The first four sūtra of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra

The first four sūtra of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra

This was an assignment from 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training, written in August 2016.

Homework: essay on a sutra of my own choice

I choose the sutra 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 to 1:4 for this essay. Four of them altogether because they are interlinked with each other. This four first sutra sums up the content of the four chapters, the rest are expansion and elaboration of this four sutras.

1:1 atha yogānuśasānam

1:2 yogaś cittaviṛtti nirodhaḥ

1:3 tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe avasthānam

1:4 vṛitti sārūpyam itaratra

Now, after all the preparation, here comes yoga.

Yoga is the mastery of the fluctuations of the mind.

When the fluctuations of the mind is mastered, the Seer abides in its own true nature.

At all other times, when the Seer is not abiding in its own true nature, the Seer identifies with the fluctuations of the mind.

atha yogānuśasānam

Now, after all the preparation, here comes yoga.

The first sutra implies that yoga comes after preparation. So yoga requires a certain readiness from the student. Like the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I experience this in my life as well – I met teachers that taught what I needed to learn at that time. At the beginning of my yoga journey I needed to prepare my physical body – so I met many teachers that taught the physical aspects of yoga. Along the way I am more ready for the more subtle aspect of yoga, and I met teachers that taught me that.

yogaś cittaviṛtti nirodhaḥ

Yoga is the mastery of the fluctuations of the mind.

The second sutra, is the most well known sutra – the definition of yoga itself. I choose the word “mastery” because I see fluctuations of the mind are almost always there, and thoughts will come and go, it is impossible to stop thinking. What we can do is to have control over it, in other words, to be skillful and able to master the thoughts – not overwhelmed or carried over by it. When we have mastery on our own mind, thoughts arise and go away, and we are not affected by them. Some translations use the word “block” “cessation” “stopping”, for example one translation is “Yoga is to block the modifications of the mind”, I think this is  a bit misleading, because we are not suppressing thoughts and emotions in yoga, but actually bringing them to the surface, witness them as they are, and they will lose their power to affect us.

tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe avasthānam

When the fluctuations of the mind is mastered, the Seer abides in its own true nature.

The third sutra describes the result of this mastery: the Seer abides in its own true nature. Seer is the the Self – the pure consciousness, the Atman. The one who is aware. When the fluctuations are no longer there, the cloud, dust, dirt that cover the true nature are gone. And the inner light, now uncovered, shines forth. Some call this as Self-realization. Realization, not attainment ~ implying that the process is about uncovering something that is always there, not discovering something new.

vṛitti sārūpyam itaratra

At all other times, when the Seer is not abiding in it’s own true nature, the Seer identifies with the fluctuations of the mind.

The fourth sutra is about what happens when the fluctuations of the mind is not mastered, the Seer forgets its true nature and become identified with the fluctuations of the mind. This state is the default state of most people, being identified with emotions, thoughts, conditioning etc. The Self forgets that it is the pure consciousness, pure awareness, but think it is an individual human separated from everything else, with all its conditioning (eg gender, nationality, race, emotional & mental make up, etc).

 

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