śraddhā faith vīrya vigour, heroic, brave smṛti memory, remembering samādhi absorption prajña wise, discernment purvaka comes first itareṣam for others
The ‘others’ of this sutra are those who do not fall in to the categories of videha (the disembodied) or prakṛti-layanam (merged with matter). For us Patanjali is telling us the foundations of a practice come before cessation of thoughts.
Patanjali loves a list so here he is listing the foundations:
- Faith or Certainty – we need to believe firstly that liberation is possible, secondly that Patanjali’s methods will get us there.
- Vigour, bravery, commitment – we need to be committed to our practice and our conviction. Faith leads to commitment.
- Memory – we constantly remember our faith, we remember our focus and our aim, kaivalya. Commitment leads to this remembering why we are doing our practice.
- Absorption – in the task of practice. This naturally arises when we keep coming back to our focus and faith and it spontaneously gives rise to >
- Discernment or wisdom – we see and comprehend that we are more than prakṛti: we are puruṣa. Understanding arises that we do not need to associate our self with the whirling mind stuff but rather the underlying consciousness that pervades the universe.
Its probably worth noting Patanjali still hasn’t outlined what we should be practicing, he continues to focus on how we practice. This is probably why it takes so many readings of the yoga sutras before we start to make sense of them, we need to have an overview of where Patanjali is leading us and then when we look back on the methods for practicing it becomes clearer. A linier approach to understanding the sutras leads to a less comprehensive understanding.
That śraddhā is placed as the foundation of the foundations resonates with me. It is faith in the practice which takes me to my mat in the morning, which keeps me vegan, which gives me solace when I feel sad.
As the man says “keep the faith” 😉