Q: You defined yoga as a state – presumably a state of being, or state of consciousness. Most people think of yoga as something they do – they say, “I’m going to do my yoga today.” Can you distinguish between these things? And in the Yoga Sutras, right at the beginning, Patanjali defines yoga with the Sanskrit phrase “Chitta vritti nirodha.” Can you explain what that means?
Sadhguru: “Yoga” is a comprehensive word suggesting union. Whatever leads to union can be called yoga. Or in other words, from the simple act of breathing, to sitting here, walking, eating, and whatever else a human being does – all of it can be transformed into yoga. So if I am eating and I am conscious that I am making something that is not me a part of myself – I am uniting with something that I was not till ten minutes ago – if that is your experience, you can call this “eating yoga.”
The word “yoga” has been used in the past with a certain understanding, but today it is used loosely, frivolously. Now there is aquatic yoga, dog yoga, cat yoga – all kinds of things. This is a misunderstanding. Only the surface of yoga has come to the West – not the soul of yoga. This is a serious problem. Thinking that yoga is a practice is like having a stillbirth – there is no life in it.
Getting rid of your backache and headache is not the purpose of yoga. For example, suppose you did not know what an airplane is, and I give you one. You try to drive around with it in Los Angeles, but you find these two ugly things on the side hit the lampposts and trees. So, you chop off the wings and drive around with your airplane. You may be pretty happy, but one who knows what it means to fly will cry. When I look at the way yoga is done in many places, that is how I feel – I feel like crying because people are driving an airplane with chopped-off wings.
The Yoga Sutras
You do not have to do many practices, like people are trying to do 36 or 84 asanas – just one would be enough. You were referring to Patanjali. A lot of people think Patanjali is the origin of yoga – he is not. When Patanjali came, yoga had evolved and developed into over 1800 schools. Over 1800 varieties of yoga were going on in India at that time.
This is happening in medical science today. Thirty years ago, if you wanted a medical checkup, you had to go to one family doctor. Today, you have to go to six or seven doctors, because you have separate doctors for different parts of the body. A few years ago, when I was in Atlanta, I badly injured my knee while playing soccer. So, at a talk I was giving, my knee was bandaged. At the end, someone came up to me and said, “Sadhguru, I think I can look at your knee. I’m a knee doctor.” I said, “What? You must be an orthopedic.” He said, “No, I’m a knee doctor.” It seems every day, he conducts a number of knee surgeries – he does nothing but knees. Then I asked, “Which knee are you – right or left?”
Right now, we may be going to six doctors for a medical checkup, but as they specialize further, in another 50 years, you may need 100 doctors, because if you study even your little finger carefully, you would need an entire team of doctors – it is so complex. If you attend to every aspect of your body, you will see it is such a complex machine.
But if it goes beyond a certain point and you have to meet 100 doctors to check your health, by the time you get all your appointments, you will have an appointment with an undertaker – it will become ridiculous. This happened to yoga. When Patanjali came, he saw this immense knowledge, but it had become impractical for anyone to grasp everything. So he reduced the whole thing into a few sutras – eight limbs of yoga – so that it is a little easier for people to grasp. It was not wrong that there were 1800 varieties of yoga – it was just impractical.
Chitta Vritti Nirodha
Patanjali defined and described yoga in many ways because he was more of a scientist than a saint. He went about it very mathematically. A sutra is like a formula. He simply said, “Chitta vritti nirodha.” This means if cessation of intellect happens, you will be in yoga. The fundamental nature of your intellect is, it is divisive. It is a knife-like instrument. The way for the intellect to analyze and know anything is to dissect, to cut up everything and look at it. If you keep dissecting everything, you will know one aspect of life, but you will not know the nature of life.
By dissection, you can know the physicality – you cannot know the entirety of life. So Patanjali said if you cease your intellect consciously and you are still alert – not drugged out – if you bring your intellect to a hold and it is not cutting up anything, then it is in a state of nirodha. That means the intellect is not active, but you are fully conscious. Then you are in yoga, because if you do not divide the world, as you breathe, as you pulsate with life, you will know you are a part of everything.