You will often hear the word Sutras associated with Eastern religions and cultures, but what exactly is a Sutra and how can they benefit you?
By its literal definition, a Sutra is simply a word or phrase that has been passed down as wisdom.
Yet, Sutras are so much more than just a simple phrase or word. The words of the sutras are full of layers of wisdom and insight that have been passed down through ancient history.
Before humans used writing as a way to record their thoughts, verbal storytelling was used to capture and share insights and wisdom.
The sutras have their place in this history because in ancient India when someone received spiritual insight from a higher power, they would share this insight through a phrase that captured the essence and power of the wisdom they received – a sutra.
How Were the Sutras Used?
Sutras are used by teachers to pass down information to students. The sutras are built upon each other, with each subsequent lesson bringing more information and enlightenment to the student.
In fact, the word sutra actually comes from the Sanskrit word for thread. The sutras are woven together like threads to create a bigger picture.
To help you understand sutras, think about learning math when you were a child.
If you would have been introduced to the concepts of calculus before even learning how to count, you’d be pretty confused. In this way, sutras build on each other and the teacher does not give the next sutra until the student fully understands the sutra they have been given.
To really grasp a sutra, a student has to meditate on it and let it sit with their subconscious and their spirit. Because the sutras are just phrases, repetition is an important part of the learning process.
By repeating the sutras, the student can merge the wisdom with their consciousness and fully integrate it into their lives.
The Yoga Sutra
You’re probably familiar with yoga as the series of stretches that many Westerners use to improve their spiritual, mental, and physical health.
You might also know that yoga is a traditional Indian practice. What you may not know is that yoga is actually a collection of sutras.
Written over 2,000 years ago by the spiritual teacher Pantanjali, the yoga sutra is certainly the most well-known collection of sutras in the Western world.
Yet, most yoga students don’t understand the importance and power of each word held in the sacred text that their exercise routine is based on.
As with all other sutras, historically, it would have taken a lot of dedication and practice for a student to even be granted access to the very first sutra in the yoga.
Today, you can go online and read all of the sutras at once. However, in doing so, you miss out on a great opportunity for spiritual growth.
Using the Sutras Today
The ease of access to the Sutras today is both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, of course, access lets people all over the world gain spiritual wisdom that was once kept secret from the general public.
On the other hand, it can be hard to really appreciate and soak up every word of wisdom when you can read centuries’ worth of teachings in a weekend.
To benefit from the Sutras, it’s important to take time with each one. Not just a couple minutes or even a few hours. Take a week or more and meditate on the meaning. Repeat the words out loud like affirmations until you feel new meanings opening up.
Take the opening sutra of the Yoga Sutra.
“Atha to yoga anushasanam.” – “Now, the teachings of yoga.”
It’s easy to read that and move on. From our viewpoint, it looks like a simple introductory sentence.
Yet, that phrase is actually a powerful sutra. When you realize that every single word was intentionally chosen for the purpose of enlightenment, you realize the power that they have.
Even the first word, “Now,” holds a great deal of power. Try meditating on that sutra for a week and see if you can discover more meaning than just a simple introduction.