Yoga Sutra 3.18 knowledge of previous lives

Sūtra III.18

From direct perception of the saṃskāra-s, knowledge of previous lives

From direct perception of the saṃskāra-s, knowledge of previous lives. The saṃskāra-s referred to here are the saṃskāra-groups called vāsanā, caused by memory and taints. The observable bring about fruition as righteousness and unrighteousness: the unobservable are mental dharma-s which have been laid down in previous existences as change, activity, inhibition, power, life, and righteousness. Saṃyama on these (two kinds) has the power to give direct perception of saṃskāra-s.

They can never be perceived apart from the place, time, cause, and experience: so it is with those associations that the yogin attains knowledge of previous births from direct perception of saṃskāra-s. This kind of saṃyama can be applied to other living beings also.

From direct perception of the saṃskāra-s, knowledge of previous lives. The saṃskāra-s referred to here are the saṃskāra-groups called vāsanā, both observable and unobservable, caused by memory and taints. The observable have begun to evolve the experience of the ripening of taints and karma as mental dharma-s caused by righteousness and unrighteousness: the unobservable are mental dharma-s which have been laid down in previous existences, performed in an absolutely endless chain of births, as change, activity, inhibition, power, life, and righteousness, as explained before (under III.15). Saṃyama made on these two kinds of saṃskāra-s has the power to give direct perception of the saṃskāra-s.

And because they go into operation associated with place, time, cause, and experience, when they are directly perceived it must also be in association with the particular place and so on. Therefore They can never be perceived apart from the place, time, cause, and experience. So it is with those associations that the yogin attains knowledge of previous births from direct perception of saṃskāra-s.

This kind of saṃyama can be applied to other living beings also: from the saṃyama on such saṃskāra-s of those whose births he wishes to know, the knowledge of their previous births comes to him.

To illustrate the result of this direct perception of saṃskāra-s, he now cites an ancient story.

(From here on there are some extended passages where the Vyāsa is simply repeated word for word by Śaṅkara, with hardly any comment. In extreme cases, the occasional word which is glossed is underlined, and the comment given below; the rest of the Vyāsa is not repeated. Tr.)

There is a story from scripture about this.

The revered sage, Jaigīṣavya, by direct perception of his own saṃskāra-s, observed what had been his transmigrations through different births during ten world-periods, and realized the knowledge-born-of-discrimination (vivekajam jñānam). Then revered Āvatya assumed a human form, and came to ask him: ‘Through ten world-periods you have known, with your clear purified mind, the pain of going through hells and animal existence, and again and again have been born among gods, and among men. Of which was there more – pleasure or pain?’

Jaigīṣavya said to revered Āvatya: ‘During my lives in the ten world-periods, I have known with my clear purified mind what it is to go through hell and animal existence, and again and again to be born among gods and men. Whatever I experienced, I account to have been all pain.’

Revered Āvatya said: ‘O one who has lived so long, are your mastery of nature, and that happiness of contentment known as supreme (sūtra II.42) also rejected as pain?’

Revered Jaigīṣavya said: ‘The happiness of contentment is supreme only in comparison with sense enjoyment. Compared to the happiness of Transcendental Aloneness (kaivalya) it is merely pain. Its quality of purity of mind is of the three guṇa-s. Any idea must be of the three guṇa-s, and rejected by me as something to be avoided.’

(Vivaraṇa) … knowledge-born-of-discrimination caused by detachment …

‘The pain of thirst runs through them like a thread. What is called real happiness is removal of the thread of thirst, is purity, freedom from constraint, and being well-disposed towards all.’

How are the two forms of happiness to be compared? The pain of thirst runs through like a thread. What is called real happiness in contentment and mastery of nature is removal of the thread of thirst, is purity, freedom from constraint, and being well-disposed towards all.

 

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