Yoga-sutras (with Bhoja’s Rajamartanda)

by Rajendralala Mitra | 1883 | 103,575 words

The Yoga-Sutra 1.34, English translation with Commentaries. The Yogasutra of Patanjali represents a collection of aphorisms dealing with spiritual topics such as meditation, absorption, Siddhis (yogic powers) and final liberation (Moksha). The Raja-Martanda is officialy classified as a Vritti (gloss) which means its explanatory in nature, as opposed to being a discursive commentary.

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation of Sūtra 1.34:

प्रच्छर्दनविधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य ॥ १.३४ ॥

pracchardanavidhāraṇābhyāṃ vā prāṇasya || 1.34 ||

34. Or by expulsion and retention of the breath.

The Rajamartanda commentary by King Bhoja:

[English translation of the 11th century commentary by Bhoja called the Rājamārtaṇḍa]

[Sanskrit text for commentary available]

“Expulsion,” (pracchardana) means the throwing out of the air from the lungs in a fixed quantity through a special effort. “Retention” (vidhāraṇa) is the restraint, or stoppage of the motion of breath for a certain limited time. That stoppage is effected by two acts—by filling the lungs with external air, and by retaining therein the inhaled air. Thus the threefold prāṇāyāma, including the three acts of expiration, inspiration and retention of breath, fixes the thinking principle to one point of concentration. All the functions of the organs being preceded by that of the breath—there being always a correlation of breath and mind in their respective functions,—the breath when overcome by stopping all the functions of the organs, effects the concentration of the thinking principle to one object. The Āgama proclaims its power of destroying all defects thus: “All obstructive functions are caused by faults.” Hence, by its destroying faults, it becomes effectual in producing concentration of the mind.

Notes and Extracts

[Notes and comparative extracts from other commentaries on the Yogasūtra]

[The definition of “retention” (vidhāraṇa) by the terms “stoppage of motion” (gativiccheda) is obviously faulty, but as the aphorism refers to “retention” immediately after the “expulsion” (pracchardana) and the attempt to retain the breath after it has been fully expired would be futile, it is necessary to inspire before the breath can be retained, and the commentator is obliged to include that act along with the retention. The Pātaṇjala Bhāṣya calls the retention to be Praṇāyāma (vidhāraṇa prāṇāyamaḥ), and in the Sāṅkhya Sūtra this meaning is accepted. It is, however, not the generally accepted meaning. All other Yogic and Tāntric works regard the three acts of expiration, inspiration and retention performed in specific order, to constitute the Prāṇāyāma. The order is not always the same. Some have expiration first, inspiration next, and retention last. Others place inspiration first, retention next, and expiration last. The word mātrāpramāṇa in the commentary, which I have rendered into “fixed quantity,” has been rendered into svalpa or “little” or “slowly” in the Pātañjala Bhāṣya; but it does not express the true technical meaning. The object of the mātrā is to imply a fixed period of time.

According to the Skanda Purāṇa a mātrā is equal to the time required in one breathing, (eka śvāsamapi mātrā prāṇāyāme nigadyate), and to imply that this breathing must be natural, the Yogacintāmaṇi adds that this breathing should be during sleep (when there is no violent effort).—

nidrāvasaṅgatasya puṃso yāvatkālenaikaśvāso gacchatyāgacchati ca tāvatkālaprāṇāyāmasya mātretyucyate.

And this period is equal to two and a half palas.—

sārddha svāsa [śvāsa?] paladvayātmakaḥ kālaḥ, prāṇāyāma kāla siddhaḥ.

The pala here means the period occupied by a twinkling of the eye. The mātrā is obviously taken as a unit, and of these from 1 to 24 are devoted to a prāṇāyāma according as it is inferior, middling, or superior. The mode of reckoning the time to be devoted to each act is regulated in one of two ways; 1st, by so many repetitions of the syllable Om, or the mystic mantra of the performer, or the specific mystic syllables of that mantra; 2nd, by turning the thumb and the index finger of the left hand round the left knee a given number of times. The time devoted to inspiration is the shortest, and to retention the longest. A Vaiṣṇava in his ordinary daily prayer repeats the Vīja mantra once while expiring, 7 times while inspiring, and 20 times while retaining. A Śākta repeats the mantra 16 times when inspiring, 64 times while retaining, and 32 times while expiring. These periods are frequently modified. The details vary according to each particular form of meditation, and the capacity of the performer. As a general rule it may be said that longer is the retention the more proficient becomes the Yogī. The usual mode of performing the Prāṇāyāma is, after assuming the posture prescribed, to place the ring-finger of the right hand on the left nostril, pressing it so as to close it, and to expire with the right, then to press the right nostril with the thumb, and to inspire through the left nostril, and then to close the two nostrils with the ring-finger and the thumb, and to stop all breathing. The order is reversed in the next operation, and in the third act the first form is required. This constitutes the Praṇāyāma, and it may be repeated after short intervals according to choice for hours. The object avowed of this performance is the steadying of the mind.

The Haṭhadīpikā philosophises on this by saying,

cale vāte calam cittam niścale niścalam bhavet, Yogī sthānutvamāpnoti tato vāyumni rodhayet. Yāvad vāyuḥ sthito dehe tabajjīvanamucyate, Maraṇam tasya niṣkrāntistato vayum nirodhayet

“By the motion of the breath, the thinking principle moves; when that motion is stopped, it becomes motionless, and the Yogī becomes firm as the trunk of a tree; therefore the wind should be stopped. As long as the breath remains in the body so long it is called living. Death is the exit of that breath, therefore it should be stopped.”

Elsewhere the text asserts that this Prāṇāyāma is conducive both to health and longevity, and all minor works on Yoga and the Tantras generally expatiate at great length on the sanitary and the therapeutic advantages of practising it regularly at stated times. The Haṭhadīpikā, in one place, says, “all diseases disappear in him who devotes himself to the Prāṇāyāma; without it in the state of practising Yoga every kind of disease arises.” (Prāṇāyāmādiyuktena sarvaroga kṣayo bhavet, ayuktābhyāsayogena sarvaroga samudbhavaḥ). The idea seems to have travelled to the far West, and the spiritualists in America have accepted it as a recognised maxim of their system. Many spiritualists practice this Prāṇāyāma under the name of “deep breathing,” and A. J. Davis, one of their apostles, in his “Harbinger of Health” (pp. 62-53), gives the following directions for curing diseases through its means.

“First, if your weakness be general, and the blood is loaded with cold matter, lay flat down on your back, and, while breathing deep, and slow, and uniformly, will yourself to become healthy—in your feet and hands, in your knees and elbows, in your hips and shoulders, in your bowels and liver, in your lungs and brain! The heart will take care of itself. In cases where the weakness is generally distributed, all you are required to practice (while so prostrated and respiring) is the art of concentrating your Will and desires simultaneously on the extremeties first; then work upward and inward progressively; and when, in the lapse of ten minutes of steady, deep breathing, you have reached the brain, repeat the process in the ascending scale, as indicated in the manner aforementioned.

“By this Pneumogastric treatment of yourself, you will receive spiritual strength from the air—nothing is more certain! When, by practice, you can breathe deeply and heroically, and at the same time put your Will upon the restoration of the general system, the art of fixing your mind upon some particularly diseased part will become less and less difficult. Consumptive persons, by simply breathing profoundly, and willing systematically, may enlarge their chests and lungs beyond the possibilities of disease. Persons of cold temperature, with irregular habits and bad practices, may “right about face” and become harmonially healthy. Learn to depend upon yourself—use the infallible remedies of Nature—and, in spite of priest or doctor, you will ‘pass from death unto life.’

“Time of Exercises.—In acquiring this psychological power over the destinies of your bodily state, and in becoming a Self-healing Institution, whether home or abroad—it may be necessary to practice (either while on your back, or standing, or walking, or riding,) perhaps three times in each twenty-four hours. Never just before meals, nor soon subsequent to them; but the true time is when chilification is going on; about 90 or 120 minutes after eating. The spirit world will aid you, by forming a secret conjunction with the pneumogastric conductor. It is certain, gentle sufferer; do not permit yourself to doubt. Nothing is too good in Nature, in matter, in spirit, or in truth.”]

In pointing out another expedient, he foreshadows the conscious form of meditation.

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