Patanjali Yoga Sutras

II - Sadhana  Pada                                                     
After describing  in the first chapter the different kinds of thought forms and practices to  control them for attaining the state of nirbija samadhi, the second chapter  called Sadhana Pada follows it up with practical means of attaining that state.  This chapter establishes the aim of yoga as being the control of the thought  processes (chitta vrittis) to attain the highest union or 'yoga'. It prescribes  the practice of Kriya or Karma Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga as a means of achieving  this union with the Paramatman.

Kriya or  Karma Yoga
Kriya or Karma  means action. Karma Yoga, as explained in the Bhagavad Gita, is acting without  attachment to the results or fruit of action. It is the yoga of selfless  service and action.

Ashtanga Yoga
It was explained  earlier that Ignorance (avidya) and other obstacles to meditation are major  causes for our inability to merge with the Absolute. It is therefore advised  that the eradication of all such defects by practicing Ashtanga Yoga or the  eight limbs of yoga will lead us to the desired end. The eight limbs or steps  prescribed in this Pada are as under:

The first five  are called external aids (bahiranga sadhana) and the latter three are called  internal aids (antaranga sadhana) to yoga.In this framework, we have to keep in  mind that Yoga is more than just a physical discipline. It is a way of life—a  rich philosophical method of playing the game of life. Let us look into these  eight steps more closely.

1. Yama:
 The first  constituent of Ashtanga Yoga is universal vows (yamas) which are five in number.  They are universal because they are not limited by class, creed, time or  circumstances. They are the guidelines as to how we interact with the outer  world. They are the social disciplines required for our relationships with  others. These are:

Ahimsa or  non-violence is the awareness and practice of non-injury or harm to others or  even to one’s own self in thought, speech and action. It advocates the  practices of compassion, love, understanding, patience, self-love, and  worthiness. Patanjali describes truthfulness as: "To be in harmony with  mind, word and action, to conduct speech and mind according to truth, to  express through speech and to retain it in the intellect what has been seen,  understood or heard." A perfectly truthful person is he who expresses in  his speech exactly what he thinks in his mind and in the end acts according to  it.

Non-stealing or  asteya implies relinquishing of the undesirable possession of thought, speech  and action. Asteya stands against covetousness and envy. It advocates the  cultivation of a sense of completeness and self-sufficiency in order to progress  beyond base cravings. Celibacy or Brahmacharya is a behavior, which brings man  nearer to the Divine. This yama believes in avoiding all sensual pleasures,  whether mental, vocal or physical. Non-covetousness is the non-accumulation of  worldly objects, caused by possessiveness and attachment.

2. Niyama:
The niyamas are  the second constituents of Ashtanga Yoga. They are also five in number. They help  us as to how we interact with ourselves and our internal world. They are  self-regulatory in nature. They help us maintain a positive environment in  which we grow. They channelize the energy generated from the cultivation of the  earlier yamas. The five niyamas specified by Patanjali are:

Purity implies  both external as well as internal purity. In the words of sage Manu, water  purifies the body; truthfulness the mind; true knowledge the intellect and the soul  is purified by knowledge and austerity. Contentment is described as not  desiring more than what one has earned by his honest labor. This state of mind  is about maintaining equanimity through all that life offers. Contentment involves  the practice of gratitude and joyfulness - maintaining calm at all costs. This  state of mind does not depend on any external factors. Austerity is described  as power to withstand thirst and hunger, cold and heat, discomforts of place  and postures, silent meditation and ritual fasts. It also maintains that the  perfect man is he who practices body discipline and thereby mental control. Self-education  consists of scriptural studies. Meditation on the Divine, the last of the  niyamas, is the dedication of all our actions, performed either by intellect,  speech or body, to the Divine. It is the surrender to the Divine.

The benefits of practicing  Yamas and Niyamas are that they help us in managing our energy in an integrated  manner, harmonizing our external life and our inner development. They assist us  in respecting the values of this life. In short they mould us to lead a conscious  and contended life ever connected with the Divine.

Yogasana means  discipline of the body. It is a posture to keep the body free from disease and to  preserve vital energy. Correct postures are a physical aid to meditation. Asanas  have a range of therapeutic uses for helping in balancing and harmonizing the  basic structure of the human body. Performance of a perfect yogasana leads to  the absolute intellectual absorption of the mind on a single task (dharana),  which in turn leads to the fusion of the individual spirit with the Divine Self  (dhyana).

4. Pranayama
'Pranayama' is a  compound term ('prana' and 'yama') meaning the maintenance of prana in a  healthy manner throughout one's life. More than a breath-control exercise,  pranayama is all about controlling the life force or prana.  It leads to a state of inner peace. Hatha Yoga  deals with this subject in an extensive manner. Pranayama is a technique, which  re-defines our breathing process, helps us to release tensions and develop a  relaxed state of mind. It also balances our nervous system and encourages  creative thinking. In addition, by increasing the amount of oxygen to our brain  it improves mental clarity, alertness and physical well being. It is highly  conducive to the concentration of the mind.

But one has to  carefully note that it is always advisable to be aware of all the do's and  don'ts of Pranayama and Yoga Asanas before starting to practise them. They have  to be performed only under the proper personal supervision of a qualified guide  as otherwise they are likely to produce more harm than benefit..

5. Pratyahara
Pratyahara is the  withdrawal of sense organs from their external objects. It involves rightly  managing the senses and going beyond them instead of simply closing and  suppressing them. It involves reining in the senses for increased attention  rather than distraction. It is essential to practice pratyahara for achieving  the meditative stages of dharana, dhyana and samadhi. These three final  disciplines are actually three continuous steps of the same process.

6. Dharana
Dharana involves  developing and extending our powers of concentration. This consists of various  ways of directing and controlling our attention and mind-fixing skills, such as  concentrating on the chakras or upon a physical object such as the flame of a  lamp, the mid point of the eyebrows or the image of a deity etc.

7. Dhyana
Dhyana is the  state of steadfast meditation, when the mind attains the ability to sustain its  attention without getting distracted. It is an undisturbed flow of thought  around the object of meditation where the act of meditation and the object of  meditation remain distinct and separate. Strictly speaking, this is a state of  mind, a delicate state of awareness. This state rightfully precedes the final  state of samadhi.

8. Samadhi
Samadhi or total  absorption is the ability to become one with the True Self and merge into the  object of concentration. In this state of mind, the perceiver and the object of  perception unite through the very act of perception - a true unity of all  thought and action. It is oneness with the object of meditation; there is no  distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation. This is the  culmination of all yogic endeavors—the ultimate 'yoga' or the yoke between the  individual and the universal Soul, merger of the jivatma into the paramatma,  the supreme identity of the individual soul with the Divine.

Patanjali's Yoga  Sutras categorize and grade the levels of samadhi in the first chapter. Samadhi  is of two kinds viz.
  1. Samprajnata  Samadhi or conscious contemplation and
  2. Asamprajnata  Samadhi or superconcsious contemplation.
  In the first  case, the mind remains concentrated on the object of meditation and therefore  the consciousness of the object of meditation persists. Mental modifications  arise in respect of this object of meditation. In the second case, the mind  (chitta) and the object of meditation are fused together. The consciousness of  the object of meditation is transcended. All mental modifications are checked although  latent impressions might continue.