My YTT mentor set me some homework based on two of the most significant Sutras in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Although I have read the first two chapters of the Yoga Sutras previously (from the Sophia Project’s excellent translation), I found that every time I revisit the text I interpret them in a different way. This is probably the case for most philosophical work I am sure, though it doesn’t help that each Sanskrit word can be translated into about 10 different English words!!
The two passages she asked me to translate were 1.2 and 1.14. I got the literal meanings of the words – which I have listed in this post – from Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati’s translation of the Sutras here, but the interpretations are personal.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: 1.2
Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah
- yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke
- chitta = of the consciousness of the mind-field
- vritti = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications, changes, or various forms of the mind-field
- nirodhah = control, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, understanding, stilling, quieting, setting aside of
Yoga is the understanding/quietening of the fluctuations of the mind field
This was my initial interpretation of the Sutra – that yoga can be defined as the process of quietening the mind, or, equally, that by practicing yoga one can regulate one’s thoughts and declutter their mind. I then delved a little deeper and came to this:
Union of the conscious and spiritual mind is achieved by the control of the fluctuations of the mind
The only thing stopping us from reaching the ‘goal’ of spiritual consciousness is the trap of our psychic nature – allowing our minds to be untrained and uncontrolled and, if you’re anything like me, to run a million miles an hour! We have so much potential and power accessible to us if we were to quieten and purify our minds and return to our natural/destined state of being. This heightened awareness or consciousness can be achieved by practicing yoga.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: 1.14
Sah tu dirgha kala nairantaira satkara asevitah dridha bhumih
- sah = that (practice)
- tu = and, but, however
- dirgha = long time (dirgha = long; kala = time)
- nairantaira = without interruption, continually,
- satkara = with devotion, sincerity, respect, reverence, positive attitude, right action
- asevitah = pursued, practiced, cultivated, attended to, done with assiduous attention
- dridha-bhumih = stable, solid foundation, firmly rooted, of firm ground
When yoga is practiced continuously over time, and with devotion and sincerity, it will become a firm resting place.
When a consistent practice is maintained, it can be a stable foundation which can be built upon to achieve spiritual consciousness. The previous two sutras (1.12 – abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah, and 1.13 – tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa) pave the way for this idea. Only by repeated practice and non-attachment can one control the fluctuations of the mind. Practice can be referred to as choosing and implementing those actions that can bring a stable state of mind and body.
One must seek spiritual life with devotion and sincerity, and only by obeying this can one come into their inheritance. In the words of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: “Practice, practice, all is coming”.
Let me know what you think!