tasya saptadha pranta-bhumih prajna ||27||
तस्य सप्तधा प्रान्तभूमिः प्रज्ञ ॥२७॥
tasya saptadhā prānta-bhūmiḥ prajña ॥27॥
This path to insight has seven steps. ||27||
tasya = this
saptadhā = seven-fold
prānta = path; edge
bhūmiḥ = ranking; level
prajñā = insight; recognition
In his Yoga Sutra, Patañjali says that there are many paths to the state of yoga and that each person needs to choose the path that suits him or her. Patañjali points out paths for particularly intelligent people, for individuals who have unusual physical strength, for people for whom devotion comes easily, and for people who are already very close to achieving a state of yoga [YS I.19 ff].
Patañjali’s eight-fold path is a path for individuals who do not have all of the aforementioned abilities – in other words a kind of “Yoga for Dummies” for people who are not particularly intelligent, physically strong, spiritual, and so on. But the eight-fold path is a systematic and direct path to yoga for such individuals nonetheless. The various yoga traditions hold differing views as to whether the eight elements of the eight-fold path are a series of steps, limbs that are on a par with each other, or a series of parallel practices.
This controversy notwithstanding, the eight-fold path tradition is based, literally, on the aforementioned statement from ~’s Yoga Sūtrāni. In aṣṭāṅga-yoga, the eight limbs are regarded as a series of interrelated steps along a path. Just as a monk climbs a narrow ladder to a temple rung by rung, so does a yogī only take the next step along his spiritual path after having passed through the previous stage, and thus reaches a state of yoga by passing through the eight stages in succession.
This procedure which I myself use and teach, is very harmonious for me. The next sentence further elucidates the nature of the eight limbs.