The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


yo september is done. take it out the oven, stick a fork in it, whatever. its officially fall and october is on its way. october is halloween and my birthday, followed by the holidays, which means 2012 is like five minutes away. i feel like im really trying to relish in the fall. im not sure im ready for next year yet. i want to slow it down for a minute and just be. i believe part of this feeling comes from the book i just finished. every month there is a new theme at laughing lotus, my yoga studio and this month it was the Yoga Sutras. I decided just to grab and skim through my copy at the beginning. I owned the book and had read parts, but I had no idea I would end up reading it from front to cover, it just sort of happened that way. Ive read spiritual books before, loved them, studied them and all but this one was really different. If I realized I had read even a sentence with my mind halfway somewhere else, I would read it again. I wanted to fully understand every moment of the book. Every single sutra, every syllable of sanskrit. And the lovely part about it was, every time I would go to a yoga class, my teacher would talk about a certain sutra and I could go back and reinterpret it from what they had said and make it deeper.

A "Sutra" literally is a thread, and in 200 short Sutras, the philosophy of Yoga is explained. The version I read is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the translation is by Sri Swami Satchidananda.
The commentary was formed in 1978 but the Hindu scripture itself dates back to the 2nd century. Its amazing how true it is in our modern times. I had been trying to find a proper sutra to kind of serve as a theme for the whole text and I think I found one this morning on the train right as I finished the book. The work itself is divided into 4 books or "padas" and the final book is Kaivalya Pada, or the portion on freedom. It states,

Sada Jnatas Citta Vrttayas Tat Prabhoh Purusasyaparinamitvat.

What that means is Pantajali is speaking of the changes in the mind-stuff or the "chittam"
The chittam is what keeps us from being focused. Its the wandering of the mind. The fear, the disillusionment, the chitchattering in our brains that keep us from real truth and really being ourselves. "The chittam changes constantly because that is its natural tendency. Mind is a part of the ever changing nature. However, clever we are, we can only keep the mind quiet for a little while. Therefore, our aim is not to keep the mind peaceful but to rise above the mind and realize the ever-peaceful self. "

And its not particularly easy, but it is very straight forward. The whole of the Yoga Sutras is like a guideline for how to get to that place, how to control the mind and rise above it. But first, you must control the body, to control the breath, to control the senses, to control the mind. And the yoga asanas, or poses, is the beginning of that path. It explains through an consistent asana practice, mantras, meditation and by following the 8 limbs of Yoga, you can achieve the ultimate freedom. And for me this seems like something that will take a lifetime to achieve, but Im okay with that. It means I can keep reading this amazing book over and over until it sticks.

Another thing about the book, and I believe, the universe is, that everything that you want to achieve and everything that is standing in your way is completely all in your mind. Once you figure out how to restrain the negative thoughts in the mind, everything else is already there. The second Sutra states "yogas citta critti nirodhah" or " the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga." And instead of gaining things to make a better life, most times you just need to let things go. Maybe I should be ready for September to end. Another month of something wonderful is about to happen. Give it a try.