Guidelines for studying the Sutras and other Yogic texts

Here are eight guidelines I learnt, from various sources, that have helped me in studying the Yoga Sutras and other ancient Yogic texts.

1) Study with the heart; not the brain

2) Study of these texts should leave you feeling light and free; not heavy and knotted

3) There is a time for debate but debate can often be driven by ego and can stir up the very sediments of the lake of the mind that one is trying to settle.

Listen and reflect; not debate and win

4) Sutras were written in a pithy fashion to serve as memory aids; it, therefore needs a commentary and often a commentary on a commentary to understand.

5) Apart from some small aspects of difference, most yogic texts including many in Buddhism are very similar. Concepts in one text could often become clear when studying a different text

6) Yes, Yogic texts talk about strange concepts like rebirth and the concept of the atma or purusha. What is more, these concepts form the core of these texts. One may not be comfortable with these and it is fine to ignore what does not make sense. But don't try to come up with your own interpretation of these texts that are drastically different from conventional wisdom - you will add to the knot pile.

7) The study of yogic texts is very personal. You don't need to convince anyone nor should you feel that others must subscribe to your views.

8) When the time and conditions are right, these texts will automatically make sense.

Of these, only those vasanas (subconscious impressions) for which favorable conditions exist will bear fruit in a given lifetime. (Yoga Sutra 4.8)