The Final Four – Yoga Limbs 5 thru 8

This concludes the series 8 Limbs of Yoga

In brief summary, we have discussed the goal of Yoga, which is to unite one’s transitory (temporary) self, “JIVA” with the infinite “BRAHMAN”, the Hindu concept of God.  This God is not a personal God, but it is an impersonal spiritual substance which is one with nature and cosmos. Brahman is an impersonal divine substance that “pervades, envelopes and underlies everything”. Yoga comes to yogi who is one with Brahman”

The last two limbs are considered the results of the first six. To recap, limbs one and two  are Darhmic practices we do each day.  All the steps 1 through 6 prepare for the arrival at 7 and 8 which are something one achieves, not something one just happens to do.

5. Pratyahara 2-29,54,55

Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Keenly aware of, yet cultivating a detachment from, our senses, we direct our attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. This withdrawal allows us to objectively observe our cravings: habits that are perhaps detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth.

With Pratyahara the mind is still not completely because there are so many earthly distractions to vie for mind’s attention.

The Bhagavad Gita, explains the mind as a battlefield. The battlefield is the world, the turbulent life which distracts us. The individual self, represented by Arjuna goes to Lord Krishna for help. Arjuna is weak and tells Krishna he cannot drive the chariot  himself. Once Krishna becomes his charioteer, Arjuna becomes more steadfast and calm. The chariot’s white horses, the five senses are called the pancha indriyas, or 5 sense organs. These organs should be offered to God’s service because when they are thus engaged they are controlled. Unless they are properly engaged, they will always drag the mind outside (ie clog the battlefield).

6. Dharana 4-29

As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. Dhāraṇā may be translated as “holding”, “holding steady”, “concentration” or “single focus”.                                                                                               Having relieved ourselves of outside distractions, we can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself. In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, we learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound. We, of course, have already begun to develop our powers of concentration in the previous three stages of posture, breath control, and withdrawal of the senses. In asana and pranayama, although we pay attention to our actions, our attention travels. Our focus constantly shifts as we fine-tune the many nuances of any particular posture or breathing technique. In pratyahara we become self-observant; now, in dharana, we focus our attention on a single point. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.

 7. Dhyana 1-15, 2-29, 3-1 to 3-4, 3-7 and 8

Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage of ashtanga, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) may appear to be one and the same, a fine line of distinction exists between these two stages. Where dharana practices one-pointed attention, dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. At this stage, the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness is quite an accomplishment. Though it may seem difficult if not impossible, remember, yoga is a process. Even though we may not attain the what we consider the “perfect” pose or meditative state, we must remember that yoga is a process, and every day that we try, we improve and even if we don’t realize it, we progress.

 8. Samadhi 1-41 thru 51, 2-2, 27,29,45  3-3,4,7,8 4-1 and 29-32 

Patanjali describes this eighth and final stage of ashtanga, samadhi, as a state of ecstasy. At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes the “peace that passeth all understanding”; the experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. On the surface, this may seem to be a rather lofty, “holier than thou” kind of goal. However, if we pause to examine what we really want to get out of life, would not joy, fulfillment, and freedom somehow find their way onto our list of hopes, wishes, and desires? What Patanjali has described as the completion of the yogic path is what, deep down, all human beings aspire to: peace. We also might give some thought to the fact that this ultimate stage of yoga—enlightenment—can neither be bought nor possessed. It can only be experienced, the price of which is the continual devotion of the aspirant.


The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:
Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda
Copyright 2012 by Satchitanannnda Ashram-Yogaville Inc.
Length Print pages 263
Publisher: Integral Yoga Publications
Publication Date: October 24, 2012                                                   ISBN-13:978-1-938477-07-2