Wisdom of Practice Introduction

Introduction to

Patanjali Yog Darshan: Wisdom of Practice

by Brijendra

Before embarking on our exploration of the chapter on practice, or Saadhan Paad, which is the second chapter of Patanjali Yog Darshan, we can briefly review what was covered in Samaadhi Paad, the chapter on meditation.

A first time visitor to the dimension of Patanjali Yog Darshan may be struck by the apparently fragmented structure of the work and the seeming disconnect that sometimes appears to exist between the sootras. However, there does exist a flow and coherence in the sootras. Certainly, Patanjali Muni has expressed the sootras from the Pure Source, which is Yog, and thereby has created an expression of the knowledge capable of leading a qualified and ready aspirant to attain Yog Darshan, the Vision of Yog, the Vision of Oneness.

Brief review of Samaadhi Paad

As its name suggests, Samaadhi Paad deals with the topic of samaadhi, the state of consciousness and being that occurs during the practice of meditation. Samaadhi is an exalted, pure state of consciousness, different from the states of consciousness generally experienced by human beings in their normal modes of waking, dream, and deep sleep. Samaadhi, in which the mind is concentrated and still, absorbed in its point of focus, is an attained state of consciousness, attained through practice during the course of time. That time may be of days, weeks, months, or years in the present lifetime; and, too, samaadhi may be the result of practice pursued through many lifetimes. Since samaadhi is spoken of in reference to a human being and a human being practices in the field of time and space, it is profitable to consider stages, planes, and levels of samaadhi as experienced by a meditator, even though in truth samaadhi is one. Finally, samaadhi is the perfected state of the yogi who has reached the culmination of Self-knowledge in the completed state that is kaivalya, Oneness alone.

It is sometimes expressed that Samaadhi Paad is for those who have been born at a high level of yogic attainment and who consequently easily, naturally, and effortlessly enter the state of samaadhi. While this may be the case, a study of Samaadhi Paad provides an ideal grounding in the basic yogic way of looking at the transformation of human consciousness through meditation. Meditators will gain by studying and inquiring into Patanjali’s indications about what happens to the mind that enters the states of samaadhi through the practice of meditation.

Samaadhi Paad covered:

  • The definition of yog in terms of nirodh of the chitt vrittis: that is, the attained state of freedom of the mind through de-identifying from the thoughts and modifications of the mind (I:1-4)
  • The five vrittis (I:5- 1 1)
  • The means (abhyaas and vairaagya) to become free from domination by the chitt vrittis (I:12-16)
  • Overview of the samaadhis (sampragyaat and asampragyaat) (I:17-22)
  • Devotion to the Supreme Being (I:23-29)
  • Some obstacles (I:30-31)
  • Various means (parikarm) for helping to purify the mind and bring it into the state of sthiti, or stability (I:32-40)
  • An examination in more detail of the various states of sampragyaat samaadhi (I:41-47)
  • The role of ritambharaa pragyaa, discrimination of the Self, in leading to the formless and released state of nirbeej samaadhi (asampragyaat samaadhi) (I:48-50)
  • The formless, nirbeej state of samaadhi (I:51)

Saadhan Paad

As its name, Wisdom of Practice, indicates, Saadhan Paad deals with the necessary issue of what somebody must do in order to be liberated. Such a person has become aware that an exalted, liberated state of consciousness exists and has learned that a person can attain that state by undertaking some practice of technique and method. Now if this person wishes to attain the Vision of Oneness, what practice should he or she adopt? What is the saadhan, the means? Saadhan Paad addresses directly the highest use of the human incarnation. The first paad offered an outline of the transformed states of consciousness; the second paad offers the means to attain those states.

  1. I have titled this present work Wisdom of Practice. Similarly, I have added “Wisdom” to the titles of the other three paads to result in all four being: Wisdom of Meditation, Wisdom of Practice, Wisdom of Attainments, and Wisdom of Liberation.

As the Guru consciousness speaking in Yog Darshan, Patanjali unequivocally presents the saadhan, following which a human being cultivates and brings forth the higher states of consciousness. These states exist though they may, in a particular human being, beat present dormant and unknown. The awakening of the highest consciousness is the great boon that Yog offers to mankind. The sages who have attained indivisible Oneness declare the truth of that Oneness. They assure us that if someone takes up the practice of yog saadhanaa as outlined in Yog Darshan, then the state of the one, undivided, pure, conscious Being will unfold and be known as the immortal reality, not only of the one who practices, but of all that is.

Saadhan being the means, the one who takes up the means and practices it is the saadhak. The practice of the means is saadhanaa or yog saadhanaa. These words derive from saadh, which means to take up the work or practice and see it through thoroughly to its perfection in terms of its goal. Having taken hold of the means, the saadhak does not let go. The goal is saadhya. In yog saadhanaa, the saadhya is the state of pure perfection of the Self. In Yog Darshan this is called kaivalya. Kaivalya is the final attainment of yog saadhanaa in which Purush, the Pure Consciousness, exists in eternal purity, the truth of all that is.

Whatever focus or attainment the saadhak might have had before taking up saadhanaa, the practice of yog brings about perfection of the goal: absolute, undivided Unity. In a human being the mind becomes what it is placed upon; and when the mind is one-pointed, this process occurs thoroughly and efficiently. In the case of yog saadhanaa the main saadhya, or goal, is the highest state of consciousness available to a human being. The perfection, or siddhi, that the saadhak attains is the param siddhi, the highest perfection of all. The human incarnation is special because in the case of a human being the attainment of the param siddhi, or Self Realization, is possible.

Implied in the word saadhan is the yogi’s establishment in a state of balance. W e discussed balance several times in Samaadhi Paad, particularly in relation to the word sthiti . In sootra I:35 we had “manasaha sthiti nibandhinee: the mind becomes established in its balanced state (sthiti).” In sootra I:3 we had “drashtuh swaroope awasthaanam: the Knower is established in its true nature (swaroop awasthiti).” Now, in this second chapter there is again emphasis on sthiti, or establishment and balance. Indeed, the eight limbs of yogic practice, called ashtaang yog, may be viewed as the way to become established in balance at all levels of one’s practice and being, culminating in establishment (siddhi) in Oneness. This occurs in samaadhi, the last limb of ashtaang yog. Perfect samaadhi, or samaadhi siddhi, is given its own name: kaivalya, the state of perfect balance that only exists in absolute, indivisible Oneness, in which there exists nothing separate from the Self that could cause any imbalance.

One day while speaking with some disciples about saadhanaa, Swami-ji said, “Suppose you are riding on a galloping horse and you are holding in your hand a lota (a round pot) filled to the brim with water and you do not spill a drop—that is saadh.” So it is that the yogi’s practice of saadhan results in a state of balance unshaken by events of the world. The saadhan of yog is so wonderful and complete that the balance begins to be acquired from the very first moments of practice, and only gets better from then on. Its practice ranges from how to live in everyday circumstances to how to be absorbed in the highest, most exalted state of consciousness available in existence.

The structure of saadhan paad

In this second chapter of Yog Darshan, Patanjali outlines the practical means of how to become established in samaadhi, the highest state of consciousness. The first half of the chapter discusses the condition of human consciousness bound in avidyaa klesh, ignorance of the Self. With this, the stage is set for a person to acknowledge the need for practice in order to be rid of avidyaa’s inevitable pain, or dukh. Having pinpointed how the human mind becomes trapped in its ignorance of the Self, Patanjali declares that the solution lies in attaining knowledge of the Self by discriminating the unchanging Self from the changing mind. This is vivek khyaati, the sifting of the Self from the not-Self. In order to become established in this discernment of one’s true Self, practice must be undertaken. As described later in the chapter, that practice, or saadhan, is ashtaang yog, the eight limbs of yog.

By the close of Saadhan Paad the discussion of ashtaang yog arrives at the fifth limb, pratyaahaar, the inward focus of consciousness. The next chapter, Vibhooti Paad, which is on attainments, begins by presenting the final three limbs— dhaaranaa, dhyaan, and samaadhi. These three complete the focus of the mind in the inner being. Freed from the natural, mesmerized flow of attention to the outer, separate world, the saadhak may begin to unfold new accomplishments, called siddhis, powers or perfections. Pursuit of these powers is not encouraged; rather, the capability of the yogi reaches up to becoming established in the state of consciousness known as kaivalya, the state of the Supreme Self, Purush. This highest attainment of all will be covered in the fourth chapter, Kaivalya Paad, which culminates in liberation.

Because there is so much information indicated and implied in each sootra, it is very easy for the first time reader to lose track of the overall direction and unfoldment of meaning in the flow of the sootras. In exploring and studying the particular meaning of each sootra, one can overlook the overall progression, as one may lose sight of the forest while examining each tree. To help the student maintain a sense of the flow of the topics covered in Saadhan Paad the following outline may be useful:

  • Sootras 1-2: kriyaa yog and the purpose of practice
  • Sootras 3-9: the five kleshas
  • Sootras 10- 1 1: the means to eliminate the kleshas
  • Sootras 12-14: the karmic results of the kleshas
  • Sootras 15-16: dukh, or pain (heya, or what is to be removed)
  • Sootra 17: sanyog, or identification of the Self with prakriti (heyahetu, or the cause of heya)
  • Sootras 18-19: definition of prakriti and its order of manifestation
  • Sootra 20: description of drashtaa, the Knower as Pure Consciousness, Purush
  • Sootras 21-24: Purush as the purpose of prakriti
  • Sootra 25: the state of kaivalya, liberation (haan, or liberation from avidyaa)
  • Sootras 26-28: vivek khyaati, or discriminating the unchanging, pure Self from the changing, apparent self (haanopaay, or the means to liberation)
  • Sootra 29: outline of ashtaang yog, the eight limbs of yog
  • Sootras 30-31: yam (ang 1), injunctions
  • Sootra 32: niyam (ang 2), observances
  • Sootras 33-34: neutralizing the obstacles (pratipaksh bhaavanam)
  • Sootras 35-39: the five parts of yam
  • Sootras 40-45: the five parts of niyam
  • Sootras 46-48: aasan (ang 3), physical postures and exercises
  • Sootras 49-53: praanaayaam (ang 4), regulation of the breath
  • Sootras 54-55: pratyaahaar (ang 5), turning attention inwards  towards the deeper aspects of being.
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