“(Mental) pain, despair, nervousness, and hard breathing are the symptoms of a distracted condition of mind.”
In this sutra, symptoms by which the presence of Viksepa can be recognized are presented. Pain (dukkha) either physical or mental shows disharmony in the system. To treat physical pain one can visit a doctor. However, mental pain needs special examination either by self or a specialist.
Pain, when combined with a feeling of incapacity to remove it effectively, leads to despair, despair then leads to nervousness which is merely an outer physical symptom of despair. Nervousness disturbs the breathing because it disorganizes the flow of Pranic currents.
The subject of suffering (kleshas) has been dealt with in detail by Patanjali in Chapter 2. However, in this sutra we are talking about mental afflictions called Vikshepa and the associated symptoms. Removal of these is dealt with in the following sutras.
" Sorrow, Dejection, Restlessness Of Body, Inhalation And Exhalation Arise From (Previous) Distractions."
Sorrow is of three kinds – Adhyatmika (arising within oneself), Adhibhautika (inflicted by others), and Adhidaivika (from natural calamity). Sorrow is any suffering that one tries to prevent/remove. Dejection results from non-fulfillment of desires. Upsetting of bodily steadiness results in shakiness of the body. The process of disturbed breathing is also associated with mental distraction. In complete concentration, breathing may stop but the flow of inner consciousness continues and brings about concentration on the object of meditation.
"For removing these obstacles there (should be) constant practice of one
truth or principle."
This sutra refers not to the attainment of ‘samadhi’ (as suggested by some commentators) but to reverse the tendency of the mind to run after sense objects and develop capacity to stay focused on the object of concentration. Concentration of purpose and the capacity to keep the mind directed within are essential pre-requisites for the practice of Yoga.
"For Their Stoppage (i.e. Of Distractions) Practice Of (Concentration on) A Single Principle Should Be Made."
How is the mind to be understood?
- One state limited to one object without a substrate: not tenable because then the mind will always be one-pointed on that object
- Continuous flow of discrete (similar or dissimilar) ideas: if, as is considered for this view, the mind is momentary then a flow cannot be maintained
- Each idea of the mind is uniquely different from every other idea: not tenable as this would negate the presence of the ‘self’ which is the cognizer through all senses
So, we must conclude that mind is a substrate of all modifications and is one continuous entity. For the purpose of concentration, it is not important what the object of contemplation (the single principle) is – Ishvara or any other element/object (Aranya does recommend focusing on Ishvara or the pure I-sense). When concentration is coordinated with inhalation and exhalation, the breathing becomes yogic breathing which leads to calmness of the mind. The effort to keep the mind still also decreases shakiness of the body.
Aranya’s statement that the ordinary breathing is associated with mental distraction came up for some discussion. We finally concluded that the breathing referred to in this sutra is the result of one of the nine Vikshepas mentioned in the previous sutra. In such a case the breathing will be distracted.
An interesting idea about suffering was brought forward – all suffering results when objects made for human comfort are damaged. For example, in the case of calamities like Katrina, most of the damage was to man-made items like buildings, roads, bridges, vehicles etc. Living in tune with nature can reduce our suffering as there will be much less to lose.
One question came up with regard to the practice on "one principle (ek tattva)" – can the benevolent acts of Mother Teresa be considered ‘one principle’? The answer: no, not the acts themselves but the singe idea of reducing human suffering can be considered as one principle.