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Upasarga – An Obstacle To Yoga

Upasarga is an obstacle in Yoga. Patanjali has mentioned two types of obstacles in Yoga Sutra. One set he calls antaraya (I:29) and says that it can be removed by reciting the name of Ishwara (God),the word om, and fixing the mind on the meaning of that word, God (I:28). These obstacles which are removed by Ishvara Pranidhana are mentioned in Sutra (I:30). They are

  1. Vyadhi (ill health)
  2. Styana (languor)
  3. Samsaya (doubt)
  4. Pramada (default)
  5. Alasya (laziness)
  6. Avirati (lack of withdrawal)
  7. Bhranti darshana (erroneous perception)
  8. Alabdha Bhumikattva (failure to attain higher stages of concentration)
  9. Anavasthitattva (instability causing lack of continuity of higher stage).

When these antarayas appear in the mind, it is distracted from the path of progress into the practice of Yoga. Hence Patanjali recommends Ishvara pranidhana as the means of removal of these upasargas (obstacles). Earlier in sutra (I.23), Patanjali has stated another usefulness of Ishvara pranidhana, which is attainment of Samadhi of the nirbija type, which is termed anya in sutra (I:18).

Patanjali has described the other type of obstacles which impede the attainment of the final goal of Yoga, i.e., kaivalya (liberation), in the third chapter of Yoga Sutra while describing various yogic powers (III:35-37). He says in sutra (III:35) that realization of the absolute knowledge of the purusha arises from understanding the ultimate difference between drishta (seer) and the seen drishya (seen). As a result of this, supernatural powers of the five sense organs are attained by the aspirant (II.36). But these powers are described by Patanjali as impediments, or upasargas (obstacles), to the attainment of the final goal of Yoga, because they are apt to cause distraction.