II: Sadhana Pada: On Practice
Patanjali now steps back and offers advice to those who are not as accomplished as the students addressed in the first chapter. When the mind has not stabilized in the samadhi state, it is easily distracted and gets bogged down in negative thoughts, feelings and emotions. The self-sense (ahamkara), in confusion, creates mini ‘selves’ within the world of form (prakriti). These struggle to find wholeness and suffering (duhkha) ensues. This confusion comes in five basic forms, known in Sanskrit as the kleshas. Understanding these impediments to awakening is a key component to understanding yoga practice, and thus Patanjali begins this chapter with more specific practices and a detailed description of these confusions that require transformation.
II-1 Tapah-svaadhyaayeshvara-pranidhaanaani kriyaa-yogah
Kriya yoga (path of action) consists of self-discipline, self-study, and surrender to the Divine.
If we look closely, we can see Patanjali beginning an expansion of the core practices first introduced in Chapter 1, abhyasa and vairagyam. Self discipline, tapas, is the first stage of abhyasa, choosing to cultivate steadiness of mind and firmness of will power, day after day, year after year, with patience and persistence.
Self study, svadhyaya, then applies this focus in two areas. Firstly, it is noticing all of the I – me – mine thoughts that clog the mental airwaves. These are the ‘klishta vrttis described in I-5, the painful thoughts that arise in the process of ‘selfing’, a lovely and simple term coined by Larry Rosenberg of the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. These thoughts are just that, thoughts. But they are very clever at posing as the “Self”. They are usurpers and are insidiously engrained in our habitual patterns of belief and thought, draining energy away from our natural creativity. However once they are seen, once they become objects of perception, they can no longer pretend to be the Seer. We can stop feeding them with more psychic energy. But they do not give up the throne easily!
Secondly, svadhyaya includes the study of the “True Self”, the Seer, Purusha, as unfolded in the spiritual teachings. The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita from Vedanta and the Hsin Hsin Ming from Buddhism are examples. This leads to the beginning of viveka, discriminative awareness, differentiating Self from not-self, purusha from prakriti.
From this discrimination, we learn how to surrender to The Divine, the “Self”, in “Ishvara Pranidhana. In chapter 1, Patanjali devotes several sutras to Ishvara Pranidhana, and it will appear again as part of the 8 limbs (ashtanga) of yoga later in chapter 2. Most beginners struggle with the divine as “Formless Absolute” so a more personal deity can be used.
II-2 Samaadhi-bhaavanaarthahah klesha-tanuu-karanaarthash-ca
(Kriya yoga) brings about samadhi and the weakening of the
Patanjali refers back to the first chapter’s statement, yoga is samadhi, but recognizing the level of student addressed, introduces the notion of building up to samadhi. He then reinforces that samadhi practice eliminates the dysfunctional mind states and now introduces the 5 examples of dysfunctionality, the impediments or afflictions known as the kleshas, that need to be addressed.
II-3 avidyaasmitaa-raaga-dveshaabhiniveshaah kleshaah
(These afflictions are): not seeing the true nature of reality, confusion of self, attachment, aversion, and fear of death.
Why is there suffering? Although Patanjali gives five basic aspects of suffering, we find that the first, not seeing the truth of what is, is really the source of the next four.
II-4 avidyaa ksetram uttaresham prasupta-tanu-vicchinnodaaraanaam
Ignorance is the breeding ground of the others, which can be in dormant, weak, intermittent or fully activated states.
Here Patanjali the neurobiologist appears. He notes that states of mind, whether painful of not painful, (klishta – aklishta) exist in four basic forms. Firstly, they can be buried in the background of the unconscious, in seed form but not growing or active. The current life conditions are not activating them so they lie dormant until the right conditions arise and trigger them. If I was bitten by a dog when a young child, I may carry a strong traumatic memory of that experience buried in my unconscious that can be triggered by seeing or hearing a similar dog and I can suddenly become flooded with fear and anxiety. This in time can settle down, only to be re-stimulated the next time I see a similar dog.
Or, they can exist in a weakened state. These states are not exactly dormant, but the energies they contain do not create a big disturbance when fully activated. In Samadhi/meditation practice we learn to stop reinforcing destructive states and thoughts by neither reacting to nor repressing them. This practice helps weaken their effect if they do become triggered.
The next two forms are more problematic. Firstly, when the vrttis are fluctuating, certain the dysfunctional states keep coming back again and again. Perhaps I have a low grade anxiety that gets worse periodically, but also fades at times. Or I have anger keeps being triggered by simple life experiences. It settles down, I calm down, but at any moment something can set me off again.
And, when the dysfunctional state is fully operating moment to moment I am in the hell realms, as the Buddhists would say. I get no relief from the suffering. Many suicidal people are haunted by the non stop suffering of a negative mind state that will not go away and see death as a release. These are extreme cases, but there are many people whose lives are driven by the non-stop negativity of their minds and their families and others are often caught up in the drama.
II-5 anityaashuci-duhkhaanaatmasu nitya-shuci-sukhaatma-khyaatir avidyaa
Ignorance is mistaking the self to be of the painful, impure, transcient world of form ( prakriti) and not the eternal, joyful, pure Absolute/Formless (Purusha).
Patanjali first states this in sutra I-4, ‘vrtti sarupyam itaratra’, and will return to this again and again. See sutras II-17, II-24,II-25, IV-25 – IV 34. Notice also the subtle return to dualism/sexism as the world of form is described as painful and impure while the transcendent is joyful and pure. Non-dual awakening sees through this confusion. Don’t blame the feminine! The world of forms is as divine as the formless. Just don’t entangled in the game of grasping after some of the forms and rejecting others. That is suffering and ignorance. In II-7 and II-8 Patanjali will elaborate on grasping and rejecting.
II-6 drg-darshana-shaktyor ekaatmatevaasmita
Self confusion involves mistaking the vehicles of knowing (forms subject to change) for the knower (the unchanging absolute, the Seer).
More confusion between the forms and formless. A detailed unfolding of this can be found in sutras IV 19 – IV 24. The Sanskrit term ahamkara, the ‘I – maker”, refers to the process of building up a sense of self, what might be called a personality or perhaps ego. This is usually an autobiographical self and includes my mind, body, experiences, memories, likes and dislikes. All of these are transient phenomena, of the realm of form, and thus inherently unstable. Modern spiritual teacher Ravi Ravindra translates asmita as ‘attachment to being small’. I love that!
II-7 sukhaanushayi raagah
(The memory of) pleasure leads to attachment.
By attachment, Patanjali means the belief that possession of this will eliminate suffering, will make me whole. It may mean wanting something I feel I lack, or trying to hold onto something I think I need, to remain whole. Grasping is a lovely term the Buddhists are fond of using, and as somatic practitioners, we can actually feel how the tissues, muscles, organs and cells are often habituated to ‘grab – on’ and refuse to let go. Clinging is another fun word that we can feel manifesting in our bodies.
Emotional attachments can be either healthy or unhealthy. Love is bonding. Feeling a deep connection to a loved one opens the heart. But healthy relationships come from a grounded self confidence and also allow a freedom to differentiate, to be a unique individual. This is not the attachment Patanjali is referring to. Unhealthy attachment is clingy and dependent and stems from insecurity. This is a source of suffering
II-8 duhkhaanushayi dveshah
(The memory of) pain leads to aversion.
This is the complement to attachment. By aversion, Patanjali means the belief that eliminating something, or preventing something from happening, will remove my suffering, will make me whole. If only this traffic jam, this headache, this person would just go away! Or, I do not want to get old, I do not want to have to do the homework tonight, etc. The options on the menu of suffering are numerous!
II-9 svarasa-vaahii vidusho ‘ pi tathaaruudho ‘bhiniveshah
Fear of death affects even the wise; it is an inherent tendency.
Life has a deeply engrained sense of survival, for the individual and also the species. (see sutra II – 38). Nobody wants to die. But wisdom brings perspective and understanding of the whole process and it is possible to surrender to the inevitable with grace and lightness. Especially when you realize that the drastuh svarupe, the True Self” is unborn and not subject to dying. “Weep not for those who die, for they die not!” says Krishna to Arjuna at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita.
II-10 te pratiprasava-heyaah-suukshmaah
These (the 5 kleshas) are subtle and are eliminated when the mind dissolves back into its original form.
Sutra I-2 is stated in a slightly different way. When resting in your “Self’, the kleshas cannot operate. If they arise, they dissipate immediately like a puff of smoke into the atmosphere leaving no trace. As more time is spent in this state, the power of the kleshas continues to diminish. See sutra IV- 30
II-11 dhyaana-heyaas tad vrttayah
Meditation eliminates the changing mind states (created by the kleshas).
Dhyana was previously introduced in sutras I-32 – I-39 and will be again as part of the 8 limbs (ashtanga) of practice in chapter 3, sutra III-2. This is the entry into samadhi. Dhyana means the capacity to remain stable at the core even when disturbances and distractions arise. The witnessing consciousness stays present as other mind activities are activated. We might call this a meta-level of awareness. Distractions are arising, I am non-judgmentally aware that they are arising, (there is no guilt or condemnation at the fact that my mind may be cranking out some strange stuff!) and I am choosing to sustain this witnessing moment to moment.
As we will discover later, there is some will power, some discipline involved in dhyana as we are usually habituated to react in some way to negativity. There exists, as vrttis, the tendencies to either give in and let the negative take over, or to run away by repressing the feelings. Dhyana is recognizing those habits and consciously choosing not to give in, to ‘not bite the hook’, as Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron would say, but to stay in awareness. Samadhi emerges when we are able to stay present without so much work. We get better at meditation through practice. Abhyasa is at work here, building stability one breath at a time. From the perspective of the gunas, the sattvic mind state becomes dominant and remains so over a period of time, with rajas and tamas transmuted into energy and stability respectively.
II-12 klesha-muulah karmaasayo drshtaadrshta-janma-vedaniiyah
Afflicted actions create a storehouse of momentum (karma) which will be experienced in the present or future lives.
Karma is a key concept in Indian philosophy and is a major topic in the Bhagavad Gita. Karma literally means action, to act. All actions lead to results, known as karma phalas, the fruits of karma. Postive actions lead to positive, ie beneficial results, and negative actions bring detrimental results. These results can take seconds, minutes, years or lifetimes to manifest. Karma is a key piece of the yogic principle of reincarnation, which is now to be unfolded in the following sutras.
II – 13 sati mule tad vipaako jaaty-aayur-bhogaah
When the root (of karma) is present, it is expressed as species, life span and life experiences.
In Indian philosophy, karma is all encompassing. The emergence of any form from the infinfite void is the result of karma, and all experiences that arise are also part of the karmic law. Where I am born, my parents, my life experiences, and my death are all seen as expressions of the unfolding of karmic law. This works because creation, the universe is seen as a whole, living, conscious energetic manifestation, where everything is in relationship to everything else. The Cosmos not a collection of unrelated objects.
II –14 te hlaada-pari-taapa-phalaah punyaapunya-hetutvat
Those (the expressions of karma) can be delightful and pleasant or painful because of merits and demerits (from previous karmic actions).
Karma comes in two basic flavors, punya, ‘good karma’, ‘good luck’ and papa, bad karma, bad luck. All cultures seem to have this law encoded in some way.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked! Whatever one sows, that he shall also reap.” Galatians, 6:7
“If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” From Born Under a Bad Sign by Booker T. Jones and William Bell.
“What goes around, comes around.” English proverb
II-15 parinnama-taapa-samskaara-duhkhair guna-vrtti-virodhaach cha duhkham eva sarvam vivekinah
One who has attained discriminative awareness experiences all (aspects of mis-identification) as suffering, due to the latent impressions (from previous lives), pain itself, and the fluctuating mind states caused by the gunas.
Here Patanjali introduces the term viveka, discriminative awareness, which he will further elaborate upon in this chapter. (II-26) “Experiences all as suffering” is often confused to mean that life is suffering, the world of form is suffering. This is a dualistic point of view, one that tends to denigrate the feminine. As previously discussed in I-4, it is the identification process that is the suffering. Once you have had a taste of the True Self’, the luminous emptiness, when the small self starts to reassert itself again, you see the inherent suffering involved in the mis-identification. Creation itself is ‘Divinity in form’, not a source of suffering.
II-16 heyam duhkham anaagatam
Suffering that has yet to come is to be avoided.
Great sutra! The point of power is in the present moment. I vividly remember reading this in Jane Roberts’ book Seth Speaks’ in the early 1970’s. My actions now are creating karma which will manifest sooner or later. If I am clear of mind and acting from wisdom and compassion, I am not creating any new possibilities of suffering. Old karmas still lurking about will appear when ripe, but from this moment onward, it is a new world.
II-17 drashtr-drshyayoh samyogo heya-hetuh
The con-fusion of seer (Purusha) and seen (Prakriti) is the cause (of suffering) to be avoided.
Patanjali restates I-3 and I-4 and II-15. The world of forms, prakriti, the seen, the impermanent, should not be confused with the Seer, the Self, the unchanging Now. The key principles are mentioned again and again from slightly different perspectives to help deepen understanding. In the next few sutras, Patanjali continues the discussion of Purusha and Prakriti to tease out some more possible realms of confusion.
II-18 prakaasha-kriyaa-sthiti-siilam bhuutendriyaatmakam bhogaaapavargaartham drshyam
The seen (prakriti, the world of form) has the nature of illumination, activity and inertia (sattva, rajas and tamas). It consists of the elements and the senses and exists for experience and liberation.
The Sankyha lesson begins here. In the Sankhya philosophy or world view, creation consists of 24 fundamental emerging principles, from most subtle to most gross. Each of these 24 is composed of three basic qualities, known as gunas. The gunas can also be seen in a modern way. Tamas is the tendency to remain the same, what Newton called inertia of rest. Rajas is inertia of motion, the tendency to keep moving, Newton’s inertia of motion, and sattva is the harmonious integration of these two seemingly opposing tendencies.
The Buddhists call prakriti the world of impermanence. The nature of the ‘seen’ is constant change. Within the change, there may be temporary modes of stability, like the string of a violin staying in tune for a while. But eventually it will go out of tune and eventually break. From a molecular level, it it always moving, vibrating. This is contrasted again and again with the ‘unchanging’.
The semantic dilemma is that the ‘unchanging, Purusha, the absolute, or whatever words you choose, is not another ‘entity’, to be compared with the ‘seen’. Rather the words point to the infinite, un-bounded, limitless wholeness that contains all possibilities, all forms, all possible pasts, all possible futures, and is the source out of which creation, from atoms to galaxies, emerges, and into which all forms ultimately dissolve.
II-19 vishesaavishesa-linga maatraalingaani guna-parvaani
The basic stages of evolutionary unfoldment (gunas) are the gross, the subtle, the buddhi and the undifferentiated (state of Prakriti).
The gross level of reality, in modern terminology, is the world of matter. It has weight, is tangible. The subtle is the realm of energy flow. It includes heat, motion, electrical impulses etc. The buddhi (linga) is the underlying intelligence of creation, and Prakriti, a-linga is the quantum field, the realm of pure potentiality, the undifferentiated substratum of all forms
II -20 drastaa drshi-matrah shuddho ‘pi pratyayaanupashyah
The Seer is only the power of seeing, and, although pure, witnesses the images of the mind.
Patanjali continues his unfolding of Sankhya metaphysics. The Absolute or Purusha, also know as the Seer, drasta (see I-3 also) is the source of manifestation but not the material cause, which is Prakriti, the seen, described in II-19 above. Buddhi, an evolute of prakriti and the vehicle of discriminative awareness is often mistaken for Purusha, pure awareness. This is a very subtle distinction. Buddhi does fluctuate. Meditative practices are given to help it stabilize. Purusha, pure awareness, is the unchanging, unbounded ‘witness to’ and ‘source of’ what arises in the world of form. Semantics break down in discussing Awareness, but we do our best.
II-21 tad artha eva drshyasyaatmaa
The essential nature of the seen is only for the seer.
The Sankhya expression says that creation emerges for the seer. It is kind of boring to be unchanging limitlessness without manifestation. So creation emerges, and stars and galaxies, starfish and butterflies, Mozart sonatas and poetry emerge as expressions of the infinite divinity’s inherent splendor.
II – 22 krtaartham prati nastam apy anastam tad-anya saadhaaranatvaat
Although the seen ceases to exist for the liberated seer, it continues as it is common to others.
Here Sankhya postulates that liberation is a dissolving of all forms (mind/body) into the unchanging. This is the culmination of the masculine form of spirituality, merging with divinity as transcendence. This replaced the earlier, feminine form expression, divinity as emergence into forms. An integral approach to spirituality unites the two in a participatory, creative process of fully inhabiting both the transcendent (Purusha) and the immanent (prakriti). The term jivan mukti refers to an awakened one still embodied. Patanjali also says that the world of form continues to exist, answering those philosophies that say the creation is totally illusory.
II -23 sva-svaami shaktyoh svaruupopalabdhi-hetuh samyogah
The coming together (of Purusha and Prakriti) is the means to understand the powers (of Purusha and prakriti).
In the dualistic vision of Sankhya, creation requires the coming together of two distinct and separate entities, unmanifest consciousness or Purusha, and unconscious manifestation, or prakriti. Evolution then proceeds to unfold the infinite possibilities.
II – 24 tasya hetur avidyaa
The cause of confusion is ignorance.
Confusion is mistaking transient phenomena for the unchanging whole. Ignorance, literally ‘not seeing’ is the first stage of suffering, and leads to the creation of a small ‘self’ that is essentially continually wanting to feel whole and complete, but can never arrive there. This is dukha, suffering. (see II – 4 above)
II – 25 tad abhaavaat samyogaabhaavo haanam tad-drsheh kaivalyam
By removing ignorance, confusion is removed. This is liberation, (drashtuh svarupe avasthanam from I-3).
Removing ignorance is the solution to suffering, confusion. This is liberation, freedom, enlightenment.
II – 26 viveka khyaatir avplavaa haanopaayah
The means to liberation is uninterrupted discriminative awareness.
Freedom comes from viveka, continuous discriminating between seer and seen, between impermanence and the unchanging, between purusha and prakriti. Confusion is an endless series of dysfunctional ‘I am small, poor me’ thoughts. Discrimination recognizes these and refuses to feed them with more psychic energy. These thoughts eventually ‘run out of steam’. See viveka as the integration of abhyasa, continuous discipline and vairagyam, dispassion, as mentioned in chapter 1. The challenge is in the identification process. The urge for the self sense to attach to thoughts, beliefs, objects is powerful. The objects themselves are harmless. They are just emergent aspects of the world of form. Viveka inhibits (nirodha) the urge to build and sustain a false self.
II – 27 tasya saptadhaa praanta-bhuumih prajnaa
True insight has seven stages.
Prajna, wisdom, is said to have 7 aspects. Although Patanjali does not list them Vyassa, the primary commentator does. Essentially the first four require effort of the practitioner and closely resemble completion of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism; 1. the cause of suffering is identified; 2. the causes have been eliminated; 3. Truth has been realized; 4. This Truth has stabilized. the next three happen spontaneously as the result of the first three. They are: 5. the buddhi, having performed its function,dissolves; 6. the gunas of the yogi dissolve; 7. Purusha now shines forth in its fullness.
II-28 yogaangaanusthaanad ashuddhi-ksaye jnaana-diiptir-aaviveka-khyaateh
With the destruction of the impurities (of mind) from the practice of the limbs of yoga, the light of knowledge arises. This culminates in discriminative discernment.
Viveka khyaateh, discriminatory wisdom, is another definition of yoga: the capacity to differentiate that which is impermanent, prakriti, from the unchanging permanence, Purusha. Here Patanjali offers the parallel definitions of yoga: the various practices that lead to realization, and realization itself.
II-29 yama-niyamaasana-praanaayaama-pratyaahaara-dhaaranaa-dhyaana-samadh ayo ‘shtav angaani
The 8 limbs are abstentions, observances, posture, breathing control, disengagement of the senses, concentration, meditation and absorption.
Samadhi is again introduced, this time as the culmination of a series of more detailed preparatory practices.
II-30 ahimsaa-satyaasteya-brahmacaryaaparigrahaa yamah
The abstentions are non-violence, truthfulness, non stealing, not abusing the sexual energies and non-hoarding.
The ‘don’ts of a life practice are included here. These behaviors are to be avoided as they perpetuate confusion, delusion and suffering.
II-31 jaati-desha-kaala-samayaanavacchinnaah saarva-bhaumaa mahaa-vratam
(These yamas) are considered a great vow. They are not exempted by class, place, time or circumstance.
These are universal observances, for all beings, in any culture, at all times. In India this is referred to as following dharma, living a proper life.
II-32 shauca-santosha-tapah-svaadhyaayeshvara-pranidhaanaani niyamaah
The observances are cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study, and devotion to the Divine.
Here are the ‘do’s’. We want to nurture and encourage these attributes, these practices. The yamas and niyamas are the foundational practices in leading a moral and ethical life and are preparatory for spiritual practice.
II-33 vitarka-bhaadane pratipaksha-bhaavanam
When bothered by negative thoughts, cultivate counteracting thoughts.
Dan Golemans books, “Emotional Intelligence” and “Social Intelligence” offer a modern point of view of the cultivation of positive emotional and mental states. Dan Siegel’s writings also offer very articulate presentations of just how this process works neuro-biologically. Also see sutra I-33.
II-34 vitarkaa himsaadayah krta- kaaritaanumoditaa lobha-krodha-moha-puurvakaa mrdu-madhyaadhi-maatraa duhkhaajnaanaananta-phalaa iti pratipaksha-bhaavanam
Negative thoughts/emotions (lead to acts) such as violence and so forth, that may be done (by oneself), may be induced in another, or may be condoned. They are triggered by greed, anger or delusion and may be mild, moderate or extreme in intensity. As the end results (of these actions) are endless suffering, the cultivation of opposing (positive thoughts and emotions) (is encouraged)
(Also see sutra I-33)
II-35 ahimsaa-pratisthaayaam tat-sannidhau vaira-tyaagah
In the presence of one who is established in non-violence, hostility is given up.
The energy field of one firmly established in non-violence has a powerful emotional effect on all beings in the vicinity. The depth of stillness soothes even those with tremendous supplies of anger and aggression.
II-36 satya-pratishthaayaam kriyaa-phalaashrayatvam
When one is established in truthfulness, the fruits of one’s actions are supported by (truthfulness and are thus always virtuous).
Yogis steeped in the virtue of honesty will always manifest positive (virtuous) results through their actions. Their words become blessings to those who hear them. Their teaching is always clear and precise.
II-37 asteya-pratishthaayaam sarva-ratnopasthaanam
As one becomes established in non-theft, all jewels appear.
Yogis who follows asteya inspire total confidence in all who know him. They are trustworthy and have unshaken integrity. People would leave their most trusted possessions with them with no fear.
II-38 brahmacharya-pratishthaayaam viirya-laabhah
When one is established in celibacy, vital energy and power is
Brahmacharya is a practice that gets lots of attention in the west as it usually refers to sexual restraint. But the literal definition is ‘walking in God’. this means living a life of wholeness and purity and not dissipating any energy, sexual or otherwise, in self-centered pursuits. It is abhyasa/vairagyam as a means of preserving prana for teaching and contributing to the betterment of the world. It does not mean that householders cannot be yogis unless they abstain from sex. Just abstain from all self-centered behavior, as best you can.
II-39 aparigraha-sthairye janma-kathantaa-sambhodhah
When restraint from all levels of grasping is established, the understanding of incarnation (arises).
As in the previous sutras, this is another channeling of energies away from self centered desires which liberates a lot of psychic energy. This new found energy can be used to look deeply into the fabric of consciousness where the karmic history of previous births is stored. Reincarnation is a common theme in many yogic texts and stories.
II-40 shauchaat svaanga-jujupsaa parair asamsargah
By cleanliness, one develops an aversion for one’s own body and for contact with others.
Now begins a description of the ni-yamas, the to-do list. In his commentary on saucha, cleanliness we see the extreme side of masuline spiritual point of view which was dominant in Patanjali’s time. The body is inherently imperfect, as is any impermanent form, and from one perspective, an obstacle to the realization of Purusha/Absolute as Self. A non-dual perspective honors the divinity of all forms without being attached or confused about the truth of the formless Self. Thus the body is a manifestation of divinity and wisdom, even in its imperfection and impermanence.
II – 41 sattva-shudhi-saumanasyaikaagryendriya-jayaatma-darshana-yogyatvaani ca.
Upon purification of the mind cheerfulness, one-pointedness, sense control, and fitness to perceive the self (arise).
Saumanasya is the opposite of daurmanasya (see I-32) It is hard to imagine cheerfulness by avoiding contact with others!
II – 42 santoshaad anuttamah sukha-laabhah
From contentment the highest happiness is attained.
Sukha, happiness, ease, gracefulness, is the opposite of dukha, suffering. See sutras I-33, II-46
II – 43 kaayendriya-siddhir ashuddi-ksayaat tapasah
From austerity, through the removal of impurities, brings perfection of body and senses
Tapas, introduced in the beginning of this chapter, returns. Tapas implies the burning away of impurities, of a cleansing fire of practice that removes the tamasic and rajasic tendencies (rigid and chaotic) in the body mind. ( See abhyasa/vairagyam in sutras I-12 to I-16). Perfection could refer to the siddhis or powers that will be mentioned in the next chapter.
II- 44 svaadhyaayaad ishta-devataa-samprayogah
By study of the Self, connection to one’s chosen deity (arises)
Study of the self has two layers of meaning. First is the day to day functioning of the mind and its actions involving the self sense. Ahamkara is the Sanskrit term for the “I maker”, that aspect of mind that creates an organizing center around which the mind can operate in the world. This can become the ‘personality’ or ego, or something else. Secondly is the ‘True Self” as unfolded in the scriptures such as the Vedas. Chanting of mantras, especially OM, is considered to be an aspect of self study. As OM is the sound of Isvara, its chanting creates a connection to the aspect of Isvara most resonant with your inner being, which one might call your chosen deity.
II – 45 samaadhi-siddhir iishvara-pranidhaanaat
Surrender to the divine brings perfection in samaadhi.
See commentary to sutras I-23 to I-29
II- 46 sthira sukham aasanam
Posture is (both) stable and harmonius.
Patanjali as pioneering neuroscientist. All forms, all life, as well as the human nervous system floats on the balance of dynamic action and stability. Stability in posture is not holding on, but resting in the deep support of Mother Earth, of the nested gravitational fields that hold the solar system and galaxies in their cosmic places. The earth is falling into the sun. The sun is spiraling around the Milky Way. The universe dances, and yet remains stable in the patterns of flow.
Sukham comes from the Sanskrit root kha, the hole in a wheel which holds the axle. Sukha, a well centered hole, rides smoothly. Dukha, an off center or stuck hole does not ride smoothly. Life, aliveness is movement, from the rotating of the celestial bodies to the vibrations of the atoms and molecules. Stability should not inhibit movement. It organizes the movement into harmony. Even as I sit in stillness, the heart beats, the blood flows, the cells vibrate. Sthira sukham is the ultimate expression of cosmic harmony, the body manifesting perfect balance, lightness, and effortless ease.
This balance is challenging because the human emotions and cultural pathologies disrupt the inherent harmony of aliveness. Yoga postures help restore and sustain our natural harmony.
II-47 pra-yatna shaithilyaananta sam-aa-pattibhyaam
With the release of effort and absorption in the limitless (posture is mastered).
The inherent tendency of the body, of aliveness is harmony. As balance is restored through practice, there is more just allowing of what is natural to emerge from within and less imposing from without. When the organism is whole and aligned in gravity, the whole cosmos is present in support. This is ananta, the serpent-couch of Vishnu, the sustainer of the cosmos, the sustainer of the pose.
II- 48 tato dvandvaanabhi-ghaatah
Then one is no longer entangled in duality.
In wholeness, there is no ‘other’, no separateness experienced. Duality, the yin and yang of life are known to be expressions of wholeness, not opposing forces in conflict. Duality drops away naturally and the innate intelligence of the cellular body knows it is one with the whole. No questions, no doubt.
II- 49 tasmin sati shvaasa-prashvaasayor gati-vicchedah praanaayaamah
The mastery of asana allows the exploration of more subtle life energies through regulating the natural flow of inhalation and exhalation.
Mastery of any asana means the ability to sustain the posture through time without any aggression or dullness in the organism. This is the natural state of the animal kingdom but because the human mind can interfere with this natural state of relaxed aliveness we need the interventions learned in asana. Eventually asana, the innate intelligence of posture and movement is the natural state at all times. (We do need to practice to maintain this!) When the outer layers of the body, the musculo-skeletal system, are harmoniously integrated (sattva) the more subtle physiological or organic movements are seen more clearly and they may reveal more subtle blockages in the pranic flow. Pranayama practice is a way to help dissolve these blockages.
II- 50 baahyaabhyantara-stambha-vrttih desha-kaala-sankhyaabhih paridrsto diirgha-suukshmah
The movements of breath are outward, inward and restrained. Practice involves allowing the stages of the breath to become longer and more subtle as you explore where the breath is felt inside the body, how longs the movements take, and how many cycles you can perform safely.
Pranayama is not a practice of the will the way asana can be. It emerges as a natural sensitivity to the pranic flow that you can ride the way a hawk rides a thermal or a school of fish rides ocean currents. The practice involves constantly getting out of the way of aliveness, of dissolving the subtle blockages in the pranic flow from emotional memories and habits, and releasing the inner currents of prana from the organs and cells.
Although Patanjali mentions three movements of the breath, there are technically four: exhalation (rechaka), restraint or retention after exhalation (baahya kumbhaka), inhalation (puraka), and retention after inhalation (antara kumbhaka). The two retentions are different because of the physiology of respiration and are included in the more advanced forms of pranayama
Inhalation is a neurologically initiated action. When the CO2 level in the blood reaches a certain level, the vagus nerve triggers the diaphragm to contract and draw air into the lungs. Exhalation does not have such a trigger and thus we often have to learn to exhale. This is especially true in cases of COPD, emphysema and asthma where sufferers struggle to inhale into lungs that have no room because the exhalations have been forgotten. In yoga, the exhalation is learned first as it is calming to the nerves and mind. Then, when exhalations comes easily, inhalation can begin to be prolonged. Trying to force air into lungs still half full is stressful and pranayama is about releasing stress, not adding more.
Over time, the ribs, diaphragm and spine become more elastic and integrated and the breathing cycles flow more and more effortlessly. Then you begin to notice the natural pauses that arise at the end of the in breath and again at the end of the out breath. These ‘restraints’ are spontaneous and natural. As your pranayama practice becomes more relaxed, you begin to prolong the pause after the in breath. This is known as retention after in breath or antara kumbhaka. As there is no reflex to exhale, this is safe. The ribs are sustained in an open state and the diaphragm is suspended dynamically. there is no sense of strain or effort but simply an allowing of the lungs to absorb more and more of the oxygen and release more of the CO2.
In baahya kumbhaka, retention after exhalation, the lungs and blood stream have become so saturated with oxygen from the expanded inhalations and retentions that there is no reflex to inhale for quite some time. This is a very quiet internal state and can lead to the experience of a new level described next.
II- 51 baahyaabhyantara-visayaaksepii caturthah
The fourth (in addition to outward, inward and restrained) surpasses the limits of outward and inward.
This suspension of the breath is spontaneous and not the result of the previous mentioned practices. In other words, there is no sense of ‘practicing pranayama’, but of resting in deep neurological stillness.
II- 52 tatah ksiiyate prakaashaavaranam
Then the covering of illumination is weakened.
Obscurations is a lovely Buddhist word describing the nature of the dull or stuck (tamasic) and agitated or chaatic (rajasic) mind states and activities that are said to cover the inner light of seeing, vidya, of the Seer resting in unbounded awareness. Even the breath can be seen as a very subtle disturbance and when the mind is in deep rest, the breath is effortlessly suspended and only light remains. This is not an action of the will, but the result of a natural stillness.
II- 53 dhaaranaasu ca yogyataa manasah
And the mind becomes fit for concentration
Manas is that aspect of mind dealing directly with the senses. It loves to compare and thus it is often busy. When it is still and undisturbed, buddhi, the aspect of mind that sees, is now ready for its refinement. The vital energies, as prana, have been calmed and clarified by pranayama practice leaving an alert stillness in the mind field.
II – 54 svavishaya asamprayoga cittasya svaruupaanukaarah iva indriyaanaam pratyaahaarah
Withdrawing the senses from contact with external objects and allowing, as it were, the natural state of the mind is known as pratyaahaara.
Pranayama prepares the mind to rest in awareness. The urge for the mind to return back to sensory stimulation is now inhibited, the way a turtle withdraws into its shell. The attention is directed inward to the soul, the inner light of the buddhi or higher mind and inner silence.
II – 55 tatah paramaa vashyataa indriyaanaam
From this comes the highest control of the senses
As this becomes strengthened through practice (Hebb’s Axiom) it becomes easier and easier to rest in the inner stillness as the demand of the senses for gratification diminishes while the nurturing nature of the inner silence grows.
Here ends the exposition of practice, the second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga sutras