Now, Then, and Therefore
Yoga Discipline is Being Explained
(First sutra of Yoga Sutras)
By Swami Rama
Now, then, and therefore yoga discipline is being expounded. Atha yoganushasanam. The first word that has been used is now. Nowhere else has this word been used in quite the way it is used here. Now is very important. Now means, “Now, then, and therefore.” This means that there are preliminaries before you practice yoga science. The word now indicates that you have already completed the preliminaries. Now you want to attain more; you want to learn more; you want to understand more; you want to practice more.
When a teacher says, “Now do this,” it means you have done something previously and you are ready to do something else now. A student should first be prepared and then choose the path of attainment. The first sutra explains indirectly, in a very subtle way, the role of the student. Yoga is a discipline and those who want to discipline themselves, who understand the importance of this discipline, should prepare themselves to learn, study, and practice yoga with mind, action, and speech. The qualification of a student is to prepare himself or herself not only to study and memorize the sutras, but also to practice.
Patanjali studied the mind on all levels and he describes several varieties of students: some are prepared, some are preparing, some are not at all prepared, and some are totally confused. These are not fit enough for preparation, so they are out of the question. Patanjali has put all levels of mind into five categories: kshipta, vikshipta, mudha, ekagra, and niruddha. Kshipta is a completely distracted mind. Vikshipta applies to those who have no control over their mind. They do not have a concentrated mind, but if they make effort, they can learn. Sometimes they understand and sometimes they do not understand because of their lack of attention. Their minds are not yet properly trained, but they are capable of being trained and accepted. That mind which remains in a state of stupor is called mudha. Ekagra refers to those who have a concentrated mind and can concentrate well. Niruddha describes those whose mind is completely under their control. They have trained their mind perfectly and can use it as they wish.
It is easy for a competent teacher to assess the mental condition of the student. When the student comes, the teacher can know what the problem is by the way the student walks. The teacher should know what type of mind the student has, whether the student is capable of studying this science or not, and if he is prepared. When the student comes, the teacher puts him in one of the categories. Has he got vikshipta mind? Is he mudha? Has he got ekagra or one-pointed mind? Has he got a completely controlled mind—niruddha? On this basis, the teacher immediately knows how to approach the student. This is like giving a prescription to a patient. If the teacher is wise and understands, he knows this.
When you are prepared, when you have completed the preliminaries, then the teacher tells you to do something else. The preliminaries are not described here. What the teacher said before now, only the student and teacher know. To study and practice and apply the sutras in your daily life, you have to prepare yourself. Now means you are prepared to study the sutras, to practice the sutras. Now you come to me. The word now indicates that you are fully prepared and it is a good time for you to start the next step. Now it is good that you are becoming aware of Reality. It is good that you want to know more. Whatever you have done so far is accepted. Now, here begins the exposition of yoga science. That has not been done yet. So far you have not learned it.
So the teacher says, “Now.” You use this word from morning until evening but you do not understand what it means. Anyone who does not meditate cannot understand the word now. When you start examining your mind, you discover that mind is conditioned by three things—time, space, and causation. Time is a filter. Anything that happens goes through the filter of time. Today you may be sad and very worried and you may even be thinking of committing suicide. The next day, if I ask you if you are going to commit suicide, you will say no. If you give yourself time, later you will find that you do not feel that thing so much.
The mind is conditioned by past, present, and future. The mind functions on the experiences of the past, or, on the basis of those experiences, on the imaginations of the future. Either you brood on the past, or you think of the future, but where is now? Now is missing. You do not know how to live here and now. What is the best period of a person’s life? It is not that which you have spent already or the aspect of time you are going to utilize in the future. It is now. Utilize the best period of your life today and now. Can you really explain where that now is? You can spell the word, but you can never taste it. The moment you talk of now, it slips to the valley of the past. When you say now, then there is no now. It is not there. How many of you enjoy now? You plan for your vacation next year, you plan for going out for dinner and dancing, but what happens now? You know the word, you know the meaning, but you do not know how to enjoy it. Your mind either goes into the grooves of past experiences or future imagination. It has never realized now.
But if there is no now, then where is the link between past and future? In your daily life you postpone your happiness because you do not know how to be in the present. Now is missing in your life. If you can get freedom from past experiences and you can stop your mind from imagining the future, you will enjoy now. If you learn how to make your mind free from time, you will be beyond all this. Fortunate are those who meditate and live in the now. Through meditation you can enjoy now. It is in now that there is enjoyment, or part of eternity. The moment you come to know now you will know past, present, and future; you will be free.
The other conditions of mind are space and causation. If I hold up my hand and show you two separate fingers, what is the “cause” of these two fingers? The hand is the cause that creates the awareness of fingers. When I hold my fingers apart, they seem separate. If the hand were not there, then it would not create the space between the two fingers. This is called causation—that which creates effect. If I hold the two fingers together, there is no space between them and there will be no sense of time. Then it is one with causation. My fingers are still part of one whole. Mind can be freed from these three conditionings. So many thoughts come and you call it the thinking process. There is a space between two thoughts. But if there is no space between two thoughts, then what will happen to time? Time will not exist. If there is only one thought, what will be the condition of space? There will be no space at all. Time and space are variations of the same thing. If there is only one thought in the mind, then time cannot affect the mind.
One cannot attain the highest state of samadhi without gaining freedom from the conditionings of the mind. When mind can fathom the boundaries of time, then mind can realize the subtler levels of consciousness and transform itself. Then, it can lead you to a state of peace, happiness, and joy. If mind is free from imagination—I am not talking about creative imagination—and from the memories of the past, then mind can be brought to a state of now. If you learn to train your mind to be here and now, you will know everything. There is nothing to be known beyond that. Now is part of eternity. When a teacher teaches you, first learn how to be here and now, for you have completed the preliminaries. Now, learn to understand the word now.
Patanjali leads you to an inward journey. His first lesson is, You have to discipline yourself. Now, then, therefore, go aspire. Before you study yoga science, you should be fully prepared, because it requires discipline.
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