- Yoga Sutras

Yoga in Four Words

Chitta is the subtle energy that is the substance of the mind, and therefore the mind itself. Vritti is thought-wave; mental modification; mental whirlpool; a ripple in the chitta. Nirodha is restraint; restriction; suppression; dissolving.

The Two Essential Pillars of Yoga

Two things are needed for the ending of mental modifications (vrittis). One is abhyasa–sustained spiritual practice. This is why Krishna speaks of abhyasa yoga. The other is purely psychological: vairagya: “Non-attachment; detachment; dispassion; absence of desire; disinterest; or indifference. Indifference towards and disgust for all worldly things and enjoyments.”

Opposing Vitarka: The Importance of Mastering Thoughts

Vitarka, why we should master it

This is a selection from The Yoga Sutras for Awakening, a commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. We hope to publish this book in the coming year.

Yoga Sutras 2:33. When the mind is disturbed by improper thoughts [vitarka] constant pondering [bhavanam] over the opposites [pratipaksha] (is the remedy).

Not only is the common interpretation of this incorrect, so is this translation. Vitarka simply means thought in the sense of all kinds of intellectual occupation. There is no connotation of either positive or negative thought, but rather intrusive or distracting thoughts–which effect is negative, but good thoughts are harmful if they arise at the wrong time.

Pratipaksha means that which opposes–not that which is opposite in character. And bhavanam means filling the mind with something. Therefore it should be rendered:

“When there is disturbance or oppression by thought, the mind should be filled with (or fixed on) that which opposes it.”

Correcting a misunderstanding

It is a complete misunderstanding to think this verse means that we should bring to mind things of a kind that are seemingly opposite to the character of the thoughts that are cluttering our minds. I say “seemingly” because the dualities–dwandwas, the “pairs of opposites” such as pleasure and pain, hot and cold, light and darkness, gain and loss, victory and defeat, love and hatred–are not two, but one, like the two sides of a coin. So thinking of one to counteract the other–such as thinking of generosity to combat selfishness–is worthless, for each are inherent in the other.

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9 Obstacles to Yoga Meditation You Need to Overcome

The following is an excerpt from Abbot George’s soon-to-be-published Commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yoga Sutra I:30. Disease [vyadhi], languor [styana], doubt [samshaya], carelessness [pramada], laziness [alasya], worldly-mindedness [avirati], delusion [bhranti-darshana], non-achievement of a stage [alabdhabhumikatva], instability [anavashtitatvani], these (nine) cause the distraction … Continue reading

The 5 “Do”s of Yoga: An In-Depth Guide

NiyamaA Commentary on Sutra 32 of Book Two of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Yoga Sutras 2: 32. Purity [shaucha], contentment [santosha], austerity [tapas], self-study [swadhyaya] and self-surrender [ishwarapranidhana] constitute observances [niyama].

  • Shaucha: purity, cleanliness

Shaucha means purity and cleanliness within the context of attaining unobstructed clarity of consciousness.

“This Brahman, this Self, deep-hidden in all beings, is not revealed to all; but to the seers, pure in heart, concentrated in mind–to them is he revealed” (Katha Upanishad 1:3:12). “When through discrimination the heart has become pure, then, in meditation, the self is revealed” (Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.8). “When the senses are purified, the heart is purified; when the heart is purified, there is constant and unceasing remembrance of the self; when there is constant and unceasing remembrance of the self, all bonds are loosed and freedom is attained” (Chandogya Upanishad 7:26:2).

Which is why Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). And Saint John: “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (I John 3:2 ,3).

“Internal shaucha is the washing away of the stains of the mind” according to Vyasa. “Shaucha implies purity in seeing and listening…and washing away the stains of the mind, such as desire and anger, by the waters of meditation,” adds Shankara.

Physical cleanliness is important for it eliminates bodily toxins and prevents disease. Inner purification is

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Yama: Your First Important Steps to Success in Yoga

yamaThis important subject is a Commentary on Sutras 29 and 30 of Book Two of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Yoga Sutras 2: 29. Self-restraints [yama], fixed observances [niyama], posture [asana], regulation of breath [pranayama], abstraction [pratyahara], concentration [dharana], contemplation [dhyana], trance [samadhi] are the eight parts (of the self-discipline of Yoga).

These eight “limbs” (angas) of yoga will now be considered in detail. I will be presenting sections from The Foundations of Yoga regarding them.

Yoga Sutras 2: 30. Vows of self-restraint [yama] comprise abstention from violence [ahimsa], falsehood [satya], theft [asteya], incontinence [brahmacharya] and acquisitiveness [aparigraha].

Non-injury: The first precept of Yama

Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness

In his commentary on the Yoga Sutras, Vyasa begins his exposition of ahimsa: “Ahimsa means in no way and at no time to do injury to any living being.” “In no capacity and in no fashion to give injury to any being,” says Shankara. This would include injury by word or thought as well as the obvious injury perpetrated by deed, for Shankara comments: “Ahimsa is to be practiced in every capacity–body, speech, and mind.”

Even a simple understanding of the law of karma enables us to realize the terrible consequences of murder for the murderer. As Vyasa explains: “The killer deprives the victim of spirit, hurts him with a blow of a weapon, and then tears him away from life. Because he has deprived another of spirit, the supports of his own life, animate or inanimate, become weakened. Because he has caused pain, he experiences pain himself…. Because he has torn another from life, he goes to live in a life in which every moment he wishes to die, because the retribution as pain has to work itself right out, while he is panting for death.”

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