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The Study and Practice of Yoga

An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


Chapter 110: Recapitulation and Conclusion

Now we conclude our study of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which has taken a long course of circuitous movements through various processes of description and practice, right from the enunciation that the principle of yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the stuff of the mind.

Samadhi Pada

The Samadhi Pada, which we covered in Volume One of this book, was how the sutras begin their long statement of the whole practice. At the very beginning itself, in two succinct sutras, we are given the essence of the whole matter: yogaḥ cittavṛtti nirodhaḥ (I.2) and tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe avasthānam (I.3). These two sutras are the whole of yoga, really speaking: what is to be done, and what happens if it is done. These two things are mentioned in these two short statements: yoga is the control of the mind, and then there is the establishment of the purusha in his own nature. This is yoga. But though it is such a short statement of a great problem, the methods to be adopted in the achievement of this purpose have to be explained in greater detail.

Therefore, the analysis of the mind has to be made in order that we may know how the mind can be controlled. We say that the control of the mind is yoga; but, what is ‘mind’? How does it function, and what are the modifications which we are trying to control through the process of yoga? The nomenclature of the various vrittis, or the modifications of the mind, is given subsequently so that we may have an idea as to what are those vrittis which we have to tackle or grapple with – the klishta klesas and the aklishta klesas, as Patanjali puts it – that is, the transformation of the mind in respect of an object, which causes pain and sometimes does not cause pain. Both these are vrittis; both these are modifications which have to be stopped in order that there can be a reflection of the purusha-consciousness in the mind. How can this be achieved? How are we going to tackle the mind? How do we subdue the modifications?

We are told that there are two principal methods, vairagya and abhyasa: abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṁ tannirodhaḥ (I.12). The masterstroke of Patanjali’s method may be said to be what is called the double attack on the mind, namely, vairagya and abhyasa, the detachment of the mind from objects of sense – not only objects of sense, but even conceptual objects – and the habituation of the mind to a steady practice on a given concept of the nature of Reality. Then Patanjali explains what the practice is.

Patanjali proceeds very systematically, giving us a detailed account of the practice which follows – the immediate withdrawal of the mind from the objects by means of the practice of vairagya. We are given the methods of meditation, the samadhis or the samapattis, as they are called – savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvichara, sananda and sasmita – the processes by which the mind rises gradually, stage by stage, from the grosser to the subtler levels in its communion, in its meditations. But, one should not imagine that this is an easy process. The author immediately mentions to us that there are serious obstacles; nine obstacles are mentioned, which are also accentuated by certain other subsidiary obstacles.

One has to be cautious, therefore, in spite of the fact that there is a great energy put forth towards the direction of yoga, because these obstacles are very strong. Hence, a detailed statement is made of what these obstacles are and how they can be overcome. Methods are prescribed, subsequently, by giving certain techniques of lower forms of meditation on lesser degrees of reality, so that there is not a direct attack upon the mind but a gradual control effected through stages, so that one does not feel the pain of the restrictions that are imposed upon one’s own self – the mind. Then, a conclusion is brought about towards the end of the Samadhi Pada by describing the higher states of the communion of the mind with Reality – the samapattis, or samadhis, rising from what they call the sabija, or the samprajnata samadhi, to the higher state of absolute samadhinirbija. This is the content, essentially, of the Samadhi Pada, and we are told that the teachings given in this section are meant for the highest type of aspirant, not for beginners.

Sadhana Pada

In the Sadhana Pada details are given in a more diffused form for beginners, where a further analysis is made on the nature of the painful modifications of the mind – the afflictions which cause agony to the whole system: avidya, asmita, raga, dvesa and abhinivesa. It is these afflictions, these modifications which cause pain, that are the causes of karma. There is a description of the nature of karma and how karma binds – how the impressions formed in the process of the experience of objects cause bondage by creating in the mind certain grooves which compel the manifestation of similar experience in the future, and so on. The karmas have to be broken through by a discipline, and those disciplines are described through the eight stages of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, of which the stages up to pratyahara are dealt with in the Sadhana Pada.

Vibhuti Pada

The stages up to pratyahara are designated as the outer court of yoga, the inner court beginning with the Vibhuti Pada – dharana, dhyana and samadhi. A definition is given of what these techniques of concentration, meditation and samadhi are, and how samyama can be practised. That is, direct communion can be effected by the application of these methods mentioned earlier. What happens to the mind in the process of communion, what modifications it undergoes, is also described through the transformations, or parinamas as Patanjali puts it – nirodha parinama, samadhi parinama and ekagrata parinama. Consequently, and conversely, we are also told that there is a similar process of transformation taking place in the objects and the whole universe – the bhutas, or the elements, and the indriyas, or the senses – by such names which are given in the sutra as dharma, laksana, avastha, etc.

Then we are told that the practice of samyama can lead to great powers, and these powers are classified as the objective, the subjective and the absolute. The objective powers are those that are experienced by the control of the elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether – by a communion with them in deep meditation and the entry of the mind into the structure of the elements internally, by which the mind gains control over the constituents of the whole of prakriti, namely, the grosser forms which are controlled earlier, and later on the subtler ones come into manifestation. It is mentioned that such mastery is effected through the control of the five elements, and that things become possible for the yogin which are usually impossible for the ordinary human being.

Then it is said that, subsequently, there is also a perfection of the body. The perfection that one gains due to the concentration of the mind on the elements brings about a simultaneous effect upon the body also, because the body is made up of the five elements. Then there is a tremendous control gained over the mind, which enables the yogin to materialise his thoughts and to bring about such transformations in the outer world which correspond to the thoughts of the mind of the yogin.

While various other perfections of this kind have been enumerated, the last perfection is said to be the absolution of the spirit – namely, the liberation of the soul – for which greater effort is needed than the efforts put forth for the purpose of the control of the elements, the perfection of the body and the restriction of the senses. This is because, in the last few sutras towards the end of the Vibhuti Pada where we are given an idea as to the process of the liberation of the spirit, we are also told that it is a question of increase in knowledge – width as well as depth – and not merely a possession of objects.

We are clearly told that liberation is not a possession of an object, but it is an enlightenment and an awakening of consciousness into its true nature, whereby it comprehends all things in its perfection in such a manner that the objects become part and parcel of its own being. This is something very peculiar. That is, we are told with sufficient emphasis that what we call the objects of the world, which are presented before the senses and over which we usually try to gain control or mastery, are part and parcel of this knowledge which is gained at the time of the liberation of the soul, so that knowledge is not a process of information. It is not a gathering of learning in the sense of academic knowledge that we gain in universities, but a grasp of insight into the nature of things – an entry into the constitution of the object, so that the object becomes part and parcel of the being of the subject – and then knowledge becomes infinite. Thus is the conclusion of the Vibhuti Pada of Patanjali.

Kaivalya Pada

In the Kaivalya Pada we are given some further detail as to the nature of the relation that exists between the mind and the object, together with certain descriptions of the processes of the nemesis of karma which follow as a consequence of the perceptions of objects through the mind. In a sense, we may say that the Kaivalya Pada is metaphysical and psychological, as well as ethical. The philosophical parts of the Kaivalya Pada, which deal particularly with the nature of the mind in greater detail than is done in earlier padas, can be said to be intended for clarifying the subject of samyama, because the practice of meditation is a grappling with the contents of the mind. It is a question of restraining one’s own self over the emotions of one’s own self in order that there can be a harmony between the concepts of the mind and the process of objects outside.

It is pointed out, by implication, through these sutras in the Kaivalya Pada, that samyama, or the ultimate practice in yoga, is a bringing about of harmony between the processes of thought and the objects outside. It is told to us that the objects transform themselves constantly, and they influence the mind to such an extent that the form of the object is conceived by the mind in a negative manner, by means of a reception an of impress from the object. The mind only reproduces the form that is cast in the mould of its own body on account of the cognition of objects, so that, in a sense, it looks like the objects control the mind. This is what usually happens in our public world – the world controls the individual. But, a reverse process takes place in yoga – the individual controls the world. That is effected by a rising from the individual mind to the Cosmic Mind, which is very subtly pointed out in some of the sutras.

We had some occasion to dilate upon this theme particularly – that the individual mind cannot control the world because the world is vaster. What is required in the practice of yoga is to overcome the limitations of the individual mind and remove all those veils and obstructions, or obscurations, or impurities which make the mind appear as if it is individual, located in space and in time, and make it commensurate with the universal substance. Then what happens is, the Cosmic Mind takes possession of the individual mind. The individual rises to the Cosmic. There are no such things as individual mind and Cosmic Mind, ultimately – they are one and the same thing. But on account of a particular stress that is laid on certain points in the Cosmic Mind, there arises what is called the individual. This has to be set right by the practice of samyama.

The concentration of the mind on the object, as prescribed in the system of yoga, is the secret of the turning of the individual to the Cosmic. Whenever the object is presented outside, there is a subjugation of the mind by the powers of nature. This is set right by the communion that is effected in samyama. The mind concentrates upon the object in such a way that the objectivity of the object ceases and it becomes a part of the subject. Then it is that the secret takes place – a miracle works. The miracle is that the peculiar features or factors which appeared to control the mind, and those features which put the mind under subjection, are completely eliminated by that miracle that is worked in the process of samyama, or communion.


Now, we are at the last sutra: puruṣārtha śūnyānāṁ guṇānāṁ pratiprasavaḥ kaivalyaṁ svarūpapratiṣṭhā vā citiśaktiḥ iti (IV.34). This is the last sutra of Patanjali. He gives a double definition of moksha, or salvation. It is, on the one side, a return of the gunas of prakriti to their original source and the dissolution of the forms which were constituted by the concrescence of the gunas due to the preponderance of certain of their forms – either sattva, rajas or tamas. When the purpose of these gunas is fulfilled through the experiences that the purusha has been provided with, there is no further work to be done for the gunas and the workmen retire to their home, as it were. They go back because the work has been completed, and there is a cessation of the forms which once controlled the mind, affected the mind and put it under bondage. So, in one sense, the return of the gunas to their sources, or a setting up of an equilibrium of the Cosmos, can be said to be liberation. On the other side, svarūpapratiṣṭhā vā citiśaktiḥ iti: the establishment of consciousness in its own nature is salvation. This is a positive definition.

The consciousness should rest in itself. That is called freedom. And when the consciousness moves towards an object, that is called bondage. Here is a very succinct definition of bondage and liberation. Whenever the mind moves towards an object, it is caught by the appearance of the object and it transforms itself into the form of the object as if it has no status of its own. This predicament has to be obviated by the practice of meditation. When that is effected, the modifications of the mind cease. The modifications cease, the vrittis cease, because the forms do not any more attract the mind. There is no impression created upon the mind by the objects outside and, therefore, there is the return of the mind to its own nature. And when the mind returns to consciousness, it ceases to be, like a drop dissolving in the ocean.

When consciousness rests in itself, what happens? There is an immediate experience of the rain, as it were – as the sutra puts it, dharma-megha – of all power, all knowledge and all perfection, showering from every direction. The perfection, the power, and the knowledge that the individual has lost are brought back on account of the return of consciousness to its own self. The weakness of the individual is due to the movement of consciousness towards objects, and the strength depends upon the reverse process. The more is the intensity with which consciousness returns from the objects to itself, the greater is the strength of the individual. And so, the highest strength, the greatest knowledge and the deepest bliss or happiness are experienced when all the ramifications of consciousness, or rays of consciousness, are brought back to itself and there is a resting of the Infinite in Itself.

With this, we conclude with obeisance to the Great Master Patanjali and the System of Yoga as described by him.

Hari Om Tat Sat!

Ōm pūrṇam adah, pūrṇam idam,
pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate;
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya
pūrṇam evāvasisyate.

Ōm Śāntih! Śāntih! Śāntih!

Ōm Tat Sat Brahmārpanamastu.

God bless you!