The Secret of the Yoga Sutra Book Club Session 7


Summary and Key Terms

Sutra 1:33 tells us that by cultivating four virtues, or attitudes toward others, we can protect our mind from four mental contaminants that darken the mind and destroy mental clarity. Through this contemplative practice, we instill in our mind higher virtues, called shukla dharma, that allow the mind to reclaim its natural, pristine, joyful state.

Sutra 1:34 describes a unique pranayama practice—pracchardana vidharana—that removes darkness from the mind and gives us a sense of inner luminosity. The contemplative practice described in sutra 1:33 and the pranayama practice in 1:34 work together and form a foundation for the practices in sutras 1:35 and 1:36.

Sutra 1:35 covers a technique for accessing points in mental space by focusing awareness at one of five locations in the physical body. Panditji explains how focusing awareness in the region around and above the soft palate while practicing a more advanced pranayama—kapala-bhedi—creates even greater access to our luminous mental space.

In sutra 1:36, Patanjali prescribes a comprehensive, well-defined practice for the first time. This is the core of the entire text. As explained by Vyasa and Panditji, this sutra says that by meditating on the lotus of the heart, we experience a state of vishoka (sorrowless joy) and jyotishmati (inner luminosity). Panditji sheds light on what is meant by “the lotus of the heart” and how we can locate it and meditate on it. Once we are established in the highly elevated state of vishoka and jyotishmati, there is no possibility of ever falling backward. 


  1. What are the four mental contaminants? What is the antidote to each?

  2. Which of these is currently impeding your progress the most?   

  3. Panditji states that practicing compassion requires greater insight and skill than practicing friendship. What is the first step?

  4. What is the ultimate purpose of cultivating the four positive attitudes discussed in sutra 1:33?

  5. Where does the practice described in sutra 1:34 take us? How is it related to sutra 1:33?

  6. There are five locations in the body endowed with unique energy on which we can focus our awareness: the tip of the nose, the tip of the tongue, the soft palate, the middle of the tongue, and the root of the tongue. Which of these does the Himalayan Tradition emphasize, and why?

  7. Why do you think Patanjali waits until sutra 1:36 to describe a complete course of practice? How do the previous sutras prepare us for this?

  8. What does Vyasa mean by “the lotus of the heart”?  Which chakra is the gateway to the lotus of the heart?

  9. In sutra 1:15, Panditji writes that “the grace of God is the most crucial factor in the experience of true fulfillment and ultimate freedom.” Sutra 1:23 says, “From trustful surrender to Ishvara, samadhi also comes.”  In sutra 1:36, Panditji writes that at the apex of the practice of meditation on the lotus of the heart, “our consciousness is lifted by the grace of the Divine” into higher samadhi. What role—if any—does Ishvara pranidhana have in the practice described in sutra 1:36?

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