The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Chapter 2
The second chapter of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is considered by many to be the most important chapter of the text for the practitioner of yoga because it describes the actual practices that one should do to follow the path of Yoga.
Patanjali starts out in this chapter by defining Kriya Yoga which is discipline, self-study and orientation towards the ideal of pure awareness. These are also part of the eight limbs of yoga, which we will see later in the chapter.
Then he describes the Klesha’s or obstacles towards the path of yoga. They are ignorance of who we really are, ego or attachment to the false self, attachment towards the things that are pleasant, aversion towards the things that are unpleasant and clinging to the physical self that is finite. All of these things are obstacles to the path of yoga according to Patanjali. These klesha’s can be overcome by following the path of yoga. According to Patanjali the wise see suffering in all experience, the good and the bad.
After the Klesha’s comes a description of Karma, which is the accumulation of latent impressions or imprints, either positive or negative, that then have an affect of how one acts in the future. A person will have a pleasant or unpleasant life according to the latent impressions (Karma) that they have acquired throughout their life. Good actions and thoughts leads to pleasant experiences. With the path of Yoga we can overcome these habitual patterns so that our actions come from the true self rather than the preexisting patterns of behavior.
Then comes a description of the Gunas or qualities of humans. They are Tamas or inertia, Rajas or activity and Sattva or the illumined condition. These qualities we all have all the time and when we identify ourselves with these qualities rather than the true self this leads us to a state of ignorance or false identification. When we see beyond these qualities to the true self the ignorance is lifted. This is true freedom, when we can see the true self within ourselves rather that the image that the mind has created for ourselves.
Then the eight limbs of Yoga or “Ashtanga (eight limb) Yoga” is described. These are the main practices that the follower of Patanjali’s method of yoga are encouraged to follow. Another name for Patanjali’s yoga is Raja Yoga or Royal Yoga.
The first limb is Yama or Moral Observances, there are five of them – the first is Ahimsa or non-harming, the second is Satya or truthfulness, the third is Asteya or non stealing, the fourth is Brahmacarya or celibacy, and the fifth is Aparigraha or freedom from greed for possessions.
The second limb is Niyamas or Restraints, there are five of them – the first is Sauca which means cleanliness and purity, the second is Svadyaya or study of the self and of ancient texts, the third is Tapas or fervor for practice, the fourth is Santosha or contentment and the fifth is Isvara Pranhidhana or surrender to the idea of pure awareness.
The Third limb of Yoga is Asana or the physical postures practiced for nourishment and illumination of the body.
The Fourth limb of Yoga is Pranayama or the practice of managing the breath so that the breath encourages the Prana of the body to circulate and percolate within.
The fifth limb of Yoga is Pratyahara or the practice of removing and controlling the senses of perception to look within. This inner quest or vision is more clearly felt inside oneself when external distractions are minimized.
This is then where the second chapter ends and we will pick up the last three limbs of yoga next edition when we take a look at the third chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.