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Introduction to the Yoga Sutras

The greatest classical text from the yoga school of Indian philosophy is the YOGA SUTRAS by Patanjali, thought to have been written in the second century BC. These "threads" on yoga or union are extremely terse, stating concisely and often precisely essential points. The text may be explained and interpreted by commentaries or a teacher. Yoga practice is considered complementary to the Sankhya philosophy, the goal being the realization of freedom in Spirit from the world of Nature.

This psychological method of liberation is called raja or royal yoga or the yoga of the eight steps, which may be listed as follows:

1. Restraint: nonviolence, not lying, not stealing, not lusting, and not possessing;
2. Observances: cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrender to the Lord;
3. Posture or physical exercises;
4. Breath control;
5. Sublimation or withdrawal from the senses;
6. Attention;
7. Concentration;
8. Meditation.

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To listen to Sanderson Beck reading the Introduction and the Yoga Sutras, please click on the play triangle below.


by Patanjali

English version by Sanderson Beck

1. Meditation
2. Practice
3. Powers
4. Freedom

1. Meditation

Now union is explained.
Union is the control of the modifications of consciousness.
Then the seer stands in its own form,
at other times identified with the modifications.

Modifications are of five kinds, painful and not painful:
knowledge, error, imagination, sleep, memory.
Perception, inference, and testimony are knowledge.
Error is false knowledge that is not formed from reality.
Sound knowledge following no object is imagination.
The absence of wakefulness is the modifying object of sleep.
The experienced object presented is memory.

By practice and detachment they are controlled.
Standing there with effort is practice.
For that, a long time of constant attention
firmly establishes it.

Getting free of the desire
for experiences heard and material objects
is by the mastery of detachment.
That is highest
when the power of the Spirit overcomes the qualities.

Reasoning, discriminating, joyful awareness
of the unity of the universe and self
is supreme meditation.
Cessation by renunciation
and constant practice in dissolving impressions
is the other,
which is undifferentiated existence,
bodilessness, absorption in supreme nature,
in others faith, enthusiasm, memory, meditation, wisdom.

To those of intense energy it comes soon.
From mild to moderate to intense practice
brings the best results;
or it is achieved by surrendering oneself to the Lord.

Untouched by afflictions, actions, and their results,
is the perfect Spirit of the Lord.
There is infinite the seed of omniscience.
That one is even the ancients' teacher,
beyond the limits of time.
Its manifest symbol is the sound current.
Constant practice of that with feeling brings success.
From that comes cosmic consciousness
and also the absence of obstacles.

Disease, laziness, indecision, apathy, lethargy,
craving sense-pleasure, erroneous perception,
lack of concentration, unstable attention,
these are the obstacles that distract consciousness.
Sorrow, worry, restlessness, and irregular breathing
accompany the distractions.
To overcome them practice that oneness.

Cultivating the feelings of
friendship, compassion, joy, and equanimity
toward those who are happy, suffering, worthy, and unworthy,
purifies consciousness,
as does the expelling and retaining of the breath.

Also subtle vision produces
the best modification of the higher consciousness
bringing the mind into stability,
as does the transcendent inner Light,
and the consciousness that controls all passions,
and the analytical knowledge of dreams and sleep,
and concentration according to choice;
from the atom to the infinite is this mastery.

Lessened modifications become transparent
like a crystal receiver receiving knowable objects
transforming itself to the appearance of the objects.
There sound knowledge arranged meaningfully
simultaneously is thought transformation.

Memory purified so that it is empty of its own form,
the object shining alone is transformation without thought.
By this process also
with discrimination and without discrimination
subtle elements are explained.
The realm of the subtle elements
ends with undefinable nature.
These are only meditation with seed.

Without discrimination
the undisturbed flow of the oversoul is blessed.
There wisdom is identical with direct truth.
Verbal inferences are different in essence
from these specific objects of truth.
The impression arising from this
prevents all other impressions.
Control of even that
controls everything in seedless meditation.

2. Practice

Discipline, self-study, and surrender to the Lord
work toward union,
for the purpose of bringing about meditation
and in order to remove obstacles.

Ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion,
and clinging to life are the obstacles.
Ignorance is the field of the others
whether dormant, disappearing, overcome, or expanded.
Regarding the non-eternal, impure, painful non-soul
as the eternal, pure, pleasant soul awareness is ignorance.
The subject appears to be identified
with the power of seeing in egoism.
Dwelling upon pleasure is attachment.
Dwelling upon pain is aversion.
Flowing by itself even in the wise
is the established clinging to life.

These are overcome by
reversing propagation to the subtle.
Concentration overcomes their effects.
Obstacles result in action patterns
which cause suffering in this life and the next.
Existing roots ripen into species, life, and experience.
They bear fruit as pleasure or pain
caused by virtue or vice.
By reason of the pains of change
and the opposing effects of the qualities,
all are suffering to the discriminating.

Avoidable is the suffering which has not yet come.
The cause of the avoidable
is identifying the perceiver with the perceived.
The nature of light, movement, and preservation
consisting of the elements, senses, and experience
are for the sake of liberation from the perceived universe.
Specific, not specific, definite, indefinite
are the quality states.
The perceiver is only the perception,
pure even though seeing through mental images.
That is only for the sake of
the soul of the perceived universe.
Though destroyed for the enlightened,
it is not destroyed for the community of others.

The forces of both one's own owner
attaining one's own form cause identity.
The cause of this is ignorance.
In the absence of that, in the absence of identity removed,
that is freedom of the perceiver.
Discriminating undisturbed intelligence removes suffering.

This develops through seven stages of wisdom.
By practice of the steps of union
impurities are destroyed by the light of knowledge
up to discriminating intelligence.
Restraint, observances, posture, breath control,
sublimation, attention, concentration, and meditation
are the eight steps.

There are nonviolence, not lying,
not stealing, not lusting, not possessing.
These, not limited by class, country, time, circumstance,
are the universal great vows.

Cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study,
and surrender to the Lord are the observances.

Overcome destructive instincts
by cultivating the opposites.
Destructive instincts are harmful thoughts
whether done, caused, or approved,
whether motivated by greed, anger, or delusion,
whether mild, moderate, or intense;
they result in endless suffering and ignorance.
Therefore cultivate the opposites.

Nonviolence confirmed,
in that presence hostility is relinquished.
Not lying confirmed, work and its fruits submit.
Not stealing confirmed, all riches approach.
Not lusting confirmed, vigor is gained.
Not possessing established,
there occurs knowledge of the birth process.

Cleanliness brings protection of one's own body
and non-infection from contact with others.
Goodness purified becomes serenity, single-mindedness,
conquest of the senses, and readiness to perceive the soul.
From contentment the best happiness is gained.
Perfection of the body's senses comes from
the destruction of impurities by discipline.
From self-study comes communion with the divine ideal.
Meditation is successfully identifying with the Lord.

Stable and pleasant is the posture.
Tension released, thought transformation is infinite.
From that, dualities do not disturb.

After that is accomplished,
regulation of inhalation and exhalation is breath control.
External, internal, and motionless are the modifications
as regulated by space, time, and number,
becoming long and subtle.
External, internal spheres cast aside is the fourth.
From this is removed the covering of the Light,
and prepared is the mind for attention.

Withdrawn from its own objects
consciousness identifies with its own form
so that the senses are sublimated.
From that comes supreme mastery over the senses.

3. Powers

Original focus of consciousness is attention.
Continuing awareness there is concentration.
When that shines light alone in its own form empty,
it is meditation.
These three working as one are inner control.
By that conquering comes the light of wisdom.
Its application is to the levels.
These three are more internal than the preceding.
Even these are external to the seedless.

Control of destructive instincts and impressions
disappears and appears
in the highest control of joined consciousness,
as control evolves.
Its flow becomes calm by habit.
Multiplicity dissolving as oneness arises,
the consciousness of meditation evolves.
From there again past and present are similar
in the awareness of the consciousness,
as oneness evolves.
By this the elements of the senses in their evolution
of principles, characteristics, and states are explained.
Past, present, or future,
the principle closely follows the substance.
Another order causes the other to evolve.

By inner control of the triple evolution
comes knowledge of the past and future.
Sound, meaning, and response
coinciding with one another are confused;
their analysis by inner control
brings knowledge of the sounds of all beings.
By witnessing the causes of impressions
previous lives are known.

By awareness others' consciousness is known;
but that does not support the contents,
because that is not identified with living.
By inner control of the form of the body
the power of receiving that is blocked,
the eyes not being in contact with the light;
this is the internal value.
By this the sound of internal value is explained.

Action has quick effects and slow effects;
by that inner control comes knowledge of death,
also by portents.
From friendship comes strength.
From strength comes the strength of an elephant.

By directing radiant light
the subtle, hidden, and remote become known.
Cosmic knowledge comes by inner control on the sun,
on the moon, stellar knowledge;
on the pole-star, knowledge of their motions;
on the navel center, knowledge of the body's system;
on the hollow of the throat,
renunciation of hunger and thirst;
on the center of gravity, steadiness;
on the light in the head, the power of direct perception;
on intuition, comes all;
on the heart, knowledge of consciousness.

The spirit of goodness is absolutely uncommingled;
experience is qualified by false identification,
existing for another;
by inner control of its own purpose
comes knowledge of Spirit.
From that, intuitive hearing, touching, seeing,
tasting, and smelling are produced.
They are obstacles to meditation, the worldly powers.

By releasing the causes of bondage
and by knowledge of penetration,
consciousness can enter into others' bodies.
By conquering psychic energy,
water, mud, thorns, and the rest do not contact,
and death is overcome.

By conquering vitality comes light.
By inner control on the ear and space comes divine hearing.
By inner control on the relationship of the body and space
comes the lightness of cotton
and the ability to levitate in space.
The external modifications become real
in the great bodiless state;
by that the light's covering is destroyed.

Inner control on matter,
its form, subtlety, compounds, and purpose
overcomes the elements.
From that manifests minuteness and the rest,
perfection of the body
and the principle of their non-resistance.
Form, grace, strength, and thunderbolt hardness
are the body's perfection.

Inner control on sensation,
its form, analysis, decision, and purpose
overcomes the senses.
From that mental quickness and feeling without senses
nature is overcome.

Only the knowledge of discriminating
between goodness and Spirit
brings omnipotence and omniscience.
By detachment from even that,
the seed of bondage is destroyed in freedom.

On the attainment of high position
attachment to the pride of performance
again may cause the loss of position.

By inner control on moments and their succession
comes discriminating knowledge.
From this comes discernment of two similar events,
which cannot be distinguished by
class, characteristic, or position.
Understanding all objects
and every aspect of objects simultaneously
is discriminating knowledge.
When goodness and Spirit are of equal purity it is freedom.

4. Freedom

Birth, drugs, chanting, discipline, or meditation
bring about supernatural powers.
Evolution from the lower to the higher
comes by filling up nature.
The instrument does not cause manifestation but from that
comes the destruction of the obstacles to natural energy,
as with a farmer.

Consciousness is produced by the power of the self.
Many activities are directed
by the one consciousness of innumerable minds.
There what is born of concentration leaves no effects.
Action is neither white nor black for the united,
of the three kinds in the case of others.
From those their fruition allows only
the manifestation of those tendencies.

Although separated by class, place, and time,
continuous is the correspondence of memory and impressions;
and habits have no beginning, because drives are eternal.
Cause, motive, structure, and object hold them together;
in the absence of these they are absent.
Past and future in their own form
exist exchanging cosmic principles.
Manifest or subtle, they are qualities of the soul.
The evolution of unity is the reality of things.

The object being the same, consciousness being different,
the ways of the two are different.
And it is not that the object depends on one consciousness,
because if that were not present,
then what would happen to it?
By that coloring affecting consciousness
an object is known or unknown.
Eternally known are the modifications of consciousness
to that master Spirit that is unchangeable.

They are not self-luminous, because they are perceived;
and at the same time both cannot be perceived.
Consciousness perceived by another,
intuited by another intuition is an infinite regress
and a confusion of memory.
Awareness is unchanging omniscience,
but those reflections identify with their own intuition.
The perceiver colored by the perceived
is conscious of everything.
That although equipped with innumerable tendencies,
is for the purpose of the supreme
because of its combined structure.

For the discriminating perceiver
the soul is completely detached from emotion and mind.
For then with serene discrimination
consciousness moves toward freedom.
That has intervals
of other thoughts from previous tendencies.
The removal of these is as explained with the obstacles.

Even in the highest illumination
having no selfish attachment
from constant discriminating knowledge
comes virtue cloud meditation.
From that comes detachment from obstacle effects.
Then all the covering impurities removed,
because of infinite knowledge the universe is small.

Then having fulfilled their purpose
the evolution of transforming qualities stops.
The continuity of moments at the end of evolution
are cognized as a distinct transformation.
Empty for the sake of Spirit
the qualities return to nature.
Freedom is established in its own form,
or it is aware energy.

Copyright 1996, 2002 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.This text is also available as spoken by Sanderson Beck on CD.


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