Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Unadorned Thread - Sutras 1.1 - 1.4 - What's it all about Patanjali?

Question: Read the translations and commentaries for Sutras I.1 – I.4 and answer the following
- What is your understanding of the meaning and purpose of the first four Sutras?
- Did this assignment confirm or change ideas and beliefs held previously?
- Which commentary or commentaries did you find most enlightening and helpful?

My first encounter with the Yoga Sutras was in a two weekend course with Srivatsa Ramaswami at LMU in the Yoga Philosophy Department. During the course we chanted through the Yoga Sutras in Sanskrit.  We didn't translate anything. We just chanted and worked on the pronunciation.  I love that I had that experience of chanting the Sutras before knowing what they meant or what I think they mean because it showed me how the sound and vibrations of the Sutras is so paramount. Experiencing the Sutras as they are in Sanskrit is an extremely powerful experience.  Although I appreciate very much the ideas of the the Unadorned Thread (putting different translations next to each other) for me the Sutras are not the Sutras until they are chanted in their language.  When doing this assignment I chanted the Sanskrit before reading the individual Sutra to put me into the experience.

The Sutra translation I relate to the most is not in the book The Unadorned Thread it is in the The Secret Power of Yoga.  I want to start there because that's what I relate to the most. Nischala Joy Devi is my teacher and I respect her so much and have learned so much from her I can't begin to write about the Sutras without mentioning her translations/interpretations.

Here is her take on Yoga Sutras 1.1-1.4

With humility (an open heart and mind), we embrace the sacred study of yoga.
Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart
United in the heart, consciousness is steadies, then we abide in our true nature-joy
At other times, we identify with the rays of consciousness, which fluctuate and encourage our perceived suffering

Why do I relate to it?  There is not gender, the language is poetic and it is heart centered.


1) GENDER NEUTRAL (I am a girl - when you use all masculine pronouns you lock me out of the experience)
2) POSITIVE - I don't like restrictive words, I was taught the mind doesn't read NOT
3) POETIC - beautiful wording is just plain beautiful
4) EMOTION - I want to feel the Sutra in my heart and gut.  I don't only live in the mind.

In my opinion, the first four Sutras are an the introduction to the text and going to happen in it.

1.1) There is this thing called Yoga and we are going to study it RIGHT NOW! BUCKLE UP!
1.2) This is a definition of Yoga . . . cessation, stilling of mind/heart - heart/mind, blah, blah, blah
1.3) When we are in the Yogic State we are blissful, joyful and experience our true nature
1.4) When we leave the yogic state we suffer

Looking into The Unadorned Thread

I enjoy translations here by Arya, Jnaneshvara, and Shearer

"Now, at this point of transition from previous involvements, teaching (or imparting) the discipline of yoga (begins)."

- I appreciate the idea that we are in a point of transition from previous involvements.  Arya is setting up a context. You were doing something before, you will do something after, but right NOW the teaching of the disciple of yoga begins.
- I relate to yoga as a discipline. I like that the word "discipline" is there right from the start to tell everyone something serious is about to happen and you need to be disciplined to participate.

"Now, after having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study and practice of Yoga begins."

- I again enjoy the idea of using Now to show we are in an exact moment.
- I am intrigued that you have to have done prior preparation before - life and other practices
- I like that Yoga has a capital Y
- I believe strongly in the idea that yoga is both a study and a practice

"And now the teaching on yoga begins"

- I appreciate the simple language
- The now is still there which I relate to.
- It's easy to grasp what the translator is saying

I am drawn to the translations by Arya Jnaeshvara, Prabhavananda, and Shearer

"Yoga is the cessation of the waves (arising in) (or) activities of the mind-stuff

- I like that he uses a lot of parantheses.  It means to me that he is open to many possibilities.  The parantheses makes it feel less dogmatic. It is almost as if he is admitting I am a translator and anything I say it open to interpretation
- The water imagery in the waves it's poetic

"Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.

- It's not poetic.  It is in fact a little awkward.  But I like how all encompassing it is.
- I am not so crazy about the word control because it seems very patriarchal

"Yoga is the control of thought-waves in the mind"

- Again, I don't like the word control but I like the idea and imagery of the thought-waves in the mind
- I like that it is simple to read because these our Sutras not discourses.  And Sutras are supposed to be short.

"Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence"

- I am much more comfortable with the word settling over control
- I like the simplicity of the translation it reads like a haiku
- The translation is poetic yet accessible


My favorites here are Jnaneshvara and Shearer.  Many of the translations like Satchidananda, Taimni, Arya and Bailey use the masculine words here like "his" own true nature, "himself", which I don't relate to because I am not a man.

"Then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-Realization"

- I like that it is gender neutral although it feels a little clunky
- I like the idea of Self-Realization in the definition

"When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbound consciousness."

- I am over the top in love with this translation
- It's gender neutral but uses 2nd person plural WE which is so beautiful because "we" emphasizes the inter-connectedness of all beings.
- "Our" is also an inclusive word that adds to the beauty of this translation
- Unbound consciousness is an amazing phrase - it's expansive language. To think that our essential nature is unbound consciousness gives me chills.


Because of the masculine emphasis of some of the translations completely turn me off, my favorite translations are Jnaneshvara and Shearer. I especially don't relate to the word conformity used in the Feurstein and Houston translation.

"At other times, when one is not in Self-realization, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, taking on the identity of those thought patterns.

- It's a little clunky but I appreciate the concepts of Self-realization and the Seer.

"Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind"

- Again, poetic language, inclusive gender neutral pronoun, easy to understand yet still profound.

The Yoga Sutras are becoming one of my most favorite texts. I feel as if all the answers to life's questions are in the Sutras.  I hope to make a series art pieces based on the Sutras.



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