Yoga Sutra 1.14

Translation and Commentary


Perfection in practice comes when one continues to practice with sincerity and respect for a long period of time without any interruption.
Yoga Sutra 1.14 Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD

sa that
tu verily, definitely
dīrgha long
kāla time
nairantarya continuously, without any interruption
satkāra respect
āsevita fully attended, completely served
dṛḍha firm, strong, unshakeable

bhūmiḥ ground

Perfecting your practice

Your practice will bear fruit when it encompasses three secrets to success in yoga.

First, you have to practice for a long period of time; second, your practice must not be interrupted—you must do it regularly; and third, you must do your practice with love and respect.

They say that practice makes you perfect. But practice simply makes you a practitioner. It is perfect practice that makes you perfect. Perfection in practice depends on the three main elements described in this sutra. First, you have to practice for a long period of time; second, your practice must not be interrupted—you must do it regularly; and third, you must do your practice with love and respect. Why are these three components so important?

Our personality is made up of our habit patterns, and habit patterns are formed by our repeated actions. When these habits are refined they are deposited in the mindfield in the form of subtle impressions called samskaras. And when similar samskaras are joined together they are called vasanas, a group of impressions big enough and strong enough to take over our mind. Vasanas come from deep within, and they motivate us to think, speak, and act in a manner that is congruent with them.

To trigger these vasanas, all you need is a single spark—a tiny excuse. For example, take someone who is angry by nature. Through his repeated acts of violence he has formed the habit of being violent, and all the subtle impressions of violence are stored in his mindfield. As simple an excuse as someone honking at him at a stop sign triggers his anger. He turns red and begins to swear. He may even pick up his handgun and shoot.

These powerful habits are formed over a long period of time, and therefore the process of undoing them will also take a long time. You must not expect instant transformation. You need to do your practice for a long period of time in order to generate new, spiritually illuminating, positive, constructive habit patterns that can neutralize your negative habit patterns and initiate a long-lasting transformation from within.

You also need to do your practice regularly. Everything in the world is regulated by time and space. Cause and effect are totally dependent on them, and that is why, to breathe life into your practice, you must do it regularly. You may have noticed in your own life that it is hard to start a practice in the first place—and even harder to restart it once you have let it lapse. Irregularity breeds procrastination—a hurdle that is hard to overcome.

Finally, you can continue your practice for a long period of time, without interruption, only when you love it. If you have not cultivated love and respect for your practice, it will be a continuous struggle to do it—and practicing without joy is torture. It is no longer the ground for self-discipline. Sooner or later you are bound to quit.

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