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33Yoga Sutra 1.32: Dealing with the nine obstacles and four companions

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Sep 19, 2005
      Yoga Sutras: Sutra 1.32:
      Dealing with the nine obstacles and four companions
      (Useful graphics are shown at this link along with text)

      YOGA SUTRA 1.32: To prevent or deal with these nine obstacles and
      their four consequences, the recommendation is to make the mind one-
      pointed, training it how to focus on a single principle or object.
      (tat pratisedha artham eka tattva abhyasah)

      TAT = those, their
      PRATISEDHA = prevention, negation, neutralizing, prohibition,
      opposing, voiding, removal
      ARTHAM = for, for the purpose of, in order to
      EKA = single
      TATTVA = truth, principle, subject, reality
      ABHYASAH = practice, cultivating that habit

      ONE-POINTEDNESS IS THE SOLUTION: There is a single, underlying
      principle that is the antidote for these obstacles, and that is the
      one-pointedness of mind. There are many forms in which this one-
      pointedness can be practiced, but once again, the principle is
      uniform. If the mind is focused, then it is far less likely to get
      entangled and lost in the mire of delusion that can come from these
      obstacles. Remember that the fundamental reason we do not experience
      enlightenment is the fact that consciousness is falsely identified
      with the many levels of conditioning (1.4). Some specific suggestions
      are given in forthcoming sutras (1.33-1.40) of ways to focus the mind
      so as to attenuate the effects of these obstacles.

      REMEMBER ONE TRUTH OR OBJECT: Repeatedly remember one aspect of
      truth, or one object. It may any object, including one of the several
      that are suggested in the coming sutras (1.33-1.39). It may be
      related to your religion, an aspect of your own being, a principle,
      or some other pleasing object. It may be a mantra, short prayer, or
      affirmation. Here, in this sutra, the principle of one-pointedness is
      introduced as the antidote for the many obstacles mentioned in the
      previous sutras (1.30-1.31). While there is great breadth of choice
      in objects, a sincere aspirant will chose wisely the object for this
      practice, possibly along with the guidance of someone familiar with
      these practices.

      THIS IS PREPARATION FOR MEDITATION: Sometimes it can seem that
      meditation is the means by which we learn to deal with these kinds of
      distractions. Actually, it is somewhat the other way around. We learn
      the basic principles of how to deal with the distractions so that we
      can subsequently meditate and experience the true Self, which is
      beyond the mind. However, we first have to stabilize the mind and
      deal with the distractions. It is that preparation that is being
      taught in these few sutras here (1.30-1.32), along with the specific
      suggestions for purifying the mind that are presented in sutras 1.33-
      1.40. Later, in Chapter 2, the subtler methods of meditation are
      taught, once these grosser obstacles are minimized.

      ONE-POINTEDNESS APPLIES AT ALL LEVELS: The principle of one-
      pointedness of mind as the antidote to obstacles continues throughout
      the subtler and subtle-most of the meditation practices. While it is
      essential at the beginning to neutralize the gross level of mental
      obstacles, it remains a key tool at all of the subsequent stages of
      practice. The nature of the obstacles might become subtler and
      subtler, but the nature of their disturbing, distracting quality is
      similar, as is the solution.

      principles of abhyasa (practice) and non-attachment (vairagya) were
      presented (1.12-1.16) as the foundation for Yoga meditation. Here, in
      sutra 1.32 the companion principle of one-pointedness for removal of
      obstacles is introduced. It is extremely useful to repeatedly reflect
      on how these three play together in a practical way. The commitment
      to practice, along with training the mind to be one-pointed, and
      cultivating non-attachment in relation to the many mental obstacles
      act together, in coordination, to bring the fruits of meditation.

      automatically learn the principle of one-pointedness as a way to deal
      with problems or obstacles in life, though the way it is done is
      often off target. Getting absorbed in some hobby, sports activity,
      television, or some form of addiction each provide some sense of
      relief, but this can end up causing suppression and repression of
      thoughts and emotions. One-pointedness of this kind can lead to
      avoiding or escaping from matters at hand. This is not the intent of
      the one-pointedness of Yoga meditation. Rather, with the one-
      pointedness of Yoga, there is also an expansion of awareness of the
      inner world, coupled with non-attachment. It leads to freedom and
      openness, not to stifling and closed mindedness.

      FOCUSING ON THE POSITIVE: There is a commonly known principle of
      focusing on the positive attitudes, actions, or situations in life,
      while allowing the negative to gradually wash away. This focus on the
      positive is one of the practical applications of the principle of one-
      pointedness. Over and over, in example after example, we find that
      this principle of staying focused is a universal process for health,
      healing, wholeness, and transcending the more external levels of our
      being so as to experience the Truth within (1.3).

      LIFESTYLE OF FOCUS: The spirit of one-pointedness is not merely a
      technique or method of meditation. It is an intentionality, a world
      view, a way of being. It is a process of developing a lifestyle where
      you pay attention to what you are doing, while being ever mindful of
      the subtler aspects of our being. Whatever we do, say, or think,
      there is a gentle, persistent awareness that is one of focus, rather
      than distraction. The yogi consciously cultivates this lifestyle of
      attention, focus, or one-pointedness, while remaining aware of the
      rest, ever expanding in awareness.

      MANY MEANS OF ONE-POINTEDNESS: In the forthcoming sutras (1.33-1.39),
      several specific methods are suggested for one-pointedness. These
      include cultivation or meditation on four attitudes (1.33), breath
      awareness, awareness of sensing, focus on inner luminosity,
      contemplating on a clear mind, witnessing the stream of thoughts, or
      choosing whatever focus is found to be pleasing and useful.