Book 1, Sutra 37: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“OR THE MIND CAN BE STEADIED BY FOCUSING ON SOMEONE WHO IS ALREADY FREE FROM ALL DESIRES.”
Patanjali listed the obstacles that can create distraction in the mind of the yogic practitioner in sutras 30-31. In sutra 32 he recommended that we apply a single antidote to any obstacle that might arise. Sutras 33-39 list examples of such antidote practices.
There are other Hindu scriptures that extol the benefits of being around a realized soul. The Buddha taught that there is no greater blessing in the world than to have elevated or enlightened friends. But this sutra is interesting in that it is suggesting a mental focus rather than a physical proximity to a “saint” or holy person.
The benefits of mentally focusing on a saint and physically being near one can be hard to explain. They seem to be magical and/or mystical. Many people within the worldwide yoga community have experienced such blessings. The good news that Patanjali is sharing here, however, is that we don’t need to find such a person and get close to them. We can simply focus our minds on one of them in order to receive a stilling/calming effect.
What does it mean to focus our mind on a saint? I suggest it could be described as a meditative obsession. In other words, one might need to read about the life of such a person, hear recordings of such a person and maybe even get a picture of such a person to look at. Of course, meeting such a person directly would also be helpful. These might be tools for building an intense mental fixation or focus on the saint. Patanjali says that such a focus can bring us instantaneous benefits when faced with an obstacle that threatens to distract us from yoga. When we feel lust or depression coming on we can instantly think of “our” saint, picturing him or her in our mind, and receive a flood of cooling, calming energy pouring over us.