Patanjali's Yoga Sutras


It is said that not only that our thoughts make us the way we are but they also make our world. So, two people with the same background can end up living different lives. One may be living a dream while the other, a nightmare. None of us wish to live miserably but how is it then that some of us do, sometimes even despite having access to all the luxuries of life. It is not uncommon at all that many popular and wealthy individuals live in misery. And, what about the immense untold miseries caused by violence, the sickening atrocities we hear and read about. The endless stream of shocking news that make headlines have become the order of the day.

So, what is the way out? How does one achieve a sense of balance, a sense of calm so that we do not add to the misery? What if we are affected by personal losses and challenges? How does one get back in control of one's life. Is it genius or rocket science involved in this climb back to the peak?

Far from the Truth. The Father of Yoga, Patanjali, in his commentary on yoga, explains why yoga is necessary. And, if you weren't aware, yoga is not about the gymnastics that we are mostly exposed to nowadays but the science behind it. After all, yoga is not about standing on one's head but getting it out of the way!

Patanjali was a genius. He was a visionary. Here's a brief dive into his first 4 aphorisms.


Sutra 1: Atah Yoganusasanam - Now begin the practice of Yoga.

In his Yoga Sutras(aphorisms), he starts with his first Sutra 'Ata Yoganusasam' or 'Now start the practice of Yoga'. Yoga is derived from the word 'Yuj' or 'Union'. How does one practice 'union'? And, what exactly, does he mean by practice of 'union'?

He is telling us that 'now' drop everything and start yoga. In fact, yoga can only be 'practised' in the 'now' or the present moment. If we are not in the present moment, then we are in our thoughts, in our mind. Anyone and everyone can be in the present moment. One doesn't need to be a genius or superstar to be in the 'here and now'. But Yoga has become more 'esoteric' because very few people can be in the present moment. Our worlds are influenced by the external impingements to the extent that being with our own selves have become 'boring'. This is why it is esoteric,not because the science is not available to us because the mind is wandering everywhere else but being here. Also, yoga 'methods' can be practised but the 'yoga' itself is the 'realisation' and happens as a natural culmination of the practice.

He connects this beautifully to his second Sutra: 'Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodah' or ' Yoga is the cessation of the mind'.

Chitta is just the mind-stuff, and Vrttis are the waves and ripples rising in it when external causes stimulate it. These Vrttis are our universe/reality.

So, he says, to be in the present moment, in 'Yoga', it means the cessation of the mind. He is not saying 'drop your mind' because that becomes an activity, and again, one is doing something. He just says that Yoga is just being in the present moment. So one is not fighting with the mind, one is just being in the moment. That itself, is the cessation of the mind.

And, it also does not mean that the mind disappears. It just stops being the master, it is not dominating anymore. It becomes a wonderful tool to use when required. The 'real man' is behind the mind, and the mind is the instrument in his hands, and it is his intelligence that is percolating through it. It is only when one stands behind it that it becomes intelligent. When one gives it up, it falls to pieces, and is nothing.

Histhird sutra: 'Tada Drastuh Svarupe Vasthanam' or 'Then the witness is established in itself'.

He says when you are in the moment and the cessation of the mind happens, one is able to be the witness, the watcher of oneself. This is because one is not chasing any form, thought or otherwise. One becomes aware of oneself and stops identifying with one's surroundings. As soon as the waves on the mind's lake stops, then one can clearly see the bottom, the substance that provides the support. Then 'doing' stops and 'being' happens.

In the fourth sutra, he wraps it up by saying ' Vritti Sarupyam Itaratra' or 'In other states, there is identification with the modifications of the mind'.

Here, he says that there are various forms(5) that the mind takes, and he goes on to describe them in his sutras, but none of them are true because the mind itself is based on relative perceptions. And, relative states or Duality becomes one's reality if one allows the mind to dominate. In these states, one can only perceive in relativity. For example, bad versus the good, right versus wrong. But we don't have to dig deep to understand that these are matters of history, education, background and, hence, opinions and not the absolute truth, and no two people will have an exact opinion on one thing. Even identical twins differ in their perception of the world, so even a genetic match can not produce identical minds.

Hence, he says that Yoga is the way to the Truth, to know one's true self and once that is established then one is in 'Union', and Duality gives way to Singularity. When one is identified with one's true self, one is established in the universal absolute truth, and no discriminations exist in this state. This brings about a sense of calm and 'peace with existence'.

This also becomes important because one does not add to the volatility in the world but takes away from it by 'adding our calm energies'. When many of us are able to do that and this 'like-minded' population starts growing in the world, slowly but surely, it brings about the change. The misery and violence starts being replaced by the growing calm.

This is why Yoga is necessary. To start working on ourselves and become the best version of who we are. The Buddha says ' Be a light unto yourself. Soon the light will spread and the darkness will disappear.