Chapter II: Spiritual Practise (Sadhana Pada)

Table of contents

2.1 – 2  Kriya Yoga as orientation on the path

2.3 – 9  The causes of suffering (kleshas)

2.10 – 11   Reduction of suffering and meditation

2.12 – 14   The painful effects of karma

2.15 – 17   Detach yourself from suffering

2.18 – 20   The active forces and the true self

2.21 – 24   About the changeable and identification

2.25 – 26   Discernment liberates from ignorance

2.27 – 29   Introduction to Ashtanga: The eight limbs of yoga

2.30 – 34   Introduction to the Yamas and Niyamas

2.35 – 39   Yamas – The abstentions

2.40 – 45   Niyamas – Recommendations for your own life

2.46 – 48   Mastering posture

2.49 – 53   Pranayama – the 4th limb of Ashtanga

2.54 – 55   Pratyahara – inverting the senses

Yoga Sutra 2.1-2 – Kriya Yoga as orientation on the path

After we learned about many of the basics of Raja Yoga in the first chapter of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, “Samadhi Pada”, and dealt with the highest super-conscious states, it now becomes more concrete. The second chapter is called “Sadhana Pada”, i.e., “on spiritual practice”. Roughly speaking, it is initially about suffering and overcoming it, and later about the first five limbs of Ashtanga.

2.1. “Practicing with devotion, self-reflection, and discipline is the yoga of action.”

These three terms form the basic inner attitude for every spiritually motivated action. Kriya Yoga is like a compass to continually orient ourselves towards the goal of yoga along the way. Later in the text, it becomes clear that Patanjali also counts the three points of Kriya Yoga to the Niyamas, i.e., the rules for dealing with oneself.

Disciplin (Tapas): the inner fire, the enthusiasm, the absolute will to develop spiritually, the willingness for inner discipline. The ancient yogis were called “tapasvins”, i.e., the ascetics or the strong-willed. It's not about an external renunciation but rather an internal detachment.

Self-reflection and study of the scriptures (Svādhyāya): reflection on the self as corrective, or inner guidance through orientation on classical writings. Ultimately, we want to transcend the mind, so we use scripture and self-reflection to go beyond the limitations of concepts.

Devotion (Ishvara Pranidhana): the devotion or humility towards a personal aspect or form of God.

Disciplin: abstinence, chosen poverty, discipline in practice, retreat...

Self-reflection and study of the scriptures: Bible exegesis, recitations, self-inquiry...

Devotion: prayers, rituals, chants...

Likewise, the three methods of Kriya Yoga represent the three yoga paths of the Bhagavad Gita:

Disciplin : Karma Yoga

Self-reflection and study of the scriptures: Jnana Yoga

Devotion: Bhakti Yoga

2.2. “If the practice is focused on the goal, then the afflictions will disappear along the way.” or “Kriya Yoga reduces the causes of suffering and brings about super-consciousness.”

Swami Vivekananda says in his commentary on this verse: “Most of us treat our mind like a spoiled child, free to do whatever it wants.” And so we use the three-fold practice of Kriya Yoga to control the mind. In this verse, Patanjali says again very briefly why we should practice Kriya Yoga: To thin out the causes of suffering and to prepare the mind for Samadhi. Through Kriya Yoga, we open a door into a higher consciousness, into which we first fall (Dhyana) with total concentration (Dharana) in order to be lifted out of there (Samadhi).

Yoga Sutra 2.3-9 – The causes of suffering (kleshas)

2.3. “Ignorance, identification with the changeable, attraction and aversion, and fear of death are the causes of suffering.“

Ignorance: ignorance of the nature of the self or ignorance of the reality beyond illusion.

Identification with the changable: clinging to the idea of being a limited, impermanent, and individual being.

Attraction: the pursuit of beautiful experiences in which we believe we will find true happiness.

Aversion: rejecting bad experiences on the assumption that they prevent our true happiness.

Fear of death: clinging to life and the fear of leaving the body and this world.

Ultimately, ignorance is the source of all suffering and, therefore, also the cause of the other Kleshas. And so the knowledge of the true nature of the self can also free us from all other suffering. In the further text, Patanjali then explains the individual kleshas.

2.4. “Lack of knowledge is the breeding ground for other sufferings; this ignorance can be dormant, germing, full-grown, or overwhelming.” or “Ignorance is the cause of the sufferings that follow. They are dormant, minor, interrupted, or active.”

So all suffering or all obstacles on the spiritual path come from ignorance or non-recognition. When we have overcome ignorance, we know:

Identification with the changeable: the body, thoughts and feelings, me as an individual, and the limitations are just an illusion.

Attraction: Nothing in the world can make us happy because the self itself is supreme bliss.

Aversion: there is nothing that can separate us from the experience of the absolute bliss of self.

Fear of death: in the event of death, only the shell of the true self falls away, and in truth, we are immortal.

2.5. “Confusing the perishable with the eternal, the impure with the pure, the suffering with the joyful, and the non-self with the true self is called lack of knowledge.”

2.6. “Confusion of the perceiver with the perceived is called identification with the perishable.”

If we do not know or realize that we are the immortal self beyond the body with all its functions, we naturally identify with our tool. We believe we are the body, the feelings, the thoughts, our possessions, our concepts, and our idea of ourselves. But since all of these points mentioned are subject to change and transitory, they cause suffering. The identifications we have with ourselves and the ideas we have about us are very deep. Through continued discernment, as explained in the last verse, we become more and more aware that we have fallen victim to an illusion. We are nothing of what we can perceive, but we are the consciousness in which everything takes place.

2.7. “Desire is that which clings to well-being.” or “Attraction is that which is concerned with pleasure.”

2.8. “Aversion is what clings to unhappiness."

Attraction and aversion are like two sides of the same coin; they belong together, and both must be overcome at the same time. A lot of our energy is lost because we are always trying to get something or avoid something. We always want something faster, better, bigger, and different instead of being satisfied with what we have. Likewise, we constantly try to avoid things that we think might make us unhappy. Ultimately, what we are trying to achieve on the spiritual path is beyond all movement, all concepts, and all noise. Every attraction and aversion distances us from the self, as it is always a movement towards somewhere or not wanting to have what is.

2.9. “The fear of death exists in itself; even the wise are affected by it.” or “The desire for stability is to cling to one's own personality; it also happens to the wise.”

Yoga Sutra 2.10 -11 – Reduction of suffering and meditation

After Patanjali explained the Kleshas and Kriya Yoga in detail in the first 9 verses of the 2nd chapter of the Yoga Sutras, he now goes into how to dissolve the Vrittis that arise from the Kleshas. The individual verses and the practices explained build systematically on each other.

2.10. “The subtle causes of suffering should be counteracted at their roots.” or “If the causes of suffering are avoided when they arise, their subtle influence remains small.”

Of course, the statement itself makes a lot of sense. Of course, it's good to get to the root of a problem—no question—but how can we look at this verse in the context of the others? Patanjali says that if we counteract a problem at its source when it arises, we will just be affected a little bit by its effects. So we have to trace the painful effects that appear to us as experiences back to the respective klesha that we can identify as the cause in order to overcome them.

So the suffering that occurs is always led back to its origin, i.e., the corresponding Klesha, through Svadhyaya (self-reflection). We can do this by relating the five Kleshas individually to the problem that arises. If we look backwards at the Kleshas and trace them back from the gross to the fine, we always come to the root: ignorance. Since ultimately all problems that arise come from confusion or ignorance, we can solve them by putting them in the right light. So if we clearly recognize the problem and connect it to the cause, it will resolve itself. This process is called Pratiprasava, which is similar to Pratyahara, which appears later in the text and can be easily translated as involution. In fact, in yoga, we assume that all problems can be resolved in one's own mind if we only resolve the root through 'recognition'.

And so the essential practice is to gain a growing understanding of the functioning of one's mind. Patanjali has already shown us the necessary means for this, which are now being used again and again. For example, on the one hand, Vairagya and Abhyasa, i.e., effort and detachment, are applied here. This means you make an effort to be aware of the root of the suffering and to grow beyond it, while at the same time remaining relaxed and detached. And then we also use the practice of Kriya Yoga to deal with suffering: with Tapas, we can gather the mental forces; with Svadhyaya, we can analyze the mind field; and with Ishvara-Pranidhana, we unconditionally trust the flow of the moment. But only by consciously, calmly, and neutrally looking, feeling, sensing, and perceiving (the root) can we get to the bottom of the matter (Klesha) and resolve it. Works.

2.11. “The active forms of suffering can be overcome through meditation.” or “Through meditation, the painful thought waves are avoided.”

When we perceive painful thought waves, we know that they ultimately arise from the Kleshas, and they can be dissolved by a meditative mind. Vivekananda says:
“Meditation is one of the great ways to prevent these waves from arising.”

Yoga Sutra 2.12-14 – The painful effects of karma

2.12. “The causes of suffering result in tendencies from which visible and invisible actions and their consequences arise.” or “The basis of suffering is the stock of consequences of actions that are experienced in the present or future life.”

So here, Patanjali is clearly saying that “all karma arises from the kleshas”.

For a better understanding of the three types of karma:

Agami Karma: the karma that is now being formed through (self-centered) action

Sanchita Karma: the storehouse of all karmas from all lives of the past

Prarabdha Karma: the present experience as the fruit of past actions

This sentence may make it even clearer:

“Every unhealthy habit creates Agami Karma, accumulates as Sanchita Karma, and manifests itself as Prarabda Karma.”

And we carry out these unhealthy habits through our connection with the Kleshas and then create new karma for the future. It certainly becomes clearer if we look at this principle in relation to the individual Kleshas:

Ignorance: causes us to become more and more entangled in action.

Identification with the changeable: Selfish actions directly fall back on us.

Attraction: Man's desire is constantly growing.

Aversion: refusal becomes a permanent habit.

Fear of death: acting out of fear leads to unpleasant effects.

In verse 2.2, Patanjali has already said how we can dissolve the bonds of karma: by practicing the threefold Kriyayoga, consisting of Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishvara Pranidhana.

2.13. “When the roots are there, they manifest as status, life span, and experiences.” or “As long as karmic roots remain, they manifest as different social situations, life expectancies, and types of experiences.”

In yoga, we can define the goal of the spiritual path as “liberation from the cycle of rebirths”, i.e., the “redemption of our soul” (or the self) from having to reincarnate again and again due to the compulsion of karma. The cycle of rebirths is called Samsara, and the liberation from it is called Moksha. This salvation occurs through the realization of the self or the realization of oneness with God. There are various tasks to be completed in life in order to achieve this ultimate liberation, and above all, it is important to break away from the bonds of karma.

2.14. “Depending on whether the cause was constructive or not, the result is pleasant or not.” or “Pleasure or pain is reaped as fruit, depending on whether the seed was virtue or vice.”

As explained above, the concept of karma can be understood in two directions. On the one hand, in every moment we sow new seeds for future experiences; on the other hand, in every moment we reap the fruits of our past actions.

Yoga Sutra 2.15-17 – Detach yourself from suffering

After Patanjali spoke about Kriya Yoga, the kleshas, and karma in the first verses of the 2nd chapter of his Yoga Sutras, he now explains how one can free oneself from suffering.

2.15. "Wise people know that suffering arises in life through change, longing, imprints, and the active forces of nature that contradict one's own desires."

This verse is often abbreviated as “duḥkham sarvaṁ vivekinaḥ”, i.e., “the wise sees suffering in everything”. Admittedly, this verse sounds very pessimistic at first, so it is important to understand the concept of “dukha” in the right light. What is meant by suffering is that life is always ups and downs, a constant rollercoaster of positive and negative experiences. This, in contrast to the highest joy, which consists of the true self, is suffering.

2.16. “Future suffering should be avoided.” or “Unmanifest suffering can be prevented.”

2.17. "The conjunction of the true self with the changeable is the cause of karma." or “The identification of the subject with the object is the cause of suffering and should be avoided.”

Yoga Sutra 2.18-20 – The active forces and the true self

After Patanjali has spoken about liberation from suffering from different perspectives in the first 17 verses of the Sadhana Pada, he now goes on to describe the problem behind it. It is Samyoga, the mistaken conjunction of the perceiver with the perceived.

Samyoga is also a term that appears in the Bhagavad Gita, where it is said in VI.23:

“May this be called yoga: cessation of oneness with pain.”

2.18. "The nature of the world, which consists of light, movement, and stillness, is experienced through the elements and the sense organs, serves the purpose of experience and liberation, and forms the perceivable." or "The manifest universe, which consists of the elements and the perceptions of the sense organs, consists of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas and exists for the purpose of experience and liberation.”

2.19. "The active forces can be categorized into nameable, non-specific, symbolic, and beyond symbols." or "The basic properties of nature each have the form-giving states 'specific', 'unspecific', 'nameable', and 'unnameable'."

To illustrate how profound the influence of the Gunas is, Patanjali explains the ways in which they work on different levels. A good understanding of the concept of gunas can be very helpful to the yogi in interpreting his experiences on the path. In addition to Purusha/Prakriti, the Gunas are another core concept of Samkhya, which has been adopted by various other philosophies because it very clearly describes the properties of nature in relation to the self.

Since Patanjali had not introduced the gunas before (except in 2.15), here is a more detailed description:

Tamas: stands for inertia, darkness, and dullness, and is the active force that blinds us like a cloud and keeps us away from the knowledge of reality.

Rajas: stands for restlessness, movement, and energy, and is the active force that distances us from the highest knowledge through restlessness and projection.

Sattwa: stands for clarity, purity, and harmony and is the active force that can lead us through neutrality to knowledge of the self.

According to the Samkhya worldview, everything ultimately consists of a single substance, which in turn consists of these three forces. So from the boulder to the thought, everything is part of the perceived and is determined by the Gunas.

Now, according to Patanjali, these forces can manifest themselves in various ways.

Specific: gross, i.e., by everyone who perceives it

Unspecific: subtle, i.e., only perceivable by sensitive people

Symbolic: manifest, merely implied - according to Vivekananda, this is the intellect, Buddhi

Beyond symbols: unmanifest, not to be named - the unnameable source of the Gunas

2.20. “The perceiver completely perceives what is seen, but it is colored by the organs of perception.” or “The seer is pure, unchanging consciousness and perceives through the filter of the mind.”

Yoga Sutra 2.21-24 – About the changeable and identification

2.21. “The only reason for the existence of physical objects is to be perceived by the self.” or “Prakriti exists only for Purusha.”

The past verses have already talked a lot about the model of Prakriti and Purusha from the Samkhya perspective. It is clearly stated here that our entire universe, i.e., everything that can be perceived, only exists to be experienced by the self.

2.22. “If what is perceived has fulfilled its purpose, it only disappears for the person who perceives it; it remains for others because it is valid for everyone."

2.23. “The erroneous union (of Prakriti and Purusha = Samyoga) is to experience the inner master and the inherent power.”

Since the stated goal of yoga is “liberation from the cycle of rebirths” or “breaking free from the shackles of prakriti” into which we have fallen through samyoga, one can sometimes come to a view that negates and rejects prakriti. And in fact, there are many unworldly yogis who only turn to the light, cannot enjoy Prakriti, and forget how beautiful it is.

On the one hand, Samyoga makes us suffer, but it also gives us a lot of joy. If we manage to experience and enjoy Prakriti without clinging to it, we are on the right path. So Patanjali is saying here that through connection with the world, we can gain deep insights about the inner master and our inherent powers. Raja Yoga is therefore a clear “turning towards” the world in order to, at the same time, innerly renounce it, but not a negation as in Vedanta.

2.24. “The cause is confusion” or “The reason (for the erroneous association) is ignorance.”

So our true nature is the Purusha from which Prakriti was formed. Through Samyoga, we connect with or identify with Prakriti and suffer from it. In order to stop suffering, we have to dissolve Samyoga, and to do this, we have to understand how it arises. Patanjali says here very briefly what he already explained in detail in verse 2.5: Ignorance is the cause of the erroneous connection and, thus, of all suffering. Man forgets his divine nature and therefore seeks his happiness within Prakriti. He remains connected to it for so long, i.e., over many lifetimes, until the desire for liberation awakens and he comes to knowledge through detachment.

Yoga Sutra 2.25-26 – Discernment liberates from ignorance

The most recently commented verses in the Sadhana Pada of the Patanjali Yoga Sutra were highly complex and very difficult to grasp. But now, Patanjali provides the solution to our dilemma in simple words. Ultimately, it's about understanding based on knowledge, and it's important to act accordingly and continually differentiate. Through this insightful action, without becoming entangled again, we dissolve ignorance and free ourselves from suffering.

2.25. “When ignorance disappears, the connection is dissolved, then the self is liberated.” or “Through knowledge, the identification (of Purusha with Prakriti) is dissolved and the seer is liberated.”

2.26. “Continuous discrimination is the means to liberation.” or “To solve it, continuous differentiation is necessary.”

Just as in the Vedantic Sadhana Chatustaya, discrimination is the decisive means for liberation in Patanjali's Raja Yoga. In Vedanta, a distinction is made between four essential differentiations:

Satasat Viveka: What is true and real, and what is untrue and unreal

Atmanaatman Viveka: What is the self and what is not

Nityaanitya Viveka: What is eternal and what is fleeting

Sukhaananda Viveka: What is joy from objects, and what is desireless joy

Raja Yoga is about the distinction between Purusha and Prakriti, which ultimately amounts to the same thing but has a different philosophical background. Raja Yoga and Samkhya have a dualistic view, i.e., there is a clear separation between subject and object, i.e., Purusha and Prakriti, whereas in Vedanta, the separation is only a tool since everything is always one.

Yoga Sutra 2.27-29 – Introduction to Ashtanga: The eight limbs of yoga

Today, this part, which discusses the Ashtanga, or the eight limbs of Raja Yoga, is considered by many to be the most important part of the Yoga Sutra and is even often reduced to this model. In the following three verses, the topic is first introduced and then described in detail, step by step.

2.27. “The path to knowing consciousness goes through seven stages.” or “This path to knowledge has seven stages.”

7 limbs through which one attains the eighth.

2.28. “Practice of the limbs of yoga leads to the overcoming of impurities, radiant wisdom, and continual discernment.” or “By practicing the limbs of yoga, recrement is cleared and the knowledge of continual discrimination shines.”

Impurities: The purification of the different levels of our body-mind system is a clearly noticeable and essential part of the entire yoga system. Since we assume that the highest goal is to achieve our natural state, we only have to clear up impurities.

Radiant wisdom: Achieving inner wisdom happens secondarily by practicing holistic yoga. The whole life and the entire everyday life are brought into harmony from the ground up, and deep insights come and go.

Continual discrimination: Gradually, the steady action with the consciousness of truth awakens, or the infinite discrimination that lies beyond the intellect and effortlessly transforms all of our being.

Here, we can easily determine where we are on the yoga path. The only important thing is that we understand and implement the individual parts of yoga in the right sense.

2.29. “Respect for your fellow human beings and for yourself, body control, control of life force energy, sensory control, concentration, meditation, and ecstasy are the eight limbs.” or “Good togetherness, own restraints, body positions, breathing control, sensory withdrawal, concentration, deep contemplation, and higher states of consciousness form the eight parts of yoga.”

Here are the eight points with a brief description:

Yamas (the relationship to the environment): Dealing with our fellow human beings has a high priority in yoga.

Niyamas (the relationship with oneself): The way we treat ourselves is crucial for our development.

Asana (the posture): The prerequisite for going deeply inward is a stable and comfortable posture.

Pranayama (energy control): You have access to life energy through your breath and can calm both.

Pratyahara (the withdrawal of the senses): The attention goes completely inward, and sensory perceptions go with it.

Dharana (concentration): We gradually learn to align the mind on one point.

Dhyana (meditation): immersion in the flow of attention in the here and now.

Samadhi (the fusion): the overcoming of everyday consciousness into a new dimension of being.

Yoga Sutra 2.30-34 – Introduction to the Yamas and Niyamas

The essence of Raja Yoga, or the Yoga Sutras, is certainly the model of the 8 stages or limbs, which will now be explained in detail below. In this model, which is called Ashtanga, the first two points are probably the most important: the Yamas and Niyamas (the ethics of yoga).

These 10 points are intended to help the yogi become clear, calm, relaxed, good-natured, etc. in order to do justice to the expanding consciousness. With further practices, spiritual powers are awakened and unexpected areas of being are entered, for which there should be an appropriate basis.

2.30. “No harm, truthfulness, no stealing, renunciation, and incorruptibility are the abstinences.” or “Non-violence, honesty, no theft, seeing the divine in everything, and desiring nothing are the foundations of ethical coexistence.”

The Yamas are specifically:

Non-violence (Ahimsa): non-violence towards oneself and all beings

Truthfulness (Satya): being truthful in thought, word, and deed

Not stealing (Asteya): don’t steal and be independent

Seeing the divine in everything (Brahmacharya): living in awareness of the divine nature behind everything and everyone

Desiring nothing (Aparigraha): undemanding

We actually find exactly these points in the 10 Commandments.

2.31. “No matter what social class, place, time, or situation, this respect for fellow human beings must be maintained in all areas; this is a fundamental duty.” or “These important rules apply regardless of status, place, time, and situation.”

Patanjali mentions a few points here that should not be used as an excuse not to live these qualities:

Social class: whether we are a bus driver, head of government, or police officer, whether we are rich or poor, whether we are a boss, employee, or worker, the rules apply to everyone.

Place: regardless of whether we are at the football stadium, in a salary negotiation, or shopping, the recommendations should always be the benchmark for our actions.

Time: whether we are woken up at night, come home from a strenuous day at work, or have just won the lottery, the points always guide our action.

Situation: Whatever the situation, if we are attacked, if we are angry, or if we have to express our opinion to someone, nothing is considered a reason to ignore the rules.

2.32. “Purity, contentment, spiritual discipline, self-study, and trust in God are respect for oneself.” or “Clarity, frugality, asceticism, reflection, and devotion are the rules in dealing with oneself.”

The Niyamas are in detail:

Purity (Sauca): the purity inside and out that needs to be maintained

Contentment (Santosa): the contentment with what you have that needs to be awakened

Spirituelle Disziplin (Tapas): the inner discipline with spiritual practice that needs to be strengthened

Self-study (Svādhyāya): reflection and self-examination

Trust in God (Ishvara Pranidhana): the trust and devotion to a higher power

2.33. “When there is doubt and torment (against the Yamas and Niyamas), the opposite is to be encouraged.” or “When negative or harmful thoughts disturb the mind, knowing discernment can help.”

So this verse is specifically about the contents of our minds and how we can deal with them when we experience negative self-talk and bad feelings. To do this, it is first of all crucial to come to a clear awareness of observing consciousness, i.e., to detach oneself internally from the experiences and to cultivate witness consciousness. Then the harmful or negative feelings and thoughts can be gradually dissolved by cultivating the opposite or by reflecting and illuminating the different sides. Patanjali gives a psychological means of dealing with mental difficulties that is as sophisticated as it is simple: you simply become aware of the opposite, and in the light of this, you can then look at the situation from the meta level.

2.34. “Bad thoughts and violence, whether self-inflicted, commissioned, or tolerated, whether caused by greed, anger, or deception, and whether mild, moderate, or present in strong intensity, result in endless suffering and ignorance. That’s why the opposing position must be cultivated.”

He names nine points in three categories, all of which fall within our immediate sphere of influence and clearly influence our karma:

Whether we merely tolerated something, whether we commissioned it, or whether we did it ourselves, we are responsible for it. A good example here is meat consumption.

Regardless of whether we have done, tolerated, or commissioned a bad (violent) deed out of desire, anger, or even delusion, we have to bear the consequences. The law of karma is just and relentless.

It does not matter whether we commit little, moderate, or very intense violence; it will affect our karma.

Yoga Sutra 2.35-39 – Yamas - The abstentions

2.35. “In the environment of someone who is consistently non-violent, hostilities disappear.” or “If you are grounded in not hurting, the environment also becomes peaceful.”

2.36. “If the grounding in truthfulness is stable, there is a connection between causal action and the experienced effect.” or “If one is stable in truth, every statement will create reality.”

2.37. “If the mind of non-stealing is stable, all wealth will be there.” or “He who does not steal gets everything.”

2.38. “Action in consciousness of the Absolute brings life force.” or “When sexual power is controlled, powerful vitality is achieved.”

The term Brahmacharya is interpreted very differently. First of all, the literal meaning is simply “one who is always aware of the nature of God,” who “walks in the awareness of the Divine Omnipresence.” However, the word Brahmacharya is also a standing term for sexual abstinence or the control of sexual power.

2.39. “If needlessness is constant, knowledge about the meaning of incarnation arises.” or “With stability in modest lifestyle, one gains knowledge about life.”

This is another interesting verse. It describes the results of an inner attitude towards the material world, namely an understanding of the connections of our earthly life. We can translate the word aparigraha in many ways, and it is important to understand these verses in the right spirit.

Therefore, here is a small selection of possible translations:

Sukadev: Non-possessiveness

Rafael: Not being possessive

Sri Ram: Unpretentiousness

Iyengar: Freedom from possessiveness

Swami Vivekananda: Don’t accept

Swami Jnaneshwara: Not addicted to profit

Swami Sivananda: Non-acceptance of gifts

Yoga Sutra 2.40-45 – Niyamas - Recommendations for your own life

In the last section of the Yoga Sutras, Maharishi Patanjali described the recommendations for dealing with fellow beings in more detail. This section deals with five characteristics to get along better with yourself.

2.40. “Purity leads to distance from one’s own body and contact with others.” or “Purity causes one to reject one’s own body and avoid contact with others.”

2.41. “Through this comes clarity, cheerfulness, one-pointedness, control of the senses, and the ability to know the self.”

Some of the points that come from achieving or striving for purity are listed here:

Clarity: the state of pure Sattwa, subtle and clear Gunas.

Cheerfulness: effortless positive thinking, staying in a serene mind.

One-pointedness: the one-pointed alignment of the rays of attention on an object.

Control of the senses: the control of the senses or the victory over the senses.

Ability to know the self: the knowledge of the self, or “yogyatvāni” - the ability to do so.

These qualities are achieved naturally through the cultivation of purity.

2.42. “Through contentment, you gain incomparable happiness.” or “With frugality, you find the greatest well-being.”

Contentment is a crucial quality on the spiritual path. If the mind does not find a resting place in contentment, it will wander aimlessly for all eternity. It takes contentment to find inner peace and to fully engage in the transformation. We must break the incessant chain of desires in the mind by cultivating contentment.

2.43. “Through self-discipline, impurity is dissolved and one gains strength over the body and senses.” or “Through asceticism, recrement dissolves and the body and sense organs become powerful.”

Tapas or Tapasya, like the next two points, also belongs to Patanjali's Kriya Yoga, which were already mentioned and commented on at the beginning of the 2nd chapter.

2.44. “Learning about yourself brings the longed-for connection with the favorite aspect of God.” or “Studying the self creates union with the personal ideal.”

Another important point in Patanjali's Niyamas is svadhyaya, self-study or reflection on one's own behavior.

2.45. “Through devotion to God, self-knowledge and powers arise.” or “Through worship, the power to achieve samadhi arises.”

Patanjali here emphasizes the importance of devotion to God in order to progress on the spiritual path.

Yoga Sutra 2.46-48 – Mastering posture

Verse 2.46, with the profound sentence “Sthira Sukham Asanam”, is certainly one of the most famous in the entire Yoga Sutras. This section deals with the important point of body control and inner alignment in the sitting posture for meditation, the asana. In the modern world, yoga is mostly reduced to the level of physical exercise. However, in the Yoga Sutras, the most important source text of yoga, only 3 of the 196 verses speak of asanas, i.e., postures, in a narrower sense. In the Yoga Sutras, the word asana always means the meditation posture, which becomes clear in the context.

2.46. “The posture should be stable and comfortable.” or “The seat is firm and light.”

Apparently, Patanjali's purpose in these verses was to describe the correct posture for meditation and not to provide instructions for the many asanas in Hatha Yoga. However, these verses, especially “Sthira Sukham Asanam”, give us very specific instructions for practicing the many postures of body-oriented yoga. The further verses make it clear that it is about the ideal way of sitting in meditation, because in fact, it is crucial for the success of the meditation practice to be able to let go of the body, so to speak, to master it. If we want to progress further on the path of Raja Yoga and meditation, we must train an appropriate sitting posture that corresponds to the two points mentioned:

Stable: It takes a lot of practice for us to find a way to sit completely still and stable in meditation. We tend to sink into our posture and keep moving. If we want to go deep within, we have to become completely motionless. To do this, we have to develop the appropriate muscles, which takes time and practice.

Comfortable: In order to remain in a fixed and motionless posture for a long period of time and to fully engage in the process of meditation, it is very important that one feels comfortable in one's body or in one's posture. Only when the body feels good can we let go of it and fully engage in the inner transformation.

2.47. “Entering into infinity is achieved by letting go and recollection.” or “To master a position, you need to release the tension and meditate on the endless.”

In order to increasingly cultivate sthira-sukham-āsanam (“The posture should be stable and comfortable”) and thereby master the sitting posture, we should simultaneously release tension and align ourselves with the infinite. So it makes no sense at all to try to master a sitting posture with all your might, but Patanjali recommends remaining relaxed in order to achieve mastery of a posture.

2.48. “This is how you overcome the polarities.” or “This creates untouchedness through the duality of the physical world.”

When, through letting go of tension and meditating on infinity, comfortable and motionless remaining in an asana is achieved, one comes to Asanajaya, the mastery of an asana.

Yoga Sutra 2.49-53 – Pranayama - the 4th limb of Ashtanga

2.49. “Then comes the control of the life force energy via inhalation, exhalation, and the space in between.” or “Then comes the calming of the movement of exhalation and inhalation as well as the breathing pause.”

Patanjali clearly states that the posture must first be calmed before the breath can be brought under control. It is the first time that a kind of step is being spoken of here, so the sitting posture “asana” must first be mastered before you can control your breathing. The term 'Pranayama' in Patanjali's sense is ultimately about mastering the subtle power behind the breath, or the energy that allows us to breathe; in yoga, this is called "Prana".

On the one hand, the term Pranayama means the breathing exercises of Hatha Yoga, but Patanjali is referring here to meditation instructions on controlling the breath. In yoga, breath is considered the connection between body and mind; it is the gross material manifestation of prana. You can regulate your prana through your breath, which in turn has an impact on your mind. It's been said that it's mainly about controlling exhalation and extending breathing pauses.

2.50. “Inhalation, exhalation, and breath holding are lengthened and refined by controlling intensity, duration, and frequency.”

The aim of yoga, according to Patanjali, as said in verse 2 of chapter 1, is to “still the thought waves in the mind”. In order to achieve this, he recommends pranayama as the 4th step or 4th element of his instructions, whereby he says that it is specifically about extending and refining the 3 breathing phases by controlling the 3 factors mentioned.

2.51. “The Fourth transcends inside and outside.” or “The Fourth Method transcends holding, exhaling, and inhaling.”

In addition to the exercises that deal with the three phases of breathing (inhalation, exhalation, and holding your breath), according to Patanjali, there is a fourth way of practicing through which prana can be mastered. Breathing itself no longer plays a role because it happens all by itself and is harmonious. This is called Kevala Kumbhaka, the “meditative breath”, where you have the feeling that you are barely breathing or that there is hardly any exchange of air. It even happens that the breath stops completely, which is considered the highest form of pranayama and happens completely naturally (“Kevala”). To achieve this state, it is not enough to do breathing exercises; rather, asana and the yamas and niyamas form the concrete foundation for calming the breath to such an extent.

2.52. “This removes the veil from the light of the true self.” or “This destroys the concealment of the light.”

Through the state of “Kevala Kumbhaka”, the calming of the breath, which Patanjali calls the fourth method, the veils that obscure consciousness dissolve completely on their own.

2.53. “And the mind is prepared for alignment.” or “And the thoughts gather upon one thing.”

So the more the breath calms down, the clearer the mind becomes, and accordingly, our ability to concentrate the mind increases. If the breath and the prana are restless, and therefore the mind is full of movements, it becomes impossible to align the mind internally. Therefore, Patanjali recommends a gradual approach to the path of yoga; until we have a certain level of calm, it becomes very difficult to meditate.

Yoga Sutra 2.54-55 – Pratyahara - Inverting the senses

Pratyahara is compared to a turtle that pulls its five limbs inward; it is about detaching the mind from the attraction of sensory objects.

2.54. “Pratyahara leads to the natural state and is achieved by withdrawing the senses from their objects.” or “When one withdraws the senses from the experiential and the true nature shines through in the mind, it is called Pratyahara.”

Pratyahara is a very important and often underestimated element of yoga. It represents the link between the external and internal practices of yoga. The first four limbs of Ashtanga are concrete methods that contain physical action; the last three are internal orientations. Pratyahara combines the two levels of practice, focusing on turning the mind from the outside in. Interpretations of Pratyahara vary; some say it happens by itself, i.e., as a result of Pranayama. Others claim it should happen voluntarily, i.e., by turning your attention inward.

2.55. “From this comes absolute control over the sense organs.” or “From this comes mastery over the senses.”

We perceive the world on different levels with our senses; we can enjoy sensory experiences and learn from them. However, all too often we get lost in our desire to pacify the senses and forget that true joy comes from simply being. Pratyahara is the practice of no longer giving so much value to sensory experiences and viewing the impressions as equal, respectively, viewing them neutrally. This is not about not enjoying life, but simply accepting what is given without constantly striving for something else.

The original version is in German language by Narada: