Chapter 1 – Concentration/Samadhi Pada – Part 12
Stabilizing/Clearing the Mind – Yoga Sutras (1.33-1.35)
Overview: Many teachers of meditation emphasize only one method. Concentrating on the breath is just one example. Some focus on a specific center in the body (chakra) or fixed gazing on some visual object (trataka) as outlined in sutras 1.33 – 1.39. While these and other methods are extremely useful, it is good to keep in mind that they are limited in their results. They often suffice only as preparatory practices for more subtle meditations leading up to Samadhi (as described in later chapters; 2, 3 & 4).
Many people become satisfied with the results of these preparatory meditations and will settle for their calming benefits. They never bother to pursue the subtler meditations that lead to Self-realization.
Nonetheless, Patanjali has made a point of recommending students of meditation practice these “preliminary” meditations as a sort of basic training. Trying to skip them, although it may be tempting for some, is a serious mistake. It may well result in their meditation practice becoming nothing more than a battle with their mind.
So, it is very important to realize how necessary these preliminary meditations are. They work best to stabilize and clear the mind as a preparatory measure for future (and more subtle) practice.
Now we’ll begin with the sutras …
Yoga Sutra (1.33) – maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam. Maitri is love, friendliness. Karuna means compassion, empathy. Mudita represents cheerfulness, goodwill. Upekshanam is indifference, neutrality. Sukha means happiness, enjoyment. Duhka means pain, suffering. Punya is virtuous, benevolent. Apunya means the opposite of punya. Vishayanam means situations (regarding them). Bhavanatah is cultivating (habits) or developing (attitudes). Chitta means mind field, “stuff” of the mind. Prasadanam is clarification, peace.
Translated this sutra becomes – In regard to relationships, by cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard or indifference toward the wicked, the mind becomes purified and retains its undisturbed calmness.
Initially this sutra may seem to offer guidelines for our behavior towards others. But an important distinction is to be made, these are not meant simply as instructions for “what to do,” but instead, “how to be.”
Yoga Sutra (1.34) – prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama. Prachchhardana is to exhale (through the nostrils), Vidharanabhyam means control (vidharaṇa = hold in, expansion, abhya = both). Va translates as either/or. Pranayama means of the breath or prana; vital energy.
Translated to mean – Or that calmness (of mind) is (can also be) attained by the controlled exhalation or retention of the breath. This sutra can be summarized literally as “exhalation-by retention-or-of the breath.” Going into its deeper meaning, it refers not only to the breath, but to prana (as “energy,” or “life force”). Practices of controlling the breath (pranayama) are traditionally used as a method of channeling the life force in ways that harness it for spiritual growth.
Yoga Sutra (1.35) – vishayavati va pravritti utpanna manasah sthiti nibandhani. Vishayavati means of the sensing experience (Vishaya = object, thing, Vati = impression, sensation). Va is or, also. Pravritti means perception (higher). Utpanna is arising, appearing, coming from. Manasah means mind, mental (from Manas). Sthiti is steadiness, calmness. Nibandhani means firmly establishing, fixing, holding.
Translated to mean – The concentration on the process of sensory experiencing of the subtle sense perception also leads to stability and tranquility of the mind. Swami Satchidananda interprets this sutra as: “Or the concentration on subtle sense perceptions can cause steadiness of mind.”
This sutra tells us how to practice by becoming aware of the inner process of sensation (not simply sensing the objects with the five senses). It means trying to become aware of actual sensing itself. In the beginning this sensing starts at a more surface or gross level. As practice progresses, witnessing of the higher or more subtle inner senses will occur as a natural consequence.
Stay tuned, Part 13: Stabilizing/Clearing the Mind, cont. will follow shortly …