Yoga Sutra 2.20 the Seer is sight alone; though pure, he looks on at the thoughts

Sūtra II.20

The Seer is sight alone; though pure, he looks on at the thoughts

‘sight alone’ means the power of the Seer alone, untouched by any qualification. This Puruṣa is the witness of mind. He is not like the mind, and not absolutely unlike it.

The Seen has been explained it has been determined. Now he takes up the determination of the true nature of the Seer by whom these objects are seen. The Seer is sight alone; though pure, he looks on at the thoughts. The Seer: Puruṣa aware of the Seen as it has been described. His definition is sight-alone; though pure, he looks on at the thoughts. Here are being presented the same two points previously described in the sūtras ‘Then the Seer is established in his own nature’ (I.3) and ‘Otherwise, it conforms itself to the mental process’ (I.4).

There is observation (anudarśana) of the thoughts in the mind (bauddha-pratyaya) by pure sight which is inherently immutable; from this fact the state of establishment in the true nature is exactly ascertained. He looks on at the thoughts: but here there is only an inference of existence. Why so? Because one finds that it is by something else, different from themselves, that seen objects like jars are perceived, and their revealers like lights, etc., are perceived separately. And thoughts, which reveal everything, are perceptible only by something different from themselves, so that they are known only as things seen, like jars and lights and so on.

Puruṣa, looking on at thought in the mind alone, sees only that, and never fails to see thought which is his object; he is therefore sight alone. The word ‘alone’ (mātra) is to reject all other qualities; it is used to exclude any idea that the Seer is equally the seat of desire and so on, which would contradict the fact that the Seer is sight. For the Seer-ship is simply of sight. This is what is meant by the words: ‘sight alone’ means the power of the Seer alone. It is the seeing of the Seer that is his power, the power of the Seer. There is no other with the power of the Seer, and this power is the Seer himself. Now he explains further the meaning of the word ‘alone’; untouched by any qualification, untouched by any qualification such as desire or the guṇa-s or the qualities of the guṇa-s.

He is the witness (prati-saṃvedin) of the mind: to witness is natural to him, in the sense that his essence is awareness of the mind’s ideas. Now the commentator explains how it is to be understood that Puruṣa is witness of the mind, and sight-alone, and pure: he is not like the mind, and not absolutely unlike. This means that he is not of similar character to the mind, but neither is he absolutely devoid of its qualities. As to the dissimilarity, he adduces Puruṣa’s nature of awareness, and his purity; and for his not being absolutely different, he adduces the fact that Puruṣa conforms to the mental process.

To some extent he is not like the mind. In what way? Because mind is changeable, in that an object is (sometimes) known to it and (sometimes) unknown. Its object, whether a cow or a jar, is known to it and also unknown, which shows its changeability. But the fact that the object of Puruṣa is always known shows clearly the unchangeability of Puruṣa. Why so? Because mind, which is by definition the object of Puruṣa, could not be (sometimes) known and (sometimes) unknown to him; hence the unchangeability of Puruṣa is established, in that his object is always known to him.

(Opponent) How is it that he is not like the mind?

(Answer) To some extent he is not like it.

(Opponent) In what way? Why so?

(Answer) To show where the nature of Puruṣa is opposite to that of the mind he continues: Because mind is changeable, in that an object is (sometimes) known to it and (sometimes) unknown. He explains how this which is an object of the mind is known and unknown: Its object, whether a cow or a jar, is known to it and also unknown, known when mind is changed by that outer form, and unknown when it is not changed by the form.

If there were no changeability in it, the mind would be unchanging and always manifesting the object; the object would always be there for the mind. The fact that the object is known and (then) unknown shows the changeability of the mind; it is changeable because its object is known and (then) unknown, as with the eye depending on presence or absence of light.

With Puruṣa it is the reverse: the object is always known. Puruṣa’s own object is only what is known to him always. So the fact that the object of Puruṣa is always known shows clearly the unchangeability of Puruṣa.

(Opponent) I am not convinced that it has been well established that the object of Puruṣa is always known. Why should this be so?

(Answer) He replies: Because – this word points to an established fact – mind namely the ideas of the mind which is by definition the object of Puruṣa could not be (sometimes) known and (sometimes) unknown. The mental idea can only be ever known, and it is just because his knowledge does not waver that it is certain that Puruṣa is apart. So Puruṣa always knows his object and therefore his unchangeability is established. The proposition is: Puruṣa is unchangeable; the reason is, because he always knows his object; the counter-instance is, unlike things like the mind.

(Opponent) But Puruṣa is aware of the object as determined by the mind, so the object will be known and unknown to Puruṣa as it is to the mind. What Puruṣa observes is what the mind determines, which is knownness or unknownness of the object. Therefore there will be changeability in Puruṣa too, because the object will be known and unknown to it, just as to the mind.

(Answer) The objection does not hold, for Puruṣa’s object is the mind itself. The object for Puruṣa is only the mind in the form of an outer object, not that object in itself. So the object of Puruṣa is not known-and-unknown, because mind is always known to it, and accordingly there is no changeability in Puruṣa.

(Opponent) But some say: ‘Puruṣa is aware of the object determined by the mind.’ How can this be reconciled?

(Answer) But they too admit that Puruṣa is unchangeable. It comes down to what is being said in the words ‘object determined by the mind’. When it is said that he is aware of the object in the form received as determined by the mind, it means that he is aware of the form of the mind. Otherwise it would follow that Puruṣa had all the mental qualities like changeability and existence-for-the-sake-of-another, and being a collaborator (with body, senses, and objects, etc.) and so on.

(Opponent) Unless he were changeable, he would have no vision at all.

(Answer) Not so, because it is vision that is the nature of Puruṣa. He who maintains that Puruṣa does change, must answer this: What is brought about by the change?

(Opponent) Seeing.

(Answer) This is refuted by the fact that seeing is the nature of Puruṣa, so no change is needed.

(Opponent) Then Puruṣa’s awareness would not be experience, for experience is some modification.

(Answer) Then answer this: If so, Puruṣa would be impermanent by reason of having modifications, as are things like the body.

(Opponent) An internal modification would not be a cause of impermanence; the cause of impermanence is modification into another state of being.

(Answer) Then reply to this point: The state of modification is itself another state. The modification of an as yet unmodified thing is another state.

Once an object is accepted, there will be modification, and one cannot make such restrictions (of internal or external). Even with things which are changing (apparently only) internally, like diamonds and other jewels, there is still impermanance. The fact that objects are seen by a vision which arises from modification, cannot create a restriction in a permanent vision.

(Opponent) The knowledge does not arise from modification: it is modification.

(Answer) Then there should be knowledge in other things like the body, which also have modifications.

So it is established that Puruṣa is pure vision alone, and unchanging because he always knows his object. Although his nature is unchanging awareness, still, due to the presence or absence of mental ideas of seen objects, the statements are made: ‘he sees’, ‘he will cause to see’, ‘he has seen’. These are like statements about its shining in the case of the sun (savitṛ) and other lights. The statement that the sun illumines, or will illumine, or is brightly illumining are designations according to the presence or absence of something illumined. The mind and other such things which are subject to purity (and other variations) are counter-examples. Thus it is not similar.

The mind is for-the-sake-of-another, inasmuch as it is a collaborator with body and senses and objects, whereas Puruṣa is self-sufficient (svārtha). Again, the mind determines what all the things are, and therefore consists of the three guṇa-s; as consisting of the three guṇa-s, it is unconscious. But Puruṣa as the overseer (upa-draṣṭṛ) of the guṇa-s is not like the mind.

(Opponent) Then he must be unlike it.

(Answer) Not absolutely unlike. Why not? Because though pure, he looks on at the idea. Looking on, he appears as if he were of its nature, though he is not of its nature.

It has been said: ‘The changeless power-of experience which does not pass over, seems to have passed over into the changing object, falling onto the mental process. What is called the mental process of knowing is a taking on of the form of borrowed consciousness, by mere resemblance to the mental process, and not distinguished from it.

The mind like ears, etc., consists of the three guṇa-s because it determines all things the totality of the objects, peaceful or violent or delusive. But Puruṣa as the overseer (upa-draṣṭṛ) is by reason of his witnesshood apart from the three guṇa-s. This is the proposition, and the mind, etc., are adduced as counter-instances, to show that as Puruṣa is apart from the three guṇa-s, he is not like the mind.

(Opponent) Then he must be unlike it and consequently will never come to experience, just because he is absolutely unlike the mind.

(Answer) The reply is: Not absolutely unlike. Why not? Your point is, that there is no reason to establish that the pure one, opposed to the nature of the mind, is not absolutely unlike the impure mental ideas. But this is not so, because it is established that he is witness of the mind and its ideas. Because though pure, he looks on at the mental idea (bauddha-pratyaya), and that perception of the mental idea is a demonstrated fact. When it is said that he looks on, the meaning is that he sees the mental idea which has assumed the form of the object. Though he is not of its nature not of the three guṇa-s, looking on it, he appears as if he were of its nature, as if of peaceful or violent or delusive character. So he is not absolutely different, because of his conformity in practice. It was said that Puruṣa would be explained as the witness of the mind, and this has now been done, and his resemblance (to the mind) has also been pointed out. As it is said in the scripture (tantra), The changeless power-of-experience the power-of-sight which as described already does not pass over (into anything), seems to have passed over into the changing object into the idea of the mind, having that as its object, falling onto the mental process, seeming to fall on to the mental process by its observation of it as a witness. It is from the power-of-sight (dṛk-śakti) that the mental idea gets its state of being an object when it arises.

Falling on to it as it perceives it, the power-of-experience is taking on its form of borrowed consciousness, acquiring its form of being endowed with consciousness, the form of being endowed with a Puruṣa, the form attained by that mental process, as a lump of glowing iron gets the form of being endowed with fire from being the object-of-sight, by mere resemblance to the mental process by its mere conformity to the mental process and not distinguished from it, this is what is called the mental process of knowing (jña), the mental process of pure knowing, being the mental process of mere perception (upalabdhi).

 

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