In Sadhana Pada, Patanjali also explains the causes of sufferings and the process to minimize it. He then explains the eightfold path of Yoga to achieve freedom for common man. This eight fold path is known as Astanga Yoga and it is suitable for all. The eight steps of Astanga Yoga are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharna, dhyana and samadhi. Yamas are social moral conduct; Niyamas are to be followed strictly for self-development; Asana is a relaxed, steady and peaceful posture to make the physical body strong and ready for inward journey; Pranayama is the controlling of bio-energy. The first four steps are external supports and are called Bahiranga and last three are internal aid called Antaranga. Pratyahara is the association between external and internal. It consists of controlling of five sense organs. In the Sadhana Pada chapter, Patanjali explains the journey from yama to pratyahara.
Sadhana Pada is the stage when a sadhaka who practices, applying his mind and intelligence with skill, dedication and devotion, attains the success of sadhana. Samadhi Pada prescribes a certain level of sadhana for those of balanced mind and stable spiritual attainment. In Sadhana Pada, the beginners are told how to begin their sadhana and work towards spiritual liberation. Here, the art of practice, abhyasa, is fully laid out to uphold the sadhaka in the uninterrupted maintenance of his sadhana; to guide him around pitfalls so that he may gain great clarity by acute observation and reflection and immaculate care in practice. Sadhana Pada, therefore, carries the torch for both the morally evolved and the uninitiated. It teaches the complete beginner how he may rise, through his sadhana, to the level of high aspirants. In this chapter, Patanjali also introduces Kriyayoga, the yoga of action. Kriya Yoga gives us the practical disciplines needed to scale the spiritual heights.
Sadhana is a discipline undertaken in the quest of a goal. Affliction is the Diseases of the Mind There are five afflictions, namely worldly or erroneous knowledge (avidya), desire and attachment (raga), sense of 'I' ness (asmita), dislike (dvesa) and attachment to life and fear of death (abhinivesah). Pain and sorrow (duhkha) result from the affliction (klesha) of dislike (dvesha). The prime cause of afflictions is avidya or the failure to understand the coincidence between the seer and the seen or better said purusa and prakrti. The external world attracts the seer towards its pleasures, creating desire. The inevitable non-fulfillment of desires in turn creates pain that suffocates the inner being. Nature and her beauties are there for enjoyment and pleasure (bhoga) and also for freedom and emancipation (yoga). If we use them indiscriminately, we are bound by the chains of pleasure and pain.
A judicious use of them leads to the bliss which is free from pleasure mixed with pain. Twin paths to this goal are practice (abhyasa), the path of evolution, of going forward and detachment or renunciation (vairagra), the path of involution abstaining from the fruits of action and from worldly concerns and engagements. In Sadhana Pada, Patanjali counsels dispassion towards pleasures and pains and recommends the practice of meditation to attain freedom and beatitude. First he describes in detail the eightfold path of yoga. Following this path helps one to avoid the dormant, hidden sufferings which may surface when physical health, energy and mental poise are disturbed. This suggests that the eightfold path of yoga is suitable for the unhealthy as well as for the healthy, enabling all to develop the power to combat physical and mental diseases.
In Sadhana Pada, the soul is called as seer. He says that the seer or the soul is absolute pure knowledge. He further explains about nature's evolution and its relation with the seer. After explaining the functions of nature and of the seer, Patanjali speaks of the seven states of understanding or wisdom (prajna) that emerge from the release of nature's contact with the seer. The seven states of wisdom are interpreted as right desire, right reflection, disappearance of memory and mind, experiencing pure sattva or the (truth reality), indifference to praise and blame, re-absorption of phenomenal creation and living in the vision of the soul. These seven states are essential to be followed by the sadhaka to maintain yogic discipline.
The yogic disciplines are yama (restraint) and niyama (practice or observance). These disciplines bring together the energies of the organs of action and the senses of perception in the right direction. Asana (posture) results in balance, stillness of mind and power to penetrate the intelligence. Through asana we learn to know the body well and to distinguish between motion and action. Motion excites the mind while action absorbs it. Pranayama (control senses) and help the sadhaka to explore his hidden facets, and enable him to go through the core of his being. Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (total absorption) are the fulfillment of yogic discipline, the essence or natural constituents of yoga. They develop when the other five disciplines have been mastered. Actually, all eight intermingle and interweave to form the whole seamless body of yoga.
Yama means restraint or self-control. There are five yamas: ahimsa (non-violence or non-injury), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacarya (continence) and aparigraha (freedom from avarice or non-covetousness). They are to be practiced individually and collectively irrespective of lineage, place, time, condition or career. The yamas are mighty universal vows. Niyama means practice or observance. The five niyamas are to be followed not merely as individual, but also as spiritual, disciplines. They are santosa (contentment), sauca (clealiness or purity), tapas (religious fervour), svadhyaya (study of the sacred scriptures and of one's own self) and Isvara pranidhana (surrender of the self to God).
Actually, the observance of yama brings about niyama, and the practice of niyama disciplines one to follow the principals of yama. For instance, non-violence brings purity of thought and deed, truthfulness leads to contentment, and non-covetousness leads to tapas. Chastity leads to the study of the self, and non-possessiveness to surrender to God. Similarly, cleanliness leads towards non-violence, and contentment towards truthfulness. Tapas guides one not to misappropriate another's wealth. Study of the self leads towards chastity and surrender to God frees one from possessiveness. Yoga practice keeps the integrity of a living spirit, the innate primitive consciousness which is linked through the innate evolutionary power which underlies all of life, thus the practice becomes devotional and revelatory, self liberating and self motivating. Sadhana becomes a practice of bringing more clarity, integrity, truth, heart, consciousness, light, joy, and love into all facets of one's life. As such it has its own natural and profound momentum and enthusiasm as it supports itself with the universe and universal power (shakti).
Authentic yoga sadhana has nothing to do with externally imposed discipline, hard work, force, comparative power over others, or selfish willfulness. The authentic goal of yoga is to align the individual will with the complete will and power, to enter into a thoughtful harmony, balance, and integral alignment of the power of consciousness because the yoga practitioner gradually stops to identify with only the body or as a separate limited "self". Rather the sadhak (practitioner) no longer lives in an estranged "world" of being apart from nature, but rather as a vital part of nature. Yoga is thus a process of surrendering to a very large all encompassing intelligent sacred dynamic. Simultaneously, one surrenders the tendency to disintegrate, to isolate, and become apart from it. It can be avoided by balancing it with bhakti (its devotional elements). Human beings have a natural inborn momentum toward communion and integrity, but it has become beaten out of many and perverted by negative conditioning. Integrity is the kind of ultimate conclusion that is felt as santosha (sense of fulfillment, completion, and peace) that genuine yoga affords in the beginning, the middle and the end.
Negative conditioning tends to blur the vision (avidya instead of vidya is heightened). Samyoga is the sleepy state of bland sameness, blocked creative energy, and indifference which inures the practitioners to ignorance (the blockage of creative pure vision). Samyoga is broken up through viveka which is an innate power brought forward into fruition via Astanga yoga. Although the power of viveka is innate in humans who have become conditioned, viveka starts off as a beginning limited awareness (or recognition of very limited sub-consciousness). Then further practice breaks the bonds of unconscious habits and karmic propensities (vasana), thus separating the observer from its false identification. That separation is where most samkhya interpreters end, but to go further in the culmination of yoga as union. After the boundary of samyoga is conked out, a profound alignment and mutuality in unity with all beings and things as-it-is in swarupa is attained as one's true unconditioned nature of mind that is all pervasive and never ending.
Another important aspect of Sadhana Pada is Asana which means posture, the positioning of the body as a whole with the involvement of the mind and soul. Asana has two facets, pose and repose. Pose is the creative assumption of a position. 'Reposing in the pose', reflects the ideology of finding the perfection of a pose and maintaining it, thus reflecting in it with penetration of the intelligence and also with dedication. When the seeker is closer to the soul, the asanas come with instantaneous porch, repose and poise. Asanas are like bridges that unite the body with the mind, and the mind with the soul. They lift the sadhaka from the clutches of afflictions and lead him towards disciplined freedom. They help to transform him by guiding his realization away from the body towards awareness of the soul. Pranayama is the next level of Sadhana Pada. Patanjali states that pranayama should be attempted only after perfection is attained in asana. In pranayama, the spine and the spinal muscles are the sources of action and the lungs are the receiving instruments. Therefore training is very important.
There are 55 shlokas in the Sadhana pada where Patanjali explains how a Sadhak can begin his sadhana. Patanjali's yoga Sutras also known as Slhok were the earliest and are still the most profound and enlightening-study of the human psyche. The shlokas in the Sadhana Pada are as follows -