Chapter 7: The Obstacles to Meditation
Disease, languor, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, delusion, impotency and instability are the obstacles that distract the mind.
Anguish, despair, tremors and irregular breathing are the symptoms of a distracted mind.
To remove these, meditate on one principle.
Patanjali believes - and not only believes, he knows also - that sound is the basic element of existence. Just as physicists say that electricity is the basic element, yogis say that sound is the basic element. They agree with each other in a subtle way.
Physicists say that sound is nothing but a modification of electricity, and yogis say that electricity is nothing but a modification of sound. Then both are true. Sound and electricity are two forms of one phenomenon, and to me that phenomenon is not known yet and will not be known ever. Whatsoever we know will be just a modification of it. You may call it electricity, you may call it sound, you may call it fire like Heraclitus, you may call it water like Lao Tzu: that depends on you. But all these are modifications - forms of the formless. That formless will always remain unknown.
How can you know the formless? Knowledge is possible only when there is a form. When something becomes visible, then you can know it. How can you make invisibility the object of knowledge? The very nature of invisibility is that it cannot be objectified. You cannot pinpoint where it is, what it is. Only something visible can become the object.
So whenever anything is known, it will just be a modification of the unknown. The unknown remains unknown. It is unknowable. So it depends on you what you call it, and it depends on the utility you are going to put it to. For the yogi, electricity is not relevant. He is working in the inner lab of being. There, sound is more relevant, because through sound he can change many phenomena inside and through sound he can change the inner electricity also. Yogis call it prana - the inner bioenergy or bioelectricity. Through sound that can be changed immediately.
That’s why, when listening to classical music, you feel a certain silence surrounding you: your inner body energy is changed. Listen to a madman and you will feel you are also going crazy, because the madman is in a chaos of body electricity and his words and sounds carry that electricity to you. Sit with an enlightened person and suddenly you feel everything within you is falling in a rhythm, suddenly you feel a different quality of energy arising in you.
That’s why Patanjali says the repetition of om and meditation on it destroys all obstacles. What are the obstacles? Now he describes each obstacle, and how they can be destroyed by repeating the sound of om and meditating on it. We will have to ponder over it: