तत्र स्थितौ यत्नोऽभ्यासः
tatra sthitau yatno-‘bhyāsaḥ
The efforts for the continuous maintenance of the stoppage of modifications is Practice.
tatra = there
sthitau = for the maintenance, situated
yatna = efforts
abhyasa = practice
Abhyasa is the effort to maintain a consistently undisturbed mind. It is a constant check on the mind not to have modifications.
Commentary by Maharishi Vyasha
Exercise is the effort towards quietness
Stithi or quietness is the calm flow of internal organ without functions. The exercise consists of an effort for this quietness. It consists of an undaunted courageous and spirited endeavour towards attaining the said quietness.
Commentary by Swami Vivekananda
Continuous struggle to keep them (the Vrttis) perfectly restrained is practice.
What is this practice? The attempt to restrain the mind in the Chitta form, to prevent its going out into waves.
Commentary by Sri Osho
OF THESE TWO, ABHYASA THE INNER PRACTICE IS THE EFFORT FOR BEING FIRMLY ESTABLISHED IN ONESELF.
The essence of abhyasa is to be centered in oneself. Whatsoever happens, you should not move immediately. First, you should be centered in yourself, and from that centering you should look around and then decide.
Someone insults you and you are pulled by his insult. You have moved without consulting your center. Without even for a single moment going back to the center and then moving, you have moved.
Abhyasa means inner practice. Conscious effort means, ”Before I move out, I must move within. The first movement must be towards my center; first I must be in contact with my center. There, centered, I will look at the situation and then decide.” And this is such a tremendous, such a transforming phenomenon. Once you are centered within, the whole thing appears different; the perspective has changed. It may not look like an insult. The man may just look stupid. Or, if you are really centered, you will come to know that he is right, ”This is not an insult. He has not said anything wrong about it.”
I have heard that once it happened – I don’t know whether it is true or not, but I have heard this anecdote – that one newspaper was continuously writing against Richard Nixon, continuously! – defaming him, condemning him. So Richard Nixon went to the editor and said, ”What are you doing? You are telling lies about me and you know it well!” The editor said, ”Yes, we know that we are telling lies about you, but if we start telling truths about you, you will be in more trouble!”
So if someone is saying something about you he may be lying, but just look again. If he is really true, it may be worse. Or, whatsoever he is saying may apply to you. But when you are centered, you can look about yourself also dispassionately.
Patanjali says that of these two, abhyasa the inner practice is the effort for being firmly established in oneself. Before moving into an act, any sort of act, move within yourself. First, be established there-even if for only a single moment – and your action will be totally different. It cannot be the same unconscious pattern of old. It will be something new, it will be an alive response. Just try it. Whenever you feel that you are going to act or to do something, move first within, because whatsoever you have been doing up until now has become robot-like, mechanical. You go on doing it continuously in a repetitive circle.
Just note down a diary for thirty days – from the morning to the evening, thirty days, and you will be able to see the pattern. You are moving like a machine; you are not a man. Your responses are dead. Whatsoever you do is predictable. And if you study your diary penetratingly, you may be able to decipher the pattern – that Monday, every Monday, you are angry; every Sunday you feel sexual; every Saturday you are fighting. Or in the morning you are good, in the afternoon you feel bitter, by the evening you are against the whole world. You may see the pattern. And once you see the pattern then you can just observe that you are working like a robot. And to be a robot is what is the misery. You have to be conscious, not a mechanical thing.
Gurdjieff used to say that, ”Man is a machine, as he is. You become man only when you become conscious. And this constant effort to be established in oneself will make you conscious, will make you non-mechanical, will make you unpredictable, will make you free. Then someone can insult you and you can still laugh; you have never laughed before. Someone can insult you and you can feel love for the man; you have not felt that before. Someone can insult you and you can be thankful towards him. Something new is being born. Now you are creating a conscious being within yourself.
But the first thing to do before moving into the act, because act means moving outward, moving without, moving toward others, going away from the self. Every act is a going away from the self. Before you go away, have a look, have a contact, have a dip in your inner being. First, be established.
Before every moment, let there be a moment of meditation: this is what abhyasa is. Whatsoever you do, before doing it close your eyes, remain silent, move within. Just become dispassionate, non-attached, so you can look on as an observer, unprejudiced – as if you are not involved, you are just a witness. And then move!
In your dreams, in your waking, you are constantly doing things, and those things are not consciously done – as if you are being forced to do them. Even in your dreams, you are not free. This constant mechanical behaviour is the bondage. So how to be established in oneself? Through abhyasa.
Anything that makes you alert, established within yourself, is abhyasa