Book 1, Sutra 4:Patanjali Yoga Sutra
“OUTSIDE OF YOGA, THE SEER IS CAUGHT UP AND IDENTIFIED WITH FLUCTUATING THOUGHTS AND PERCEPTIONS.”
This verse tells us that normal life (with a non-Yogic mind) involves both deception and error. Patanjali implies here in this sutra that the normal way of seeing and living is deceived and limited. Normal experiences have “caught us” in their net of illusion and led us to the very limited life of identification with what is continually changing. This is what is called “Maya” or “samsara” and it implies that normal life is both a trap that most of us are ensnared in and also a handicap.
In the previous sutra, Patanjali told us about Yoga and how it is a completely different way of living life that is grounded, stable and content (and also full of knowledge of who we truly are, “our essential nature”). Now, in this sutra, Patanjali describes life outside of Yoga to be like being in jail; a jail based in the action of identifying with what comes and goes in life.
Patanjali has also already told us that getting free of this trap and this limitation involves disconnecting the mind from what changes and then grabbing onto the truth that automatically surfaces once the mind has become still. So our tendency to grab onto thoughts and perceptions is not in itself bad, according to Patanjali, it is just that we are grabbing onto the wrong things. We grab onto what changes, what disappoints, what disappears, what is violent instead of grabbing onto the unchanging, eternal Truth. Of course, we can’t see that Truth until we engage in Yoga. Yoga stills the mind which then allows us to see some alternative thing to grab onto.