Yoga Sutra 2.18 the Seen consists of the elements and the senses

Sūtra II. 18

With a constant tendency towards light, action, and fixity, the Seen consists of the elements and the senses, being for the purpose of experience and transcendence

Sattva tends towards light; rajas tends towards action; tamas tends towards fixity.

With a constant tendency towards light, action, fixity, the Seen consists of the elements and the senses, being for the purpose of experience and transcendence. Light and action and fixity. Light is placed first as being the most important. There is no particular reason for the order of the words fixity and action, as they both apply indiscriminately to many things. The word ‘action’ has in fact been put first in the compound.

With-a-constant-tendency (śīla) means with a tendency towards light and action and fixity (respectively). Light is illumination, and what has a constant tendency towards light is sattva.

(Opponent) But illumination is an action, and in that case how would a tendency to illumination be of sattva? It ought to be of rajas. And then, why should fixity of illumination be of tamas? Since illumination is the nature of sattva, it is fixed in that.

(Answer) No. The word for constantly tending towards – śīla – is not used about the simple nature of a thing. One does not say of a drummer that he constantly tends to be a drum, but that he constantly tends to play the drum. The word śīla – constantly tending towards – is never used apart from some functioning.

(Opponent) But fixity and light are the nature of tamas and sattva. The only force of the word śīla is to indicate their respective natures.

(Answer) The word does not refer to the whole nature. Here for instance in the case of rajas, its nature is pain, but it is said (only) that it constantly tends towards action, so the significance of the word śīla here is in connection with action. And the words fixity and light also have the sense of function.

(Opponent) But functioning is action, which must be of the nature of rajas alone.

(Answer) Not so, because it is accepted that the three guṇa-s have pradhāna as their common ground. If action were the very nature of rajas, there would be activity in pradhāna, the common ground of the guṇa-s. But the possession of activity is accepted only in the state of effect, not in the state of pradhāna (cause). So the word śīla, constantly tending, is not used in the sense of the (simple) nature of a guṇa.

Though distinct, these guṇa-s mutually affect each other. They change, they have the properties of conjunction and disjunction, they assume forms created by their mutual co-operation. Distinct from each other, they are identifiable even when their powers are conjoined.

Though sattva and tamas do not tend towards action, they are associated with rajas which always does so, and through the action of rajas, fixity and illumination are described as activities, though in a figurative sense. That is what is meant by saying that sattva tends towards light and tamas towards fixity.

Of the three, the one with the constant tendency towards light is sattva. With the tendency to action, to go into operation, is rajas; with the tendency to fixity, to covering, to restriction, is tamas. Though distinct, these guṇa-s mutually affect each other; there is a distinction, some separation, between the guṇa-s even when mutually affecting each other.

Now it is explained in what sense the ‘constant tendency to light’ is said to be of sattva, and only that. Although from the influence of rajas-activity, sattva has the potentiality of revealing everything, yet that light is also restricted through the influence of tamas. Similarly the manifestation of activity by rajas is through the influence of sattva, but restriction of the activity is from the effect of tamas. The manifestation of fixity in tamas is from the influence of sattva, and its constant tendency towards fixity is from rajas. But the fixity is inherent in it, just as functioning is inherent in rajas, and light in sattva.

The mutual influence of the guṇa-s can thus be seen in the effects on others. They have the properties of conjunction and disjunction: the meaning of the Sanskrit compound is that they each possess these two properties, conjunction and disjunction. When some effect is beginning, they join together, with one guṇa predominant; they separate from one another, as another quality opposed to the first one arises.

They assume forms created by their mutual co-operation: the forms range from the Great Principle down to a clump of grass, and the sense is, that these forms whether of qualities (dharma) or possessor of qualities (dharmin) are taken on by guṇa-s in mutual co-operation. Distinct from each other, ultimately each is quite different from the others, they are identifiable even when their powers are conjoined; they are differentiated by their capacity to initiate and manifest wholly incompatible effects. On this it is said: ‘when a particular effect is to begin, their component powers are absolutely commingled; when the effect has begun, the powers though indistinguishable separately can be identified (by inference from the effects).’

They deploy their respective powers, whether of similar or dissimilar kind. When one is predominant, the presence (of the others) is inferred as existing within the predominant one from the very fact of its operation as a guṇa.

They deploy their respective powers, whether of similar or dissimilar kind: sattva is the element of similarity among sāttvik things; rajas is the element of similarity among rājasik things, and tamas among tāmasik things. But in relation to the other two, they are each elements of dissimilarity. The sense is, that the guṇa-s always tend to deploy their respective powers, whether of similar or dissimilar kind. For when an event is to begin, whether sāttvik or rājasik or tāmasik, no effect would be possible at all without all three guṇa-s deploying their respective powers.

When one is predominant, the presence (of the others) is inferred as existing within the predominant one from the very fact of its operation as a guṇa.

(Opponent) In that case, since all co-operate with their different powers to produce a single effect, they will be equally important.

(Answer) When one is predominant, the presence is inferred of all of them. When in each successive event, the dominant one produces its particular effect, at that time the presence of the other two is explained to be subordinate. There cannot be predominance (prādhānya) of all of them at the same time, for if there were equal predominance (pradhāna) they would be simply pradhāna (defined as the state in which the guṇa-s are in equilibrium) and no effects would arise at all.

(Opponent) When some particular effect is produced under the dominance of one guṇa, how is the presence of the others known at all?

(Answer) By the very operation as a guṇa of the principal one, the presence in it of the others, though auxiliary, is implied. Unless the other two were there, comprised as auxiliaries in the principal one, its operation would not be possible. So from the fact of its operation, their existence is inferred.

They are effective as engaged in carrying out the purpose of Puruṣa. They serve by mere proximity, like a magnet. In the idea of any one of them, they all co-operate. They are what is meant by the word pradhāna.

They are effective as engaged in carrying out the purpose of Puruṣa. The purpose of Puruṣa is two-fold: experience and transcendence. Whatever is to be done to implement it, that they are engaged in, and they are effective in producing the results. They serve by mere proximity, like a magnet. By the mere proximity of Puruṣa, they serve, in the form of change of ideas. In the idea of any one of them, they all co-operate. In the idea, the mental process, the knowledge, of any one of them, they all co-operate in its continuity, its fixity. They are what is meant by the word pradhāna. There is no other pradhāna apart from the three guṇa-s; the three when in the state of equilibrium are known by the one word pradhāna. When they are divided unevenly, they are called ‘change’ and have processes.

This is what is called the Seen. It consists of objects and senses. In its aspects as an object such as earth, it changes into physical and subtle forms, and in its aspect as senses like the ear, it changes into physical and subtle forms.

It is not purposeless, but acts only in accordance with a purpose; it is for the purpose of experience and transcendence that this is seen by Puruṣa. Of the two-fold purpose, experience is the conviction that qualities desired and undesired are one’s nature, there being no discrimination from them.

This is what is called the Seen. It consists of objects and senses, of objects and senses separately; in its aspect as an object such as earth it changes into subtle and physical forms: existence as an object is of two kinds – subtle as subtle element (tan-mātra), and physical as particular objects. it changes it takes on that physical or subtle existence. In its aspect as senses like the ear, it changes into subtle forms, subtle in the form of ‘I’ (ahaṅkāra) and physical in the form of the ear, etc. It the Seen is not purposeless, for when there is activity, some purpose is always found. It acts only in accordance with a purpose, in line with one. What then is this purpose of the activity of the Seen? It is seen by Puruṣa for the purpose of experience and transcendence, being merely a means to them, as fire (is a means to cooking, warmth, etc.).

He describes the two, experience and transcendence. Of these, the conviction of qualities, desired or undesired, as his own nature, without discriminating them, is experience, desired: such things as contact with the fragrant sandalwood; undesired: those inherently unpleasant such as qualities in the form of contact with swords or thorns and so on; conviction (of them) as his own nature: in this way without discriminating them. In his idea of Puruṣa he fails to discriminate ‘this is not Puruṣa, it is mind-sattva’. It is because the idea in his mind (bauddha pratyaya) overlooks the consciousness which it possesses. This as described is what is called experience of Puruṣa.

The conviction of the true nature of the experiencer as apart is called transcendence (apavarga). There is no other awareness (darśana) apart from these two. So it is said: ‘But he who sees the three guṇa-s as the agents, and the Puruṣa, the fourth, as witness of their actions, seeing everything presented to him, does not suppose any awareness other than that.’

Different from that mental idea (bauddha pratyaya), which is essentially experience, is the true nature of its witness, essential awareness, and conviction of the true nature as apart is called transcendence, for there is no further particularization of the one who has attained, after he has come to conviction of the true nature of the experiencer. For then he is one who is always established in his own nature; the conformity to the mental process was in the other state, namely a particularity.

There is no other third awareness apart from these two. Insofar as there is Ignorance, there are both the desired and undesired, and that is purely experience. But the nature of Puruṣa is not to be avoided nor to be chosen, and when that has been determined, then as has been said already, where is experience? Determination of Puruṣa is an idea opposed to the idea of the form of experience, characterized by Ignorance as that is. Apart from these two, there is no conceivable other third awareness.

So it is said: ‘But he this seer with right awareness (samyagdarśin) who sees the three guṇa-s already described as the agents of all operations and their cessation and the Puruṣa, the fourth, as non-agent, being without any qualities of the guṇa-s witness (sāksin) of their actions an overseer (upadraṣṭṛ) of the actions of the guṇa-s, like one who looks on as an overseer at successive actions, seeing aware as ‘not I, not mine’ everything presented to him displayed as objects to his sight by the guṇa-s in the character of minds (antaḥ-karaṇa), objects which are received by him only figuratively, taken as real in the form of mental ideas (buddhi-pratyaya) does not suppose any other awareness than this.’ No other right vision is possible; he has the certainty that no other right vision can exist.

These two, experience and transcendence, are created by mind and function only in mind. How is it that they are attributed to Puruṣa?

Just as victory or defeat encountered by the fighting men are attributed to the ruler because he experiences the effect of them, so bondage or release, happening in the mind alone, are attributed to Puruṣa, because he experiences the effect of them. In the mind alone are bondage, which is failure to fulfil the purpose of Puruṣa, and release, which is completion of that purpose. In this way perception and retention and knowledge and postulation and rejection and action and speech and determination-according-to-reason, and application to practice, are states of being, events in the mind, which are projected as real existences in Puruṣa.

These two, experience and transcendence, are created by mind set going by mind and function only in mind.

(Opponent) How is it that they are attributed to Puruṣa? It is as if what has been done by one man is taken to be the work of another, as if the laundryman were supposed to have been the dyer of the clothes. How can it be that these two, existing in mind alone, are assigned to Puruṣa?

(Answer) Because he experiences the effect of them, as the perceiver of the ideas, correct or false.

He gives an example in illustration: as victory or defeat encountered by the fighting men are attributed to the ruler because he experiences the effect of them, so bondage or release, happening in the mind alone, are attributed to Puruṣa, because he experiences the effect of them. In mind alone are bondage, which is failure to fulfil the purpose of Puruṣa, and release, which is the completion of that purpose. Insofar as the mind thinks of experience and transcendence as needing something still to be done for fulfilment, it is bondage; release (mokṣa) is fulfilment of the purpose of Puruṣa. It is in mind alone that the fulfilment of the purpose (takes place), the completion of what was to be done. When it sees Puruṣa different from itself, unconnected with bondage or release, there is nothing more for it to do. That completion of what had to be done is what is called release of buddhi.

So perception and retention and knowledge and postulation and rejection and action and speech and determination-according-to-reason, and application to practice, are projected as real existences in Puruṣa. They are all the same as being merely ideas, so that they are qualities of mind existing in mind alone, created by mind, but taken to be real existences as projected in Puruṣa. Puruṣa perceives them and Puruṣa supports them – only in the sense that they are projected in Puruṣa.

Perception (grahaṇa) is reception of sounds, etc., by senses such as the ears. Not forgetting what has been perceived is retention (dhāraṇa). Determining the universal and particular in what is thus remembered is knowledge (vijñāna). Deliberating with a desire to reconsider a known particular is postulation (ūha). Exclusion (vyudasana) of qualities opposed to what has been proposed is rejection (apoha). Engagement with objects is action (kriyā). The mental process whose field is words is speech (vacana). Determination of the proof of any thing to be just such as it is in accordance with the relevant reasoning is determination according to reason (yathā-nyāya-avadhāraṇa). Practice (abhiyoga) again and again by the mind so that it does not waver from the right notion – this is application (abhiniveśa). These, beginning with perception, are existences projected in Puruṣa. For he is the experiencer of their results as the knower of the result of perception and of the others.

To determine the different phases of the three guṇa-s which make up the Seen, the following sūtra is presented:

 

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