A collection of 196 aphorisms that convey the wisdom of yoga; an essential book for everyone who has started the path of this millenary philosophy
The true meaning of the word “yoga” is “union of body, mind, soul and spirit.” According to this ancient practice, all our suffering is actually caused by the ignorance of our true “I”, and due to the illusory separation that exists between our consciences as individuals of what in yogic philosophy is known as the “Universal Consciousness,” or Brahman, in Sanskrit.
Under this maxim hundreds of years ago arose what is probably the most representative philosophical treatise of this philosophy, which many recognize as an equivalent to the “Bible” of yoga, and that if you have already started in practice surely your guru will have it mentioned again and again.
Although many consider it as a philosophical treatise, Yoga Sutras is actually much more than that: it is a collection of 196 aphorisms that serve as guides for the practice of yoga and meditation, for the correct perception and for a greater understanding of oneself, of the world, of the universe and of the very meaning of our existence.
The word “Sutra ” literally means “cord”, this being conceived as the cord that joins the accounts of a bad one , the spherical string of beads used to recite mantras . In this context, the Sutras allude to the cords of sacred beads that weave our way through life, our spiritual journey.
The legend of Patanjali
The Yoga Sutras were composed of a man named Patanjali , of whom, however, a lot of information is unknown, except for his alleged Hindu origins and who lived between the second and fourth century BC The ignorance of Patanjali’s character has given rise to endless mythological legends and epics, among which it is said that Vishnu, the goddess in charge of maintaining balance in the Universe, rested on a large multi-headed snake called Ananta, floating on the Ocean of Consciousness (all well-known concepts of Hindu philosophy ) when Ananta asked her to be born again incarnate in the figure of a great teacher: Patanjali.
Beyond the myths and legends, the Patanjali Sutras have been studied in depth for centuries, since the aphorisms collected give rise to many different interpretations. In any case, all scholars of yogic wisdom agree that it is a collection of parameters or instructions whose objective is to guide us on our way to self-knowledge and spiritual liberation. These are divided into eight different steps, which must be carried out one by one:
It refers to our behavior towards others, and is in turn divided into 5 principles:
- Ahimsa, or nonviolence.
- Satya, be honest.
- Asteya, do not steal, or that your wealth does not imply the poverty of others.
- Brahmacharya, live without excesses.
- Aparigraha, be generous, do not get carried away by greed.
This concept refers to our attitude, thoughts and feelings towards life, and also includes within itself another 5 concepts:
- Saucha, keep the cleanliness and order of both our body and our mind.
- Santosha, be aware that true happiness is within us, and not look for it outside.
- Tapas, a certain level of sacrifice towards others (discipline, punctuality, perseverance, etc.).
- Svadyaya, the importance of studying the great sages.
- Ishvara Pranidhana, our relationship with universal energy.
In Patanjali’s time, yoga did not consist of a series of postures and movements, but was more focused on meditative practice. Thus, asana, refers to our posture during meditation, which must be comfortable enough to stay for a long time, but not enough to fall asleep.
This concept may sound more to you: it involves breathing exercises aimed at controlling the flows of our energy.
The ability to bring our attention inward and avoid the distractions of the world, keeping our attention on our own journey.
The dharana is the ability, during meditation, to stay focused on a single point.
It is the next step to dharana: when we manage to keep the attention focused on a single point for a long time, we can forget everything else and get our “individual self” to exceed the limits of our mind.
The samadhi is the meditative state supreme when we got completely lost consciousness of ourselves and cease fluctuations in our minds. At that time, according to the Patanjali Sutras, an absolute flow of consciousness is experienced: the mind is released and unites with the universe, and we reach the state of “pure consciousness.”