Merge with the Supreme – that would be the simplest explanation for Yoga Sutras.
There are many moments in life when we actually ponder over who we are and what exactly is our purpose. The answers to these questions lie in yoga sutras – the principles that unveil the secret of life. These threads, as I prefer calling them, are terse, simple, and concise, yet they are so strong that understanding them can actually change your view about life.
What are the Yoga Sutras?
Yoga Sutras are not sacred scriptures or historical facts. In fact, you can call them a set of dictum with Vedic philosophies and Bhagavad Gita as its building blocks. It comprises of 195 phrases, each one an individual bead, held together by an invisibly strong string. This chain has been designed in such a way that it guides your thinking process, steering your mind towards the Supreme Power.
Let us take a look at how beautifully these sutras of yoga have been compiled and put together.
How Are Yoga Sutras Organized?
The 195 phrases of the Sutras, as mentioned above, were not actually written by Patanjali. In fact, they were handed over to his disciples as words of advice, which after a few generations were put together in this form. As of now, these phrases have been divided into four sections called the Padas.
1. Samadhi Pada: Contemplation and Meditation
2. Sadhana Pada: The Steps To Union
3. Vibhuti Pada: Union Achieved And Its Results
4. Kaivalya Pada: Illumination and Freedom
I. Samadhi Pada – Contemplation and Meditation:
It consists of the first 51 sutras. This chapter allows you to embrace complete bliss and allow yourself to be absorbed with the Divine.
II. Sadhana Pada – The Steps To Union:
Comprising of 55 sutras, this chapter exemplifies the actual way of practicing Yoga through Kriya and Ashtanga.
III. Vibhuti Pada – Union Achieved and its Results:
Made up of the next 55 steps, this portion of the Sutras is meant for those who seek higher awareness. It also lays out the design and ways of attaining that higher awareness.
IV. Kaivalya Pada – Illumination and Freedom:
This Pada has 34 Sutras. Kaivalya in Sanskrit means isolation. However, here the term has been used to denote absolute liberation. You have to surpass and overcome the present to attain absolute release.
The Impact of Yoga Sutras:
This oral rendition by Patanjali is now the base for Raja Yoga, one of the most organized forms of yoga. Following the path of Yoga Sutras enables you to detach yourself—physically and mentally—from the things that bind us to this world, allowing you to realize that a spiritual world filled with absolute freedom does exist.
And, for you to attain this condition, you need to adhere to the 8 limbs of yoga as prescribed by the Sutras:
1. Yama: The complete restraint that emphasizes on nonviolence, zero lying and stealing, absolute restriction from lust and total detachment
2. Niyama: The observances of discipline, self study, cleanliness, and finally complete surrender to the Supreme Power
3. Asana: The postures that calls for physical exercises
4. Pranyama: The control of breath for self awareness
5. Pratyahara: Total withdrawal from senses with complete sublimation
6. Dharana: Attention
7. Dhyana : Concentration
8. Samadhi: Meditation
These 8 limbs should form a part and parcel of your life to. Here is what these limbs of Yoga Sutras teach you.
1. The Yamas:
This is actually a list of dos and don’ts that help us to be honest, generous, compassionate, and peaceful. There are 5 of them, which can be listed as below;
I. Ahimsa: Complete non-violence which will enable you to be compassionate about your fellow living beings
II. Satya: The art of non-lying and a commitment to remain glued to truth
III. Asteya: The art of non-stealing
IV. Brahmacharya: The complete control over your senses enabling detachment
V. Aparigraha: Total restrain from lust towards material wealth and desires
2. The Niyamas:
Niyama, in Sanskrit, means the rules. As the name suggest, these are a set of 5 rules that you should adhere to, in your journey to achieve pure freedom. Here are the five rules:
I. Sauca: Keeping oneself clean and pure, internally and externally
II. Santosa: Feeling modest and contented with your current possessions
III. Tapas: Using your energy in a disciplined way
IV. Svadhyaya: Knowing yourself by indulging in self study
V. Isvarapranidhana: The celebration of spirituality
3. The Asanas:
This is the most popular aspect of the 8 limbs of the Yoga Sutras. It involves physical movements that allow your body to move into various postures and reap the much talked about benefits. On a superficial level, the asanas are aimed at improving your overall balance, flexibility, strength, and health. If you take a deeper look though, you will understand that the asanas practiced are meant for calming your mind, moving closer to the inner self.
4. The Pranayama:
Pranayama is the art of mastering the control over your breath. It helps you create an awareness about your breath, helping you restore your health, maintain it, and allows you to come closer to inner self. When the inflowing breath merges with the out flowing one, you will find yourself at complete peace.
5. The Pratyahara:
The word Pratyahara in Sanskrit refers to withdrawal. In terms of the Yoga Sutras, this limb allows you to detach yourself from external attributes and objects, You can consider this as the practice of retreating from the worldly distractions that would allow you to indulge in the path of self realization and stride towards inner peace.
6. The Dharana:
Once you attain control over your body via asanas, breathing with Pranayama, and complete detachment with Pratyahara, you enter this stage. And your concentration will now solely rest on a single point. Your mind should be immovable and standstill to attain this state of complete assimilation.
7. The Dhyana:
This is a phase of meditation, a stage of perfect contemplation where your concentration is focused on unveiling the truth. This limb suggests that as you focus on the Supreme Power you become the reflection of the Power, and realize your true self.
8. The Samadhi:
This is the last limb of the Yoga Sutras where your mind is alert even when your physical body is at rest. In short, your consciousness and senses do not share any relation. Your soul is completely liberated with the knowledge of your true self that you reaped with Dhyana, finally carving the path to merge with that unknown void from where you emerged.
These eight limbs of yoga sutras carve the coherent path, which allows you to attain wholesome ethical, emotional, physical, and psycho-spiritual health. These do not change you; but allow you to create integrity between your current self and true self. You don’t need to believe in God or a particular religion to follow this beautiful philosophy. All you need is to believe in a better you—for that is what yoga sutras offer!
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