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Chapter IV of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

By Shyam Mehta

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Chapter IV of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

By Shyam Mehta

This, the sixth of 6 articles, comments on the fourth chapter of The Yoga Sutras. In the first chapter it was noted that Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the consciousness, and that in the modern world, the only practical route to achieving yoga is by dedicating all your actions to God (Ishvara Pranidhana). The whole universe is God and so your actions need to be focussed on helping your fellow man and Mother Nature.

The first sutra of the second chapter states that yoga practice consists of moderate austerities (careful diet, etc, aimed at generating spiritual heat), study of one's self (both through reading of scriptures and yoga practice) and Ishvara Pranidhana. The second chapter then proceeds to examine the psychology of man and describes traditional yoga practice.

The third chapter begins with a description of various states of the mind, specifically the last three stages of yoga. It then lists the various 'magical' powers that a yoga student may be given (by God).

The fourth chapter is called the chapter on liberation ('Kaivalya'). It brings together many of the concepts raised in previous chapters in order to help the practitioner gain some knowledge about the crucial factors giving rise to and associated with liberation. Rather than give you a practical guide (you can read the fourth chapter for yourself), I wish to give you an understanding of liberation itself. What does it really mean?

The analogy of a mother bringing up a daughter is rather good. In the Yoga Sutras, the practitioner is the daughter, and God is the mother.

For the first fifteen years or so of a girl's life, the mother trains the girl in the art and science of becoming a perfect wife. So it is that God helps the ordinary man or woman who practices yoga sincerely to become a perfect wife to him. At age 15 or so the girl has learnt what she needs to learn and she is set free. In the Yoga Sutras this is called kaivalya. The yoga practitioner has all the knowledge, vigour, purity, etc. needed to be married to God. Just as the mother sets the girl free to do as she wishes, so God sets the practitioner free, to do as he or she wishes. He has trained the yoga practitioner through the primary means of giving him daily good thoughts.

During this training, some girls will have decided that they wish to remain independent and free (kaivalya) and others will have decided that they wish to marry and become a wife. For those that are inclined to marry, the mother trains them in the art of surrender. Similarly, God gives students an inclination to perform Ishvara Pranidhana for those practitioners who are in search of him.

Later, some girls will meet their husband (some yoga practitioners will meet God), become attached to Him, and ultimately perform the act of surrender. This act involves giving one's body, mind and heart to one's husband. The woman or the yoga practitioner becomes a bride. He or she is married to 'her' husband and is in a state of moksha or permanent bliss.

In fact, in the old days in India, marriage was often performed with the groom absent. The girl then was not in a state of bliss, but in sadness, in love and missing her husband. So it is, that following Ishvara Pranidhana, the yoga practitioner is sad, missing God each day and waiting for Him. In most cases, direct vision of God remains absent until death, and in any case the state of moksha itself also only happens after death.

Just as a wife remains a free individual after surrender to her husband, so too the yoga practitioner is free after Ishvara Pranidhana. The wife wants to do whatever her husband wishes rather than is required to do whatever he wishes.

Finally, it is important to note that both kaivalya and moksha are states of love.

Moving towards kaivalya, the practitioner's love for him or herself diminishes much more rapidly than his or her love for others. He is therefore always in a state of (ever-increasing, but finite) love. It should be noted here that one is in love with someone if one's love for them exceeds one's love for oneself.

In moksha, one's love for God knows no bounds

Shyam has been practicing yoga for 47 years and teaching it for 32 years. Shyam is with The Loving Heart Centre and you may visit his website at

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