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Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.4

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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:

  1. the active / aroused state – the thought pattern is manifesting on the surface as physical behaviour or things at the forefront of one’s mind
  2. distanced / separated / cut off state – the attraction  / aversion to an object is still there, but is not active
  3. the thought pattern is interrupted / weakened
  4. 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

 

 

 

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Yoga sutras of Patanjali 1.40

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Gradually, one’s mastery in concentration extends from the primal atom to the greatest magnitude

When, through such practices (as previously described), the mind develops the power of becoming stable on the smallest size object as well as on the largest, then the mind truly comes under control.

Once one has mastery over the mind, one can contemplate the full scale of the universe, from the tiniest to the largest things.

 

Yoga sutras of Patanjali 1/38

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Or by concentrating on an experience had during dream or deep sleep

Or by focusing on the nature of the stream in the dream state or the nature of the state of dreamless sleep, the mind becomes stabilized and tranquil.

In his suggestions for different meditation techniques we might like to try to attain serenity of mind, Patanjali here offers that we might contemplate the stillness of the mind during deep sleep. Note that we are not to focus on the content of the dreams, more the state we are in whilst dreaming, or experiencing dreamless sleep.

 

Yoga sutras of Patanjali 1.33

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By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness

In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.

Sri Swami Satchidananda says even if you ignore all the other sutras, you could follow this one and gain benefit. In this sutra, Patanjali says there are 4 types of people we will meet – happy, unhappy, virtuous and non-virtous. I am rather uncomfortable with categorising / labelling people in this seemingly reductive manner, but I can see what it is getting at. The labels are fluid, and just because someone is ‘non-virtuous’ at one stage in their life, does not mean there is no hope for them.

Bearing in mind that what we are trying to achieve is serenity of mind, Patanjali gives us states of mind to cultivate. When we meet a happy person, we should cultivate friendliness, rather than jealousy for their happiness or what they have.

When we encouter sad people, we should show compassion and help them. At times, these people may cause us to feel irritated or frustrated – we might want to help them, but may not know how.

When we meet virtuous people, we should show delight and try to imitate them. Rather than feeling intimidated or jealous of what they have achieved, we should try to emulate them, and show happiness and goodwill.

Patanjali says when we meet non-virtuous people, we should disregard them or be indifferent towards them. I find this difficult, as instinctively I want to help everyone. Swami Satchidananda says there is still hope for these people, but they have to experience things for themselves, and will rarely take advice anyway. I suppose I can reconcile this somewhat by thinking that if I model what being ‘virtuous’ looks like, then they might have the realisation for themselves that things need to change.

All of these attitudes Patanjali suggests do not deny our feelings to the contrary, E.g. if someone in our family has the flu (sadness) and we have to change our plans, we may still feel annoyed that we have to change our plans. The goal is not to not feel that, but rather to notice that it is there, be mindful of it, but try to cultivate an attitude of support instead. This will lead to more serenity of mind than feeling irritated.

A very simple, but useful summary:

When faced with someone who displays… Try to cultivate…
Happiness Friendliness
Unhappiness Compassion
Virtuosity Delight
Non-virtuosity Indifference

 

 

Yoga sutras of Patanjali 1.31

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The practice of concentration on a single subject (or the use of one technique) is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.

To prevent or deal with these nine obstacles and their four consequences, the recommendation is to make the mind one-pointed, training it how to focus on a single principle or object.

The antidote to these obstacles is maintaining a regular practice and sticking to it, through good times and bad. Sounds simple, but sometimes just showing up for our practice is the difficult bit.

Patanjali is saying that the method or technique of meditation is not important, rather that we persevere. Some days, the practice will be easy and we will feel pleased. Other days, it will be tough or things will appear to prevent us from practising at all. Showing up is key.

In the next few sutras, Patanjali outlines some different techniques of meditation.

 

 

Yoga sutras of Patanjali 1.30

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Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach firm ground and slipping from the ground gained – these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles.

Nine kinds of distractions come that are obstacles naturally encountered on the path, and are physical illness, tendency of the mind to not work efficiently, doubt or indecision, lack of attention to pursuing the means of samadhi, laziness in mind and body, failure to regulate the desire for worldly objects, incorrect assumptions or thinking, failing to attain stages of the practice, and instability in maintaining a level of practice once attained.

Sri Swami Satchidananda says that these obstacles are like a chain, one leading on to the next. For example, physical disease leads on to a dull mind, which then leads on to doubt and carelessness, and so on and so on.

On reflection, I have experienced many of these obstacles on my journey, particularly ‘slipping from ground maintained’. It is good to know that these are common obstacles that many people face on their spiritual journey, and Satchidananda says that once we know this, we won’t get disheartened. If we were not aware of these obstacles, we might just give up altogether. Part of the practice is experiencing the highs and the lows, and always returning to it.

 

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.29

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From that remembering comes the realization of the individual Self and the removal of obstacles.

From this practice all the obstacles disappear and simultaneously dawns knowledge of the inner Self.

From repeating the OM mantra, all obstacles will be removed, and this is a direct route to self-realisation. Sri Swami Satchidananda describes this as a ‘transcendence’ of your limitations.