Ignorance is regarding the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant, and the non-self as the self.
Ignorance (avidya) is of four types:
1) regarding that which is transient as eternal
2) mistaking the impure for pure
3) thinking that which brings misery to bring happiness
4) taking that which is not-self to be self.
Seeing the temporary as permanent – this could be something like thinking of our possessions as belonging to us, rather than realising that we are only their temporary keepers.
Thinking the not-self to be self – for example, identifying ourselves as ‘a doctor’ or ‘Michelle’, rather than the deeper identification of our self at a much deeper level.
Ignorance is the field for the others mentioned after it, whether they be dormant, feeble, intercepted or sustained.
The root forgetting or ignorance of the nature of things (avidya) is the breeding ground for the other of the five colorings (kleshas), and each of these is in one of four states:
1) dormant or inactive
2) attenuated or weakened
3) interrupted or separated from temporarily
4) active and producing thoughts or actions to varying degrees.
Through yoga and meditation, the thought patterns are gradually weakened and can remain in a dormant state. The four states are as follows:
- the active / aroused state – the thought pattern is manifesting on the surface as physical behaviour or things at the forefront of one’s mind
- distanced / separated / cut off state – the attraction / aversion to an object is still there, but is not active
- the thought pattern is interrupted / weakened
- the thought pattern is dormant – as if it were a seed that is not growing at the moment, but which could grow in the right conditions
Ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and clinging to bodily life are the five obstacles
There are five kinds of coloring (kleshas):
1) forgetting, or ignorance about the true nature of things (avidya)
2) I-ness, individuality, or egoism (asmita)
3) attachment or addiction to mental impressions or objects (raga)
4) aversion to thought patterns or objects (dvesha)
5) love of these as being life itself, as well as fear of their loss as being death.
Here an overview of the kleshas or obstacles is given, and each one will be further described in the following sutras. The order is key, as ignorance about the nature of reality leads to egoism. Because of egoism, one becomes attached to things which pleasure the ego. Because we are attached to things, we cling to life in the body.
They (the 3 principles of kriya yoga)help us minimize obstacles and attain samadhi
That Yoga of action (kriya yoga) is practiced to bring about samadhi and to minimize the colored thought patterns (kleshas)
Here, Patanjali is giving a rationale for practising Kriya Yoga – to minimize the obstacles and attain samadhi. Everything we do in our asana practice is all part of our preparation for meditation and samadhi.
Accepting pain as help for purification, study of spiritual books and surrender to the Supreme Being constitute Yoga in practice.
Yoga in the form of action (kriya yoga) has three parts: 1) training and purifying the senses (tapas), 2) self-study in the context of teachings (svadhyaya), and 3) devotion and letting go into the creative source from which we emerged (ishvara pranidhana)
This sutra describes yoga in action. The first of the 3 components is tapas, which is often mistranslated as ‘austerity’. It actually refers to creating heat, which purifies. Tapas also refers to self discipline – taming the monkey mind, the senses and the organs. Satchidananda quotes the Bhaghavad Gita which says that self-torture is an obstacle to spiritual progress, but self-discipline is an aid to it.
Self-study refers to reading some scriptures – these sutras, the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the teachings of Zen Master Dogen – whatever resonates with you.
Surrendering to the supreme being or god is the third part of yoga in action. As a Buddhist and an atheist, I find this type of statement difficult. As with earlier notions like this, I will substitute ‘universal energy’ for the idea of ‘god’. This helpful blog says that the concept of ishvara could mean ‘collective consciousness’ or ‘universal consciousness’, rather than a ‘god’ deity.