Tapah svadhyaya iswarapranidhnani kriyayogah
Burning zeal in practice, self-study and study of scriptures, and surrender to Divine are the acts of yoga.
In the first verse of the second chapter, Sadhana Pada, Patanjali introduced the term “Kriya Yoga”. Kriya means action, but Patanjali’s Kriya Yoga has a wider definition than the “yoga of action”. Patanjali’s Kriya Yoga composes of three tiers, namely Tapas (austerity, religious spirit in practice), Svadhyaya (self-study) and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender to Divinity).
Tapas is usually understood as self-torture by many people, however, that is the extreme. Many people do take extreme forms of practice in order to gain supernatural powers (Siddhis), but according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita, these Siddhis may lead Sadhakas to more worldly desires and make them more egoistic, and thus are distractions of yoga. The word Tapas here actually means simplicity, truly understanding of oneself, and to perform one’s duty even in adverse situations. By practising Tapas, Sadhakas can be physically healthy, mentally strong and emotionally stable.
Svadhyaya means self-study, or study of the sacred scriptures. The word “study” here does not mean intellectual studies, but the realization of ancient wisdom. True knowledge is usually not gained suddenly or immediately. In order to realize the truth, Sadhakas need to repetitively hear the truth by studying sacred scriptures, such as Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and etc. Or Sadhakas could meditate frequently until the truth is revealed.
The last aspect of Kriya Yoga is Isvara Pranidhana, which means surrender oneself to the Supreme Being, the Divine. In yoga, we believe that human beings are not the centre of the world, but only creations of the Divine. Only in this way, by surrendering to the Supreme, Sadhakas can connect to the consciousness and enter higher state of yoga.
According to Patanjali, the purification process includes three steps – the purification of body, speech and mind. Sadhakas have to go through these steps to achieve perfection. Our bodies are purified by self-discipline, our words by self-study and our minds by surrender to Divinity. Tapas is a burning desire to reach perfection, it burns all impurities; Svadhyaya is the reflection of the True Self through self-study and continuously looking inward; Isvara Pranidhana is to purify the mind by love and surrender to Divinity.