Hurdles on the Path of Yoga

Patanjali Yoga Sutras - Knowledge Sheet 24

Contd. from knowledge sheet 23

What are the obstacles on the path to discovery? They add up to nine.

"Vyadhistyanasamshaya pramadalasyavirati bhrantidarshanalabdha bhoomikatvanavasthitatvani chittavikshepaste antarayaha"

vyadhi = illness; styana = inability to comprehend; samshaya = doubt; pramada = carelessness; alasya = laziness; avirati = non-attachment towards the senses; bhranti darshana = hallucination; alabdha bhoomikatva = non-attainment of any state; anavasthitatva = instability; chitta = mind; vikshepaha = distractions; te = these are; antarayaha = obstacles

“Illness, inability to comprehend, doubt, carelessness, laziness, non-attachment towards the senses, hallucination, non-attainment of any state, or instability, these are the distractions of the mind which cause obstacles on the path.”
- Patanjali Yoga Sutra #30

#1. Vyadhi or illness in the body is the first obstacle.

#2. Styana or the illness in the mind that is either mentally challenged and inability to comprehend, listen, understand, follow or practice anything. For example, you will be perfectly alright but when you get to start meditating, sickness befalls you! If you are watching television, nothing happens, but if you sit down to meditate, the body grows restless. This is an obstacle in your path.

#3. Samshaya or doubt. The mind is bogged by three types of doubts:

  • Doubt about oneself: “Am I good enough? I don’t think I can do it”. You see everyone else meditating and everyone else very happy and sitting in a pleasant mood and you feel that they are all enjoying and blissful. “It is only me who is suffering. I am no good. I do not think that I can ever make it.” So, doubt about yourself.
  • Doubt about the technique: “Is this alright? Will this technique do any good to me? I don’t think so. May be I should do some other technique. It is not for me.”
  • Doubt about the teacher: “What is he up to? What does he want?” These three types of doubts can hamper the progress. Doubt about yourself begins like this. That is an obstruction.

You understand doubt properly. Your doubts are always about something that is good. You never doubt negativity. Instead, you always doubt positivity. Has anyone ever doubted their depression? You never ask yourself, “Am I really depressed?” But if you are happy, you doubt, “Am I really happy? Is this what I want? I am not so sure.” You keep asking yourself if you are truly happy.

#4. Pramada means doing something wrong knowing that it is very wrong. You know that certain things are not good for you and knowing this too well, you do it. Or, knowing too well that you have to do something and not doing. You know that if you do not do a certain job you will be in trouble and knowing that you will be in trouble, still you get into trouble. Knowing that you have sugar problem and you should not eat much sugar, still you go on eating sugar or chocolate whatever knowingly. This is pramāda. So, carelessness, not being alert and attentive is another obstacle.

#5. Alasya is laziness; a heaviness in the body. You may do a lot of things, but when it comes to doing little asanas, postures or exercise, you simply don’t. This laziness can creep up in any aspect of life while doing anything. One is intentionally not doing and another is heaviness or laziness in the body that takes over you.

<< Om chanting: Clearing obstacles from your path   9 Obstacles on the Path - Part 2 >>

(This is part of a series of knowledge sheets based on Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's commentaries on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.)

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