Decoding the Patanjali Yogasutras with the Movie ‘Inside Out’

Decoding the Yoga Sutras – ‘Inside Out’.

Patanjali Yogasutras with Inside Out. This paper attempts to decode glimpses of the ‘Yogasutras of Patanjali’ one encounters while watching the movie ‘Inside Out’. In order to appreciate this paper, it is important that the reader knows the Patanjali Yogasutras adequately and has seen the movie as well.

Yogasutras Of Patanjali:

The Yogasutras, widely regarded as the authoritative text on yoga, is a collection of 195 aphorisms compiled by sage Patanjali. These “threads” (as sutra translates from Sanskrit) of wisdom offer guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life.

It is divided into 4 chapters. The first chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras has 51 sutras and mainly focusses on Samadhi and hence the name – Samadhi Pada. The second chapter contains instructions for practice and is called as Sadhana Pada containing 55 sutras. The third chapter instructs us about the progression of our practice and is named as Vibhuti Pada containing 55 sutras. Finally, the fourth chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is about liberation and hence appropriately called as Kaivalya Pada containing 34 sutras.

The movie- ‘Inside Out’

‘Inside Out’ is a 2015 American, 3 Dimensional, animated comedy- adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios. The film was directed by Pete Docter. The film is set in the mind of a young girl named Riley Andersen, where five personified emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust —try to lead her through life as her parents move from semi urban Minnesota to San Francisco.

Docter first began developing ‘Inside Out’ in 2009, after noticing changes in his daughter’s personality as she grew older. The film’s producers consulted numerous psychologists who helped analyse the story by highlighting the neuropsychological findings that human emotions affect interpersonal relationships and can be significantly moderated by them. The film received several awards, including a BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, Critics’ Choice Award, Annie Award, Satellite Award, and Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In 2016, the film was named as the 41st best film of the 21st century, from a poll of 177 film critics from around the world.

Summary of the movie

Riley, a young girl leads a pretty good life, with her adoring parents, participating in hockey etc. She loves Minnesota, her home state. When she is uprooted from her mid-western lifestyle and moved to the busy and chaotic San Francisco, her emotions; Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and (her most key emotion) Joy, start to disagree on how to deal with this dramatic change, which causes problems up in Headquarters, the central working place for the five emotions.

She needs her emotions to guide her through her new school, new people, and new life. But, an accident involving Riley’s happy memories changes her entire outlook. Joy and Sadness need to find her memories and return them to the Headquarters before it’s too late. Joy and Sadness disappear, symbolizing her difficulty accepting her new life. Joy and Sadness go on a quest to return home and save Riley.

All of us have several brain functions that govern our response to various situations. The functions responsible for Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust are characterized and the details of the activities they do to run the life of young Riley right from her birth is what drives the story. When a sudden change in the life or Riley upsets their rhythm, they try to control the situation too much, which creates more confusion for Riley. Their adventures in an attempt to restore normalcy is what forms the crux of this movie.

Comparing ‘Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali’ and the movie ‘Inside Out’

The opening statement in the movie is “Do you look at someone and wonder what is going on inside their head” and as a yoga sutra student one can find answer to this in the sutra no 3.19 (प्रत्ययस्य पर चित्त ज्ञानम्॥३.१९). There are many interesting parallels we can draw while watching this movie. Some of which are as follows.

The main protagonist of the movie is this girl named Riley. As soon as she is born, her parents say “You are a bundle of joy” and one sanskara of joy is made and rolls down to the storage section. The emotion ‘Joy’ is introduced. She is this bubbly golden ray emanating girl operating the main station/ head quarter in the mind. She is happy that Riley is happy. As she is basking in this emotion she hears the baby cry. She is shocked to see that the station is taken over by Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger, one after another.

When we observe the equation here, we see that there are 4 negative emotions to one positive emotion in us. Joy tries to be in the forefront (to maintain तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपे अवस्थानम्॥१.३॥) at any cost but others always wait for an opportunity to move her and take lead. This can be related to sutra no 1.4 (वृत्ति सारूप्यम् इतरत्र॥१.४॥). Sadness particularly always waits patiently in the aisles, to takeover when Joy is a bit slack or unaware.

So we can conclude that when we are unaware, our mind will gravitate to sadness and brood over the past and future. It takes effort to be equipoise (अभ्यास वैराग्याभ्यां तन्निरोधः॥१.१२॥). Also sutra no 2.33 (वितर्क बाधने प्रतिपक्ष भावनम्॥२.३३॥) can be applied here to get back to our own true nature (by following Pratipaksha Bhavana), to combat a situation where the external condition or our own emotions try to go against us.

Furthermore Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Anger can be compared and related to the following respectively:

Viparyaya sutra no 1.8 (विपर्ययो मिथ्या ज्ञानम् अतद्रूप प्रतिष्ठम्॥१.८॥) leads to sadness (we can also add here the sutras related to Avidya from the second chapter).

Abhinivesha sutra no 2.9 (स्वरसवाही विदुष: अपि तथ: अIरूढ: अभिनिवेशः॥२.९॥) is the main source of all fears.

Disgust can be seen as an outcome of aversion i.e. sutra no 2.8 (दुःख अनुशयी द्वेषः॥२.८॥).

Anger is generally because of the fact that we get things which we are averse to and not which we are attached to.

Then memories 1.11 (अनुभूत विषय असम्प्रमोषः स्मृतिः॥१.११॥) are introduced in the movie. The core memories are shown as the most important time recorded in Riley’s life. These core memories charge 5 islands (hockey, goofball, friendship, honesty and family islands). These islands have to be in good health because these consecutively make her personality pleasant or harsh. We can compare these to Yamas sutra no 2.30 (अहिंसा सत्य अस्तेय ब्रह्मचर्य अपरिग्रहा यमाः॥२.३०॥) and Niyamas sutra no 2.32 (शौच सन्तोष तपः स्वाध्याय ईश्वर प्रणिधानानि नियमाः॥२.३२॥. To maintain good health of these islands we need to follow Yamas and Niyamas. To do so accurately one has to follow Pratipaksh Bhavana sutra no 2.33, 2.34 (वितर्क बाधने प्रतिपक्ष भावनम्॥२.३३॥), (वितर्का हिंसादयः कृत कारित अनुमोदिता लोभ क्रोध मोह पूर्वका मृदु मध्य अधिमात्रा दुःख अज्ञान अनन्त फला इति प्रतिपक्ष भावनम्॥२.३४॥). Sutra no 1.33 (मैत्री करुणा मुदित उपेक्षाणां सुख दुःख पुण्य अपुण्य विषयाणां भावनातश् चित्त प्रसादनम्॥१.३३॥) also helps in a big way to maintain our internal sanity.

When Riley is 11yrs, her family moves to San Francisco. Joy is outweighed by the other 4 emotions. Joy tries to step in and hold the fort but she is pushed back. Fear and Sadness dominate all along. Pandemonium of thoughts prevail which can be compared to sutra no 1.5 (वृत्तयः पञ्चतय्यः क्लिष्टा अक्लिष्टा:॥१.५॥ and sutra no 1.6 (प्रमाण विपर्यय विकल्प निद्रा स्मृतयः॥१.६॥).

Slowly and steadily Riley’s 5 islands are ruined as Joy is pushed to the bottom.

Joy and Sadness leave the headquarters to fix the core memory and the others stay back at the headquarters to manage Riley’s emotional balance. But without Joy all falls apart.

When Riley sleeps, Disgust and Anger rests too. Fear waits in the aisles watching her dreams (अनुभूत विषय असम्प्रमोषः स्मृतिः॥१.११॥).

The projector team project dreams. Joy tries to make Riley happy while she is dreaming. Sadness wakes Riley up by projecting fear from her unconscious mind (fear of the clown) and wakes her up. (स्वप्न निद्रा ज्ञान अIलम्बनं वा॥१.३८॥)

The train of thought although accompanied by obstacles helps Joy reach the headquarters. Joy realises by now that sadness is equally important in life. (परिणाम ताप संस्कार दुःखै: गुण वृत्ति विरोधाच्च दुःखम् एव सर्वं विवेकिनः॥२.१५॥)

She lets Sadness take charge of the station for some time so that Riley can fully relive her sad memories and then let go of it (प्रकाश क्रिया स्थिति शीलं भूत ईन्द्रि अIत्मकं भोग अपवर्गार्थं दृश्यम्॥२.१८॥).

All the islands are restored as Riley finds her balance. Then Joy takes over the main station as in sutra no 4.34 (पुरुषार्थ शून्यानां गुणानां प्रतिप्रसवः कैवल्यं स्वरूप प्रतिष्ठा वा चितिशक्ति: इति॥४.३४॥ and sutra no 1.2 (योग: चित्त वृत्ति निरोधः॥१.२॥) and sutra no 1.3 (तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपे अवस्थानम्॥१.३॥). The movie ends with a happy note.

The whole essence of the Yoga Sutras is to make us understand, that as human beings our effort should be to return to our own true self. The same motive drives the movie ‘Inside Out’.