Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summary of the Yoga Sutras

I wrote the following summary for an assignment related to my yoga immersion.


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outline the expectations of a yogi in relation to body, mind and spirit. The content then, by its nature, is weighted heavily in the mind of an aspiring yogi. My limited understanding is presented in the following synopsis.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Book 1

This chapter defines yoga and its purpose; a journey to transform the way we see ourselves and the world. A life engaged in faith, courage, contemplation, wisdom and remembrance is almost universally accepted as positive but the sutras do more than list attributes of a yogi. The Sutras provide methods and suggest awareness as a practice of thought to become more aware of our true nature and establish greater devotion to God. Respectful dispassion and master over desires of the mind are necessary for progression along this path.

The qualities of God are listed as, 1) a distinct form of consciousness untouched by suffering, actions, the results of actions, or subliminal desires, 2) limitless omniscience, 3) being unsubjected to time, and 4) being the teacher of even the earliest teachers (or in other words, the teacher within). The sacred syllable (Om) is used to represent respect and consideration for the divine qualities present and inspire one to look inward and find the true self. Naturally there are obstacles to this progression and the sutras suggest how to overcome those through recognizing them and stilling the mind to overcome distraction.

Tranquility and peace can come through controlling the mind, mediation and peace from our dealings with others. The sutras outline that our dealings with others should include a loving heart, compassion, goodwill and acceptance. Tranquility can also come from unattachment or indifference towards vice. I think this has been one of the most poignant topics for me during my first time through the sutras. Accepting things we cannot change is a common thread through self-help books but the idea of unattachment towards expectations and outcomes expanded upon the idea and has been applicable for me at this point in life.

Through this practice our mind can become pure and fully engaged in allowing our identity to shine through and become a main object of focus.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Book 2

The second chapter of the Yoga Sutras introduces the methods of yoga that reduce suffering and allow the mind to move from a state of distraction to one of attention.

The basic ritual actions (kriyas) of yoga are self study according to scriptures, disciplined ascetic practice, and surrender to a higher force. These methods increase clarity and reduce suffering.

Afflictions act in a cause and affect relationship to demonstrate the nature of existence. Patanjali defines five afflictions (kleshas) that cause suffering. The first ignorance allow for the other four: ego, clinging to life, desire and aversion. Meditation is suggested to reduce the affects of the kleshas and provide greater enlightment.

The remainder of the chapter discussed the five of the eight limbs (ashtanga) and how they can lead to a more complete life. The five limbs covered are the yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama and pratyhara. These limbs are very intricate and I don’t fully understand them all.

Asana helps us to create appropriate posture and replaces negative habits related to posture and breathing. Pranayama is the component of breath and through is we can drawn energy in and direct it through our body.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Book 3

The third chapter of the Yoga Sutras is primarily about practicing samyama, the “perfect discipline” in which the yogi directs the mind into dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (complete union) with a single object of focus. These are the final three limbs of Ashtanga (8-limbed) yoga, and they concentrate the energy of consciousness.

Samyama practice causes mental fluctuations and distractions to diminish, allowing subliminal imprints of tranquility to develop further light and knowledge. The broad applications of samyama can improve life and awareness at all states, stages and planes. The concentrated practice allows the yogi to transcend conventional constraints and acquire deep knowledge in the areas of focus that lead to freedom. As the yogi acquires knowledge inhibitory feelings such as attachment, price egotism and new cravings can impede further progression. The yogi must maintain samyama to reduce distraction and maximize benefits of life.

The yogi must become so well aquainted with his ming that he can distinguish from perceptions, ming and reality. Discrimination becomes key and a perception tool to benefit concentration and samyama.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Book 4

The path for a yogi seems endless, chapter 4 describes the goal of serene liberation unaffected by worldly turmoil. Our tendency is to feel separateness and even seek to find differences from ourselves and those we share the world with, negative energy arise from these feelings and cause violent thoughts to emerge.

When we understand ourselves, and the nature of negative thoughts we can remove these obstacles and cleanse our mind of them through meditation and the other 8 limbs of yoga so that our mind and attitude remains pure.

The sutras discuss the three gunas: rajas, tamas and sattva. These relate to the 3 A’s in Anusara yoga and stand to show that as perception changes and the mind is influenced by the gunas the spirit remains the same. Our goal should be, then, to develop the unchanging spirit; communicate with it to learn truth and never rely on perception. The mind is a tool to organize the spirit and can lead us to greater enlightenment. Distinguishing between the mind and spirit is a difficult task that requires practice, this is the practice of yoga. The yogi must humble himself and seek for the pulse of his own heart and follow with actions that are pure. This pattern will lead to supreme knowledge. Therefore, it is within our own practice that the ability to attain divinity exists.

seek to be happy, sweet friends.

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