May 09, 2020

Sutra 1.20: Find the Fit

Samadhi Pada: Yoga of Being in the Now

    1.20 Sraddha virya smrti samadhi prajnapurvaka itaresam
    • sraddha = faith / trust
    • virya = energy / determination / courage
    • smrti = memory / recollections
    • samadhi = goal of yoga / being in the now / enlightenment
    • prajna = wisdom / divination
    • purvaka = precede
    • itaresam = for others

Last week's sutra described yogis who achieve samadhi (the goal of yoga broadly described as enlightenment) by simply being born. They don't need the yoga sutras because they are already expressing their authentic nature and living in the state of now that the sutras (and yoga) is guiding us towards. So, this week's sutra is all about the path for the rest of us.

In this sutra, Patanjali guides us towards the attitudes and qualities we need to develop in order to be successful in our practice. There are a few things I appreciate about the system and practice of yoga and a couple of them can be illustrated with this sutra. First, direct experience is crucial. Patanjali is very clear throughout the sutras to not take his word for anything. Knowing something is one thing, but making the effort to understand it is key. Next, (besides the few who were born with it) samadhi is accessible for all. Samadhi doesn't happen by chance, but instead happens as a result of discipline and the development of character. So, not only are we committing to a practice that guides us towards being exactly who we are, but it makes us better people in the process! How amazing is that?! Sutra 1.20 lists four key attitudes and characteristics we need to develop for our practice to be fruitful. They are faith, energy, memory and wisdom.

  • Faith (shraddha): The sutras doesn't advocate for a blind faith following of an organization, system or teacher. Instead, this is a faith or trust in the path of yoga. It's having faith that we're moving in the right direction even if we might not necessarily know where we will end up. Remember how I mentioned understanding is important in yoga? This faith or trust comes from using our practice as a laboratory to show us what works! For example, if yoga tells us that breath work or pranayama helps to calm us down, instead of just knowing this we try it ourselves to understand it. I've directly experienced enough pranayama now to know with certainty that it calms me down! Direct experience builds up trust and faith in this path.
  • Energy (virya): With faith or trust comes energy. It's about directing energy towards the practices and study of yoga (virya is very much a part of how these sutra blog posts came into existence!) Acting on what you know to be your path directed by this energy is what will keep you moving forward to learn more, to understand more and to ultimately be more.   
  • Memory (smriti): As human beings, it tends to be in our nature to make the same mistakes over and over again. We go through the same cycles until we eventually learn the lessons we need to in order to move on and move forward. Smriti is about using our practices to recognize these habitual patterns and more quickly break these cycles.
  • Wisdom (prajna): This quality is described as knowledge that comes about as a result of experience (there's that knowing again!) along with study and self-reflection. This sutra says that this wisdom that speaks through the voice within (which we don't always acknowledge) becomes louder and more accessible the more we work towards finding it through our practices.   

Though studying the path of the sutras isn't necessarily easy, I love sutras like this that work to provide support and a distinct process of where to direct our work and attention. So, my question for us this week is . . . . how do faith, energy, memory and wisdom currently factor into our own current day yoga practice? What can we work to develop more of and how can we have more direct experience in any of these categories?

Have a wonderful week of questioning, exploring and fitting the pieces together!

Sutra 1.20 For others, the goal of yoga is preceded by faith, energy,  memory and wisdom. 

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