Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the first of several writings that present
the Eastern philosophy for Self realization. Historians date the writing
of this classic yoga text written by Maharishi Patanjali, back to the 2nd
or 3rd century AD. In this text we find one of the first written definitions
of yoga as a system for uncovering the source within. Patanjali knew that
the self inquiry process was the only way to enlightenment, and so encouraged
his students to seriously study the question “Who am I?” He saw the common
human experience of pain and suffering, and sought to end it, first within
himself, by making the mind and the true Self the object of contemplation.
Patanjali gained personal insights through self study, clearly perceiving
how he created or contributed to his own pain and suffering. He began to
see a way out of human suffering, noting that there were human actions
that inhibited inherent joy that could be stopped. From this deep understanding
he developed, the now notorious, 8 Fold Path. This 8 fold path begins with
the simple step of “stop causing the pain”.
The Yoga Sutras are divided into four distinct chapters. The first chapter
was written for the advanced student, and describes the higher states of
yoga called Samadhi. In its details about the method for knowing God, it
talks about the development of concentration ability necessary for absorption
into Spirit. It also gives details of how to separate your identity from
Chapter two contains the practical means to attaining Samadhi, the state
of total absorption in God consciousness. This chapter is written for the
majority of yoga students, and offers practical advice on the nature of
the mind and the removal of suffering. It includes a description of Hatha
Yoga, social and personal ethical guidelines, and lays out the formula
for disciplining the mind: asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (breathing
techniques), and pratyahara (the withdrawal of the senses).
Chapter three is written for the student who has mastered his physical
body and developed the power of concentration. Patanjali discusses the
process of Samyama, the continuous stream of mindfulness. He tells the
yoga student to focus on the underlying Divine Spirit in order to free
the mind of attachments to pleasures and power.
Chapter four is a summary of his teachings in effort to prepare the student
for the final step to spiritual integration. He provides a clarification
of the primal forces of nature (the gunas), and further elaborates on how
to transcend the limitations of space and time.