Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet...maybe we could understand something.
- Federico Fellini
This blog post is part of our Yoga Sutras series. Each year, I will select Sutras from the four, successive Padas (with January's - February this year - dedicated to an introduction to a specific Pada). Although every one of the 196 Sutras could lead a person to transcendence, I will be limited to 43. In these 43 Sutras, I will attempt to cover most of the important themes within the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as a whole, by referring to other important Sutras within the discussion.
I invite you on this exploration with me. To discover the heart of yoga: what yoga is and how to master it.
Want to start at the beginning?
In 2023, we will cover Pada One. The first Pada is for Patanjali’s most advanced students (Stiles, xvi), intended for “those who are already highly evolved to enable them to maintain their advanced state.” (Iyengar, 4).
But in Patanjali’s brilliance, this Pada also serves as a sort of introduction to Raja Yoga. Specifically, why practice yoga? What benefits develop from steady, continued yoga practice? And generally, how to get there?
The chapter’s title is Samadhi Pada. Samadhi is the state of enlightenment gained from diligent practice of “profound meditation and supreme devotion.” (Iyengar, 47) It sounds simple but as anyone who has sat down to meditate understands, accomplishment in meditation takes effort and discipline.
It is said that if a person could understand just the first three of the Yoga Sutras, they would reach enlightenment (more on those in the coming months). All other Sutras in the first Pada just clarify the first three (Stiles, xvi). In that way, these first Sutras are both the most basic and the most advanced.
Why do we want to attain enlightenment in the first place? And therefore, why practice yoga? I think what makes us human is the capacity to question our place in the universe. All other beings just go about their business without asking why.
Have you ever seen squirrels contemplating why they hide acorns? Of course not! The squirrel just buries the cache on impulse. Do maple trees question the purpose of growing and losing leaves every year? That awesome phenomenon happens without intellectualization. Only humans wonder whether we have a purpose for existing and if so, what that is.
This capacity for questioning our very existence, is both empowering and humbling. Like many powerful things, without the proper understanding, this question can lead us to difficult thoughts or even bad deeds.
Yoga (and Raja Yoga, as described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras) allows us to understand why we are here; how to live in harmony within ourselves and with the wider world. It teaches us a specific method for attaining the enlightenment that leads to supreme and everlasting joy, which is the culmination of Samadhi and our own true nature.
“The purpose of spiritual work is to experience a state of unconditional freedom, a state of love without attachment, a state of gratitude without reason.”
Imagine if we could live like that: totally free from attachments, grief and anxiety. If we could feel grateful for our existence at all moments and in all conditions.
I’m not saying it’s easy or even possible for everyone to attain this state of mind (at least in this lifetime…) However, for those of us motivated to embody our true nature, in striving toward it, the only things we have to lose are fear, anger, and sadness. What we have to gain is total freedom. So isn’t it worth a try?
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What do you think? Is all this effort toward attaining enlightenment actually worth it? Especially considering it may take a long time to achieve. Why or why not?
Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
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