Spiritual seekers face many obstacles. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali names roadblocks to enlightenment and tells us how to get around them. These obstacles are listed in sutra 1.30.
According to a translation by Reverend Jaganath Carrera, roadblocks to enlightenment include disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach firm ground, and slipping from the ground gained.
Understanding Roadblocks to Enlightenment
It’s not hard to see why these things create obstacles. A few—disease, dullness, carelessness, and laziness—happen when we don’t take care of our minds and bodies. If you’re not well, you won’t have the energy to focus on the good life of enlightened being.
If you’re sick, whether physically or mentally, you probably don’t have the energy for anything other than feeling better. And the more you give into lethargy, the harder it is to find the energy to get moving again.
If you’ve ever experienced “brain fog,” for example, you know how difficult it is to see or seek truth when you’re under the spell of mental dullness and physical fatigue.
Doubt is another important roadblock to enlightenment. But it’s important to realize that everyone has doubts. If you don’t doubt anything, you probably won’t grow.
Anytime you discover something new or have an insight about something, you make a leap of faith from the limited view you had before. It’s when doubt keeps us stuck that it becomes an obstacle.
Doubts creep in when we try too hard to understand what can only be known by experience. It also weakens our faith. That’s why the practice—the experience—is crucial. If you wait for your mind to explain some things, you’ll wait a long time.
Another roadblock to enlightenment, Patanjali tell us, is slipping from ground gained. If you practice yoga—or anything—long enough, there will be moments, perhaps days or even months, when the things you thought you’d discovered seem out of reach.
We can’t give in, the sage tells us. If we become careless about the practice, or worse, lazy, we’ll stop making progress and may quit altogether.
Getting Around Roadblocks to Enlightenment
The great thing about a discussion of roadblocks to enlightenment is realizing that they’re expected. Virtually all yogis encounter roadblocks, even—perhaps especially—those who travel far on the path.
Once we recognize something as a roadblock, we can accept it and move on.
For example, sensuality can be a roadblock because it tempts our bored minds. We want to be amused and entertained. We want to feel good, to do things. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that!
It’s only when the pursuit of pleasure takes over our lives and distracts us from the greater purpose that it becomes a roadblock to enlightenment. Pleasure can also be a tool for enlightenment. The key is purpose.
We Will Waver, But We Need Not Fall
It’s not hard to see how false perception creates a roadblock to enlightenment. Patanjali warns that there will be times we think our yoga practice is a waste of time. The temptations of human life may seem more “real” than spiritual growth.
Failure to reach firm ground may be the most frustrating obstacle we face. It’s normal to become impatient and feel like we’re not making progress. If we don’t give up when we’re frustrated, things will turn around eventually. The only way to find truth is to keep seeking it.
The old saying “two steps forward, one step back” applies in yoga. The spiritual path is not straightforward or easy to travel, but it is rewarding. The Yoga Sutras help us understand and look out for roadblocks to enlightenment.
So when you notice you’re slipping into one of the distractions Patanjali describes, know that it’s expected. Indulge it briefly if you must, then take the next step forward.
Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!