Being a novice in yoga philosophy, I find the yoga sutras often difficult to assimilate. I lost track of how many times I opened the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and gave up after reading only a few of them. I admit it: I never made it through the 196 sutras. Whoever the author of the commentary. Whatever the language (I also tried French and Italian).
I’m far from Guruji’s recommendation to read at least 10 commentaries of the yoga sutras…
However, I have never completely capitulated and I’m always in search of new inspiration to keep me motivated.
It’s with this mindset that last week I attended a lecture given by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, a Sanskrit scholar and spiritual teacher, in the lineage of the Himalayan Masters. He just released a new book “the Secret of the Yoga Sutra”, a commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. To be more precise, it covers only the first chapter (samadhi pada/51 sutras). His commentary follows Vyasa’s (no conflicting opinions here) and elaborates on the teachings from his two main gurus: Swami Sadananda and Swami Rama.
Pandit Tigunait stayed pretty broad during his presentation. His purpose was not to elaborate on specific sutras but on the contrary, to stress the importance of the yoga sutras in general (he even used the word “cruciality”), their universality, and most of all, the importance of practice.
“The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is a practice-orientated book”, he said. “My teachers made sure I understood that the Yoga Sutra is more than a book about Yoga philosophy, psychology, ethics, and metaphysics….”
In this regard, he told us how his gurus taught him. First, he learned the first sutras up to sutra 1.36. Then he had to practice – for a long, long time – a method of meditation set forth in sutra 1.36 (more details in his book). That practice ultimately led him to experience a state of fulfilment and ultimate freedom. Only then did his teachers teach him the rest of the sutras.
“This traditional style of learning allowed me to reaffirm for myself what the sages have always known – experience is the best teacher and experience comes from practice”.
Here might be the reason why I’m struggling so much with the sutras: some of them seem so far away from my personal experience (especially the ones about samadhi or the so-called super powers ;-)… I simply can’t seem to relate to them.
I’m not saying that the way Pandit Tigunait was taught would be the right one for me or for you. (Other time/place/circumstances). Nor am I saying that we have to experience what’s described in sutra 1.36 to be able to benefit from Patanjali’s teachings.
We have to find the practice that best suits us. But we have to practice in some way.
If you would have asked me what I thought about the lecture a week ago, I would have probably answered: nothing. I had a hard time understanding it. The acoustics in the room were bad (fan, traffic noise, trains…). I was even bored at some point.
But the more I think about it, the more I can see the value of it. And it has precisely something to do with PRACTICE.
The process of writing this post was actually kind of painful. Lots of old patterns came back. Lots of negative feelings and images of myself. Lots of samskaras. I just didn’t want to write this post anymore. I wanted to avoid the uncomfortable feelings coming along with it. But then I realized that in a way, it was the right practice. For me. Right now.
So, in the end, it was a good idea to attend that lecture. 😉
PS: I also bought the book (haven’t read it yet!). If somebody would like to borrow it, let me know.