Yoga Sutras/Book I

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Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, translated by Charles Johnston
Book I

BOOK I

1. OM: Here follows Instruction in Union.

Union, here as always in the Scriptures of India, means union of the individual soul with the Oversoul; of the personal consciousness with the Divine Consciousness, whereby the mortal becomes immortal, and enters the Eternal. Therefore, salvation is, first, freedom from sin and the sorrow which comes from sin, and then a divine and eternal well-being, wherein the soul partakes of the being, the wisdom and glory of God.

2. Union, spiritual consciousness, is gained through control of the versatile psychic nature.

The goal is the full consciousness of the spiritual man, illumined by the Divine Light. Nothing except the obdurate resistance of the psychic nature keeps us back from the goal. The psychical powers are spiritual powers run wild, perverted, drawn from their proper channel. Therefore our first task is, to regain control of this perverted nature, to chasten, purify and restore the misplaced powers.

3. Then the Seer comes to consciousness in his proper nature.

Egotism is but the perversion of spiritual being. Ambition is the inversion of spiritual power. Passion is the distortion of love. The mortal is the limitation of the immortal. When these false images give place to true, then the spiritual man stands forth luminous, as the sun, when the clouds disperse.

4. Heretofore the Seer has been enmeshed in the activities of the psychic nature.

The power and life which are the heritage of the spiritual man have been caught and enmeshed in psychical activities. Instead of pure being in the Divine, there has been fretful, combative. egotism, its hand against every man. Instead of the light of pure vision, there have been restless senses nave been re and imaginings. Instead of spiritual joy, the undivided joy of pure being, there has been self-indulgence of body and mind. These are all real forces, but distorted from their true nature and goal. They must be extricated, like gems from the matrix, like the pith from the reed, steadily, without destructive violence. Spiritual powers are to be drawn forth from the }'sychic meshes.

5. The psychic activities are five; they are either subject or not subject to the five hindrances (Book II, 3).

The psychic nature is built up through the image-making power, the power which lies behind and dwells in mind- pictures. These pictures do not remain quiescent in the mind; they are kinetic, restless, stimulating to new acts. Thus the mind-image of an indulgence suggests and invites to a new indulgence; the picture of past joy is framed in regrets or hopes. And there is the ceaseless play of the desire to know, to penetrate to the essence of things, to classify. This, too, busies itself ceaselessly with the mind-images. So that we may classify the activities of the psychic nature thus:

6. These activities are: Sound intellection, unsound intellection, predication, sleep, memory.

We have here a list of mental and emotional powers; of powers that picture and observe, and of powers that picture and feel. But the power to know and feel is spiritual and immortal. What is needed is, not to destroy it, but to raise it from the psychical to the spiritual realm.

7. The elements of sound intellection are: direct observation, inductive reason, and trustworthy testimony.

Each of these is a spiritual power, thinly veiled. Direct observation is the outermost form of the Soul's pure vision. Inductive reason rests on the great principles of continuity and correspondence; and these, on the supreme truth that all life is of the One. Trustworthy testimony, the sharing of one soul in the wisdom of another, rests on the ultimate oneness of all souls.

8. Unsound intellection is false understanding, not resting on a perception of the true nature of things.

When the object is not truly perceived, when the observation is inaccurate and faulty. thought or reasoning based on that mistaken perception is of necessity false and unsound.

9. Predication is carried on through words or thoughts not resting on an object perceived.

The purpose of this Sutra is, to distinguish between the mental process of predication, and observation, induction or testimony. Predication is the attribution of a quality or action to a subject, by adding to it a predicate. In the sentence, "the man is wise," "the man" is the subject; "is wise" is the predicate. This may be simply an interplay of thoughts, without the presence of the object thought of; or the things thought of may be imaginary or unreal; while observation, induction and testimony always go back to an object.

10. Sleep is the psychic condition which rests on mind states, all material things being absent.

In waking life, we have two currents of perception; an outer current of physical things seen and heard and perceived; an inner current of mind-images and thoughts. The outer current ceases in sleep; the inner current continues, and watching the mind-images float before the field of consciousness, we "dream Even when there are no dreams, there is still a certain consciousness in sleep, so that, on waking, one says, "I have slept well," or "I have slept badly."

11. Memory is holding to mind-images of things perceived, without modifying them.

Here, as before, the mental power is explained in terms of mind-images, which are the material of which the psychic world is built, Therefore the sages teach that the world of our perception, which is indeed a world of mind-images, is but the wraith or shadow of the real and everlasting world. In this sense, memory is but the psychical inversion of the spiritual, ever-present vision. That which is ever before the spiritual eye of the Seer needs not to be remembered.

12. The control of these psychic activities comes through the right use of the will, and through ceasing from self- indulgence.

If these psychical powers and energies, even such evil things as passion and hate and fear, are but spiritual powers fallen and perverted, how are we to bring about their release and restoration ? Two means are presented to us: the awakening of the spiritual will, and the purification of mind and thought.

13. The right use of the will is the steady, effort to stand in spiritual being.

We have thought of ourselves, perhaps, as creatures moving upon this earth, rather helpless, at the mercy of storm and hunger and our enemies. We are to think of ourselves as immortals, dwelling in the Light, encompassed and sustained by spiritual powers. The steady effort to hold this thought will awaken dormant and unrealized powers, which will unveil to us the nearness of the Eternal.

14. This becomes a firm resting-place, when followed long, persistently, with earnestness.

We must seek spiritual life in conformity with the laws of spiritual life, with earnestness, humility, gentle charity, which is an acknowledgment of the One Soul within us all. Only through obedience to that shared Life, through perpetual remembrance of our oneness with all Divine Being, our nothingness apart from Divine Being, can we enter our inheritance.

15. Ceasing from self-indulgence is con- scious mastery over the thirst for sensuous pleasure here or hereafter.

Rightly understood, the desire for sensation is the desire of being, the distortion of the soul's eternal life. The lust of sensual stimulus and excitation rests on the longing to feel one's life keenly, to gain the sense of being really alive. This sense of true life comes only with the coming of the soul, and the soul comes only in silence, after self-indulgence has been courageously and loyally stilled, through reverence before the coming soul.

16. The consummation of this is freedom from thirst for any mode of psychical activity, through the establishment of the spiritual man.

In order to gain a true understanding of this teaching, study must be supplemented by devoted practice, faith by works. The reading of the words will not avail. There must be a real effort to stand as the Soul, a real ceasing from self-indulgence. With this awakening of the spiritual will, and purification, will come at once the growth of the spiritual man and our awakening consciousness as the spiritual man; and this, attained in even a small degree, will help us notably in our contest. To him that hath, shall be given.

17. Meditation with an object follows these stages: first, exterior examining, then interior judicial action, then joy, then realization of individual being.

In the practice of meditation, a beginning may be made by fixing the attention upon some external object, such as a sacred image or picture, or a part of a book of devotion. In the second stage, one passes from the outer object to an inner pondering upon its lessons. The third stage is the inspiration, the heightening of the spiritual will, which results from this pondering. The fourth stage is the realization of one's spiritual being, as enkindled by this meditation.

18. After the exercise of the will has stilled the psychic activities, meditation rests only on the fruit of former meditations.

In virtue of continued practice and effort, the need of an external object on which to rest the meditation is outgrown. An interior state of spiritual consciousness is reached, which is called "the cloud of things knowable" (Book IV, 29).

19. Subjective consciousness arising from a natural cause is possessed by those who have laid aside their bodies and been absorbed into subjective nature.

Those who have died, entered the paradise between births, are in a condition resembling meditation without an external object. But in the fullness of time, the seeds of desire in them will spring up, and they will be born again into this world.

20. For the others, there is spiritual consciousness, led up to by faith, valour right mindfulness, one-pointedness, perception.

It is well to keep in mind these steps on the path to illumination: faith, velour, right mindfulness, one-pointedness, perception. Not one can be dispensed with; all must be won. First faith; and then from faith, velour; from va lour, right mindfulness; from right mindfulness, a one-pointed aspiration toward the soul; from this, perception; and finally, full vision as the soul.

21. Spiritual consciousness is nearest to those of keen, intense will.

The image used is the swift impetus of the torrent; the kingdom must be taken by force. Firm will comes only through effort; effort is inspired by faith. The great secret is this: it is not enough to have intuitions; we must act on them; we must live them.

22. The will may be weak, or of middle strength, or intense.

Therefore there is a spiritual consciousness higher than this. For those of weak will, there is this counsel: to be faithful in obedience, to live the life, and thus to strengthen the will to more perfect obedience. The will is not ours, but God's, and we come into it only through obedience. As we enter into the spirit of God, we are permitted to share the power of God.

Higher than the three stages of the way is the goal, the end of the way.

23. Or spiritual consciousness may be gained by ardent service of the Master.

If we think of our lives as tasks laid on us by the Master of Life, if we look on all duties as parts of that Master's work, entrusted to us, and forming our life-work; then, if we obey, promptly, loyally, sincerely, we shall enter by degrees into the Master's life and share the Master's power. Thus we shall be initiated into the spiritual will.

24. The Master is the spiritual man, who s free from hindrances, bondage to works, and the fruition and seed of works.

The Soul of the Master, the Lord, is of the same nature as the soul in us; but we still bear the burden of many evils, we are in bondage through our former works, we are under the dominance of sorrow. The Soul of the Master is free from sin and servitude and sorrow.

25. In the Master is the perfect seed of Omniscience.

The Soul of the Master is in essence one with the Oversoul, and therefore partaker of the Oversoul's all-wisdom and all-power. All spiritual attainment rests on this, and is possible because the soul and the Oversoul are One.

26. He is the Teacher of all who have gone before, since he is not limited by Time.

From the beginning, the Oversoul has been the Teacher of all souls, which, by their entrance into the Oversoul, by realizing their oneness with the Oversoul, have inherited the kingdom of the Light. For the Oversoul is before Time, and Time, father of all else, is one of His children.

27. His word is OM.

OM: the symbol of the Three in One, the three worlds in the Soul; the three times, past, present, future, in Eternity; the three Divine Powers, Creation, Preservation, Transformation, in the one Being; the three essences, immortality, omniscience, joy, in the one Spirit. This is the Word, the Symbol, of the Master and Lord, the perfected Spiritual Man.

28. Let there be soundless repetition of OM and meditation thereon.

This has many meanings, in ascending degrees. There is, first, the potency of the word itself, as of all words. Then there is the manifold significance of the symbol, as suggested above. Lastly, there is the spiritual realization of the high essences thus symbolized. Thus we rise step by step to the Eternal.

29. Thence come the awakening of interior consciousness, and the removal of barriers.

Here again faith must be supplemented by works, the life must be led as well as studied, before the full meaning can be understood. The awakening of spiritual consciousness can only be understood in measure as it is entered. It can only be entered where the conditions are present: purity of heart, and strong aspiration, and the resolute conquest of each sin.

This, however, may easily be understood: that the recognition of the three worlds as resting in the Soul leads us to realize ourselves and all life as of the Soul; that, as we dwell, not in past, present or future, but in the Eternal, we become more at one with the Eternal; that, as we view all organization, preservation, mutation as the work of the Divine One, we shall come more into harmony with the One, and thus remove the barrier' in our path toward the Light.

In the second part of the first book, the problem of the emergence of the spiritual man is further dealt with. We are led to the consideration of the barriers to his emergence, of the overcoming of the barriers, and of certain steps and stages in the ascent from the ordinary consciousness of practical life, to the finer, deeper, radiant consciousness of the spiritual man.

30. The barriers to interior consciousness, which drive the psychic nature this way and that, are these: sickness, inertia, doubt, lightmindedness, laziness, intemperance, false notions, inability to reach a stage of meditation, or to hold it when reached.

We must remember that we are considering the spiritual man as enwrapped and enmeshed by the psychic nature, the emotional and mental powers; and as unable to come to clear consciousness, unable to stand and see clearly, because of the psychic veils of the personality. Nine of these are enumerated, and they go pretty thoroughly into the brute toughness of the psychic nature.

Sickness is included rather for its effect on the emotions and mind, since bodily infirmity, such as blindness or deafness, is no insuperable barrier to spiritual life, and may sometimes be a help, as cutting off distractions. It will be well for us to ponder over each of these nine activities, thinking of each as a psychic state, a barrier to the interior consciousness of the spiritual man.

31. Grieving, despondency, bodily restless ness, the drawing in and sending forth of the life-breath also contribute to drive the psychic nature to and fro.

The first two moods are easily understood. We can well see bow a sodden psychic condition, flagrantly opposed to the pure and positive joy of spiritual life, would be a barrier. The next, bodily restlessness, is in a special way the fault of our day and generation. When it is conquered, mental restlessness will be half conquered, too.

The next two terms, concerning the life breath, offer some difficulty. The surface meaning is harsh and irregular breathing; the deeper meaning is a life of harsh and irregular impulses.

32. Steady application to a principle is the way to put a stop to these.

The will, which, in its pristine state, was full of vigour, has been steadily corrupted by self-indulgence, the seeking of moods and sensations for sensation's sake. Hence come all the morbid and sickly moods of the mind. The remedy is a return to the pristine state of the will, by vigorous, positive effort; or, as we are here told, by steady application to a principle. The principle to which we should thus steadily apply ourselves should be one arising from the reality of spiritual life; valorous work for the soul, in others as in ourselves.

33. By sympathy with the happy, compassion for the sorrowful, delight in the holy, disregard of the unholy, the psychic nature moves to gracious peace.

When we are wrapped up in ourselves, shrouded with the cloak of our egotism, absorbed in our pains and bitter thoughts, we are not willing to disturb or strain our own sickly mood by giving kindly sympathy to the happy, thus doubling their joy, or by showing compassion for the sad, thus halving their sorrow. We refuse to find delight in holy things, and let the mind brood in sad pessimism on unholy things. All these evil psychic moods must be conquered by strong effort of will. This rending of the veils will reveal to us something of the grace and peace which are of the interior consciousness of the spiritual man.

34. Or peace may be reached by the even sending forth and control of the life-breath.

Here again we may look for a double meaning: first, that even and quiet breathing which is a part of the victory over bodily restlessness; then the even and quiet tenor of life, without harsh or dissonant impulses, which brings stillness to the heart.

35. Faithful, persistent application to any object, if completely attained, will bind the mind to steadiness.

We are still considering how to overcome the wavering and perturbation of the psychic nature, which make it quite unfit to transmit the inward consciousness and stillness. We are once more told to use the will, and to train it by steady and persistent work: by "sitting close" to our work, in the phrase of the original.

36. As also will a joyful, radiant spirit.

There is no such illusion as gloomy pessimism, and it has been truly said that a man's cheerfulness is the measure of his faith. Gloom, despondency, the pale cast of thought, are very amenable to the will. Sturdy and courageous effort will bring a clear and valorous mind. But it must always be remembered that this is not for solace to the personal man, but is rather an offering to the ideal of spiritual life, a contribution to the universal and universally shared treasure in heaven.

37. Or the purging of self-indulgence from the psychic nature.

We must recognize that the fall of man is a reality, exemplified in our own persons. We have quite other sins than the animals, and far more deleterious; and they have all come through self-indulgence, with which our psychic natures are soaked through and through. As we climbed down hill for our pleasure, so must we climb up again for our purification and restoration to our former high estate. The process is painful, perhaps, yet indispensable.

38. Or a pondering on the perceptions gained in dreams and dreamless sleep.

For the Eastern sages, dreams are, it is true, made up of images of waking life, reflections of what the eyes have seen and the ears heard. But dreams are something more, for the images are in a sense real, objective on their own plane; and the knowledge that there is another world, even a dream-world, lightens the tyranny of material life. Much of poetry and art is such a solace from dreamland. But there is more in dream, for it may image what is above, as well as what is below; not only the children of men, but also the children by the shore of the immortal sea that brought us hither, may throw their images on this magic mirror: so, too, of the secrets of dreamless sleep with its pure vision, in even greater degree.

39. Or meditative brooding on what is dearest to the heart.

Here is a thought which our own day is beginning to grasp: that love is a form of knowledge; that we truly know any thing or any person, by becoming one therewith, in love. Thus love has a wisdom that the mind cannot claim, and by this hearty love, this becoming one with what is beyond our personal borders, we may take a long step toward freedom. Two directions for this may be suggested: the pure love of the artist for his work, and the earnest, compassionate search into the hearts of others.

40. Thus he masters all, from the atom to the Infinite.

Newton was asked how he made his discoveries. By intending my mind on them, he replied. This steady pressure, this becoming one with what we seek to understand, whether it be atom or soul, is the one means to know. When we become a thing, we really know it, not otherwise. Therefore live the life, to know the doctrine; do the will of the Father, if you would know the Father.

41. When the perturbations of the psychic nature have all been stilled, then the consciousness, like a pure crystal, takes the colour of what it rests on, whether that be the perceiver, perceiving, or the thing perceived.

This is a fuller expression of the last Sutra, and is so lucid that comment can hardly add to it. Everything is either perceiver, perceiving, or the thing perceived; or, as we might say, consciousness, force, or matter. The sage tells us that the one key will unlock the secrets of all three, the secrets of consciousness, force and matter alike. The thought is, that the cordial sympathy of a gentle heart, intuitively understanding the hearts of others, is really a manifestation of the same power as that penetrating perception whereby one divines the secrets of planetary motions or atomic structure.

42. When the consciousness, poised in perceiving, blends together the name, the object dwelt on and the idea, this is perception with exterior consideration.

In the first stage of the consideration of an external object, the perceiving mind comes to it, preoccupied by the name and idea conventionally associated with that object. For example, in coming to the study of a book, we think of the author, his period, the school to which he belongs. The second stage, set forth in the next Sutra, goes directly to the spiritual meaning of the book, setting its traditional trappings aside and finding its application to our own experience and problems.

The commentator takes a very simple illustration: a cow, where one considers, in the first stage, the name of the cow, the animal itself and the idea of a cow in the mind. In the second stage, one pushes these trappings aside and, entering into the inmost being of the cow, shares its consciousness, as do some of the artists who paint cows. They get at the very life of what they study and paint.

43. When the object dwells in the mind, clear of memory-pictures, uncoloured by the mind, as a pure luminous idea, this is perception without exterior or consideration.

We are still considering external, visible objects. Such perception as is here described is of the nature of that penetrating vision whereby Newton, intending his mind on things, made his discoveries, or that whereby a really great portrait painter pierces to the soul of him whom he paints, and makes that soul live on canvas. These stages of perception are described in this way, to lead the mind up to an understanding of the piercing soul-vision of the spiritual man, the immortal.

44. The same two steps, when referring to things of finer substance, are said to be with, or without, judicial action of the mind.

We now come to mental or psychical objects: to images in the mind. It is precisely by comparing, arranging and superposing these mind-images that we get our general notions or concepts. This process of analysis and synthesis, whereby we select certain qualities in a group of mind-images, and then range together those of like quality, is the judicial action of the mind spoken of. But when we exercise swift divination upon the mind images, as does a poet or a man of genius., then we use a power higher than the judicial, and one nearer to the keen vision of the spiritual man.

45. Subtle substance rises in ascending degrees, to that pure nature which has no distinguishing mark.

As we ascend from outer material things which are permeated by separateness, and whose chief characteristic is to be separate, just as so many pebbles are separate from each other; as we ascend, first, to mind-images, which overlap and coalesce in both space and time, and then to ideas and principles, we finally come to purer essences, drawing ever nearer and nearer to unity.

Or we may illustrate this principle thus. Our bodily, external selves are quite distinct and separate, in form, name, place, substance; our mental selves, of finer substance, meet and part, meet and part again, in perpetual concussion and interchange; our spiritual selves attain true consciousness through unity, where the partition wall between us and the Highest, between us and others, is broken down and we are all made perfect in the One. The highest riches are possessed by all pure souls, only when united. Thus we rise from separation to true individuality in unity.

46. The above are the degrees of limited and conditioned spiritual consciousness, still containing the seed of separateness.

In the four stages of perception above described, the spiritual vision is still working through the mental and psychical, the inner genius is still expressed through the outer, personal man. The spiritual man has yet to come completely to consciousness as himself, in his own realm, the psychical veils laid aside.

47. When pure perception without judicial action of the mind is reached, there follows the gracious peace of the inner self.

We have instanced certain types of this pure perception: the poet's divination, whereby he sees the spirit within the symbol, likeness in things unlike, and beauty in all things; the pure insight of the true philosopher, whose vision rests not on the appearances of life, but on its realities; or the saint's firm perception of spiritual life and being. All these are far advanced on the way; they have drawn near to the secret dwelling of peace.

48. In that peace, perception is unfailingly true.

The poet, the wise philosopher and the saint not only reach a wide and luminous consciousness, but they gain certain knowledge of substantial reality. When we know, we know that we know. For we have come to the stage where we know things by being them, and nothing can be more true than being. We rest on the rock, and know it to be rock, rooted in the very heart of the world.

49. The object of this perception is other than what is learned from the sacred books, or by sound inference, since this perception is particular.

The distinction is a luminous and inspiring one. The Scriptures teach general truths, concerning universal spiritual life and broad laws, and inference from their teaching is not less general. But the spiritual perception of the awakened Seer brings particular truth concerning his own particular life and needs, whether these be for himself or others. He receives defined, precise knowledge, exactly applying to what he has at heart.

50. The impress on the consciousness springing from this perception supersedes all previous impressions.

Each state or field of the mind, each field of knowledge, so to speak, which is reached by mental and emotional energies, is a psychical state, just as the mind picture of a stage with the actors on it, is a psychical state or field. When the pure vision, as of the poet, the philosopher, the saint, fills the whole field, all lesser views and visions are crowded out. This high consciousness displaces all lesser consciousness. Yet, in a certain sense, that which is viewed as part, even by the vision of a sage, has still an element of illusion, a thin psychical veil, however pure and luminous that veil may be. It is the last and highest psychic state.

51. When this impression ceases, then, since all impressions have ceased, there arises pure spiritual consciousness, with no seed of separateness left.

The last psychic veil is drawn aside, and the spiritual man stands with unveiled vision, pure serene.