In the first sūtra in Sadhana Pādaḥ, Maharṣi Patañjali gives us the 3-step method to realizing the goal of Kriya Yoga-the yoga of purification.
महर्षि पतञ्जलि योग सूत्र ।२।
Maharṣi Patañjali Yoga Sūtra |2|
तपः स्वाध्यायेश्वर प्रणिधानानि क्रिया योगः॥१॥
tapaḥ svādhyāyeśvara praṇidhānāni kriyā yogaḥ ||1||
“With intensity of spiritual practice, sacred study, and devotion; here lies the work to get back to a state of equilibrium, purity, and brightness.” -Translation by śrī Sharon Gannon
Tapaḥ-This word is often translated as heat.
This sūtra is the first in the Pāda entitled Sadhana (conscious spiritual practice) and follows the first book entitled, Samādhi (where Master Patanjali expounds on the goal of yoga). It therefore stands to reason that in this context he’s referring to the spiritual practices of Yoga.
He goes on to describe how they should be pursued with intensity. Think of gold. The more the gold is heated, the higher the temperature, the more impurities are burned out. We can usually find the time to sleep a little later, or not twist deeper into ardha matsyendrāsana (seated spinal twist). This is a mental exercise. We generally chase after things which bring us pleasure while we shy away from those which may seem challenging. By coming to class AND staying focused, giving our full attention to the work at hand, we purify the mind. By accepting things which may cause us discomfort, we may actually be happy to receive this pain knowing the purification it will bring. This cannot be practiced in the meditation rooms, only in our daily lives. We should always look for ways to expand our ability to evolve. We should be wary of becoming stuck in a routine which may lead us to moving on autopilot. Our asana sequence, for example, may become rote execution, taking the “consciousness” aspect out of it. We may seek classes which don’t challenge us because we don’t want to feel like we can’t “do” a posture. We may resist giving a few dollars to someone less fortunate because we’re scared to make eye contact. We may never try a delicious vegan Biscuits and Gravy (One of my recipes: www.bahamayogi.com/Recipes.html) recipe because we mistakenly think “I could never go Vegan”.
Intensity is relative. For example, to someone who is proficient at salamba śīrṣāsana (supported headstand), going through the preparations of dolphining, half headstand, balancing with knees into chest, and with knees raised may be very intense, both mentally and physically. My Teacher śrī David Life suggests that if we are a fiery personality, one who needs movement, then we should take a slow class and vice versa.
What could prevent us from this intensity? Fear. A friend of mine has a great definition for this:
F alse E vidence A ppearing R eal
We think we’re not capable. That somehow we may be less than Divine. Maharṣi Patañjali says “I thought you might say that, here’s what you can do…..”
svādyāya – Study of the Self/spiritual books
Anything that will elevate your mind and remind you of your true Self should be studied, absorbed, and then PRACTICED. We cannot just become walking libraries. Remember, we’re in the book called Sadhana-PRACTICE. We can study Yoga Sūtra, Bhagavad Gītā, Bible, Koran, or any uplifting scripture. We’ll find that these sources are essentially the same in their guiding words. They never become old. A true scriptural source lasts forever, it is timeless because the Self is timeless. We must be wary of “New and Improved” Yoga, or of others who say “That doesn’t apply anymore.” We must go to the source of the scripture. In śrī Swami Satchidananda’s words “If I say every day you must tell 10 lies in the name of Yoga and you can find no scriptural source to back that up, it should be suspect.”
Furthermore, if it is a true scriptural source many other sources of the world must agree. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is a good example of this. Also of how we can change it to suit us, “Thou shalt not kill HUMANS, animals okay, just not humans, except of course if they kill someone first, and then also maybe if they threaten to kill you, or someone you love, or if they have a country that has more oil than you, or maybe have weapons of mass destruction, and if they happen to be around an area we think is a hideout for bad guys…” Scriptures and teachers may present information, but is up to us to decide how to practice and apply it. We should then sit in meditation DAILY to observe the effects of these practices on our minds. We may find the spiritual path is not an easy one, that the truth may be inconvenient yet we will find an easeful, peacefulness in it.
īśvara praṇidhānāni-offer with devotion to God
Maharṣi Patañjali reminds us, as he has throughout the first book, Devote everything to God. He uses the term īśvara. This translates as Supreme Being, God in personal form. He doesn’t say Jesus, Mohammed, śiva, or Kṛṣṇa. Yoga has been around for thousands of years. There are no doctrines in Yoga which conflict with the beliefs of others. So Maharṣi Patañjali tells us to offer the intensity of our practice towards realizing the Divine within ourselves. He says offer all your efforts to God, whoever you believe Him/Her to be. This is necessary because he knows our tendencies to become attached to our actions. As my Teacher and Co-Founder of the Jivamukti Yoga method David Life says in Jivamukti Yoga Practices for Liberating Body and Soul :We recommend this dedication because asana practice is very powerful. It can stir up a lot of energy, and the student may wonder, “What do I do with this energy I feel pulsing through my body?” A teacher who is teaching Yoga only as an exercise- not as a spiritual, psychological, and physical system of purification- responds “I don’t know , do what you want with it,” might as well take the student to the edge of an abyss and say “Go ahead, jump.”
Students who are not taught to dedicate the energy released by an asana practice to God tend to do one of two things. They may let all that power manifest in their bodies and personalities and become highly charged and very charismatic. If you look at their faces, however, you may see rage, as well as anger, jealousy , and selfishness. These are emotions that were stirred up by the practice but were never turned over to God. Or, the students may fall to pieces, destroyed emotionally and physically by the practice. These students will probably lose interest in Yoga. Neither of these outcomes will occur if you apply Maharṣi Patañjali’s sound advice: Give it to God. Devote all effort to God Realization.
Maharṣi Patañjali’s eight-limbed system is predominantly an effortful path, but the last two limbs-Dhyāna (meditation) and Samādhi (enlightenment)-cannot be attained through effort. They are the result of Grace. Yet it is only through intense effort that we can prepare ourselves to receive such grace.
I humbly bow at the lotus feet of my great teachers.
ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः
om śānti śānti śāntiḥ