a focused mind overcomes obstacles

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Part 11

Chapter 1 – Concentration/Samadhi Pada – Part 11

Obstacles & Solutions – Yoga Sutras (1.30-1.32)

Overview: As your practice evolves obstacles are to be expected. Yoga sutra 1.30 lists nine predictable obstacles that arise on your inner journey, and sutra 1.31 mentions four consequences that grow out of these obstacles.

Although the serious student may feel challenged as these obstacles (and their consequences) arise, they can take a degree of comfort in Patanjali’s assurance that they are perfectly natural and a predictable part of a maturing practice.

The Predictable Obstacles – Yoga Sutra (1.30):

  1. Illness,
  2. Dullness,
  3. Doubt,
  4. Negligence,
  5. Laziness,
  6. Cravings,
  7. Misperceptions,
  8. Failure,
  9. Instability.

There is a single, underlying principle that is the remedy for these obstacles and their consequences, and that is the one-pointedness of mind (1.32).

There are many ways in which this one-pointedness can be made steady. The basic principle lies in the uniformity and regularity of practice. A focused mind is less likely to get entangled in the quagmire of illusions and delusions that can occur as a result of these obstacles.

Now, on to the sutras:

Yoga Sutra (1.30) – vyadhi styana samshaya pramada alasya avirati bhranti-darshana alabdha-bhumikatva anavasthitatva chitta vikshepa te antarayah. Vyadhi means disease, illness, sickness. Styana implies dullness, mental laziness, procrastination. Samshaya is doubt, indecision. Pramada means carelessness, neglect of duty. Alasya means laziness, sloth. Avirati means sensuality or to dissipate our energies. Bhranti-Darshanais is false perception, wrong views (bhranti = false; darshana = views, perception). Alabdha-bhumikatva means failure to attain stages of practice (of concentration). Anavasthitatva means instability or slipping from the ground obtained. Chitta is mind field, “stuff” of the mind. Vikshepa means distraction, diversion. Te equals they are or these are. Antarayah means obstacles or impediments.

Together these words are translated as: Naturally encountered on the path are the following distractions that are found to be obstacles. There are nine and they are physical illness. Tendency of the mind to not work efficiently. Doubt or indecision. Lack of attention to pursuing the means of Samadhi. Laziness (both in mind and body). Failure to regulate the desire for worldly objects. Incorrect assumptions or thinking. Failing to attain certain stages of the practice. And instability in maintaining a level of practice once it has been attained.

The consequences of the obstacles that arise as a result of distractions are many. It is best to prevent these distractions from arising in the first place.

By making the mind one-pointed, we may focus it in such a way that the distraction does not arise. This may seem difficult in the beginning. But persistence will prove that the ability to focus the mind is critical and well worth the enormous effort to cultivate it.

Yoga Sutra (1.31) – duhkha daurmanasya angam-ejayatva shvasa prashvasah vikshepa sahabhuva. Duhkha represents pain (either mental or physical). Daurmanasya is sadness, despair or depression. Angam-Ejayatva (Anga is limbs or body and Ejayatva unsteadiness, shakiness). Shvasa expresses inhalation (implying agitated breathing). Prashvasah means exhalation (also implying agitated breathing). Vikshepa is distractions. Sahabhuva means symptoms, accompaniments.

This sutra is translated as: From the obstacles listed in sutra 1.30 there are four additional consequences that also arise:

  1. Mental or physical pain,
  2. Sadness or dejection,
  3. Restlessness, shakiness, or anxiety, and
  4. Irregularities in the exhalation and inhalation of breath.

Yoga Sutra (1.32) – tat pratisedha artham eka tattva abhyasah. Tat equals those or their. Pratisedha means prevent, reduce, diminish. Artham is for the purpose of or in order to. Eka is one, single. Tattva means truth, principle or topic. Abhyasah is practice (enthusiastic).

Translated this sutra means: To prevent or overcome these obstacles and their consequences, making the mind one-pointed is recommended. This is done by training the mind to focus on a single principle or object.

As Swami Satchidananda has paraphrased – “We are told not to become spiritual “grazers,” moving from one practice to another, but instead to sink our roots deep and commit with faith to a (one-pointed) practice that suits our own needs.”

~Rae Indigo

Coming up – part 12 in this series is next.