Patanjali Yoga Sutra Chant
Here is a video of the chant of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras I uploaded on YouTube.
Over the last several years, I have greatly enjoyed chanting the Yoga Sutras. Allow me to jot down a few reasons why I feel powerfully drawn to it:
1. We revere the words of great people who have made extraordinary contributions. They seem to infuse some magic in their words. Maharishi Patanjali is regarded as making 3 major contributions, as described by the invocation chants in the above video:
(i) “Yogena chittasya”: contribution of Yoga to purify the mind,
(ii) “Padena vachaam”: contribution to Sanskrit Grammar for purity in speech. The great sages Panini, Katyayana and Patanjali are revered as the “Muni Traya” (trinity) who established the rules of Sanskrit grammar (vyakarana).
(iii) “Malam shareersaya cha vaidyakena”: contributions to Ayurveda for healing the body of impurities.
[The invocation chants come from Raja Bhojadeva’s 10th century commentary on the Yoga Sutras.] The Yoga Sutras have originated from one of the greatest minds, and we listen to them and revere them even after thousands of years!
2. The Yoga Sutras capture the core teachings of Yoga with clarity and precision. The sutra form of presentation adhere to strict rules as given by the following Sanskrit verse:
alpaaksharam asandighdam saaravat vishvatomukham |
asthobam anavadyam cha sutram sutravido viduh ||
The scholars define sutras as follows: pithy (fewest words), unambiguous, complete, reveals all perspectives, free of repetition, and flawless. Abiding by these rules, Maharishi Patanjali has captured the essence of Yoga in fewer than 200 terse aphorisms in a clear and unambiguous manner.
3. As we chant a Sutra, its meaning lights up in our awareness. Reciting the entire Yoga Sutras help to refresh and revise our understanding of the entire spectrum of the teachings on Yoga as given by Maharishi Patanjali. Therefore in a short duration of 20 minutes, we systematically cover all the foundational principles of Yoga.
4. The sequential rendering of the Sutras achieves one more remarkable thing: it reveals how the Sutras intertwine with each other like threads and weave a beautiful tapestry of ideas. We understand each Sutra in the context of the neighboring Sutras and appreciate the flow of ideas. We see the “big picture” of Yoga.
5. I have observed that memorizing and chanting the Yoga Sutras has given a more intimate understanding of the text. This has extraordinarily helped me in my own personal practice. For example while practicing Asanas (postures), the relevant Sutras on Asanas lights up in my awareness and guides my practice. Furthermore, many of the principles in Yoga Sutras can be applied outside the Yoga mat as well. We have a nice big box of “wisdom” tools at our disposal; we can apply these powerful tools in various life situations.
6. It has greatly helped me as a Yoga Teacher. The main principles of Yoga and the different subjects can be conveyed in a clear and succinct manner by using the yoga sutras as the cues. For example, while introducing a new topic or practice, the corresponding sutras can be valuable in order to convey the primary objectives and purpose. This has given me confidence as I share Yoga in the role of a Yoga Teacher.
7. It is said that a word spoken by great ones also carry the meaning with it. For example, when a person of elevated awareness says the word “peace”, the feeling of peace also piggybacks along with the sound and is communicated to the listener. I could sense this principle to be true as I listen to various Sutras. For example, Sutra III.10 tasya prashanta vahita samskarat conveys a sense of prashanta (peace) each time I listen to it!
8. Listening or chanting the Sutras is such a beautiful experience. It brings great tranquility to the mind! It is also a way to express honor, respect and reverence the great Maharishi Patanjali. There is a feeling of inviting him and invoking his powerful presence!!
When I was little, I grew up listening to soothing Sanskrit chants rendered by my father each morning. Although I was unable to understand their meaning, the chants had a powerful impact on my mind… and my soul. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of my experience sitting in rapt attention listening to my father’s chanting. I am deeply grateful to my father for the early exposure to Sanskrit chanting. It thrills me that as we approach father’s day, I have this opportunity to express my overwhelming gratitude to my father for providing this incredible gift!
My first exposure to the Yoga Sutras was in my Yoga school (Yogalayam, Chennai, India); my teacher Yogacharya R. Subramaniam explained the meaning of several sutras in class. Alongside, I was also learning Sanskrit as a second language in high school, which helped me appreciate the meaning of the Sutras even more. All this invoked a sense of curiosity and a determination to study the text in a systematic manner. Years later, listening to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s remarkably insightful commentaries on the Yoga Sutras opened me to a whole new dimension of understanding. I am deeply grateful to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji and the Art of Living Foundation for the priceless wisdom.
In order to learn the chanting of the Yoga Sutras in a systematic manner, I used two recordings of the Yoga Sutras. The first is a rendition by Yogacharya and scholar Srivatsa Ramaswami. The CD of his chanting accompanied his wonderful book The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga. (I understand that the CD is no longer available). The second CD is the widely available rendition by Dr. Kausthub Desikachar. I express my gratitude to both these great teachers for sharing their work.
I also wish to acknowledge Samskrita Bharati for their wonderful work in keeping Sanskrit alive and thriving in USA. I have greatly benefited from their workshops and camps I attended.
Thank you for listening to the Yoga Sutra chant!