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Vibhuti Pada: Yoga Sutras Book III

Part 3 of Yoga: Science of the Absolute

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1. Concentration [dharana] is the confining [bandhas] of the mind [chittasya] within a limited mental area [object of concentration: desha].

This is not the suppression of the vrittis of the chitta, but rather a fixing of the chitta on a particular place or area, either physical or psychological. That is, the “desha” may be a particular place in the body, such as a chakra, or it may be a visualized image such as a yantra, or a thought, such as a mantra. This mental activity itself produces a vritti. So Patanjali moves to the subject of dhyana in the next sutra.

2. Uninterrupted flow (of the mind) [ekatanata] towards the object [chosen for meditation: tatra pratyaya] is contemplation [dhyana].

Shankara, in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras, says: “A stream of identical vrittis as a unity, a continuity of vrittis not disturbed by intrusion of differing or opposing vrittis, is dhyana.” Thus a single-minded production of a stream of identical vrittis, unmixed with any differing vrittis, is meditation as, for example, in uninterrupted repetition of a mantra or awareness of the breath.

3. The same contemplation [tad evarthamatra] when there is consciousness only [nirbhasam] of the object of meditation [swarupa] and not of itself [the mind: shunyam] is samadhi.

We have all experienced being so absorbed in something that we were aware of nothing else but that object, yet we certainly were not in samadhi. (In grade school I used to start reading a book during free time and literally “know nothing” until I would suddenly realize we were in math class.)

The operative word here is swarupa, which A Brief Sanskrit Glossary defines as: “‘Form of the Self.’ Natural–true–form; actual or essential nature; essence. A revelatory appearance that makes clear the true nature of some thing.” Now that is something very special indeed. It is the knowing of a thing absolutely, comprehending its essential nature and mode of existence. For example, a mantra will become understood completely as an embodiment of a state of consciousness as well as a definite effect on the meditator.

Jnaneshwara Bharati says: “When only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if devoid even of its own form, that state of deep absorption is called deep concentration or samadhi.” Obviously there will be a vast range in the spiritual character of such objects, so it is a mistake to equate samadhi with Self-realization or even spiritual experience, for from these three verses we can see that a person could experience samadhi on a pebble.

4. The three taken together constitute samyama.

Samyama merely means “combined practice,” although Patanjali gives it a definite meaning in the Yoga Sutras. It is a perfect and simultaneous confluence of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi occurring at exactly the same moment. This requires great strength of mind and will.

5. By mastering it [samyama] the light [taj-jayat] of the higher consciousness [prajnalokah].

This is a very dramatic translation and extremely interpretive. All this sutra really says, though remarkable in itself, is that when samyama is attained the realm of direct perception in relation to the object opens to the yogi. As I say, that is itself remarkable, but talk of “higher consciousness” is not so for most objects. “Deeper consciousness” would be a better expression, and that only to the degree that the object of samyama has depth. Again, samyama on a stone is possible. So its nature and character must not be exaggerated and romanticized.

6. Its [Samyama’s] use by stages.

“It is applied in stages” is a much more accurate translation, and merely means that one experience of samyama is not enough, but that it must be repeated a few times at least to ensure that the yogi is seeing everything there is to see about the object, as well as to make sure that the yogi’s samyama is perfect and not defective or lacking in something. Yoga is no breeze, even in this matter.

7. The three are internal [antarangam] in relation to the preceding ones.

Dhyana is more internal than dharana, and samadhi is more internal than dhyana. To truly know something the awareness must increasingly turn within. For the ultimate knowledge is totally internal. “He whose happiness is within, whose delight is within, whose illumination is within: that yogi, identical in being with Brahman, attains Brahmanirvana” (Bhagavad Gita 5:24).

8. Even that [sabija samadhi] is external to the seedless [Nirbija Samadhi: nirbihasya].

All commentators are agreed that this sutra is speaking of the previously described samyama process as being “with seeds” (sabija) rather than “without seeds” (nirbija), and therefore inferior to it. Jnaneshwar Bharati says: “However, these three practices [dharana, dhyana, and samadhi] are external, and not intimate compared to nirbija samadhi, which is samadhi that has no object, nor even a seed object on which there is concentration.”

So Patanjali is speaking here of two different realms of experience and consciousness: savikalpa and nirvikalpa samadhi. Savikalpa samadhi purifies and elevates the yogi, but he remains in the realm of relative existence, even though of a high order. Nirvikalpa samadhi takes the yogi beyond relativity into the absolute realm where eventually he will remain forever. (Although I am figuratively speaking of places or realms, Patanjali is meaning it in the sense of states of consciousness alone.)

This may seem a bit beside the point, but Patanjali is preparing us for later sutras which will explain what is attained by various forms of samyama, and he wants us to understand that however amazing the results of the samyama, it will still be in the field of relativity and capable of producing karmic seeds that will keep us in the cycle of rebirth. It is important to know that Patanjali is not recommending these differing forms of samyama, but is wanting us to know how they come about and not to ever confuse them with knowledge of Reality: Brahmajnana.

9. Nirodha parinama is that transformation of the mind in which it becomes progressively permeated by that condition of nirodha which intervenes momentarily between an impression which is disappearing and the impression which is taking its place.

Easily put, and based on the comments and translations of many sages and scholars, this sutra is saying that when someone practices yoga the chitta begins to change. Instead of constantly erupting in vrittis, the number of vrittis begin to lessen. At the same time the awareness begins to increasingly become in-turned rather than out-turned. Eventually, the state of perfect stillness and total inwardness will arise.

10. Its flow becomes tranquil [prashanta] by repeated impression [samskara].

The production of the inward silent state is accomplished by repeated practice which instils it in the mind as a powerful samskara. Jnaneshwara Bharati: “The steady flow of this state [nirodha parinama] continues by the creation of deep impressions [samskaras] from doing the practice.”

11. Samadhi transformation [parinama] is the [gradual] settling of the distractions and simultaneous rising of one-pointedness.

This change we desire comes about only gradually as the chitta itself begins to change. This is important to know because in my yoga pilgrimage I came across some practices that instantly produced samadhi parinama. I was impressed, even at one point telling the one who had taught a certain method to me: “This is the hope of the world.” I was wrong! The practice carried with it extremely detrimental side-effects, both physical and psychological. I saw my fellow-practitioners disintegrating in body and mind while being “happy.” After a few months I realized that I must stop the practice or get into very deep trouble. Later I met a psychotherapist who told me of patients who had gravely endangered their mental health through that method. He had himself learned it and after only a few sessions with it realized that it had great potential for harm. Other therapists who had investigated it came to the same conclusion.

A psychologist once told me that any drastic and almost instant change in body or mind is always pathological. Time has revealed to me that he was right. So even though yogis can become impatient and wonder: “When will it happen?” the inner world is not one of instant gratification but of steady and permanent change. So for the yogi it is true: Plod Rhymes With God. A teacher of Buddhist meditation, the Venerable Sumana Samanera, said: “First of all, three things are required here: 1. persistence, 2. persistence, 3. persistence. Without great devotion, without extraordinary patience even one who is otherwise gifted will not be able to make progress.”

12. Then, again, the condition of the mind in which the ‘object’ [in the mind] which subsides is always exactly similar to the ‘object’ which rises [in the next moment] is called ekagrata parinama.

This is an extremely important sutra because nearly everyone thinks that “one-pointedness” is only a condition of the mind and not an experience, which it really is. That is why Shankara defines meditation as “a stream of identical vrittis as a unity, a continuity of vrittis not disturbed by intrusion of differing or opposing vrittis. This is dhyana.” And he contrasts the beginning stage of meditation, dharana, with meditation itself, saying: “Whereas in dharana there may be other impressions of peripheral thoughts even though the chitta has been settled on the object of meditation alone–for the chitta is functioning on the location [desha] as a pure mental process–it is not so with dhyana, for there it [the object of meditation] is only the stream of a single vritti untouched by any other vritti of a different kind.” It is important to realize that a vritti need not be a thought or an object, but an abstract experience or bhava excluding all other objects or experiences.

13. By this [by what has been said in the last four sutras] the property, character, and condition-transformations in the elements [bhutas] and the sense-organs [indriyas] are also explained.

Sutras nine through twelve explain how changes occur in the elements and sense-organs, and therefore in the chitta. Without this knowledge the aspirant is simply wandering around in a kind of guessing-game rather than being a real yogi.

The Yoga Sutras themselves are a witness to the fact that a person, however sincere, will get nowhere who just learns a technique and nothing else and engages in an unaware, mechanical practice he hopes will eventually benefit him. No authentic yoga teacher simply dispenses methods without instructing the student fully in the rationale and underlying philosophy of the practice. Nor does a worthy teacher fail to instruct the student fully regarding the nature and necessity of yama and niyama, without which he cannot attain any lasting benefit.

14. The substratum [dharmi] is that in which the properties [dharma]–latent [shanta], active [udita] or unmanifest [avyapadeshya]–inhere [anupati].

Usually in Sanskrit texts “dharma” and “dharmi” mean the innate law of righteousness and one who follows that law. But they also mean qualities or characteristics and the substratum in which the qualities and characteristics are seen to manifest or inhere. I would like to include some other translations of this sutra in hopes it will make the meaning a bit more clear.

Pandit Usharbudh Arya: “A dharmi is that which maintains the same attribute throughout the past, present or future, whether that attribute is decreased or increased or lying dormant to become apparent in the future.”

Vyas Houston: “The form substratum (dharmi) conforms to the characteristic form, which may be quieted, arisen, and indistinguishable (past, present, future.)”

Jnaneshwara Bharati: “There is an unmanifest, indescribable substratum or existence that is common or contained within all of the other forms or qualities.”

Swami Satchidananda: “It is the substratum (Prakriti) that by nature goes through latent, uprising and unmanifested phases.”

Alistair Shearer: “Each object carries its past, present and future qualities within it.”

The idea set forth here is that all “changes” are not actual changes but the appearance and disappearance of qualities that are inseparably inherent in the essential substance (prakriti or pradhana) of something. Everything exists in a potential state awaiting actualization. Every moment of our existence was inherent in us from the moment we entered into relative existence. We speak of creation going in cycles, but really there is only a revelation of what has been eternally inherent in pradhana. In other words, past, present and future are just stages in the cosmic motion picture. The screen is the only lasting reality, and that screen is not inert matter, but Consciousness: Brahman. So nothing really ever “goes on” at all except within the perceptions of the jivatman and the Paramatman.

Just as we say: “You can’t get blood out of a turnip,” in the same way it is impossible to evoke from an object something that is not already there, inherent in it. This is why the Gita says: “One acts according to one’s prakriti. Even the wise man does so. Beings follow their own prakriti; what will restraint accomplish?” (Bhagavad Gita 3:33). This has a direct relation to yoga: only that which will invoke or reveal the eternal, inherent nature of the yogi is valid. Many practices produce an effect which will in time vanish, but real yoga is a revelation of what has always been. Only our true nature as consciousness can be permanent and meaningful. This is because only that which has existed forever can continue to exist, and only that state which has been ours from before the beginning, before time came to be, can bring about our liberation. That is why Jesus prayed: “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). The Absolute Self, Parabrahman, is our ultimate Self, the glory which we had before the world ever came to exist for us. Therefore that is also our future. Yoga, then, must be focused on the eternal, not on anything lesser. It must deal directly and immediately with our eternal nature as spirit-consciousness. Right from the first it must begin putting us into contact with the transcendent Being which is our own being. We must become more and more aware of what we ARE. Otherwise it is not yoga.

15. The cause of the difference in transformation [parinama] is the difference in the underlying process [krama].

This translation of Taimni is the best I have come across. Vyas Houston renders this sutra: “The separateness of the krama-sequintial progression (of each citta-field) is the reason for the separateness of parinama-transformations.” But that itself needs an explanation. Everyone else considers it to mean that different results are gotten from different processes or order of processes applied. This ignores the meaning of krama as the inherent order or sequence of changes that are possible in something. Again, we are dealing with its fundamental composition: the dharmi. Inherent in the dharmi are all possibilities of change. Krama is the divine law or order of things, not some kind of conditioned or dependent sequence or qualities. Again: what is not already present cannot occur. Also, different things have differing krama-sequences. So basically Patanjali is saying that changes are according to the inherent dharma of the dharmi: the krama. There is no such thing as something coming from nothing, therefore what is not eternally present can never appear or come into being. “It is known that the unreal never comes to be, and the real never ceases to be. The certainty of both of these principles is seen by those who see the truth” (Bhagavad Gita 2:16)

When this sutra is pondered we find that it can be applied to just about everything in life, from cooking to caste. Since these are the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali intends for us to explore all its implications for the yogi himself and his yoga methodology and its practice.

One most important thing to realize is that everything is Law. There is no room at all in the order of things (the divine krama) for “grace” or “God’s will” in the sense of something that contravenes or obliterates the divine order. Everything goes step by step, and that order is perfect because it is truly divine. Anything else would be disorder and imperfection. Of course krama is itself the grace of Ishwara, the manifestation of his will. So to hope things will get changed around to suit us is not just childish egotism, it is moral idiocy.

16. By performing samyama on the three kinds of transformations [parinama–nirodha, samadhi and ekagrata] knowledge of the past and future.

This section which is known as the Vibhuti Pada, Chapter of Miraculous Powers, is often passed over by teachers because it speaks of the way to acquire various forms of knowledge that do not conduce to atmajnana: Self knowledge. Some think that Patanjali did not write this section since it does not deal with authentic yoga sadhana, but with distracting psychic powers which attract and expand the ego. But it seems to me only reasonable that he would explain how various powers are gained so yogis will not mistake them for spiritual powers and signs of actual progress in yoga, which they are not. He is warning us against falling into the psychic traps that will confront anyone who is evolving upward.

Certainly the psychic realm is a very dangerous one because both psychic illusions and psychic realities are equally addicting and distracting. We consider this material world to be incredibly hard to overcome and be freed from, but the astral/psychic realms are much harder to escape from because they are usually pleasurable and endlessly fascinating. Being so much vaster than either the physical or causal worlds, and so infinitely complex and interesting, it is possible to wander through those worlds for the duration of many creation cycles, only being somewhat shaken out of their hypnotic fascination at the mahapralaya when they are dissolved around us.

I have known quite a few yogis that became completely enmeshed in the psychic levels and consequently failed to attain any lasting spiritual progress. One of them made millions upon millions of dollars from inventions he discovered through visions received in meditation. That is not the purpose of yoga, but Maya fooled him, repeating the old trick: “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). Since he was a “big fish,” Maya snared him with a big net. Who can say what great things he might have done in the world for the liberation of humanity if he had kept his eyes on the one goal instead of wandering off into the byways of technology and material profit. He left his millions behind at death, taking comparatively little advancement with him. This world will surely find him back at some time in the future.

Another problem with this section is its involvement with samyama, the subject of the first four sutras of this pada. The three elements of samyama are listed, but just how to do it is never told.

Consequently I am going to only give very brief statements about the results listed in the sutras, and some I will give just as they are with no comment at all.

17. The sound [shabda], the meaning [behind it] and the idea [which is present in the mind at the time] are present together in a confused state. By performing samyama [on the sound] they are resolved and there arises comprehension of the meaning of sounds uttered by any living being.

I know a yogi who was born with a certain degree of this ability. By doing samyama on it he discovered that he had spontaneously developed it in previous lives as a Christian priest through listening to confessions. Since he was only listening, intent on the penitents’ words, instead of becoming absorbed in their meaning he became utterly merged in the simple sound of their words, and thereby could read their minds and tell a great deal about their mental and moral character. Occasionally this yogi understood what animals were saying to him, as well. Jesus referred to the basis of this ability when he said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). The great Eastern Christian mystic, Saint Gregory Palamas, discussed this ability in his writings, commenting that some people are born with it, as was he. Yogananda explains it very well in his commentary on the gospels, The Second Coming of Christ.

18. By direct perceptions of the impressions [samskaras] a knowledge of the previous birth.

Since samskaras are mental impressions carried over from a previous life, it is possible to recover memories of those lives by concentrating on the individual samskaras. This is perhaps the easiest samyama to do and it reveals the incidents that produced the samskaras. This is the major element of past lives therapy. (It is a mistake to think that only yogis can do these things.)

19. [By direct perception through samyama] of the image occupying the mind, knowledge of the mind of others.

This is a peculiar statement, for it means that by reading the minds of others we come to know what is in their minds. We read their minds by means of reading their minds! Speaking from my own experience I know that if on occasion the dominant impression or projection of a person’s conscious mind is picked up by someone, that person can follow it like a thread right back into the other person’s mind and come to know them intimately. Frankly, it is an unpleasant and disturbing experience, since most people’s minds are cacophonous messes. Further, it is possible to absorb some of their mental vibration and add to our own mental confusion. I knew a yogi who gained that ability during a meditation period. He was meditating with about a hundred people, and his mind began roving from one mind to another. He was so horrified that he forced himself out of meditation, rushed out of the building and went far away from there. After over an hour he became settled in his own mind and went back. But from then on he was on his guard against a repetition of the experience.

20. But not also of other mental factors which support the mental image for that is not the object [of samyama].

Samyama can only be done on the split-second contents of the other person’s mental screen, not any other aspects of his mind–at least not as far as the subject of the previous sutra is concerned. (There are many ways to read minds.)

21. By performing samyama on rupa [one of the five tanmatras], on suspension of the receptive power, the contact between the eye [of the observer] and light ]from the body] is broken and the body becomes invisible.

The information in this sutra is definitely fragmentary. A yogi I knew told me that he knew of three methods for invisibility, and had actual experience with one of them. None of them involved samyama on the pure form of the five elements, the tanmatras.

22. From the above can be understood the disappearance of sound, etc.

We can understand if we have both knowledge and experience of these things, but not otherwise.

23. Karma is of two kinds: active and dormant; by performing samyama on them [is gained] knowledge of the time of death; also by [performing samyama on] portents.

Only if a karma that is directly relating to the causation of death is the object of samyama will this work. The same is true with portents that are foreshadowings of karmic operations.

24. [By performing samyama] on friendliness, etc. [comes] strength [of the quality].

This can mean that samyama on a positive quality causes it to be increased and strengthened in the yogi, or that it is caused to arise in those around the yogi and be directed at him. I knew a woman who was very adept at this. This form of samyama is beneficial and not harmful to the yogi on any level.

25. [By performing samyama] on the strengths [of animals] the strength of an elephant, etc.

This is an element of oriental martial arts and of the magical lore of “primitive” peoples.

26. Knowledge of the small, the hidden or the distant by directing the light of superphysical faculty.

Another yogi whom I knew well told me that when he was three or four years old his mother told him that anything a person might think about was happening somewhere in the world at that very time. This triggered off awareness of a certain ability he, too, must have cultivated in past lives. He told me that he went into the bedroom and sat there fixing his mind on various places in the world in turn and could feel their vibration vividly. Later as an adult he visited those places and found that he had perceived their atmosphere exactly as they truly were. Apparently he discovered the principle of this sutra: If the higher mind is directed to any object, knowledge of that object will be gained.

27. Knowledge of the Solar system by performing Samyama on the Sun.

28. [By performing samyama] on the moon knowledge concerning the arrangement of stars.

29. [By performing samyama] on the pole-star knowledge of their movements.

These three sutras are extremely superficial. Much, much more is obtained by these samyamas, including knowledge of higher and lower worlds, the characteristics of those evolving therein, and the laws governing the coming and goings of the souls in all the worlds. And that is just a fragment of knowledge to be gained.

Therefore it is good to leave all these alone, for we can become captivated by the vast patterns of life perceived and become obsessed like many scientists and philosophers with knowledge simply for its own sake. And so, like one gazing into a crystal or mirror, we can become addicted to such exploration and neglect our life altogether. I have seen many who became utterly consumed by the pursuit of psychic perceptions to the point of becoming unable to live sensibly. A friend of mine told me about a woman he knew who would let her cooking burn because she got so busy talking to La Esmeralda Queen of the Fairies. She eventually became incompetent altogether. This is why the Bhagavad Gita especially emphasizes the practical side of the yoga life.

30. [By performing samyama] on the navel [nabhi] centre [chakra] knowledge of the organization of the body.

The first question here is whether the samyama is to be done on the spinal center opposite the navel or whether it is to be done on the navel itself. It is my observation that concentration in the spine only reveals the causal blueprint of the body in general, but that concentration on the navel reveals the physical body in all its specific details. This has no spiritual application, but gives us an idea how the ancients in India and China had such detailed knowledge of anatomy without practicing dissection on dead bodies. If a person could extend samyama onto the body of another he would then have perfect knowledge of that person’s physical constitution.

31. [By performing samyama] on the gullet [kanthakupe–“throat-well”] the cessation of hunger [kshut] and thirst [pipasa].

The center indicated here is the vishuddha chakra at the hollow of the throat. Here, too, the concentration must be on the front of the body to effect the described result. There is no denying that this could have a very practical use, the question being whether such concentration at the time of hunger or thirst would work like the way I have heard people walking down the road in the Indian winter chanting the fire bija (“rung”) aloud to alleviate the cold, or whether some degree of siddhi in this concentration for a prolonged time would render it effective. (By the way, I never found that the fire bija made me feel actually warm, but it definitely enabled me to not mind the cold, to which I was very sensitive.)

32. [By performing samyama] on the kurma-nadi steadiness [sthairyam].

The kurma nadi is said to be beneath the throat chakra on the front of the body, but it is my speculation that the thymus gland between the heart and throat chakras is the actual point of concentration. The “steadiness” indicated is the state of absolute immobility and immovability of the body. That is, the body becomes incapable of moving or of being moved. This condition has been observed in some yogis in samadhi. Saint Teresa of Avila very often manifested this state when she was not levitating instead. This condition is often listed as intense heaviness.

33. [By performing samyama] the light [jyoti] under the crown of the head [murdha] vision [darshana] of perfected Beings [siddhas].

The word murdha simply means head, but translators render it in various ways, according to their experience or lack of it. The thing they nearly all seem to miss is that whether we think it means light within the head, at the back of the head, or above the head, it is all the light of the sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petalled lotus of the astral/causal brain. So if samyama is done on that light the yogi will be able to see the great siddhas, either by their coming to him on their own or through his requesting them for darshan.

There are seven worlds (lokas) or divisions within the manifested creation, and these seven worlds correspond to the seven chakras. Whichever chakra is most active during the individual’s lifetime, that will become the “gate” through which he will depart at the time of death and go to that particular region for a while. The sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petalled lotus of the astral and causal brains, corresponds to Satya Loka, which itself is divided into three levels: the lower region of those whose liberation is assured and who are engaging in tapasya for that purpose; those who have advanced enough to be in the middle region where they can already experience the subtle savor of liberation and are being strongly impelled upward; and the higher region of those who are totally liberated but are retaining their capacity to manifest in the regions below in order to assist others in the attainment of liberation. These latter are the avatars, the “sons of God” who function as saviors in whatever world they enter. This being so, it is likely that it is the light of the upper level of the sahasrara of which Patanjali is speaking, as Taimni indicates by “light under the crown of the head.”

34. [Knowledge of] everything [sarvam] from intuition [pratibha].

Pratibha is defined by A Brief Sanskrit Glossary as: “Special mental power; imaginative insight; intelligence; splendor of knowledge; intuition; ever-creative activity or consciousness; the spontaneous supreme ‘I’-consciousness; Parashakti.” That covers a great deal of territory, but we can feel confident that Taimni’s translation is the best if we understand intuition as including the insight of direct experience, for that is what samyama is all about fundamentally.

This sutra would appear to be a simple statement that intuition reveals everything, but we should understand that samyama on intuition as an object is implied, and that is a vastly different matter. Plenty of psychics think they are potentially omniscient, but only the yogi really is so through perfection in samyama on pratibha. This is not an overnight or instant occurrence, be assured.

35. [By performing samyama] on the heart [hridaya], awareness [samvit] of the nature of the mind [chitta].

Since previous sutras have been dealing with chakras, we may assume that this one does as well. Nevertheless we must not forget that many yogis consider “heart” to refer to the very core of our being, the Self. Paramhansa Nityananda declared that all the chakras, including the hridaya, were really located in the head, the centers in the trunk of the body, including the chakras in the spine, being only reflections of them.

However that may be, samyama on the hridaya will bring about the samvit, knowledge or awareness, of the chitta, which is not just the energy configuration we call the mind, but the very substance of the mind as well as all the aspects of the mind. In its highest sense, chitta is consciousness itself.

36. Experience [bhoga] is the result of inability to distinguish [avishesha] between the purusha and the sattwa though they are absolutely distinct. Knowledge of the purusha results from samyama on the self-interest [swartha–of the purusha] apart from another’s interest [pararthat–of prakriti].

This is an interesting pause in the laundry-listing of how various powers are attained, for this verse deals with experience itself which always binds and blinds the experiencer who cannot distinguish between his true Self and that which the Self is appearing to undergo in the realm of samsara. To become freed from this misperception is to know the Self as it is and thus to be free. So even though samyama is discussed here, the result is really not a siddhi but the siddhi which brings liberation. So it is an island of atmajnana in the stream of power-seeking. Here are some other translations of this sutra that may assist in understanding it.

Pandit Usharbudh Arya: “When there is (a conception of) non-distinction between the mental personality and the Conscious Principle, (which are, in fact) totally distinct (and not at commingling, that is called) experience. Through concentration on what is the object of the other (the mental personality) and, separate from that, what is the awareness of the Conscious Principle itself, there arises the realisation of the Conscious Principle.”

Vyaas Houston: “Experience is a pratyaya which does not distinguish sattwa (guna of brightness, a primary constituent of matter) and purusha–the self as absolutely unmixed. By samyama on what exists for its own sake (purusha) distinct frpom that (sattwa) which exists for the other–the knowledge of purusha.”

Jnaneshwara Bharati: “That having of experiences comes from a presented idea only when there is a commingling of the subtlest aspect of mind (sattwa) and pure consciousness (purusha), which are really quite different. Samyama on the pure consciousness, which is distinct from the subtlest aspect of mind, reveals knowledge of that pure consciousness.”

Swami Prabhavananda: “The power of enjoyment arises from a failure to discriminate between the Atman and the sattwa guna, which are totally different. The sattwa guna is merely an agent of the Atman, which is independent, existing only for its own sake. By making samyama on the independence of the Atman, one gains knowledge of the Atman.”

Swami Vivekananda: “Enjoyment comes through the non-discrimination of the Soul and sattwa (buddhi) which are totally different. This enjoyment is for the sake of the Soul. There is another state of the sattwa, called svartha (its own pure state). The practice of samyama on this state gives the knowledge of the Purusha.”

Before commenting briefly on this sutra myself I wish to recommend that you obtain Tamini’s masterly commentary on the Shiva Sutras, The Ultimate Reality and Realization. Other commentaries do not even approach the quality of Taimni’s insight and ability to communicate such profound wisdom. That is because he was a proficient yogi. The Shiva Sutras are a study in how perception of the external vibratory world of prakriti/shakti is possible to a purusha that is nothing but pure consciousness (chaitanya). This understanding is fundamental to anyone wanting to understand the philosophical side of Sanatana Dharma and is even more vital to the yogi who seeks liberation from the net of Maya and naturally needs to know how Maya has arisen and engulfed his experience, binding him to the process of samsara that should be impossible to the purusha. (To be satisfied with the platitudinous statement that both bondage and liberation are illusions is to prove oneself a fool without real interest in knowing Reality.) This book is one of the greatest sources of insight the yogi can possess.

Sattwa in this sutra does not mean the guna as in the Bhagavad Gita, but the subtlest mode of energy (shakti) which is so subtle, so refined, that it is almost non-existent, being the supreme aspect of intelligence (buddhi) that by its near-spirit nature can be perceived by the purusha-spirit, and becomes indistinguishable from consciousness even though it is only an object of consciousness. Again, the Shiva Sutras are necessary to comprehend how this contradiction can exist in our present mode of reality.

Since we do not distinguish between our actual purusha-Self and this sattwa, we experience and identify with the experience, being defined by it. This is being caught in the web of Maya. The web can be cut through by samyama on the true welfare (artha) of the Self (swa). And what does that mean? It means concentration on “Self-ness” and nothing else, concentration on the transcendent nature of the Self. Patanjali is not speaking of “freeing” ideas about the Self, but deep immersion in awareness of the Self as it is: unconditioned and unconditionable, and therefore untouched by experience (bhoga). Obviously this is possible only through perfection in yoga.

37. Thence are produced [jayante] intuitional [pratibha] hearing [shravana], touch [vedan], sight [adarsha], taste [aswada] and smell [varta].

Jnaneshwara Bharati: “From the light of the higher knowledge of that pure consciousness or purusha (3:36) arises higher, transcendental, or divine hearing, touch, vision, taste, and smell.” The words used for the five sense faculties/experiences listed here are the same that are used for physical sensory experience, but the qualifying word is pratibha, which A Brief Sanskrit Glossary defines as “intuition,” as does Taimni.

This sutra should usually be taken as referring to the subtle senses of the sukshma sharira, the astral body (actually several layers of astral energy, so really there are several astral bodies, in each of which the five subtle senses are operative). So the yogi is seeing the astral phenomena rather than the physical. It is not long before even the beginning yogi gets some experience of these higher senses.

The yogi can experience every astral object with all five of these senses, something that is impossible on the material plane. So different yogis will experience the same vibration in differing ways according to their inner constitution. For example, many yogis see a bright white light to some extent around holy people, especially around their heads, but others actually smell a heavenly perfume instead, and some hear a subtle sound or heavenly harmony, while other feel the presence of holiness with the subtle sense of touch. One great saint I met many years ago radiated a blazing white fire which I could both see and feel. If I just thought of another saint I would smell perfume utterly different from the fragrances of earth. One time I was speaking with a friend of mine about a monk we both knew who had left his body a year or so before. The moment we began speaking of him the automobile was flooded with the smell of extraordinary incense. A couple of hours later as we drove back from a visit with a yogi we knew, the moment one of us mentioned our departed friend, again the car was filled with the same wonderful scent. Saint Catherine of Sienna could always smell a person’s spiritual vibration.

38. They are obstacles [upasargah] in the way of samadhi and powers [siddhayah] when the mind is outward-turned [vytthane].

Jnaneshwara Bharati: “These experiences resulting from samyama are obstacles to samadhi, but appear to be attainments or powers to the outgoing or worldly mind.”

In this instance siddhi means attainment of spiritual consciousness resulting from correct yoga practices. Since we all find the physical senses a distraction, it is no surprise that the psychic senses are the same. So although it is necessary that they should develop in us, we must keep the right perspective and not start exploiting them the way materialistic people exploit the physical senses. There really is nothing that cannot be an obstacle to spiritual realization when it is present at the wrong time or in the wrong degree. Since transcendental experience is our prime object, anything other than consciousness itself can be a hindrance. Like a skillful animal trainer we must know how to control and then banish them from our awareness.

39. The mind [chittasya] can enter [avesha] another’s body [sharira] on relaxation of the cause [karana] of bondage [bandha] and from knowledge of passages [prachara].

Pandit Usharbudh Arya: “By loosening the cause of bondage and learning the (paths of) circulation (of mental energy) (the yogi learns to) enter and take possession of another body.”

Jnaneshwara Bharati: “By loosening or letting go of the causes of bondage and attachment, and by following the knowledge of how to go forth into the passages of the mind, there comes the ability to enter into another body.”

Swami Prabhavananda: “When the bonds of the mind caused by karma have been loosened, the yogi can enter into the body of another by knowledge of the operation of its nerve currents.”

Swami Vivekananda: “When the cause of bondage has become loosened, the yogi, by his knowledge of its channels of activity of the chitta, enters another body.”

There are two ways of “entering” another’s body. One is a literal entering into someone’s body and controlling it, living through it just as though it were one’s own. This is said to have been done by Shankaracharya and other yogis on rare occasions. Discarnate beings are able to do the same through their astral awareness, as in possession and mediumship.

Rajasi Janakananda told that when he had an extremely dangerous brain operation he left his body immediately upon being anesthetized and went into higher worlds. When he returned to his body, from afar he saw that Yogananda was in his body. The Master smiled and waved at him, and suddenly he was back in his body. Rajasi said that Yogananda had entered his body and kept it from dying on the operating table.

The other way a person “enters” someone’s body is through a kind of mental projection rather than a complete entry with the subtle body. The person is able to literally move around through the body and observe it intimately. Some healers do this for diagnosis and healing.

The only doctor I have ever trusted totally was the great Dr. Josef Lenninger, who was given asylum in America to evade the many attempts of Hitler to force him back to Germany because of his renown in that country in relation to his vast medical knowledge. After the First World War the German government sent Dr. Lenninger around the world studying indigenous medicine. He spent the most time in South India with a sadhu, Rishi Krishnananda, who was a great practitioner of Ayurveda. From him Dr. Lenninger learned to develop this siddhi by means of which he could send his mind into another’s body and know all about it. For example, he could tell anyone their blood pressure, body temperature, condition of all their organs, any surgeries they had undergone, what major illnesses they had had since birth and even their birthday! He could also tell anyone the exact state of health of their mother and father. Once I showed him a photo of a great yogi who had left his body a few months before. Dr. Lenninger told me exactly the condition of his health for many previous years and even described his death and its causes. On occasion he would draw an illness or problematical condition from the patient’s body into his own and cure it there, sometimes immediately and sometimes with treatment over some time.

I knew a yogi in Western India who continually healed people in this way. The first time I met him he was curing himself of diabetes that he had taken on himself two or three weeks before. Such an ability is extremely risky and its wisdom can certainly be questioned.

40. By mastery over udana, levitation and non-contact with water, mire, thorns etc.

Jnaneshwara Bharati: “By the mastery over udana, the upward flowing prana vayu, there is a cessation of contact with mud, water, thorns, and other such objects, and there ensues the rising or levitation of the body.”

This is how yogis walk on water or do not sink in quicksand or mud. They also can walk over broken glass or other sharp points and not be pierced. They do this by means of levitation, either by rising some distance above those things or inducing a mild form of this siddhi wherein they touch the objects physically but are weightless and so come to no harm.

41. By mastery over samana, blazing of gastric fire.

Jnaneshwara Bharati: “By mastery over samana, the prana flowing in the navel area, there comes effulgence, radiance, or fire.”

Yogis often shine with light, sometimes with the very practical aim of lighting up a dark place. Taimni is the only translator I know of that considers the siddhi to manifest as powerful gastric power of digestion, but since samana governs digestion it is not without possibility. Certainly this siddhi has been used by yogis to subsist on food impossible for normal people to digest, and has also been employed to destroy any poison they may have ingested. On more than one occasion Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati was poisoned by those who hated his teaching on the necessity to reform Hinduism, but was able to survive through this siddhi. Srimati Maitri Devi, a saint living in New Delhi, told me that her guru employed this siddhi when the pandits of Benares poisoned her, jealous of her superior knowledge of the shastras and daring to be a woman, to boot!

42. By performing samyama on the relation between akasha and the ear [shrotra]: superphysical [divyam: celestial; divine] hearing.

Each of the five elements corresponds to one of the five senses. Earth, water, fire, and air correspond to smell, taste, sight, and touch respectively. These four are totally passive. But the sense that arises from ether (akasha) is both passive and active: the power of speech and the faculty of hearing that speech. It is the power known as Vak, which means both Speech and Word. Yet it also includes hearing. This is why sound is such a powerful force in spiritual development and therefore in the technique of yoga, especially the subtle, mental sound of thought. We can change our very nature (prakriti) by both projecting and hearing mantric sounds. This is a cornerstone of sadhana. The yoga adept becomes extremely sensitive to the effects of all kinds of sounds, and knows how to use this sensitivity to determine that which is most conducive to mental calm and stability. Classical Indian music, instrumental and vocal, is based on yogic perception.

Samyama on the faculty of hearing and the subtle akasha awaken the faculty of the spiritual ear. This is not to be confused with either astral or causal “hearing” or clairaudience. Rather, it is best described as being a kind of intuition-experience of hearing. But nothing really conveys its full nature but the experience itself.

43. By performing Samyama on the relation between the body and akasha and at the same time bringing about coalescence of the mind with light [things like] cotton down [there comes the power of] passage through space.

This is a very interesting sutra. In treatises on yoga and meditation the faculty of the mental energies to take the form of whatever is being looked at or concentrated on is frequently mentioned as the basis for certain yogic practices. Here Patanjali tells us that a steady and purely one-pointed awareness of light objects stimulates the faculty of levitation and movement through space. This is not just theory. My friend Durga Prasad Sahai, a disciple of Swami Keshabananda who is written about in Autobiography of a Yogi, told me that he was very well acquainted with Ganga Baba, a saint who lived at the source of the Ganges (Gangotri). Ganga Baba could often be seen flying through the air. When the border conflict was going on between India and China, all travel into Tibet was absolutely forbidden. But Ganga Baba asked the government officers to issue him a permit to visit Lhasa. Not wanting to refuse the saint, they just delayed and delayed. Finally, after six months, permission was granted. When Ganga Baba went to their offices and expressed his thanks for the permit, they prostrated before him and begged: “Forgive us, Baba, our agents in Lhasa say they see you there nearly every day, even though you are returning here each night.” Ganga Baba was not bilocating–going from one place to another in a moment, which also is a yoga power–but was really flying to Tibet whenever he wanted to. So he told Durga Prasad.

The opposite is also possible: a yogi can make himself so heavy he is immovable and nothing can pick him up or carry him. In the early days of Western contact with the Hawaiian islands it was noticed that the Hawaiian divers could sink much faster to the ocean floor than anyone else and could also stay underwater for a longer time. When they were asked their secret they told them that kahunas had taught them to feel that they were rocks when they dropped into the water. And it worked. As Sri Ramakrishna often said: “The mind is everything.”

44. The power of contacting the state of consciousness which is outside the intellect and is therefore inconceivable is called maha-videha. From it is destroyed the covering of light.

Videha means “bodiless,” and Mahavideha is the Great Disembodiment of consciousness.

Obviously the consciousness of the embodied yogi is confined, whereas the consciousness of the disembodied yogi is without boundaries, limitless and free. Yet, the limitless, disembodied Reality is within the body as well. Therefore it is not a matter of projecting the consciousness outside the body or “astral traveling,” but of going even deeper within to the core point, the true heart (hridaya) where the body has no influence at all, but Infinity abides undimmed and unconfined.

“Outside the intellect” (or mind) does not mean outside the body. This is very important, since a great deal of yogis think that some kind of outer projection is needed, and some schools of thought consider that unless a person leaves the body and passes through higher worlds there is no spiritual progress, much less liberation. This is the direct opposite of the way things really are. It means to be withdrawn from the intellect, the jnanamaya kosha, and the will, the anandamaya kosha, and becoming bodiless in consciousness even though still in the body. Only yogis can understand this, much less accomplish it.

In the prior section, in sutra 52, we were told that the fourth pranayama also dissolves the covering of the atmic light. So if this seems too abstract or difficult, we can still resort to pranayama for the same result.

45. Mastery over the pancha-bhutas by performing samyama on their gross, constant, subtle, all-pervading and functional states.

This applies to each of the Great Elements, the Maha Bhutas. The yogi may choose which ones he wishes to master, or of course work with all of them. Only a person adept in meditation could even begin to do this, because the “gross, constant, subtle, all-pervading and functional states” cannot be learned from books, but must be the personal experience of the yogi. This not gained in a day, and perhaps not even in a single lifetime.

46. Thence, the attainment of animan etc., perfection of the body and the non-obstruction of its functions [of the body] by the powers [of the elements].

The body of such a yogi then becomes a mirror of his momentary bhava or the focus of his will. For example, I once saw a photograph of Anandamayi Ma looking at an image of Shiva she was holding in her hand. Her face was an identical duplicate of the face of Shiva. Her appearance was constantly changing, so that no photograph really “looked” like her. Only motion pictures could convey what she looked like. I had literally seen about two hundred photographs of her before I met her, yet when I saw her I did not recognize her at all. I only knew it was her because I had seen her two attendants in several photographs with her, and they looked just like their photos. I have seen Ma be the tallest person in a room (except for me) and within twenty minutes be the shortest one there. One moment she would looked aged and the next appear young.

47. Beauty, fine complexion, strength and adamantine hardness constitute the perfection of the body.

These qualities are really the perfections of the mind, the body only following after it. The word bala, here translated “strength,” also means “young” or “youthful,” just as I described regarding the appearance of Ma Anandamayi. I witnessed these qualities in more than one adept yogi, but thoroughly in Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.

48. Mastery over the sense-organs by performing samyama on their power of cognition, real nature, egoism [asmita], all-pervasiveness and functions.

Asmita is really better defined in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary: I-ness; the sense of “I am;” “I exist;” sense of individuality. It is the senses (indriyas) that give us this sense of asmita.

49. Thence, instantaneous cognition without the use of any vehicle and complete mastery over pradhana.

Pradhana is prakriti: causal matter. Therefore a yogi can alter anything by his mere thought, just as Jesus turned water into wine and Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik could turn wine into milk, mutton into roses and egg into potato.

50. Only from the awareness of the distinction between sattwa and purusha arise supremacy over all states and forms of existence [omnipotence] and knowledge of every thing [omniscience].

Perception of the distinction between sattwa and the atman (purusha) is almost impossible because it is extremely subtle, and very, very few yogis’ intellects (buddhi) are so subtle as to reveal it, and even fewer yogis have the intelligence to recognize it. This is part of the final step to liberation (moksha).

First we must understand as well as we can the nature of sattwa. To do that we must turn to the supreme scripture of yoga (yoga shastra), the Bhagavad Gita. A thorough knowledge of the Gita is essential for the yogi, for without the instruction given there it is virtually impossible to attain the supreme realization. If people were grounded in the teachings of the Gita they would never go astray or be fooled by either their own minds or by unscrupulous “gurus” and “authorities” whose fundamental error and unworthiness would be revealed to them by the clear and simple truths found in the Gita. A yogi and his thoughts should be inseparable from the Gita, which has no equal in all the world. Those who do not base themselves on the Gita will fail and fall in time. This I have seen over and over.

So then, what does the Gita tells us about sattwa?

“Sattwa is stainless, luminous, and health-giving; it binds by attachment to happiness and by attachment to knowledge” (Bhagavad Gita 14:6). Although the human mind in its ordinary condition cannot even conceive of the Self fully, yet the yogi through the agency of his totally purified intellect (buddhi) can do so through the medium of sattwa guna. It is well known to the yogis that sattwa is so subtle it is almost always indistinguishable from the atman. Yet it reveals the atman to the adept yogi. The usual function of sattwa guna is to impel the individual to seek the bliss of the Self and the knowledge required to know the Self. When that is fulfilled perfectly, then sattwa reveals the Self.

Yet, as the Gita says, sattwa is not the Self and therefore like any external, material force or object, can influence and even bind us. Three verses later, the Gita tells us: “Sattwa causes attachment to happiness” (Bhagavad Gita 14:9). That is, those who are not yogis relentlessly intent on the Self can become addicted to mere happiness and, contented with that, no longer fervently seek the revelation of the Self. Sattwa cannot render us blind to the Self, but it can distract us from the Self. Although sattwa illumines the intellect, it also functions on a lower level. It is extremely subtle and extremely pure, yet it is feeling-based, separate from both mind (manas) and intellect (buddhi). As a consequence it is possible for it to be a hindrance and distraction.

When it is not detrimental through the weakness of the resolve and understanding of the individual yogi, sattwa is a supreme blessing. So the Gita tells us: “When the light of knowledge shines in all the gates of the body, then it should be known that sattwa is dominant” (14:11). “When the embodied one dies when sattwa is dominant, then he enters the stainless realms of the knowers of the Highest” (14:14). “From sattwa arises knowledge” (14:17). “Those established in sattwa go upward [to higher realms]” (14:18).

After revealing the Self, sattwa remains. “That happiness… born of the light of one’s own Self, is declared to be sattwic” (Bhagavad Gita 18:37).

Through the development of shuddha-sattwa, supremely pure sattwa, the potentially infinite realm of the Self is opened and entered to dwell in forevermore.

51. By non-attachment even to that, on the very seed of bondage being destroyed, follows kaivalya.

“That” refers to the “supremacy over all states and forms of existence and knowledge of every thing” mentioned in the previous verse. As could be expected, it is extremely difficult to be indifferent and detached from such power and knowledge. Yet the yogi must be, otherwise bondage will not be destroyed and kaivalya, the transcendental state of absolute freedom from conditioned existence that is perfect liberation, will not be attained. Trapped by the glory of aishwarya, the divine power and glory that is the reflection of the immanent God, Ishwara, there is every likelihood of the yogi falling down to further bondage, even to complete loss of the development he had gained through yoga. Even worse, he may come to believe that he is Ishwara himself.

During my first trip to India I met the fore-mentioned disciple of Swami Keshabananda. He told me of amazing things he had witnessed, including Keshvananda’s materialization in physical form years after his death. But Yogananda had said that the great yogi had failed to attain liberation in that lifetime because of his attachment to miracles.

If, however, the yogi can be disinterested in the glories of the state described in this and the previous sutra, then “the very seed of bondage” will be destroyed and liberation attained. What, then, is the future of those yogis that are elated over even the simplest of yogic experiences or the opening of elementary psychic abilities? Especially if they tell about them? Not much, we can be assured.

Without supreme vairagya–non-attachment, dispassion, disinterest and even aversion for all conditions and attainments whatsoever–a yogi will not make any significant progress. Like people rowing a boat while the anchor is down, he will get nowhere and will have wasted his life.

52. [There should be] avoidance of pleasure or pride on being invited by the super-physical entities in charge of various planes because there is the possibility of the revival of evil.

This idea of yogis being approached by astral beings and led astray from the path is almost completely ignored at the present time. Actually, I have only heard one yogi speak about this subject and that was over fifty years ago. Nevertheless this is a long-established concept in India and one recorded in many traditional religious texts.

Astral beings may approach a yogi for various motivations. Some among the gods, for example, are said to fear that the yogi will attain to their positions in the higher worlds, so they seek to ruin his sadhana and bring about his fall. Some beings are simply malicious, hating human beings and wishing to harm them in any way possible. Others may simply be foolish and have no idea they are doing anything detrimental. The one yogi I mentioned spoke in detail about the ways astral beings try to deceive humans, saying that they even may use other human beings to attain their goal.

The Buddhists are very aware of this also, but perhaps the Eastern Christians are the most intent on the need to guard against astral deception. All practicers of the mystical tradition known as Hesychia (Silence) are warned about such danger, and many incidents are cited as proof of its reality, many of them from our own time. As a novice in an Eastern Christian monastery I heard a great deal about this, including experiences of people well known to some of the members.

Fear should have no place in the life of a yogi, but wise caution and wariness certainly should be a constant factor for him. Contact with astral beings of any kind, including departed human beings, real or supposed, can only bring harm to the yogi and his yoga. Just as in the human body various parts are isolated so elements harmful to one area do not invade another, so it is in (and within) the various worlds.

Painful as it may be to us, absolute separation from the departed is beneficial to a human being. Interchange with the dead can be truly deadly. The only exception is when spiritually developed people help earthbound spirits to pass on to the astral realms where they can evolve. Otherwise contact of the living with the dead is detrimental to both sides. And there is grave danger of deceitful spirits approaching sincere people and appealing for help when they really want to create a bond between them so they can manipulate the embodied person. Often possession is their intention.

Both the embodied and the disembodied should stay in their proper realms and look to their evolution. A wise principle was stated by Sri Ramakrishna to his disciple Niranjan who was being used as a medium by a group of spiritualists in Calcutta: “My son, think of ghosts and you will become a ghost. Think of God and you will become God. Which to you prefer?”

53. Knowledge born of awareness of Reality by performing samyama on moment and [the process of] its succession.

54. From it (vivekajam-jnanam) knowledge of distinction between similars which cannot be distinguished by class, characteristic or position.

Again it should be pointed out that samyama is extraordinarily difficult, and as rare as it is difficult. This is because it just cannot be taught to anyone in the usual manner. Either you intuit it (with no assurance that your intuition is correct) or you just stumble onto it (with no assurance that what you did was samyama). There is no doubt in my mind that a great master can in some manner transfer the knowledge of samyama directly into the mind of the student, but even that is chancy. I have come across a lot of “transmitted vidya” that was nothing more than imagination, and pretty low level imagination at that. So I would advise that the subject be forgotten about until a competent teacher comes into the orbit of the yogi’s life. And there is every likelihood that a competent teacher will not teach samyama to him lest it become an obstacle or a source of delusion.

Anyhow, those who can do samyama on both the moment and the way it “becomes” or “passes on” to the next moment can come to understand the deepest roots of anything and can distinguish easily between things that seem absolutely the same, yet are not. For some things are mere bubbles soon to dissolve and other things are substantial and can be worked with to the advantage of the yogi. The ability to tell the difference is a necessary ability.

It becomes obvious that there are certain very tenuous and unsure aspects of yoga that are best left alone until they are presented in a way that leaves no room for doubt or deception.

55. The highest knowledge born of the awareness of Reality is transcendent, includes the cognition of all objects simultaneously, pertains to all objects and processes whatsoever in the past, present and future and also transcends the world process.

The word Taimni translates as “highest knowledge” is actually tarakam: that which enables one to cross over or transcend samsara. Such a knowledge is all pervading; that is, it encompasses all that is/are evolving within the cosmos. Nothing is unknown to it. It is divine omniscience participated in by the liberated spirit. But it is not confined to relative existence. It also encompasses that which is transcendent, beyond all relativity. Incredible as it seems, while remaining finite the liberated person (purusha) enters into a state of consciousness that includes (encompasses) the absolute Parabrahman itself. And this is necessary because Brahman, the Paramatman, is the essential being of the jivatman. The individual spirit (jiva) cannot know itself and not simultaneously know Brahman, because though distinct they are inseparable. It is a mystery, and it is foolish for the human mind to puzzle over it and try to figure it out and even attempt to imagine what it must be like. Rather, each one of us must strive to attain that status. “Therefore be a yogi” (Bhagavad Gita 6:46).

56. Kaivalya is attained when there is equality of purity between the purusha and sattwa.

The following alternate translations can help us in comprehending the meaning of this sutra:

Jnaneshwar: “With the attainment of equality between the purest aspect of sattwic buddhi and the pure consciousness of purusha, there comes absolute liberation, and that is the end.”

Prabhavananda: “Perfection is attained when the mind becomes as pure as the Atman itself.”

Purohit Swami: “When the intellect become as pure as the Self, liberation follows.”

Usually when we encounter the word “sattwa” we think of sattwa guna, the quality of energy (shakti or prakriti) that has the characteristics of light, purity, harmony, and goodness. But because the most purified and refined intellect, the buddhi, is clear light, it has itself come to be referred to as sattwa. All the lower aspects of our makeup eventually drop away or are dissolved, but the sattwic buddhi is said to be absorbed or assumed into the Self so only the Self remains. Sri Ramana Maharshi spoke of this as a fact: “The buddhi becomes the Self.”

When, therefore, all else drops away and the buddhi possessing the quality of shuddhi-sattwa, pure light, merges into the Self, “kaivalya is attained.” A Brief Sanskrit Glossary gives this definition of kaivalya: transcendental state of Absolute Independence; state of absolute freedom from conditioned existence; moksha; isolation; final beatitude; emancipation.

Kaivalya-mukti is liberation.

And that is all that can be said about the inexpressible state.

Read the Next Chapter – Sadhana Pada: Yoga Sutras Book IV

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About to Yoga: Science of the Absolute

Yoga: Science of the Absolute

Introduction to Yoga: Science of the Absolute

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