The Four Basic Sutras

One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.

“The Yoga Sutras is a very important classical text. I want to give you a glimpse of the whole text. All three schools of Buddhism—Mahayana, Hinayana, and Nirvayana—and the Jain teachings have borrowed from this text. The Upanishads are replete with the teachings of yoga science. Every religion in the world includes something about yoga, yet yoga is not a religion.

Every word of the sutras has meaning, so you need to understand each word properly in order to understand the whole sutra. Sutras are similar to aphorisms in English, but they are not mere aphorisms. They are compact, concise, abstruse sentences that cannot be understood without expansion and explanation. I studied the sutras many times in my childhood, yet I still did not really know much about them. The yoga sutras are not actually meant for students to study because they will drive you crazy! They are really meant as an outline for the teachers. If you study only the sutra as it is, you will not understand what it means. Patanjali intended for the teachers to practice the sutras and to expand on them for students. Understanding has nothing to do with how learned you are. If someone is a very learned person and is knowledgeable about the scriptures but does not practice, it will be very difficult for that person to comprehend the entire concept, philosophy, psychology, and practical aspects of Patanjali. If you do not practice the yoga sutras, you cannot explain them, no matter how much you study, and you will make serious mistakes. Only when you practice the sutras will you understand them very clearly. Only those teachers who are competent, who have studied the tradition from their competent teachers, and who have practiced and applied the truths therein, have the right to teach the yoga sutras. In ancient times only those who were adept taught the sutras. No one would study them from anyone who was not a perfect yogi. Only someone who has practiced this science with mind, action, and speech, and who has traditionally studied this science, can explain and impart the knowledge to those students who are prepared.

The first four sutras are very important. four basic yoga sutra cornerstonesThey are the cornerstones of the architecture of yoga science. Patanjali explains the first four sutras of the first chapter in the entire one hundred ninety-six sutras. These four sutras are the nucleus; the rest of the sutras are the explanation.

The four basic sutras are:

Now yoga science is being expounded.

By gaining control over mind and its modifications one can attain the highest state of wisdom or samadhi.

When you come to realize your essential nature, you get freedom.

You are constantly identifying yourself with the objects of the world. That is why you are suffering.

Patanjali did not write these sutras for swamis or renunciates; he meant them for the people of the world so that one can live in the world yet remain unaffected and undisturbed, enjoying peace, happiness, and bliss. Students often ask their teacher for that happiness they can attain themselves by simple methods, by simple ways in life. Don’t tell yourself that you cannot have happiness and bliss; you can do that. Don’t believe that the external world or the objects of the world can give you peace, happiness, and bliss. Many people are rushing here and there, worrying, and being tossed by the objects of the world. To gain happiness you do not have to run around or go here and there. It is all at your disposal and within your reach. Peace is within you.”

 - Swami Rama in Samadhi the Highest State of Wisdom: Yoga the Sacred Science pages 4-6







  • rj_svb_at_palm_springs
  • rj_svb
  • RKSmile_Large
  • rk_at_devimandir
  • Randall_at_Himalayan_Yoga_Meditation
  • rk_at_table


19 Dec 2021;
07:00PM - 08:00PM
Full Moon Meditation 2020

Pathways to Self-Awareness Book

(Click for more information)

Join Our Email List

You can get our mailings and occassional upcoming class and seminar notices by subscribing below. We do not sell or otherwise give out email addresses.



For Email Newsletters you can trust