Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 2 April 2011

The Yoga Sutras 1.2: yogascittavrttinirodhah

Yoga Sutra 1.2:


Desikachar: “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions.”

Devi: “Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.”

Johnson: “Union, spiritual consciousness, is gained through control of the versatile psychic nature.”

Baba: “(The final end of) Yoga is the restraint of mental operations.”


it’s here that we get Patanjali’s formal definition of yoga. should be definitive, right? well…

there’s a lot of wiggle room to interpret. we can see quite a range here, which is pretty interesting. we have these notions of “restraint” and “consciousness” that recur. i like the notion in johnson of the “versatile” nature of the mind – it seems to capture something that isn’t quite acknowledged by the other translations: the idea that there are many different types of consciousness that are coming into play. (to be fair, this is addressed in other sutras in some translations, but we’re sticking to what’s here for now.) this reflects my experience of trying to be still in my own mind; there are some types of consciousness that i can settle down into with little or no effort and other kinds that are very hard to hush (hey, planning mind, i’m looking at you).

both devi and johnson specifically use the concept of “union” separately from the notion of yoga (which is often translated as union or yoking). yoga as a path to the union of my scattered consciousnesses is an idea that appeals to me. i also like that desikachar explicitly states that effort must be “sustain[ed]” in the practice of yoga.

like devi, i am turned off by all this talk of control and restraint. she specifically aims to reframe the sutras in “positive” language. sometimes that comes out a little… squishy for my tastes. like here. she tries to make a case for the heart as the center of everything, but i don’t find her reasoning to be particularly convincing (although i think it would be nice to agree with her). so that’s where the “uniting… in the heart” business comes in. i think part of what bothers me is that it seems like the concept of uniting consciousnesses in the heart implies that these consciousnesses may not be connected to the heart already. i’m not really sure.

i’m picturing all my wandering sheep consciousnesses in need of a herding dog so they can all get back in the pen. and now i’m back to restraint! hmm.

i think what i’m taking out of this sutra is the useful conception that consciousness is multi-faceted. and it would be great if they could all get together and throw a party. a restrained and sustained yoga party.


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