By whatever means possible ...

We know the adage , "An idle mind is a devil's workshop", because it gives rise to afflictions in the mind. The other extreme, a scattered mind, is also prone to afflictions. Patanjali, in the first chapter of the yoga sutras goes into great detail on the afflicting states of the mind and remedies for these states by the means of ten potent sutras which are considered important in the study of the sutras because they have direct applicability in our everyday lives. These sutras describe various ways to bring the mind to focus.

One of the salient aspects of the sutras is that it is considered a thorough study of the mind. Since Patanjali understood that human minds are all different, he gave a number of options everywhere, be it with what intensity one should practice, ways to quiet the mind or ways to pursue yoga (through its various limbs). In fact, at the end of this subset of ten sutras, he says that (if the means mentioned in the previous sutras are not possible) one should use whatever means possible to focus and settle the mind. In this article I aim to describe these ten sutras because they represent a study of the mind.

A sutra refers to a string. The english word suture has the same root as sutra. The Sutras are therefore akin to beads on a string with each sutra linked to the previous.

Sutra 1.30) The Nine obstacles that cause distraction of the mind

Disease (Vyadi), Dullness (Sthyana), Doubt (Samshaya), Carelessness (Pramada), Laziness (Aalasya), Sensuality (Avitrati), False perception (Bhranti Dharshana), Failure to reach firm ground (Aalabdha Bhumi Katva) and Slipping away from the ground gained from practice (Anavastitatva) are the nine obstacles that cause distraction of the mind.


Sutra 1.31) Symptoms when the mind is met with the aforementioned nine obstacles

Sorrow, dejection and trembling of the limbs, the inhalation and the exhalation - accompany the distractions


Sutra 1.32) Elimination of these obstacles

The practice of concentrating the mind on an object (should be cultivated) to eliminate these obstacles


Sutra 1.33) Calmness of the mind by how we deal with different types of people...

Since people are generally the greatest triggers in our lives, Patanjali addresses the topic of how to deal with various types of people. This topic is also greatly elaborated in Buddhist texts.

Friendliness (Maitri) toward the Happy (Sukha)

Compassion (Karuna) toward the Suffering (Dukha)

Delight (Mudhitha) toward the Virtuous (Punya)

Upeksha (Indifference) toward the Unvirtuous (Apunya)

One attains undisturbed calmness of the mind (Chitta Prasadanam) by cultivating (Bhavana) these attributes, ........


Sutra 1.34) Pranayama.....

...Or by a combination of both (a long) exhalation and retention of the breath...


Sutra 1.35) subtle sense perception

......Or by the focus on subtle points on the body that resemble sense objects, an aptitude arises that causes the mind to be steady

The commentators interpret this to mean focus on the subtle points of the body like the tip of the nose, tip of tongue etc. that could evoke certain smells or tastes based on the imprints in the individual. This familiar smell or taste will create an inclination in the mind to focus to have more of the same, thus bringing steadiness to the mind.


Sutra 1.36) focus on the effulgent within

...... Or by the focus on the sorrow free effulgent light within


Sutra 1.37) ....when the mind is free of hankering

...... Or when the mind is free of hankering to sense objects


Sutra 1.38) ....Using dreams

...... Or by the use of knowledge gained from dreams in sleep as a support


Sutra 1.39) ....Or by any other method

If none of the above mentioned methods work, Patanjali, knowing that each individual is unique, urges to use whatever method that works for an individual to bring the mind to a state of calm and focus. This shows the importance Patanjali lays on the need to have a calm and focussed mind at all times.



I would like to acknowledge the pristine chanting of the sutras by Dr.M.A. Jayashree and for making it available to all.


What techniques work for you ? Feel free to share it below in the comments.

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