Yoga Sutra - Sādhana Pada 2.1
तपः स्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि क्रियायोगः ॥१॥
tapaḥ svādhyāya-īśvara-praṇidhānāni kriyā-yogaḥ ||1||
Austerity, self-study, and dedication to Isvara are kriya yoga.
Kriyā-yoga, the path of action, consists of self-discipline, study, and dedication to the Lord.
Yoga for one with a controlled mind was described in the first chapter. Vyāsa asks, what about for one whose mind is not so fixed? He reads this sūtra as indicating how one whose mind is not fixed may practice a more action-oriented type of yoga referred to here by Patañjali as kriyā–yoga and consisting of discipline, tapas; study, svādhyāya; and dedication to God, Īśvara–praṇidhāna. Vācaspati Miśra points out that abhyāsa and vairāgya, practice and dispassion, were mentioned in the first chapter (I.15) as the means of yoga, whereas here in kriyā–yoga, tapas, svādhyāya, and Īśvara–praṇidhāna are being presented as the means. Practice and dispassion, however, require a predominance of sattva and so are difficult for the active and outgoing mind that is still under the influence of rajas and tamas. For such a temperament, the means outlined in this sūtra produce the required purity of mind. This is not to say that practice and dispassion are not to be cultivated by the beginner, but that sattva is especially easily cultivated through the practice of kriyā–yoga. Once the mind is more sāttvic, it is more capable of remaining fixed in practice and dispassion. Vijānabhikṣu (and Mādhava1) quote the Gītā here: “Action is said to be the means for the sage desirous of yoga, but for one who has already attained yoga, tranquility is said to be the means” (VI.3). For the commentators, then, Patañjali is now presenting a more accessible and action-oriented method for approaching the goals outlined in the previous chapter.
Patañjali will be delving into a deeper level of psychological analysis, here, at least as pertaining to the conventional functioning of the mind. Yoga was defined as citta-vṛtti-nirodha, but in the following section he analyzes the mechanisms underpinning the production of the vṛttis. One cannot hope to still vṛttis until one confronts their underlying cause, hence this chapter is an organic continuation of the previous one (and not reflective of a hodge-podge textual collage as held by earlier scholars of the text as noted in the introduction).
Tapas means the control of the senses—controlling the quantity, quality, and regularity of one’s food intake, for example; the quality of what one listens to or reads or talks about—in other words, the “sāttvicizing” of one’s sensual engagements. There is no question of yoga for one who does not practice tapas, self-discipline, that is, austerity, the first item on Patañjali’s list, says Vyāsa, making no bones about the matter. Impurities, by which he means the influences of rajas and tamas, which take various forms due to endless karma, the kleśas (obstacles to yoga such as ignorance, ego, and attachment), and the vāsanās (clusters of subliminal imprints), have propelled the mind toward the snares of sense objects since beginningless time, anādi. These deeply ingrained habits cannot be removed without self-discipline.
Vijñānabhikṣu agrees that the tendency of the mind to pursue sense gratification can be broken only with self-discipline, but he adds that this should be of a gentle kind that will not disrupt the clarity of mind or weaken the body (otherwise, says Śaṅkara, if austerity and self-discipline are practiced in a way that disturbs the mind, they defeat the entire purpose of yoga—to still the mind). One does not have to look far to encounter the severity of the practices of certain extreme ascetics in Hindu texts, as even the hagiographical records of the practices of the Buddha indicate. Even the ancient Greeks were struck with the extreme practices they encountered among some Indian ascetics more than two millennia ago—standing on one leg, or with one arm raised aloft (Strabo XV.61), practices still encountered abundantly in India if one attends, for example, a Kumbha Melā festival.
The Yoga commentators take a gentler approach. Rāmānanda Sarasvatī considers self-discipline to consist of celibacy, service to the guru, speaking truthfully, gravity, silence, the performance of appropriate duty, tolerance of extremes, and controlled intake of food. Hariharānanda states that it entails renouncing all sensual actions that bring only momentary pleasure. Śaṅkara stresses that yoga does not bear fruit for one who does not practice austerity, that is, for one who is too fond of the body, considering it to be one’s very self, and overly inclined to avoid discomfort. The mind has been addicted to sense objects since time immemorial, he continues, and is caught up by them like a fish in a net. This primordial propensity cannot be destroyed without tapas, austerity. Patañjali will have more to say about tapas later.
Vyāsa defines svādhyāya, the second item mentioned in this sūtra, as japa, the repetitive chanting of mantras such as oṁ, and the study of scripture, which is a jñāna practice most especially associated with the Vedānta tradition (it will be further discussed in II.32, 44). From studying scripture, the aspiring yogī gains knowledge and inspiration. Vyāsa defines the third ingredient of kriyā–yoga, Īśvara–praṇidhāna, as the dedication of all action to God, Īśvara, and the renunciation of the desire of all fruits that might accrue from one’s action. Vijñānabhikṣu notes that the submission to Īśvara mentioned in this sūtra is different from the interaction with Īśvara noted in the last chapter. In I.28, devotion to Īśvara was in the context of God as the object of meditation and took the form of concentration on his name and its meaning, whereas here, kriyā–yoga being more action oriented, devotion to Īśvara takes the form of renunciation of self-centered deeds and the offering of action to God. The implication is that total inward concentration on Īśvara is for the more advanced yogīs, and the more outward or action-centered practices associated with this chapter are for those whose minds are still outwardly inclined. However, it is important to note that surrender to God is not an option in kriyā-yoga as it was when it was presented as an object of meditation; it is a mandatory part of this practice. Patañjali’s theistic orientations are thus more forcefully evident in this sūtra.
The commentators take this dedication of one’s fruits of action to Īśvara as an implicit reference to the bhakti-centered karma-yoga of the Gītā, where, of course, Kṛṣṇa identifies himself as Īśvara. Indeed, the term kriyā overlaps considerably with the term karma—action, deed, etc.—both being nominal derivatives of the root kṛ, to do. Vācaspati Miśra quotes the quintessential karma-yoga verse from the Gītā in this regard: “You have a right to perform your duties, but not to their fruits; do not consider yourself to be the doer of your activities, and do not become attached to inaction” (II.47). According to the laws of karma, all action, good or bad, when performed out of self-interest, or, more precisely, when performed under the influence of ignorance—mistaking the self to be the body and mind (II.5)—plants a seed of reaction, which in this or a future life must eventually bear fruit, good or bad, in accordance with the original deed (II.12). Karma-yoga, as outlined in the Gītā, is an action-oriented path through which one can avoid the vicious cycle of karmic reaction by acting purely out of dharma, duty, rather than self-interest. It is subsequently surpassed and culminates, in the Gītā, in action performed not just for duty but in devotion for Īśvara. It is in this bhakti sense that the Yoga Sūtras commentators take this aspect of kriyā–yoga.
Thus, Vijñānabhikṣu quotes the verses from the Gītā where Kṛṣṇa says: “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you give away, whatever austerity you perform, do it as an offering to me” (IX.27). “I am the enjoyer of sacrifice and self-discipline, and the great Īśvara, Lord, of all the worlds” (V.29). “Those who worship other gods, endowed with faith, are really worshipping me, but they do so in ignorance” (IX.23). In these verses, as elsewhere in the Gītā, an alternative but overlapping path to karma–yoga, namely, bhakti–yoga, is expressed: Even as both paths require the abandonment of self-interest, action is better performed as an offering to Kṛṣṇa, that is, Īśvara. Thus, devotion rather than duty for duty’s sake (as is the case with karma-yoga) becomes the primary motivating principle for activity. In the Gītā, Kṛṣṇa most conspicuously establishes the primacy of bhakti when he advises Arjuna to abandon all dharma, duties, and devote himself exclusively to him, thereby underscoring the primacy of bhakti over dharma (XVIII.66). (The text ends, however, with Arjuna performing his duty nonetheless, but doing so out of devotion because Kṛṣṇa tells him to, rather than out of the call of duty per se.)
Vijñānabhikṣu notes, therefore, that the kriyā-yoga of this sūtra denotes more than the karma-yoga of the Gītā, as it includes bhakti in the form of Īśvara-praṇidhana, and jñāna in the form of svādhyāya, study. Therefore, Patañjali’s kriyā-yoga actually incorporates three of the yogic paths outlined in the Gītā: karma-yoga, jñāna-yogi, and bhakti-yoga. The term kriyā-yoga is found infrequently in older texts. Gelblum (1992, 80), states that the term is to be understood more accurately as ritual or worshipful act rather than the too broad meaning, action. This would tie the term more specifically with the practices of bhakti-yoga, which eventually take the form of pūjā in theistic Hinduism (for example, the upāsanā in Gītā IX.14).
Vijñānabhikṣu draws attention to the fact that, as the outer or preparatory aspects of yoga, the three ingredients of kriyā-yoga specified in this sūtra are also three of the five niyamas, the second of the eight aṅgas, limbs, of yoga. He considers the first five limbs, which Patañjali calls outer, also a preparatory aspect of yoga, as is kriyā–yoga. Tapaḥ–svādhyāya and Īśvara–praṇidhāna are the most important preparatory ingredients, says Vijñānabhikṣu; hence they have been selected here by Patañjali under the rubric of kriyā, in addition to their treatment later as niyamas.
Of interest here is the observation that tapaḥ and svādhyāya are ancient brāhmaṇa practices, the former central to Vedic purificatory rites and the latter to the recitation and study of the Vedic texts. Accordingly, one can suggest that Patañjali is providing something of a continuum with mainstream tradition here, incorporating ancient and familiar Vedic activities into the more marginal practices of meditation that he was systematizing.
tapaḥ (m. nom. sg.), Dhṛtarāṣṭra, the blind Kuru king to whom the Bhagavad Gita is to be related by Sanaya, his minister. The name, a BY cpd., means “He by whom the kingdom is held.”
svādhyāya (3rd sg. perfect act. √vac), he said, he spoke.
dharma (m.), duty, law, righteousness, virtue, honor.
īśvara (n. loco sg.), in the field, on the field. kuru (m.), Kuru, the royal dynasty to which
praṇidhānāni (n. loco sg.), in the field, on the field.
kriyā (m. nom. pI. p. pass. participle sam ava √i), come together, assembled.
yogaḥ (m. nom. pI. desiderative adj. from √yudh), desiring to fight, battlehungry, desiring to do battle.