The Secret of the Yoga Sutra: A Q&A with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
After 35 years of teaching in the West, Sanskrit scholar and spiritual teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait has published his long-awaited commentary on the Yoga Sutra—the seminal text on yoga practice and philosophy. His new book, The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, is the first practitioner-oriented commentary that is fully grounded in the living tradition of the Himalayan masters. Tigunait, who is lecturing at The Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena on September 18, 2014 from 7:00-9:00 P.M. as part of his 71- city lecture & book tour, recently welcomed our inquiry into the deeper dimensions of yoga and how to apply its ancient wisdom to your modern life.
Q: So what exactly is the Yoga Sutra?
PRT: The Yoga Sutra is a book of yoga philosophy. It is a book of practice. And it is a book of self-realization. It was written 2,200 years ago, when a great master named Patanjali gathered the best aspects of yoga and delineated, in a step-by-step fashion, exactly what yoga is and how to practice it.
Q: What can modern students learn from the Yoga Sutra?
PRT: When you practice the kind of yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, you will experience what it’s like to be healthy, happy, peaceful, confident, and energetic. The literal meaning of “yoga” is “union,” “integration,” “reconnection.” But in the context of practice, yoga is a way of gaining access to your own inner luminosity and becoming established in your essential self.
By studying the Yoga Sutra, you will learn how to cultivate a clear, calm, and tranquil mind; how to expand the immense power of your mind; and how to begin unveiling, layer after layer, the mysteries of the universe within you and outside you.
Q: Why are its teachings so crucial today?
PRT: Because the human mind is scattered. We have become negligent about our distractions, inertia, confusion, doubt, fear, and anger. But humans have been riding a roller coaster of ups and downs for thousands of years. The yoga tradition, which started at least 5,000 years ago and has continued without interruption, has recorded all of the problems that humans face, and the methods and techniques to overcome those problems.
The Yoga Sutra contains the solutions.
Q: What role does asana play in yoga practice?
PRT: Asana is a very important part of life. It keeps you healthy, strong, and energetic. And it enables you to discover and reclaim the innate wisdom of your body. But it is only after you rediscover the self-luminous nature of your own mind that you will begin to experience the true power of asana. That discovery comes from the meditative aspect of yoga.
Q: What inspired you to publish a commentary on the Yoga Sutra after 35 years of teaching in the West?
PRT: The Yoga Sutra is a compendium of a vast field of knowledge and wisdom, techniques and methodologies for discovering our multi-dimensional life. It is the source wisdom for all schools and traditions of yoga. We need to bring the spiritual dimension back into yoga and encourage students to look for teachings and practices that will take them to the next level. That’s why I have realized that I should share whatever I have learned in the last 35 years through this commentary, The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and by teaching and interacting with students.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your Secret of The Yoga Sutra book tour and courses?
My wish is that the Yoga Sutra brings the same level of transformation to other people as it did to me. In order to make that wish become a reality, my vision is to bring the Yoga Sutra to people’s doorsteps, making this knowledge available to them on many levels and from many perspectives [through a summer lecture & book tour, online study groups, and a four-part master course on the Yoga Sutra that students can take in person or online].
My vision is that the yoga community, the scientific community, the medical community, and the health community take from the Yoga Sutra what is useful for them, conduct more research, assimilate the knowledge into their existing practice, and take their own field of knowledge to the next level. My interest is to demonstrate and support how you can embrace the teachings of the Yoga Sutra in your own personal practice for self-improvement and self-empowerment; how you can accelerate your quest for total well-being and spiritual unfoldment.
Posted on September 3, 2014