Book 1, Sutra 13: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“ABHYASA IS AN UNRELENTING DETERMINATION EXPRESSED IN MAXIMUM EFFORT IN ORDER TO REACH STABILITY IN A STATE FREE OF MENTAL FLUCTUATIONS.”

 

Patanjali further describes the first part of his two part formula (abhyasa and vairagya) here. Essentially he tells us in this sutra that, in order to reach the state free of the vrttis (mental fluctuations), we must apply ourselves without thoughts of defeat, failure or ever giving up, over whatever period of time the task requires. We must try and try again, over and over, slowly uprooting the tree of mental agitation. It is a big tree, so we must be prepared for a long and strenuous battle. Further on in his sutra, Patanjali will give us his recommended techniques, strategies and practices for this battle. But for now, he is warning us that a sustained and serious effort is required.

It is the nature of the ego to want shortcuts in life and unfortunately, it is the nature of the ego to offer those shortcuts to others. Patanjali is telling us, however, that the very idea of shortcuts prevents us from developing one of the two essential qualities that we need in order to reach the goal: unrelenting persistence of effort. To believe in shortcuts undermines our ability to maintain a prolonged struggle, our ability to weather innumerable momentary defeats and failures. Patanjali tells us that it is more important that we persist than we are successful. In fact, as he will tell us in his definition of vairagya, success is actually something we have to renounce on the yogic path but sustained effort cannot be given up until we reach the goal.

Satyananda Saraswathi says “Abhyasa means continued practice, you can not leave it at all. It becomes a part of your personality, a part of your individual nature.” He uses the word “sadhana” and connects it with abhyasa. Sadhana is the word commonly used to indicate a particular set of exercises meant for spiritual progression. So abhyasa is an executed dedication to some type of sadhana. The important difference between Patanjali’s and others’ use of abhyasa and sadhana is that it is here connected with stilling the mind. The yoga that Patanjali describes cannot be separated from stilling the mind and in this verse he tells us that we can only achieve this with repeated, prolonged effort.

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna teaches essentially the same thing about the necessity of repeated effort. In Chapter 6, Sutra 35:

“The Blessed Lord said:
No doubt, you are right, O mighty Arjuna, that the mind is hard to control, wavering and restless, but by repeated effort and dispassion it can be done.”

 

 

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About Kilaya

Kilaya is a yogi who is also well-versed in the sciences. He studied physics and mathematics at college, biology and molecular biology on his own, fluid dynamics while working as a professional plumber and has always had a passion for in-depth psychology. Now he adds what he has learned from his spiritual master, Amma, and from his life as a professional astrologer to his writings in order to make discoveries that may inspire others.

Posted on December 3, 2015, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Sounds terrible! Why would someone want to do that?

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    • According to Patanjali, efforts made to still the mind can lead to a realization of who and what we truly are (“our True Form” or our “True Self”). I understand how this is not for everyone. It is described as a potentially long and strenuous ordeal. Many people are quite content (for now) with the uncertainty of who they actually are. Others are not, and Patanjali speaks to them.

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      • What if the uncertainty of what you are is the true form of what we are? Is not that the ‘proposed end result’ of all the yogas and sutras and other names of activities?

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      • Interesting. I would agree and say that who we truly are is a lot about mystery and uncertainty. I believe Patanjali is referring to an experience of who we truly are that is so concrete and extensive that we are able to joyfully accept that degree of mystery and uncertainty, losing all fear and concern in the process. I think that this state of fearless, loving (and Self-knowing) freedom is that “proposed end result” of yoga.

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      • Hmm. That Is interesting. Yoga means Union. I imagine the ‘with what’ of the union is the issue between us here.

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      • …I think the knowing of ones True form or true self is yet still and intermediary stage. For all the effort, one who would have taken themselves so seriously might find in the end that it was all for naught, that is, for discovering all their effort could have been avoided. No? Is there a Vedic term for this type of useless yet necessary effort? Karma maybe?

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