Friday, 21 December 2012

Patañjali's yogasūtras 1:1-4

Long on the 'to do' list, but never attempted, I'd like to thank @waynemcevilly for making me believe that I could translate Patañjali's yogasūtras. This introductory post needs to  be a teeny  bit long, so bear with me. Subsequent posts will be more compact.

A few provisos before we proceed:

a) This is primarily a linguistic exercise, not a philosophical one. My intention is merely to remove the language barrier, and let you draw your own conclusions. Find your own inspiration.

b)  I'll use some visuals and quote certain commentaries when it makes it easier for me to explain what I understand of the sūtras. Zero intervention is impossible, but I'll keep it to the minimum.  

cSince a lot of you are learning Sanskrit, I will provide as much grammatical detail as possible e.g. verb class, case, person, number, mood, tense, derivation, analysis of compounds, prefixes, suffixes and so on.

d) These are sūtras, not prose or verses, so anything superfluous is left out. Very often we have to supply connecting words, esp. verbs. 

e) You can listen to the yogasūtras here:

And now, Patañjali's Yogasūtras:

अथ योगानुशासनम् {1:1}
(अथ योगस्य अनुशासनम्) 
Now then, the instruction [of] Yoga

अथ - now, then; after this; (indeclinable)
योगः meditation, discipline, endeavour, self-concentration masc., noun from yuj (7P) to yoke, harness, to make ready, to lead towards
अनुशासनम् - direction, instruction, discipline -  nom., neuter noun from anu śās (2P)- to instruct, to rule 

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः {1:2}
योगः चित्त+वृत्ति निरोधः 
(योगः चित्तस्य वृत्तयः निरोधः [अस्ति])
Yoga is the inhibition of the activity [modification] of the mind

चित्त - mind, thinking; neuter noun
वृत्ति - activity, modification, use; fem noun
निरोधः - stoppage, blockage; masc. noun from ni rudh (7P) to obstruct

But why would anyone want to stop modification of, or activity in the mind? Well, think of it this way - the mind is constantly bombarded with thoughts  which I imagine like this:

And when the mind is filled with thoughts, I imagine it look like this, only the spots are whirling rapidly. (The net result will be discussed in sūtra 1:4):

तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपेSवस्थानम्  {1:3}
तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपे अवस्थानम्   
Then [when the activity of the mind is stopped] the seer* dwells in his own form

तदा - then; indeclinable correlative
द्रष्टुः - the seer*
स्वरूपे - in [his] own form; locative singular of स्वरूप neuter noun - appearance, character
अवस्थानम् - dwelling, situation, residence; nom., neuter noun from ava sthā (Supply 'is' अस्ति) 

*the seer refers to  puruṣa, the spiritual element in Sāmkhya ontology, which underpins Yoga. I've dealt with it briefly in para 6 here:

वृत्तिसारूप्यमितरत्र {1:4}
वृत्ति सारुप्यम् इतरत्र  
वृत्त्याः पुरुषस्य सारुप्यम् इतरत्र
As a result of activity [in the mind] [the] identity [of the seer] is elsewhere

वृत्ति activity, modification, use; fem noun
सारुप्यम् - likeness, identity of appearance; neuter noun
इतरत्र  - elsewhere; indeclinable.

The idea simply is that you train your mind to still itself, and void itself of all thoughts. That way, the spiritual element (the seer*) who is entangled in the material world, manages to detach itself and rest in its own form. You would take your mind from this:

To this:

To this:

Bringing us to {1:3}  तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपे अवस्थानम् Then the seer* dwells in his own form.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing this work, Rohini.
The exposition is so clear. There is a lucidity.
And I appreciate the welcoming voice to those who may not have chosen to acquire a knowledge of Sanskrit at this point but who nonetheless are magnetized by the content of the texts.
It occurs to me also that it might be of assurance to such people that Gandhi himself knew very little Sanskrit. (See his autobiograrphy) -
I love the beauty of Sutra 1:3