Yoga Sutra 1.1: atha yoganusasanam
Atha = now, yoga = yoga, anusasanam = teachings
'Now the teachings of yoga [are presented].'(1)
In the first sutra, Patañjali is introducing the wisdom he is ready to systemise and depart about yoga. He is introducing that the discussion is now beginning and that yoga is the subject matter. He does so in order to differentiate this text from any other texts that have been created about this topic. This is evident in him using ‘now’ as the first word. ‘Atha’ holds sacred meaning and helps to separate these teachings from any other interpretations.
The second word ‘yoga’ describes the system he has formed for the student to follow to succeed in reaching Samadhi (enlightenment). Derived from ‘yuj’, meaning to ‘yoke’ or ‘unite’, thus inferring that we are now to unite with the true teachings. Yoking is also to relevant to yoking the mind to focus on something without distraction. ‘The teachings of Yoga are an attempt to encapsulate those truths as best as possible through the medium of words and concepts’.(2)
‘Now’, we get on with the ‘true’ yoga!
Yoga Sutra 1.2: yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah
Yogah = yoga, citta = mind, vrtti = fluctuation/state, nirodhah = restraint/control
'Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of mind.'
Here Patañjali gives Yoga a very precise definition. Previously Yoga had been depicted as a practices of varying disciplines and mind control. But he is now providing the definition that Yoga means to stabilise the vicissitudes of the mind. Our Sankhya (ultimate reality) is made up of Prakrti (material of the physical universe) and Purusa (pure awareness; the soul). Citta is composed of three parts: buddhi (intelligence), ahankara (ego) and manas (mind). Buddhi is the gateway to liberation; ahankara relates to awareness and identity of the self; manas concerns thought and sensory information. When the 3 aspects of the mind are mastered then the soul can be liberated.
Yoga Sutra 1.3: tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam
Tada = then, at that point; drastuh = of the seer/soul; svarupe = in its own real essential nature; avasthanam = abiding, remaining, being absorbed in
'When that is accomplished, the seer abides in its own true nature.'
Patañjali uses the term ‘seer’ (drastuh) instead of ‘truth’ (atman) as a metaphor for consciousness and awareness. In sutra 1.2 he states that thought can be stopped through the practice of Yoga. Here in verse 1.3, Patañjali explains the reasoning behind controlling the mind. Cessation of the mind - of thought, knowledge and consciousness - frees the soul to exist in its true nature and to reach pure consciousness (Samadhi; self realization) through detachment of the mind and external world.
By Alyssa McLeod
(1) Edwin F. Bryant, 2009. The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary. 1 Edition.
(2) Edwin F. Bryant, 2009. The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary. 1 Edition.
Moksha Academy of Yoga, 2014, Introduction to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, p.1-10
Edwin F. Bryant, 2009. The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary. 1 Edition. North Point Press.