The state of yoga
Patañjalí is a notable scholar of Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy. He is variously estimated to have lived between 5th century BCE to 4th century CE, with more scholars accepting dates between 2nd and 4th century CE.
Patañjalí did not create the teachings of yoga but obtained them from the Vedas, hymns sung and passed down from Brahman to Brahman, a member of the highest, or priestly class among the Hindus and then systematised them in 196 Sutras, which are words threaded together intended to be short so they are free of ambiguity.
The Sutras cover the aim of yoga, the required practices, the obstacles one may encounter along the path of searching for the state of yoga, their removal and descriptions of the results that will be achieved from such practices. The yoga sutras allow the yoga teacher to show his student the transformative power of the heart.
The sutras are divided in four chapters. The first chapter is called Samadhipada or “the chapter on Concentration”. It includes 51 sutras. This chapter defines yoga and discusses the problems encountered along the path for the search of the state of yoga and the ways to tackle such problems.
The second chapter is called Sadhanapada or “the chapter on Practice”. It includes 55 sutras. It describes the necessary qualities to transform the mind in an effective and gradual way from a state of distraction to one of attention. Outlines specific tools of attention to eliminate obstacles that block the light from within that allows clarity. The obstacles or causes of suffering according to Patañjalí are; not seeing things as they are, the sense of “I”, attachment, aversion and clinging to life.
The third chapter is called Vibhutipada or “the chapter of Power”. It includes 56 sutras. This chapter describes the capacity of the mind to achieve a state free from distractions. Such mind can examine objects and concepts profoundly. It begins by describing the last three of the eight steps of yoga; Dharana which consists on fixing the attention onto one object. Dhyana consists on sustained concentration, whereby there is a union between the person and the object. Samadhi is when one’s mind becomes one with something/ deep absorption. Here our identity (name, profession, family background, bank accounts) fade-away completely.
The rest of the chapter focuses on applying Samyamah, constraint/perfect discipline, to remove the subtler veils of ignorance.
The fourth Chapter is Kaivalyapaddah or “the chapter of Freedom”. This chapter refers to the state of liberation or enlightenment that a person can reach. It includes the 34 remaining sutras of the 196 that form this book.
Kaivalya describes the potential that can be achieved by one who follows the mental refinement described along the book.
Kaivalya is the effect on the personality of being in a continuous state of Samadhi. A person in this state understands the world so well that is not influenced by it. People on this state behave like normal people but they do not carry the burden of their world on their shoulders. They live in the world, but they are not subject to it.
In this last book Patañjalí talks about the forces of nature (gunas) and how to move past the limitations of time and space. He explains that yoga’s goal is a continuously unfolding process of self-knowledge and that this will lead to moksha, liberation.
Patañjalí describes what happens while being absorbed in Samadhi. In this absolute state of freedom all afflictions and karmas cease. Patañjalí says when you see the duality between the Prakrti, mater and Purusha, source of awareness, “the distinction between the mind and the Atman, thoughts of mind as the Atman ceases forever.
For Patañjalí Raja Yoga, or controlling the activities of the mind, is an integral part of attaining the yoga of action (Karma), wisdom (Jnana) and devotion (Bhakti).