Translated with a commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
Vedanta Press ISBN 0 87481 041 8
I recommend this book for beginning practitioners who want to deepen their understanding of meditation and yoga.
The authors offer us a clear exposition of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. There are wonderful anecdotes and metaphors that explain the complex mental gymnastics of yoga.
Yogis often use sleep as an analogy to describe a deep state of meditation and how we come close to the inner Self in sleep. Sutra 1.10 states, ‘Sleep is a wave of thought about nothingness’. The writers explain that the sleep state is actually a ‘positive experience of nothingness’. There is a sense of self, a witness of our experience, even when we sleep for when we awaken we know that we slept.
In my early years of meditation I went into a deep trance state that felt similar to sleep except that when I came out of it I felt a lot of energy. Over time I became more awake in my meditation, more conscious of what was happening in my mind. My meditation went from ‘sleep’ to ‘waking’. True to Patanjali’s sutra, I was aware of what had happened both when I was ‘asleep’ and when I ‘awoke’.
Another striking commentary is Sutra 1.36: ‘Concentration may also be attained by fixing the mind upon the Inner Light, which is beyond sorrow.’
‘The ancient yogis believed that there was an actual centre of spiritual consciousness, call the “lotus of the heart”, situated between the abdomen and the thorax, which could be revealed in deep meditation. They claimed that it had the form of a lotus and that it shone with an inner light. It was said to be “beyond sorrow”, since those who saw it were filled with an extraordinary sense of peace and joy.’
Their writing is inspirational and encouraging. They reassure us that with perseverance we can attain ‘peace and joy.’