Sri Bimal Mohanty
VOL No. 137
PATANJALIYOGASUTRA - MOVING FROM YAMA TO PRANAYAMA
Based on lectures by Sri Bimal Mohanty
Patanjali says: an alternative thought process has to be brought in to ward off all trials and tribulations of life. That is the most effective alternative to distractions.
Vitarka vAdane pratipaksha bhAvanam (II.33)
There is another interesting analysis of the way our mind acts.Think of the day to day life of ours. The causes for having painful distractions of mind that steal away our peace emanate from three dangerous conditions of mind which are verily described in The Bhagavad Gita as the three gates of hell happen to be kAmah(attachment), krodhah(anger) and lobhah(greed). These are natures of impure mind. Hence purity of thoughts and actions devoid of attachment, anger and greed are so important to a yogi. The mother of these three again happens to be our discontentment with whatever has come to our lot. We are never satisfied and therefore never happy. In search of satisfaction we commit omissions and commissions unmindful of whether it is right or wrong. Dharma teaches us to learn to be content and by that protects us from wrongdoing.
How shall we know what is wrong and what is right? The experiences of our wise seers as put down in our scriptures teaches us that. To know that, swAdhyAya or study of scriptures becomes necessary.
All that are said above requires severe diligence in effort. That is tapah.
It is difficult to have diligence in practice unless one has an unshakable objective and total commitment to it. That objective happens to be Brahman- hence one should have IshwarapranidhAna necessarily while in Yoga.
To be under niyama in life has its direct benefits.
Without niyama the reasoning becomes perverted. Due to perverted reasoning or wrong understanding, our actions, whether direct or indirect become wrong. Wrong actions whether big ones or even small in their appearance invariably result in deep attachment, greed and hankering and eventually end up in violent behavior which in turn brings great misery. But following an established code of conduct this can be avoided.
The sloka II.34 implies that:
Vitarka himsadayah krta kAritA anumoditA lobha krodha mohapurvakA mrdu, Madhya adhimAtra dukhajnAna ananta phalA iti pratipakshya bhAvanam
Non-violence is the root here. It does not take much to understand that if you have no violent motives towards anybody, the result is an amicable inter-personal relationship with all. All conflicts cease.
AhimsA pratisthAyAm tat sannidhau vairagya (II.35)
An attitude of non violence both in action and thoughts releases the mind from all the evils including kAama, krodha and lobha. You become dispassionate and calm. People often wonder how the saints become dispassionate vairagis while still living within the world environment. Here lies the key. Simply eschew ill feelings towards every one. Dispassionate detachment or vairaga will automatically set in. Passion for one and ill feeling to another, always go hand in hand.
This is a very powerful truth. Good always begets good. The goodness of harmlessness when displayed returns back manyfold from others. Good deeds comes back as good deeds from others.
satyapratisthAyAm kriyAphala Asrayatvam (II.36)
which means, strict adherence to truth alone as opposed to any falsehood can only ensure good results. Niyamas are codes of conduct. Codes could be of many types. Even evil actions also follow certain codes of conduct. But niyama for dharma has essentially truth and nothing but the truth as its basis. Benefits flow automatically. One need not hanker for or even desire to covet any gain. This is emphasized in
asteya pratisthAyAm sarvaratna upasthAnam (II.37)
The code is broken when covetousness enters the mind. When you covet something which you did not deserve you may stop at nothing to acquire it. That not only opens the door for your downfall but also shuts out all opportunities to receive any thing further worthwhile from the providence.
The Isavasya Upanishad emphatically declared 'Ma gridha…' – keep away from covetousness.
But to acquire asteyam or non-covetousness requires great mental strength and spiritual energy. This strength comes from complete submission to Brahman. He who has Brahman as his possession, would he ask for anything else? Brahman is the source of all our strength. A person who is in continuous mental association with Brahman acquires amazing physical, mental and psychic strength.
Brahmacarya pratisthAyAm virjalAbha (II.38)
Brahmacarya here should not be understood with its common interpretation of continence of sexual passion. Brahmacarya means association with Brahman which is the character of a Brahmacari. Brahmam smarati carati iti sah Brahmacari.
Total consecration to Brahman coupled with elimination of covetousness brings back to the fore, knowledge acquired over years of past experiences and reveals the truth of life and its meaning. Indulgence with the world will keep the mind rooted in the world and away from the serious and higher knowledge that one might have acquired over the lives. So the next sutra says:
Aparigrahasthairye janma kathantA sambodhah (II.39)
saucAt sva angajugupsA parair asamsargah (II.40)
As the purity of knowledge enters the mind, unnecessary attachment to the body and other worldly things get eliminated. Once it is well understood why this body and the world are all about and once the association with Brahman grows, how can there be any bondage of attachment?
Satvasuddhi saumanasyei ekAgrei indriyajaya atmadarshana yogyatvAni ca(II.41)
The results of purity of mind are lifting of veils of blemish over the soul, emergence of an intrinsic goodness, control over senses, and a single mindedness that makes one fit for revelation of the supreme self.
Following above advice will keep the sadhaka on the right path contented with the conviction that he is on the right path pursuing bliss. That inward satisfaction will keep him spurring ahead in search of happiness.
And do we not know that the source of all happiness which comes out of contentment of mind is Brahman only?
santoshAt anuttamah sukhalAbhah (II.42)
Anuttamah here means beyond the best. This comes as the blemishes of bodily senses get chastised through severity of practice. We discover their hidden powers as they are.
kAye indriya suddhih asuddhi kshyAt tapasah (II.43)
So that is how the niyama part of astAnga yoga works. Single minded concentration upon Brahman is the key. That is the prerequisite for yogasAdhanA, yoga being all about linking up with Brahman. By all means Brahman as the final aim has to be established in mind.
The means could be extensive knowledge gathering from the scriptures i.e swAdhyAyana and/or concentration upon some aspect or aspects of Brahman as depicted in the form of a personal God of choice known as IshtadevatA.
SvadhyAyAt istadevatA samprayogah(II.44)
These are the initial steps in the sadhak's journey to samAdhi beginning with consecration to Brahman.
samAdhi siddhih Ishwara pranidhAnAt (II.45).
So we learn that the steps to ultimate yoga needs
1. An attitude of Ahimsa.
2. Practice of asteyam or non covetousness
3. Santosha or self contentment in being on the right path.
4. Satyapratistha or adherence to truthfulness
5. Swadhyayana or understanding the process through study of scriptures. And finally
6. Ishwara pranidhAna or total consecration to Ishwara or Brahman.
Thus Patanjali says dama, niyama etc are all steps that lead to that ultimate destination samAdhi but ishwara pranidhAna is the central theme.
Fortified with dama, niyama and ishwara pranidhAna and freeing yourself from all distractions, you sit down for yoga. You now bring the body and mind to become single pointed towards the goal by becoming calm mentally and physically. To do that, you practice Asana.
This word Asana is most commonly used for various purposes by all people in the name of yoga. Patanjali however clearly points out in sutra II.46 saying:
Sthira sukham asanam(II.46)
Asana is essentially a completely relaxed and steady posture of a calmed down body and mind. A position of steady body and relaxed mind is what asana is all about for yogi who is engaged in yoga. Sthira anga - and anga here refers to both body and mind- is needed. Bring to the mind the expression in the shanti mantra from Atharva veda
Sthireih angeih tustubAm sah tanubhih
With steady limbs we devote our attention to Brahman.
Asana brings sthiratA or steadiness and that is why Asana becomes a prerequisite for yoga.
Although all asanas are essentially to help steadiness of mind and body both externally and internally, they are of two categories. Some are aimed primarily for physical well being and some are meditating postures. Asanas like padmAsana are best and most comfortable for meditation. Meditating divine beings, as you are aware, are always depicted in this posture. PadmAsana with head held erect has been found by actual experience which induces clear headed thinking. In our day to day life also when deep concentration is called for like studies or solving a difficult problem, sit down with an erect and steady body. You will achieve better results. It is a very natural posture for the body to achieve a relaxed state for all the limbs and thereby one can concentrate well on that great infinite state of Brahman - so says Patanjali:
Prayatna saithilya ananta samApattibhyAm (II.47)
When the mind is single pointed thus on Brahman it stops wandering away and all other thoughts which bring duality into the mental picture are set aside.
This sutra underlines the importance of a convenient posture essential for yoga sAdhanA. Inside our body thousands of things are in perpetual action. This cannot be stopped. When there is action they also produce reactions and change of balance due to both internal and external influences. The body always seeks a balance between all imbalances. This is known as the state of dynamic physical balance so that subtle faculties like mind can optimally address to a particular focus. One can practice meditation taking any convenient posture but as we have discussed earlier padmAsana is considered most suitable.
Tato dvandA anabhighAtah (II.48)
Concentration and meditation is simpler when various body parts are comfortably relaxed. A restless body makes for a restless mind. A restless mind flipflops with thousand thoughts. Asanas calm down the mind.
A restless and out of balance body does not allow harmonious action of internal organs like the diaphragm, lungs , heart etc. This immediately results in erratic breathing. So the next step is smoothening of breath movement otherwise known as prAnAyAma.
In a relaxed state the movement of breath is most normal within the body.
So the next sutra says:
Tasmin sati svAsa prasvAsayor gati vicchedah pranAyAmah (II.49)
The role of the movement of breath in yoga cannot be over emphasized. In yoga every element and part of the body has to be at its optimum power. Whether external organs or internal organs or even the minute cells in the body take part in the yoga and for that purpose they have to be endowed with healthy power and function well.
What makes them to function with healthy efficiency? Where from do they get their power?
It has been long established that all the power and peak efficiency to every part of our body is provided by the vital breath, referred in our scriptures as prAnavAyu. The allegorical story from The prasna Upanishad is quite telltale. The entire body or dehakshetra is sustained, grows and strengthened by the action of the vital breath playing within the body. Therefore pranAyAma or control over breath using it purifying and strengthening the body becomes an essential element in the process of yoga. Doing yogic exercises like Asanas without pranAyAma do not yield the desired benefits. We shall take up detailed discussion on prAnAyAma next.