Yoga Sutra - Samādhi Pada 1.14
स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यसत्कारादरासेवितो दृढभूमिः ॥१४॥
saḥ tu dīrgha-kāla-nairantarya-satkāra-ādarā-āsevitaḥ dṛḍha-bhūmiḥ ||14||
But that is firmly situated when carefully attended to for a long time without interruption.
Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time.
Patañjali here gives further specifics pertaining to what the effort underpinning practice consists of. First, in order to become unshakable, practice must be performed nairantarya, without interruption. One cannot take breaks from one’s practice whenever one feels like it or the mind dictates and expect to attain the goal of yoga, which is precisely to quell such whimsical vṛttis. Second, one’s practice must continue dīrgha–kāla, for a long time. One cannot attain success in a few months or even after many years of practice unless one is exceptionally dedicated. Indeed, the Gītā speaks of the yogī maintaining the yatna, effort, of the last sūtra, for many births: “Through effort and restraint, cleansed of all impurities, the yogī who has cultivated perfection over several lives, eventually attains the supreme destination” (VI.45). Practice is a he very least a lifelong commitment, to be undertaken, Patañjali goes on to say, satkāra–āsevitaḥ, with respect and devotion. One is, after all, pursuing the ultimate goal of life—realization of the innermost self—and cannot expect to attain this in a halfhearted or frivolous fashion, or in a random manner.
Vyāsa states that the practice of yoga becomes successful, that is, firmly established, when accompanied by austerity, celibacy, knowledge, and faith. Under these conditions, it is not immediately overwhelmed by the ingrained habits of the mind. Vācaspati Miśra calls these habits, which are saṁskāras that impel the mind outward into the sensual realm, “highway robbers.” He acknowledges that the sāttvic nature of the mind—tranquillity and calmness—is often overcome by rajas and tamas, but if one maintains one’s practice, then eventually the mind becomes steadfast and concentrated. If one gives up one’s practice, however, one’s mind immediately becomes overwhelmed again. Hence this verse indicates that the practice of yoga has to be cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion for a long period of time.
If we correlate citta with a garden, sattva with a beautiful bed of fragrant and attractive flowers, and rajas and tamas with weeds and pests, then we have a useful metaphor for the practice of yoga. As any gardener knows, maintaining a garden takes devotion and uninterrupted weeding and pest control for a prolonged period of time. In fact, these processes can never be interrupted, since within a remarkably short period of time, even the most devotedly cultivated garden becomes overwhelmed by weeds and pests; if left unattended, all one’s hard work is easily undone.”
Likewise with yoga: The cultivation of sattva takes constant attention and cultivation—the minute the yogī relaxes his or her practices and vigilance, Vācaspati Miśra’s highway robbers of rājasic and tāmasic saṁskāras overwhelm the sāttvic qualities so arduously developed. This is because, like weeds, saṁskāras are never actually eliminated or destroyed; they remain in a latent subconscious state and thus can become activated at any moment, unless constantly curtailed (although, as will be discussed below, they can be “burnt” by certain practices, rendering them inoperable); hence Patañjali’s notion of devoted uninterruptedness over a prolonged period.
As an aside, many Hindu gurus and yogīs have been embroiled in scandals that have brought disrepute to the transplantation of yoga and other Indic spiritual systems to the West. This sūtra provides a mechanism of interpreting such occurrences. If one reads the early hagiographies of many Hindu gurus whose integrity was later found compromised, one is struck by the intensity, devotedness, and accomplishments of their initial practices. Nonetheless, however accomplished a yogī may become, if he or she abandons the practices of yoga under the notion of being enlightened or of having arrived at a point beyond the need of practice, it may be only a matter of time before past saṁskāras, including those of past sensual indulgences, now unimpeded by practice, begin to surface. The result is scandal and traumatized disciples. There is no flower bed, however perfected, that can counteract the relentless emergence of weeds if left unattended. As Patañjali will discuss later in the text, as long as one is embodied, saṁskāras remain latent, and therefore potential, in the citta. Hence one can read this sūtra as indicating that since the practices of yoga must be uninterrupted, one would be wise to politely avoid yogīs or gurus who claim to have attained a state of enlightenment such that they have transcended the need for the practice and renunciation prescribed by Patañjali here.