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A different take on Ashtanga Yoga
by William Sands, PhD

Elephant Journal    Translate This Article
24 March 2014

A new article by William Sands, PhD about Ashtanga Yoga, published 22 March in Elephant Journal, is being praised as a lucid and thoughtful exposition of the profound understanding of this topic brought to light by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In ''A Different Take on Ashtanga Yoga,'' Dr Sands describes Maharishi's ''unique interpretation'' of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, considered the source of Yoga philosophy. He presents Maharishi's ''definition of yoga, principally regarding the distinction between state of yoga and path of yoga'', expressed in his translation of the second sutra of the Yoga Sutra: Yogash chitta-vritti-nirodhah: ''Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind.''

Discussing the ''monumental implications'' of Maharishi's translation, Dr Sands writes: ''Maharishi is suggesting that the yoga of the Yoga Sutras is the goal and not the path—it's not something that you do. . . , it's a state of inner awareness that you experience.'' Ashtanga Yoga consists not of eight steps to attain yoga, but eight limbs or ''fundamental characteristics of the state of yoga''.

''Maharishi defines this inner state of yoga, the goal of yoga practice, as the experience of a transcendental field of pure intelligence, found deep within; it is an infinite 'ocean' of creativity, intelligence, happiness, and peace, our inner Self. In the Upanishads this infinitely blissful intelligence is often called Atma, and when we experience it we are enjoying yoga—the union of our individual intelligence with the cosmic inner Self.''

Taking the example of one of the eight limbs, the five yamassatya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence), etc., Dr Sands gives Maharishi's view that practicing these ''will not bring you to the state of yoga. For that you have to go deep within and experience the inner self, the source of our creativity, intelligence—our lives. Without that experience, it will be difficult to rise to enlightenment, which [Maharishi] describes as a permanent state of yoga in which the infinite, unbounded, eternally blissful inner Self is lived in every phase of outer life. For that, Maharishi recommends his Transcendental Meditation® practice, for it enables anyone to easily and effortlessly take the awareness deep inside to experience the blissful and peaceful state of yoga.''

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William F. Sands is the author of two books on Maharishi's teaching: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and His Gift to the World and Maharishi's Yoga: The Royal Path to Enlightenment. He is Dean of the College of Maharishi Vedic Science and Associate Professor of Sanskrit and Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.

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