1.1 The Time is Now
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 1 | COMMENTARY
अथ योगानुशासनम् ।। १.१ ।।
Atha Yogānuśānam. ||1.1||
“Now, I enunciate the discipline of Yoga.”
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
The mind is usually following the senses and the modern technology has given a lot of opportunities to satisfy these urges without significant effort. You feel like watching a movie and all you need to do is to turn on your mobile. You want to hear music and you can just plug in your earphone wherever you are and satisfy the urge. Satisfying the urge to have food of preferred taste is one of the reasons of so many diseases that afflict the entire world.
The urge is different from taking a break or needing something. Music can be very healing but when one simply plugs it in because of a nagging urge, I have found that one cannot even enjoy the music. It is just giving some input to the ears. Putting on a movie just for watching a scene that struck you leads to skipping the movie and watching the particular scene and then spending time moving the eyes from one video after another. After working long hours in a hospital, a doctor can use a movie to take his/her mind off the matters, but just simply putting on movie after movie because one has a lot of time on hand and no constructive job to do is a massive problem. The simple pleasures of life also lose their taste after a while.
Discipline is needed to focus the mind when one is doing something that may not be a pleasant experience but will result in a fruit that is desirable and joyful.
Discipline is the key to accomplish anything, for discipline encompasses commitment, determination and will power. One never needs discipline to satisfy the urges or do the activities that have become a habit. One does not say that it is my discipline to drink water when I am thirsty. It is a biological urge – we are conditioned to work to satisfy it. You brush your teeth twice a day, take a shower and have 2-3 meals a day – all these are your habits. Yes, brushing and showering were imposed on you as a child by your guardians – you were disciplined (dictated) for some time until it became your discipline and then a habit. Shasan (verb) means To Rule/To Command – Shasan is discipline that is imposed by others. Anushasan are the rules that one imposes on oneself. Discipline is needed when one needs to study for 10 hours a day for 6-8 months and clear an important exam. Discipline is needed to meet deadlines by giving up leisure time. Discipline is needed to follow an exercise routine when you want to have a body you desire. Discipline is required even to do things that one enjoys but is irregular with. I make it a discipline to do some Yoga every day. I enjoy Yoga, but if I did not make it a discipline, it is possible I will not give it a priority and may spend time reading a book, or watching something. Discipline is freedom - it infuses Prana and makes one strong willed and keeps the mind one pointed.
The joy that is experienced after following a discipline is long lasting and actually brings bliss.
Maharishi Patanjali starts the sutra with Atha meaning ‘Now, therefore’. What does he mean by Now? When is Now? What qualification is needed so that one becomes receptive and perceptive of this knowledge? There are two ways to analyse this:
1. The popular meaning given in many commentaries is that when a practitioner has achieved some success in Hatha Yoga and has become established in that success, he is now qualified for the knowledge of the Yoga Sutras. Success in Hatha Yoga basically means a body that is strong, a mind that is light and discipline in sleeping, working and eating. Maharishi Patanjali has not spent his words on explaining the mundane practices of a healthy lifestyle - he expects you have already received that knowledge and applied it. Otherwise, these sutras may be difficult for you to follow and nigh impossible to apply. Hence, 'Now', that you have achieved some success in establishing a healthy routine and lifestyle, let me tell you about the practice of Yoga (which here is Raja Yoga or the Royal Yoga and deals with consciousness).
2. The meaning attributed to "Now" in commentaries holds relevance for everyone and it is true that one cannot set out on the path of Raja Yoga without achieving success in Hatha Yoga (it can be practiced in any form - almost all religions and beliefs fundamentally teach discipline of the body and mind). But, according to me, another quality is needed: a core desire to understand the depths of one's existence.
When one gets tired of stumbling here and there, when one has experienced the superficiality of the external world and fail to find any permanence and joy in anything the world has to offer, then the mind turns inwards. It becomes unattached to that is without and starts attuning itself to what is within. In other words, the mind comes to the present moment, in Now.
This is when one is humble and ready to listen to knowledge of the Self. It does not mean that one does has to wait to hit rock bottom, one just needs to become peaceful and calm, and bring the mind to the present moment. Then, one can receive the knowledge of union that is Yoga.
Furthermore, Yoga happens only in the present moment i.e. Now. There is no better time than Now and hence Now, without further ado, let us understand the knowledge of Yoga.