Yogastha Sadhana Opening Mantra
Synopsis: ”We open ourselves to the energy of this practice; and offer gratitude for the guidance of the teachings of Yoga on the path to Self-discovery – through the body, the breath, and the meditative mind.”
sahasra śirasaṁ śvetaṁ
LISTEN TO THE OPENING MANTRA HERE:
LISTEN TO A “CALL & RESPONSE” VERSION OF THE MANTRA HERE:
The shine of the pure soul is all pervading with a luster like a jewel on the head of a snakewhose uncoiling is the movement into the manifest world. Respectful offering of gratitude given to the supreme being of creation
The teachings of Yoga brings forth the wisdom of our true nature, Self known beyond physical form.The liberated being stands in this world holding a conch (divine sound), discus (wheel of time), and sword (discernment); white in color with a thousand radiant heads Salutations to the enlightened sage Patanjali for guidance in these teachings.
The opening mantra begins with a passage from the Krishnamacharya lineage of teaching and is offered as a way of sanctifying the mind, body and practice space before doing asana practice. In his book The Yoga Makaranada, he describes the importance of this mantra by stating:
“The obstacles to becoming an adept yogi are sleep, laziness and disease. One has to remove these by the root and throw them away in order to keep the body under one’s control, to conquer the senses, and to make the prana vayu appear directly in the susumna nadi. Asana siddhi will help all this. To acquire this skill in asana quickly, recite the following sloka every day before practicing yoga.”
The sloka krishnamacharya instructs the student of yoga asana to chant is the first part of the opening mantra. It is the recognition of working with the manifestation of our creation (body, mind, word) in a way that brings forth our own divine nature; and thus, connecting us to the Supreme Being of creation. The reference to this Being (as from the Vedic tradition) is Ananta Shesha. Shesha is a serpent-like being that is depicted in massive form, holding all the planets of the universe in its hood. It is when Shesha uncoils that time begins to move forward and creation takes place. When Shesha coils back, the universe ceases to exist and is held in the state of pure potential (Prakriti). The Serpent Shesha as a figure holding together the whole universe is not to be taken literally, but rather seen as a way to understand the emanation of Shakti energy, movement and manifestation that is the act of creation. For the yogi practicing the 8 limbs, manifest creation is understood as a reflection – so that we may become fully established in our True nature as the Seer (pure consciousness).
The second sloka is from Bhoja Rajamarttanda’s commentary on the Yoga Sutras, and is an honoring of the Sage Patanjali for providing guidance in the teachings of Raja Yoga. In yoga mythology, the connection of the two slokas of the opening mantra is that Patanjali himself is considered to be an incarnation of Shesha, depicted as human, with the lower half of his body in serpent form. The teachings Patanjali compiled in the Yoga Sutras provides us with a path of wisdom toward knowing the true nature of our being. This is the path of liberation for the yogi - knowing our essence beyond the death of the body, established in pure being, dwelling in love, and living in Truth.
Yogastha Sadhana Closing Mantra
Synopsis: ”May our actions lead us to Truth, may our actions support peace.”
om asato mā sad gamaya
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṁ gamaya
om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
LISTEN TO THE CLOSING MANTRA HERE:
Lead Us From the Unreal To the Real,
Lead Us From Darkness To Light,
Lead Us From Death To Immortality,
Let There Be Peace Peace Peace.
The closing mantra comes from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad (“Great Forest of Knowledge” 1.3.28), one of the oldest Upanishad which covers the full range of Vedic wisdom. The non-dual teachings of this Upanishad describe the revelation of the inner principles of life as expressed through the manifest world and human activity. The search for Truth is what prompts the yoga practice. In philosophical or religious terms, Truth (with a capital “T”) can is defined as that which does not change with the passage of time. To find the answer to “what does not change with the passage of time?” is the quest for the true yogi. The seeking of Truth is the path of Self knowledge. These are the insights gained with a practice that guides us to the realizations and experience of the pure awareness, the essence of our nature as the pure Seer, that is unaffected by all the shiftings in time and space. Embracing an authentic path of yoga means being willing to look at our ignorance and how we declare something to be real that in actuality is more a projection of our own mind, or perceive something as being permanent, when in reality it is only temporary. It is only by seeing how we continue to limit and fragment ourselves that we can begin to enter into the healing - the wholeness - which awaits us in the expanded state.
The voice, the mind, the heart, that chants this short, profound mantra recognizes that while in our body (practicing yoga in our body) we are not being led on a physical journey, but rather a journey of a deepening awareness. We chant this mantra at the end of our yoga practice as a reminder that ultimately, the knowledge gained in our practice does not bring us to somewhere or some place outside of ourselves; it is not a path of knowing some “thing” separate from us. But rather, a living, ever-present knowledge blossoming within the very being seeking peace and freedom.
The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is the foundational text of Raja Yoga. It is comprised of 196 aphorisms which were originally transmitted orally and put to paper by the Sage Patanjali approximately 2000 years ago. This text is actually more of an experiential workbook that reveals a clarity and understanding of the true nature of our existence, thereby eliminating suffering as we grow in our experiences. The text is divided into four sections - the second section being where the eight limbs of yoga (“Ashtanga” asta=8, anga=limb) are outlined. The 3rd limb is posture (asana), which is how most of us come to begin our yoga practice. Todd offers detailed study sessions on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali for those students looking to ground their yoga practice beyond the mat and into the philosophical basis of the practice.
MEDITATION on the YOGA SUTRAS
Listen to Todd chant each portion of The Yoga Sutras in Sanskrit and includes the English translation. The Sanskrit is chanted followed by a pause to give the listener an opportunity to respond in their own Sanskrit chant, or for a silent moment of contemplation.
Book 1 of the Yoga Sutras is called Samadhi Pada (the portion on absorption) and outlines what yoga is all about: the attainment of the Samadhi state. Much theory regarding the basis for this practice is developed here; but not entirely without practical application - such as “practice and non-attachment” (1.12), the need for a one-pointed practice (1.32), and the guidance of how to treat others we meet on our path (1.33).
Book 2 is called Sadhana Pada (the portion on practice) and develops the actual daily practices that make a yogi... a yogi. Here our overall cause for suffering is revealed as being our own ignorance. The first 5 of 8 limbs of yoga is offered in this book to begin the guidance out of our predicament where we find ourselves perpetually involved in experiences that are accompanied by suffering.
Book 3 is called Vibhuti Pada (the portion on accomplishments) and describes the external powers that come when this practice is taken to its fullest development. While some of these claims may seem outlandish or “unrealistic”, the described development is clearly from the power that the fully concentrated mind possesses, and thus, the final 3 limbs are reserved for this section as a description of one who has traveled well down this path. The sophistication of this practice of yoga is in its prescription for the practitioner to work with clarity and focus within their current “reality”, and done so properly, with time and discipline - the relationship with that “reality” begins to expand to that which is more universal. This is something any consistent practitioner on the yoga mat can attest to with regards to the body’s strength or flexibility. Early in one’s practice, the aches, pains and suffering on the mat is more dominated by, and unique to, the individual; and over time, one’s poses begin to look much more like the poses of their teacher, and/or other more developed yogis. This is the move from the limits of the individual to the expanse of the universal. Patanjali, along with other yoga masters, assures us that the nature of this expansion is certainly not limited to just yoga postures.
Book 4 is called Kaivalya Pada (the portion on absolute unity) and guides the yogi into the realization of the truth of this path as finding an ultimate destination; while still understanding the value and the beauty of the journey with the unfolding of each day. It is only in the power being established in our true nature as Pure Consciousness that we are fully liberated. Here we can give up all our struggles in the “doing” and the “having” and become a human “being”.