The Nine Antarayas: Impediments to Progress in Practice


In Yoga Sutra 1.30, Patanjali lists nine antarayas, the deep-seated impediments to spiritual progress. As you move through a purashcharana (practice of repeating a mantra a specific number of times a day for a set time period), you will face some or all of these obstacles head-on. Ironically, a purashcharana is also one of the most profound and direct methods for overcoming them.

1. Sickness: imbalances among the various constituents of the body and the mind.

2. Disinclination: the mind turns away from practice because of habitual procrastination, mental restlessness, and a general lack of enthusiasm for practice.

3. Doubt: the mind vacillates between trust and mistrust in what has been taught; faith and lack of faith in the efficacy of practice; conviction and lack of conviction regarding the methods our teachers have given.

4. Carelessness: negligence in giving full attention to practice; as a result, mistakes and omissions undermine the efficacy of our work.

5. Sloth: a tendency to avoid exertion and fall back on a love of comfort and mental ease.

6. Non-abstinence: being overwhelmed by the pull of the senses and thus failing to maintain balance in the midst of worldly life.

7. Delusion: making errors in understanding and judgment, primarily regarding practice; the mind thus accepts a mistaken point of view.

8. Failure to gain ground: despite considerable practice, a level of achievement is not mastered; this may be because the prerequisites of practice need more attention or because further effort is required.

9. Instability: a certain level of attainment is achieved, but is not maintained; this results from practice that is not consistent and from the unsteadiness of the ground previously attained.

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