Yoga has been defined by many in different ways. Some say, Yoga is the Union of the Individual Soul and the Supreme Universal Soul. Some others call it the process of knowing the unknown with the known. Sage Patanjali defined it as «Yogah Chitta Vrrtti Nirodhah» which means «Yoga is the Cessation of Mind».
Many Yoga greats have presented commentaries on Patanjali Yoga Sutras. If you look out for a book on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you will find a great list of commentaries written by different yogis. I have gone through some of the commentaries on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Swami Rama of Himalayas, BKS Iyengar and few more. They are quite impressive. Though the essence of the yoga sutras remain the same, slight differences are noticed in the commentaries as they are based on individual knowledge, understanding and their experiences.
One day, I came across a book called «Yoga: The alpha and omega» written by Osho. Osho's literatutre always excited me for two reasons 1) he hits straight on the heart and mind of the readers and 2) he never afraid to raise the question on whatever and wherever there is a question to be raised.
When I read or listen something on Yoga Philosophy I could hardly recollect in my memory for long. But I don't know why Osho's commentary on the definition of Yoga by Patanjali stuck in my mind for very long. He made it look so simple and so clear that I have no words to explain. I therefore decided to share this beautiful commentary on Patanjali's definition of Yoga by Osho. The next lines are the words of Osho on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from «Yoga: alpha and Omega – vol.1»
Osho on Patanjali Yoga Sutra - "Yoga is the Cessation of Mind"
Osho - This is the definition of yoga, the best. In many ways yoga has been defined; there are many definitions. Some say yoga is the meeting of the mind with the divine; hence, it is called yoga -- yoga means meeting, joining together. Some say that yoga means dropping the ego: ego is the barrier; the moment you drop the ego you are joined to the divine. You were already joined, only because of the ego it appeared that you were disjoined. And there are many, but Patanjali's is the most scientific. He says,
YOGA IS THE CESSATION OF MIND.
Yoga is the state of no-mind. The word "mind" covers all -- your egos, your desires, your hopes, your philosophies, your religions, your scriptures. "Mind" covers all. Whatsoever you can think is mind. All that is known, all that can be known, all that is knowable, is within mind. Cessation of the mind means cessation of the known, cessation of the knowable. It is a jump into the unknown. When there is no mind, you are in the unknown. Yoga is a jump into the unknown. It will not be right to say "unknown"; rather, "unknowable".
What is the mind? What the mind is doing there? What it is? Ordinarily we think that mind is something substantial there inside the head. Patanjali doesn't agree -- and no one who has ever known the insides of the mind will agree. Modern science also doesn't agree. Mind is not something substantial inside the head. Mind is just a function, just an activity.
You walk and I say you are walking. What is walking? If you stop, where is walking? If you sit down, where the walking has gone? Walking is nothing substantial; it is an activity. So while you are sitting, no one can ask, "Where you have put your walking? Just now you were walking, so where the walking has gone?" You will laugh. You will say, "Walking is not something substantial, it is just an activity. I can walk. I can again walk and I can stop. It is activity."
Mind is also activity, but because of the word "mind", it appears as if something substantial is there. It is better to call it "minding" -- just like "walking". Mind means "minding", mind means thinking. It is an activity."
I have been quoting again and again Bodhidharma.
Bodhidharma said, "You don't do anything. First you bring your mind to me." The emperor could not follow he said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Come in the morning at four o'clock when nobody is there. Come alone, and remember to bring your mind with you."
The emperor couldn't sleep the whole night. Many times he cancelled the whole idea: "This man seems to be mad. What does he mean, 'Come with your mind; don't forget?'" The man was so enchanting, so charismatic that he couldn't cancel the appointment. As if a magnet was pulling him, at four o'clock he jumped out of the bed and said, "Whatsoever happens, I must go. This man may have something; his eyes say that he has something. Looks a little crazy, but still I must go and see what can happen."
So he reached, and Bodhidharma was sitting with his big staff. He said, "So you have come? Where is your mind? Have you brought it or not?"
The emperor said, "You talk nonsense. When I am here my mind is here, and it is not something which I can forget somewhere. It is in me." So Bodhidharma said, "Okay. So the first thing is decided -- that the mind is within you." The emperor said, "Okay, the mind is within me." Bodhidharma said, "Now close your eyes and find out where it is. And if you can find out where it is, immediately indicate to me. I will put it at peace."
So the emperor closed his eyes, tried and tried, looked and looked. The more he looked, the more he became aware there is no mind, mind is an activity. It is not something there so you can pinpoint it. But the moment he realized that it is not something, then the absurdity of his quest became exposed to himself. If it is not something, nothing can be done about it. If it is an activity, then don't do the activity; that's all. If it is like walking, don't walk.
He opened his eyes. He bowed down to Bodhidharma and said, "There is no mind to be found." Bodhidharma said, "Then I have put it at peace. And whenever you feel that you are uneasy, just look within, where that uneasiness is." The very look is anti-mind, because look is not a thinking. And if you look intensely your whole energy becomes a look, and the same energy becomes movement and thinking.
YOGA IS THE CESSATION OF MIND.
This is Patanjali's definition. When there is no mind, you are in yoga; when there is mind you are not in yoga. So you may do all the postures, but if the mind goes on functioning, if you go on thinking, you are not in yoga. Yoga is the state of no-mind. If you can be without the mind without doing any posture, you have become a perfect yogi. It has happened to many without doing any postures, and it has not happened to many who have been doing postures for many lives.
Because the basic thing to be understood is: when the activity of thinking is not there, you are there; when the activity of the mind is not there, when thoughts have disappeared, they are just like clouds, when they have disappeared, your being, just like the sky, is uncovered. It is always there -- only covered with the clouds, covered with thoughts.
YOGA IS THE CESSATION OF MIND.
In the West now, there is much appeal for Zen -- a Japanese method of yoga. The word "zen" comes from dhyana. Bodhidharma introduced this word dhyana in China. In China the word dhyana became jhan and then chan and then the word traveled to Japan and became zen.
The root is dhyana. Dhyana means no-mind, so the whole training of Zen in Japan is of nothing but how to stop minding, how to be a no-mind, how to be simply without thinking. Try it! When I say try it, it will look contradictory, because there is no other way to say it. Because if you try, the very try, the effort is coming from the mind. You can sit in a posture and you can try some japa chanting, mantra -- or you can just try to sit silently, not to think. But then not to think becomes a thinking. Then you go on saying, "I am not to think; don't think; stop thinking," but this is all thinking.
Try to understand. When Patanjali says, no-mind, cessation of mind, he means complete cessation. He will not allow you to make a japa, "Ram-Ram-Ram." He will say that this is not cessation; you are using the mind. He will say, "Simply stop!" but you will ask, "How? How to simply stop?" The mind continues. Even if you sit, the mind continues. Even if you don't do, it goes on doing.
Patanjali says just look. Let mind go, let mind do whatsoever it is doing. You just look. You don't interfere. You just be a witness, you just be an onlooker not concerned, as if the mind doesn't belong to you, as if it is not your business, not your concern. Don't be concerned! Just look and let the mind flow. It is flowing because of past momentum, because you have always helped it to flow. The activity has taken its own momentum, so it is flowing. You just don't cooperate Look, and let the mind flow.
For many, many lives, million lives maybe, you have cooperated with it, you have helped it, you have given your energy to it. The river will flow awhile. If you don't cooperate, if you just look unconcerned -- Buddha's word is indifference, upeksha: looking without any concern, just looking, not doing anything in any way -- the mind will flow for a while and it will stop by itself When the momentum is lost, when the energy has flowed, the mind will stop. When the mind stops, you are in yoga: you have attained the discipline. This is the definition: YOGA IS THE CESSATION OF MIND. THEN THE WITNESS IS ESTABLISHED IN ITSELF.
When the mind ceases, the witness is established in itself. When you can simply look without being identified with the mind, without judging, without appreciating, condemning, without choosing -- you simply look and the mind flows, a time comes when by itself, of itself, the mind stops.
When there is no mind, you are established in your witnessing. Then you have become a witness -- just a seer-a drashta, a sakchhi. Then you are not a doer, then you are not a thinker. Then you are simply being pure being, purest of being. Then the witness is established in itself.