Friday, January 22, 2010

Sutra Study

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Sutra, meaning thread, or suture in sanskrit, the Yoga Sutras are a series of threaded together phrases, or aphorisms explaining the 8 limbed practice of Yoga. These sutras were classically passed down through one on one oral teachings, directly from teacher to student. Yoga as we know it today, in all its forms, began to take shape as these magical ideas and practices were systematized and compiled by Patanjali.

It is not really known EXACTLY when Patanjali lived, or if perhaps he was even several people using the same title (hmmmmm sounds similar to someone else I know and love: Lao Tzu). Estimates range from 5,000 B.C. to 300 A.D. but, in any case, he is known as the "Father of Yoga" and the teachings contained within the four books ("Padas") are so valuable to the evolution of your Yoga practice, or ANY spiritual practice for that matter. Void of dogma that is present in so many other paths and religions, in the Sutras invite each individual to embark on a spiritual journey all his or her own. The ideas and suggestions put forth here are universal and open to interpretation. This is why I am adding Sutra Study to my blog. Each week I will present a new Sutra for contemplation. I will be taking the Sutras directly from the tanslation by Sri Swami Satchitananda, founder of Integral Yoga Institute and the famous Yogaville Ashram. You may also know him as the Yogi who gave the opening invocation at Woodstock in 1969. An extremely inspiring, funny and enlightened being; you will enjoy his take on this sacred text.

1.2: Samadhi Pada (Portion on Contemplation). Second Sutra

sanskrit: Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah

english: The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.

Swami says, "For a keen student this one Sutra would be enough because the rest of them only explain this one. If the restraint of the mental modifications is achieved one has reached the goal of Yoga."

Sounds pretty easy, right?

Wrong. And that is why there are three more Padas: The Portion on Practice, on Accomplishments, and on Absoluteness. The mind is powerful, and as you will discover in the next series of Sutras, it is encouraged by strong forces to identify and obsess over the vrittis, "modifications of the mind-stuff" (thoughts, basically). We obsess constantly about what happened before, what might happen now, or in the future etc etc etc. This obsessing takes us out of the present and generally makes us uneasy, unhappy, paranoid. When you have control over these thoughts, you are not ruled by outside phenomena, and you have the presence and capability to make a reality that is joyful, luminous, content.

Swami says, "That is why the entire Yoga is based on chitta vritti nirodhah. If you control your mind, you have controlled everything. Then there is nothing in this world to bind you."

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

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