in the first place. It means to attain direct experience of the core of that preexisting holistic being who we truly are at the deepest level, and that is attained through samadhi. The goal of Yoga is Yoga, period. Yoga is not: Yoga is not merely physical fitness, stress management, medical treatment, or a means of manifesting money, although authentic Yoga is definitely beneficial to many aspects of life.
The goal of Yoga is Yoga, the Highest Union.
Sutra 1.1 Now, after having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study and practice of Yoga begins.
Atha Yoga Anushasanam
atha – now, at this auspicious moment; implying the transition to this practice and pursuit, after prior preparation; implying a blessing at this moment of transition
yoga – of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join or to integrate; same as the absorption in Samadhi
anu – within, or following tradition; implies being subsequent to something else, in this case, the prior preparation
shasanam – instruction, discipline, training, teaching, exposition, explanation; Shas implies the imparting of teaching that happens along with discipline. This introductory sutra suggests that after our many actions in life, and whatever preparatory practices we might have performed, now, we are finally ready to pursue the depths of self-exploration, the journey directly to the center of consciousness, Atman, or Self, our eternal and True identity. To practice Yoga requires cultivating discipline and following a systematic method of learning. This has more to do with the quality or conviction in one’s practices than it has to do with the quantity. This is described in greater detail in sutras 1.21 and 1.22.
In describing this sutra, the sage Vyasa names five states of mind, of which the one-pointed state of mind is the desired state of mind for the practice of Yoga.
These five states of mind range from the severely troubled mind to the completely mastered mind.
Five states of mind according to Patanjali
It is very useful to be aware of these stages, both in the moment, and as a general day-to-day level at which one is functioning. It reveals the depth of practice that one might be able to currently practice. Some aspect of yoga meditation applies to every human being, though we need to be mindful of which is most fitting and effective for a person with this or that state of mind.
Of the five states of mind, the later two, one-pointed and mastered are most desirable for the deeper practice of yoga meditation. For most people, our minds are usually in one of the first three states, disturbed, dull, or distracted. To deal with the troubled mind and the lethargic mind is progress, leading one to a merely distracted mind, from where one can more easily work on training the mind in one-pointedness. By knowing this, we can deal with our minds so as to gradually stabilize the mind in the fourth state, the state of one-pointedness This is the state of mind, which prepares us for the fifth state, in which there is mastery of mind.
Kshipta/disturbed: The ksihipta mind is disturbed, restless, troubled, wandering. This is the least desirable of the states of mind, in which the mind is troubled. It might be severely disturbed, moderately disturbed, or mildly disturbed. It might be worried, troubled, or chaotic. It is not merely the distracted mind (Vikshipta), but has the additional feature of a more intense, negative, emotional involvement.
Mudha/dull: The mudha mind is stupefied, dull, heavy, & forgetful. With this state of mind, there is less of a running here and there of the thought process. It is a dull or sleepy state, somewhat like what one experiences when depressed, though we are not here intending to mean only clinical depression. It is that heavy frame of mind we can get into, when we want to do nothing, to be lethargic, to be a couch potato. The Mudha mind is barely beyond the Kshipta, disturbed mind, only in that the active disturbance has settled down, and the mind might be somewhat more easily trained from this place. Gradually the mind can be taught to be a little bit steady in a positive way, only occasionally distracted, which is the Vikshipta state. Then the mind can move on in training to the Ekagra and Nirodhah states.
Vikshipta/distracted: The Vikshipta mind is distracted, occasionally steady or focused. This is the state of mind often reported by students of meditation when they are wide awake and alert, neither noticeably disturbed nor dull and lethargic. Yet, in this state of mind, one’s attention is easily drawn here and there. This is the monkey mind or noisy mind that people often talk about as disturbing meditation. The mind can concentrate for short periods of time, and is then distracted into some attraction or aversion. Then, the mind is brought back, only to again be distracted. The Vikshipta mind in daily life can concentrate on this or that, though it might wander here and there, or be pulled off course by some other person or outside influence, or by a memory. This Vikshipta mind is the stance one wants to attain through the foundation yoga practices, so that one can then pursue the one-pointedness of Ekagra, and the mastery that comes with the state of Nirodhah.
Ekagra/one-pointed: The Ekagra mind is one-pointed, focused, concentrated. When the mind has attained the ability to be one-pointed, the real practice of Yoga meditation begins. It means that one can focus on tasks at hand in daily life, practicing karma yoga, the yoga of action, by being mindful of the mental process and consciously serving others. When the mind is one-pointed, other internal and external activities are simply not a distraction. The ability to focus attention is a primary skill for meditation and samadhi. The person with a one-pointed mind just carries on with the matters at hand, undisturbed, unaffected, and uninvolved with those other stimuli. It is important to note that this is meant in a positive way, not the negative way of not attending to other people or other internal priorities. The one-pointed mind is fully present in the moment and able to attend to people, thoughts, and emotions at will. The one-pointed mind is able to do the practices of concentration and meditation, leading one onward towards samadhi. This ability to focus attention is a primary skill that the student wants to develop for meditation and samadhi.
Nirodhah/mastered: The Nirodhah mind is highly mastered, controlled, regulated, restrained. It is very difficult for one to capture the meaning of the Nirodhah state of mind by reading written descriptions. The real understanding of this state of mind comes only through practices of meditation and contemplation. When the word Nirodhah is translated as controlled, regulated, or restrained, it can easily be misunderstood to mean suppression of thoughts and emotions. To suppress thoughts and emotions is not healthy and this is not what is meant here. Rather, it has to do with that natural process when the mind is one-pointed and becomes progressively more still as meditation deepens. It is not that the thought patterns are not there, or are suppressed, but that attention moves inward, or beyond the stream of inner impressions. In that deep stillness, there is a mastery over the process of mind. It is that mastery that is meant by Nirodhah.
Yoga is defined as “Yogash Chitta Vritti Nirodhah,” which is roughly translated as “Yoga is the control of the thought patterns of the mind field.” Thus, this Nirodhah state of mind is the goal and definition of Yoga. It is the doorway by which we go beyond the mind.
Sutra-1.2- Yoga is the control, nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside, of the modifications, gross and subtle thought patterns, of the mind field.
Yogash Chitta Vritti Nirodhah
Yoga – yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join; same as the absorption in samadhi
Chitta – of the consciousness of the mind-field
Vritti – operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications, changes, or various forms of the mind-field
Nirodhah – control, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, understanding, stilling, quieting, setting aside of Nirodhah suggests self-training. This single sentence is a most succinct definition of the science of Self-realization, or Yoga. The key to understanding is the word nirodhah, which defies translation or description. When translated poorly or misunderstood, it can sound like the suppression or repression of thoughts and emotions, which is definitely not what Yoga is about. Rather, it has to do with a process more like coordinating and setting aside what is not significant or not of the self. It means finding the jewel of Truth that is underneath or behind all of the other activities in the mind-field. This comes through a self-training program dealing with the relationships, senses, body, breath, and mind. Ultimately, the meaning of nirodhah, and thus, of Yoga itself begins to emerge experientially through doing the practices. Nirodhah is the most desired of five states of mind: The sage Vyasa names five states of mind, of which the nirodhah state of mind is the desired state of mind for the realization of the true Self. These five states of mind are described just above in the discussion of Sutra 1.1. It is extremely useful to be mindful of the five states of mind, so as to better understand their relationship to this most desired state of mind. To find the jewel of the Self requires getting past the coloring of thought patterns, such as attachment, aversion, and fear. This involves witnessing your own inner process.
Two principles remain at the core throughout this self-training program
Practices leading to stability and tranquility
Attitudes, efforts, and commitments: Five attitudes, efforts, and commitments are cultivated: faith in your direction, energy to go there, mindfulness and memory to stay there, and the ongoing commitment to seek the higher states of concentration and wisdom. Preparatory practices including meditation on attitudes towards people and ways to focus attention are done to train the mind so that the subtler meditations can then be practiced.
The more gross colorings of mind, dealing mostly with attractions, aversions, and fears are reduced through a process of training the senses, inner study, and surrender. Cultivating inner discrimination through the eight rungs of yoga, so as to systematically uncover that jewel of the Self.
The Mind becomes like a transparent crystal, then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-realization.
This is the beginning of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and is considered the most important part. The Yoga Sutras were intended to be reflected upon for some time. This is where it all begins. Here is where one learns to quiet the mind and engage in a personal practice. Reflect upon these teachings from this sacred text.
Remember these two principles of Yoga Theory,
2. Non attachment
All of suffering is due to the five afflictions of the mind outlined by Patanjali the 5 Kleshas
Fear of death-abhinivesa
Avidya – mistaking the transient for the permanent, The impure for the pure, and mistaking the pleasures of the world for the bliss of merging with the pure spirit, forgetting the true yoga.
Asmita – Identification with the self, the body and the Problems that come with it. Creating ownership and fear of its loss, Identifying with pain and adopting it as the true self.
Raga – Encouraging and gratifying pleasures. We are attached to what we love because we fear its loss. When we live for the senses we will never be satisfied because the spirit wants union with the Divine
Dvesa – When our desires are not fulfilled we get frustrated And sad which turns to alienation and hate.
Abhinivesa – fear of death. When we fear death we stop living life because we live in fear of everything that could cause death. We may live with misery of the concepts of aging and disease.
Kriya yoga – yogic path of action. This path has three tiers. Tapas, svadhyaya and ishvara pranidhana.
Tapas – The burning desire that creates intense and consistent effort applied to the daily practice of yoga. It is important for a practitioner of yoga to have an understanding of these principles explained here.
Svadhyaya – The study of scriptures to gather knowledge and to practice the knowledge of moral and spiritual values. The study of ones owns self, from the outer to the inner, from the gross to the subtle.
Ishvara Pranidhana – Faith in God. Having the ability to know the infinite thus creating humility. Acknowledging God in all things beyond the duality of good & bad, right & wrong. When the three aspects of Kriya Yoga are followed with zeal and earnestness, life’s sufferings are overcome and samadhi, true freedom, is experienced.
YOGA SUTRAS 1.30-1.32
Obstacles and Solutions
According to the wisdom of the Yoga Sutra’s, there are a number of predictable obstacles that arise on the inner journey, along with several consequences that grow out of them. While these can be a challenge, there is a certain comfort in knowing that they are a natural, predictable part of the process. Knowing this can help to maintain the faith and conviction that were previously discussed as essential to maintain during your yoga practice.