Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

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Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

By William Q. Judge


1. Assuredly, the exposition of Yoga, or Concentration, is now to be made.

The Sanskrit particle atha, which is translated "assuredly," intimates to the disciple that a distinct topic is to be expounded, demands his attention, and also serves as a benediction. Monier Williams says it is "an auspicious and inceptive participle often not easily expressed in English."

2. Concentration, or Yoga, is the hindering of the modifications of the thinking principle.

In other words, the want of concentration of thought is due to the fact that the mind — here called "the thinking principle" — is subject to constant modifications by reason of its being diffused over a multiplicity of subjects. So "concentration" is equivalent to the correction of a tendency to diffuseness, and to the obtaining of what the Hindus call "one-pointedness," or the power to apply the mind, at any moment, to the consideration of a single point of thought, to the exclusion of all else.

Upon this Aphorism the method of the system hinges. The reason for the absence of concentration at any time is, that the mind is modified by every subject and object that comes before it; it is, as it were, transformed into that subject or object. The mind, therefore, is not the supreme or highest power; it is only a function, an instrument with which the soul works, feels sublunary things, and experiences. The brain, however, must not be confounded with the mind, for the brain is in its turn but an instrument for the mind. It therefore follows that the mind has a plane of its own, distinct from the soul and the brain, and what is to be learned is, to use the will, which is also a distinct power from the mind and brain, in such a way that instead of permitting the mind to turn from one subject or object to another just as they may move it, we shall apply it as a servant at any time and for as long a period as we wish, to the consideration of whatever we have decided upon.

3. At the time of concentration the soul abides in the state of a spectator without a spectacle.

This has reference to the perfection of concentration, and is that condition in which, by the hindering of the modifications referred to in Aphorism 2, the soul is brought to a state of being wholly devoid of taint of, or impression by, any subject. The "soul" here referred to is not Atma, which is spirit.

4. At other times than that of concentration, the soul is in the same form as the modification of the mind.

This has reference to the condition of the soul in ordinary life, when concentration is not practised, and means that, when the internal organ, the mind, is through the senses affected or modified by the form of some object, the soul also — viewing the object through its organ, the mind — is, as it were, altered into that form; as a marble statue of snowy whiteness, if seen under a crimson light will seem to the beholder crimson and so is, to the visual organs, so long as that colored light shines upon it.

5. The modifications of the mind are of five kinds, and they are either painful or not painful;

6. They are, Correct Cognition, Misconception, Fancy, Sleep, and Memory.

7. Correct Cognition results from Perception, Inference, and Testimony.

8. Misconception is Erroneous Notion arising from lack of Correct Cognition.

9. Fancy is a notion devoid of any real basis and following upon knowledge conveyed by words.

For instance, the terms "a hare's horns" and "the head of Rahu," neither of which has anything in nature corresponding to the notion. A person hearing the expression "the head of Rahu" naturally fancies that there is a Rahu who owns the head, whereas Rahu — a mythical monster who is said to cause eclipses by swallowing the sun — is all head and has no body; and, although the expression "a hare's horns" is frequently used, it is well known that there is no such thing in nature. Much in the same way people continue to speak of the sun's "rising" and "setting," although they hold to the opposite theory.

10. Sleep is that modification of the mind which ensues upon the quitting of all objects by the mind, by reason of all the waking senses and faculties sinking into abeyance.

11. Memory is the not letting go of an object that one has been aware of.

12. The hindering of the modifications of the mind already referred to, is to be effected by means of Exercise and Dispassion.

13. Exercise is the uninterrupted, or repeated, effort that the mind shall remain in its unmoved state.

This is to say that in order to acquire concentration we must, again and again, make efforts to obtain such control over the mind that we can, at any time when it seems necessary, so reduce it to an unmoved condition or apply it to any one point to the exclusion of all others.

14. This exercise is a firm position observed out of regard for the end in view, and perseveringly adhered to for a long time without intermission.

The student must not conclude from this that he can never acquire concentration unless he devotes every moment of his life to it, for the words "without intermission" apply but to the length of time that has been set apart for the practice.

15. Dispassion is the having overcome one's desires.

That is — the attainment of a state of being in which the consciousness is unaffected by passions, desires, and ambitions, which aid in causing modifications of the mind.

16. Dispassion, carried to the utmost, is indifference regarding all else than soul, and this indifference arises from a knowledge of soul as distinguished from all else.

17. There is a meditation of the kind called "that in which there is distinct cognition," and which is of a four-fold character because of Argumentation, Deliberation, Beatitude, Egoism.

The sort of meditation referred to is a pondering wherein the nature of that which is to be pondered upon is well known, without doubt or error, and it is a distinct cognition which excludes every other modification of the mind than that which is to be pondered upon.

1. The Argumentative division of this meditation is a pondering upon a subject with argument as to its nature in comparison with something else; as, for instance, the question whether mind is the product of matter or precedes matter.

2. The Deliberative division is a pondering in regard to whence have come, and where is the field of action, of the subtler senses and the mind.

3. The Beatific condition is that in which the higher powers of the mind, together with truth in the abstract, are pondered upon.

4. The Egoistic division is one in which the meditation has proceeded to such a height that all lower subjects and objects are lost sight of, and nothing remains but the cognition of the self, which then becomes a stepping-stone to higher degrees of meditation.

The result of reaching the fourth degree, called Egoism, is that a distinct recognition of the object or subject with which the meditation began is lost, and self-consciousness alone results; but this self-consciousness does not include the consciousness of the Absolute or Supreme Soul.

18. The meditation just described is preceded by the exercise of thought without argumentation. Another sort of meditation is in the shape of the self-reproduction of thought after the departure of all objects from the field of the mind.

19. The meditative state attained by those whose discrimination does not extend to pure spirit, depends upon the phenomenal world.

20. In the practice of those who are, or may be, able to discriminate as to pure spirit, their meditation is preceded by Faith, Energy, Intentness (upon a single point), and Discernment, or thorough discrimination of that which is to be known.

It is remarked here by the commentator, that "in him who has Faith there arises Energy, or perseverance in meditation, and, thus persevering, the memory of past subjects springs up, and his mind becomes absorbed in Intentness, in consequence of the recollection of the subject, and he whose mind is absorbed in meditation arrives at a thorough discernment of the matter pondered upon."

21. The attainment of the state of abstract meditation is speedy, in the case of the hotly impetuous.

22. Because of the mild, the medium, and the transcendent nature of the methods adopted, there is a distinction to be made among those who practise Yoga.

23. The state of abstract meditation may be attained by profound devotedness toward the Supreme Spirit considered in its comprehensible manifestation as I's'wara.

It is said that this profound devotedness is a preeminent means of attaining abstract meditation and its fruits. "I's'wara" is the Spirit in the body.

24. I's'wara is a spirit, untouched by troubles, works, fruits of works, or desires.

25. In I's'wara becomes infinite that omniscience which in man exists but as a germ.

26. I's'wara is the preceptor of all, even of the earliest of created beings, for He is not limited by time.

27. His name is OM.

28. The repetition of this name should be made with reflection upon its signification.

The utterance of OM involves three sounds, those of long au, short u, and the "stoppage" or labial consonant m. To this tripartiteness is attached deep mystical symbolic meaning. It denotes, as distinct yet in union, Brahma, Vishnu, and S'iva, or Creation, Preservation, and Destruction. As a whole, it implies "the Universe." In its application to man, au refers to the spark of Divine Spirit that is in humanity; u, to the body through which the Spirit manifests itself; and m, to the death of the body, or its resolvement to its material elements. With regard to the cycles affecting any planetary system, it implies the Spirit, represented by au as the basis of the manifested worlds; the body or manifested matter, represented by u, through which the spirit works; and represented by m, "the stoppage or return of sound to its source," the Pralaya or Dissolution of the worlds. In practical occultism, through this word reference is made to Sound, or Vibration, in all its properties and effects, this being one of the greatest powers of nature. In the use of this word as a practice, by means of the lungs and throat, a distinct effect is produced upon the human body. In Aphorism 28 the name is used in its highest sense, which will necessarily include all the lower. All utterance of the word OM, as a practice, has a potential reference to the conscious separation of the soul from the body.

29. From this repetition and reflection on its significance, there come a knowledge of the Spirit and the absence of obstacles to the attainment of the end in view.

30. The obstacles in the way of him who desires to attain concentration are Sickness, Languor, Doubt, Carelessness, Laziness, Addiction to objects of sense, Erroneous Perception, Failure to attain any stage of abstraction, and Instability in any stage when attained.

31. These obstacles are accompanied by grief, distress, trembling, and sighing.

32. For the prevention of these, one truth should be dwelt upon.

Any accepted truth which one approves is here meant.

33. Through the practising of Benevolence, Tenderness, Complacency, and Disregard for objects of happiness, grief, virtue, and vice, the mind becomes purified.

The chief occasions for distraction of the mind are Covetousness and Aversion, and what the aphorism means is, not that virtue and vice should be viewed with indifference by the student, but that he should not fix his mind with pleasure upon happiness or virtue, nor with aversion upon grief or vice, in others, but should regard all with an equal mind; and the practice of Benevolence, Tenderness, and Complacency brings about cheerfulness of the mind, which tends to strength and steadiness.

34. Distractions may be combated by a regulated control or management of the breath in inspiration, retention, and exhalation.

35. A means of procurement of steadiness of the mind may be found in an immediate sensuous cognition;

36. Or, an immediate cognition of a spiritual subject being produced, this may also serve to the same end;

37. Or, the thought taking as its object some one devoid of passion — as, for instance, an ideally pure character — may find what will serve as a means;

38. Or, by dwelling on knowledge that presents itself in a dream, steadiness of mind may be procured;

39. Or, it may be effected by pondering upon anything that one approves.

40. The student whose mind is thus steadied obtains a mastery which extends from the Atomic to the Infinite.

41. The mind that has been so trained that the ordinary modifications of its action are not present, but only those which occur upon the conscious taking up of an object for contemplation, is changed into the likeness of that which is pondered upon, and enters into full comprehension of the being thereof.

42. This change of the mind into the likeness of what is pondered upon, is technically called the Argumentative condition, when there is any mixing-up of the title of the thing, the significance and application of that title, and the abstract knowledge of the qualities and elements of the thing per se.

43. On the disappearance, from the plane of contemplation, of the title and significance of the object selected for meditation; when the abstract thing itself, free from distinction by designation, is presented to the mind only as an entity, that is what is called the Non-Argumentative condition of meditation.

These two aphorisms (42-43) describe the first and second stages of meditation, in the mind properly intent upon objects of a gross or material nature. The next aphorism has reference to the state when subtile, or higher, objects are selected for contemplative meditation.

44. The Argumentative and Non-Argumentative conditions of the mind, described in the preceding two aphorisms, also obtain when the object selected for meditation is subtile, or of a higher nature than sensuous objects.

45. That meditation which has a subtile object in view ends with the indissoluble element called primordial matter.

46. The mental changes described in the foregoing, constitute "meditation with its seed."

"Meditation with its seed" is that kind of meditation in which there is still present before the mind a distinct object to be meditated upon.

47. When Wisdom has been reached, through acquirement of the non-deliberative mental state, there is spiritual clearness.

48. In that case, then, there is that Knowledge which is absolutely free from Error.

49. This kind of knowledge differs from the knowledge due to testimony and inference; because, in the pursuit of knowledge based upon those, the mind has to consider many particulars and is not engaged with the general field of knowledge itself.

50. The train of self-reproductive thought resulting from this puts a stop to all other trains of thought.

It is held that there are two main trains of thought; (a) that which depends upon suggestion made either by the words of another, or by impression upon the senses or mind, or upon association; (b) that which depends altogether upon itself, and reproduces from itself the same thought as before. And when the second sort is attained, its effect is to act as an obstacle to all other trains of thought, for it is of such a nature that it repels or expels from the mind any other kind of thought. As shown in Aphorism 48, the mental state called "non-argumentative" is absolutely free from error, since it has nothing to do with testimony or inference, but is knowledge itself, and therefore from its inherent nature it puts a stop to all other trains of thought.

51. This train of thought itself, with but one object, may also be stopped, in which case "meditation without a seed" is attained.

"Meditation without a seed" is that in which the brooding of the mind has been pushed to such a point that the object selected for meditation has disappeared from the mental plane, and there is no longer any recognition of it, but consequent progressive thought upon a higher plane.




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