Author Topic: Patanjali Yoga Sutras  (Read 326 times)

Middleway

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Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« on: May 01, 2022, 12:55:10 PM »
During the last couple of months, I have been reading Patanjali Yoga Sutras and its various translations and commentaries. I found there are a lot of similarities between Buddhist teachings and Patanjali Yoga Sutras. In 196 verses, Patanjali explains and pin points the cause of suffering, how it comes about, what are its symptoms and effects, and how to eradicate them. In this topic, I will attempt to present select few key sutras and hopefully it will lead to a robust discussion. Having gone through several translations, I found the best translation is done by Osho who had a very good command on Sanskrit and also had deep insights into nature of reality.

1-2. Yoga is cessation of mind.
1-3. Then the witness is established in itself.
1-4. In the other states there is identification with the modifications of the mind.
1-5. The modifications of the mind are five. They can be either a source of anguish or of non-anguish.
1-6. They are right knowledge, wrong knowledge, imagination, sleep and memory.
1-12. Their cessation is brought about by persistent inner effort and nonattachment.

The state of no-mind is the natural state where there is no suffering. When the mind is not in its natural state, there is suffering. Suffering is brought about by mental modifications. These mental modifications can be stilled by a combination of persistent practice and letting go. 

I found the old motion picture example very helpful in understanding the above. A powerful light illuminates the film roll and projects it onto a silver screen. Here, the light is awareness (knowingness), screen is consciousness and film role is mental modifications. When mental modifications are stilled (removed), the silver screen reflects pure awareness. This reflected pure awareness is the natural state of mind.

Its interesting Patanjali calls sleep as one of the five mental modifications. This modification obstructs the light from the screen and therefore there is no "knowingness" in deep sleep.

Patanjali also says that there is identification with the modifications of the mind.  This identification is the root cause or the error which leads to suffering.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2022, 12:57:25 PM by Middleway »
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Matthew

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2022, 02:08:48 PM »
There are deep similarities, as Buddhist teachings were part of the makeup/background at the time of Patanjali's formulations, (and possibly at the height of their philosophical influence).

I've not read these materials deeply yet, however I immediately wondered about the formulation of the first translation, as "Cessation of mind" is death, not yoga in my understanding.

What I've read so far agrees:

"1.2. Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind." ~ Wikipedia

Edit: this understanding fits more clearly with 1-5 & 1-12 in your list Middleway.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2022, 02:18:31 PM by Matthew »
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Middleway

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2022, 03:17:34 PM »
Agreed. The sutra should read “yoga is cessation of mind modifications”. This Osho loosely calls it state of no-mind (its natural state).
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Dhamma

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2022, 03:33:06 PM »
Hi there!

If you look at the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, you can see strong similarities to Buddhism (particularly Vajrayana).

From what I gather, pure consciousness in Advaita Vedanta is possibly what some Buddhists call a "direct experience with emptiness". 

Fascinating discussion.

Peace and enlightenment. :)
May we see the emptiness of all phenomena

Matthew

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2022, 04:03:29 PM »
Agreed. The sutra should read “yoga is cessation of mind modifications”. This Osho loosely calls it state of no-mind (its natural state).

Thanks - it may seem like I am practicing pedantism yet this is not the case. The essence of language/words is vital to meaningful dialogue and interaction.

If you look at the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, you can see strong similarities to Buddhism (particularly Vajrayana).

From what I gather, pure consciousness in Advaita Vedanta is possibly what some Buddhists call a "direct experience with emptiness". 
...

There are parallels in almost all understandings: it seems to me this ought be expected, as human experience is fundamentally universal.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Middleway

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2022, 08:35:52 PM »
Thanks - it may seem like I am practicing pedantism yet this is not the case. The essence of language/words is vital to meaningful dialogue and interaction.

Yes, language and words are important to convey the meaning. I found most of the translations fell short of explaining what Patanjali meant. Sanskrit is a language specifically meant for expounding deep philosophical thoughts and English for most part does not have equivalent words. So, I referred to a number of translations and also used my own experience / insights. I am fortunate my mother tongue is very close to Sanskrit and that helped a bit. That said, my understanding/ experience / insights are very limited. A work in progress.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Middleway

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2022, 08:47:08 PM »
Hi there!

If you look at the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, you can see strong similarities to Buddhism (particularly Vajrayana).

From what I gather, pure consciousness in Advaita Vedanta is possibly what some Buddhists call a "direct experience with emptiness". 

Fascinating discussion.

Peace and enlightenment. :)

Yes, Advaita vedanta comes close to Buddhist teachings. But there is one fundamental difference. While Advaita Vedanta focuses on “everything” or Brahman, Buddha focused on “nothing”. But everything and nothing are the same. As Heart sutra says form is emptiness and emptiness is form etc.

Again, in the motion picture example, the light that illuminates everything is awareness (emptiness) but it is both inside of and contains everything. Emptiness powers everything. Everything proves emptiness.

Sorry no easy way to explain it without the verbal gymnastics!

Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Matthew

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2022, 09:09:31 PM »
...
I am fortunate my mother tongue is very close to Sanskrit and that helped a bit. That said, my understanding/ experience / insights are very limited. A work in progress.

You are fortunate indeed: most translations come up short, hence why I recommend people try to read multiple translations by different translators - it makes lighter work to find a deeper understanding.

A book I've recommended previously is my go-to for clarification. It's by a guy called Rune Johansson and called, "The Psychology of Nirvana: A comparative study of the natural goal of Buddhism and the aims of Modern Western Psychology", published in 1969 by George Allen and Unwin Ltd.

The book is incredibly well researched, and looks at every use of all the major terms in the Buddhist Suttas, how they fit together, what they mean, the contexts in which they are used.  It's really helpful to delineate meanings.

Johansson was a bit of a polymath: he studied psychology and languages in Sweden, including Sanskrit and Pali, before further studies of Sanskrit at the university of Calcutta and Pali at the university of Ceylon before doing a doctorate that became that book. He went on to become the head of the Biotechnological Section of the Research Institute of the Swedish National Defence.

Quote
Sorry no easy way to explain it without the verbal gymnastics!

Haha .. yes, it's a bit of a minefield 🙂
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

dharma bum

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2022, 03:13:58 AM »
I think the infinite and nothing are more or less the same but I think the Advaitists keeps talking about the divine, which I find to be unnecessary and weird. I find Buddhism to be more minimalistic, which suits my nature.
Mostly ignorant

Middleway

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2022, 11:52:59 PM »
13. Of these two, abhyasa the inner practice is the effort for being firmly established in oneself.
15. The first state of vairagya, desirelessness – cessation from self-indulgence in the thirst for sensuous pleasures, with conscious effort.
17. Samprajnata samadhi is the samadhi that is accompanied by reasoning, reflection, bliss and a sense of pure being.
18. In asamprajnata samadhi there is a cessation of all mental activity, and the mind only retains unmanifested impressions.
19. Videhas and prakriti-layas attain asamprajnata samadhi because they ceased to identify themselves with their bodies in their previous life. They take rebirth because seeds of desire remained.
20. Others who attain asamprajnata samadhi attain through faith, effort, recollection.

Sutra 17 lists factors of samadhi (vitarka, vicara, ananda and asmita) which are similar to the factors of Jhana in Buddhism - Vitakka, Vicara, Piti - Sukha and Ekaggata.  Buddhist literature (that I read) leave out asmita - sense of pure being. Also, vitakka is translated as applied thought, vicara is translated as sustained thought etc. But patanjali clearly defines these later on in sutras 42 and 43.

I don't agree with the translation of sutra 19. Videha literally means bodiless. Prakritilaya means merging with nature. I think here Patanjali is saying that those who do not have sakkaya ditthi (self identity) and stream enterers can easily attain asamprajnata samadhi just by being. And in sutra 20, he says - for others like us (who still hold sakkaya ditthi) faith, energy/effort, samadhi, and wisdom form the path to realization. 
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Middleway

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Re: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2022, 12:01:04 AM »
A book I've recommended previously is my go-to for clarification. It's by a guy called Rune Johansson and called, "The Psychology of Nirvana: A comparative study of the natural goal of Buddhism and the aims of Modern Western Psychology", published in 1969 by George Allen and Unwin Ltd.

The book is incredibly well researched, and looks at every use of all the major terms in the Buddhist Suttas, how they fit together, what they mean, the contexts in which they are used.  It's really helpful to delineate meanings.

Johansson was a bit of a polymath: he studied psychology and languages in Sweden, including Sanskrit and Pali, before further studies of Sanskrit at the university of Calcutta and Pali at the university of Ceylon before doing a doctorate that became that book. He went on to become the head of the Biotechnological Section of the Research Institute of the Swedish National Defence.

Thanks for the book referral Matthew. It is available to download from the net.  :)
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

 

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