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VEDANTA KESARIPatanjali's Yoga Sutras - An Exposition | Swami Premeshananda  





          Patanjali's Yoga Sutras - An Exposition


       Swami Premeshananda



     Translated by Shoutir Kishore Chatterjee




     Chapter 1: The Section on Samadhi (Samadhi-padah)

     1. Atha yoganusasanam.

     Now concentration [yoga] is explained.


     Comment: Only he who is well trained, that is has his body and mind under control and who is eager to enter the inner world is eligible for practising the yoga of meditation. Such a person qualifies for the practice of yoga only if he is able to understand that Brahman is the goal of a seeker of freedom and that spiritual practice consists in tearing the mind away from the world to engage it in the pursuit of that goal. Maharshi Patanjali's instructions are meant for those who have acquired such awareness about the goal and the means. This is the significance of the word atha ('now'} in the first aphorism.

     2. Yogascitti-vrtti-nirodhah.

     Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (citta) [which is like a lake] from taking various forms (vrttis) lor modifications, which are like waves and ripples rising in it when external causes impinge on it.

     3. Tada drastuh svarupe'vasthanam.

     At that time (the time of concentration) the seer (Purusha) rests in his own (unmodified) state.

     4. Vrtti-santpyam-itaratra.

     At other times (other than that of concentration) the seer is identified with the modifications.
Comment: Our mind has been busy with external things life after life. Now if we are to attain Self-knowledge we have to stop all activities of the mind. Even when the mind ceases to think, we have the consciousness 'I exist'. We need to sit still for long hours, holding only to that fir-consciousness'. This is the first instruction in the practice of yoga.


     5. Vrttayah pancatayyah klistaklistah.

     There are five classes of modifications, (some) painful and (others) not painful.

     6. Pramana-viparyaya-vikalpa-nidra-smrtayah.

     (These are) right knowledge, indiscrimination, verbal delusion, sleep and memory.

     7. Pratydksanurtianagamah pramanani.

     Direct perception, inference and competent evidence [the words of an apta or 'attained per-] are proofs.

     8. Viparyayo mithya-jnanam-atadrupa-pratisthitam.

     Indiscrimination is false knowledge not established in real nature [like mistaking a piece of mother-of-pearl for a piece of silver].


     9. Sabda-jnananupati vastu-sunyo vikalpah.

     Verbal delusion follows from words having no (corresponding) reality.

     10. Abhava-pratyayalambuna vrttirnidm.

     Sleep is a vrtti that embraces the feeling of voidness.

     11. Anubhuta-visayasampramosah smrtih.

     Memory is when the (vrttis of) perceived subjects do not slip away (and through impressions come back to consciousness).

     Comment: Usually we do not observe the movements of the mind. But if we want to make the mind inactive, it is extremely important that we keep a watch on its movements. The thoughts we entertain throughout the day are broadly of five types. Every thought results sometimes in pleasure, sometimes in pain. Generally, whatever circumstances we are in, we think about our associated daily activities. Due to bad upbringing or lack of upbringing, sometimes various strange ideas too crop up in the mind. We always think about the happiness and misery of our past life. And when we get tired, the mind, as it were, winds itself up and lies down like an inert mass. What else is our life but such variegated plays of the mind?


     12. Abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tannirodhah.


     Their control is by practice and non-attachment.

     13. Tatra sthitau yatno'bhyasah.

     Continuous struggle to keep them (the vrttis) perfectly restrained is practice.

     14. Sa tu dirgha-kala-nairantarya-satkarasevito drdha-bhumih.

     It becomes firmly grounded by long constant efforts with great love (for the end to be attained).

     15. Drstanusravika-visayavitrsnasya uastkara-samjna vairagyam.

     That effect which comes to those who have given up their thirst after objects, either seen or heard, and which wills to control the objects [that is to control the twofold motive powers (for our actions) arising from our own experience and from the experience of others, and thus prevent the citta being governed by them], is non-attachment.

     Comment: Life means the activities of the gross and subtle bodies. Both these are constituted by avidya (nescience). These are insentient matter like pieces of brick. The first step towards stopping their activities is to realize that such play is absolutely useless for us. Then we have to follow it up with efforts to check the mind's propensity towards them. The second task is to forcibly stop these activities.

     We find it difficult to get rid of lesser addictions like chewing betel leaves and tobacco. But if we really want to be free from them, we have first to reason out that these do not benefit us in any way but involve only pointless waste of energy and depletion of wealth. Above all, these mean slavery to a habit. Then we need to abstain from them now and then and see for ourselves whether the abstentions really harm us in any way.

     Similarly, to free ourselves from the addiction to worldly enjoyments, we have to develop the following awareness: Through endless time we have catered so much enjoyment to the five senses and the mind, but that has not given us the least bit of satisfaction; rather, the addiction has only grown. Therefore we should not proceed farther in that direction. When the issue becomes clear through such reasoning, we have now and then to stop the activities of our mind and intellect and look inside and beyond them. We will then be convinced that when there is so much joy inside us, we shall only court disaster if we keep playing with things outside.

     Through such practice, when non-attachment becomes well established, the bondage of maya formed of the three gunas will fully snap and the conception of one's true Self will become clear.

     Above the enjoyments of this world there exist infinite life, infinite knowledge and infinite bliss. One has to hear of this fact from a man of illumination or read it from scriptures and then ruminate over it again and again. How happily illumined souls live is evident from their play-like activities. As one thinks about their forms, and the facts of their lives, a longing to rise above worldly lures arises in one's mind. This is something to be specially comprehended before embarking on the practice of yoga.

     To control the extreme restlessness of the mind one has to discriminate and understand that one has been intoxicated with this kind of play of the mind through so many births, without being benefited in the least. Therefore, this restlessness of the mind has to be stopped if one is to attain peace. As a sequel to this, one will develop disgust for the habit of thinking about various things. One will then have to adopt the above-mentioned methods to restrain the mind.

     But this habit is not something that goes away in one or two days. To conquer this habit acquired through innumerable births, one has to ceaselessly keep the thought-stream of the mind stopped for many days. If I quell the thoughts of the mind, I will find out my true Self. It will not do me the least bit of harm; rather, through it, I will be able to free myself from the clutches of misery. This fact needs to be firmly imprinted in the mind.

     Sometimes we find that non-attachment arises in the mind because of some particular distress. But such non-attachment does not produce any lasting effect. True non-attachment comes only to those who realize through subtle perception or discrimination that none of the objects of enjoyment they have known or heard about from others is beneficial to them, and that total renunciation of all desires for enjoyment does not harm them in the least. The term vasikara-sarhjna (sarhjna = jnana, or awareness) means firmly imprinting the idea in our mind that the objects of enjoyment are out and out vile, and a clear awareness (and conviction) that they can never lure us.

     16. Tatparam purusa-khyater-guna-vaitrsnyam.

     That is extreme non-attachment which gives up [under which one ceases to feel attraction for] even the qualities [the three gunas, which constitute the whole of nature], and [which] comes from the knowledge of (the real nature of) the Purusha.

     Comment: When the mind is thus kept restrained for many days, one experiences a wonderful peace, and the mind becomes serene. Then one knows for certain that all peace and happiness is within oneself. One needs to apprehend nothing apart from one's true Self. This state is called para-vairagya (supreme non-attachment). When this state is attained, the mind becomes absolutely free from attraction for anything in this creation.


     17. Vitarka-vicaranandasmitanugamat samprajnatah.

     The concentration called right knowledge [samprajnata samadhi] is that which is [upon a single object and is] followed [in stages] by reasoning, discrimination, bliss [and] unqualified egoism [depending on the object chosen].

     18. Virama-pratyayabhyasa-purvah samskara-seso'nyah.

     There is another samadhi [asamprajnata samadhi] which is attained by the constant practice of cessation of all mental activity, [and] in which the cittu [mind] retains only the unmanifest impressions.

     Comment: Concentration of the mind is the first discipline for spiritual progress. That is why a Hindu's religious practice started with Gayatri worship. In that worship boys were taught to concentrate on [an inner] light. Those who want to follow the path of meditation have to first practise making the mind inactive. Established in that state, they have to comprehend the idea 'I am'. For those who , succeed in this, certain other practices are prescribed. First, one has to think about some gross object. When the mind becomes totally fixed on that, one can understand that the power of concentration of the mind has developed. Then in the second stage, the mind needs to be fixed on some subtle (or abstract) idea. Thus when the mind becomes completely still and steady, a stage called samadhi is reached. In that tranquil state of the mind, sometimes one gets a faint glimpse of one's true Self. That is called ananda samadhi. There is another state in which one remains in a sort of unswerving awareness of that very T. That is known as sasmita samadhi. When the mind comes out from such samadhis, one finds that one's previous impressions (samskaras) continue to remain as earlier. But unlike the worldly-minded, who move about with a restless mind swayed by their impressions, yogis can keep the impressions fully under control.


     19. Ehava-pratyayo videha-prakrti-layanam.

     (This samadhi when not followed by extreme non-attachment) becomes the cause of the re-manifestation of the gods [the offices of gods are filled successively by various souls, none of rwhom is perfect] and of those that become merged in nature.

     Comment: One has to undergo various disciplines to become eligible for the practice of meditation. Those who do not do that but practise remaining inactive by the sheer exercise of will power do not attain freedom. Possibly, due to the propagation of the Buddhist doctrine of nirvana, many people followed various spiritual disciplines based on erroneous beliefs. They did not know about Brahman, either with or without attributes; what is more, they did not admit of any entity called Brahman. Many among them were atheists and nihilists. Their idea was that there is nothing called jivatman. Therefore they thought that the ultimate goal of life was to hold the breath (practise kumbhaka) and hibernate mugly like a frog or a snake. During deep sleep we become as if dead. But on waking up we find ourselves exactly as we were before sleep. If such atheists and nihilists die while in a state of samadhi, they remain merged in nature, as if in deep sleep, until the end of the kalpa (until the dissolution of the universe at the end of the cycle). When a new cycle of creation begins they are reborn as they were before, with the sum total of their earlier impressions intact.

     Those who embark on yoga without purifying the mind through the practice of karma yoga and attaining concentration of the mind through worship, become tempted by various occult powers when they accrue to them. This spells their downfall. And if they die in a state of samadhi with their mind void and inactive, their mind-stuff continues to be covered by avidya (nescience). Thus they are reborn at the end of the kalpa.

     Some people may be able to merge their mind in nature, that is in avidya, through meditation. If they die while not in a state of Samadhi, they may have in their mind even thoughts other than that of the primal avidya. Their next birth will of course be determined by their thought at the time of death. And if their consciousness remains merged in nature even while they give up the gross body, they will remain in that state until the end of the kalpa.

     Two kinds of liberation have been spoken of in Vedanta: videha-mukti (liberation when bereft of the body) and jivan-mukti (liberation when still living). Videha-mukti means liberation after death. Likewise we can also interpret videha-laya as the state in which one remains merged in nature (Prakriti) when bereft of the body. And it is a universal truth that one is reborn exactly in accordance with one's state of mind just before death.

     Commentators have understood the word videha to mean devata (god). Swami Vivekananda too accepted the same meaning.


     20. Sraddha-virya-smrti-samadhi-prajna-purvaka itaresam.

     To others [those who do not want the position of gods or even that of rulers of cyclesl (this samadhi) comes through faith, energy, memory, concentration and discrimination of the real. [They attain to liberation.]

     (to be continued)



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International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015








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