“Now, the discipline of Yoga”
This is the very first statement of Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
If you read other scriptures, you will notice they are very poetic. When one speaks from highly blissful states, this is bound to happen. The word “gita” in “Bhagavad Gita” means “song.”
Even Ramana Maharshi or Nisargadatta become surprisingly poetic here & there in their respective talks.
This is not at all the case with Patanjali. Patanjali’s focus with the Yoga Sutras was to be very precise, very scientific. No superfluous word should be used, no opportunity to wander should be given.
Therefore, each word in the Yoga Sutras has to be understood, each word carries a very precise meaning.
When Patanjali writes “Now, the discipline of Yoga” he means that now that you have seen what the world has to offer, now that you’ve known what is commonly referred to as love and lost it or became disillusioned by it, now that you’ve had hope and became hopeless; now that you have repeated countless times countless patterns through countless lives, now, finally, you are ready for the next step: the discipline of Yoga.
“Now” implies here that you have become exhausted, that you truly understand the meaning of dukkha (suffering, burdensomeness, dissatisfaction) as used by Shakyamuni Buddha, and that you are ready to do something about this exhaustion, this dukkha.
Now, you are ready to stop living loosely, wandering from experience to experience, from confusion to confusion, from life to life. Now, you are ready to become disciplined in Yoga.
Yoga is not about doing some physical exercises or some breath work. Yoga in sanskrit means the act of unifying, unity, oneness. The english word “yoke” has been derived from it. When Jesus says “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” it actually means “My Yoga is easy” or “The path I offer to unity is easy to walk.”
Yoga, however, is not philosophy. It is not of the intellect. If the “now” Patajanli is talking about has not come yet, you may study Yoga and become a great philosopher, a great scholar, but you are simply entertaining thoughts. Yoga is a practice, a discipline. It is a path that must be walked. A map is not the territory.
If life is dukkha: Now, the discipline of Yoga.
But what does the discipline of Yoga mean, really?
The sanskrit word used for “discipline” by Patanjali is “anushasanam.”
“Anu” means atomic, subtle.
“Shasanam” means to rule, to govern.
If we break down “anushasanam” which is translated “discipline,” we come to “subtle governance” or “inner governance”.
This is a great insight on how to understand discipline.
Discipline is not something externally imposed that you should follow. It is not eating your broccoli and arriving at school at 8am.
Discipline is inner governance. It is what makes you a disciple, aka someone able to receive, to understand and to work with the wisdom of the master. Ultimately, the disciple is one who is able to move into the silence offered by the master.
Ultimately, the disciple becomes the master, and then there is no one.
Understanding this is absolutely crucial. What we generally refer to as discipline is simply an attempt at reducing free will in the hope of gaining or avoiding something in the future. What we refer to as discipline is a bargain. “OK, I will refrain from being my uncontrollable self now, so that I can gain God’s grace + 2% interest on each divine action and maybe even loose some weight.”
This approach will never work because you are crushing the inner to achieve something in the outer. If you have tried it mindfully, you know how bad it feels when something is “achieved.”
This approach is the approach of separating the bad self from the good disciplined virtuous enlightened self. Creating a separation has never led to unity, to Yoga.
To be a disciple is to recognize the inner governance from which you have always created everything. Therefore, to be a disciple is to put an end to confused creation.
To be a disciple is a movement into crystallization. No non-sense shall be tolerated from now and no time shall be wasted, not because you are externally imposing something upon you but because there is a seeing, there is an inner governance. Something is now awake, alive. And that something, that center, is able to direct the energies.