yoga sutras – introduction

This ongoing path from here to Here has centered around my first formal introduction to an investigation of consciousness: the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I began yoga in 1978 for physical fitness but soon discovered that it was more deeply about consciousness. Sri Rajagopalan, my teacher, was a man from Madras (now Chennai) who started each yoga session with some reflections on how our consciousness affects our lives, and often he would base these reflections on one of the Yoga Sutras. These reflections began to change the way I viewed the world and my own life: I began to sense how essentially I was responsible for my every experience. From then on over the years I delved more and more deeply into this study with the Yoga Sutras as my guide.

This is a short introduction to tell you a bit about the Yoga Sutras and Patanjali.

“In (the) basic literature of Yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali stand out as the most authoritative and useful book. In its 196 Sutras the author has condensed the essential philosophy and technique of Yoga in a manner which is a marvel of condensed and systematic exposition.” I.K. Taimni, The Science of Yoga viii

Lotus_Flower_IMG_1724Patanjali, who is thought to have lived in the third and second centuries BCE, wrote the Yoga Sutras as a compilation of teachings that had been passed down over thousands of years.

“Indian philosophical works employ the sutra method of exposition – terse, close-knit, packed so densely with meaning – that a commentary on each sutra is necessary.

Sutra means ‘thread’. The English word ‘suture’ and its Latin root suturaare linked etymologically with the Sanskrit sutra. The condensed statements are strung together to outline a philosophy. Sutra has a secondary meaning ‘aphorism’. Just as a thread binds together a number of beads in a rosary, in the same way the underlying continuity of idea binds together in outlining the essential aspects of a subject,’ says Mr Taimni (89).” James Hewitt, The Complete Yoga Book, 408

Sanskrit sutras are like a scientific language that places several words together in a certain order like a formula. The actual meaning opens up to the reader according to the deeper contemplation of the whole formula. So each reader receives a unique transmission suitable to his/her ability at the moment. Thus I can read the same sutra a year later and it means something slightly different.

The mind can read a superficial intellect-based English equivalent rather quickly and “skim over the surface” of a sutra, but what a sutra wants to transmit is only “grokked” in meditation on what it points to – like the finger pointing to the moon: the finger is not the moon.

The Yoga Sutras form a definitive understanding of how consciousness works and can be seen as the result of research through deep meditation by generations of sages down through time. Through my first teacher, Sri S. Rajagopalan, I was inspired by them some 38 years ago to embark on the journey of living their wisdom and to reflect on my practical experiences in light of these powerful aphorisms.


One thought on “yoga sutras – introduction

  1. Pingback: yoga sutras – fifth exploration: a movement of discontinuity | New Earth Heartbeat

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