The Yoga Sutras for Transformation: 40 Haikus for 40 Days

Valentine Leonard
The Yoga Sutras for Transformation: 40 Haikus for 40 Days

40 days is a full cycle of our psyche. It is the amount of time it takes to form a new habit because, says yoga, it takes 40 days of a given practice to embody the new experiences and increased capacities it potentializes.

The Yoga Sutras of the great sage Patanjali form the heart of yogic wisdom on lucid living, with 196 aphorisms that offer advice, ranging from the practical to the esoteric, to elevate the human spirit.

As part of my self-initiation as a teacher of Kundalini yoga, I endeavored to integrate the wisdom of the Yoga Sutras by combining a close study of the text with a 40-day cycle of the Meditation for Transformation and allowing poetry to emerge from the encounter.

What better form than the haiku to translate an experience freed from the tyranny of the literal yet grounded and embodied in everydayness?

In order to read the 196 Sutras over 40 days, I needed to cover an average of four or five aphorisms each day. So each day, for 40 days, I sat on my pillow and read three different translations of a few Sutras, then spent 31 minutes in meditation. Then I wrote a haiku.

The result is this: the Yoga Sutras distilled into 40 haikus that can be enjoyed for reading and/or used as support and inspiration for daily meditation.

Day 1 (Sutras I.1-I.4)

Yoga reveals soul’s

capacities for Being.

Robot-mind be gone!

Day 2 (Sutras I.5-I.10)

Mind’s machinations

will misconstrue ropes for snakes.

Calm fears: See what’s real.

Day 3 (Sutras I.11-I.15)

By fervent practice

desire becomes empire:

True self unattached.

Day 4 (Sutras I.16-I.19)

Samadhi burns through

flesh, bones, reasons, past:

I am that I am!

Day 5 (Sutras I.20-I.26)

Energized practice

or surrender to the Source

free up boundlessness.

Day 6 (Sutras I.27-I.29)

Sacred syllables

vibrate God’s revelation:

Repeat Om, Om, Om!

Day 7 (Sutras I.30-I.34)

Scattered mind brings stress.

Befriend your breath: Stabilize!

Befriend all: Harmonize!

Day 8 (Sutras I.35-I.39)

Means to steady mind,

many-faced like a diamond,

merge in meditation.

Day 9 (Sutras I.40-I.46)

Samadhi’s ladder

climbs over stuff, names, the subtle:

Fuses with the most simple.

Day 10 (Sutras I.47-I.51)

At the top waits grace:

Higher order, pure knowing

of peace undisturbed.

Day 11 (Sutras II.1-II.5)

Yoga in action

offers itself up to Source.

Know this: Melt obstacles!

Day 12 (Sutras II.6 - II.9)

Memories of death,

pleasure and pain blur Being.

To doing ego clings.

Day 13 (Sutras II.10-II.16)

But let it go now.

Though karmic seeds of grief stay,

future throes take leave.

Day 14 (Sutras II.17-II.25)

Be love, not lover,

sight freed from the seen:

The world refracts this.

Day 15 (Sutras II.26-II.28)

Mind transcends the mind

like ladder transcends ladder

to break ties with pain.

Day 16 (Sutras II.29-II.35)

Yoga’s eight limbs, all

rooted in non-violence,

are rungs of rightness.

Day 17 (Sutras II.36-II.39)

To greedless seekers

appears the meaning of life:

Life-force is the one gem!

Day 18 (Sutras II.40-II.45)

Divine devotion

to a chosen beloved

engenders pure joy.

Day 19 (Sutras II.46-II.49)

Body’s happy space

abandons dualities.

Sit with grace.

Day 20 (Sutras II.50-II.55)

Consciously hold breath

in mind’s arms to see the light

of inner knowing.

Day 21 (Sutras III.1-III.4)

Mind-focus relates.

Meditation penetrates.

Absorption fuses.

Day 22 (Sutras III.5-III.11)

Spiritual life

requires learning to swim

without making waves.

Day 23 (Sutras III.12-III.15)

One-pointed focus

rides the crest of increments.

Equal waves a tide make.

Day 24 (Sutras III.16-III.22)

One-pointed focus

grants sensational powers

over all senses.

Day 25 (Sutras III.23-III.29)

Such focus gives strength

of elephants to sages:

Know death, love, stars!

Day 26 (Sutras III.30-III.36)

Such subtle knowing

stabilizes, elevates:

Self shines through heart’s grace.

Day 27 (Sutras III.37-III.39)

But hug your center

to inspire, not acquire.

Be wise, not wizard!

Day 28 (Sutras III.40-III.44)

Breath lifts you from swamps.

Master it and light the way,

weightless, a snow-flake.

Day 29 (Sutras III.45-III.50)

Dwell on the Between

essence and the elements:

Senses release sense.

Day 30 (Sutras III.51-III.56)

Detached from powers

dismiss Having for Being.

This is pure freedom.

Day 31 (Sutras IV.1-IV.3)

Best path to rebirth

in this or another life

is to blast the blocks!

Day 32 (Sutras IV.4-IV.6)

Ego builds the chains

that keep your mind prisoner.

Break them! Meditate!

Day 33 (Sutras IV.7-IV.9)

Neither good nor bad

yogi’s karmic seeds live on,

so plant in right soil!

Day 34 (Sutras IV.10-IV.13)

Manifestation,

existence’s changeless thrust,

changes in real time.

Day 35 (Sutras IV.14-IV.16)

Things are real sans “I”

and reality is One

despite countless eyes.

Day 36 (Sutras IV.17-IV.20)

Either seer or seen,

mind, like the moon, reflects light.

But sun always shines.

Day 37 (Sutras IV.21-IV.23)

Mind may not be known

through objects or intellect.

Self alone sees through.

Day 38 (Sutras IV.24-IV.28)

Though when mind discerns,

it may unite with the Self

and doubt fall away.

Day 39 (Sutras IV.29-IV.31)

Release insight too

to release the seeds of grief

and be free for Truth.

Day 40 (Sutras IV.32-IV.34)

Once baseless, thought waves

return to primal ocean:

Pure conscious power!

References:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Ed., Trans. and Commentary by Edwin F. Bryant. North Point Press, NY, 2009.

How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Trans. and commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. Vedanta Press, Hollywood, CA, 2007.

Patanjali. Yoga-Sutras. Trans. and commentary by Françoise Mazet. Albin Michel, 1991.