We owe to the great Sage Patanjali a workable Yoga system that became the blueprint of most of the Yoga practiced today. Patanjali’s amazing wisdom comes not only from the knowledge he is teaching but mostly from his ability to collect and assess and later present the science of union in YOGA SUTRAS. This system popularly known by the term ASHTANGA YOGA or the Yoga of Eight Limbs is the most integrated, comprehensive and even holistic view of Yoga that we have transmitted today from the ancient cultures.
Unfortunately today one can find a lot of ASHTANGA YOGA places that are only teaching asanas, little pranayama and little concentration. With other words from the eight limbs of the integral sistem of Yoga described by Patanjali, only three or maximum four are integrated into the commercial spirituality that we can find today.
Dating Patanjali as an author and the YOGA SUTRA as a literary work is difficult, and many eminent authorities have placed Patanjali as early as one thousand years B.C. Others have put him in the sixth century in this Christian era. He is one of the three colossal spirits that have opened not a new religion or a tradition but have given to the human spirit the idea of using methods and the spirit of doing it.
Charaka brought to light the science of life, Ayurveda. Panini brought the science of language and structure, Sanskrit grammar. And Patanjali revealed the science of transformation, Yoga.
One cannot be far from truth on noticing the mysterious presence of the Trinity coming through these three ancient sages. Three ancient Sanskrit sources make a similar quote; “Charaka purified the body with Ayurveda; Panini purified our tongue (language) with his grammar; while Patanjali purified the mind with his Yoga.”
The YOGA SUTRA is the most elaborate ancient work one can find on Yoga. It is not the kind of yoga-for-dummies work with which we are used today. Being written in the code of initiates this genuine yoga bible, as it was named by some authors, select only the genuine practitioners in order to deliver the secrets of personal development and spiritual betterment. A serious practitioner of Yoga will find here in the SUTRA a concise, condensed and succinct presentation of Yoga.
This concision is essential if one want to transmit not only a bunch of rigid indications for practice but the whole spirit that should animate the practitioner in order to get successful. For it is the spirit of Yoga and the whole preparation of the exercises that are truly unlocking the whole complex of occult resonances and bring forward its amazing effectiveness. Stripped off its attitude and morality Yoga becomes a psychosomatic gymnastic that have limited effects.
The Great Sage Patanjali gave therefore an example of mastership of the word, doing with the words what God is doing with the entire creation: giving strong guidelines that are unmistakable and in the same time leaving room for experimentation of the aspirant so that the guidelines are only lessons. The Great Teacher is discreetly watching from the Heavens while the aspirants are completing generations after generations their practice, perfecting it in their own understanding and under the loving guidance of their Masters. This is the Yoga Sutra that I have met and practiced from, under the guidance of a Great Master.
It is a SUTRA or a thread holding together 195 Sanskrit aphorisms that reach to the highest level the human spirit can aspire in order to guide the aspirant there.
For achieving this genuine spiritual accomplishment in written transmission of spirituality, the terms Patanjali uses are not open to poetic license as the SUTRA is a scientific work on Yoga. With little more than half sentences, literally no more than a string of nouns and adjectives often without auxiliary verbs, the guidelines given are spiritually encoded, locking away the knowledge from the spiritual adventurers.
The SUTRAs is more of a “secret code” of esoteric spiritual concepts and can be deciphered only by a genuine Master that has already achieved the spiritual goal where YOGA SUTRA is pointing. Using the SUTRA as a skeleton of an idea, the Master will fill in with the knowledge needed by the practitioner.
The YOGA SUTRA of Patanjali is not a work from which a new student of Yoga can get other than a framework of Yoga without any practical value. It is the manual of the Masters in Yoga being supplied with a structure to build up a most elaborate integral Yoga system.
The YOGA SUTRA of Patanjali that we know of contains only 195 verses or sutras. The original may have been much longer and may have been abridged or shortened by many other writers over the ages. What makes this work unique is the fact that it is a framework of the “Science of Sciences” which is Yoga. One can’t alter and change the terms of a science to suit one’s fancy, without destroying the whole structure. One cannot put in or take out anything without altering the whole framework. Therefore this integral YOGA system that is presented in the YOGA SUTRA is an invariant to culture, religion, human interpretation and even methodology that derive from it. Starting from this frame that Patanjali revealed one can only end up with a similar YOGA system.
Patanjali reveals an integral Yoga that has a number of Yogas embodied in the whole system. They are just like the lines and geometrical bodies of a yantra that separately means something distinct but together they create the representation of another reality that is much more than the sum of all its parts. But we cannot drop some of the Angas or branches of the Ashtanga Yoga just because they do not suit our life style or they are not very popular in our neighbourhood. At a closer look anyone can notice that this is the very structure of a holographic structure where the sum of all parts enjoy a totally new quality that is afterwards reflected in all the parts. The practitioner of an integral Yoga system built after the guidelines of YOGA SUTRA will add one by one all those Yogas in the practice but only when assimilated they will together produce a spiritual leap to another level of consciousness. This reality stays unguessed by those that will not intuit the way an integral system work just like an ignorant in IT will not guess what can result from putting together in the right way a pile of electronic spare parts from a computer.
Lacking the proper guidance regarding the practice of an integral yoga system, very often in modern times those involved in Asanas and Pranayamas have dropped the need for Yama and Niyama, the prerequisite morality and ethics as a foundation for an effective Yoga practice. They rush to do some body stretching, to feel strong tickling or to feel energy flowing into their body system. But the further evolution of the consciousness is thus jeopardized by the weak moral foundation that was not placed in its right place from the beginning. It is true that a class of moral lessons will not sell today (especially since it has to be in the beginning) but that which is sold without this moral foundation … is not Yoga, as Patanjali already warned us long ago.
Others who want to go to “meditation Yoga” drop all of the outer phases of Yoga: Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama, Pratyahara as well as the inner phase of Dharana and begin straight at Dhyana, or meditation, as though the other steps are not necessary for them! Apart from the arrogance that such attitude is showing (which is expected considering they skipped the morality classes), it is also making the attempt on realizing meditation as “a continuous focus of the flow of attention toward the subject of meditation” an almost impossible task. It is just like attempting to jump directly on top of the mountain from the bottom of the valley without having any training or taking any road toward the top. And again what kind of meditation class will start today with moral lessons and simple Asanas and still have students? But what will result in absence of those other Yogic “limbs” will not be meditation and not even Yoga. It will be only a training of patience for sitting still for longer periods of time, a time off in order to think, a time with oneself … interesting maybe but not Yoga. Again YOGA SUTRA play the role of discernment blade to sort out what is genuine from the commercial scams.
Leaving out parts of the integral Yoga as lead to a mutilation of this amazing practice for small purposes, reducing its spiritual effects to some mere exotic aesthetics with wellbeing flavour and fashion. It has brought out an incredible “Ego Yoga” that often takes comic forms. On one side we find the “armchair Yogis”, satsang consumers and “professional” meditators who look down to others who are still caught up with what they call “body Yoga”, while on the other end of the spectrum we find the ones that are acrobatically practicing Asanas and Pranayama as Ashtanga Yoga, an eight limbs Yoga that was reduced to only two, considering concentration as just a faculty that one have to use in order to align the body very well with the ideal position from the picture and meditation is reduced in most cases to an inner contest of body immobility for long periods.
In the middle of this circus that is nowadays called Yoga I believe that the integral Yoga of Patanjali is the most authentic path of Yoga available to modern man and that fits perfectly with the modern paradigm of thinking … if explained from a genuine Yoga Master.
(end of Part one)
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