Invocation to Begin Practice
SOME THOUGHTS FROM DR. GEETA S. IYENGAR
(Given during the 1992 Canadian Intensive)
We chant so that at the very beginning that feeling of sanctification comes from inside, with the feeling of surrendering oneself, because nothing can be learned in this world unless you have the humility to learn. So the moment you think of the Lord at the beginning of doing a practice, you know that you are very small in front of that greatest soul. Once that is understood, then the other problems which arise while practicing, mainly concerned with the ego, will be affected. You know that you are “coming down” to learn something. And you can’t learn anything unless you come down; if you think you are on the top and you know everything, then you are not a learner at all. In that sense, the chanting helps.
INVOCATION TO PATANJALI
Yogena cittasya padena vacam
To purify the mind (citta), purify the consciousness, Patanjali gave the science of yoga (yogena) to us. To purify our use of words (pada) and speech (vaca), he gave a commentary on grammar to us, so that our use of words and way of speaking is clarified, distinct, and pure.
Malam sarirasya ca vaidyakena
To remove the impurities (malam) of the body (sarira), he gave us the science of medicine (vaidyakena).
Yopakarottam pravaram muninam
Let me go near the one who has given these things to us.
Patanjalim pranjalir anato’smi
Let me bow down my head with my folded hands to Lord Patanjali.
From the hand up to the head he has the shape (karam) of a human (purusa).
Sankha cakrasi dharinam
In the hand he is holding the conch (sankha) and the disc (cakra).
Sahasra sirasam svetam
On top of his head (sirasam) he has got a thousand (sahasra) hoods of the cobra, because he is the incarnation of Adishesha, the greatest cobra. Svetam means white.
I bow down to that Patanjali.
A NOTE ON PATANJALI
Sage Patanjali is renowned for his works on Yoga, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit grammar. All these three subjects contribute to the development of man. Yoga and Ayurveda are known as sciences of liberation “Moksha Shastras”. Grammar is necessary for understanding the language precisely and for healthy communication; it is the medium for culturing subtle regions of the mind.
It is because of his mastery of language that this enlightened Yogi could compress the whole Yoga philosophy into only 196 Sutras (aphorisms).
Patanjali is believed to have lived about 2500 years ago or even before. He was born by his own free will as a Svayambhu (Svayam – self; Bhu – existence).
He was born to Gonika, a Yogini who did penance (Tapas) to the Sun God (Surya) for a worthy child. He appeared out of the oblatory water which she was offering with folded palms to the Sun God. She named him Patanjali – “Pata” means falling and “anjali” means oblation, or hands folded in prayer. He is known to be the incarnation of Adishesha or Anat, Lord Vishnu’s serpent seat. This is why he is portrayed as if emerging from a serpent.
–– from Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar
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