Approximately 1600 years ago, an Indian scholar named Patañjali composed the Yogaśāstra - a work comprised of two layers of text: one consisting of 195 aphorisms commonly referred to as yogasūtras and another consisting of an explanatory auto-commentary, often referred to as the Yogabhāṣya.
Patañjali identifies yoga as the "stilling of the turnings of the mind," and the subsequent experience of abiding in one's essential nature. Patañjali's approach to yoga is based upon the foundation of Sāṃkhya - a philosophical viewpoint in which reality is perceived in terms of puruṣa (pure awareness) and prakṛti (matter). Puruṣa is having an experience of prakṛti and has identified with matter. Our busy minds, bodies, and lives in the material world are all manifestations of prakṛti, and as such, subject to a range of external influences.
The practice of yoga is a process by which puruṣa - source consciousness - disentangles itself from the web of prakṛti and instead resides in peaceful essence.
When puruṣa consistently rests in itself, this state is known as samādhi. Patañjali offers two methods by which to calm the mind and to create the right conditions for an experience of samādhi to arise: kriyāyoga - the yoga of action; and aṣṭāṅgayoga, - the yoga of eight auxiliaries.
Now begins the teachings of yoga. Yoga is the restraint of fluctuations in consciousness. Then the seer (self) abides in essence - Pātañjalayogaśāstra (1-3)
*Image credit: Seated āsana, Jogapradīpakā (1830)
The British Library
Ahiṁsā - non-violence
Satya - truth
Asteya - non-stealing
Brahmacarya - sexual continence
Aparigraha - non-acquisitveness
Śauca - cleanliness
Santoṣa - contentment
Tapas - austerity/discipline
Svādhyāya - continual learning
Īśvara praṇidhāna - surrender to the highest
"Āsana is a steady comfortable posture. By lessening the natural tendency for restlessness and by meditating on the infinite, posture is mastered. Thereafter, one is undisturbed by dualities" (2.46 - 2.28).
"With posture acquired, the movement of inhalation and exhalation should be controlled. This is prāṇāyāma. As a result, the veil over the inner light is destroyed. And the mind becomes fit for concentration" (2.49 - 2.53).
"When the senses withdraw themselves from the object and imitate, as it were, the nature of the mind-stuff, this is pratyāhāra. Then follows supreme mastery over the senses" (2.54- 2.55).
"Dhāraṇā is fixing the mind to one place, object or idea" (3.1).
"When awareness flows evenly towards the point of attention, this is known as Dhyāna" (3.2).
"Samādhi is that condition of illumination, where union disappears, only the meaning of the object on which the attention is fixed is present" (3.3).
*Translation: Swami Satchidananda
James is a yoga teacher, blogger and student. He's been practising yoga in one shape or form for over 23 years. He's currently studying at SOAS, University of London, for an MA in Yoga and Meditation.
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