Vyadhi-styana-sanshaya-pramadalasyavirati-bhranti-darshanalabdha-bhumikatvanavasthitatvani citta-viksepas te ‘ntarayah
Sickness, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sense addiction, false perception, non-attaining to the stages of Yoga and instability are the distractions of consciousness. These are the obstacles.
In this verse Rishi Patanjali enumerates the distractions of consciousness and hence the obstacles to Samadhi and to the Seer abiding in his/her own nature.
It takes tremendous strength physically and mentally to endure the travails of both maintaining our mundane responsibilities and going deeper into the essence of the psyche to attain to the state of Moksha or Spiritual Emancipation. A few individual take to the spiritual path thinking that it will fix all their issues both psychological and mundane. It doesn’t! If one has medical or psychological issues then one must consult with an allied health professional. Bona fide spiritual paths are designed for the realization of the Self and not for fixing anything to do with what most people relate ordinarily as to be their self (as body and ego). One will best succeed on the spiritual path if one integrates all aspects of the psyche and of life first then the obstacles which Rishi Patanjali enumerates here will be considerably diminished in either number or importance.
One who has successfully walked the spiritual path and instructs others is called Guru and is indispensable as a Guide lest we delude ourselves of our own progress or/and take wrong turns distancing us further from Truth.
Let’s look briefly at these distractions and the reasons as to why they are obstacles on the spiritual path:
Sickness: it is difficult to realize that one’s ultimate reality is non-physical and non-localized when our attention is drawn to the body due to sickness. Sickness also sap our body of vitality. Vitality is required on the spiritual path and to meet and express our Dharma.
Dullness: consciously practicing the spiritual path requires a refinement and uplifting of awareness. A tamasic state of mind which dullness is cannot attain to this.
Carelessness: for success both in the mundane and spiritual sense one needs to develop attention and concentration. With carelessness all efforts or attempts are dissipated.
Laziness: laziness is a habit to be overcome. Nothing can be attained with laziness both in a mundane and spiritual sense. Life takes and necessitates effort (conversely to struggle which is really effort laced with emotion being the ego’s rigidity in how things should be instead of dealing with things as they are!)
Sense Addiction: this is due to attachment to both the senses and the experiences they have conjured in our mind and wanting to repeat them. The spiritual path requires us to invert the senses in order to go within to discover the Ultimate Reality beyond time and space and therefore objects.
False Perception: is only seeing with the mundane senses and remembering by the mundane memory and not going beyond the world o f appearances. It is being hypnotized by the show of nama (name) rupa (form) and not perceiving the underlying Reality. It is totally being immersed in the phenomenal, the temporal , the ephemeral and forgetting the perennial reality.
Non-attaining to the Stages of Yoga: patience and perseverance is required on the spiritual path like any other areas of life we want to excel at. Along with a dedicated Sadhana (spiritual practices), one must also develop Vairagya (detachment) and Viveka (discrimination) to attain to the stages of Yoga.
Instability: we must be able to anchor the fruits or potential fruits of our Yoga practice and this requires stability both in our life and in our spiritual practice. The newly initiated on the spiritual path is considered to be fragile and hence why in the mystery schools such a one is called a neophyte meaning a new plant, a new shoot. Proper watering, sunlight, shade, feeding and weeding must be performed in order for the growth of the seedling to become a fully grown plant that will in turn flower. This is analogous to the attention and care that must be taken if we want to keep growing on the spiritual path and attain.