Yoga is defined by the Sage Patanjali in his authoritative treatise on Yoga – The Patanjali Yoga Sutras. In my last post, we visited the background of this great philosophical and literary masterpiece. We also read the first Yoga Sutra.
Here, we look at the second Sutra – how Patanjali takes on the huge task of defining Yoga. It is often said that the greater the knowledge, the fewer words are required to express that knowledge. And so is the case of Patanjali; he needs only 4 words to describe the world of YOGA!
Most people would associate yoga with the physical asanas that they struggle to perform in a class! Or to the breathing – pranayama techniques. Some others would equate Yoga to a meditation tradition; or a lifestyle (usually implying strict discipline, and an abstinence from most worldly pleasures!) Patanjali is too advanced and complete to bother with such trifles when he’s speaking on Yoga. His intention is to show everyone what ‘Yoga’ in its true essence stands for – and not ways and means to achieve that (those will come later in his text). Patanjali’s exposition offers a vision of what an ideal Human state could be like! The student of yoga is told of the finale even before he / she takes their first step on this most interesting of journeys. Here it is:
“Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah”
Yoga is the cessation of all Modification of Consciousness.
In other words Yoga is the art by the practice of which, there will be no disturbances (thoughts) at the conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious levels. As if all planes are cleansed and a tranquil void remains. According to Patanjali’s vision of Yoga, the individual’s states of consciousness are equated to a lake. Through the practice of Yoga, that lake becomes absolutely still!
Contrast this to our present state; we are constantly thinking, analyzing and in fact, we are being bombarded with thoughts of every possible hue, even when we actually want to simply relax! There is almost never a time either when we are awake or asleep when we don’t have something running through our minds. Hence, Patanjali is offering an understanding of Yoga as a true vision of how you and me can be if we practice yoga – Lake Placid!!
Till next time; here’s the cessation of this post!