Yoga Sutra 1.01 the exposition of yoga

Sūtra I.1

Now the exposition of yoga

(Vyāsa) The word Now means here a beginning, and the topic now begun is understood to be an exposition of yoga.


In whom are neither karma nor its fruition but from whom they come about,

Whom the taints of humanity can never withstand nor touch,

Whom the eye of Time that reckons all cannot encompass,

That Lord of the world, slayer of the demon Kaiṭabha – to him I bow.

Who is omniscient, all-glorious and all-powerful,

Who is without taint, and who requites actions with their fruits,

The Lord who is the cause of the rise, end, and maintenance of every thing,

To him, that teacher even of teachers, be this bow.

A sub-commentary is here begun on the yoga classic of Patañjali, from its first word Now.

No one will follow through the practices and restrictions of yoga unless the goal and the related means to it have been clearly set out, and the commentator first explains what they were in the mind of the sūtra author, so that people may be led to practise.

First as to the goal. A clarifying illustration is given from medicine. In classics of medicine, the exposition is under four heads: illness, cause of the illness, the healthy condition, the remedy. Medical science further explains these things in terms of prescriptions and restrictions.

So it is in yoga also. The sūtra (II.15) Because of the sufferings caused by changes and anxieties and the saṃskāra-s (dynamic latent impressions) of them, and from the clash of the guṇa-s, to the clear-sighted everything is pain alone corresponds to the first head (diagnosis of illness).

The parallel four-fold division of this work on yoga is as follows:

what is to be escaped (= the illness) is saṃsāra full of pain; its cause is the conjunction of Seer and seen, caused by Ignorance (avidyā); the means of release is an unwavering (aviplava) Knowledge that they are different. When that Knowledge-of-the-difference (viveka-khyāti) appears, Ignorance ceases;

when Ignorance ceases, there is a complete end to conjunction of Seer and seen, and this is the release called kaivalya.

Kaivalya (Transcendental Aloneness) here corresponds to the condition of health, and so it is release which is the goal.

(Opponent) What-is-to-be-escaped, and its cause, should not have been brought in: it is pointless to do so. The work is concerned with release, and it is only the means to that, namely Knowledge, which needs to be mentioned. When a thorn has pierced the sole of the foot, one should not busy oneself with questions of pain and what causes it, instead of getting it out.

(Answer) Not so: the means of release depends on what it is that is to be escaped from, and what is its cause. Without explaining both this wheel of saṃsāra which is to be escaped by that means, and also its cause, namely the conjunction of Seer and seen caused by Ignorance, one cannot explain the discriminative Knowledge which cancels Ignorance. In the one who is suffering from what-is-to-be-escaped and its cause, and looking for a means of release, we see a sick man searching for a remedy. And medical science is not taught without reference to particular illnesses and their causes.

Now the relation of the means to the goal. The desired end of Knowledge-of-the-difference (of Seer-seen) is release, and Knowledge is the sole means to release. The mutual relation between them is one of means and end exclusively. The medical parallel is: health alone is the desired end of the remedy, and the remedy is the sole means to health. This is the exclusive mutual relation between the two in medicine, as shown in its classics. Thus the exposition of yoga too includes the relation of the end and the means.

(Opponent) If release is the goal, and the means to it is that Knowledge, then it should have been said, ‘Now the exposition of Knowledge’. So why does the sūtra say, Now the exposition of yoga?

(Answer) Because yoga is the means to Knowledge, and it is a means that has to be taught. For when means and ends are being set forth, the end has to have some means to it, and so the means must be described along with all its methods. When that is explained, all is explained.

(Opponent) How is yoga the means?

(Answer) Because the sūtra says: From following up the methods of yoga, (there is) destruction of impurity and a growing light of knowledge, up to Knowledge-of-the-difference (II.28). Again, From skill in nir-vicāra (samādhi without subtle associations), a clearness in the self (I.47), and In this, the knowledge is truth-bearing (I.48). In the same way here, the commentator is going to say: (but the samādhi) in the one-pointed mind makes clear an object as it really is, and Knowledge-of-the-difference is awareness of things as they really are (bhūtārtha). Therefore it has been rightly said in the first sūtra Now the exposition of yoga, because that is the means to Knowledge.

(Opponent) But if Knowledge-of-the-difference comes from following up the methods of yoga, it should be ‘Now the exposition of yoga methods’.

(Answer) No, because the result is being stated first. As yoga is the result of applying the means to yoga, it is right to begin with the word yoga.

(Opponent) Then it should begin with the word release.

(Answer) No, because that is a goal – release is a goal only. Yoga is a goal of the yoga methods, but it is also a means, and more properly the means to Knowledge than to supernormal powers such as becoming very small. For a result should conform to its means.

There is also the sense of the next sūtra. For if it had been ‘Now the exposition of the methods of yoga’, it would not have been logical to go on to say that yoga is inhibition of the mental process, for in that case sūtra II.29, listing restraints, observances, posture, prāṇāyāma, dissociation, concentration, meditation and samādhi, would be the one to mention.

(Opponent) Yes, that should have come next.

(Answer) No, because the sūtra I.2 declares Yoga is inhibition of the mental processes in order to show the relation of means and result in regard to Knowledge: Knowledge is what is aimed at by yoga, but is the means to release, its result.

(Opponent) How does the sūtra go to show this relation? It simply gives a definition of seedless samādhi.

(Answer) True, but it does that only to show the relation between release and the means to it. For release is not something different from the samādhi of total inhibition (nirodha). There is some distinction in so far as after nirodha samādhi there is recurrence of active mental processes (pravṛtti), whereas release is a final cessation (nivṛtti) of them. But in that samādhi as such, there is no distinction from release. So the sūtra has said, Then the seer is established in his own nature (sūtra I.3), and it will also be said that being established in its own nature is release: or it is the establishment of the power-of-consciousness in its own nature (IV.34). So it is incontestable that the sūtra means to say that release is only by seedless (nirbīja) samādhi.

(Opponent) There is a view that seeded (sa-bīja) samādhi is a means to release.

(Answer) It is not. What is, then? Knowledge-of-the-difference alone is the means, by way of cessation of Ignorance. For bondage gets its power from Ignorance. Though the sūtra says only exposition of yoga, still since yoga aims at Knowledge, it does show that the relation of Knowledge to release is by way of yoga, and very clearly the connection with the later sūtra-s. So it is rightly said: exposition of yoga.

Though the teaching also gives means to limited results for people aiming at them, and instruction on those means for those desiring to practise them, that is not its purpose; there it is merely pointing out (in passing) what would be the results of various methods.

The exposition of yoga. A student is taught by setting out particular activities and abstentions and restrictions; so here the exposition of yoga, the particular end, involves the means with all its methods and restrictions like those of sūtra II.29. Exposition is instruction, and the work is an exposition of yoga because yoga is taught by it or so to say in it.

The word Now means that this is a new topic (adhikāra). The tradition of the learned lays it down that the word Now (atha) means a new topic, a beginning (ārambha), an introduction (prastāva).

(Opponent) But the learned traditionally give the meaning ‘following on’ to the word Now. So Śabara says (on Mīmāṃsā sūtra 1.1.1), ‘Yet we see that the word Now normally has a meaning of something immediately following on some event.’

(Answer) No, because it always has the meaning of a beginning. It is (of course) implied that it does follow on (whatever went before); just so when the word ‘son’ is spoken, it is implied that there must be a father, though the meaning of ‘son’ is not ‘father’. Here, it is a beginning alone that is specified, though there is an implication of following on.

That is why Śabara said, ‘We see that the word Now normally has a meaning of something immediately following on some event.’ If it had been the bare meaning of sequence, he would have said, ‘the meaning normally is immediately following on some event.’ But his expression is ‘something following on’, which must mean a thing which immediately follows (and therefore begins).

In grammar too it is said: ‘An indeclinable has either mainly the sense of a case-inflection, or mainly that of action. Uccais (above), nīcais (below) and so on have mainly the sense of a case; hiruk (away), pṛthak (apart), etc. have mainly that of action.’ These are the only possible senses of indeclinables (such as atha, Now). Of the two possibilities, the word Now, even allowing the meaning of bare following on, could not reasonably be taken in the sense of a case, since the main thing there is a state-of-being; but taken in the sense of the action of beginning, it has not the unreasonable case-sense, since the principal thing now is not a state-of-being.

Therefore the word Now must be taken simply as introducing the new topic. The word is self-explanatory, as when a man says ‘cow’. Moreover the word Now is often pronounced at the beginning for concentrating (samādhāna) a pupil’s mind; this is a principle well-known in the holy texts, for instance, ‘I will explain to you and do you meditate on my explanation’ (Bṛhad. Up. 2.4.4).

Yoga is samādhi. It is a quality (dharma) of the mind in all the five mental states: impulsive, dull, changeable, one-pointed, inhibited.

What then is the yoga, whose exposition is introduced? The commentator says, Yoga is samādhi. Since the word samādhi is in apposition to it, yoga is not to be taken as from the root yuj- in the sense of joining together, but in the sense of sam-ā-dhā, set together. Yoga is samādhāna (= samādhi), complete concentration.

(Opponent) By saying that yoga is samādhi he has completely explained the sūtra. He should not have added that it is in all the states, for this is irrelevant.

(Answer) Not so. Samādhi is mentioned, which means that there is something to be concentrated, and there are many things which might be concentrated. Is it the self (ātman) that is concentrated, or the body, or again the senses? There are many possibilities. Samādhi has to be defined in some way, and the natural question is, whose is it and what is its special nature? So he says:

It is a quality of the mind in all the mental states. It is a quality of the mind, not of self or anything else. And it is the mind which concentrates itself, since there is no reference to any other who concentrates it.

What then are the mental states? Impulsive, dull, changeable, one-pointed and inhibited.

The impulsive (kṣipta) state comes about as it were of itself, like an (overfull) granary spontaneously bursting apart. The impulsive state holds steady as long as it does not encounter something undesired.

The dull (mūḍha) state is absence of discrimination.

The changeable (vi-kṣipta) state is impelled (kṣipta) in various (vi-) directions. It too comes about as it were of itself. The occasional discrimination in this state does not last long, because it gets distracted.

The one-pointed (ekāgra) state is a stream of similar thoughts.

The inhibited (nirodha) state is a mind empty of thoughts.

(Opponent) It is the quality (dharma) of the states themselves that he wishes to describe: why is he now talking of impulsive and so on, which refer to their possessor (dharmin)?

(Answer) There is no mistake, for a quality is displayed by its possessor. The possessor is the field of the qualities. Asked about the distinguishing marks of the cow nature, the answer is: something with horns, with a hump, and with a hairy tail at the end. Thus the qualities are explained by their possessor. So the sense here is, that impulsiveness and so on are the states of the mind, namely its qualities.

(Opponent) If the states are mental qualities, the state of samādhi must be one too. Why then the phrase It is a quality of the mind in all the mental states, which makes it out to be the support of the others, and so having all of them?

(Answer) Because samādhi is common to all, whereas the other states are distinct from each other. We say that now there is the impulsive state, now there is dullness, now changeability, and now one-pointedness; all these states, while they last, have the common character of persisting. And persistence (sthiti) is samādhi. So it is the common feature which exists as each one comes to predominate.

The form of the Sanskrit compound sārva-bhauma (in all the states) in the commentary is one of the compounds (Pāṇini 5.1.41) which by the grammatical rule (7.3.20) take the vṛddhi strengthening in both elements.

There are some who declare that the states are the external and internal objects of saṃyama (samādhi on a chosen object). But if that were so, the next sentence (of the commentary): ‘in the changeable state of the mind’ would not be referring to the same thing. How should the commentator contradict himself like that? The impulsive state is that in which the mind is impelled; the dull is that in which it is confused. These therefore cannot be objects of saṃyama, in which state there is no possibility of impulsiveness or dullness, since it comes about in the one-pointed state.

Then in the changeable state, there is no attempt at steadiness and so on, so no idea of firmness to support it. Nor can saṃyama exist in the inhibited mind, since there would be no mental process, and so nothing to effect saṃyama. In inhibition the mind is not restricted to a particular object, for there is no subject for an object.

Nor would the listing of just five items be logical, for the impulsive and others being only five, could not be the objects of saṃyama, which are infinitely many.

(Opponent) Some would make yoga out to be otherwise. They say:

Pleasure and pain arise from contact of senses and mind with objects;

when that contact is not formed,

when mind abides in self (ātman),

there is neither pleasure nor pain for the embodied one;

yoga is the inner union (samyoga) arising from control of prāṇa and mind.

This is the view, further explained as follows: The cause of pleasure and pain is the contact of self, mind, and senses, with objects. By not forming it, there is neither pleasure nor pain. How can this be brought about? By the mind’s abiding in self and not abiding in the senses. The phrase ‘embodied one’ means that he still preserves a body. Then on the principle that without the cause there will be no effect, when there is no connection with objects there will be no pleasure or pain. In that state there is this union (saṃyoga) by the mind with the all-pervading self (vibhorātman). The union as described depends upon holding fast prāṇa and mind, and is called yoga.

(Answer) To speak of the mind abiding in self (ātman) is not logical, because mind always abides in self.

(Opponent) Abiding in self means that the senses and mind do not engage in contact with objects.

(Answer) Then just to say that they do not so engage would be perfectly clear, and it is pointless to add ‘when the mind abides in self.

Furthermore it would follow that the released one would still be practising yoga, since his mind abides in self, and there is no sense-contact with objects. Since he is all-pervading, and the mind is eternal, it must always abide in self.

Again, self has no location, so it is meaningless to speak of abiding in self. Nor could union with a self given a figurative location be a basis for a yoga of highest truth (paramārtha yoga), because anything figurative is illusory (mithyā).

Further, since it is a principle (on your view) that mind can have no direct contact with objects, it is unnecessary to make separate mention of the senses.

(Opponent) Without the sense, there is no contact of mind with objects; it could not reach them. So a prohibition (without mentioning the senses) against such contact by the mind would be illogical, because it would be impossible.

(Answer) Not so. Without the senses there is no contact of mind with objects (as you say). So by making the prohibition against engaging in them, it would be implicitly declared that reaching the objects is by way of the senses (which therefore need not be mentioned separately).

Moreover it is well known that pleasure and pain are experienced in all living beings from the contact of senses and mind with objects, and since the relation with self is invariable, it should have been enough to say that yoga is the eternal relation with the self and absence of pleasure and pain; nothing more was needed.

(Opponent) Still, just to say that yoga is absence of pleasure and pain, without mentioning contact of the senses and mind with objects, would mean that the released one too would be practising yoga, because for him there is no pleasure or pain either. The extra statement was rightly made, to rule this out.

(Answer) No, because the released never has pleasure or pain, and a process of negation can only be of something which is already possessed. That yoga is in negation of pleasure and pain applies only to one who does now have pleasure and pain, so it is proper to disallow the supplementary remark. Moreover, if we accept that he is embodied, why would he have returned from the state of release? There would be no motive for it, since he is already released. If yoga is merely absence of pleasure and pain, the present body would have no purpose because it would not serve for any result, and without some result, there would be no distinction between those released and those not.

Again, the statement about controlling prāṇa (vital currents) and mind is not right. The restraining effort of will is supposed to be inherent in the self, even without any activity of the mind, but without some contact with the senses it cannot effect control of mind and prāṇa. And if the mind is to be connected with the senses, then it is wrong to say that yoga is not engaging with them. And with the mind busy holding fast the prāṇa, there will be non-engagement with it. The prāṇa cannot be held fast without contact of senses and vital airs, and without holding fast the prāṇa, there is no yoga. Restraint of prāṇa is caused by a mental activity deriving from a restraining effort inherent in self.

(Opponent) Well then, what we mean by yoga is, (the separate state of) samādhi.

(Answer) That will not do. Self is actionless and always in samādhi. As we have said, steadiness (sthiti) is samādhi. Rightly has the commentator said, it is a quality of the mind in all the states.

In the changeable state of the mind, the samādhi is subject to this changeability, and is not classed as yoga.

(Opponent) If yoga is to be samādhi, and that is a quality of the mind in all the states, the efforts of all living beings must be already fulfilled, for samādhi must accompany the changeable and other states. Since therefore it is already accomplished without efforts at breath control and so on, it follows that means to achieve it are useless, and this present exposition of yoga is also useless.

(Answer) In the changeable state of the mind, the samādhi is subject to this changeability, and is not classed as yoga. What is accompanied by impulsiveness or dullness or changeability is not accepted as yoga. For a samādhi accompanied by them cannot reveal things as they are (bhūtārtha), because they are predominating in it. By dismissing changeability the states of impulse and dullness are dismissed also, on the principle that when the main opponent is defeated, the others collapse. That the samādhi of changeability should be the most important is appropriate to the context, for the mind then can be led to anything desired without any special preference, but a mind impelled by the attractiveness of an object, or dulled by separation from what it wants, cannot be led in another direction.

not classed as yoga: though there is a samādhi, it is not classed as yoga because it does not have any effect. When a man is walking, at every step there is a (momentary) stopping still (sthiti), but it is not called one because it does not have the effect of a stopping. The samādhi is subject to change, and he is simply pointing out that there is a samādhi in that state of changeability. The main thing is, that a samādhi does appear in each of the states, the common point being that the mental process is steady for a time in all of them.

(Opponent) If being subject to something is a reason for its not being classed as yoga, then in the one-pointed state too there is a subjection, namely to one-pointedness, so that should not be classed as yoga either.

But the samādhi in the one-pointed mind makes clear the object as it is, destroys the taints, loosens the karma-bonds, and brings the state of inhibition into view; it is called cognitive.

(Answer) But the samādhi in the one-pointed mind: in one-pointedness where there is no subjection to a state. Why not? Because the taints and karmas are weakened. When taints and karmas are weakened, changeability and dullness and impulsiveness do not arise.

The samādhi in the state of one-pointedness makes clear brings to experience the object as it is. For one not a yogin, the knowledge of things will have a trace of ‘not-as-it-is’ – this being the force of the word bhūta, meaning as-it-is.

It destroys makes an end of the taints which are five-fold, Ignorance and the others. It loosens makes slack the karma-bonds bonds being purely karmic, produced by actions good, bad and mixed, which bind to life-and-death. It brings the state of inhibition clearly into view, This is technically called by the teachers cognitive (sam-prajñāta).

It follows on meditations with verbal associations (vitarka), meditations with subtle associations (vicāra), meditations accompanied with joy, and meditations accompanied with I-am-ness; and we shall speak of it later.

Here the commentator remarks that it is better to have the definition of ultra-cognitive (a-sam-prajñāta) samādhi here, rather than to take the definition of the cognitive first. So he says, We shall speak of it later.

Accordingly the definition of ultra-cognitive samādhi is now to be given here to show that it is independent of the cognitive, being perfected by the two practices of highest detachment (para-vairāgya) and the idea of stopping (virāma-pratyaya, 1.18). If the definition of the cognitive were given here, and that of the other one later, there would be some suspicion that only through the cognitive is there qualification for ultra-cognitive samādhi. (This is not so and) thus he says that he will speak of the cognitive one later.

But the ultra-cognitive (samādhi) is when there is inhibition of all mental processes. The next sūtra is presented to give a definition of it.

But the ultra-cognitive is when there is inhibition of all mental processes. The word But has the meaning of restriction. the next sūtra is presented to give a definition of it, of the pure ultra-cognitive samādhi thus described. So it is right that the sūtra now states:


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