Common steps and sub-activities

Patanjali sutras

The following extracts from the sutras provide some key pointers on contemplation and detachment.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

What we need is the strength of steel, but with steel's flexibility – not like crude iron, which is very strong and hard but breaks.  The body must be so supple it can bend any way you want it to.  Such a body will always be healthy and tension free.  The moment we sit down for a meditation in such a body we forget it.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

In order to achieve such a meditative pose, we may practice many preliminary cultural poses.  This is why Hatha Yoga was created.  People trying to sit quietly found they couldn't.  They encountered pain, stiffness, bile, gas etc and thought “What is the reason for these things and how can we get rid of them?”

They realised it was due to toxins from eating the wrong foods at the wrong times and in the wrong quantities.  These people pondered “What is good food that won't leave toxins?  What should the diet be?  When is the proper time to eat?”

They formed the yogic diet free of meat, fish, eggs stimulants and excessive use of spices.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

You will notice that you are hardly breathing.  That is why after deep thinking, you sigh heavily or take a deep breath.  This proves that when the mind is concentrated, and made still, the breath stops.  That is called kevala kumbhaka, or the automatic retention of breath without your effort.  People who go  into deep meditation will discover this.

'Toxin removal' – according to yogic thought, it is possible to remove the toxins in your system by squeezing them out during exercise!  I must admit that this really appealed to me – the idea that you can somehow squeeze your body like a sponge and all the nasty stuff will be extruded via the perspiration, the poo and wee.  I've no idea whether this actually works, but it is rather fun............

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

The next problem was what to do with the toxins already inside the body.  They concluded that these could be gotten rid of by squeezing the body in all different directions.  For example

  • Paschimothanasana -  they found the way to cleanse the liver, spleen and intestines was by doing the forward bending pose which is bending forward and crushing the stomach a bit.
  • Yoga mudra – if this was not enough, they developed yoga mudra in order to crush it more.
  • Mayurasana  - or the peacock pose is used if there are still toxins present.
  • Uddyana bandha and nauli – the stomach lift and stomach churning are used to finally remove any remaining toxins.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Make others happy and you will be the happiest person.  By seeing others happy, you can't be unhappy.  But by making everybody unhappy, you can never be happy yourself.  So at least for your happiness, bring happiness to others.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

The pure selfless desire has no expectation whatsoever, so it knows no disappointment no matter what the result.  But though it expects nothing, it has its own reward.  When you make someone happy, you see his happy face and feel happy yourself.  If you have really experienced the joy of just giving something for the sake of giving, you will wait greedily for opportunities to get that joy again and again.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

If you are unsettled and anxious to get the result, you are already disturbed; nothing done with that disturbed mind will have quality.  So, it is not only how long you practice, but with what patience, what earnestness and what quality also.

Yama and niyama mean abstinence and observances.  They have in some books come to take on characteristics which were never intended in the original teachings – a form of self indulgent asceticism or mortification that apparently shows you to be a 'good' person.  Neither have this meaning.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

The five points of yama together with the five points of niyama remind us of the Ten commandments of the Christian and Jewish faiths, as well as of the ten virtues of Buddhism.  In fact, there is no religion without these moral or ethical codes.  All spiritual life should be based on these things.  They are the foundation stones.

I rather like the short descriptions given by Patanjali on which I suspect the other approaches were based anyway, so here are the sutras:

Ahimsa – do not cause pain to anything whether this is a person or animal.  DO NOT HURT.  And in this respect do not hurt physically nor hurt verbally.  If you hurt no one, no one will generally want to hurt you and you can lose fear, concerns and worries.  If they still want to hurt you, ignore them.  As Jesus would say 'turn the other cheek'.  Conscience is a remarkable thing, it affects even the apparently most hardened person eventually and hurts them, things have a habit of rebounding on the perpetrator.  A selfless person whose life is dedicated to not hurting is usually free of fear and worry.

Satya – tell the truth.  If you lie you have to remember the lie, the truth requires no remembering, so you are free of the worry of the need to remember.  Lies usually hurt someone, so if you lie, you break the first rule.

Asteya -  non stealing.  If you take something from someone or something you hurt them.  If they have worked hard to obtain this thing, or have grown to care about it then by stealing it from them you have hurt them.  So you break the first rule – Don't hurt.  This applies to all forms of theft – the theft of a person's wife or husband, their possessions, their job, their self respect, their peace of mind.  If you can trace a line of action -  a flow of activity  - that leads to hurt, you have broken the first law.

Brahmacharya – continence or loyalty or trustworthiness.  Not hurting by one's actions, saying one thing and doing another, first doing one thing and then changing your mind and doing something else thus hurting someone.  Being selfless by being loyal.

Aparigraha – contentment in what you have , lack of greed, non hoarding, not accumulating wealth for the sake of it or beyond your capacity to use it, sharing what you have in a selfless way, not expecting free gifts just because someone happens to have worked harder and gained more money [so the receipt of charity and the receipt of government benefit  is not a virtue].  If you take more than you need you are hurting the planet's resources and those you are taking it from, if you accept charity or handouts and give nothing and do nothing when you are in reality perfectly capable of contributing, you are actually hurting those who pay taxes [which are not voluntary] or those who have a greater need – a real need for temporary help.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Sutra 36
Concentrate on the supreme ever blissful Light within.