Patanjali Yoga Sutras

Origins of Yoga Philosophy                                  
“Patanjali’s  Yoga Sutras [Aphorisms] are not the original exposition of a philosophy, but a  work of compilation and reformation. References to Yoga practices -  spiritual disciplines and techniques of  meditation which enable a man to achieve intuitive knowledge of the Godhead –  are to be found already, in the Katha, Svetasvatara, Taittiriya, and Maitrayani  Upanishads, very many centuries earlier. Indeed, the yoga darshana - the yoga doctrine - may be said to have been handed down to us from prehistoric  times”. Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood.

Dr.David  Frawley, the American Vedic Scholar, says “Maharshi Patanjali, the compiler of  the Yoga Sutras, is generally taken as the father or founder of the  great system of Yoga. While Patanjali’s work is very important and worthy of  profound examination, a study of the ancient literature on Yoga reveals that  the Yoga tradition is much older. The original Yoga  tradition is not the Patanjali tradition but the Hiranyagarbha tradition. The  Hiranyagarbha Yoga tradition is the main Vedic Yoga tradition. The Patanjali  Yoga tradition is an offshoot of it or a later expression of it”

Maharishi  Patanjali is believed to have compiled his Yoga Sutras around the 3rd or 4th  century BC. In spite of the Yoga Sutras being by far the most definitive text  on the philosophy of classical yoga, very little is known about Patanjali  himself. In fact, the identity of this sage scholar is still being debated.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras
Patanjali's Yoga  Sutras comprise a total of 195 sutras or aphorisms. These sutras are structured  around four padas or chapters as follows:

Organization Chart

1 - Samadhi  Pada
The first chapter contains the famous definitional aphorism: “Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah  – yoga is the control of thought waves in the mind” (1.2). The chapter  deals with the absolute true consciousness or Isvara and describes the problems  an individual soul is likely to face in its quest for merger with the Divine  Soul. It begins with an analyses of human thought processes or vrittis, which  deter us from realizing our true selves. The Samadhi Pada advises the restraint  of such natural inclinations of the mind and discusses the problems encountered  while trying to harness it. Then it elucidates the concept of Isvara, the  supreme consciousness and the various gradations of samadhi which is a  self-absorbed, detached state of being. Here again, the possible mental  distractions are stated and the best methods of conquering these impediments  are discussed.  

The central  doctrine of Yoga philosophy is that nothing exists beyond the mind and its  consciousness, which is the only ultimate reality. The objective of this  philosophy is to uproot misconceptions about the existence of external 'realities'  from the minds of men. It believes that it is possible to reach this stage of  self realization through regular practice of certain yogic meditative processes  that bring a complete withdrawal or detachment from all false sources of  knowledge and inculcates an inner sense of balanced calm and tranquility. It  may be observed from the above narration that the focal point of the Yoga  Sutras is the human mind and its examination.

Classification  of the Mind
Depending on the  degree of distraction, Yoga philosophy categorizes the mind under five states:

While the first  three stages are negative and cause impediments to the healthy growth of the  mind, the latter two are the desired states of mind conducive to meditation.  Various yogic practices such as certain yogasanas, pranayama, dhyana, dharana  and samadhi are designed for achieving the absolute balanced state of mind.

When the mind is  in its earliest stage of disturbance, it lacks judgment and is generally  hyperactive, unable to ignore external stimuli. The next stage of the stupefied  state of mind is distinguished by inertia, lethargy, sluggishness, vice,  ignorance and sleep. The state of distracted mind is an advanced stage of the disturbed  mind, when it still lacks consistency and is unable to quieten down.
One-pointed and  balanced states of mind are the mental levels at which, the mind almost ceases  to be affected by the turbulence of mortal existence. They are the calmest and  most peaceful states of mind. This tranquil state of mind is the nearest to the  inner stillness one can ever get. This state of mind is highly conducive for concentration  and meditation, which is why the yoga system lays emphasis on various yogic  meditational practices.

Under the  conditions of the one-pointed state of mind, one attains to the state of  perfect concentration where there is a clear cognition of the object. The last  stage of balanced mind is that rare state of being, where the mind is totally  undisturbed and purified by the flow of positive energy. It is the ultimate  desired mental stage in yogic practices. It is at this immaculate state alone  that one is able to realize the true nature of the soul. In this state of mind  there is a total suppression of all modifications leading to Samadhi, where no  object is recognised and the Purusha remains established in His own intrinsic  state. Then he becomes a Mukta, a liberated soul, freed from all the bondages of  nature (prakriti).

Modifications  of the Mind
The inner  instruments of thought process (antahkarana) consist of Chitta, the mind-stuff  (a store-house or memory), mind (manas) and intellect (buddhi).  The waves of thoughts, feelings and emotions  that arise in it  due to the impact of  the sense-objects upon it through the five sense-organs like the eyes, ears  etc., are called modifications of the mind (chittavrittis). The yoga system  categorizes the forms of such modifications of thought into five sections:

All our  thoughts, emotions and psychological states fall within any one of these  sections. These five again are further subdivided into two mental types: viz.  malevolent and benevolent where the first type causes afflictions while the second  one does not create any trouble. Misapprehension, conceptualization and deep  sleep are considered to be the three main causes of various afflictions while  the categories of comprehension and memory are viewed more positively which are  conducive to meditation and the attainment of kaivalya or detachment from the  material world. Comprehension is the awareness of one's true state of  existence. The three valid means of comprehension are:

Misapprehension  is equivalent to ignorance (avidya) in Yoga philosophy. And knowledge borne out  of misconceptions such as mistaking a rope for a snake and vice versa are  false, leading to afflictions of the greatest kind. This gives rise to the  following obstacles to meditation:

Conceptualization  is also considered to be a source of ignorance because it is the comprehension  of an object based only on words and expressions, even though the object is  absent e.g.beliefs such as the existence of horned rabbits or son of a barren  woman. Although such ideas can be conceived they are all erroneous knowledge  which does not correspond with anything in existence. Deep sleep is also  thought to be a negative modification of the mind. During this mental state the  mind is overcome with heaviness and no other activities are present. This state  is virtually a withdrawal from the external world, when one is left without any  control over one's consciousness. It may be noted that the dream state and the  waking state are not modifications because while dreaming, our minds are  occupied with conceptualization and while awake, the mind is concerned with the  categories of comprehension or misapprehension. Memory is concerned with the recalling  of stored impressions, or rather the mental retention of conscious experiences.  The one-pointed and absolutely balanced states of mind are free from these  categories of modifications while in the other three states they are present.

Impediments  to the Development of the Mind
Various modifications  of the mind mentioned above are primarily caused by the following nine  impediments (klesa) for its healthy growth and development. These nine  conditions are the greatest causes of all sorrows, miseries and pain, which  disturb the mind and lead to distractions and loss of mental tranquility  causing obstacles to Yoga.  All these  interruptions produce symptoms such as, mental discomfort, negative thinking,  inability to be at ease in different body postures, and difficulty in  controlling one's breath. They are:

Patanjali Yoga  Sutras prescribe regular practice and detachment as the sole means of  conquering such impediments and achieving kaivalya (absoluteness) or self  realization. Mind achieves its undisturbed calmness by cultivating friendliness  towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and  disregard towards the wicked and the cruel.

Just as the  naturally pure crystal assumes shapes and colors of objects placed near it, so  the Yogi's mind, with its totally emasculated modifications, becomes clear and  balanced. It attains the state devoid of differentiation between knower,  knowable and knowledge. This culmination of meditation is Samadhi. At this  stage, the yogi becomes totally detached from all the spheres of gross  materiality. His consciousness merely remains attached with the purely  spiritual sphere of the Bliss. This is the state, which is defined as Nirbija Samadhi,  where all seeds of earthly impressions have been expunged from the yogi's  consciousness.