The word "yoga" means union - the union between the individual mind and universal consciousness. Yoga Sutra, or The Threads of Union, was written by the sage Patanjali in the third century BC. In Yoga Sutra Patanjali codified the teachings on Yoga which had been passed down verbally for centuries. This is a classical work and one of the most influential texts on Raja Yoga. In a concise and profound way Patanjali threads together series of aphorisms (threads), inspired by Advaita Vedanta and Hindu philosophical tradition. Yoga Sutra consists of four chapters and 194 aphorisms altogether.
The original in Sanskrit leaves plenty of room for interpretation and between translations considerable differences can be found. This is my version of the aphorisms, based on several English translations and compared with the original. My aim was to try to represent the text as clearly as possible. Like all truly sacred works though, Yoga Sutra calls for a particular frame of mind, and perhaps some background knowledge, for its full understanding.
In Yoga Sutra there is plenty of truth about the ways to live a better life for anyone who is willing to hear it.
SAMADHI PADA (ON AWARENESS) I
1. Now, with prayers for divine blessing, the study of Yoga begins.
2. Yoga is the cessation of fluctuations in the consciousness.
3. Then the seer abides in himself, resting in his own essential nature.
4. Otherwise the seer identifies himself with the fluctuations of his consciousness.
5. There are five such fluctuations, afflicting more or less.
6. They are correct knowledge, erroneous knowledge, fancy, sleep and memory.
7. Correct knowledge comes from direct perception; logical deduction; and the word of those who know (testimony).
8. Erroneous knowledge is a false understanding formed by perceiving a thing as being other than what it really is.
9. Fancy is an idea that has verbal expression but no corresponding reality.
10. Dreamless sleep is a state where there are no thoughts or awareness.
11. Memory is unmodified recollection of past impressions.
12.Practice and detachment are the means to master these fluctuations.
13. Practice means persistent effort to bring a stable state of tranquillity.
14. When practice is done with care and devotion, and without interruption over a long period of time, then it becomes firmly established.
15. Detachment is a state of freedom from desire for objects, seen or unseen.
16. The highest detachment is signified by transcending qualities of nature (gunas), and perceiving the pure consciousness (purusha).
17.Practice and detachment develop these four types of gradually deepening awareness: analysis, synthesis, bliss and self-awareness; in these graduations the awareness (samadhi) is with seed (object) and there is a distinction between the seer and the seen.
18. Another, higher samadhi is the state where there is no awareness of all the thoughts described but only latent impressions of karma (samskaras) spring up, disturbing the purity of the consciousness.
19. This state may lead to experiencing bodilessness or merging with nature.
20. Practice must be pursued with faith, confidence, vigour, memory and power of absorption to go beyond this level in samadhi.
21. The goal is nearest to those whose desire to attain it is most ardent.
22. Results of the practice differ according to the effort made.
23. Or, undisturbed consciousness can be attained by deep contemplation and surrender to God (Ishvara).
24. God is a creative source that is a particular yet universal pure consciousness, eternally untouched by afflictions or actions, and their fruits.
25. In God is the seed of all knowledge of everything.
26. God is the Teacher of all teachers, being unconditioned by time.
27. He is represented in the sacred mantra ‘Om’.
28. The mantra Om is to be repeated with deep feeling for its significance.
so doing, obstacles on the path towards
the true self are removed.
30. These obstacles
are: disease, boredom, doubt, carelessness, laziness,
delusion, lack of perseverance, and backsliding.
these obstacles there are four more causes for distraction of the mind:
despair, unsteadiness of the body, and breath irregularities.
32. Practising adherence
to the only true reality prevents these impediments.
mind becomes purified through cultivation of joy with
the happy, compassion to those who are suffering,
friendliness towards the virtuous and indifference to those
who continue to live in vice.
the mind becomes pure in the state of retention
of breath after a long exhalation.
35. Or, the mind could become steady by deep contemplation of an object of nature.
by contemplating the inner
light which is beyond sorrow.
by reflecting on life of those that are free from desires.
by recollecting the experiences of dreams or
the state of dreamless sleep in a wakeful state.
by meditation upon that which one likes.
40. Through such practices the mind develops the power to penetrate from the smallest size objects to the largest.
the modifications of the mind are under control, the
mind becomes like a flawless jewel, reflecting as a mirror whatever object is presented to it; then the
knowable and the act of knowing become one, in a
process called samapatti.
42. When the
word for an
object, its meaning, and the idea of that object
blend together becoming new knowledge, this is called
the memory is purified, mind becomes free of its own nature and consciousness alone shines forward,
without reflection of the external objects; this is called nirvitarka
44. In the same way the contemplation of subtle objects is described, as being with or without reflection; these are savichara and nirvichara samapatti.
45. And the subtle objects lose their characteristics at the end.
46. These are the only kinds of samadhi which have a seed (object).
47. From proficiency in nirvichara samadhi comes luminosity of the soul.
48. From there starts the supreme wisdom, filled with truth.
49. This wisdom is different from that obtained from books, because it is intuitive knowledge.
50. New samskaras (latent impressions) are born from it, that negate all previous residues of actions.
51. When even those samskaras dissolve, seedless (nirbija) samadhi dawns and the seer abides in himself.
SADHANA PADA (ON PRACTICE) II
1. Self-discipline, study and surrender to God is the practice of Yoga.
2. The practice of Yoga reduces afflictions and brings about samadhi.
3. The afflictions are ignorance, egoism (pride), attachment, aversion and fear of death.
4. Ignorance is fertile soil for all the other afflictions, whether they are dormant, weakened, interrupted or active.
5. Ignorance means regarding transient as eternal, impure as pure, evil as good, and not-self as self.
6. Egoism is identification of the seer with his perception.
7. Attachment arises from experiencing pleasure.
8. Aversion arises from experiencing pain.
9. Even the wise cannot easily remain unattached to life and not to fear death.
10. Afflictions, when in their subtle form, are destroyed in the process of involution.
11. The voice of afflictions is silenced in meditation.
12. Afflictions create actions and results of these actions are experienced in the present life or in future lives.
13. As long as the root of these actions exists, its fruition is birth, life-span and life-experience.
14. These three may bring either pleasure or pain, according to the merits and demerits.
15. Wise man knows that because of the fluctuations, elements of nature (gunas) and latent impressions (samskaras) created, even pleasant experiences are tinged with pain.
16. The pain which is yet to come can be avoided.
17. The uniting of the seer (consciousness) with the seen (matter) is the cause of pain.
18. The seen, with its properties of luminosity, movement and steadiness, given to it by the gunas, just as the mind, senses and organs of action, exist for the enjoyment and liberation of the seer.
19. The gunas, in their different stages may be unspecified or specified, marked or without mark.
20. The seer is pure consciousness, yet his cognition is reliant on his means of cognition. .
21. The seen exists solely for the sake of the seer.
22. For the one who has attained liberation, the connection between the two ceases to appear real, but it continues to exist for the others.
23. The union of the seer and the seen is the necessary means for the seer to realise his essential nature.
24. Ignorance is the cause for this union.
25. When ignorance disappears, the union also disappears and the seer attains liberation.
26. Knowledge, in a continuous flow, is the means for removing ignorance.
27. There are seven stages of such knowledge on the path leading to wisdom.
28. By dedicated practice of the various aspects of Yoga impurities are destroyed and the light of wisdom shines in glory.
29. Moral conduct (yama), personal conduct (niyama), postures (asana), regulation of breath (pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and deep awareness (samadhi), are the eight steps of Yoga.
30. Non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), chastity (brahmacharya), and lack of greed (aparigraha), constitute yama.
31. Yama is a great vow, valid for everyone and not limited by time, place or social position.
32. Cleanliness (shaucha), contentment (santosha), austerity (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and surrender to God (ishvarapranidhana), constitute niyama.
33. When doubts inhibit yama and niyama from being practiced, they should be countered with the right awareness.
34. These doubts give rise to violence, directly or indirectly, they are caused by greed, anger and delusion, and they lead to endless suffering and ignorance; opposite thoughts are their remedy.
35. In the face of one who is firmly established in ahimsa (non-violence), any hostility ceases.
36. When truthfulness (satya) is firmly established, the words gain the power to become reality.
37. To one, who is firmly established in asteya (non-stealing), all jewels flow.
38. When chastity (brahmacharya) is firmly established, vigour is obtained.
39. The essence of life is revealed when one is freed from greed for possessions through aparigraha.
40. Cleanliness of body and mind develops disinterest in selfish contacts with others.
41. Also from shaucha (cleanliness) come benevolence, ability to concentrate, control of the senses and capability for knowledge of the true self.
42. From santosha (contentment) immense happiness is obtained.
43. In the fire of tapas (austerity) all impurities burn away and body and senses become powerful.
44. Through self-study and study of sacred texts (svadhyaya), communion with one's desired deity is obtained.
45. Surrender to God (ishvarapranidhana) leads to perfect mastery of samadhi (deep awareness).
46. Asana (postures) is firmness and steadiness of body, peace of mind and delight in heart.
47. With regular practice, performing asana becomes effortless, the body in postures relaxes and the mind merges with the infinite.
48. Then the opposites cease to be an obstacle.
49. When asana has been mastered, next step to practice is the control of inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath (pranayama).
50. Pranayama consists of prolonged inhalation, exhalation and retention, regulated and performed with precision, according to one's progress and abilities.
51. In the fourth stage of pranayama, inhalation and exhalation are transcended and happen without effort.
52. Then the veil covering the light vanishes.
53. And the mind becomes fit for concentration (dharana).
54. In pratyahara, senses and mind withdraw from external objects and turn inwards.
55. Then comes mastery over the senses.
VIBHUTI PADA (ON POWERS) III
1. Fixing the mind on one object is called concentration (dharana).
2. A continuous flow of attention on one object is called meditation (dhyana).
3. In deep meditation only the essence of the object remains shining in the mind; even self-awareness disappears in the state of samadhi.
4. The practice of dharana, dhayana and samadhi together, on the same object, evolving gradually into each other, is called samyama.
5. By mastery of samyama, the light of supreme wisdom (prajna) dawns.
6. Samyama can be applied on various stages.
7. These three practices - dharana, dhyana and samadhi - are deeper and more internal experiences then the previous five steps of Yoga.
8. Yet, they are external, compared to seedless (nirbija) samadhi.
9. In the silent moments between rising and restraining samskaras is achieved transformation of consciousness by restraint.
10. Then the stream of tranquility flows undisturbed.
11. The scattered attention becomes one-pointed and that is transformation of the consciousness towards samadhi.
12. Then subsides the rising and falling of thoughts and one-pointed attention turns inwards.
13. In these three transformations consciousness transcends its potential state to further refinement and zenith, where it perceives beyond visible.
14. The substratum, manifested or non-manifested, is contained in all things.
15. Successive sequential changes cause the distinctive changes to appear.
16. By samyama on the three transformations comes knowledge of the past and the future.
17. The word, the object and the idea interpenetrate each other, but by samyama on the distinction between them, comes knowledge of all languages.
18. By direct perception of samskaras (the latent impressions) knowledge of previous incarnations is gained.
19. Comes the ability to understand the content of the minds of others.
20. By samyama on the subtle body the rays of light coming out of the body are suspended and invisibility is achieved.
21. Karma is of two kinds, either fast in fruition or slow; by samyama on one's actions, time of death is revealed by omens.
22. By friendliness and other virtues, moral and emotional strength is gained.
23. By samyama on strength, the strength of an elephant arises.
24. The light of super-sense perception reveals concealed things, near or far.
25. By samyama on the Sun, knowledge of the worlds is obtained.
26. By samyama on the Moon, knowledge of the order of the stars is obtained.
27. By samyama on the Pole-star, knowledge of the movement of the stars and the course of destiny is obtained.
28. By samyama on the navel, knowledge of the constitution of the human body is obtained.
29. By samyama on the pit of the throat, hunger and thirst leave.
30. By samyama on the tortoise channel steadiness is attained.
31. By samyama on the coronal light of the head visions of masters come.
32. Or, anything could become known through intuition.
33. By samyama on the heart knowledge of the mind is obtained.
34. In experience mind and pure consciousness (purusha) appear to be one, but by samyama on that which exists for itself, pure knowledge of purusha is obtained.
35. Therefrom arises the supernormal awareness of hearing, touch, vision, taste, and smell.
36. These supernormal perceptions are obstacles to samadhi, but appear to be attainments to the world.
37. When the causes of bondage have loosened, the free consciousness may enter the body of another.
38. By mastery over the energy udana, the body ceases to be disturbed by mud, water or thorns and is able to rise and levitate above them.
39. By mastery over the energy samana, the body shines like fire.
40. By samyama on the relation between ether and sound, the divine power of hearing is obtained.
41. By samyama on the relation between the body and ether, one’s body becomes light as cotton and can levitate in space.
42. In disembodied state the veil covering the light is removed.
43. By samyama on the gross and subtle form of the elements, their essential nature, interconnectedness and purposefulness, mastery over those elements is obtained.
44. From that arise powers such as minuteness, perfection of the body and the ability to resist the elements.
45. The perfection of the body is beauty, gracefulness, strength and adamantine hardness.
46. By samyama on the conjunction of the act of perception, the self, and nature, mastery over the senses is obtained.
47. From that comes quickness of mind, freedom from the senses of perception, and mastery over the primal cause.
48. Only one who knows the pure consciousness attains omnipotence and omniscience.
49. When the seed of bondage has been destroyed by desirelessness even for that, then comes liberation (kaivalya).
50. Deities will invite the advanced ones, but receiving their invitation should give rise to no smile of satisfaction because one might still fall by the revival of attachment.
51. By samyama on the moments of time and their succession, exalted knowledge is obtained.
52. From this knowledge comes awareness of the distinction between things that are not distinguishable by origin, characteristics, or position in space.
53. Clarity of all objects, whole and instant, is exalted knowledge.
54. When the mind attains the same degree of purity as in pure consciousness (purusha), then comes liberation (kaivalya).
KAIVALYA PADA (ON LIBERATION) IV
1. The powers come with birth, or are attained through herbs, mantra chanting, austerity or samadhi.
2. The abundant flow of creative nature's energy brings about transformations into another state.
3. Good actions do not cause development but remove the obstacles in its way just like a farmer clears the stones in front of the water to irrigate his fields.
4. Various created minds spring forth from the sense of individuality.
5. Their activities may be diverse, but the consciousness that is the director of the many is one.
6. Out of all these minds, only the one born out of meditation is free from influences.
7. The actions of the advanced are neither white nor black; while for the others they could be black, white, or mixed.
8. These three kinds of actions leave impressions which become manifest under favourable conditions, and thence create more and more desires.
9. Life is a continuous process, even though one's lives are demarcated by place, time and state; due to the uninterrupted relationship between memory and latent impressions (samskaras), the fruits of actions may be passed on from one life to the next.
10. These impressions and the desires born by them have no beginning and can continue endlessly, as eternal is the desire to live.
11. Samskaras are bound together by cause and consequence - so they disappear on the disappearance of these.
12. The past and the future become one in their essential form, even though they differ in characteristics.
13. The past and the future may be manifested or subtle and are imbued with the qualities of the gunas.
14. Unity in the transformations defines the object's essential properties.
15. The object is one but is perceived differently by the various minds, as they cognise it through different paths.
16. The object is not dependent of its cognizance; if the object were not cognised, then what would happen to it?
17. The object remains known or unknown according to the conditioning and expectations of the mind observing it.
18. Fluctuations of the consciousness are always known to their master - pure consciousness (purusha) - as it never changes.
19. Consciousness cannot illuminate itself, being an object of perception.
20. Both cannot be cognised at the same time.
21. If consciousness could cognise another consciousness, there would be an endless progression of cognitions and confusion of memories.
22. The changeless seer, taking form, cognises its own intelligence.
23. The mind which is impressed by both seer and seen becomes all-comprehending.
24. That mind, although being filled with innumerable impressions and desires, exists for the benefit of another, as it is uniting.
25. For the one who sees the distinction, cease the thoughts about his own self.
26. Then the exalted consciousness gravitates towards liberation (kaivalya).
27. Yet, even along this high path there are moments of weakness when samskaras may still arise.
28. They ought to be removed in the same way as the afflictions.
29. Over the one who loses desire even for his own evolution, maintaining a constant state of discriminative awareness, pours on the fragrant rain of the Cloud of Virtue.
30. Thence afflictions and karma disappear.
31. And the veils of impurities, covering the infinite knowledge, are lifted; and it becomes clear that there is little to be known.
32. Then the sequence of successive transformations of the gunas comes to an end, as the gunas have fulfilled their purpose.
33. With that the sequence of the moments in time also stops.
34. Liberation comes with the realisation of the fourfold aims of man - through one's duties, vocation, sensuality and liberation from worldly life - and with transcending the gunas, which recede back to their source; then consciousness is established in its essential nature. That is the end of Yoga Sutra.
(C) 2003-2007, Veronica Verai