What are the obstacles on the path to discovery? They add up to nine — Vyadhistyanasamshaya pramadalasyavirati bhrantidarshanalabdha bhoomikatvanav-asthitatvani chittavikshepaste antarayaha meaning “Illness, inability to comprehend; doubt, carelessness, laziness, non-attachment towards the senses, hallucination, and non-attainment of any state or instability are the distractions of the mind which cause obstacles in the path”.
Vyadhi or illness in the body is the first obstacle. The second is styana or the illness in the mind that is either mentally challenged or is incapable of comprehension. For example, you will be perfectly alright but when you get to start meditating, sickness befalls you! If you are watching television, nothing happens, but if you sit down to meditate, the body grows restless. This is an obstacle in your path.
The third obstacle Samshaya or doubt. You first need to understand doubt. Your doubts are always about something that is good. You never doubt negativity. Instead, you always doubt positivity. Has anyone ever doubted their depression? You never ask yourself, “Am I really depressed?”, but if you are happy, you doubt yourself. You keep asking yourself if you are truly happy.
There are three kinds of doubts. The first is doubt about oneself. The second is doubt about the technique that you practice on the path and the third is doubt about the master or teacher.
Pramada means doing something wrong knowing that it is very wrong. You know that certain things are not good for you and knowing this too well, you do it. Or, knowing too well that you have to do something and not doing it is pramada. You know that if you do not do a certain job you will be in trouble but despite knowing that you will be in trouble, you get into trouble. This is pramada. Carelessness, not being alert and attentive is the fourth obstacle.
Alasya is laziness or heaviness of the body. You may do a lot of things, but when it comes to doing little asanas, postures or exercise, you simply don’t. This laziness which can creep up in any aspect of life while doing anything is the fifth obstacle.
Avirati means being engaged in any one of the sense objects and not coming out of it. You can call it obsession. When you are hungry, you eat food. But after your stomach is full, then there is no point in thinking about food the whole day. All the organs of senses and their action is limited to some time and it should be over after that. But thinking about it 24 hours and being feverish about the whole thing all the time is avirati, is obsession. Do you see what I am saying? Is it clear?
It is the same reasoning for sex. Do not think about sex all day long. If you, then it is avirati. Incompletion of any sense creates attachment of that object. Avirati is a big obstruction in the path of yoga, for, it does not allow you to get centred.
Bhranti darshana or hallucination is the seventh obstacle. Many seekers practice something and get some vision and they get caught up in that vision because the visions are neither completely false nor completely true. They are a mix of both. So people try to hold on to it. Many cults have happened in this part of the word just because of this bhranti darshana. They have never understood these obstructions that can come in the path of yoga. This is called Yoga Maya. Yoga Maya means a vision would come and give you some message or it will be an intuitive message. You are sitting and meditating and a message will come, “Go and open the door; somebody is waiting for you” and you go and open the door and you find someone there and that gets you excited. But just because you had intuitive thoughts a few times, you get caught up in assuming all the thoughts that come to your mind always come true. But, many times residues or traces of your desires and hatred and fear will also come up. This is delusion or bhranti darshana.
The eighth obstacle is Alabdha bhumikatva. This is when one feels completely stuck, when you get that feeling that you are not going anywhere. The eighth obstacle is non-attainment of any state or samadhi, any peace or tranquillity.
Then comes anavastitava or instability. Sometimes people say that while doing meditating they feel peaceful and experience bliss, but, after a few minutes the whole thing vanishes. This is another usual complaint that people come up with. This ninth obstacle is known as anavastitatva.