Patanjali Yoga Sutras Chapter 1 (with Sutra reference)

The first chapter of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Samadhi Pada, is described in easy to read language. The Sutra references are mentioned in this version.

"Yoga Sutras are not meant for the students to study because they will drive you crazy. They are meant for the teachers. They are like curriculums. Those teachers who are competent—competent teachers means those who have studied through tradition from their competent teachers and at the same time practiced and verified the truths therein—they alone have right to teach."

Swami Rama

Considering the above statement, none other than teachers in direct, unbroken lineages of ancient vedic Traditions may study the Yoga sutras and use the same as to teach others. However, there is a new trend of intellectual study of the Yoga sutras, that has led to the proliferation of new intellectual commentaries, fuelled by many commercially oriented teachers training programmes. 

For whom are the Easy Reading Patanjali Yoga Sutras?

The Easy Reading Patanjali Yoga Sutras are meant neither for intellectuals, who wish to engage in debates nor for sanskrit scholars, keen on discussing translations. These are also not meant for modern students of physical culture who learn the Yoga sutras by heart in order to get a certificate. 

The Easy Reading Patanjali Yoga Sutras are meant for sincere seekers who desire direct experience of Yoga as Meditation and wish to use the Yoga Sutras, as taught by a living unbroken tradition of master meditators, as a tool to deepen their Meditation practice.

How to use the Easy Reading Patanjali Yoga Sutras?

Print out the Easy Reading Patanjali Yoga Sutras and read it at night before you go to bed. Read it like you would read a story. It is okay if you do not understand everything. Continue reading. You do not have to read the entire text in one evening. When the mind tires, just go to bed. The text goes deep in to the unconscious mind and is slowly integrated. The next evening, continue from where you left off. Read and re-read the text. With each reading it will unravel new mysteries and disclose its secrets. Reading and re-reading this text over years will provide increasingly deeper levels of insights. 

There are two versions of the Easy Reading Patanjali Yoga Sutras 1) with Sutra reference

and 2) without Sutra reference

Chapter 1 Samadhi Pada: About Meditation

YS I.1-4

What is Yoga?

The Patanjali Yoga Sutras begin by answering the question, What is Yoga? When the high state of consciousness is attained, where thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires naturally and spontaneously subside without any forceful suppression, this state is called Yoga. When this occurs Pure Consciousness shines forth, and you know that you are One with the Infinite Whole, a wave of bliss and beauty in the vast ocean of consciousness. At all other times however, we are disturbed by our thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires, and we identify ourselves with these, mistaking our thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires for ourselves, when in fact we are none other than Pure Consciousness.

YS I.5-11

Un-colouring your thoughts

Thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires disturb us like ripples disturb the clear surface of a lake. These ripples are of two-fold nature. 

  1. Coloured:  Coloured thoughts, mental images, emotions, and desires are those that lead us to the false belief that worldly objects give us everlasting pleasure. These coloured thoughts, feelings and desires cause us to mistake misery as happiness and regard our body and mind as our true nature, leading us further away from Pure Consciousness. We continue to strengthen and perpetuate this false belief system.
  2. Not-coloured: Not-coloured thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires are those that lead away from this false belief system and promote the direct experience of our true nature, which is none other than Pure Consciousness. 

The ripples in the lake of the mind are of 5 kinds:  

  1. Correct cognition is recognising and knowing a thing to be as it is 
  2. Incorrect cognition is not recognising and not knowing a thing as it is
  3. Imagination and abstraction are words, thoughts or ideas that have no material substance beyond the word. Concepts such as truth, freedom, wisdom may be useful but have no concrete reality.
  4. Deep dreamless sleep is a place we go to every night in alternate cycles of dreaming and dreamless sleep.
  5. Memory is recalling all other forms of cognition, real or imagined, without adding anything from other sources

In order to attain that state of Yoga where Pure Consciousness shines forth, it is important to learn to promote correct cognition, that is, recognising and knowing a thing to be as it is. Having learned this, it is the corner stone of practice to consistently encourage correct cognition. 

Correct Cognition, in turn, is of three kinds. 

  1. Direct perception
  2. Inference is knowing a thing through a thought process, such as, knowing the shape or size of an object such as a house from the shadow it throws.
  3. Testimony is knowing a thing through an external authority, that is, a teacher who has had direct perception or who has knowledge through correct inference.

YS I.12-16

Practice and Non-attachment

The ripples of thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires that disturb the lake of the mind subside with 1. practice and 2. non-attachment. 

  1. Practice: Effort and energy applied repeatedly to attain the state where the ripples of the mind subside is practice. The practice becomes firm when it is continued over a long period of time without break and with the right attitude. The details about practice are discussed in Chapter Two: On Practice.
  2. Non-attachment: When the mind is naturally and effortlessly content; it is attracted neither to the external world nor has it desire for some higher states or powers described in some scriptures. This state of utter desirelessness is called Non-attachment. 

There is a still higher state of desirelessness known as Supreme Non-attachment. When we recognise that the ripples of thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires are transient and constantly changing and that our true nature is Pure Consciousness, this is the state of Supreme Non-attachment.

YS I.17-18

Levels of Meditation

A mind, through repeated practice over a period of time and through non-attachment, attains a high level of meditation. There are 4 levels of meditation depending on the object that is meditated upon. 

These 4 levels of meditation and their objects of meditation are:

  1. Vitarka: Gross objects such as in rituals, external light, loud mantra repetition
  2. Vichara: Subtle objects in purely internal meditation practices such as silent mantra
  3. Ananda: Deeper states when meditation is so subtle it goes to the level of feeling and captures the essence of the object meditated upon
  4. Asmita: Meditation upon the false sense of identity, the last veil that covers our true nature

Subtler than these 4 levels of meditation with object, is the level of meditation without an object.

What is Objectless Meditation and how can one attain this? 

This state of Objectless Meditation can be attained through constant effortless unbroken practice of Supreme Non-attachment, that is recognising and knowing that all the external world and the ripples of thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires are transient and changing and our true nature is nothing other than Pure Consciousness.

YS I.19-22

Efforts and Commitment

Some may easily attain a higher state of consciousness due to effort in previous lifetimes. These are advanced students. 

The others must have reasoned faith, put in energy in to repeated practice and attain increasingly higher levels of concentration until they finally attain the higher knowledge that our true nature is Pure Consciousness.

There are 3 kinds of students with varying degrees of intensity and enthusiasm:

  1. Mild degree of intensity and enthusiasm
  2. Medium degree
  3. High degree

Those with highest degree of intensity and enthusiasm attain higher levels of consciousness quickly. 

Depending on the system of techniques and philosophy practiced  there are differences even among the most enthusiastic of students. The system of techniques and philosophy practiced are:

  1. slow
  2. medium 
  3. fast

YS I.23-29

Contemplation on AUM

There are 2 ways to attain a higher state of consciousness. 

  1. Objectless Meditation, mentioned above is knowing through the insight and experience that the world, our thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires are transient and changing and the only constant and eternal is Pure Consciousness. This way is suited to advanced students.
  2. The second way is the direct path of meditation and contemplation. We have direct experience of the 3 states of consciousness, waking, dreaming and deep sleep and finally get a glimpse of our true nature Pure Consciousness. This is the true meaning of the symbol AUM also known as Om. 

YS I.30-32

Obstacles in Practice and Solution 

On the path of meditation a student will encounter 9 obstacles that disturb and distract the mind. These are:  

  1. Sickness because the body is not in its natural state  
  2. Dullness of the mind 
  3. Doubt 
  4. Carelessness 
  5. Heaviness of the body and mind 
  6. Attraction to worldly pleasures 
  7. Inability to distinguish between right and wrong
  8. Not being able to attain glimpses of a higher state of consciousness, and 
  9. Not able to establish oneself in a higher state of consciousness. 

Out of these obstacles emerge mental and physical pain, dejection or frustration, restless body and mind and irregular breath. 

The solution is to continue with one-pointedness and enthusiasm on the path of meditation  and to train your mind to focus on one object. Like the river that flows over all rocks that are obstacles in its path, the student should continue to practice. As the student continues the obstacles subside naturally. 

YS I.33-39

Stabilising and clearing the mind

There are two aspects of practice. We must learn to deal with both the internal world as well as the external world. Therefore it is important to observe how we relate to our external world. It may become necessary to unlearn unhealthy thinking and behavioural patterns.

If we observe our relationships and communications carefully it becomes clear that we are constantly relating to people who fall in to 4 broad categories. 

They are either 

1. happy 

2. unhappy and miserable

3. those whom we perceive as essentially virtuous and good 

4. or those whom we perceive as wicked, selfish and bearing ill intentions

If we continue to observe our relationships with people we might find that the responses that create the least amount of disturbance in our minds are as follows:

1. Cultivate friendliness towards those who are happy

2. Feel compassion for those who are unhappy and suffering

3. Cultivate good will and encourage those whom you perceive as essentially virtuous and good

4. Be indifferent or neutral towards those you perceive as wicked, selfish and bearing ill intentions.

These are not instructions on how we “should” behave, rather suggests an alternative that we can possibly play with, so that the external world creates the least amount of obstacles in our development. 

Having some guidelines on how to manage our external environment, 5 methods are suggested to stabilise the mind. 

These 5 methods are:

  1. By paying attention to the breath, allowing it to become fine and subtle. Gently allowing the time of exhalation to steadily increase until the number of breaths taken are so few that it appears the breath has subsided. 
  2. By contemplating on the senses, their subtler internal counterparts and steadily understanding how our internal world is constructed.
  3. By contemplating on our inner light of pure consciousness and coming in touch with our inner voice of conscience.
  4. Contemplating and meditating upon great saints and sages. 
  5. Or we may contemplate and meditate upon any other object that is suitable for the purpose of Yoga.

YS 40-51

After stabilising the mind

After the mind is stabilised it is able to meditate upon the smallest and the biggest objects. Both our internal and external worlds are made up of Tattvas.  Tattvas are layers of reality starting from their outmost gross form in the external world to the subtle aspects of our mind, and lead eventually to the subtle most and deepest core of consciousness. 

These layers of reality known as Tattvas are: 

  • All the gross objects of the external world 
  • The subtler counterparts of these objects in our internal world
  • The active senses that play out actions in the external as well as internal world
  • The cognitive senses that perceive the external as well as internal objects 
  • The 4 Internal organs known as Manas, Ahamkara, Buddhi and Chitta
  • A fine matrix of life that comprises all the above in an unmanifest form or as an abstraction is called Prakriti
  • The subtle most and deepest individual centre of consciousness called Purusha

When the mind is stabilised we are able to contemplate upon all the above layers of reality, gaining a solid understanding of all levels of reality in both internal and external worlds.

When the mind has achieved this level of stability and the ripples of thoughts, mental images and emotions in the mind have subsided, the mind appears to take on the form of any object it is absorbed in. This kind of absorption by the mind on an object of meditation is called Samapatti. 

All objects have 3  qualities:

  1. Word: The name or word associated with the object.
  2. Form: The object itself
  3. Essence: The essence of that object or the knowledge related to that object

 For example the object of meditation is your Mother.

  1. The word Mother in any language or any name by which you call your Mother
  2. Mother in her physical form
  3. The essence of your Mother may be unconditional love, selflessness, giving or whatever you associated with her

Generally, when you relate to your mother, all the 3 qualities remain separate, however in Samapatti or Absorption all 3 qualities seem to merge together and become one.

There are 4 kinds of Samapatti:

Relating to Gross Objects

1. Savitarka Samapatti

Absorption on an external object of meditation in the presence of other external objects, thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires such as repeating aloud the word, Mother or concentrating on an external image of the Mother.

2. Nirvitarka Samapatti

Absorption on an external object of meditation without any other thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires. This is direct perception of the gross object. 

Since the storehouse of memories has reduced its colouring, these thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires do not sprout, just as plants do not sprout out of a burnt seed. 

Relating to Subtle Objects

3. Savichara Samapatti

Absorption on an subtle object such as silent repeating the word Mother or mentally focussing on the image of Mother. Other subtle thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires are present.

4. Nirvichara Samapatti

Absorption on an subtle object such as silent repeating the word Mother or mentally focussing on the image of Mother. No other subtle thoughts, mental images, emotions and desires are present, the object alone shines. This is direct perception of the subtle object. 

The stages of absorption vary in degree of subtly leading through all the layers of reality known as Tattvas, finally leading to the finest and unmanifest known as Prakriti. 

These 4 levels of absorption also known as Samadhi are dependent on an object. 

One attaining the state of absorption on an object called Nirvichara the meditator the faculties of perception and cognition become extremely sharp and fine. The meditator gets the power to absorb the essence of all things without the colouring of the world. Such a state is known as Ritambhara or the state filled with higher Truth. This knowledge is completely different from that obtained through inference or from testimony. This is the direct experience of an object as itself. Such knowledge leaves behind impressions or samskaras in the mind of the meditator that are opposed to the development of worldly impressions. Such a meditator would avoid  performing actions that lead to further creation of worldly impressions since he sees no further value in it. 

Eventually the knowledge filled with Truth, that opposes worldly impressions is also transcended. This is objectless samadhi. 

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