My perspectives of Yog Sutras by Sage Patanjali, article 1.

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Indian philosophy is vast and profound. Many Sages have devoted their lifetime in systematizing the philosophies for the greater good of human race.

Hindu Darshan Shastra or Indian Philosophy refers to philosophical school of thought for the civilizations that originated in Indian sub-continent.

In total there are 6 Darshan Shastras in Hinduism (the Vedic Hindu religion) The goal of all these Darshanas is the removal of ignorance and its effects of pain and sufferings, and the attainment of freedom, perfection, and eternal bliss by the union of the Atma (individual soul) to Paramatma (supreme soul).

Let us have a brief look at the schools of philosophies.

Astika (Theist/Orthodox) Schools:

These were codified during the medieval period and take the ancient Vedas as their source considering it as an absolute authority. Let us have brief look an each one:

Samkhya is the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems found by sage Kapila, and it propagates that everything in the world stems from purusha (self or soul or mind) and prakriti (matter, creative agency, energy). It is a Dwaita (dualist) philosophy, between the self and matter and propagates that liberation occurs with the realization that the soul and constitution of matter (steadiness, activity and dullness) are different.

The Nyaya school is based on the Nyaya Sutras, written by Aksapada Gautama in the 2nd Century B.C. Its methodology is based on a system of logic. It establishes the system of gaining valid knowledge through perception, inference, comparison and testimony is the only way achieve freedom from suffering.

The Vaisheshika school was founded by sage Kaanada in the 6th Century B.C., and it is atomist and pluralist in nature. The basis of the school’s philosophy is that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms, and Brahma is regarded as the fundamental force that causes consciousness in these atoms.

Founded by Sage Jaimini-great disciple of Sage, the main objective of the Purva Mimamsa school is to interpret and establish the authority of the Vedas. It requires un-questionable faith in the Vedas and the regular performance of the Vedic fire-sacrifices to sustain all the activity of the universe. Although in general the Mimamsa accept the logical and philosophical teachings of the other schools, they insist that salvation can only be attained by acting in accordance with the prescriptions of the Vedas.

The Vedanta, or Uttara Mimamsa, school concentrates on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads (a detailed explanation of vedas in itself), rather than the Brahmanas (instructions for ritual and sacrifice). The Vedanta focus on meditation, self-discipline and spiritual connectivity, more than traditional ritualism.  It was brought in light with practical applications by Ramkrishna Paramhamsa & his disciples, Swami Vivekananda being the one who took it beyond the 7 seas from India.

The Yoga school, as expounded by sage Patanjali in his 2nd Century B.C. Yoga Sutras, accepts the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is more theistic, with the addition of a divine entity to Samkhya’s twenty-five elements of reality. The relatively brief Yoga Sutras are divided into eight ashtanga (limbs), the goal being calming one’s mind and achieve kaivalya/samadhi (solitariness or detachment).

In this series of our articles, we will attempt to study the Sutras (Aphorisms) by Sage Patanjali in his book “Yog Darshan” for a better understanding of this most practical and modern relevant philosophy for human life.

The first aphorism goes as follows:

अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१

atha yoga-anuśāsanam 1

Translation: Here begins the self-discipline of Yoga.

There is weightage to every word Sage Patanajali uses in his aphorisms throughout the book.

The word “Atha” means let us begin now. This “Now” holds a huge importance in practice of Yoga. Because past has gone, future is to come and Present i.e., “Now” is the only moment in our control and that’s exactly where life exists.

Word “Yog” has its roots in the Sanskrit word “Yuj”, which means to connect the mind, body & soul.

Thus, when Sage Patanjali says “Yog”, he means it as a science of Union of mind, body & soul.

Coming to the word “Anushasan”, Shasan i.e., discipline is externally cultivated and Anushasan i.e., self-discipline is a function of self-motivation. Thus, the sage propounds the theory that Yoga is a matter of self-discipline which one cultivates for the journey towards the inner self.

This aphorism gives us a very important concept for life which guides us towards the higher levels of understanding, existence and self-realization. It reinforces the importance of Self motivated Self discipline in life for achieving our modern day goals.

When aspirants begin to learn Ashtanga Yoga through Yog sutras, they tend to ignore or take this first aphorism lightly but as they dive deeper in this book for knowledge of yoga and self, they decipher and realize the wonderful meaning of this very first aphorism.

I welcome you all to this beautiful voyage with me in the ocean of Yoga, let us together rejuvenate ourselves while collecting this pearls of wisdom for life.


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