Patanjali Yoga Sutras 1:1—1:20

Reference: Patanjali Yoga Sutras

These notes are derived from the book FOUR CHAPTERS ON FREEDOM by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, First edition 1976, Published by Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India.

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Sutra 1:1 Introduction to yoga

Atha yoganusasanam || 1 ||

Atha: now therefore; yoga: (regarding) yoga; anusasanam: complete instructions 

Now, therefore, complete instructions regarding yoga. (1)

The word atha has been used in order to emphasize the necessity of meeting the prerequisites through karma yoga, bhakti yoga and other preparatory systems. While studying these instructions on yoga we shall use the matrix model of the mind as outlined in the Glossary: KHTK Glossary (Metaphysics)

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Sutra 1:2 What is yoga?

Yogaschitta vrtti nirodhah || 2 ||

Yogah: yoga; chitta: consciousness; vrtti: patterns or circular patterns; nirodhah: blocking, stopping 

The nirodha (restraining) of chitta vritti (patterns of consciousness) is yoga. (2)

Chitta means individual consciousness which includes the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels of mind. Chitta is derived from the basic idea of chit, which means to see, to be conscious of, to be aware. Chitta is comprised of three stages: the sense or objective consciousness, the subjective or astral consciousness, and the unconsciousness or mental state of dormant potentiality. Jivatman, the individual awareness, is made up of Atman plus chitta.

Vritta means a circle and vritti means circular. When you throw a stone into a pond, the movements of the water spread outward in the form of circles. In the same manner, the consciousness moves out in circular patterns. Therefore, the attitudes of chitta, the modes of mind, are called chitta vritti. It is a mental modification, whether pleasant or painful.

Nirodha does not mean the suppression of the flow of ordinary thoughts, feelings, passions and desires from the mind. It means the blocking the process of consciousness responsible for remanifestation. Using the terminology of Scientology, it simply means the stopping of restimulation. This restimulation can go very deep in consciousness. Sahasrara, the highest chakra, is the seat of nirodha. See Kundalini and the Chakras.

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Sutra 1:3 The culmination of yoga

Tada drastuh svarupe’vasthanam  || 3 || 

Tada: then; drastuh: seer; svarupe: one’s own essential nature; avasthanam: establishment

Then the seer is established (abides) in his own essential nature. (3)

Self-realization can only take place when the restimulation ceases, and the mind is not reacting to external factors. The mental matrix is completely assimilated. There is no longer a feeling of identification with the objective world. 

Realization comes from within and cannot be comprehended by our present level of awareness of the mind, colored and conditioned as it is by likes and dislikes, false beliefs, erroneous conceptions, false thinking and so on, which are our usual patterns of thought (vrittis) and which are all related to the ‘I’-principle. 

Purity of mind, complete sense-control, no restimulation and so on, are all necessary before one is competent to reach the goal of yoga, which is self-realization. 

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Sutra 1:4 What happens otherwise to purusha? 

Vrtti sarupyamitaratra II 4 II

Vrtti: modification, pattern; sarupyam: identification; itaratra: in other state 

Or there is identification with the modifications of chitta. (4)

When the chitta vrittis (mental modifications) are not in the state of nirodha (restraint), then the patterns or modifications of chitta (consciousness) are superimposed on purusha (the viewpoint). In other words, in the state of restimulation, the unassimilated impressions are in control of the functioning of the organism.

We are all familiar with this type of wrong identification. When we watch a movie or stage play, we tend to identify ourselves with what is portrayed, and experience corresponding emotions of sorrow, joy, fear, like, dislike, etc. Although the actors are only playing a role, we tend to identify with them and forget that we are mere spectators of what is taking place. In the same way, purusha is only a witnessing consciousness, but it has forgotten its true nature, and is identifying with the chitta and its patterns or modifications to such an extent that it is very difficult to extricate itself.

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Sutra 1:5 Vrittis – main classification

Vrttayah panchatayyah klistaklistah II 5 II

Vrttayah: modifications of mind; panchatayyah: fivefold; klista: painful, lit. hard, difficult; aklistah: not painful 

Modifications of mind are fivefold; they are painful or not painful. (5)

When we witness something, the impression is either painful or not painful. Such impressions arise and influence all spheres of life, or all dimensions of knowledge. Any mental modification is the result of such impressions being activated. Similarly, doubt, illusion, mistakes in thinking are all mental modifications due to unassimilated impressions that influence the state of consciousness.

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Sutra 1:6 Five kinds of vrittis

Pramana-viparyaya-vikalpa-nidra smrtayah II 6 II

Pramana: right knowledge; viparyaya: wrong knowledge; vikalpa: fancy, imagination; nidra: sleep; smrtayah: memory 

The fivefold modifications of mind are knowledge, perversion of knowledge, speculation, sleep and memory. (6)

The ultimate aim of yoga is to divest the mind of all it forms so that the consciousness remains nameless and formless. It is attained when all impressions in the mind are assimilated. An assimilated matrix is fully aligned with the natural laws of the universe. The process of assimilation continues with further refinement of perceptual elements.

The vrittis (mental modifications) are classified into five groups: knowledge, perversion of knowledge, speculation, sleep and memory. Every mental state is included in these five modifications, such as dreaming, waking, looking, talking, touching, beating, crying, feeling, emotion, action, sentiment; in fact, everything is included in these five.

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Sutra 1:7 (i) Pramana – sources of right knowledge

Pratyaksanumanagamah pramanani  II 7 II 

Pratyaksa: direct cognition, sense evidence; anumana: inference; āgama: testimony, revelation; pramanani: the sources of right knowledge 

Direct cognition, inference and testimony are the sources of knowledge. (7)

Knowledge comes from impressions on the mind. Knowledge is created by direct perceptions, as inferences from such perceptions, and from the testimony of others. Correctness of knowledge depends on its degree of assimilation in terms of continuity, consistency and harmony.

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Sutra 1:8 (ii) Viparyaya – misconception

Viparyayo mithyajnanamatadrupapratistham II 8 II 

Viparyayah: misconception; mithya: false, illusory; jnanam: knowledge; atat: not its own; rupa: form; pratistham: based 

Wrong conception is false knowledge which is not based on its own form. (8)

False knowledge is that which is not based on its own natural form. In other words, some perversion exists as discontinuity, inconsistency or disharmony. Any belief in such knowledge is a misconception. Any misconception may be traced back, ultimately, to a misunderstanding of the nature of purusha and prakriti.

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Sutra 1:9 (iii) Vikalpa – unfounded belief

Sabdajnananupati vastu-sunyo vikalpah II 9 II 

Sabda: word, sound; jnana: cognition; anupati: following upon; vastu: object; sunyah: empty; vikalpah: fancy, imagination 

Following upon knowledge through words but empty of an object is fancy. (9)

We take ideas from our experiences and combine them to form new ideas of things that actually do not exist. There are many spiritual aspirants throughout the world who seek to attain an imaginary goal. The different experiences an aspirant goes through are nothing but the planes of one’s mental consciousness.

Knowledge has a true object, but misconceptions corrupt that object; whereas, unfounded belief has no object at all. This difference should be carefully understood.

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Sutra 1:10 (iv) Nidra – state of sleep 

Abhava-pratyayalambana vrttirnidra II 10 II 

Abhava: absence; pratyaya: content of mind; alambana: support; vrttih: modification; nidra: sleep 

Sleep is the vritti of absence of mental contents for its support. (10)

In modern vocabulary, knowledge may be called AS-ISNESS, misconception may be called ALTER-ISNESS, and unfounded belief may be called NOT-ISNESS. This fourth variety of sleep is very different. it is said that in sleep one does not desire anything, nor is there dream or any other perception, nor is there any feeling whatsoever. Sleep is an “impression” in which the content of mind is absent. In this state there are thoughts but they are not present before the mind. It is an unconscious state of mind. As a comparison, in samadhi, the objects are absent, but the awareness is there. 

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Sutra 1:11 (v) Smriti – memory

Anubhutavisayasampramosah smrtih II 11 II 

Anubhuta: experienced; visaya: objects of sense perception; asampramosah: not letting escape; smrtih: memory 

Not letting the experienced objects escape from the mind is memory. (11)

Knowledge consists of fully assimilated impressions. Conscious memory is a reconstruction of experience from the perceptual elements of the mental matrix. These are partially assimilated impressions. But there is also unassimilated impressions that appear in dreams and influence our recalls. Thus, there is a scale of impressions from fully unassimilated to partially assimilated to unassimilated. Misconceptions and unfounded beliefs point to decreasing assimilation.

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Sutra 1:12 Necessity of abhyasa and vairagya 

Abhyasavairagyabhyam tannirodhah II 12 II 

Abhyasa: repeated practice; vairagyabhyam: by vairagya; tat: that; nirodhah: stopping, blocking 

The stopping of that (five vrittis) by repeated practice and vairagya. (12)

Abhyāsa is repeated practice; and vairagya is detachment (objectivity). These two approaches are the key to nirodha—to completely stop all restimulation.

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Sutra 1:13 Abhyasa means constant practice

Tatra sthitau yatno’bhyasah II 13 II 

Tatra: there, out of the two; sthitau: being fixed, established; yatnah: effort; abhyasah: practice 

Of the two (mentioned in the previous sutra) ‘to be established in the endeavour’ is abhyasa. (13)

Patanjali explains the meaning of abhyasa in this sutra. In abhyasa, the effort becomes a part of your nature; it becomes firmly rooted in you and complete.

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Sutra 1:14 Foundation of abhyasa

Sa tu dirghakala nairantaryasatkarasevito drdhabhumih II 14 II

Sah: that (abhyasa); tu: but; dirgha: long; kala: time; nairantarya: without interruption; satkara: reverence; asevitah: practised; drdha: firm; bhumih: ground 

It becomes firmly grounded by being continued for a long time with reverence, without interruption. (14)

Practice requires uninterrupted continuity for a long time keeping full faith in one’s efforts. There should be no misconceptions. All misconceptions must be cleared up as one continues with the practice.

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Sutra 1:15 Lower form of vairagya 

Drstanusravika-visayavitrsnasya vasikara-sanjna vairagyam II 15 II

Drsta: seen; anusravika: heard; visaya: object; vitrsnasya: of the one who is free of desire; trsna: craving, desire; vasikara: control; sanjna: awareness; vairagyam: absence of craving 

When an individual becomes free of craving for the sense objects which he has experienced as well as those of which he has heard, that state of consciousness is vairagya. (15)

 Vairagya is the feeling of detachment toward all objects that one has experienced or heard about, while one continues to perform one’s duties in life. Vairagya makes for a balanced attitude and integrated approach, a feeling of love and compassion for all, yet a sort of detachment which works in everything that one does.

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Sutra 1:16 Higher form of vairagya

Tatparam purusakhyatergunavaitrsnyam II 16 II

Tat: that; param: highest; purusakhyateh: true knowledge of purusha; gunavaitrsnyam: freedom from the desire for gunas 

That is highest in which there is freedom from the desire for gunas on account of the knowledge of purusha. (16)

It is the knowledge of purusha that leads one to the perception of nature as it is. One has a sense of objectivity with which one looks at everything. This frees one up from all the seeming appearances of nature to which one gets attached. See The Static Viewpoint.

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Sutra 1:17 Definition of samprajnata samadhi 

Vitarka-vicharanandasmitanugamat samprajnatah II 17 II

Vitarka: reasoning; vichara: reflection; ananda: bliss; asmita: sense of individuality; anugamat: by association; samprajnatah: samadhi with prajna 

Samprajnata yoga constitutes association respectively with reasoning, reflection, bliss and sense of individuality. (17)

Samprajnata refers to a samadhi that is accompanied by discernment and illumination. In Samprajnata samadhi there are stages of vitarka (reasoning), vichara (reflection), ananda (bliss), and asmita (feeling of ‘I-ness’). Samprajnata is a form of sabeeja samadhi (samadhi having a basis). Ultimate samadhi is the nirbeeja samadhi (samadhi without a basis) in which even the sense of individuality disappears.

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Sutra 1:18 Definition of asamprajnata samadhi

Viramapratyayabhyasapurvah samskaraseso’nyah II 18 II

Virama: stopping; pratyaya: content of mind; abhyasa: continued practice; purvah: coming before; samskarasesa: in which only the traces remain; anyah: the other samadhi 

The other samadhi (asamprajnata) is preceded by a continued study of stopping the content of mind. In it the mind remains in the form of traces. (18)

Asamprajnata samadhi occurs between successive stages of vitarka (reasoning), vichara (reflection), ananda (bliss), and asmita (feeling of ‘I-ness’) of samprajnata samadhi. In asamprajnata samadhi, there is no awareness of any symbol (unconsciousness); but there is an underground dynamism called samskara. The consciousness is not static, so asamprajnata is still a form of sabeeja samadhi (samadhi having a basis). Thus in asamprajnata there are two distinct characteristics: one, dropping of the pratyaya (content of the mind) and two, the presence of samskara (unassimilated impressions). From the state of asamprajnata one may either ascend to a deeper state of consciousness or one may revert back to a grosser state. When the samskara is completely finished, the consciousness is completely dissolved; that state is nirbeeja samadhi (samadhi without a basis).

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Sutra 1:19 Past merits needed for asamprajnata samadhi

Bhavapratyayo videhaprakrtilayanam II 19 II

Bhavapratyayah: birth is the cause; videha: disembodied yogis; prakrtilayanam: the yogis who are merged into prakriti 

Yogis, who are disembodied or merged into nature, have birth as the cause of asamprajnata samadhi. (19)

“Disembodied” means one does not have attention fixed on the body. “Merged into nature” means one can view nature objectively. Yogis, who are disembodied or merged into nature, can attain asamprajnata samadhi right from birth.

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Sutra 1:20 Otherwise, merits needed for asamprajnata samadhi 

Sraddhavlryasmrtisamadhiprajnapurvaka itaresam II 20 II

Sraddha: faith; vlrya: energy, strong will; smrti: memory; samadhiprajna: intelligence arising from samadhi; purvaka: preceded by; itaresam: of others 

Otherwise, one attains asamprajnata samadhi through faith, strong will, memory and intelligence derived from samprajnata samadhi. (20)

The path of yoga begins with shraddha. Shraddha means ‘that which holds the truth’. Shraddha arises from true experience. It is not blind faith or mere belief. Virya is energy, physical as well as mental. It refers to strong will and determination required to overcome the many impediments on the path of yoga. Smriti is the memory that helps bring about realizations. And samadhi prajna is the viewpoint arising from samadhi. These aspects are required by most aspirants to attain samadhi.

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