The first chapter of the Yoga Sutras deals with samādhi, which is meditative and spiritual absorption. Meditation is what comes after a great deal of preparation. It requires discipline to follow a systematic method of learning.
The introductory sutra in this chapter suggests that after our many actions in life, and whatever preparatory practices we might have performed till now, finally, we are ready to pursue the depths of self-exploration.
Why does Rishi Patañjali begin the text with a chapter on meditative absorption?
Why does Rishi Patañjali not begin the text with discussion explaining basic concepts such as: what is mind, what is body, how do we train our body and mind to prepare for meditative absorption?
Mind “The reason for suffering in life is due to the notion of bondage created by the mind. Mind alone is the cause for all the suffering and mind alone is the solution to end the suffering.”
Mind comprises of mental functions, mind modifications which include perceptions, feelings, emotions, memory, all thinking - can be ideation, imagination, belief, reasoning and also includes ego, sense of individuality “ahaṅkāra”.
Discussion on Mind
How does the mind gather information?
What are the 5 states/conditions of the mind? How to Master the Mind?
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of “creating transformation”, spiritual transformation.
The meaning of the Sanskrit word mantra is traditionally defined as that which liberates (trāyate) the mind (manas) from its troubles and limitations. It can also be derived from the verbal root “man” (to think) and affix “tr”. This derivation means “instrument of thought” or better yet, “tool or instrument for the mind”. Thus a mantra can be considered an instrument for concentration or a tool for focusing the mind.
In the practice of mantra japa, dhyāna is achieved when the attention is fixed on a stream of identical thoughts created by the repetition of the mantra.
It is important to remember not only the words of mantra for japa, but the deeper meaning of the mantra has to be contemplated upon (rather than mere parrot-like repetition in the mind).
The traditional mantras are immensely valuable because they possess a unique capacity to draw our full attention during chanting of the mantra. This capacity is mantra “shakti”, its power.
These mantras are prayers. Any form of a prayer connects us to a power infinitely greater than ourselves. This infinite power is invoked when a mantra is properly recited. The prayerful dimension of a mantra is an important source of its “shakti”.
A mantra’s whole effect is based on its sound, and to get the right effect, one has to get the sound right. Thus it is essential to have correct pronunciations, speed and rhythm while chanting a mantra.