Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
Make your heart and mind friends and you will have peace of mind.
- Suzy Kassem
This blog post is part of our Yoga Sutras series.
Want to start at the beginning?
Sutra 1.12 - अभ्यासवैराग्याअभ्यां तन्निरोधः -
Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah
Peace of Mind Comes Through Practice and Non-Attachment
You may be wondering, “wait a minute…we skipped from Sutra 1.3 to 1.12!” It’s true. If I covered every Yoga Sutra in this series, it would take us 16⅓ years to get us through them all.
Luckily, these threads are so terse (and when read one after the other become like poetry) that we can conveniently condense the Sutras between those formally in our exploration within these discussions. So while we are specifically looking at Sutra 1.12, we’ll also take a look at Sutras 1.4 - 1.11.
In Sutra 1.4, Patanjali mentions that when we are not experiencing yoga as explained in the first three Sutras, we are convinced that our True Self is whatever our mind thinks we are. This perception of ourselves is usually derived from our experience of the world through our senses.
Sutras 1.5 - 1.11 describe the five types of thought forms the mind has which cause us to identify with our senses. These thought forms can be painful or pleasant.
First, the mind may perceive things correctly. Correct perception can come from a person’s direct experience, through deductive reasoning, by studying scriptures or through “the testimony of one who knows.” (Stiles, 3)
Second, the mind can have misconceptions. Misunderstandings come from erroneous knowledge, which is based on “a false understanding of what is real.” (Bhakt, 16)
Third, the mind can live in a world of fantasy or imagination. Imagination develops by pursuing verbal information that has no basis in reality.
Fourth, the mind can enter a state of dreamless sleep, which is characterized by a “complete lack of awareness.” (Shoshoni, 8) This state differs from meditation because it is not deliberate and while in it, we are not aware of our own consciousness.
Fifth, the mind can experience memories. Memories are recollections of past experiences that we retain in our mind’s eye. The experiences we remember are created by the four types of other thought forms (correct perception, misconception, imagination and sleep).
Finally, we reach Yoga Sutra 1.12. Patanjali says we should control these five fluctuations of mind through dedication to the practices of yoga. This dedication will help us achieve the state of yoga or peace of mind.
The path to achieve peace of mind is twofold. First, we have to practice. And second, we have to detach from the results of our efforts. (Iyengar, 61-62)
These two pieces of the puzzle - practice and renunciation - work together. As we practice yoga, we have the opportunity to detach from the results of our practice. As we evolve into a state of freedom from the desires of our senses, our practice deepens more and more.
This is what it’s like to study the Yoga Sutras themselves. At first, it is very difficult to get any kind of handle on what the heck Patanjali is talking about.
In our effort to understand, we practice yoga. We may get frustrated when we’re getting started. This may stall our efforts because yoga is about letting go, not grasping.
With time, dedication and patience, we might start to understand certain parts a little better. Our lives resonate with the concepts in particular Sutras and these Sutras are clarified through our direct perception, powers of reasoning and/or conversations with others along the path.
Then, we start to relax a little bit and enjoy studying certain Sutras. The text becomes richer and more meaningful, which inspires us to study and understand more.
If we can remain free from attachment to the results of our yoga practice, things unfold effortlessly.
All you can do is loose an arrow. You can’t control where it lands once it's left your bow. As a great sage used to say, "do your best and leave the rest."
Do your best and leave the rest.
- Swami Sivananda
In the next Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines what practice and detachment look like in practice. We’ll cover all that in the next post.
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In the meantime, can you think of examples of the five thought forms Patanjali has identified? How might they keep someone from achieving peace of mind? What does it look like to live through your senses compared to living as your True Self?
Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
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