A postscript to yesterdays post around the three Niyama
within Kriyā Yoga on the uses of the terms ‘self’ or ‘Self’ within
the legs in the tripod supporting our efforts at nurturing a state of Yoga.
“Activities that nurture a state of Yoga involve
self-discipline, Self-inquiry and Self-awareness.”
The first leg supporting the tripod refers to Citta
as the self in terms of nurturing self-discipline.
“Tapas is to discipline our eating habits.”
– T Krishnamacharya
The second leg supporting the tripod refers to Cit
as the Self in terms of nurturing Self-inquiry.
“Svādhyāya is an inquiry into one’s true nature.”
– T Krishnamacharya
The final leg supporting the tripod refers to Cit
as the Self in terms of nurturing Self-awareness.
“Yoga is awareness, a type of knowing.”
– T Krishnamacharya
When working with the Breath in Āsana its perhaps less appealing initially,
but ultimately more attractive, satisfactory and effective,
to integrate a focus of Samāpatti (Unity) of
Śaithilya (Relaxation) in Ananta (the Infinite),
through a developmental Sādhana (Means to Accomplish)
on the Siddhi (accomplishment) of Dīrgha or Length,
supported by Sūkṣma or Subtlety.
From Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 47 T Krishnamacharya taught that:
– the common denominator for successfully uniting (Samāpatti)
both (Bhyām) aspects of relaxation (Śaithilya) and the infinite (Ananta)
within the practice of Āsana is the Breath.
He saw it as Prayatna (continued effort)
and synonymous with Jīvana (giving life).
The continued effort of the Breath is that which gives life.
Pratyāhāra is not feeding the tendency of the Citta to automatically form a positive, negative, or neutral identification with whatever stimuli the senses present to it. From that we can begin to understand how their external gathering activities stimulate our conscious and especially, unconscious choices.
This post introduces a verse by verse interpretation of Chapter One of the Yoga Sūtra.
I see this presentation as a Yoga Mālā or a thread of pearls on Yoga from Patañjali’s Sūtra eventually arranged over four chapters. I am endeavouring to stay close to my studies, but allow a little more freedom of expression in terms of choice of rendering to facilitate a more cohesive teachings thread for the reader.
For a fuller word by word Saṃskṛta study of the Yoga Sūtra readers are advised to follow the full online edition of the Yoga Sūtra wherein every word is translated and cross-linked along with a verse translation. This online Yoga Sūtra resource is also gradually accumulating commentaries from Krishnamacharya, Desikachar, Ramaswami from my own study notes along with personal reflections.
The Wisdom of the Yoga Sūtra in guiding the journey of the psyche.
Buried within the rich traditions of “on the mat” Yoga practice are many teachings with advice and reflections on how to live more creatively whilst off the mat so to speak.
According to the teachings of Yoga, the postural practices of Āsana, the seated breathing practices of Prāṇāyāma, and other seated practices of meditation, or Dhyānam on such as reflecting on subtle aspects of attitudes or natural phenomena, or seated practices such as Chanting, or Japam or repetition of Mantra, all sit within a framework of daily living and its constant dynamic of helpful choices and positive responses or unhelpful choices and negative re-actions.
The ten senses or Das Indriya are the gateway between the inner and the outer,
in the twin roads of this phenomena we call experience or action.
The five senses that transport experience from the outer to the inner
are called the Jñāna Indriya, or the senses through which we receive the world.
The five senses that transport actions from the the inner to the outer
are called the Karma Indriya, or the senses through which we put out into the world.
The co-ordinator of this remarkable interface is known as Manas.
The identifier in this remarkable process is known as Ahaṃkāra.
The discerner in this remarkable trinity is known as Buddhi.
The observer in this remarkable play of experience and action is known as Cit or Puruṣa.
Yoga Practice is about a re-turning towards our inner life. However, even without outer obstacles, we can encounter inner feelings that arise and manifest as obstacles to that re-turning.
Here it might be helpful to reflect on the four pillars of Maitrī, Karuṇā, Muditā and Upekṣā and the role they can have in helping to transform the unhelpful aspects of these inner feelings.
“Bhāvana is a beneficial attitude that is consciously cultivated despite tendencies to the contrary”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 33
With the spirit of Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 33 in mind, the cultivation of the four pillars is a practice that can support a stepping, rather than stalling, onto our mat or seat through:
- Maitrī –
Cultivating a feeling of friendliness towards our own attempts,
let alone other’s demands, to distract ourselves.
- Karuṇā –
Cultivating a feeling of compassion towards our bodies and minds,
whatever state we find them in.
- Muditā –
Cultivating a feeling of looking for the positive spot in ourselves
and what we can do well and now, rather than what we can’t do well or now.
- Upekṣā –
Cultivating a feeling of keeping distance from the self-deprecation that can so often accompany our attempts to improve the quality of our inner life and old responses to inner tensions and memories.
– Personal commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 33
Trying to hold onto the fleeting presence of awareness can be likened to a bird choosing to land in the open palm of your hand. We desire to hold onto it because of our attraction towards continuing to enjoy the experience of its delicacy, beauty and gift of presence.
Thus when the bird of awareness alights in your palm the temptation is to close the fingers around the experience, however gently, in order to hold on to it, albeit to protect it or to continue to experience this unique moment of relationship with something that is usually elusive, or out of sight or reach.
Its that time of the year where many Yoga Teachers have a brief summer window during August during which they can turn their attention away from the needs of their students towards themselves.
Thus I am receiving requests from students as to how they may develop a directed study amidst the other demands that the summer break brings.
One suggestion is to offer a series of linked questions focused around the first two chapters of the Yoga Sūtra. These questions were part of a broader Yoga study project offered last year. However as the Yoga Sūtra section offers an opportunity for guided self study, it could be helpful to offer it again to support a reflective review on Yoga Psychology.
Further study and practice guides will be offered within other areas of Yoga Study and Practice.
A recent surge of questions from Yoga teachers around the notion of Śraddhā.
Collating and ordering the range of questions being asked we arrive at:
– What is Śraddhā?
– How do we offer a relevant meaning for Śraddhā to a group class?
– How do we teach Śraddhā to a group of students?
– How do we plan a practice with Śraddhā as the focus for a group class?
Before responding more in a future post I wanted to let the questions sit as reflections for all interested in this topic.
Meanwhile helpful reference points could be:
– The Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 20
– The Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Six verse 37
– The Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Seventeen verse 2
Yoga Teachings on Emotions, Mind, Body and Energy
Chapter One has 51 Sūtra and is called SAMĀDHI PĀDAḤ or the Path to Integrating the Psyche.
This first chapter introduces the psyche, its activities, practices required for change and the possibilities for practice according to the inherent abilities of the practitioner. This chapter is for a student who already has a quality of a Samāhīta Citta or a stable psyche.
– Primary concepts in the Yoga Sūtra Chapter One
Theme One verses 1-11 – Cit and Citta
- v1-4 – Definition and Purpose of Yoga
- v5 – 11 – Activities of the Citta or Psyche
Theme Two verses 12-22 – Jñāna and Śraddhā
- v12 – 19 – Meditation or Dhyānam as Jñāna Yoga
- v20 – 22 – The role of Śraddhā
Theme Three verses 23-39 – Bhakti and Eka Tattva
- v23 – 31 – Meditation or Dhyānam as Bhakti Yoga
- v32 – 39 – Short Term Meditational Strategies
Theme Four verses 40-51 – Sabīja and Nirbīja Samādhi
- v40 – 46 – Refinement of Dhyānam
- v47 – 51 – Final Steps
In yesterdays post I wrote about the surge of enquiries looking for training bolt-ons to add the viniyoga of Yoga tools for ‘Yoga as Therapy’ to their professional teaching repertoire.
This led onto exploring the process of learning that Yoga can be applied as a therapy from the very first stages of our study. We all get ill or injured from time to time and need to understand the process of applying Yoga for ourselves in many ways according to our day to day situation.
This led onto appreciating that the core principles in the viniyoga of Yoga need to start to be integrated from the Foundational level prior to the Teacher Training level, as applying Yoga as a Therapy is not a training hierarchy of Yoga student, Yoga teacher, Yoga therapist.
Everything is there within Awareness.
tatra niratiśayaṃ sarva-jña-bījam
“There the source of all knowing is unsurpassed.”
Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 25
Firstly we need to ‘as if’ dedicate our actions towards Awareness.
“That purpose of the seen is indeed for our essence.”
Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 21
The aim of Yoga and Sāṃkhya is to be yoked to the more discerning aspects of the psyche, rather than just to the more grasping aspects of the psyche.
In the former the tendency of the Buddhi to discern discriminately dominates the tendency of Ahaṃkāra to grasp indiscriminately. In the latter the tendency of the Ahaṃkāra to grasp dominates the tendency of the Buddhi to discern.
The former is a state known as Buddhi Sattva where the clarity of discernment dominates the indiscriminate grasping nature of the Ahaṃkāra. The latter is a state of Buddhi Tamas, where the discerning qualities of the Buddhi are obscured by the grasping nature of the Ahaṃkāra.
Thus our Yoga Sādhana has but one aim, that of the reduction of the obscuration of Tamas (apart from deep sleep) in the Buddhi. This reduction of Tamas facilitates the ascent of the clarity of Sattva, as in the metaphor of the reduction of the cloud facilitates the ascent of the sun discussed within yesterdays post.
Is there an equivalent of “redemption” in the Yogic system? Getting out of the trouble caused by Avidyā?
A complex question as all the major Religious traditions have different views as to what it is and how it works.
I feel reflecting on the recent three posts on Īśvara Praṇidhānā from TKV Desikachar in relation to our actions needs to consider the Sat Viniyoga or appropriate application of the Citta or psyche in terms of:
Vikalpa or the ability to skilfully use imagination and fantasy.
Pramāṇa or the ability to skilfully use right perception.
Smṛti or the ability to skilfully use our memory of experiences.
And the Sat Viniyoga or appropriate application of Time In terms of its three faces – Past, Present and Future.
These two aspects psyche and time offer a myriad of combinations for reflection such as:
- Past – “īśvara Praṇidhānā – How do we take the fruit of our action?”
How skilful is my use of Pramāṇa around being present with possible impacts of previous actions?
- Present – “The relationship we have developed with the fruits of our actions is īśvara Praṇidhānā”
How skilful is my use of Smṛti around being present with possible effects of current actions?
- Future – “īśvara Praṇidhānā – What is our attitude towards our own action?”
How skilful is my use of Vikalpa around possible outcomes of future actions?
This post arose from a comment in a thread yesterday on my facebook page:
“I feel that by now you are surely off Yoga Sūtra 2.1?”
Its not something I think about often from that perspective so my thanks to Ivan for the following reflection:
“I do feel that verses 10 and 11 Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two offer an inspiration for the transition from Kriyā Yoga towards Aṣṭāṅga Yoga.
The first four verses in the Yoga Sūtra Chapter One are very significant.
If what is offered here interests then proceed.
Also the first four Sūtra summarise the whole thrust of the teaching.
- Verse 1. Starting Point.
- Now follow the teachings of Yoga.
- Verse 2. Goal and Means.
- Yoga is the containment of fluctuations in the psyche.
- Verse 3. Outcome.
- Then the seer abides in its own character.
- Verse 4. Obstacles.
- At other times there is identification with the fluctuations.
CHAPTER 4 – THE DIVISION OF THE SPOILS
The focus for these four short articles has been the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali. This is regarded as a primary text defining Yoga and its purpose especially with regard to the mind and the transformation of those things which block our understanding. Its four chapters are seen as a complete teaching on Royal Yoga, known as Rāja Yoga, hence the borrowing of the title from the author Paul Scott.
The first part of the quartet outlined chapter one, called Samādhi Pādaḥ. its 51 verses introduced the mind, its fluctuations, problems and possibilities. Entitled “The Jewel in the Crown”, it focused on the theme of mindfulness. Its teachings chart the transformation of the mind towards a flawless jewel in the crown of our being.
CHAPTER III – THE TOWERS OF SILENCE
This article looks at chapter three. Titled Vibhūti Pādaḥ, its 55 verses explore the possibilities of a mind with more refined qualities of mindfulness and clarity. Here it is not the experiences which control the mind. The mind is able to focus in a particular direction and be freer from the effects of external and internal disturbances.
In this is the image of the mind being a support or structure which can maintain its containment and flow within the vagaries of inner and outer experience. A tower gives the impression of strength and consistency, it also indicates the possibility of being able to see beyond the normal view.
The student in the third chapter has experienced the nature of the meditative mind and has a strength and view which is beyond the range of normal perception. The mind can be a likened tower of silence.
The questions in this chapter are firstly, what are the possibilities for a mind with this potential and secondly:
CHAPTER II – THE DAY OF THE SCORPION
This article looks at chapter two. Titled Sādhana Pādaḥ, its 55 verses reflect the theme of self responsibility in cultivating the preparatory means for accessing and maintaining mindfulness.
In astrology the sign of the scorpion has at its ruler the planet Pluto. The influence of Pluto in our chart and life is associated with the creative forces of the body, with enforced change, the unconscious and beginning and ends of phases of life. Committing ourselves to Sãdhana or practice in the direction of Yoga will bring us into contact with these issues.
The zodiac sign of Scorpio is itself associated with a sense of purpose, persistence and discrimination. In chapter two of the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali is also concerned with these aspects from the viewpoint of developing these qualities through doing something ourselves. So that what is not possible becomes possible.
This is Sādhana, providing the means to reach somewhere we haven’t reached before. How to proceed?
CHAPTER I – THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN
My apologies to Paul Scott for plagiarism. However the Pādaḥ (four parts) which comprise the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali are often known as Rāja Yoga. Also one view of this text is that Patañjali had four students and that the chapters of the YogaSūtra are arranged as four sādhana, each one according to the level students personal development and thus offering a different role. In this context the title is apt, with its four chapters Patañjali has composed a complete teaching on royal or classical Yoga.
I will attempt through four articles to present an introduction to theses teachings through which the student can form their own understanding. As is the tradition I first offer my respects to Patañjali and the lineage of teachers who have helped to carry these insights to our age and culture. I acknowledge that we can only surmise as to exactly what Patañjali meant and thank my teacher TKV Desikachar for guiding me towards this understanding.
This article looks at Chapter One, titled Samādhi Pādaḥ or the book on integration, its 51 verses reflecting the theme of mindfulness.