Yoga Sūtra Verse 1.2
July 14, 2012 § 1 Comment
yogaḥ – a means, expedient, device, way, manner, method [this def. gives us a better sense of how Patañjali is using this all important word. It is used this way in the Mahabharata and in the Kāvya literature as well as the Bhagavat Purana]
citta – [chitta] to perceive, fix the mind upon, attend to, be attentive, observe, take notice of; thinking, reflecting, imagining, thought; [poetic: the sea of vṛttis (the accumulation of the mind’s activities)]
vṛtti – mental habits -cyclical permutations of the mind (impressions generated as we rotate to and from what we want and don’t want, i.e. creating grooves)
nirodhaḥ – to stop the momentum (prevent further growth of vṛttis). It can also be understood as redirecting or reversing, from the word rodha, which means to grow or move in a particular direction and nir from nis meaning away from.
“Yoga is the re-channeling of the impressions and habits of the mind”
What if you woke up one morning in the most technologically advanced city you had ever imagined? Seemingly unlimited possibilities surround you. Tantalizing pleasures await you. But slowly, you come to realize that all is not as it seems. You are in fact, a prisoner of a divinely diabolical place.
This place is in fact, the gilded cage of your mind. Your mind is creating this reality and your perception of it. Your mind creates a seamless holographic experience. An illusory experience so exhaustive it is the seen, the seer, and the cause of the seen, all at once.
Unlike the majority of captives in this gilded cage however, you want to escape. You are determined to discover what lies beyond the boundaries of this mesmerizing penitentiary and this is what makes you a transcendentalist. This is why yoga matters to you.
The yoga sūtras are a kind of map of this prison. They are a blue print for escape. They sūtras also show how challenging it will be to escape mind’s influence. You will need much determination and persistence. The cornerstone to the mind’s defense is the false ego, called ‘ahamkara’ in Sanskrit (literally ‘the I maker’). By design, the false ego will convince you that you-your body, your thoughts, your desires, your possessions-are real. It is the false ego that hides you from your true nature. The rest of the mind, your intelligence, your senses and your unconscious, all work with the false ego to make this place feel real. So your material life becomes real, because it feels real. So the real world is not an illusion, it is illusory. Like a dream or a movie it actually exists, it’s just not Reality.
If you could overcome the illusory influence of the mind, everything would change (as the next verse describes.) Yoga is the process of overcoming the very bad habit we all have of accepting matter as the ultimate reality. Through repeated exposure we have become conditioned to turn our attention to matter and away from the nature of consciousness.
In the process of focusing on material life, you have given up control of those things that you can control, such as discipline, attention, perspective and your emotions. Instead, you focus on those things that are out of your control such as outcomes, results and the emotions of others. The result is unnecessary suffering and anxiety.
Yoga is a revolution of the mind. As you will discover on this sūtra journey we have embarked on, yoga is not about quieting the mind but rather turning the table on an entire enterprise dedicated to your impoverishment. In yoga you will bring the fight directly to the source of your misery and fears. Yoga is a deeply confrontational and assertive process. Yoga asks that you not only face your fears but also hunt them. Through yoga, you will discover how to turn your enemy, the mind, into a friend. Yoga teaches you to stop accepting the roles of your life as your identity and recognize them as parts you play. This is the revolutionary path of the modern yogi.
As you deliberately learn to overcome the habits of the mind, you will feel your capacity for contentment grow. You will become a grounded, peaceful warrior. You will be in a place to do much good for your fellow humans.
If you have the interest and the courage to stay the course yoga can improve your life. I look forward to continuing on this journey with you. And I promise that while I cannot change you overnight, I can change you forever.