Yoga Sutra 2.04 ignorance is the place of germination of I-am-ness

Sūtra II.4

Ignorance is the field of germination of the subsequent ones, whether dormant or thinned out or checked or active

Here Ignorance is the field, the place of germination, of I-am-ness and the other subsequent ones, which can be in one of four states: dormant, thinned, checked or active.

What is their dormant state? When implanted in the mind as a mere potentiality, reduced to the condition of a seed. It awakens when it confronts its object.

Ignorance is the field of germination of the subsequent ones, which can be either dormant or thinned or checked or active. The sūtra itself shows how it is that I-am-ness and the others are called illusion. Ignorance is the field for their germination, where they produce themselves; like a piece of land supporting grass, creepers, bushes and plants not separate from itself, it is the field for I-am-ness and the others, not separate from Ignorance, from illusion. And the four of them are individually either dormant or thinned or checked or active.

For the ideas of illusion produce themselves by means of this; it is Ignorance that transforms itself into I-am-ness and the others of the set of four.

What is their dormant state? What is called the dormant state relates to I-am-ness and the others, not to Ignorance; because Ignorance is their cause which accompanies all the alternative states of I-am-ness and the others, and is therefore always aroused, not dormant. For in sleep there is no activity. When I-am-ness or one of the others is dormant there has to be something different as a basis, otherwise there could be no rise of another taint. And so the alternatives of the four states of dormancy, etc. relate to I-am-ness and the other three alone.

(The dormant state is) When implanted in the mind as a mere potentiality which he explains as reduced to the condition of a seed. As the seed is there in the ground though it has not become a sprout, so in the mind, I-am-ness and the others are established as potentialities with the sprout of their true nature not manifest.

It awakens when it confronts its object: the revival of a taint like I-am-ness is when it confronts its object, the cause which makes it manifest (sva-vyañjaka-añjana).

(Opponent) In that case, there will always be taints in seed state, and their arousal under certain conditions.

For one who has attained meditation on truth (prasaṅkhyāna), in whom the seeds have been scorched (reading dagdha not a-dagdha, Tr.), even when confronted with the objects, the taints do not come again into manifest being. When the seeds have been scorched (in ovens) how should they revive? When his taints have dwindled away, he is said to be skilful and in his final incarnation. In him alone and not in others is there the fifth state of the taints, that of scorched seed. Of his remaining taints, the seed potentiality is then scorched, and even when confronting their objects they are not aroused. This is the description of the dormant state and the non-arousal of scorched seeds.

(Answer) He replies: For one who has attained meditation on truth (prasaṅkhyāna) the yogin practising right vision (samyagdarśana), in whom the seeds have been scorched (reading dagdha not a-dagdha), the taints which have been reduced to the state of seed do not come again into manifest being, even when confronted with their objects. When the seeds have been scorched (in ovens), from that scorching how should they revive spring up? Even though the seed is there and has the necessary concomitants of earth and water, etc., there is no development into a sprout from the potentiality of a scorched seed, and so in the case of the taints also.

(Opponent) If so, why was this fifth state not given in the list? The sūtra should have read: scorched, dormant, thinned out, checked, active.

(Answer) No, because it does not apply to everyone. This fifth state of the taints is not common to all living beings, but is found in yogin-s alone, and for that reason it was not listed there.

In what way is it special? In him alone in one who is practising right vision and not in others are they scorched. When his taints have dwindled away, the yogin of right vision is said to be skilful and in his final incarnation. In him alone and not in others is there the fifth state of the taints, that of scorched seed. Of his remaining taints, the seed potentiality is then scorched like seeds of a grain such as barley which still exist but have had their germinating capacity scorched. Even when confronting their objects they are not aroused, for the saṃskāra remnant in the man of right vision is in a state like that of an arrow already loosed at the mark (to which no fresh impetus can be added).

Thinning out is explained thus: struck down by meditation on their opposites, the taints become thinned out.

They are said to be checked when, intercepted again and again, they again and again become active in their own form. How does this happen? Because at the time of desire, anger is not seen; anger is not active at the time of desire. Then, desire, seen to be for one person, is not non-existent for others. Caitra is not indifferent to other women because he is in love with a particular woman. Rather, desire for her has possessed his mind, and its thought of the others is yet in the future, being at present dormant or thinned.

The dormant state has been described, and also how there is no arousal of scorched seeds of taints in the yogin. Now thinning out is explained thus: struck down made powerless, enfeebled by meditation on their opposites, by meditation on their opposites, for instance by seeing the worthlessness of the body and so on, they are made powerless and become feeble, and the taints are said to be thinned out.

They are said to be checked when, intercepted again and again, they do not show themselves in the interval, when it is the turn of others to appear; then they again and again become active they rise up in their own form, in that very form, that very shape, in which they were perceived before.

Or (on another reading) if the word checked refers to the period of interception, then they are not active in their own form, in their manifest form in which they are seen before and after (the checked state).

He explains the point: How does this happen? Because at the time of desire, anger is not seen; anger is not active at the time of desire, their various forms and various mental processes being opposed. Anger is suppressed by the rise of desire and exists in another, unmanifest form, and this is what is called being checked.

Then, desire, seen to be for one person, is not non-existent for others. How is this? It is because in this case the conflict is between the objects. In the previous case anger was inoperative because of conflict with desire, but here it is mutual conflict between objects of desire. For a desire is attraction for a particular object – the desire is not then for some other object.

So Caitra is not indifferent to other women because he is in love with a particular woman. Rather, desire for her has possessed his mind in love with her. Its thought of the others of the other women is in the future, yet to come in particular manifestations of desire, being at present dormant or thinned.

(Opponent) Why is the commentator saying all this about desire seen to be for one person? He is just telling us what desire is: the mental process, whether now possessing the mind or yet to come, as distinguished by these differences of object, is nothing but desire.

(Answer) True, but that is not the context in which he is saying it. The context is explanation of the checked state, and that (discussion of the nature of desire) does not explain checking, nor is it relevant to the next topic, the active state. They do not need such a discussion.

All this is simply to fill in a possible gap, namely that it might be thought that there was no other state except the dormant, thinned out, and active states.

(Opponent) Indeed, it has been said that in so far as it does not possess the mind, so far it is dormant, and that a mental process struck down by meditation on the opposite, with its effect enfeebled, is called thinned. And it is declared that what is in possession of the mind, is active. Now what you called checked is supposed to be something which, having been perceived somewhere, (vanishes and then) is again perceived, like the course of the river Sarasvatī (which passes for a time underground). For when desire rises, anger is nowhere to be seen.

But then there is no quality to be called ‘checked’, because it is never something perceived.

(Answer) The reply is: if there is no state of being checked because it is not something perceived, then anger seen on one occasion ought not to exist inasmuch as on another occasion it is not perceived.

(Opponent) Be it so; it does not exist because it is not seen on the other occasion.

(Answer) Not so.

(Opponent) Why not?

(Answer) Because it was actually seen on the first occasion. If it is to be said that a taint does not exist when a different object is confronted, then it does not exist in the mind which possesses it. But an eye, because at some time it is not looking at an elephant, cannot be said not to exist when it is active in looking at a jar; for it clearly is there, looking at the jar. So he says, desire, seen to be for one person, is not non-existent for others.

Anger is seen to be checked when overcome by rising desire, as the course of the Sarasvatī (disappears for a time). Desire is dormant or thinned in regard to other objects (than the present focus), because it has the character of not being seen when confronting them.

(Opponent) Then what is the distinction between dormant and checked? In both cases they are invisible. There is no distinction.

(Answer) What was continuously visibly active is subordinated by another (taint) not fundamentally opposed to it, and so the first is not seen: this is the checked state, where seed has not been scorched.

The dormant state is when, though motivating causes are there, the taint has been subdued by its opponent – though the seeds have not been scorched – by which overpowering it has been reduced to a seed state.

(Opponent) If so, the words it is dormant or thinned are contradicted, because the activity, not now seen (in regard to the future object) is in fact being seen with a different object.

(Answer) Not so, because he is referring to desire for an object other than the one now in front. The particular quality of desire, in regard to a desirable object different (from its present focus) is the one which is dormant or thinned. It is not always inherently dormant or thinned, for it is still seen in certain directions. Whereas at the time of desire, anger is inherently dormant or thinned, and is not felt in regard to any object at all.

The commentary gives another example to illustrate the meaning of ‘checked’, because he wishes to point out two cases. One is when the relation of visible action (of a taint) has disappeared completely because it has been overcome by something incompatible, as in the example anger is not seen at the time of desire. The other case is when it appears only in regard to a particular object, and in regard to others is not seen to give rise to any effect. When Caitra is in love with one woman, his desire for other women is not visible; desire has taken possession of his mind in regard to her. In the case when it is seen directed to a particular object and there is nothing to be seen of it in regard to future mental process and its object – that is what is called checked.

(Opponent) Why is it not seen in regard to the other things?

(Answer) It is dormant or thinned. He is not discussing whether it is a case of dormancy or of thinning out; that is as the particular case may be. The point is, that it is not now seen because it is checked.

What possesses the mind in regard to an object is called active. These states are all included within the field of the taints.

(Opponent) Is it a taint at all if it can be either checked or dormant or thinned or active?

(Answer) It is a valid point, but the states of checked and so on apply to them in their capacity as taints. Just as they are brought to an end by meditation on their opposite, so they are manifested by their particular manifesting causes.

What possesses the mind in regard to an object is called active.

(Opponent) Those that are dormant, thinned out or checked cannot have any effects, so they are not in fact taints. For what is dormant, thinned out or checked cannot, in the state of dormancy, inhibition or attenuation, effect any result. An enemy who has not been born cannot do any harm, nor can one bathe in a river where it has been intercepted. So let it be simply said that Ignorance is the field (of germination) of the subsequent ones; why all this about the dormant, thinned or checked, which cannot produce any results?

(Answer) This doubt the commentator meets in the words, These states are all included within the field of the taints.

(Opponent) Is it a taint at all if it can be either checked or dormant or thinned or active? It is not logical to divide them up in this way. Let a taint be simply the active, for apart from the active state no effect is produced.

(Answer) It is a valid point, but the refutation is given when it is said: the states of checked and so on apply to them in their capacity as taints, always retaining their quality of being taints. Since even in the state of being checked, the power to injure has not been lost, it is quite reasonable.

(Opponent) But at that time they are ineffective.

(Answer) Not so, and that is why the instruction is given to meditate on their opposites (to counter them in their subtle state). It is not that there is no need to act against an enemy who is nowhere to be seen, or who is asleep, or not yet born. In the scripture we hear that Indra for fear of his future enemy cut into seven pieces the embryo in Diti’s womb.

And he himself declares the reason: Just as they are brought to an end by meditation on their opposite – so they are manifested by their particular manifesting causes.

Inasmuch as they are now manifested and again concealed and still again manifest in the future, so those in states like the dormant must be spoken of in order to give instructions on opposing them, because in these states the tainted nature has not yet been transcended.

Now he sums up:

All these taints are divisions of Ignorance. How so? In all of them, Ignorance alone prevails. Whatever is given a form by Ignorance, that the taints inhere in. They are felt at the time of deluded ideas; when Ignorance dwindles, they dwindle accordingly.

So that all these taints are divisions of Ignorance. How so? Because in all of them I-am-ness and the rest, Ignorance alone prevails, flourishes, is seen to be predominant.

Whatever is given a form is determined by Ignorance, that the taints passion and the rest inhere in, they follow on that.

As, for instance, one sees the body of a woman, and though it is to be avoided, from self-will incited by Ignorance, he decides, ‘This is to be enjoyed’, and falls in love. The one who knows righteousness, deciding that this is illusion, is averse to it.

How is it that the taints inhere in it? They are felt at the time of deluded ideas, and hence they are divisions of Ignorance. So when Ignorance dwindles, they dwindle accordingly. The taints such as I-am-ness disappear as Ignorance disappears, for in the absence of Ignorance no taint can exist.

Now he explains what Ignorance is in itself:

 

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