Yoga Sutra 3.22 foreknowledge of death

Sūtra III.22

Karma is rapid or slow. From saṃyama on it, or on omens, there comes foreknowledge of death

The karma which fructifies as life-span is of two kinds. Just as a wet cloth when spread out would dry in a shorter time, so is the rapid karma. And as the same cloth when screwed up would take a long time to dry, so is the slow. Or as fire in dry grass, with a following breeze, is carried everywhere and burns it up in a very short time, so is the rapid. And as the same fire, brought near to the pile of grass only gradually, would take a long time to burn it up, so is the slow. This karma which determines the length of life in one particular birth is of the two kinds: rapid or slow (in fructifying).

Karma is rapid or slow. From saṃyama on it or on omens, there comes foreknowledge of death. The karma which fructifies as life-span is of two kinds. What are they? That which having found an impelling cause brings its fruition quickly is rapid, but that whose flow is retarded will take a long time to bear fruit, and that is the slow.

Just as a wet cloth when spread out stretched out would dry in a shorter time more quickly, so the rapid karma which fructifies quickly as a life-span, and having done so, is extinguished. And the same cloth when screwed up not stretched out would take a long time to dry, so the slow gives the life-span over a long time.

Or as fire in dry grass, with a following breeze, with the wind behind it, is carried everywhere and burns it up in a very short time, so the rapid karma in a very short time will consume the life-span. And as the same fire, brought near to the pile of grass only gradually, would take a long time to burn it up, so the slow karma. This karma which determines the length of life in one particular birth is of two kinds. From saṃyama on them there is knowledge of one’s own final passing. So too from saṃyama on the two kinds of karma of other people, comes knowledge of their passing. The purpose of knowing about one’s passing is to create urgency in fulfilling human obligations.

Or from omens, they being of three kinds: relating to the person, relating to elemental spirits, and relating to the gods. Personal would be, for instance, when, on closing the ears, no humming sound is heard within, or on closing the eyes no light is perceived. Then elemental omens would be when one sees messengers of Death, or suddenly feels that departed ancestors have returned. Omens relating to the gods would be when one suddenly sees angels and so on, or when everything becomes confused.

From omens too, one knows the destined time of passing. Or from omens there comes knowledge of death, they being of three kinds: relating to the person, relating to elemental spirits, and relating to the gods.

He illustrates the personal ones: when on closing the ears, no humming sound is heard within, or on closing the eyes, no light is perceived.

And elemental ones would be when one sees messengers of Death, or suddenly feels that departed ancestors have returned.

Omens relating to the gods would be when he suddenly for no reason sees angels and so on: or when everything becomes confused that he sees and does. So the common word for ominous, namely ari-ṣṭha (standing as an enemy), is very appropriate, as when it is said: ‘My vision became confused, which was a bad omen (ariṣṭha).’

 

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