Tips on Handling Suffering, from the Yoga Sutra
The Yoga Sutra is a collection of aphorisms and it was written by the great sage, Patanjali. These aphorisms are regarded as one of the most important texts on yoga. They cover the eight limbs of yoga, as well as wisdom on living a yogic life.
The first sentence of the Yoga Sutra reads “Atha Yoganusasanam”, which means “Now is an exposition of yoga”. Notice the word “now”. It is calling for our presence. So that we are here, doing yoga in the now. The Yoga Sutra expresses the idea that we should understand that we have been suffering, and that it is normal to try to alleviate that suffering.
The second sentence of the book is “Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah”. Citta means mind, Vritti means fluctuation, and Nirodhah is a state of calm. So, Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah means “yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind”.
But contrary to the belief that we have to still the mind, it is actually saying that the mind would still fluctuate, but that we should try to make it’s movements as small as possible. It is amazing that such a short sentence can mean something so deep.
Then, so that we can understand how to still the minds fluctuations, Patanjali explains how the mind moves.
There are five types of movements of the mind:
1. Pramana – the true perception of mind
2. Viparyaya – the wrong perception of mind
3. Vikalpa – the imagination of mind
4. Nindra – the sleeping state of mind
5. Smtaryah – memory of mind
By understanding the ways that the mind moves, we can control how it moves, so that we can avoid its movements towards the kleshas – the sources of our suffering.
There are 5 kleshas:
This means ignorance of our core truth. Ignorance that we are light, and that we share that light with every other being. This is most likely the source of our suffering.
I-am-ness. The ego, holding on to the illusion of what we think we are. This too often causes us to suffer.
This is grasping. Having an attachment to anything in life.
4. Dvesa: denial
Repulsion, or denial of anything in life or of any practice of yoga.
Clinging to life, fear of death.
It is said that meditation will remove these kleshas. Having said that, it is also understood that as soon as we let our “Citta” move, as soon as we let our mind control our life, we will be back experiencing suffering. But with practice, we will have more control in staying within the small fluctuation ranges of our minds.
So according to Patanjali, the tools to remove our suffering are already within us. We don’t need anything else. How liberating is that? Living a yogic life, you can get through all of the challenges, and hopefully you will alleviate your suffering to a minimum.
Remember that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.
Enjoy your journey towards stilling the fluctuations of your mind.