…samadhi can be attained quickly through practicing the presence of God.
Sutra 1.23, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
The first chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is made up of 51 sutras, or aphorisms. Sutra actually means “string,” each of the individual sutras like a single flower on a garland, the whole of them showing us the path to samadhi – integration of our individual self with Totality. The word can also means “stitch,” and is where we get our English word, suture. As such they can be seen as that which, stitch by stitch, connects us with the truth of our being, connects us with Totality.
About halfway through this first chapter, after listing all of the types of problems we may encounter and the many ways the mind can mislead us in this difficult work, Maharishi Patanjali mentions for the first time the quick method for achieving freedom:
Or, samadhi can be attained quickly through practicing the presence of God.
The sutras themselves are quite short and originally were transmitted orally, teacher to student, and committed to memory. Because the students worked so closely with a teacher, much was passed on by watching the way the teacher him or herself embodied the teaching. (One could study painting every day for a year and not learn even one-thousandth of what one could learn from watching Monet paint for a day.)
For those of us without the benefit of a ‘Maharishi,’ in order to help us understand on our own, through the years there have been commentaries added-on to the written form of these teachings. The most famous and revered of these commentaries is by Vyasa, the most prolific writer of the ancient Vedic world.
Vyasa’s commentary about the 23rd Sutra speaks of the special kind of presence of God one is to practice. He says that yes, we are to dedicate all that we do to God, before, during and after each action; but also, even though we won’t truly know who or what God is until after we have achieved our aim of samadhi, the yogi is to fill herself with love, invoke the presence of God and concentrate on that presence in the heart chakra, offering her entire self to God, letting go of all other concerns.
Through this practice God is won over and turns towards the yogi, and when the yogi merely directs his thought towards Him, He favors him with grace.
Vyasa’s Commentary on the
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
By practicing the presence of God within my own self – feeling it, loving it, embracing it here within myself – I can have an experience on my own such as the students of long ago had in the presence of their teachers. God within me can be my guru. Can bring me peace. Can teach me to love. Can guide me to the experience of unity with the people and the world around me. Could we ask for a better teacher than that?
Today I will sit for five minutes, before or after a meditation, and I will practice feeling myself filled with the presence of God, whatever that may mean to me today.
Chair, Studio City, CA