Contemplating the Yoga Sutras
Yoga is one of six philosophical systems from ancient India and the Yoga Sutras are essentially the bible. Having experienced transcendental states, going beyond time and mind, Bhagavan Patanjali compiled his teachings into four books, in order that the rest of us could learn to do the same. In 196 short statements, Bhagavan Patanjali teaches us practical methods to attain freedom.
My teacher A.G. Mohan teaches that yoga is a Sanskrit word that has two roots: yujir yoge, which means union and yujas samadhau, which means samadhi.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, yoga means union of prana and apana. In Vedic Astrology, yoga refers to the conjunction of the planets. In Ayurveda, yoga means specific combinations of herbs.
In the Yoga Sutras, yoga means to focus the mind, holding on to one thought of our choosing. This is called samadhi. It is when we dwell in, and experience, our own true nature. What does that really mean? It means that we experience our true Self; it is when we feel peaceful and happy.
When we are not holding on to one thought of our choice, we are not experiencing our true nature. What are we then? We are involved in the activities of the mind, as if the mind is separate, and we have no control. But Bhagavan Patanjali tells us we do, in fact, have the ability to control our minds. Controlling the mind is the path to freedom.
It is said that to understand the first four sutras, is to understand the meaning of yoga. Bhagavan Patanjali says:
atha yoga anushasanam
yogash chitta vritti nirodhah
tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam
vritti sarupyam itaratra
Now, I vow to you that based on scriptures, I will teach you about yoga.
Yoga brings about such a mental focus that the activities of the mind are arrested.
Then, you abide in your own true nature, the Self, having reached a state of peace, called samadhi.
At other times, you don’t.
The rest of the sutras are there to teach us about the “other times.” Bhagavan Patanjali explains what kinds of thoughts we have, offers us strategies to focus our minds, the obstacles to that focus, the powers we attain from this focus, and how to become free. This is why we are incredibly lucky that such a profound and pithy work has survived through the ages. Samadhi is possible and here is the path.