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The Study and Practice of Yoga

An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


Chapter 106: The Dual Pull of Purusha and Objects

The awareness of the mind in any given condition is constituted of two phases – namely, the object side and the subject side. It is like a buffer standing between the object on one side and the atman, or the purusha, on the other side. Therefore, it has intimation from two different directions, and it combines the messages received from the purusha and the objects at one and the same time. This point is elucidated in one sutra of Patanjali which says: draṣṭṛ dṛśya uparaktaṁ cittaṁ sarvārtham (IV.23). Drastr and drisya mean the subject and the object. Uparaktam cittam: the mind is influenced by both these. It is standing in between the true subject, which is the purusha, and the object. Thus, it has a character of the object, and also a character of the subject, so that the combination of these two factors makes it a very enigmatic something. We cannot say whether it is something belonging to the world of objects, or something which is transcendent – namely, spiritual in nature.

The mind cannot be easily studied because it has the character of materiality as well as spirituality both combined. The spiritual impact which it receives from the purusha makes it appear intelligent and assume the character of the subject itself, while the impact that it receives from the objects makes it coloured in respect of the objects, and it takes the shape of the objects. Sarvartham means objectively conscious in variegated manners. The mind has various objects presented before it on account of its peculiar position between the absolute object and the absolute subject. The absolute object is the material that is presented before the mind. The absolute subject is the purusha, or the transcendent consciousness. Hence, we are pulled from two different directions as minds in our individual capacities. We have an urge from the purusha side, and also an urge from the object side. So we can imagine our status in this world.

We are influenced by two contrary sides, or realms, at one and the same time. Thus it is that we entertain desires for objects and get contaminated by the various modifications of objects. There is a tremendous impress made upon the mind by the transformations which the objects undergo in the world outside. But, at the same time, there is also a higher aspiration present in us. We are mortals with an immortal aspiration. This peculiar characteristic in us is due to this juncture at which the mind is placed, by which it is mortal and immortal at the same time – immortal because it has the vision of what is behind it, from where it receives intimations of immortal contents transcending its present existence. But on the other side it is mortal, caught up in the meshes of objective experience and desiring the varieties of satisfaction which constitute this world of phenomenality.

It is a very peculiar situation in which the mind is placed. We are pulled from the earth side as well as from side of the heavens, from the objective side and from the subjective side, from the material side and from the spiritual side, from the external side and from the internal side, and so on – in umpteen different manifold ways.

This mind is constituted of many vasanas,or impressions of past experience, as we studied in one of the earlier sutras. The mind is not a compact, single, indivisible substance. It is a picturesque complex in whose bosom we can find infinite varieties of impressions which have been accumulated there on account of the experiences it has passed through in the various lives, or incarnations, since aeons. Tat asaṅkhyeya vāsanābhiḥ citram api parāthaṁ saṁhatyakāritvāt (IV.24): It is picturesque and variegated on account of containing an infinite number of impressions of past experience, which become the causative factors of future experience of a similar kind. Yet, with all this infinite content of vasanas, or impressions, within itself, the mind is not absolutely independent. Parartham: It is dependent. It is dependent because its very function is directed by the energy of something which is different from itself. The energy for the function of the mind comes from the purusha, the Supreme Transcendent Being.

Samhatyakaritvat: The mind is an assemblage of vasanas. An assemblage, or a group of varieties of contents, cannot be regarded as a permanent, solid entity because anything that is made up of parts is subject to disintegration and dismemberment. The inner constituents of the mind are subject to modification of pattern, and this change in the pattern of the variety of contents inside the mind is the cause of the change of personality, or individuality – or in other words, we may say the cause of what we call rebirth. A complete reconstitution of the inner contents of the mind requires a corresponding vehicle, materially, for the purpose of expressing the urges of this reconstituted mind; and this new vehicle that is manufactured, or brought into being, by the requirements of this newly constituted pattern – that is the new birth of the body.

Thus, the mind that is made up of many vasanas, or impressions, that is variegated in its nature and multifarious in the various levels of its constitution is not independent by itself. Its functions are for another purpose altogether – the purpose being transcendent to its own existence. What is the purpose? The purpose of the mind is the purpose of the universe itself. What is the purpose of the universe? Why is there evolution? Why is there change? Why is there activity? Why is there effort? The answer to these questions is also the answer to the other question: why is the mind functioning at all in the direction of objects with the energy that it receives from the purusha?

The purpose of the functions of the mind is the evolution of the individual for the attainment of perfection, which is called kaivalya or moksha. It does not act unnecessarily. It is not an aimless activity in which the mind is engaged. Even the so-called erroneous meanderings of the mind in the desert of samsara are with a purpose. The purpose is the search for that which it has lost – namely, the noumenon, the supreme purusha, the Absolute.

Every activity of every individual in any manner whatsoever, under any condition, is a movement towards the Absolute, whether it is consciously directed or otherwise. When the meaning of these movements is not consciously clear and we are helplessly, as it were, driven forward by forces of which we have no consciousness, then it becomes a blind activity, a kind of determinism reigning supreme over our heads. Many a time we are under the impression that we are unaware, pushed forward by the forces of nature. That we are unaware of the intentions of the movements of nature is a different matter altogether, but unawareness does not rule out the meaning that is hidden in these movements. The total movement of nature towards Self-realisation is inclusive of all the activities of the mind also, because the mind is a part of the universal nature in its rarefied form. Thus, the movement of the mind towards objects is a blind activity it engages itself in for the purpose of the recognition of a perfection which it has lost – not knowing, at the same time, that its movements are not compatible with the conscious intentions of the integration of being, which is its ultimate purpose.

Externally and internally, the mind moves at different times according to the intensity of the pressure it receives either from the purusha or from the objects. As it was stated in the sutra, the mind is influenced by the objects on one side and the purusha on the other side. If the pressure from the purusha is more, we are religiously inclined, spiritually motivated and aspiring in noble directions. But if the pressure from the objects is more intense, then we are sensually inclined and we run after the enjoyments of the world of objects.

Hence, there is this double activity of the mind. Nevertheless, in all this that has been said about the mind, the sutra makes out that the mind is material; it is dependent – non-independent – an assemblage of groups of vasanas which are likely to be transformed at any time, which are subject to modification and are, therefore, not permanent. The mind is entirely intended for the purpose of the evolution of the individual towards the realisation of perfection in the purusha. Viśeṣadarśinaḥ ātmabhāva bhāvanānivṛttiḥ (IV.25) is the sutra which follows. The consciousness of individual self, and even the consciousness of effort of any kind, ceases when there is an awareness of the purusha as distinct from prakriti. This is a literal rendering of this sutra.

There is a perpetual feeling in us about our own selves, which lies at the background of even altruistic activities. Even our movements in the direction of social work and humanitarian activity is rooted in a peculiar self-sense, and this is what is called atmabhava bhavana. We are never rid of this consciousness of ourselves at any time. Sometimes we are faintly aware of ourselves being there as individuals. Sometimes we are intensely aware; but we are never totally unaware. The identification of consciousness with this self-sense, or individuality, is a part of our empirical existence, and it is second nature to us. It is ‘we’ ourselves, and everything starts from this seed of the affirmation of the self-sense.

We have to exist first as something, as constituted of a certain character, a meaning, or a significance. From this existence of ours as an individual associated with certain attributes arises various other types of meaning. This self-sense, which is the root of this activity in this world – whatever be the nature of that activity – does not cease even in different reincarnations. Even if we take many births, the self-sense will not cease, because it is that self-sense which is the cause of the reincarnations, or rebirths, and it is that which undergoes this process of transformation in the form of reincarnation.

Thus, there is no abolition of personality, at any time, throughout the processes or series of births and deaths of the individual. But it ceases only at one time – when time itself ceases to exist. In the timeless awareness of the purusha, the self-sense ceases to exist. It expires in the experience of the purusha; it overcomes itself in a larger recognition of a higher self, where this lower self gets absorbed and consumed with no residuum whatsoever. As camphor burns and exhausts itself with no residuum, this self-sense, or individuality, gets consumed in the fire of the flame of the purusha-consciousness and it does not exist any more. There is only one self, which is the Self of the purusha, and not the many selves, or individuals.

When the individual self-sense recognises the existence of this purusha, it at once directs itself towards the purusha. Visesa darsi, a peculiar term used in this sutra, means one who has the awareness of the difference between the true subject and the object. The true subject is the purusha who appears to be involved in world perception through the mind, which is the cause of bondage; and when the knowledge arises in oneself as to the true nature of the ultimate subject, which is infinite in nature and not empirical, then all empiricality or objectivity gets resolved into its original cause. Then this self-sense, or atmabhava bhavana – ‘I exist’ consciousness – ceases, and there is an utter annihilation of every experience that follows from the existence of the self-sense, namely, bondage of every kind. Then what happens?

When the mind is directed in this way towards the annihilation of self in the realisation of the purusha, there is an inclination towards moksha. It is almost the same thing; the inclination towards purusha and the inclination towards moksha mean the same thing, because purusha is moksha and moksha is purusha. Therefore, the two sutras, which go together, almost convey the same meaning. Viśeṣadarśinaḥ ātmabhāva bhāvanānivṛttiḥ (IV.25) and tadā vivekanimnaṁ kaivalya prāgbhāraṁ cittam (IV.26). These two sutras have an almost identical meaning, making out that when the mind is inclined towards the discrimination between purusha and prakriti, when there is the rise of right understanding in respect of things, the mind gravitates towards liberation.

Kaivalya pragbharam cittam is a very significant term which means the mind is laden heavy with the consciousness of liberation. It is inclined towards liberation, while now it is inclined towards objects of sense due to the gravitation or the force exerted by objects towards the mind. When this gravitational pull ceases or is diminished in its intensity, the mind is able to move in the other direction and feel the pull of the purusha. Vivekanimnam – inclined towards understanding. The understanding that is spoken of here is not the understanding we have in this world. In a sense, we can all be said to be endowed with a sort of understanding. Everyone has some understanding. But here, we speak of a different type of understanding which is a superior knowledge of the higher nature of the individual, which is different from the understanding which is associated with the lower nature connected with objects. The inclination of the citta, or the mind, towards right understanding means the inwardisation of consciousness, an introversion of the spirit towards its own self, and an awakening which follows, compelling the mind to incline towards the purusha.

All this is hard stuff for us to understand, because we cannot understand what it means – how the mind can incline towards the purusha when it is now inclined towards the objects. We are not aware, even now, that the mind is gravitating towards objects, because we have become one with the objects. We have become object-consciousness so forcefully that we cannot even be conscious that there is something other than the object world. Hence we cannot grasp, at the present moment, what it means when the mind traverses this realm of object-consciousness and goes to a different realm of a different gravitation altogether.

When the purusha begins to pull the mind, there is a pull received from every direction while, when the object pulls, we are pulled only from one direction. There is a great difference in this gravitation. Every object does not pull us at the same time. It is only one object that pulls us at one time. Sometimes one or two objects may join together and pull us for a particular purpose. But the pull of the purusha, or the gravitational force exerted by the purusha, is universal in character. It will call us from every nook and corner. It is a summons that is received from every quarter of the universe because the purusha is everywhere, while the objects are not everywhere. The object cannot call us from all directions because it is in one place only. Thus, we are inclined sensorily in one direction when the object calls us, and there is an attachment of the mind towards one object.

When the purusha calls, there is an efflorescence of the mind – an opening of the bud of the flower of the mind, as it were – wherein it becomes aware of the call it receives from the whole universe. The call of the purusha is the call of the universe. The universe is the face of the purusha. It is the expression of the purusha in the sense that the purusha is manifest through the things of the universe. We will feel a kind of sensation in respect of anything and everything around us as if they are friendly, as if they are one with us, as if we are living in a family that is spread out around us, wherever we are placed in this world. This is a rare and novel experience in a higher state of spiritual aspiration and experience, and it cannot be understood in the beginning stages. We will be friendly and at home at any place in the world, in any circumstance. Even in a dustbin we will find heaven, if this call comes. But until this call comes, we cannot appreciate or understand the meaning of the way in which the mind is gravitated towards the purusha.

Well, this is a very high and lofty state of experience which the sutra refers to, and it is a question of practice. When we actually enter into the practice of yoga, we will pass through all these stages. We will pass through stages of various kinds of pull exerted in many ways, by various things, so that at the different levels through which we pass, different things will look real and satisfying. But, it is only in the last stage, where we can perceive the dawn of the consciousness of the purusha, that the meaning of this pull can be properly grasped. Until that time, there will be movement from one side or the other side, and there will be an experiment made by the mind in respect of one object or two objects, or groups of objects. Actually, it is the purusha that is searched for in the objects of sense. We do not want objects; we want the purusha only. Even in this wretched condition, it is the purusha that we are asking for, not anything else. But the blinkers of the mind, which prevent its perception of the universal that is present in particulars, has become the cause of an intensification or attachment in respect of groups of objects.

Thus, there are very great difficulties on the way towards getting over the pulls of even one level. At each level there is a great force exerted upon us by the laws of that particular realm, so that when we are on the earth, the earth plane pulls us so forcefully, so powerfully, that we cannot have even the idea that there is another realm existing. When we are liberated from the clutches of this force of the earth-consciousness, we will find ourselves in another realm, and there the laws of that level will have an impression upon us and exert pressure upon us. There, again, we will have a new consciousness of a new world of new experience, and that realm will be regarded as the only reality. At every stage of experience, in every level or realm, that particular realm only will be regarded as the whole reality so that neither the past will be known, nor will we be aware of the future.

All these stages have to be passed through, and many births may have to be taken to become fit to receive the conscious call of the purusha. Manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yadati siddhaye, yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ (B.G. VII.3). After thousands and thousands of births in various species of beings, we come to the level of this consciousness of there being something transcendent and spiritual. And even among those who are so conscious, a few only will succeed, says this famous verse of the Bhagavadgita.