..The Yoga-Sûtra of Patanjali Translated with Comments by Georg Feuerstein

Every student of Yoga should, in my opinion, grapple with the Yoga-Sûtra. It was the very first Sanskrit text that I came across in 1965, and it has not stopped fascinating me. The following rendering of Patanjali’s aphorisms is based on my own extensive textual and semantic studies. In some instances my interpretations differ from those offered in the Sanskrit commentaries. My translation is rather literal in order to convey the technical nature of Patanjali’s work. All too often the popular renderings fail to do justice to the subtleties of his thought and the complexities of higher Yoga practice.

The asterisk (*) after some of the sûtras indicates either that they belong to what I have identified as the quoted text dealing with the eightfold path, or that they appear to have been added to Patanjali’s original composition. There may be a good many more interpolated sûtras, especially in the third chapter, which contains lists of paranormal powers, but it does not seem particularly useful to try to identify them.

..I. Samâdhi-Pâda ("Chapter on Ecstasy")

Now [begins] the exposition of Yoga. (1.1)

Yoga is the restriction (nirodha) of the fluctuations of consciousness (citta). (1.2)

Then the Seer [i.e., the transcendental Self] abides in [its] essential form. (1.3)

At other times [there is] conformity [of the Self] with the fluctuations. (1.4)

Comments: In the unenlightened state, we do not consciously identify with the Self (purusha), but consider ourselves to be a particular individual with a particular character. This does not mean, however, that the Self is absent. Rather, it is merely obscured.

The fluctuations are fivefold; afflicted or unafflicted. (1.5)

Comments: The afflicted (klishta) states of consciousness are those that lead to suffering, while the unafflicted (aklishta) states are conducive to liberation. An example of the latter type is the condition of ecstatic transcendence (samâdhi).

[The five types of fluctuation are:] knowledge, misconception, conceptualization, sleep, and memory. (1.6)

Knowledge [can be derived from] perception, inference, and testimony. (1.7)

Misconception is erroneous knowledge not based on the [actual] appearance of the [underlying object]. (1.8)

Conceptualization is without [perceivable] object, following verbal knowledge. (1.9)

Sleep is a fluctuation founded on the idea (pratyaya) of the nonoccurrence [of other contents of consciousness]. (1.10)

Comments: This aphorism makes the point that the state of sleep, though we have no knowledge of it while it lasts, is nevertheless a content of consciousness that is witnessed by the transcendental Self. Patanjali uses the word pratyaya, here rendered as "idea," to signify a particular content of consciousness.

Memory is the "nondeprivation" [i.e., retention] of experienced objects. (1.11)

The restriction of these [fluctuations is achieved] through [yogic] practice and dispassion. (1.12)

Practice (abhyâsa) is the exertion [toward gaining] stability in [that state of restriction]. (1.13)

But this [practice] is firmly grounded [only after it has been] cultivated properly and for a long time uninterruptedly. (1.14)

Dispassion (vairâgya) is the certainty of mastery of [the yogin who is] without thirst for visible and revealed [or invisible] things. (1.15)

The higher [form] of this [dispassion] is the nonthirsting for [Nature’s] constituents (guna), [which results] from the vision of the Self (purusha). (1.16)

[The ecstasy arising out of the state of restriction] is conscious (samprajnâta) by being connected with cogitation, reflection, bliss, or I-am-ness (asmitâ). (1.17)

Comments: Although ecstasy (samâdhi) implies a merging of subject and object, at the lower levels this unitive consciousness is still associated with all kinds of psychomental phenomena, including spontaneously arising thoughts, feelings of bliss, and the sense of being present as a unique entity. Patanjali calls this sense "I-am-ness." The four types of phenomena listed indicate different levels of this form of ecstasy.

The other [type of ecstasy] has a residuum of activators (samskâra); [it follows] the former [conscious ecstasy] upon the practice of the idea of cessation. (1.18)

Comments: The unitive state associated with thoughts and feelings, etc., is known as conscious ecstasy (samprajnâta-samâdhi). When all these psychomental phenomena have ceased to arise, then the next higher level of the unitive state is present. It is known as supraconscious ecstasy (asamprajnâta-samâdhi). Although in this higher state the yogin is no longer responsive to the environment, it must not be equated with unconscious trance.

[The ecstasy of those who have] merged with Nature (prakriti-laya) and [of those who are] bodiless (videha) [arises from the persistence of] the idea of becoming. (1.19)

[The supraconscious ecstasy] of the other [yogins whose path is referred to in aphorism 1.18] is preceded by faith, energy, mindfulness, [conscious] ecstasy, and wisdom. (1.20)

[The supraconscious ecstasy] is close for [those yogins who are] extremely intense [in their practice of Yoga]. (1.21)

Because [their intensity can be] modest, middling, or excessive, there is hence also a difference [in how close yogins may be to the supraconscious ecstasy]. (1.22)

Or [supraconscious ecstasy is gained] through devotion to the Lord (îshvara-pranidhâna). (1.23)

The Lord (îshvara) is a special Self [because He is] untouched by the causes-of-affliction (klesha), action and its fruition, and the deposits (âshaya) [in the depth of memory that gives rise to thoughts, desires, and so on]. (1.24)

In Him the seed of omniscience is unsurpassed. (1.25)

By virtue of [His] continuity over time, [the Lord] was also the mentor of the earlier [adepts of Yoga]. (1.26)

His symbol is the "pronouncement" (pranava) [i.e., the sacred syllable om]. (1.27)

The recitation of that [sacred syllable leads to] the contemplation of its meaning. (1.28)

Thence [follows] the attainment of [habitual] inward-mindedness (pratyak-cetanâ) and also the disappearance of the obstacles [mentioned in the next aphorism]. (1.29)

Sickness, languor, doubt, heedlessness, sloth, dissipation, false vision, nonattainment of the stages [of Yoga], and instability [in these stages] are the distractions of consciousness; these are the obstacles. (1.30)

Pain, depression, tremor of the limbs, and [wrong] inhalation and exhalation are accompanying [symptoms] of the distractions. (1.31)

In order to counteract these [distractions, the yogin should resort to] the practice [of concentrating] on a single principle. (1.32)

The projection of friendliness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity toward things–[be they] joyful, sorrowful, meritorious or demeritorious–[leads to] the pacification of consciousness. (1.33)

Or [the restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness is achieved] through expulsion and retention of the breath (prâna) [according to the yogic rules]. (1.34)

Or [the condition of restriction comes about when] an object-centered activity has arisen that holds the mind in steadiness. (1.35)

Comments: This technical-sounding aphorism contains a relatively simple idea: According to the Sanskrit commentaries, "object-centered activity" (vishaya-vatî pravritti) denotes a state of heightened sensory awareness called "divine perception" (divya-samvid). The idea is that, for instance, the heightened sensation of smell or touch focuses the mind to the point where the yogin may achieve the state of restriction (nirodha).

Or [restriction is achieved by mental activities that are] sorrowless and illuminating. (1.36)

Or [restriction is achieved when] consciousness is directed toward [those beings who have] conquered attachment. (1.37)

Or [restriction is achieved when consciousness] rests on insights [arising from] dreams and sleep. (1.38)

Or [restriction is achieved] through meditation (dhyâna) as desired. (1.39)

His mastery [extends] from the most minute to the greatest magnitude. (1.40)

[In the case of a consciousness whose] fluctuations have dwindled [and which has become] like a transparent jewel, [there comes about]–in regard to the "grasper," "grasping," and the "grasped"–[a state of] coincidence (samâpatti) with that on which [consciousness] abides and by which [consciousness] is "anointed." (1.41)

Comments: When the mind is completely still, it becomes translucent. Then the ecstatic state, or samâdhi, can occur. The underlying process of ecstasy is one in which the object of concentration looms so large in consciousness that the distinction between subject and object vanishes. Patanjali speaks of this as the "coinciding" of the experiencing subject, the experienced object, and the process of experience, which are respectively referred to as "grasper" (grahîtri), "grasped" (grâhya), and "grasping" (grahana).

[When] conceptual knowledge, [based on] the intent of words, [is present] in this [ecstatic state of coincidence between subject and object], [then it is called] "coincidence interspersed with cogitation." (1.42)

Comments: Yoga metaphysics distinguishes different levels of existence–from coarse to subtle, to unmanifest, to transcendental. The object of the ecstasy interspersed with cogitation (vitarka-samâdhi) belongs to the "coarse" (sthûla) or material realm.

On the purification of [the depths of] memory, [which has become] empty of its essence as it were, [and when] the object [of meditation] alone shines forth, [then this ecstatic state is called] "supracogitative" (nirvitarka). (1.43)

Thus, by this [cogitative ecstasy, the other two basic types of ecstasy]–the "reflective" (savicâra) and the "suprareflective"(nirvicâra)–are explained; [these have] subtle objects [as meditative props]. (1.44)

Comments: "Reflection" (vicâra) is a spontaneous thought process that occurs in the ecstatic state that has as its focal point a subtle (sûkshma) or immaterial object, such as the transcendental matrix of creation, called the Undifferentiate.

And the subtle objects terminate in the Undifferentiate (alinga). (1.45)

These [types of ecstatic coincidence between subject and object] verily [belong to the class of] "ecstasy with seed" (sabîja-samâdhi). (1.46)

Comments: The term "seed" refers to the remaining subliminal activators (samskâra) in the depths of consciousness. They give rise to future mental activity and thus to karma. When there is lucidity (vaishâradya) in the suprareflective [type of ecstasy, then this is called] " of the inner being" (adhyâtma-prasâda). (1.47)

In this [state of utmost lucidity], insight is truth-bearing (ritam-bhara). (1.48)

The scope [of this truth-bearing insight] is distinct from the insight [gained from] tradition and inference, [because of its] particular purposiveness. (1.49)

Comments: The idea expressed in this aphorism seems to be that the truth-bearing insight (prajnâ) reached at the highest level of conscious ecstasy (samprajnâta-samâdhi) is quite different from ordinary knowledge, insofar as it provides the impetus for the transcendence of all knowledge in the state of the supraconscious ecstasy (asamprajnâta-samâdhi), which alone leads to liberation, or Self-realization.

The activator (samskâra) springing from that [truth-bearing insight] obstructs the other activators [residing in the depths of consciousness]. (1.50)

Upon the restriction of even this [activator, there ensues], owing to the restriction of all [contents of consciousness], the ecstasy without seed. (1.51)

..II. Sâdhana-Pâda ("Chapter on the Path of Realization")

Asceticism (tapas), study (svâdhyâya), and devotion to the Lord (îshvara-pranidhâna) [constitute] the Yoga of Action (kriyâ-yoga). (2.1)

Comments: The words kriyâ and karma both mean "action," but Kriya-Yoga is different from the Karma-Yoga of the Bhagavad-Gîtâ. Karma-Yoga is, as we have seen, the path of "inaction in action," or ego-transcending activity. Patanjali’s Kriyâ-Yoga is the path of ecstatic identification with the Self by which the subliminal activators (samskâra), which maintain the individuated consciousness, are gradually eliminated.

[This Yoga has] the purpose of cultivating ecstasy and also the purpose of attenuating the causes-of-affliction (klesha). (2.2)

Ignorance, I-am-ness, attachment, aversion, and the will to live are the five causes-of-affliction. (2.3)

Comments: The Sanskrit terms for these five sources of suffering are: avidyâ, asmitâ, râga, dvesha, and abhinivesha.

Ignorance is the field of the other [causes, which can be] dormant, attenuated, intercepted, or aroused. (2.4)

Ignorance is seeing [that which is] eternal, pure, joyful, and [pertaining to] the Self as ephemeral, impure, sorrowful, and [pertaining to] the nonself (anâtman). (2.5)

Comments: The nonself (anâtman) is the egoic personality and its external environment.

I-am-ness is the identification as it were of the powers of vision (darshana) and of the Visioner (drik) [i.e., the Self]. (2.6)

Attachment [is that which] rests on pleasant [experiences]. (2.7)

Aversion [is that which] rests on sorrowful [experiences]. (2.8)

The will-to-live, flowing along [by its] own inclination (rasa), is rooted thus even in the sages. (2.9)

Comments: The will-to-live (abhinivesha) is the impulse toward individuated existence. As such it is a primary cause of suffering and, according to Yoga, must be transcended.

These [causes-of-affliction], [in their] subtle [form], are to be overcome by the [process of] involution (pratiprasava). (2.10)

Comments: The basic building blocks of Nature (prakriti) are the three types of constituents (guna), namely the dynamic principle (rajas), the principle of inertia (tamas), and the principle of lucidity (sattva). Their combined interaction creates the entire manifest cosmos. Liberation is conceived as the reversal of this process, whereby the manifest aspects of the primary constituents (guna) resolve back into the transcendental ground of Nature. This process has the technical designation of "involution" (pratiprasava).

The fluctuations of these [causes-of-affliction] are to be overcome through meditation (dhyâna). (2.11)

The causes-of-affliction are the root of the "action deposit," and [that] may be experienced in the visible [i.e., present] birth or in an unseen [i.e., future birth]. (2.12)

Comments: The technical term karma-âshaya ("action deposit") refers to the karmic load of the individual, that is, the store of subliminal activators (samskâra) that give rise to and define the person.

[As long as] the root exists, [there also is] fruition from it: birth, life, and experience (bhoga). (2.13)

These [three] have delight or distress as results, according to the causes, [which may be] meritorious or demeritorious. (2.14)

Because of the sorrow [inherent] in the transformations (parinâma) [of Nature], in the pressure (tâpa) [of existence], and in the activators (samskâra) [residing in the depths of consciousness], and on account of the conflict between the fluctuations of the constituents (guna) [of Nature]–to the discerner all is but suffering (duhkha). (2.15)

Comments: The concept of "transformation" is crucial to Yoga philosophy. It is an elaboration of the common experience that everything undergoes constant change. Only the transcendental Self is eternally stable. For the discerning yogin (vivekin) the finite world of perpetual change is one of suffering, or sorrow, because change signals inevitable loss of what is desirable and gain of what is undesirable and hence unhappiness.

What is to be overcome is future sorrow. (2.16)

The correlation (samyoga) between the Seer [i.e., the transcendental Self] and the Seen [i.e., Nature] is the cause of what is to be overcome. (2.17)

Comments: The relationship between the transcendental Self and the world, including the mind (which is a part of Nature rather than an aspect of the Self), is experientially real enough. But it is not ultimately real. For Self and Nature are eternally distinct. The apparent correlation (samyoga) between the transcendental Subject and the experienced objective world is due to spiritual ignorance (avidyâ) and must be overcome.

The Seen [i.e., Nature] has the character of brightness, activity, or inertia; it is embodied in elements and sense organs, [and it serves] the purpose of experience (bhoga) or emancipation (apavarga). (2.18)

Comments: Nature, in the form of the human mind, comprises two tendencies. On one hand, it is designed for experiences, implying an egoic subject that experiences desirable or undesirable events. On the other hand, it also permits processes that lead to the transcendence of all experiences and of the ego. Why this should be so is explained through the doctrine of the three qualities (guna), or constituents, of Nature. While the qualities of activity (rajas) and inertia (tamas) tend to maintain the ego-illusion, the preeminence of the lucidity factor (sattva) creates the precondition for the event of liberation. Hence the yogin seeks to cultivate sattvic conditions and states.

The levels of the constituents (guna) [of Nature] are the Particularized, the Unparticularized, the Differentiate, and the Undifferentiate. (2.19)

Comments: The human body-mind is a particularized form of Nature. The sensory potentials (e.g., sound, sight, hearing, etc.), as well as the sense of individuality (Patanjali’s I-am-ness, or asmitâ) belong to the unparticularized level of cosmic manifestation. Still more subtle is the level of the first differentiated form to emerge out of the undifferentiated ground of Nature. The most that can be said about it is that it exists and that the sattva constituent predominates in it. Beyond that abides the transcendental Witness-Consciousness or Self.

The Seer, [which is] the sheer [Power of] seeing, although pure, apperceives the ideas [present in consciousness]. (2.20)

The self [i.e., essence] of the Seen [i.e., Nature] is only for the sake of that [Seer, or transcendental Self]. (2.21)

Comments: This aphorism reiterates the point made above (2.18) that Nature serves the purposes of the Self. The realm of Nature can be used either to indulge in experiences or to catapult oneself beyond all conditional states of existence into Self-realization.

Although [the Seen] has ceased [to exist] for him whose purpose has been accomplished, it has nevertheless not ceased [to exist altogether], because [it is still] common experience (sâdhâranatva) for others [who are unenlightened]. (2.22)

The correlation (samyoga) [between the Seer and the Seen] is the reason for the apprehension of the essential form of the power of the "owner" (svâmin) and that of the "owned" (sva). (2.23)

The cause of that [correlation] is ignorance (avidyâ). (2.24)

With the disappearance of that [ignorance] the correlation [also] disappears; this is [total] cessation, the aloneness (kaivalya) of the [sheer Power of] seeing. (2.25)

The means of [attaining] cessation is the unceasing vision of discernment (viveka-khyâti). (2.26)

For him [who possesses the unceasing vision of discernment], there arises, in the last stage, wisdom (prajnâ) [that is] sevenfold. (2.27)

Comments: According to Vyâsa’s Yoga-Bhâshya, the seven aspects of this wisdom are the following insights: (1) That which is to be prevented, namely future suffering, has been successfully identified; (2) the causes of suffering have been eliminated once and for all; (3) through the "ecstasy of restriction" (nirodha-samâdhi) complete cessation of all contents of consciousness has been achieved; (4) the means of cessation, namely the vision of discernment (viveka-khyâti), has been applied; (5) sovereignty of the higher mind (called buddhi) has been achieved; (6) the constituents (guna) have lost their foothold and, "like rocks fallen from the edge of a mountain," incline toward dissolution (pralaya), that is, full resorption into the transcendental ground of Nature; (7) the Self abides in its essential nature, undefiled and alone (kevalin).

Through the performance of the limbs of Yoga, and with the dwindling of impurity, [there comes about] the radiance of wisdom (jnâna), [which develops] up to the vision of discernment. (*2.28)

Restraint (yama), discipline (niyama), posture (âsana), breath control (prânâyâma), sense-withdrawal (pratyâhâra), concentration (dhâranâ), meditation (dhyâna), and ecstasy (samâdhi) are the eight limbs [of Yoga]. (*2.29)

Nonharming, truthfulness, nonstealing, chastity, and greedlessness are the restraints. (*2.30)

[These are valid] in all spheres, irrespective of birth, place, time, and circumstance, [and they constitute] the "great vow" (mahâ-vrata). (*2.31)

Purity, contentment, asceticism, study, and devotion to the Lord are the disciplines. (*2.32)

For the repelling of [unwholesome] notions (vitarka), [the yogin should pursue] the cultivation of [their] opposite. (*2.33)

[Unwholesome] notions, [such as] harming and so on, whether done, caused to be done, or approved, whether arising from greed, anger, or infatuation, whether modest, middling, or excessive–[these have their] unending fruition in ignorance (avidyâ) and suffering (duhkha); thus, [the yogin should devote himself to] the cultivation of their opposite. (*2.34)

When [the yogin] is grounded in [the virtue of] nonharming (ahimsâ), enmity ceases in his presence. (*2.35)

When grounded in truthfulness (satya), action [and its] fruition depend [on his will]. (*2.36)

When grounded in nonstealing (asteya), all [kinds of] treasures appear [before him]. (*2.37)

When grounded in chastity (brahmacarya), [great] vitality is acquired. (*2.38)

When steadied in greedlessness, [the yogin secures] knowledge of the wherefore of [his] births. (*2.39)

Through purity [he gains] distance (jugupsâ) from his own limbs, [and he also acquires the desire for] noncontamination by others. (*2.40)

[Furthermore,] purity of the sattva [constituent of his being], gladness, one-pointedness, mastery of the sense organs, and the capability for Self-vision (âtma-darshana) [are achieved]. (*2.41)

Through contentment (samtosha) unexcelled joy is gained. (*2.42)

Through asceticism (tapas), on account of the dwindling of impurity, perfection of the body and the sense organs [is acquired]. (*2.43)

Through study (svâdhyâya) [the yogin establishes] contact with the chosen deity (ishta-devatâ). (*2.44)

Comments: In many schools of Yoga, the practitioner is encouraged to cultivate a ritual relationship to the Divine in the form of Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Kâlî, or some other traditional figure, which then becomes the yogin’s chosen deity.

Through devotion to the Lord (îshvara-pranidhâna) [comes about] the attainment of the [supraconscious] ecstasy. (*2.45)

Posture (âsana) [should be] stable and comfortable. (*2.46)

[The correct practice of posture is accompanied] by the relaxation of tension and the coinciding [of consciousness] with the infinite. (*2.47)

Thence [comes] unassailability by the opposites (dvandva) [found in Nature, such as heat and cold]. (*2.48)

When this is [achieved], breath control, [which is] the cutting off of the flow of inhalation and exhalation [should be practiced]. (*2.49)

[Breath control is] external, internal, or fixed in its movement, [and it is] regulated by place, time, and number; [it can be either] protracted or contracted. (*2.50)

[The movement of breath] transcending the external and the internal sphere is the "fourth." (*2.51)

Comments: This obscure aphorism has invited different interpretations. It probably refers to a special phenomenon that occurs in the state of ecstasy (samâdhi), where breathing can become so reduced and shallow that it is no longer detectable. This state of suspended breath can last for prolonged periods.

Thence the covering of the [inner] light disappears. (*2.52)

And [the yogin acquires] mental fitness for concentration. (*2.53)

Sense-withdrawal is the imitation as it were of the essential form of consciousness [on the part] of the sense organs by separating them from their objects. (*2.54)

Thence [results] the supreme obedience of the sense organs. (*2.55)

..III. Vibhûti-Pâda ("Chapter on Powers")

Concentration (dhâranâ) is the binding of consciousness to a [single] spot. (*3.1)

The one-directionality (eka-tânatâ) of the ideas [present in consciousness] with regard to that [object of concentration] is meditation (dhyâna). (*3.2)

That [consciousness], shining forth as the object only as if empty of its essence, is ecstasy (samâdhi). (*3.3)

The three [practiced] together [in relation to the same object] are [what is known as] constraint (samyama). (*3.4)

Through mastery of that [practice of constraint there comes about] the flashing-forth of wisdom (prajnâ). (*3.5)

Its progression is gradual. (*3.6)

[In regard to] the previous [five limbs of Yoga], the three [parts of the practice of constraint] are the inner limbs (antar-anga). (*3.7)

Yet, they are outer limbs (bahir-anga) [in regard to] the seedless [ecstasy]. (*3.8)

[When there is] subjugation of the [subliminal] activators (samskâra) of emergence and the manifestation of the activators of restriction–[this is known as] the restriction transformation, which is connected with consciousness at the moment of restriction (nirodha). (3.9)

The calm flow of that [consciousness is effected] through activators [in the depths of consciousness]. (3.10)

The dwindling of "all-objectness" (sarva-arthatâ) and the arising of one-pointedness (ekâgratâ) is the ecstasy transformation of consciousness. (3.11)

Then again, when the quiescent and the uprisen ideas [present in consciousness] are similar, [this is known as] the one-pointedness transformation of consciousness. (3.12)

Comments: Here Patanjali tells us that the one-pointedness of the ecstatic state is due to a succession of similar contents of consciousness. Ideas flash up momentarily, and their similarity gives us the impression of continuity.

By this are [also] explained the transformations of form, time-variation, and condition [with regard to] the elements (bhûta) [and] the sense organs. (3.13)

Comments: This is a difficult aphorism. Vyâsa, in his Yoga-Bhâshya, offers the following illustration: The substance clay may appear as either a lump of clay or a water jar. These are its external forms (dharma), and the change from the one to the other form does not affect the substance (dharmin) itself: The clay remains the same, but the lump or jar do not have a spatial existence only, they are also placed in time. Thus, the water jar is the present time-variation of the clay. Its past time-variation was the lump of clay. Its future time-variation will presumably be dust. But, again, throughout these transformations in time, the substance remains the same. Time is a succession of individual moments (kshana), which imperceptibly alter the condition of the water jar; this is the well-known process of decay, or aging. The same applies to consciousness (citta).

The "form-bearer" (dharmin) [i.e., the substance] is what conforms to the quiescent, uprisen, or indeterminable form (dharma). (3.14)

Comments: The quiescent forms are those that have been, the uprisen forms are those that are, and the indeterminable forms are those that will be. In all cases, the substance is the same.

The differentiation in the sequence [of appearing forms] is the reason for the differentiation in the transformations [of Nature]. (3.15)

Through [the practice of] constraint upon the three [kinds of] transformation [comes about] knowledge of the past and the future. (3.16)

[There is a natural] confusion of idea, object, and [signifying] word [on account of an erroneous] superimposition on one another. Through [the practice of] constraint upon the distinction of these [confused elements], knowledge of the sounds of all beings [is acquired]. (3.17)

Through direct perception (sâkshât-karana) of activators (samskâra) [the yogin gains] knowledge of [his] previous births. (3.18)

[Through direct perception] of [another person’s] ideas [in consciousness], knowledge of another’s consciousness [is obtained]. (3.19)

Comments: Ordinary perception is a process mediated by the senses. But Yoga recognizes the existence of direct perception, which is based on the yogin’s conscious identification with a given object.

But [that knowledge] does not [have as its object] those [ideas] together with their [objective] support, because [that support] is absent from [the other’s consciousness]. (3.20)

Comments: This aphorism makes the simple point that the yogin’s unmediated perception of the thoughts of another person does not give him knowledge of the objective realities on which those thoughts are based. Thus, if a person is fearful of the ocean, the yogin will perceive the person's mental image of the ocean and understand the fear connected with it, but he will not learn anything about the ocean itself.

Through [the practice of] constraint upon the form of the body, upon the suspension of the capacity to be perceived, [that is to say,] upon the disruption of the light [traveling from that body] to the eye, invisibility [is gained]. (3.21)

Karma [is of two kinds]: acute or deferred. Through [the practice of] constraint thereon, or from omens, [the yogin acquires] knowledge of [his] death. (3.22)

[Through the practice of constraint] upon [the virtues of] friendliness and so on, [he acquires various] strengths (bala). (3.23)

[Through the practice of constraint] upon the strengths, [he acquires] the strength of an elephant and so on. (3.24)

By focusing the flashing-forth (âloka) of [those mental] activities [that are free from suffering and illuminating upon any object, the yogin gains] knowledge of the subtle, concealed, and distant [aspects of those objects]. (3.25)

Through [the practice of] constraint upon the sun, [he gains] knowledge of the cosmos. (3.26)

[Through the practice of constraint] upon the moon, [he gains] knowledge of the arrangement of the stars. (3.27)

[Through the practice of constraint] upon the pole star, [he gains] knowledge of its movement. (3.28)

[Through the practice of constraint] upon the "navel wheel" (nâbhi-cakra), [he gains] knowledge of the organization of the body. (3.29)

[Through the practice of constraint] upon the "throat well" (kantha-kûpa), the cessation of hunger and thirst [is accomplished]. (3.30)

[Through the practice of constraint] upon the "tortoise duct" (kûrma-nâdî), [the yogin gains] steadiness. (3.31)

Comments: According to the Yoga-Bhâshya, the "tortoise duct" is a tubelike structure found in the chest below the "throat well." This may be one of the many pathways of the life force that comprise the subtle body.

[Through the practice of constraint] upon the light in the head, [he acquires] the vision of the adepts (siddha). (3.32)

Or through a flash-of-illumination (pratibhâ) [the yogin acquires knowledge about] everything. (3.33)

[Through the practice of constraint] upon the heart, [he gains] understanding of [the nature of] consciousness. (3.34)

Experience (bhoga) is an idea [that is based on] the nondistinction between the absolutely unblended Self and the sattva. Through [the practice of] constraint on the [Self’s] essential purpose, [which is distinct from] the other-purposiveness (para-arthatva) [of Nature], [the yogin gains] knowledge of the Self. (3.35)

Thence occur flashes-of-illumination (pratibhâ) [in the sensory areas of] hearing, sensing, sight, taste, and smell. (3.36)

These are obstacles to ecstasy [but] attainments in the externalized [state of consciousness]. (3.37)

Through the relaxation of the causes of attachment [to one’s body] and through the experience of going-forth, consciousness [is capable of] entering another body. (3.38)

Through mastery of the up-breath (udâna) [the yogin gains the power of] nonadhesion to water, mud, or thorns and [the power of] rising up [from them]. (3.39)

Comments: Early on, the yogins discovered that there are different aspects to the life force (prâna), manifesting as the breath. Each yields different paranormal powers when fully mastered.

Through mastery of the mid-breath (samâna) [he acquires] effulgence. (3.40)

Through [the practice of] constraint upon the relation between ear and space (âkâsha) [he acquires] the "divine ear" (divya-shrotra). (3.41)

Comments: Space, which is regarded as a radiant etheric medium, is one of the five elements of the material dimension of Nature.

Through [the practice of] constraint upon the relation between body and space and by coinciding [in his consciousness] with light [objects], such as cotton, [the yogin obtains the power of] traveling through space. (3.42)

Comments: Through ecstatic identification with a cotton ball, a spider’s thread, or a cloud, the yogin is said to be able to levitate.

An external, nonimaginary fluctuation (vritti) [of consciousness] is the "great incorporeal" from which [comes] the dwindling of the coverings of the [inner] light. (3.43)

Comments: In our imagination we can reach beyond the boundaries of the body. But there is also a special yogic practice by which consciousness itself can move out of the body and gather information about the external world. This practice precedes the yogic technique of actually entering into another body. The Sanskrit commentators insist that this is not an imaginary experience.

Through [the practice of] constraint upon the coarse, the essential form, the subtle, the connectedness, and the purposiveness [of objects] [the yogin gains] mastery over the elements. (3.44)

Thence [results] the manifestation [of the great psychic powers], such as "atomization" (animan) and so on, perfection of the body, and the indestructibility of its constituents. (3.45)

Beauty, gracefulness, and adamant robustness [constitute] the perfection of the body. (3.46)

Through [the practice of] constraint upon [the process of] perception, the essential form, I-am-ness, connectedness, and purposiveness [the yogin gains] mastery over the sense organs. (3.47)

Thence [comes about] fleetness [as of] the mind, the state lacking sense organs, and the mastery over the matrix [of Nature]. (3.48)

[The yogin who enjoys] only the vision of the distinction between the Self and the sattva [gains] supremacy over all states [of existence] and omniscience. (3.49)

Through dispassion toward even that [exalted vision], with the dwindling of the seeds of the defects, [he achieves] the aloneness (kaivalya) [of the Power of seeing]. (3.50)

Upon the invitation of high-placed [beings], [he should give himself] no cause for attachment or pride, because of [the danger of] renewed and undesired inclination [for lower levels of existence]. (3.51)

Through [the practice of] constraint upon the moment (kshana) [of time] and its sequence [the yogin obtains] the wisdom born of discernment. (3.52)

Thence [arises for him] the awareness of [the difference between] similars that cannot normally be distinguished due to an indeterminateness of the distinctions of species, appearance, and position. (3.53)

The wisdom born of discernment is the "deliverer" (târaka), and is omniobjective, omnitemporal, and nonsequential. (3.54)

With [the attainment of] equality in purity between the Self and the sattva, the aloneness [of the Power of seeing is established]. End (iti). (3.55)

..IV. Kaivalya-Pâda ("Chapter on Liberation")

The powers (siddhi) are the result of birth, herbs, mantras, asceticism, or ecstasy. (4.1)

Comments: This aphorism rightly belongs to the previous chapter. Its appearance here can be explained by the fact that the commentators have misunderstood the intent of the opening sûtras of the present chapter.

The transformation into another species (jâti) [is possible] because of the superabundance of Nature. (4.2)

Comments: This and the following aphorisms have generally been understood to refer to the magical power of creating artificial body-minds upon which the yogin transfers his own karma. But a careful reading of this section suggests a more philosophical interpretation. For, it appears, what Patanjali is explaining here is the process of individuation, as it applies to the cosmos itself.

The incidental cause (nimitta) does not initiate the creations (prakriti), but [merely is responsible for] the singling out of possibilities–like a farmer [who irrigates a field by selecting appropriate pathways for the water]. (4.3)

The individualized consciousnesses (nirmâna-citta) [proceed] from the essential I-am-ness (asmitâ-mâtra). (4.4)

[Although the numerous individualized consciousnesses are engaged] in distinct activities, the one (eka) consciousness is the originator of [all] the others. (4.5)

Of these [individualized consciousnesses that consciousness which is] born of meditation is without [karmic] deposit. (4.6)

The karma of a yogin is neither black nor white; for others it is threefold [i.e., mixed]. (4.7)

Thence [follows] the manifestation of only those traits (vâsanâ) [in the depths of consciousness] that correspond to the fruition of their [particular karma]. (4.8)

On account of the uniformity between the [deep] memory and the activators (samskâra) [there is] a continuity [between the manifestation of the subliminal activators and the karmic cause], even though [cause and effect] may be separated [in terms of] place, time, and species. (4.9)

Comments: This aphorism explains, in a somewhat obscure fashion, that the karmic link between a person’s previous existence and the present life is not arbitrary. It is preserved by the subliminal activators. Thus, nobody suffers any karmic injustice. Every individual reaps what he or she has sown in former lives.

And these [activators in the depths of consciousness] are without beginning because of the perpetuity of the primordial will [inherent in nature]. (4.10)

Because of the connection [of the traits in the depths of consciousness] with the [karmic] cause, the fruit, the substratum, and the support, [it follows that] with the disappearance of these [factors], the disappearance of those [traits is likewise brought about]. (4.11)

Past and future as such exist because of the [visible] difference in the [developmental] paths of the forms (dharma) [produced by Nature]. (4.12)

These [forms] are manifest or subtle and composed of the [three] constituents (guna). (4.13)

The "thatness" (tattva) of an object [stems] from the homogeneity in the transformations [of the primary constituents (guna) of Nature]. (4.14)

Comments: By "thatness" is meant the peculiar stability that gives one the impression of there being a solid object, whereas everything is constantly in a state of flux, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus realized many centuries before Patanjali.

In view of the multiplicity of consciousnesses [as opposed to] the singleness of [perceived] objects, both [belong to] separate levels [of existence]. (4.15)

And the object is not dependent on a single consciousness; this is unprovable; besides, what could [such an imaginary object possibly] be? (*4.16)

Comments: This aphorism is missing in some of the Sanskrit manuscripts, and it is quite likely that it belongs to Vyâsa’s Yoga-Bhâshya. The idea expressed here is that objects have an independent existence. This implies a rejection of the radical idealism of certain schools of Mahâyâna Buddhism.

An object is known or not known by reason of the required "coloration" (uparâga) of consciousness by that [object]. (4.17)

The fluctuations of consciousness are always known by their "superior," because of the immutability of the Self. (4.18)

Comments: The transcendental Self, which undergoes no change, is held to be superior to the changeable forms and realms of Nature, which includes the finite consciousness.

That [consciousness] has no self-luminosity because of its being seen [by the Self]. (4.19)

Comments: It is a common notion of Indian thought that only the Self has its own light, whereas the finite or empirical consciousness is, like the moon, illuminated by borrowed light.

And [this implies] the impossibility-of-cognizing both [consciousness and object] simultaneously. (4.20)

If consciousness were perceived by another [consciousness], [this would lead to an infinite] regress from cognition (buddhi) to cognition and the confusion of memory. (4.21)

When the unchanging Awareness (citi) assumes the shape of that [consciousness], experience of one’s own cognitions [is made possible]. (4.22)

[Provided that] consciousness is "colored" by the Seer and the Seen, [it can perceive] any object. (4.23)

Comments: For the ordinary human consciousness to exist, there must be the presence of the transcendental Self (the Seer) and of Nature (the Seen) in its countless forms.

That [consciousness], though speckled with countless traits (vâsanâ), is other-purposed due to [its being limited to] collaborative activity. (4.24)7

Comments: Even though consciousness is a mechanism of Nature, it shares in the great developmental orientation of Nature, which is, ultimately, to bring about Self-realization, or liberation.

For him who sees the distinction [between the Self and the sattva, there comes about] the discontinuation of the projection of the [false] self-sense (âtma-bhâva). (4.25)

Then consciousness, inclined toward discernment, is borne onward toward the aloneness (kaivalya) [of the Power of seeing]. (4.26)

In the intervals of that [involuting consciousness], other [new] ideas [may arise] from the activators [in the depths of consciousness]. (4.27)

Their cessation [is accomplished by the same means] as described [in aphorism 2.10] for the causes-of-affliction (klesha). (4.28)

For [the yogin who is] always nonexploitative even in [the state of elevation, there follows], through the vision of discernment, the ecstasy called "dharma cloud" (dharma-megha). (4.29)

Comments: It is not clear what the precise meaning of the term dharma is here. Some translators have rendered it as "virtue," but at that level of ecstatic realization, it makes little sense to speak of the yogin as virtuous or not virtuous. He has transcended the moral categories of ordinary life. More appropriately, dharma could here be understood, as in certain Buddhist contexts, to refer to the primal Reality. In other words, at the consummation of the vision of discernment, the yogin is, as it were, enveloped by the Self. This ecstasy is a transitional phase that removes all spiritual ignorance and therefore all its fateful repercussions (such as karma and suffering), and is followed directly by the event of liberation.

Thence [follows] the discontinuation of the causes-of-affliction (klesha) and of karma. (4.30)

Then, [when] all coverings of imperfection are removed, little [remains] to be known because of the infinity of the [resulting] wisdom. (4.31)

Thence [comes about] the termination of the sequences in the transformations of the constituents (guna) [of Nature] whose purpose is fulfilled. (4.32)

Sequence is [that which is] correlative to the moment [of time], apprehensible at the extreme end of a [particular] transformation. (4.33)

Comments: Patanjali argues that there is a correlation between the unit of time, called "moment" (kshana), and the ultimate unit of the process of transformation, called "sequence" (krama). This atomistic conception of time foreshadows contemporary ideas about the discontinuous nature of time and of the space-time continuum.

The involution (pratisarga) of the constituents (guna), [which are now] devoid of purpose for the Self, is [what is called] the aloneness [of the Power of seeing], or the establishment of the Power of Awareness (citi-shakti) in its essential form. End (iti). (4.34)

Comments: Upon Self-realization, or liberation, the fundamental constituents (guna) of the adept’s body-mind have no further purpose and so gradually resolve back into the transcendental ground of Nature. This implies that Patanjali looks upon Self-realization as coinciding with the death of the finite body-mind. What remains is the eternal Witness, the Power of Awareness, or Self (purusha).

© 2000 Georg Feuerstein