The Summary Verses
Now a discussion of yoga.
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
So that the Seer, Purusha, comes to know Itself and abide in Its own
real, fundamental nature.
Whereas in the normal state (of human suffering) the Seer is
assimilated with the mind, its transformations and products.
Yogic activity consists of purification by asceticism (tapah), japa,
and devotion to The Lord.
The Essence of Yoga
The yogic observances are purity, contentment, austerities (tapah,
tapas), japa,and devotion to the Lord.
These are practiced for reducing impurities, afflictions, and
distractions and acquiring samadhi.
By svadhyaya is produced communion with the deity in the form favored
by the devotee.
Those who develop wisdom come to see all creation, externals, and
perceivables as unsatisfactory, containing inherent suffering (such as
anxiety). This on account of constant change, conditioning (karma), and
due to the unstable, dualistic nature of the natural forces that
underly phenomena and the movement of the mind itself. This is the
problem that yoga is pursued to solve.
Experience arises from the inability to distinguish between creation
and (God) Purusha, though these are absolutely separate. One gets
knowledge of Purusha by samyama (meditation) on Purusha (God) itself as
The afflictions/distractions are: Ignorance, asmita (the sense of "I
exist"), desire, aversion, and attachment.
Ignorance is the substrate of the other four, whether the four are in a
dormant, reduced, controlled, or expanded state.
Ignorance is taking the non-eternal, impure, evil, and non-atman to be
eternal, pure, good, and atman.
Asmita, or the sense "I exist," arises when Pure Consciousness, the
power-of-knowing, gets associated with a body and its senses.
The afflictions are to be suppressed by meditation.
The suppression of distracting vrittis is attained by abhyasa and
That suffering which has not yet come can be warded off.
The cause of that suffering which should be warded off is the
entanglement of the Seer with the seen.
The problem is solved by getting established in samadhi, which is
The seen consists of the elements and the sense organs. It is of the
nature of Prakriti. Its purpose is experience and liberation of the
The seen is for the purpose of serving Purusha.
Vairagya is the self-mastery in which one does not crave for objects,
whether seen, unseen, or heard about.
The mind is assisted towards stillness and samadhi by responding with
benignity, compassion, delight, and indifference respectively towards
these four types of people: The fortunate, the suffering, the virtuous,
and the sinful.
"Self-restraints, fixed observances, posture, pranayama, abstraction,
dharana, dhyana, and samadhi are the eight limbs of yoga.
"The self-restraints are abstention from harming others, from
falsehood, from theft, from incontinence, and from greed."
The necessary virya is obtained when the devotee gets established in
Fixing the mind on one thing is dharana.
Continuous concentration on the object is dhyana.
When the meditator gets true realization of the meditation object,
penetrating and knowing the object's real nature, unconscious of
himself as mind or knowledge, it is samadhi.
The three taken together are called samyama.
The mind is said to be in the inhibited or intercepted state when
moment-by-moment the mind is continuously inhibited (by the meditation
object) and a samskara of inhibition is created.
The mind's flow becomes steady by samsakaras.
Abhyasa is the effort towards becoming established in that state (of
Abhyasa becomes firmly-grounded when continued a long time without
interruption and with reverence.
Samadhi comes soonest to those who desire it intensely.
Even among the ardent, there is the distinction of mild, medium, or
By svadhyaya is produced communion with the deity in the form favored
by the devotee.
On Meditation Objects
By bhakti for the Lord (samadhi is attained).
Perfection of samadhi is attained by God-devotion.
The Lord God, Isvara, is a particular purusha (individual soul) in His
own category, untouched by afflictions, works, the results of actions,
He is omniscient.
Unconditioned by time. All greatness is His.
His evidence is the pranava, Aum.
Or meditation on the mind of one who is free of desire.
In general on the dawning of transcendental perceptions the mind can be
brought to stillness by fixing the mind on one of those.
Such as meditation on a radiant perception beyond sorrow.
One can meditate on the knowledge of dream or dreamless sleep.
Meditation on akasa.
Or even on what appeals to him.
Samadhi is certainly attained by meditation on the richness of the
By mergence in pranava obstacles are destroyed, the consciousness turns
Pranayama is to sit and cut off the flow of inbreath and
The inbreathing, outbreathing, and held operations, in terms of place,
length, and number become progressively longer and more
The fourth kind of pranayama is beyond the sphere of internal and
external, and comes when the essential acts of puraka and rechaka have
From that is dissolved the covering over light.
And fitness of the mind for dharana.
In the highest vairagya, because of contact with Purusha, there is
cessation of the least desire for any experience of the created world.
Then pratyahara, in which the senses finally imitate and follow the
mind, likewise withdrawing themselves from their objects.
From pratyahara, supreme mastery over the senses.
Sabija samadhi is accompanied by gross thought, subtle thought, bliss,
and the sense of "I am."
In sabija samadhi exists thought, knowledge related to words, and based
on further sense perception, plus divine knowledge in mixed states and
the mind alternates between them.
The other variety is Nirbija samadhi which contains only the subtle
impressions (samskaras) of the first.
In one whose citta-vrittis are almost annihilated, fusion and entire
absorption in one another of the cogniser, the cognition and the
cognised occurs, as a transparent jewel placed near an object takes on
that object's colors.
In Nirbija samadhi, all forms have vanished, memory is
purified, the essence of the object alone shines forth.
By what has been said, the same two experiences, in the cases of
meditation on subtle objects have also been revealed.
The province of subtle objects extends all the way up to the
indissoluble level of prakriti.
The purity of Nirbija samadhi being attained, one knows pure light and
He has direct knowledge of things, different from knowledge based on
His consciousness is truth- and right-bearing.
The samskaras produced by nirvikalpa samadhi overwrite other samskaras.
With the suppression of even the samskaras of sabija samadhi, one
becomes established in Nirbija samadhi.
Of the Yoga-Sutra
The functions of the mind can always be known because of the constant
nature of the Seer, the Lord, Purusha.
The transformation into another body (for another incarnation) is
effected by the flow of prakritis; the jiva gets the body natural and
appropriate to it.
Actions are neither white nor black in the case of sages, in the case
of others they are of three kinds.
Having the three kinds of samskaras, they fruit variously as conditions
Even among the samskaras there is relationship
and they affect each other, though they may be
different, and though they may be separated by class, space, or time on
account of correspondences.
And samskaras are without beginning because the will to live and desire
for well-being are eternal.
But as they are bound together by cause, effect, substratum and
support, samskaras are destroyed when those are destroyed.
On destruction of impurities in the body and senses by tapas, occult
By samyama (perfect meditation) on the light in the head (bindu), the
yogi gets the vision of the Siddhas.
By samyama on the pit of the throat, the cessation of hunger and thirst.
By samyama (perfect meditation) on the heart, knowledge of the mind.
His yogic mastery extends from the finest atom to infinity.
These are obstacles in the way of samadhi, powers when the mind
Siddhis are a fruit of samskaras, are endlessly varied, and are
experienced in the realm of
The Essence Of Yoga
verses in the Yoga-Sutra, from which one
can attain all Good. These verses, almost alike, expose yogic work at
the core, the middle, and at the end. These
three are the essential yogic
work. Music, please. Drums. An hundred new chants and 300 new
bhajans and chorales, in thanks for these verses!
of purification by asceticism
(tapah), japa, and
devotion to The Lord.
purity, contentment, austerities
(tapah, tapas), japa,and devotion to
2:1, is repeated from the Introductory
Summary partly for its basic importance and essentiality, and partly
because I wanted to make it plain that two separate verses exist in the
Yoga-Sutra which basically say the same thing, and that this is a
phenomenon for the Sutra. They are placed side-by-side so you can
easily see it. This allowed me to "borrow" as it were one of them to be
used in the Introductory Summary. Verses
2:1 and it's redundant amplifier 2:32 can be
heart of the
Yoga-Sutra. So the content of the two deserves a great
deal of emphasis. Yet how much it is ignored!
and comprehension of these verses, by
both commentators and westerners generally, has led to a collapse of
understanding of the Yoga-Sutra and yoga in the west. Or I should say:
That understanding never got rooted here in a robust way.
particular, the term svadhyayesvara
has been repeatedly misrepresented in English translations. I mean to
correct that. I render it as japa
for basic and sound reasons which will be explained. There is
nothing original about that rendering. Rather, it returns the
word to its straightforward, original Indic content and clears
away obscurations created by early Theosophical
It is beautiful to note
that Patanjali gives
emphasis to the above
three items by including a second
verse downstream that is a virtual duplicate
verses specify tapas
(austerities). You can easily see the word up in the
white-highlighted Sanksrit ("Tapah"). I have directly
translated it as it should be translated: Asceticism or
purification. Both specify svadhyaya.
And devotion to
, termed "the Lord" in most translations. "The Lord," in Hindu
scriptures, usually refers to the yogic conception of Saguna
Brahman, or the
knowable creator-God with attributes. (The ideas of
austerities appear elsewhere in the Sutra too, not just here.) "The
Lord" in the Yoga-Sutra is a match to God as conceived in Christianity:
A creator-God and lawgiver with feeling, desire, personality, and power.
The Yoga-Sutra is
minimalist to an almost dire degree. It rarely refers to
a yogic item twice. In the entire work there are only three
which the same subject is even glancingly referred to more than once.
But verse 2:32 goes beyond a mere reference to earlier items:
It is a
near perfect repetition of Verse 2:1! Let's
take serious notice then and draw solid understanding
from this! It is logical to suspect,
therefore, that the content of these two verses is definitely
the point-of-view of the author, plus of vital
in yoga. From this repetition we can
logically infer that
God-devotion (bhakti), austerities, and
svadhyaya -- are important to
really essential religion. Conversely, most of the religions contain a
great deal of real yoga.
too that the three are listed in the same order: Tapas (austerities) is
the very first. Then japa. Then
God-devotion or bhakti. This is one of the cases where the ordering of
ideas in the Sutra has sure significance.
Because verses 2:2
and 2:32 are
so much alike, it is suitable to comment on them together. Both
renderings above are mine. In case the reader might think I am turning
the verses 'my way,' the only thing unusual about my rendering -- in
the context of modern available versions is my use of japa
where many have begun to report "study." I will soon
show that japa
is correct. Otherwise, my rendering is
very like most others. For your assurance here are the two
rendered by Trevor Leggett, an Englishman and orientalist who
tried to be spare and clinical in his renderings:
self-study, devotion to
the Lord, are the yoga of action."
contentment, tapas, self-study, and devotion to the Lord are the
similar to these.
(Leggett picked up the error of reducing svadhyaya to "study"
"self-study," discussed later. )
So we see
religion is yoga. What a surprise. Volumes could be
written about this one verse of the Yoga-Sutra. The verse bespeaks the
storied lives of centuries of Christian and yogic saints. How much
is to asceticism! How much to
the word "japa." Then when we arrive at bhakti or "devotion to
God" -- we have reached the sea. I will spend a great deal of time on
this verse. First we need to dispel a misunderstanding created by one
of the early sutra translators, M.N. Dvivedi, that these activities are
merely "preliminary yoga."
svadhyaya, and devotion to God are kriya-yogah.
Leggett chose to render kriya-yoga
as "the yoga of action." But the first-chair
Sanskrit word for action is karma.
"Yoga of action" translated back to Sanskrit would be "Karma-yoga."
Karma-yoga is a different idea entirely than tapas, svadhyaya,
and God-devotion. Karma-yoga as such is not even taken up in
the Sutra. Thus that rendering by Leggett and others is
is a shade removed from karma
and means activity,
So kriya-yogah in the sutra refers to the
and processes that constitute
The states that austerities, japa, and the
devotional attitude toward God are the main activities and processes
sadly mishandled this
verse by translating kriya-yoga as
yoga." This is absurd. These activities go right up
to the end. There is nothing merely "preliminary"
final entry into samadhi, in which the mind is finally given up, is
nothing less than the act of ultimate renunciation.
be labeled as "preliminary. Japa
or repetition is at the heart of all
meditation and remains loved by a yogi till the end, growing in
Nor is devotion,
which must be there from start to finish, a mere "preliminary." It only
grows greater. It
is the most ultimate efflorescence of sadhana. All
three of these become more
indispensable as one goes along.
The notion of
and devotion as preliminaries appears to have been
by Theosophical hire M.N. Dvivedi in his 1890 Sutra
I.K.Taimni, another Theosophist, carried forward the same
ideas -- even many
phrases of Dvivedi
word-for-word -- in his well-circulated "Science of
the original unfortunate rendering by Dvivedi
containing the two errors:
resignation to Isvara constitute preliminary yoga."
Now, in his commentary
himself. Apparently aware that he had just minimized three
grand and culturally established spiritual imperatives, he qualifies
and hedges the statement:
constitute the whole of
the preliminary side of Yoga, and are sufficient, if carefully and
sincerely practiced, to lead to Samadhi."
want to do those things, I guess, it's O.K. You can still get samadhi from them.
are, possibly just for the simpletons and slow-track
Not exotic or mental enough for us Theosophists.'
Dvivedi's "preliminary" notion, Taimni clucked that the three
yoga." Sort of like some kids in school end up taking Shop, but the
more elite fellows take Literature 103.
These "preliminaries" are something for children, or grunt
laborers. The Theosophist flies higher, in the skies of mental
It works, it
gets the job done; it is what one practices.
These three are, indeed, the basic
activities of yoga and will take you to
the end. In yoga the practical becomes nectarine.
commentary on Verse 2:1 it is clear
these are not mere preliminaries and the Theosophical
translators were treating the very gold of the Yoga-Sutra as trash, and
delaying the day when Westerners would penetrate to the core mysteries
of religion, yoga, and Divine Plenitude. I have added bracketed
explanations of certain words used by Sage Vyasa so the paragraph would
readable for those uninitiated to the terms:
Kriya-yoga is properly
performed, it conduces to the state of
all the Klesas [distractions,
afflictions]. The fire of Prasamkhyana or discriminative
knowledge sterilizes the attenuated Klesas like roasted seeds. When
they are attenuated, they cannot obscure the realization of the
distinction between Buddhi [satva,
the most pleasurable aspect of Nature] and Purusa [God]. Such
realization then lapses in [turns
into] the absence of the manifestation of the Gunas [the disappearance of
the dualistic natural forces or Maya]."
Vyasa's commentary on
2:1, from "Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali," Swami Hariharananda Aranya
This is the ancient
commentary on this very "kriya-yoga" verse. Note that he
kriya-yoga itself -- these very three activities of austerities, japa,
and God-devotion -- with the most dramatic
and final attainments of yoga. This includes:
the klesas (afflictions/taints)
attainment of yoga
which is 'perception
of the difference between satva and Purusha,' leading to the
final state called kaivalya
-- Even the
disappearance of fundamental nature (Prakriti and the Gunas).
Vyasa speaks of kriya-yoga
as something performed right up to these culminations. Thus
are the fundamental activities of yoga,
not preliminary yoga.
Taimni, and others chose
to call these three "preliminary yoga" for psychological
to do their times and the common human foible of devaluing the familiar
things in one's own culture. Their desire was to present a
"sophisticated" view of the Sutra different from the cultural
commonplaces that both bored and embarrassed them as Indian men. And
better, too, to please Theosophical Society sponsors who
specialized in spinning theatrical spiritual hornswaggle.
And then there is simple matter of realization. These
Indians, disdaining their familiar culture and over-impressed with the
"otherness" and modern aspects of the west, did not realize how
cosmically potent are austerities, chanting, and simple
devotion-to-the-Lord. They had not dug into their own meat.
I show that svadhyaya,
which appears in the verse and definitely entails japa, is
also mistranslated by these same men as "scriptural study."
discussed in detail below.
There is one sense
those three could be called "preliminary," and only this
sense: That they are a very good foundation to set for one day
attaining the bliss of samadhi
and the fulfillment of religion: The
kingdom of heaven known here-now. That means the earlier a child begins
austerities (such as my kneeling long in church as a boy), the better.
The earlier one begins cultivating the devotional attitude, the deeper
this becomes rooted in you for cosmic fruits later. I was
to be induced to do the anjoli
mudra early, as a boy in church. And the earlier one
begins to study the question of God, to study scriptures, and develop
concentration the better he or she can take to this profound yoga as an
adult. However, the point is the renunciation impulse (austerities)
remains necessary right up to the highest attainment, because
renunciation of the very ego-mind in samadhi is the
greatest austerity of all. The devotional attitude, as well, is needed
at that time more than at any other.
Interested in real
you shouldn't be afraid of
austerities. Did you know that the very act of trying to hold a yogic
posture is a kind of austerity? And intended to become painful? Now,
tapas is listed first, japa second, then God-devotion or
Isvara-pranidhana. This order of listing occurs in two separate verses.
Might there be a reason for it? Yes, indeed! Austerities are the first
thing that anybody can get a handle on, and usually the first thing
beings instinctively pursue when turning away from samsara and seeking
A basic purpose of
is to reduce body consciousness and bodily attachment. Then the mind
becomes free to both concentrate and pick up subtle perceptions. God
within and the inner bliss are subtle perceptions. If you can
finally pick them up through purity, they will feel very big
you. But you can't have static
and you must not be distracted by the body and sensual desires. By
renouncing bodily comforts and addictions gradually, tapas and
austerities cut the addiction to the senses. This is like getting the
BBQ potato chips out of your mouth so you can taste the fine French
custard, or like turning down the heavy metal so you can hear
the Mozart. Practicing austerities reduces the distractibility of the
mind and give greater power of concentration for meditation or dharana,
which is the central and hardest work of yogah. Austerities come in
many forms, and you can choose the ones you feel most capable of doing.
All effort at austerities yields spiritual fruit.
When I was young I
was lucky to
be part of a Catholic family that went to church. We had to kneel and
stand for portions of the service. I found it difficult and tedious at
times to stand so long, or kneel so long. But this was an austerity. I
was doing yogic tapas right there already in Church. I might be hungry,
and wish I could eat, but could not. My father thought we should not
have breakfast until after church, though I normally ate first thing on
waking. Learning to accept that hunger in church was tapas. When
children are asked to be silent, even though they feel like talking and
being rowdy, this is tapas for them. Manning your station at any task
as duty, despite discomfort, hunger, or impatience -- is tapas.
Attending to any job to the finish, though you would rather give in to
distraction, is tapas. Walking a long way, not giving in to the
slightest discomfort of cold or heat -- these are tapas. A soldier
doing his hard duty is doing tapas. Tapas involves the destruction of
addictions. Any tapas you do in one area of life, or with one
attachment, will help you master others.
spiritual effect if done for God and God-directed. In yoga and
religious life austerities are meant to
bring purification which finally helps the mind to become still, by
which stillness it experiences God in samadhi.
Austerities When We
Grieve and When We Seek the Transcendental
eating, a form of
austerity, when life becomes too sorrowful. His soul-instinct tells him
that this tapas could destroy his sorrows. When a woman renounces a man
or has a broken heart she often cuts her hair, another kind of
renunciation and austerity. When people see emptiness in the
world and get a longing for spiritual knowledge they begin to seek
solitude. This also is tapas.
It is interesting that when a child is upset and terribly frustrated,
wishing to work his will with his parents, he may try to coerce them by
holding his breath. The holding of the breath in pranayama is another
austerity. The "breath holding" child may in fact have
instinctive understanding that his breath is part of the cause
of his dualistic suffering, which is correct. The sage Vyasa agrees
with that child, saying "There is no tapas (purifier)
like pranayama." That
may come from an instinct to engage in profound austerity, remove
obstacles and samsara, and return to his primordial breathless and
unconstrained state by ceasing from the dualistic breath, this same
goal being the central goal of yogic pranayama!
the first act
Prince Siddhartha when
unsatisfactory nature of conventional life was to do tapas.
Jesus Christ, in preparing to do a difficult teaching ministry, did
tapas. This included a 40-day fast. He even stated that
power for the performance of siddhis (miracles)
that is, austerities. (He likely had done many fasts and other
austerities up to that point.) Indeed, the mind is empowered by
austerities, in part because the weakening of the mind's tie to the
body corresponds to a strengthening of the mind's tie to Purusha (God)
and Pure Consciousness. (God as Brahman.) Christian monastics
also fasted in their supplication to God, and although little developed
in them, fasting is a
powerful form of tapas
mentioned in Hindu scriptures.
tapas is a soul-instinct of all who reach out for a solution to
suffering or who seek to find the More Satisfactory. Even women who
break up with a suitor try to destroy grief with tapas! Meanwhile, it
is the best ground for the other three to grow. The
ground purified and cultivated by tapas
is the ground where the fruit
(meditation) and devotion
(bhakti) can grow. Those who get the hunger
for spiritual knowledge turn to tapas
even without reading the
Yoga-Sutra, and those who wish to learn meditation and cultivate bhakti
do it best along with tapas.
Thus it is listed first. Austerities are accessible to all. Austerities
are something that anyone can do, right now, using them to both prepare
himself and make a loud call-out to God!
easiest forms of tapas are these:
-- Giving up
harmful food and drink
-- Giving up
as television, movies, and non-devotional music.
-- Giving up
addiction to going
places and seeing things. (Later the inner vision that comes with yoga
will make this very easy to do and you won't miss any of it.)
most powerful and effective forms of austerities are these:
And these are very
austerities, but very important to pursue God-meditation and yoga:
-- Giving up
drugs, drink, and sex.
The White Europeans
tapas every Sunday. All traditions surrounding Sunday
renunciation, austerity, and the turning within to God, as well as
bhakti-yoga in the churches. (Religious singing, stories about God,
guru-devotion, etc.) All business activities were suspended.
Later all these
Tapas is translated
as "concentration" in a great many Hindu texts. One
Upanishad states that God as Brahma created the universe through his
tapas, or mental concentration. So tapas has implications of both
penances/mortification, plus concentration. The act of
meditation (dharana) is seen as the ultimate form of austerity because
it is a renunciation of the mind itself,
enjoyer of all enjoyments. So austerity
has an element of concentration.
I want to point out
an interesting usage of tapas found in Sankara's "The
Quintessence of Vedanta," translated by Swami Agamananda.
In this text the word tapas is repeatedly translated as "devotion."
This is an unusual occurrence
in English translations of Indian texts. The two things are different.
However, a religious person (pursuer of spiritual knowledge) will
often do austerities as an expression of devotion for God.
a "devoted" approach to austerities makes them more
Third, God-devotion will grow as a result of tapas
because through it the experience of the divine is further
unfolded within. Thus there is some sense to the translation. If tapas
really included devotion in its meaning, verse 1:2 might only
to say "Yogic activity
consists of tapas and japa." I
think it's much better that the two ideas -- tapas and bhakti
distinguished and considered separately. One can do tapas very dryly,
like a mechanic or a health freak with his focus on his
body and health, and lacking devotion. And devotional person or natural
bhakta may be quite dissolute,
undisciplined, and besotted by sense pleasures. Both of these get less
from their efforts religious effort (their pursuit of
is my opinion that man, more Shiva-like, takes more naturally to
austerities but is less developed in emotional expression and devotion;
the woman is a more natural bhakta and weaker in the pursuit of
austerities. In the ideal life, the woman teaches the man about the
nature of devotion; the male teaches the female about the power and
need for tapas. One of the profoundest ways she teaches him about
devotion and the ways of the heart are through their children, and the
example of motherly compassion and devotion she sets there. A beautiful
story illustrating these differences is
found in "The Sage in
from the Yoga-Vasistha. In the story, a
devoted wife saddened by her husband's turn away from the world and
embrace of austerities follows him on his path anyway, because of her
loyalty and devotion. Through her sheer attunement with her husband and
devotion, she gets all his siddhis and tapas naturally without little
effort, and is found flying about the cosmos in her astral body,
conversing with cosmic sages in far away corners of worlds, etc. It is
a charming story, especially as she tells of her former woes and
sorrows in seeing her husband become Shiva-like and renounce the world.
Oh! how much she suffers at first, being a true woman and a full
enjoyer of the world. Yet he leads her into the higher life of God. It
comes out that through her devotional nature as a
loyalty, and continued attunement to her husband -- she
attained everything he did and perhaps more. The secret of bhakti is that
devotion gives everything.
Now back to Verse 1:2
comes off as a problematic word in these texts. It gets
translated variously. The "esvara" part of that word refers to God, or
Isvara. Based on the way some translators like to render this word one would
think it literally meant "study of God." Then Dvivedi/Taimni turned it
into "study of scriptures." This is an error. And the "self
Leggett and others are problematic. Does it mean "studying the
Self" or "studying by yourself"? Everyone studies by himself, not in
tandem with another. So they must intend the first idea.
Application of one's
self to God
can be said to be taking place also during study of scriptures, but
this word does not specify book-study. Doesn't everyone read books?
that make them sadhakas and yogis? Yet many
give it as "scriptural study." Others use
"self-study," including the careful Leggett. Yet
neither Leggett nor Taimni capitalize "self," though
that is normative when referring to the Supreme Self. "Study of the
Self" or "study of God," moreover, seems too broad, too nebulous, and
too superlative for a
verse that they claim introduces "basic" or
that austerities are very
particular. Devotion or bhakti is a simple, direct concept. How
can one know when one is
"studying the Self"? Is this why some tried to solve
the dilemma by offering it as "scriptural study"?
Because study of
scripture is like a study of God? No, it
out that the legitimate meaning of svadhyaya
is application of one's self to God in a particular way: By japa
which is repetition of mantra and chanting, the central
as "repetition of
sacred mantras or study of sacred
literature." Swami Muktananda
used to hold great events he called Svadhyaha that
but chanting the Guru Gita for days. He seemed to consider svadhyayes'vara
to mean chanting or japa. Muktananda was well-versed in yogic
and culture. More tellingly, Verse 2:44 of the Sutra states
brings communion with the deity. Felt communion with
Deity is an altered state different from the normal state of
consciousness. Book-reading is not associated with such
states of communion; japa certainly is.
It turns out
svadhyaya has always
and repetition of mantra in Indic culture, but two influential early
Indian commentators decided to make a change. In his important
1890 translation M.N. Dvivedi, writing for the
Theosophical Publishing House, is caught
red-handed removing japa from svadhyayes'vara. Verse 2:44,
Dvivedi's translation and his commentary:
study is produced communion
with the desired deity."
M.N. Dvivedi, "The
does not appear in Dvivedi's verse translation, but "study"
Yet his commentary on the verse admits the
constant, silent, and devoted repetition of certain formula is said to
be efficacious in establishing a sort of mediumistic
communication with the higher elementals of nature; as also
developing the inner vision of the student and establishing communion
with the deity of his choice."
So he knew that svadhyaya
Yet he seems
apologizing for japa, treating the verse as a
sideshow, as if
it is separate from the main thrust of the Sutra. Japa is
something quaintly "said" by villagers to produce "mediumistic
communication" (an absurd phrase)
and he wishes to move on
to headier things.
The truth is japa or
of a mantra is the central technique of meditation! The Yoga-Sutra,
meanwhile, is nothing if not a manual on meditation, its results, and
its territories. Japa
synonymous with meditation and continues on through its
(which Dvivedi later presents with great respect). That very japa,
perfected as samyama,
is the central technique
of siddhis which receive a whole spectacular chapter later.
I.K. Taimni, another
Theosophist, came later
and emulated the Dvivedi translation and his more widely published
version of the Yoga-Sutra, "The Science of Yoga." It was the first one
I encountered. Note his desire to
turn it into a "science" to make yoga respectable to the west.
(Religion is a much greater thing than science, and yoga is religion.)
also, knew that svadhyaya
But he also obscured this. The only trace is this
bit he hid in his sidebars breaking down the
off-stage so to speak. Right after the beautiful script for svadhyayesvara
Verse 2:1 he writes:
which leads to the knowledge of the Self through Japa"
You wouldn't see it
didn't scour. But following his mentor, no mention of japa
made it into Taimni's verse on svadhyaya. Taimni dumbs down
japa into "study" like
Dvivedi, but tries to pick up after his mentor by inventing the
confusing term "self study":
resignation to Isvara constitute preliminary yoga."
Science of Yoga, I.K.
So Taimni and
their nose up to japa, and considered asceticism and bhakti
influential translators were part
of Theosophical movement. I used to frequent the Theosophical
Library in Ojai, California and have known many Theosophists, all old.
I have also attended lectures at the "Meditation Mount" created by
Alice Bailey there, another Theosophist. The Theosophists were a people
who wanted to mine the mystical heritage of India to create their own
highly intellectual, theoretical religion that cared more for
elaborate and fictional metaphysics than the basics of spiritual
that is the subject of the Yoga-Sutra. The Theosophist likes to
overlook the simple and the small in religion in preference for
and phantasmagorical competitions with Christian ideas. They sought to
mine Indian mysticism while piling up bewildering fodder for the
endless arm's-length intellectual indulgence that is the
predilection of the Theosophist. So translators like Dvivedi and Taimni
were trying to propound a more "esoteric" and headier presentation
of the Sutra for arms-length intellectuals and those interested in the
novel-like alternative religion histories of Madame Blavatsky. Simplistic
and childlike activities like mantra repetition just wouldn't impress
these western minds. Repetition of mantra or verses,
called japa, was always
implied by svadhyaya.
But in the minds of
was as everyday in India as tattoos on a young Portlander. Housewives
did it, grandpas, and the like. They
likely felt embarrassed at the idea of mere japa as basic yogic
activity. Their sophistry in translation is the sign of jaded
failure to appreciate the profundity of what already lay before them,
as is so human. (Just as a woman doesn't comprehend how beautifully
inspiring is her God-made, untouched body before paying some creep to
deface her with tattoos.) Any japa is meditation and japa is always
study" as a
better choice than "scriptural study" should the idea of study have to
be retained. But I have chosen to render
svadhyaya as japa
for strong reasons. The problem is pretty much solved when we get to
verse 2:44 which states that svadhyaya
with the desired deity" [deva]. Deva means "god." Study of
scripture won't give you
communion with a deva or the sense of God-contact but japa and
Note above how Dvivedi
of "communion with a deva" as some embarrassment. But communion
the highest of all gods called Isvara -- the very Lord of the Universe
-- requires the
same technique and is the intention. So
Dvivedi misunderstood the verse in the first place. "Desired
in the verse does not mean one fiddles around with
Dandelion Deva or Vayu the Wind God. It
means that each devotee has his own particular conception
of God; they approach God by focusing on Jesus Christ, or a Saint, or
their guru, or Vishnu, or Shiva. That is their "deva." The "deva" Who
the yogi wishes to commune with, by japa, is that deva called Iswara,
the Lord of the Universe!
of the verse would be thus:
communion with the deity in the form favored by the devotee.
This then is the way
rendered it later.
verse is not
side trip. Rather,
to be on the central subject, meditation, only seeking to
acknowledge that devotees orient themselves to the Deity in different
forms or conceptions.
japa is silent,
but that is incorrect. Japa can be either silent or out loud. In
starts out loud then evolves into a silent form. The meditation
technique used by Yogananda and Nityananda, which is silent, is called
by them "natural japa."
Japa, Meditation, Application of
One's Self to God,
Repetition of Mantras, Chanting,
and perhaps secondarily,
application of self to God
I believe that the
japa is most honest and wholesome stand-in for svadhyaya. For the
complete certitude of the reader, would-be aspirant, and the religious
person (yogi or yogess), I will now summarize my justification for this:
☼ Some of
translators do render svadhyaya
as japa or
central technique of yoga and many Sutra verses deal with meditation.
Scriptural study is not a form of meditation in the yogic sense, but japa
is. Meditation runs through-and-through genuine yoga, start-to-finish.
verse introducing basic actions of yoga, some approach to meditation
would surely be included. Japa fulfills that. Rendering svadhyaya as japa,
others have done, places meditation clearly into the "three
actions" of yoga, and in the most basic form.
☼ In India
cultural connotations with out-loud chanting, and japa is
with out loud chanting.
☼ The next verse
will state that these three actions of "kriya yoga" attenuate "klesas"
and bring samadhi. Yogins and sages declare that japa can do both;
nobody states that scriptural study will do so. In fact japa has high praise
in many yogic traditions as a core practice and irresistible power.
☼ For a first
verse unveiling the yogic techniques. Japa is explicit,
concrete, and clear, not vague or nebulous. Japa is an easily
accessible idea. "Study of the Self" has no proof or standard. But all
men and women can do japa, understand what it is, and know when they
are doing it. Austerities and "special devotion to the Lord" do not
nail down any explicit activity ("kriyah"). But this understanding
of svadhyaya nails
definite practice --- even a meditation practice -- as part
of the three basic activities of yoga.
☼ If we had to knock
2 of the 3, and leave only one item standing, japa would be the
best one to leave and has the most value. For japa is itself a
form of asceticism, and also a vehicle for bhakti. Japa (repetition)
is also the central activity of meditation itself, which is in turn the
central theme of the Yoga-Sutra.
☼ I like the fact
that it takes a text that has become arcane, bewildering and filled
with loopholes or shift lines and puts this highly important verse into
a practical, direct form that anybody can get their head around. Japa
is a very adaptable meditation word that can refer to silent inner
repetition or out loud chanting. The Yoga-Sutra does not need to seem
distant and abstruse to the average-minded devotee.
☼ Japa can be
musical. One of the best techniques of bhakti-yoga is devotional
singing (as with Muktananda and his 3-day-long "Svadhyaya" sessions).
Because Isvara-pranidhana or Devotion-to-God is listed as one of the
basic actions, and is more nebulous, these connect nicely
with one another, with japa being very down-to-earth. This
interpretation would even completely satisfy such bhakti-oriented
groups as the Hare Krsna.
☼ A devotee can do
japa and no scriptural study, and he can get everything. A fellow who
does scriptural study but no japa is on the sidelines.
☼ Verse 2:44 which
svadhyaya produces "communion with the desired deity."
☼ Finally, japa can
comport with the "basic activities" and those who
want to view it as "introductory," even if that is misguided, since
japa is a technique given to
Because the central
yoga is meditation, and because japa
is the only
alternative given by many translators in association with the term svadhyayesvara, and
because japa is fundamental meditation -- I argue
for rendering it thusly as the first resort. Om.
study? It is important to yoga and samadhi, but not central. The guru,
devotion, and japa are more central than scriptural study.
purification by asceticism (tapah), japa, and devotion to God.
The Yogic term for
Patanjali's sutra, is Isvara.
The Sanskrit term for God-devotion, seen above, is Isvara-pranidhana.
Most translators give this as "special devotion to the Lord."
In a later
Isvara will be
described as "a particular purusha" (person, soul) who preceded us,
has never had any afflictions or karmic taints, is beyond even
time, and exercises Lordship over creation.
The yogic conception
of God as
matches the Christian concept of God as an all-powerful being,
ruler and creator, as well as the Vedantic concept of Saguna Brahman or
God-with-attributes. In this text I will sometimes use the White
European term "God," sometimes Isvara, and sometimes other names that
imply different qualities or functions of the
that place Jesus Christ in India during His "missing years" also state
that he had a name there was"Isha" which has a
clear origin in "Isvara" (often spelled Ishwara). This could suggest
Christ, during his time studying yoga in India, had
keen bhakti for The Lord and came to be called Isha by the
of his lordly siddhis.
This is the
on bhakti-yoga. We
tend to think of the Yoga-Sutra as having qualities like a dry
technical manual. But it's a beautiful fact that Patanjali's Sutra not
only includes it, but appears to emphasize bhakti-yoga. Many
celebrated yogic sages such as Ramakrishna, Sivananda,
and Krsna himself have praised bhakti-yoga as the highest form of yoga,
even all-complete in itself. Many of those yogins or commentators have
observed that Christianity is basically a bhakti oriented religion.
Indeed, many of the great Christian saints were essentially
bhakti-yogis in their approach.
The theme of
throughout verse 2:1
It's valuable to
"actions of yoga" -- tapas, svadhyaha, and devotion --
concentration of the mind. Tapas because it's sometimes used to name
intense concentration, and because meditation is the
ultimate austerity. Scriptural study or repetition of mantras
obviously involves concentration. And devotion itself involves
concentration of the mind. In a sense devotion to a thing is synonymous
with concentration on it. Bhakti is perhaps the
strongest expression of concentrated mind,one
that involves all the emotions.
It has been stated
meditation, which is concentration of
mind, is the central subject of the Yoga-Sutra.Thus yogah
study and concentration on that;meditation and chanting and
concentration on that; and devotion to God which is itself total
concentration gathering up the whole self.
SUMMARY OF VERSES 2:1 & 2:32
and the end of suffering, is austerities, God-study, and
Chastity and virtue
fertile ground of your yoga farmstead.
Techniques are the
devotional attitude is like the rain.
These are practiced
impurities, afflictions, and distractions and acquiring samadhi.
Now after already
that austerities, japa, and God-devotion are the yogic
activities,and after already establishing that
goal, the Sutra follows up with a repetitive verse that primarily gives
the preceding one: These
are practiced to attain samadhi.
This is the 2nd
instance in the
Sutra where we see the word klesa
(pronounced "klesha"). This is another word that doesn't fit into a
neat box. Leggett often
translated it as "taint." Taimni usually rendered klesas as
But the term first arose in the verse describing Isvara-God as a
purusha free of afflictions/taints. "Affliction" is the
first-chair definition given by Pandit Usharbudh Arya in his
"Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali." He uses the phrase "not smeared by
afflictions" to combine the idea of impurities. Hariharananda
in his glossary defines klesa
entirely in painful terms: "Pain, anguish, distress, worry,
In our minds there
gappage between the
ideas of impurities, afflictions, and distractions. But the Sanskrit
sees a close
connection between the three.
this leads us to a nice portal of truth that may or may not be present
in the verses as written, but should be discussed. Let's forget the
mere "distractions" idea as related to meditation. The verse is
literally saying that these
three activities attenuate afflictions.
How nice to
you realize that austerities (and don't forget to include chastity),
chanting, and devotion to God will
attenuate your afflictions in life?
Yes, it's so. Isn't religion lovely?
lifting your hassles, bummers, disasters, stresses, and miscellaneous
snafus from your shoulders so that you can acquire samadhi.
tells you to purify yourself with austerities, quit sinning with sex,
and connect yourself to the untainted Father by thinking of Him
devotionally. Jesus said: "My
burden is light and my yoke is easy." The Yoga-Sutra is
saying in this verse: "Be
religious in these basic ways and your burden -- your afflictions --
will become lighter."Later
you will see, as Sankara has tried to get us to see, that all the
insoluble troubles we thought we had were just you seeing a stick in
the road ahead and thinking it was a snake. God, the Lord, can change
the story like that.
further contradicts the translators who
"preliminary yoga." How can the things needing doing right up
to yoga's ultimate goal ("acquiring samadhi") be named "preliminary"?
effect of this mistake, no doubt, has been to mislead the
already confused into thinking the three -- austerities, svadhyaya, and
bhakti -- are of little importance while body postures, which
not even mentioned in the Sutra, are important, though the Sutra
emphasizes these three,in three separate verses. These three
are the warp and woof of yoga, not bodily postures.
these are to be practiced in solitude, not groups. Solitude is,
incidentally,itself one of the austerities. The Sutra does
call it out explicitly, the Bhagavad-Gita does. The Hatha-Yoga
Pradipika also specifies that yoga is a solitary activity, not a social
one, and not a business. (Notice how I am giving away this text for
free, not selling it.) Groups of people are very distracting. They also
give pleasure. Pleasures are what one is supposed to renounce if one
wants to be austere and clear the way to perceive the subtle
within. One also doesn't do yoga sitting on picturesque and distracting
mountaintops, or noisy seasides in the wind, as presented to us now by
waby culture. One also doesn't need to put their hands out
thumb and finger in a circle as we see so often depicted, and likely
It has become
offensive to my
see all the ladies displaying
themselves doing the devotional anjoli mudra (hands together, as in
prayer) in yoguh magazines, yet with little mention of who's
devoted to, or if she is devoted to anybody at all, as if yoga was
meaningless and is not, in fact, religion. I see hundreds of these
displaying themselves. Who is her guru? Does she
love God as the Yoga-Sutra instructs? Does she love austerities? Is she
on board with chastity? Truly, the reduction of this ancient religious
knowledge to a bodily vanity interest for women, who cavort in
the mummery of "spiritual" poses while ignoring God
yoga's religious purpose, simply grasping more things that she
desires for worldly pleasure, and all these pranaming-to-nobody- women
to us by commercial
publishing interests -- is pollution to the eyes.
because that would be a "painful transformation" of my mind, plus does
not give my mind peace. This brings us to the Sutra's listings of ways
to bring the mind to stillness. One of those is by "ignoring the
ignorant," a habit I've not yet mastered. But let's see what the Sutra
lists for the basic preparations for yoga, one of these is ignoring the
ignorant. Do forgive my error.
Julian Lee. All Rights Reserved.