Rev. Jaganath, Integral Yoga Minister and Raja Yoga master teacher, has spent a lifetime delving into the deepest layers of meaning in Patanjali’s words within the Yoga Sutras. Our series continues with the 30th sutra of Chapter 1 in which Patanjali begins to describe the nine main impediments or obstacles to spiritual practice and spiritual growth on the path toward Self-realization. Each impediment can jeopardize a yogi’s daily practice and ability to reach the goal of Yoga. This is the reason that each impediment is carefully unpacked and in upcoming sutras, Patanjali will further analyze these and provide a remedy.
Sutra 1.30: vyādhi-styāna-saṃśaya-pramāda-ālasya-avirati-bhrānti-darśana-alabdha-bhūmikatva-anavasthitatvāni citta-vikṣepās te’ntarāhaḥ
The obstacles that distract the mind and disrupt practice are:
• Dullness, complacency, narrow-mindedness
• Addiction to sense experiences
• Confused, false, or shifting views on principles of life, wisdom teachings, and practice
• Failure to reach firm ground
• Slipping from the ground gained
vyādhi = disease; disorder, ailment, any tormenting, frustrating, or annoying person or thing
from vi = asunder, away + ā = hither, unto + dhi from dhā = put, place
Disease in Patanjali’s time included more than the disorders we know today. Disease was understood as any imbalance of the subtle energies or humors that cause anxiety, restlessness, low energy, and physical discomfort.
styāna = dullness
apathy, grown dense, coagulated, stiffened, become rigid, soft, bland, unctuous, thick, bulky, gross, idleness, sloth, to grow dense, massiveness
from styā = to stiffen, to sound or echo: what is heard when a solid is struck, a dull thud or echo, a reverberation generated by the nature of the material struck
saṃśaya = doubt; indecision, uncertainty, irresolution, hesitation, doubt, a doubt about the point to be discussed
from sam = together + śaya = lying, sleeping, from śī = to rest, lie
The roots of this word suggest that a tamasic (lethargic, inert) state is fertile ground for the development of dullness. So doubt is not just the result of lacking sufficient information to make a decision, or of having too many choices, or conflicting goals or desires, it is born from a mind that lacks clarity and insight, a mind that has lost focus. We will see that lack of mental focus, which disables the mind’s ability to probe the object of its attention, is the root of almost all of the obstacles.
pramāda = carelessness; negligence, lack of commitment, intoxication, madness, insanity, carelessness about, negligence, an error or mistake, to revel or delight in
from pra = forward, in front + mad = to be exhilarated, intoxicated
Pramada suggests a state similar to intoxication or a form of mental imbalance. It can follow misuse, overindulgence, or abuse of the senses. Since it is listed as following doubt, we can imagine it as a state of discouragement with oneself or with the results of practice.
ālasya = laziness; idleness, sloth, lack of energy
from a = not + lasa = to shine, to be lively, moving about, from las = shine, flash, play, frolic
Look at the root, las. It suggests that what is translated as laziness can be interpreted as not feeling like playing or frolicking, a loss of the joy of life.
avirati = addiction to sense experiences; sensuality, incontinence, intemperance, lack of self-restraint
virati = cessation, pause, stop, end, to not abstain or desist, from a = not + vi = asunder, away + rati = pleasure
The word suggests the inability to stay away from indulging the senses.
bhrānti = confused, false, shifting; moving around, staggering, wandering about, doubt, perplexity, error, quivering, false opinion, reeling
from bhram = wander about, waver
darśana = view, philosophy; philosophical system, knowing, exhibiting, showing, looking at, teaching, seeing, perception, way of looking, apprehension, observation, aspect, act of seeing, inspection, contemplating, vision, observing, visiting, audience, meeting, experiencing, discernment, understanding, intellect, intention, doctrine, the eye, becoming visible or known, presence (see 1.30, 2.6, 2.41, 3.33)
from dṛś = to see, perceive
In this sutra, darshana refers to philosophies of life and spirituality. The combination of darshana with bhranti (confused, false, shifting), forms an image of a mind that is uncertain about what is true, and which teachings, principles, and bits of knowledge are reliable (see 1.7).
Uncertainty leads to not delving sufficiently into teachings. This can lead to a tendency to find fault in teachings that are true and proven by time and experience instead of looking within for our own shortcomings or gaps in understanding.
Our ability to perceive (darshana) subtle truths is wedded to a clear, one- pointed, unbiased (sattvic) mind. Such a state of mind gives rise to Yoga pratyaksha, yogic perception. Yoga pratyaksha, a central principle in Yoga, is unmediated perception that transcends sense perception. It is what enables seers to apprehend the truths of self and existence since it transcends the distortion caused by the senses, ignorance, and ingrained mindsets and beliefs. Other forms of cognition, even if valid and reliable, are inferior to Yoga pratyaksha. The knowledge gained from Yoga pratyaksh is the basis of the wisdom of vedic sages, yogis, and siddhas (see siddha in this sutra).
alabdha = failure; not obtained, not having attained
from a = not + labh = to take, seize, catch
bhūmikatva = ground; groundedness, stage, place, step
from bhūmi = earth, position, stage + ka = having + tva = quality
The words, alabdha (above) + bhumikatva combined, mean the failure to reach firm ground or the absence of initiative.
anavasthitatvāni = slipping from ground gained; inconstancy, unsteadiness, instability, not abiding
from an = not + avasthita = standing near, placed, abode, continuing to do anything, engaged in, following, practicing, obeying or following, giving oneself up to, contained in, firm, fixed, determined, steady, trusty, to be relied on
This word suggests a withdrawing or pulling back of the mind: to not be fixed and to not follow. But maybe most telling definition is to not give oneself up to—something like an emotional withdrawal from a love affair.
The results we experience from our Yoga practice is a harmonious symphony consisting of the yogic lifestyle and exercises along with the degree of inspiration, devotion, joy, faith, and optimism we bring to the practices.
citta = mind; individual consciousness (See 1.2)
vikṣepā = distract, disrupt; the act of throwing asunder or away or about, scattering, discharging, moving to and fro, waving, shaking, tossing, letting loose, indulging, letting slip, neglecting, inattention, distraction, confusion, perplexity, a kind of disease
from vi = away, asunder + kṣepā = throwing, casting, from kśip = throw, send
Vikshepa can be understood as the opposite of samyama: the practice of concentration, meditation, and absorption on any one object.
Vikshepa as shaking or moving to and fro, when seen in light of the three functions of mind, can offer an interesting insight into the inner mechanics of these obstacles . . .
(1) Manas: the recording faculty. When it shakes, misperception, partial perception, or non-perception of an event, thought, image, or feeling occurs.
(2) Buddhi: the discriminative faculty. When our ability to discern falters, we miss important facets or implications of events, thoughts, images, or feelings.
(3) Ahamkara: the ego-sense.
When the ego is unstable, it is also unclear. Its appropriate function is hampered by feelings of lack of worth, guilt, and self-doubt. In some cases, it can also lead to inflated sense of worth, and a compulsive need to dominate or control.
te = these
antarāya = obstacle; intervention, impediment, hindrance
from antar = between, within, in the interior, amongst, into + āya, from i = to go
As a suffix, aya strengthens the word it is attached to. The implication is that these are deeply rooted inner obstacles that are not easy to overcome.
About the Author:
Reverend Jaganath Carrera is and Integral Yoga Minister and the founder/spiritual head of Yoga Life Society. He is a direct disciple of world renowned Yoga master and leader in the interfaith movement, Sri Swami Satchidananda—the founder and spiritual guide of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and Integral Yoga International. Rev. Jaganath has taught at universities, prisons, Yoga centers, and interfaith programs both in the USA and abroad. He was a principal instructor of both Hatha and Raja Yoga for the Integral Yoga Teacher Training Certification Programs for over twenty years and co-wrote the training manual used for that course. He established the Integral Yoga Ministry and developed the highly regarded Integral Yoga Meditation and Raja Yoga Teacher Training Certification programs. He served for eight years as chief administrator of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and founded the Integral Yoga Institute of New Brunswick, NJ. He is also a spiritual advisor and visiting lecturer on Hinduism for the One Spirit Seminary in New York City. Reverend Jaganath is the author of Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Sourcebook for the Study and Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, published by Integral Yoga Publications. His latest book, Patanjali’s Words, is a work-in-progress.