Extracts from S’ankara on the Yoga Sutras

In these extracts the translator proposes to give some idea of the original material which this sub-commentary provides for the study of the Yoga Sutras. Purely technical discussions are not included. It is intended that the meaning should be lucid and clear to the general reader. General information about the book  The Parallel with Medical Treatment At the beginning of his sub-commentary, S’ankara compares the yogic methods to the four-fold classification of medical treatment. This is familiar in even early Buddhist texts, and it had been assumed that Buddhists adopted it from medical texts. But, as Wezler has shown, the four-fold classification does not appear in medical texts before about 200 AD. Vyasa in the second extract below reproduces the Buddhist simile, and S’ankara echoes it in the first two but the simile in the third one is perhaps original to this text. We can note that S’ankara uses the …

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For the wise man, all is pain.

For the wise man,” says the Sutra, “ all is pain”. This may seem a stern statement, yet if it be examined and found true, the narrow path of detachment leading to the peak of discrimination will be more easily trod. ‘The wise man’ says Vyasa, in his commentary on the Sutras of Patanjali, is somewhat like an eye-ball: the minute spider’s web, when put in the eye causes pain by its touch, but it does not cause any sensation when put upon the other limbs of the body.” The wise man not only has a far more sensitive instrument than the average man, but has, in his interpretation of experience, the light of spiritual understanding. Not only is he more acutely aware of the aggregate of human pain, he is conscious of its significance. And it is because he understands (stands under, as it were) the sufferings of men, …

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Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras gives six main means of practice

There are not many people who can simply practise meditation on the Self, or on the Lord, aiming all the time at liberation, without becoming bored, or else being overwhelmed by waves of distraction, lassitude or fear. It is found that for most people there must be some encouragement, something tangible in everyday experience. So Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras gives six main means of practice for first purifying and then steadying the mind as it is, and for some of them he gives results by which progress can be checked. These results, however wonderful some of them may seem, are not liberation. But they mean a lightening of the present burden of living with nothing but a distant hope. They are ways of confirming at least something that the teacher and the tradition say. If some one thing, however little it may be, is confirmed, there is a surge …

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