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16Yoga Sutras 1.13: Practicing that which brings stability and tranquility

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Jul 26, 2005
      Yoga Sutras: Sutra 1.13:
      Practicing that which brings stability and tranquility
      (Practical exercise is shown at this link along with text)

      YOGA SUTRA 1.13: Practice (abhyasa) means choosing, applying the
      effort, and doing those actions that bring a stable and tranquil
      state (sthitau).
      (tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa)

      TATRA = of these two (abhyasa and vairagya)

      STHITAU = stability, steadiness, stable tranquility, undisturbed

      YATNAH = effort, persistent exertion, sustained struggle, endeavour

      ABHYASA = by or with practice, repeated practice

      TWO WORDS FOR PRACTICE: There are two different words that are often
      translated into English as practice. One is abhyasa and the other is
      sadhana, which is the title of Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras (Sadhana
      Pada). It is important to understand the difference between these two

      ABHYASA MEANS PRACTICE, but in a very general, all encompassing way.
      It means choosing (with buddhi) the wiser of alternative courses of
      action. It means making decisions on the basis of what will bring
      greater tranquility or peace of mind, as these are the preparation
      for the deeper, subtler practices leading to Self-realization.

      SADHANA ALSO MEANS PRACTICE, but is more specific, relating to the
      direct practices one does. These include the specific methods or
      techniques of working with the body, breath, and mind, as well as the
      specific principles applied in working with the external world and
      other people. For example, the eight rungs of Yoga (2.29) are all a
      part of sadhana.

      STITHAU HAS TWO PARTS: Abhyasa is defined in this sutra as choosing
      or cultivating that which leads to sthitau. To understand the meaning
      of sthitau, it is necessary to combine two principles. First is that
      of tranquility, calmness, or peace of mind. Second is that of
      stability, steadiness, or being of firm ground. Thus, sthitau means a
      stable form of tranquility. In other words, it is the pursuit of an
      equanimity that is with you at all times.

      This stability is not just a matter of regaining peace of mind when
      it has been lost, like having a weekend away from work or taking a
      vacation. One might be able to temporarily have some tranquility
      while avoiding the core decisions of lifestyle, attitudes, and
      practices. However, to have stable tranquility, which is with you
      all, or most of the time, it is necessary to take the extra steps in
      life planning that supports meditation. This is the meaning of

      EXERCISE WITH ABHYASA: Abhyasa is the practice of choosing that which
      brings sthitau, or a stable state of tranquility. It applies to all
      levels, ranging from the most external, worldly actions, speech and
      thoughts, to the most subtle aspects of our being. To practice
      Abhyasa, it is easiest to start with the gross and gradually work
      towards the subtle.

      One simple way to enhance this practice is to sit quietly and reflect
      on what actions, speech or thoughts lead you either towards or away
      from sthitau, that state of stable tranquility. Put two columns on a
      piece of paper and write down your personal reflections from your own

      Actions, speech or thoughts which lead me TOWARDS steady, stable,
      undisturbed calmness or tranquility; I need to do more of these:

      1) _______________
      2) _______________
      3) _______________
      4) _______________
      5) _______________
      6) _______________
      7) _______________

      Actions, speech or thoughts which lead me AWAY from steady, stable,
      undisturbed calmness or tranquility; I need to do less of these:

      1) _______________
      2) _______________
      3) _______________
      4) _______________
      5) _______________
      6) _______________
      7) _______________

      In the AWAY from column, you'll probably be listing some of your
      negative habits that are not useful to you on your journey. In the
      TOWARDS column, you may be listing some of the practices related to
      yoga, as well as other positive actions that you already know are
      useful to you on your journey. Such simple exercises can be quite
      insightful and helpful in building a solid foundation for meditation.

      By increasingly taking charge of your choices in life and the ways in
      which you use your personal energy, and increasingly focusing on
      doing what is in the left column, you gradually watch that which is
      in the right column weaken and fade away.