The Sootras of Patanjali Yog Darshan – Foreword

Foreword to

The Sootras of Patanjali Yog Darshan: Concise Edition

by Brijendra, Robert William Eaton

Patanjali Yog Darshan is the classic text from India for all practicing yogis who are developing themselves for the purpose of attaining Liberation, or Kaivalya. Patanjali Yog Darshan outlines the ideas and practices for attaining liberation, bliss, and the indivisible Oneness that is reality. This edition of Yog Darshan is an attempt to provide a brief, approachable version of this time-honored yogic text. Among my students and others studying this subject there appeared the need for a short, succinct presentation of the Yog Darshan of Patanjali Muni. Thus this book. It is my sincere hope that this simplified edition will help aspirants of yog, not only to gain insight into the profound Self-knowledge that underlies the sootras, or aphorisms, but also to provide a quickly accessible source for approaching and understanding the component words and meanings of the sootras. For those who wish to further explore these perennially fruitful aphorisms on our Self-nature, I have also written an extensive commentary on Patanjali Yog Darshan.

There are extensive and various commentaries available on Patanjali Yog Darshan. With this present book I wished to fill the need for a short, yet fairly comprehensive, presentation of the sootras, their meanings, and translations of their component words. The idea is that a student of the subject can sit down with this book and look into how the translated meaning of the sootra may be derived from its component words. This is a useful approach to studying the sootras, in that one can begin to understand just what is the underlying meaning that the commentators are attempting to elucidate. In this regard it is worth keeping in mind that the sootras are aphoristic. They require explication, inquiry, and discussion. Ideally, for this there should be live interaction with a Self-aware teacher. However, the ready seeker can gain much by reading and studying the sootras and meditating upon their relevance to his or her sense of identity.

For those able to read the original Sanskrit, each sootra is rendered in the devanaagri script. Since, while learning the sootras, it is beneficial to have a good idea of their pronunciation, I have included an English transliteration of the sootras which, used in conjunction with the accompanying recording of the sootras, will help an English speaking person to achieve a fair pronunciation of the original Sanskrit.

Studying and Learning the Sootras

The Yog Sootras are mantras, phrases that invoke and bring into being new or more powerful states of consciousness in those who repeat them. Each sootra is a thread that reaches to its original source from which it appeared. Therefore, I would suggest that you listen to the recorded pronunciation of a sootra whilst reading the transliteration, and do this a few times until the sound of the sootra has made an impression on your mind. By then, you may have memorized it, or perhaps you will have gained an adequate familiarity with its pronunciation. Then, read over the concise translation of the sootra a few times until you have a sense of its meaning. Then, read the word-for-word translations that are provided for each sootra and do this a few times. Now you could again read the one or two sentence translation whilst comparing it with the word-for-word translations. In this way you will become familiar with, and knowledgeable of, the meaning of the sootra while beginning to learn some of the basic terms used in Yog Darshan and, indeed, in other yogic scriptures or texts. Through this, or a similar method of your own devising, you will begin to perceive how the meaning of the sootra has been derived.

At this point in your study, I would suggest that you again go back to repeating the sootra until you can repeat it from memory, whether out loud or in your mind. Just sit with the recording and repeat along with it. Then, you can allow the sootra to be the basis of a meditation on the sootra. Closing your eyes, you can repeat the sootra slowly and deliberately in your mind as you recall the meaning of each word over and over, periodically recalling the meaning of the entire sootra.

Without meditation it is not possible to truly understand these sootras, for they are an expression arising from the meditative mind.

Having familiarized yourself with the word meanings, it does help to chant the sootra out loud. So, at the end of the study session you could chant or repeat the sootra for some time, continuing to repeat it internally once the chanting out loud has stopped. In this way you can use the sootra as a mantra, while keeping in mind the meaning during its repetition. Through this approach, you give the sootra a chance to reveal its meaning to the open mind. When practiced in this way, a sootra becomes part of your mind and, through the meditative process, you will begin to understand, not just the meanings of the words, but the states of being and of consciousness that these sootras represent in sound.

This is a particularly good practice for those who may teach the subject since it makes the sootra, its pronunciation, the word-for­word meanings, and the composite meaning fresh in one’s mind. Each sootra is like a skeletal structure. The full shape is to be fleshed out by the commentator’s understanding once the underlying principles have been made part of one’s being through personal practice. Truth to say, without meditation the meanings expressed will remain trapped in the intellect, for it is through meditation and the inner being of the yogi’s awareness that the deep intent of the sootras is revealed.