In the following short video course, we will explore the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in their core essence. This consists of the first sixteen of its nearly two hundred Sutras, which provide the foundation for the entire text. If you know and understand these sixteen Sutras, you will understand the meaning and goal of the Yoga Sutras overall.
An in-depth examination of the first sixteen Sutras is necessary for illuminating all the subsequent Sutras. These sixteen explain what Yoga is, its goal (Kaivalya), its view of the workings of the mind (chitta) and how to transcend these to the state of Self-realization, the meaning of Samadhi, Nirodha, Purusha and what the practice of Yoga (abhyasa) consists of, notably relative to discrimination (Viveka) and detachment (Vairagya).
Yet we have tried to present this essence of the Yoga Sutras in clear and relevant terms today, so that the contemporary reader, wishing to view Yoga at a deeper level can access to it in an authentic manner.
A Deeper Examination of Yoga Sutras
The Yoga Sutras of the Rishi Patanjali remains one of the most important texts on Yoga, widely translated, studied and commented upon, and undergoing a new examination in the global Yoga movement. Yet it also remains one of the most misinterpreted. There are several reasons for this, starting with that the text consists of short aphorisms which require a commentary to make sense of.
Patanjali teaches the tradition of Yoga. This existed long before him in Vedic texts from the Rigveda consisting of the mantras of the Rishis, to the Bhagavad Gita of Sri Krishna, who is said to be the Lord of Yoga, Yogeshvara, and the Avatar of Yoga, Yogavatara. Yet Patanjali doesn’t explain this antecedent Yoga tradition in detail, as such a short Sutra work would not have the scope to do so.
In addition, those who comment on the Sutras today may not know the implications of its Sanskrit terms according to their traditional usage. The terms used in Yoga Sutras have a long history and application and are not unique to the text.
Most interpretations of Yoga Sutras today center on asana and related practices, which are important, but the definition of Yoga in the Sutras is Samadhi as Self-realization beyond body and mind. Yet the meaning of Samadhi and its experience is seldom examined in depth. We try to do that in our approach here.
Yoga as a Science of Consciousness
My interpretation is based upon a fifty year long study of Vedic, Yogic and Vedantic texts in the original Sanskrit from the Rigveda, Upanishads, Gita and Mahabharata, to the Yoga Vasishtha, and the related schools of Vedanta and Samkhya. It reflects my connections with great modern Yoga-Vedanta gurus and lineages as those of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni, Sadguru Sivananda Murty, Sri Anandamayi Ma, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Anirvan, and Swami Veda Bharati.
In our study, we approach Yoga as a science of Consciousness rooted in calming the mind, an inner psychology that is relevant to all. As such, this yogic science of Consciousness provides the inner dimension to complement the outer dimension of modern science, so we can understand the universe not only outside of ourselves but also within ourselves. Yoga leads us to the Atman or Purusha, the inner Self of the entire universe, which is our true nature and the Divine essence of all.
May you discover your own true essence in the essence of the Yoga Sutras!
The American Institute of Vedic Studies is an online educational center providing a broad range of courses, resources and publications for an international audience. It focuses on Vedic knowledge systems of Ayurveda, Yoga-Vedanta and Vedic astrology, along with the background system of Hinduism or ‘Sanatana Dharma’. It emphasizes bringing together the greater Yoga tradition in an integral manner with regard to its Vedic origins.
The Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata are not just religious books but the very history, inspiration and wisdom of India as Bharat. One cannot study or know India and its unique dharmic civilization without them.