Tantra: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Ch 1

Good morning, I wanted to share with you folks today a podcast that I feel is a very good overview of the four noble truths and the other teachings of the Buddha. And! It’s under an hour long. It’s a Zencast episode, talk given by Andrea Fella.

Also, I believe I did not yet upload the notes from Tuesday’s chat. We’ve started going over Patanajali’s Yoga Sutra. We made it part way through the first chapter, but I’ll give you the notes I have for the whole chapter. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments! If you’d like to join us next week you can, just click here for the SLURL. We meet every Tuesday at 7pmSLT.

I will be hosting a special event this Saturday at 11amSLT on Dogen’s Mountains and Waters Sutra. If you’d like to read it ahead of time, which I do suggest as it’s a pretty heavy text, you can click here. Many other translations are available on the web as well. Join my group “Creativity; Karma” or my Google+ Community to keep up to date on events.

Tantra: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

Welcome to Perfect Paradise! I’m so honoured to have you all here with me today.

I’ve decided to host this as we do yoga postures because I’ve found it helpful on my journey. If you would prefer to sit please feel free to let me know and I can rezz some pillows for you. If you are chosing to do yoga with me you can feel the poses as they manifest in your RL body while we discuss. Allow the energy of the water and the full sky above us to fill you up, and give back to the earth below what you don’t need.

Let us open with a brief mindfulness exercise…please take a moment to make yourself comfortable, drink some water, and stop any and all distractions you are able to.

Once you’re comfortable, preferably sitting, with your head, neck and truck straight, eyes open or closed, whatever is more comfortable, become aware of your body where it comes in contact with the earth…

Notice how the earth is providing continual support…

Notice what it feels like to be supported…

Now become aware of the sensation of weight…

Notice what it feels like to be an object of gravity…

Feel the sensation of weight in different parts of your body – from your head, to your shoulders, to your chest, trunk, hips, legs and feet…

Avoid using thoughts, rely instead on physical sensation, and really examine what weight and gravity feel like.

Please find yourself coming back into the discussion with ease, take a drink of water or tea if you feel the need, and we can get started in just a moment. If you’d care to share, please tell us how was your experience?

1.1 Now is when yoga begins.

Some translations take sutra 1.1 to be an explanation of the text. In my experience, however, the first sutra of any text is the most important description of the meaning of the entire text. This, to me shows that yoga practice is accessible in every moment, in every “now”. Some other translations are: “Now, instruction in Union.” and, “thus, with certainty, we delve into the definitive explication of yoga.” So, thus we go.

We won’t be able to go through the entire Yoga Sutra, since there are 196 sutra’s in four chapters, but we will have a brief overview today. You can find many translations online free of charge. A concise overview (and fairly accessible translation) can be found here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/yogasutr.htm for further reading.

I got the photo’s on the board behind me from this outstanding website: http://atma.mobi/category/ch-1-sutras-1-1-1-51/

1.2 Yoga is the control of the (moral) character of thought; the re-channeling of the impressions and habits of the mind and the control of the fluctuations of consciousness.

In other words, yoga aims to reflect the true nature of the person. Persons, in Patanjali’s view, are intrinsically pure, benign moral beings. You may be familiar with the moral code, more frequently known as the eight limbs of yoga. We will explore this a little later, but they first appeared in these Yoga Sutra’s as well.

Patanjali holds a dualistic view that distinguishes persons from the natural world, but this view should be distinguished from the dualisms prominent in the western world where the mind (soul) is regarded as the essential feature of persons. For Indian dualists such as Patanjali the mind is typically seen as a feature of the natural world, dependent on the conditions of the elements.

1.3 Then, the seer can abide in its essence; dwell in their own nature.

Upon realizing union, the seer can be free of the creations of the mind; free of the misconceptions that lead us to wrong-doing and immoral action. We can find our original state.

1.5 There are five characters of thought, or mental habits – some afflicted, degrading, others not afflicted, uplifting.

Sutras 1.6-1.11 deal directly with describing these epistemic states.

1.6 These five states are: knowledge, illusion, verbal delusion, sleep and memory. In other words,

be aware of what is actually in front of you,
mistake what is in front of you,
imagine or fantasize something,
be unconscious, or
remember something.

1.7 We attain knowledge through (empirical) perception, inference (logic) and the scriptural traditions (ie. a reliable source).

1.8 Illusion is the improper comprehension (of real objects) not based on their true forms.

In other words, you are trusting your senses, which could be (and probably are) flawed. Perceptual error always contains a grain of truth in it, because Patanjali sees illusion not just on pure imagination but but a misperception of real objects.

1.9 Verbal delusion arises when words do not track (real) objects.

All of language is a metaphor. You can say with certainty, “That is a couch.” But, it could be used as a bed, or a table if you were sitting on the floor, and if you take it apart all of the things that make it up are not couches in and of themselves, they are bolts and screws, planks, wood, material, padding, etc. And even that doesn’t give you the true essence of what those things are. Any time we use language we are put our own perceptions and understanding behind it, and the person we are communicating with may not have the same perception or understanding, therefore making the communication delusional.

1.10 Deep sleep is the morally evaluatable character of mentality conditioned by the relationship between the awareness of nothing and nothingness; it is the mental habit characterized by the absence of form.

Sleep is a positive state of experience, note, this is not necessarily referring to dreams. In the practice of yoga nidra, for example, we give our minds something to focus on, such as embodiment or following a sound or guided imagery in order to maintain the mind. These objects of focus are not real object as they exist only in our minds, and therefore are nothing, empty, and inconsequential and meaningless to existence. This suggests that the mind can’t function without being “turned off” regularly.

1.11 Memory is the prevention of loss of experienced content; sensory experiences.

Samskaras, or the imprints left on the mind from past experiences make up our karma, and are barely distinguishable from memories, except that they exist unconsciously most often, where we may not remember them. It is said that we actively hold on to these by participating in the continuous cyclic existence of suffering. Through yoga, we can relinquish these impressions. This implies that, by putting effort into defining ourselves through past experiences, we can also let go of these experiences and redefine ourselves. This can be accomplished over time with many different practices, namely nonattachment.


1.16 Greater than detachment from the material world is to lose all interest in the very fabric of our reality. This comes from experiencing the nature of Consciousness (soul).

Here we are transcending the qualities of nature and directly perceiving the soul. This practice takes a very long time to achieve. Essentially this is achieving bliss.

Sutras 1.23-1.29 deal with attaining union, or success in yoga, through meditation on the Lord. It mention chanting Om, the primordial seed syllable. In doing this you can reach the knowledge of consciousness, intelligence and volition, and also nullify the impediments to that knowledge.

1.30 Illness, apathy, doubt, negligence, sloth, non restraint, delusion, perspectivism, failing to be grounded (flightiness/hyperactivity), and inconsistency, scatter the mind and constitute an impediment to yoga; act as barriers to stillness.

These are the obstacles to practicing yoga.

1.31 Accompanying these distractions are discomfort, depression, trembling of the body, and disturbed inhalation and exhalation.

Interestingly, these are all signs of poor health. It also mentions breathing, or pranayama. If you’ve been to my other discussions you’ll be familiar with a few pranayama practices.

1.33 Consciousness settles as one radiates friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity toward all things, whether pleasant or painful, good or bad.

In order to overcome these disturbances one can practice compassion and equanimity…beautiful words of wisdom. In Buddhism these four practices are called brahmavihara, or the “divine state”. Rather than the yogi transcending right and wrong, they are to view them with equanimity. In other words, you can’t look down at someone who is unsuccessful in yoga, but great them with compassion. Every situation, good or bad, that we are in is an opportunity to practice yoga, and we should be thankful for this.

In order to do this successfully we need to rid ourselves of negative reactions and worrying over problems. Patanajali lists the ways of doing this as practicing pranayama, meditation (“binding the mind into stillness to observe the contents of the mind as they arise”), non attachment, awareness, embodiment, insights culled from sleep and dreaming, and oneness.

That is all I have for tonight. Thank you all so much for coming and sharing your energy with us today! It truly was a pleasure. Namaste, hugs! I now open the floor to casual conversation.


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