1.30 ततः व्याधिस्त्यानसंशयप्रमादालस्याविरतिभ्रान्तिदर्शनालब्ध भूमिकत्वानवस्थितत्वानि चित्तविक्षेऽन्तरायाः
vyādhi-styāna-saṁśaya-pramādālasyāvirati-bhrānti-darśanālabdha bhūmikatv ānavasthitatvāni citta-vikṣepās-te’ntarāyāḥ
vyādhi – sickness, disease; styāna – mental laziness, incompetence; saṁśaya – doubt; pramāda – ignorance, carelessness, illusion; ālasya – indolence, laziness, sloth; avirati – non-abstention, sense addiction; bhrānti-darśana – false perception, erroneous conception; alabdha-bhūmikatva – non-attainment of any yogic stage, failure to reach a step; anavasthitatvāni – inability to remain on the yogic path; citta-vikṣepāḥ – distractions of the mind; te – these; antarāyāḥ – interruptions, disturbances :
The (nine) disturbances that distract the mind are: sickness, mental laziness, doubt, illusion, laziness, addiction to sense pleasure, false perception, the nonattainment of any yogic stage, and the inability to remain on the yogic path.
1.30 vyādhi-styāna-saṁśaya-pramādālasyāvirati-bhrānti-darśanālabdha bhūmikatv ānavasthitatvāni citta-vikṣepās-te’ntarāyāḥ
The (nine) disturbances that distract the mind are: sickness, mental laziness, doubt, illusion, laziness, addiction to sense pleasure, false perception, the non-attainment of any yogic stage, and the inability to remain on the yogic path.
I’d like to first bring your attention to the last word in this śloka…or sūtra – the ‘antarāyā’. Antarāyā… we have given the translation of… interruptions or disturbances. So the literal meaning of antarāyā is, to create a gap, and of course, it’s referencing the need… and one of the initial and really important goals of yoga, to be able to take the mind and bring it into a focus. And so, whenever there is a gap created or a break in that focus or attention, then this is what is being referenced here.
Vyāsa, in his commentary and the style that he uses, he first poses a question before this śloka, so that this verse or sūtra then is in response to his question. So, the way he phrased his question…it’s, “What are the impediments which disturb the mind? What are these called, and how many are these?” So, in a previous sūtra, Patañjali mentions that devotion to Īśvara also removes the obstacles to attaining samādhi. And here he lists these obstacles or disturbances, and he states that these disturbances… these nine disturbances, cause a distraction of the mind.
And of course, what happens according to Vyāsa is that when these disturbances arise…when these things arise…they do so as a result of the fluctuations of the mind, or the vṛttis. These fluctuations, or this constantly fluctuating of the mind, of course, indicates how the mind has a hold over the living being, and perpetuates the material existence, and that when these fluctuations… he states, when they cease, so also these obstacles vanish. So, we can therefore understand that these fluctuations, or these distractions being mentioned here, are very synonymous with the innumerable vṛttis.
The first of the list that is mentioned here, is ‘vyādhi’ which we have translated as sickness. But the Sanskrit word vyādhi is much broader than the modern Western understanding of what constitutes sickness. So Vyāsa, in his commentary, he defines that this condition… it is a “disorder of the humors, or the secretions and the organs of the body.” …that is the definition that he gives. So, this of course needs to be understood in terms of the Ayurvedic approach to medicine, which deals with the imbalance of the doṣas. The doṣas… there are three in number, or referenced in English to humors – kapha, vāta and pitta. So, we won’t… which fundamentally means like wind, phlegm and heat. So, somebody that has a little bit of understanding or background in Āyurveda, will understand what I’m referencing. But in broader terms the Indian or Āyurveda approach, like the Chinese approach to disease and sickness, they looked at things in a more holistic way, and what is currently considered sickness in allopathic or Western medicine, was often considered in these Eastern systems to be symptoms of some deeper underlying problem. And so, their system of medicine had more to do with bringing the body and the different things within the body into a balance, so that these symptoms could be addressed…and the underlying sickness. And so, they also understood that there are many things that can bring on such imbalances within the body, and also within the mind. And they include mental states of anxiety, fears, and insecurities, etc. And so the reference to vyādhi or sickness as being one of the things that are going to cause this interruption or distractions of the mind, should be seen in this context and it has much more profound and deeper meaning than what many people think of as sickness.
The second item here is ‘styāna’, and it actually refers to a form of mental laziness or incompetence, and incompetence means…as in a lack of competence. And it refers to idleness, or a lack of inclination of the mind towards work, and of course the work being referenced here would be one’s sadhana – their daily spiritual practices, the need to remain in a mindful state throughout the day and even through the night…and it also references the relationship of the mind with the living being. So this listlessness…this tendency to just daydream, or to become absorbed in streams of thought, where these streams of thought are not actually directed… they have just been produced in the mind, and one tends to just follow them – they all speak to the degree to which the mind has a hold over someone. So in the yoga practice, the mind was considered a tool and one should gain control of this tool and utilize it, rather than being simply victimized by it.
The next disturbance is ‘saṁśaya’ which literally means doubt. Doubt was really considered a very serious impediment to spiritual development in the ancient Vedic sense – in the yogic sense. It was described by Vyāsa as equivocating or considering two opposing arguments or points of view as being of equal importance. So, this speaks to again something that we’ve reference before. There was this very clear understanding by practitioners of yoga and followers of the Vedic spirituality, that if I am currently in a state of illusion, I am not going to be able to effect or bring about my own liberation. I do need to seek authoritative help and guidance. And so, the ancient yogic texts – the Vedic texts, were considered, as we’ve mentioned previously, to be authoritative – something that should be followed over and above one’s own mind. So the reality, as they saw it, was that when one falls victim to the control of a distracted mind, then you have this tendency to give the same weight to speculative ideas or personal opinion, as you would to authoritative directions. And this, for a serious practitioner, was really a very big and serious problem. This point has also been clearly established in the Bhagavad-gīta, in the fourth chapter in the fortieth verse, where it states:
“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the authoritative texts (śāstra) do not attain Divine consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul, there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.”
This idea is probably extremely challenging for many people in the Western world today because we’ve been very much…it’s become a very popular opinion that we all have our own truth; that everything is actually subjective, and the idea of there being some objective reality or objective truth, many people find kind of disturbing. And that is primarily because of our strong desire or tendency to be not…to be completely independent. But this tendency, when it is misdirected, can lead one astray in a very serious way.
The fourth of the listed disturbances is ‘pramāda’, and this can be both understood as ignorance and also carelessness. This ignorance, or carelessness and delusion, means to…has been defined as being the neglect to practice the eight limbs of yoga, and most specifically the process of meditation. And of course, their neglect will come about because of impetus or stimulation from the mind. And so, when we look at each one of these things, we see how they really…are a manifestation of what are called the vṛttis.
The fifth condition ‘ālasya’, is laziness or slothfulness, and it refers to the disinclination to practice, arising out of the heaviness of the body and the mind. So there’s another point I’ll just make here…that when we look at these things, and if we were to examine them in more detail and depth, we would understand that these are the result of the way in which the modes of material nature, particularly of passion and ignorance – rajas and tamas; how they are affecting the body and then the mind of someone. So hence the reference here to a heaviness of the body and the mind. And by adopting the appropriate type of life or lifestyle, one will be able to become free from these influences and feel enthusiasm to practice and to be able to have a firmness – a dedication to that practice.
The sixth item is ‘avirati’, which means non-abstention, meaning not being able to abstain from something. And it is referencing sensual addiction or sense addiction, which arises according to Vyāsa due to mental greed within the mind, and this mental greed is a result of contemplation upon objects of the senses. This point is also referenced in the Bhagavad-gīta in the second chapter, the sixty-second verse. That verse is: “While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment, lust develops, and from lust, anger arises.” So this is quite a big subject and we won’t be going into it in any detail here.
The reference to lust, or in Sanskrit ‘kāma’, means intense self-centered or selfish desire. The next item or disturbance ‘bhrānti-darśana’ – it fundamentally means false perception or erroneous conceptions. And they may come in the form of, of course, things related directly with material experience, but they can also come from what people consider spiritual practice when someone has some fleeting and… perhaps some fleeting experience of something that’s connected with a yogic practice; that one may falsely come to the conclusion that they are more spiritually developed or advanced than they truly are, which will then give rise to a certain amount of arrogance and an inability to honestly and in great humility, to pursue this spiritual path.
The eighth item, ‘alabdha-bhūmikatva’ which means the non-attainment of any yogic stage. It means fundamentally a failure to attain the state of samādhi. When a person becomes disturbed by what they perceive to be a lack of spiritual advancement, then it can create disturbances in the mind that make it so a person feels like maybe they may want to give up; that, “This is too hard, this is too difficult, I cannot attain this.” Of course, the reality is, that any form of spiritual attainment is a process by which what is eternally there – our eternal spiritual nature – that this nature is being revealed to us; or manifest, or exposed to us. This is really what spiritual realization is, and so the idea that something is too difficult to attain is an ignorant idea that arises from false conception.
The ninth item mentioned here – ‘anavasthitatvāni’, is the inability to remain on the yogic path. Now one of the early commentators on the Yoga Sutra – Vijñānabhikṣu, he quotes a verse in this regard from the Viṣṇu Pūrana, where it states: “Even an elevated yogī can fall down due to worldly attachments; what to speak, then of a neophyte yogī?” So, the Bhagavad-gīta also makes the very same point, in the second chapter, the sixtieth verse, where it states that the Lord Kṛṣṇa is speaking to Arjuna:
“These senses are so strong and impetuous, O Arjuna, that they forcibly carry away the mind even of a man of discrimination who is endeavoring to control them.”
So these are the realities that one will be faced with in their spiritual journey. The need for adequate guidance, and the association of those who are more spiritually advanced, make it so that a person is able to deal with a lot of these things, and on a number of different levels. One of the great benefits of spiritual association – this ‘satsanga’, is that one comes into… almost as it were, the world, of an advanced spiritualist whose thoughts, whose actions, whose constant consciousness, is focused upon that which is spiritual. And this has a remarkable effect on an individual in terms of grounding their faith in something that they can tangibly experience the reality of spiritual development. But also, what it does is, create a wonderful atmosphere and encouragement so that an aspirant can continue with enthusiasm and vigor on the path of spiritual pursuit.
Vyāsa concludes in his brief commentary on this subject… on this sūtra, that these disturbances are really the enemies and the obstacles of yoga, and they are always produced by the influences of rajas and tamas guṇas. So, this is what we referenced earlier. When we… if we desire success on the spiritual path, it is really important not to be overwhelmed by the mind. The mind is going to constantly be feeding us with reasons and excuses why we should not engage in these spiritual practices; why we don’t need to meditate. They will be constantly…the senses and the mind will be constantly calling us into the realm of sensual stimulation because it creates an opportunity for the living being – who is experiencing emptiness and loneliness in their life – to engage in something that instantly manifests in terms of, you know… sensual pleasure or, you know…. filling up that empty void. But the problem is that when one then stops any of these activities, one is again forced to… they are faced with the reality that it hasn’t actually made any difference. Internally I’m still the same; everything is still the same – I have not derived anything of actual real benefit from having, you know… focused on these pursuits and given up my spiritual practice. Thank you very much.