Book 1, Sutra 28: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“REPEATING GOD’S NAME LEADS TO ABSORPTION INTO ITS MEANING.”
My guru often repeats a simple instruction for bhakti yogis, “Fake it until you make it.” This means that when cultivating love or devotion towards the Divine, the simple act of worship creates deeper emotions to support it. Patanjali says something similar in this sutra. By repeating God’s name (which is some expression of His Infinite Greatness and Goodness) we will automatically develop knowledge and certainty concerning its truth. In other words, we will come to know God’s greatness with certainty if we repeatedly proclaim that greatness by chanting His name (which must contain the idea of that greatness).
Most of the translations of this sutra focus on the special mystical effect of repeating “OM” and meditating on its meaning. Within the yogic tradition that may be valid and effective but I believe it misses the more elevated knowledge that Patanjali is imparting here. Of course, if you read Patanjali expecting an advaita vendanta (more abstract/philosophical) orientation you may overlook the deep bhakti (religious) core of these few sutras. An example is what Satyananda Saraswati writes for this sutra: “Purusha . . . means a particular manifestation of consciousness. The supreme purusha is Ishwara. He is not in the realm of manifestation but in the realm of the unmanifested state of things. That is called “parabrahman,” the transcendental being.” This isn’t very strong support for cultivating religious sentiment towards a personally relatable God.
But Satyananda Saraswati is in that second category that I mentioned in the commentary to the earlier sutra; that is, he explains that the religious sentiment that Patanjali describes here is an option for yogis that can’t pursue the more abstract, philosophical Brahman or True Self. He writes that this religious sentiment is a “complete departure from the Samkhya philosophy because the Samkhya system does not believe in any supreme being. It believes that the highest knowledge can be achieved only by proper understanding. . . .Patanjali must have realized that this is only possible for a few highly developed persons, so he evolved this sadhana of the mantra/japa of ‘AUM.’” Unfortunately, he doesn’t cite any evidence for this assumption about Patanjali’s feelings towards religious devotion. In my opinion, Patanjali posits religious devotion as an equal path to a more philosophical or abstract yoga. And this, again, shows that the Yoga Sutra is in agreement with Krishna’s teachings within the Bhagavad Gita, wherein all the different branches of yoga (jnana, bhakti, raja and karma) are taught as equally dependable to deliver liberation.
Posted on January 27, 2016, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and tagged advaita vedanta vs. bhakti yoga, bhakti yoga, Divine Praise, God, japa, mantra, OM, religion. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.