Bringing Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to Life

Sep 6th, 2017

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras consist of 195 sutras and are considered the most important text for any serious yoga practitioner. Yoga Sutras, as I learnt from my yoga philosophy teacher, James Boag, is the manual of enlightenment – a practice manual. Everything that Patanjali explains in yoga sutras can be experienced by the self and put to test.

1.24 klesha karma vipaka ashayaih aparamristah purusha-vishesha ishvara

Patanjali now explains what “Ishvara” means. Ishvara is God or the pure consciousness that resides in our center. This pure consciousness or the Lord is not affected by any of the five afflictions:

• Ignorance that creates misery. It is the mind’s tendency to give importance to something that is not important. For instance, brooding over someone’s comments and considering them to be permanent is ignorance. It is to be considered as a fleeting wave of thought or energy that came and went.

• The feeling of “me & I”. This feeling is often seen when we live our lives with focus on the other – what will someone think, how can one take advantage of another human being and so on. Feeling yourself separate from other beings, feeling inferiority or superiority complex creates this affliction. Yoga teaches us to see our “self” in all other beings.

• Strong Cravings and Aversions or Hatred and Fear are the other afflictions. So while we may feel we hate something or somebody deep down in our core we are just pure consciousness, without fear, without ignorance. Yoga is the practice that charts our path to this core.

Ishvara (God or Pure Consciousness) is unlimited and not affected by any of these afflictions. As individuals,because we experience these afflictions, we feel limited. We also feel limited because we are bound by Karma – the fruit of our actions.

• Actions of merit – when our actions bring happiness to people
• Actions of demerit – when our actions cause suffering to others

God or Pure Consciousness is free from any karma – the action and its fruit. It is also devoid of any latent impressions or desires. That central core of our being is Bouncy Castle untouched and pure. When a boundary collapses to the centre, we become limitless. The act of prayer helps to dissolve this boundary (Sri Sri Ravi Shanker).

Today through my practice as prayer I will give myself a chance to experience this pure consciousness. I will allow grace to flow in my life.

1.25 tatra niratishayam sarvajna bijam

That Pure Consciousness or God is the source of knowledge. It is omniscient

Today as I sit for meditation, I will remember that I am inviting the Lord in my life. I will try to make contact with pure consciousness. With the resulting clarity, I will make choices for the highest good in this lifetime.

1.26 Sa purvesham api guruh kalena anavachchhedat

God was also the guru of the ancients. He is not limited by time. Some of the original teachers of humanity have learned directly from this pure consciousness and not from a human lineage of teacher – student. In the Bhagwad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that he was a teacher to those living thousands of years before him. An idea that confused Arjuna because he was limited by the concept of time but Krishna and Arjun had many lives before this one. While Arjun had forgotten these, Krishna remembered them all. God was, is and will be the Master at all times, there is no break in time for Him/Her.

Today I will remember what my teacher said – that the greatest Guru is within us. I will go within and trust the guidance that I receive from this guru within.

1.27 tasya vachakah pranavah

What is the Lord’s name? What is his Sound? Patanjali says it is OM. It is the vibration of creation not limited by space or time. Sri Sri Ravi Shanker explains Om is constituted of “Aaa”, “Ooo” and “Mmm”. When we say “aaa”, the prana is in the lower portion of the body; with “ooo”, it is in the middle and with “mmm”. it is in the top portion of the body. When we say “Om”, the prana is total. The sound of Om is the totality of consciousness. Paramhansa Yogananda’s book “Autobiography of a Yogi” explains that Om of the Vedas became the sacred hum word of Tibetans, Amin of the Muslims, AMEN of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews and Christians.

Today as I sit for meditation I will focus on OM. I will open and close my day with the sound of OM. I will draw comfort in the knowledge that my mere connecting to the totality of consciousness will dissolve all obstacles.

1.28 Tad japas tad artha bhavanam

One comes to the understanding of Om by repeating it. Just like when we say Christmas, it generates a feeling of celebration. Just like that repeating Om connects us to pure consciousness. So do we keep repeating OM all the time? The more important message here is to feel and see God, this totality of consciousness in all. My teacher, James Boag, explained that if you cannot see God in all, you cannot see God at all. He also explained that mantra is a very important tool in our practice. Just as asana protects the body from itself, the mantra protects the mind from itself. When the body is trained it looks after itself. Left to its own, its gifts cannot be harnessed. Mantra refines the field of sound. We are made of vibrations. As we repeat the mantra we are reminding ourselves to see God in everything around us. As we practice this we come to a greater understanding of ourselves.

Today I will remember that the state of yoga is arrived at through its many practices and form. I will try to devote myself to not just the practice of hatha yoga (asana, pranayam), raja yoga (meditation) but I will also make time for mantra yoga (chanting the sound of creation and reminding myself to see God in all).

1.29 Tatah pratyak chetana adhigamah api antaraya abhavash cha

On the path of yoga as we try to understand ourselves, we often encounter obstacles. As we focus on totality, we invite totality and that engulfs and dissolves the obstacles. Patanjali never uses any negative words, there are no negative constructs in any of his sutras. He explains through this sutra that as you focus on the positive and what is working and what is good, the negative dissolves. For the yogi, everything in life is an opportunity and a gift.

Today I will remember that being grateful is the path to happiness. Today when I encounter obstacles I will not fight with the obstacles, I will only return to my practice and wait for the obstacles to dissolve.


Personal study with Sanskrit Scholar and Yoga Teacher James Boag ( The Essential Yoga Sutras by Michael Roach and Christie Mc Neally Patanjali Yoga Sutras by H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar The Wisdom of Yoga Sutras by Ravi Ravindra Traditional Yoga and Meditation of the Himalayan Masters (www.

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