The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali……in a nutshell.

The yoga sutras of Patanjali are a rich and contemplative arrangement of 196 sutras (aphorism) that challenge the reader to consider his/her own consciousness and understanding of what makes up reality.

 

I’m no expert on the Yoga Sutras but am drawn with intrigue towards the teachings as they are open to interpretation.  I’ve decided to share my reflections on the sutras in a very accessible and open presentation.  I hope everyone becomes curious to discuss and comment on what these sutra bring up in their understanding and experience.

 

Was Patanjali a magical sage? A group of philosophers? Half snake have man (really!)? Nobody really knows but the sutras are possibly as old as 400 CE (wiki). I’ve read that philosophers and authors in those times were rewarded and celebrated for removing even one syllable.  So the sutras are dense with meaning.  Sutras were traditionally chanted. A lot!  In order for the student to memorize each one and meditate upon their meaning.  As I have just began to delve into the yoga sutras of Patanjali I’m sure my understanding will change over time as I consider the teachings. I hope you will join my journey!

 

Patanjali’s yoga sutras make up the foundation of modern yoga practice and include the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga which include; ethics (relations to others or yama), relations to oneself, posture (asana), freedom of breath (pranayama), freedom of the senses, focus, contemplation, and integration (the last 3 make up meditative practices).  The sutras also touch on the patterned tensions of conscious and unconscious life with a goal of possibly unbinding oneself from these happenings.  As there are many translations there comes many understandings of what Patanjali was recommending.  There is no central authority on what the sutras really mean as they are basically void of an author.  I believe the meaning of each sutra is relative to the reader and the culture that she/he is part of.  How can we let ancient teachings benefit our modern lives?

 

This will be a long journey dissecting each sutra (potentially skipping a few).  The beauty of philosophy is the teachings are open to contemplate.  The practices there to experience.  It is up to us to give them meaning.

Satya – The Yama of Truthfulness

Sean O'Leary

Satya is the practice being truthful and honest in our thought, speech and action.  On the surface this yama may seem straightforward but in reality it requires a constant observance and understanding of the changing nature of our relationships and the world.

The definition of truth is “the true or actual state of a matter” or “conformity with fact or reality”.  Interestingly if matter and reality are in constant state of fluctuation and change truth will be relative to each circumstance and situation.  So to grasp at the idea of truth or honesty our yoga must be a spiritual practice that is rooted in a constant exploration of the present. 

I love the idea of a practice that doesn’t state right or wrong or a single path but gives an idea that is relative to the individual, community, culture and causation of our surroundings.  Every person has an opinion and values developed throughout life.  Satya challenges us to investigate our motives. In his book Yoga for a World out of Balance Michael Stone points out the connection between person and society

“From the time of our birth, we each respond not only in a personal sense to the precariousness of our human condition, but we are also the inheritors of delusive social institutions and shared meanings about the world.  The same basic patterns we find in our minds and bodies are also found in the structure and function of our institutions.”

I like how Michael Stone challenges the reader to consider how contemporary society can warp our worldviews and potentially corrupt us into living untruthful lives.   The social and economic pressures of modern life make us think that success, financial gain and consumerism is equivalent to life satisfaction but this is ultimately a lie.  At our deepest core we yearn for love, community and compassion.   Yoga practice, meditation, pranayama, and asana all bring us closer to our true needs rather than our conditioned desires.  The yama satya prompts us to investigate our desires and how we can live aligned with our highest truth.

What does living honestly mean to you?