Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

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Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

By William Q. Judge


1. Fixing the mind on a place, object, or subject is attention.

This is called Dharana.

2. The continuance of this attention is contemplation.

This is called Dhyana.

3. This contemplation, when it is practised only in respect to a material subject or object of sense, is meditation.

This is called Samadhi.

4. When this fixedness of attention, contemplation, and meditation are practised with respect to one object, they together constitute what is called Sanyama.

We have no word in English corresponding to Sanyama. The translators have used the word restraint, but this is inadequate and misleading, although it is a correct translation. When a Hindu says that an ascetic is practising restraint according to this system in respect to any object, he means that he is performing Sanyama, while in English it may indicate that he is restraining himself from some particular thing or act, and this is not the meaning of Sanyama. We have used the language of the text, but the idea may perhaps be better conveyed by "perfect concentration."

5. By rendering Sanyama — or the operation of fixed attention, contemplation, and meditation — natural and easy, an accurate discerning power is developed.

This "discerning power" is a distinct faculty which this practice alone develops, and is not possessed by ordinary persons who have not pursued concentration.

6. Sanyama is to be used in proceeding step by step in overcoming all modifications of the mind, from the more apparent to those the most subtle.

[See note to Aphorism 2, Book I.] The student is to know that after he has overcome the afflictions and obstructions described in the preceding books, there are other modifications of a recondite character suffered by the mind, which are to be got rid of by means of Sanyama. When he has reached that stage the difficulties will reveal themselves to him.

7. The three practices — attention, contemplation, and meditation — are more efficacious for the attainment of that kind of meditation called, "that in which there is distinct cognition," than the first five means heretofore described as "not killing, veracity, not stealing, continence, and not coveting."

See Aphorism 17, Book I.

8. Attention, contemplation, and meditation are anterior to and not immediately productive of that kind of meditation in which the distinct cognition of the object is lost, which is called meditation without a seed.

9. There are two trains of self-reproductive thought, the first of which results from the mind being modified and shifted by the object or subject contemplated; the second, when it is passing from that modification and is becoming engaged only with the truth itself; at the moment when the first is subdued and the mind is just becoming intent, it. is concerned in both of those two trains of self-reproductive thought, and this state is technically called Nirodha.

10. In that state of meditation which has been called Nirodha, the mind has an uniform flow.

11. When the mind has overcome and fully controlled its natural inclination to consider diverse objects, and begins to become intent upon a single one, meditation is said to be reached.

12. When the mind, after becoming fixed upon a single object, has ceased to be concerned in any thought about the condition, qualities, or relations of the thing thought of, but is absolutely fastened upon the object itself, it is then said to be intent upon a single point — a state technically called Ekagrata.

13. The three major classes of perception regarding the characteristic property, distinctive mark or use, and possible changes of use or relation, of any object or organ of the body contemplated by the mind, have been sufficiently explained by the foregoing exposition of the manner in which the mind is modified.

It is very difficult to put this aphorism into English. The three words translated as "characteristic property, distinctive mark or use, and possible change of use" are Dharma, Lakshana, and Avastha, and may be thus illustrated: Dharma, as, say, the clay of which a jar is composed, Lakshana, the idea of a jar thus constituted, and Avastha, the consideration that the jar alters every moment, in that it becomes old, or is otherwise affected.

14. The properties of an object presented to the mind are: first, those which have been considered and dismissed from view; second, those under consideration; and third, that which is incapable of denomination because it is not special, but common to all matter.

The third class above spoken of has reference to a tenet of the philosophy which holds that all objects may and will be finally "resolved into nature" or one basic substance; hence gold may be considered as mere matter, and therefore not different — not to be separately denominated in final analysis — from earth.

15. The alterations in the order of the three-fold mental modifications before described, indicate to the ascetic the variety of changes which a characteristic property is to undergo when contemplated.

16. A knowledge of past and future events comes to an ascetic from his performing Sanyama in respect to the three-fold mental modifications just explained.

See Aphorism 4, where "Sanyama" is explained as the use or operation of attention, contemplation, and meditation in respect to a single object.

I7. In the minds of those who have not attained to concentration, there is a confusion as to uttered sounds, terms, and knowledge, which results from comprehending these three indiscriminately; but when an ascetic views these separately, by performing "Sanyama" respecting them, he attains the power of understanding the meaning of any sound uttered by any sentient being.

18. A knowledge of the occurrences experienced in former incarnations arises in the ascetic from holding before his mind the trains of self-reproductive thought and concentrating himself upon them.

19. The nature of the mind of another person becomes known to the ascetic when he concentrates his own mind upon that other person.

20. Such concentration will not, however, reveal to the ascetic the fundamental basis of the other person's mind, because he does not "perform Sanyama" with that object before him.

21. By performing concentration in regard to the properties and essential nature of form, especially that of the human body, the ascetic acquires the power of causing the disappearance of his corporeal frame from the sight of others, because thereby its property of being apprehended by the eye is checked, and that property of Sattwa which exhibits itself as luminousness is disconnected from the spectator's organ of sight.

Another great difference between this philosophy and modern science is here indicated. The schools of today lay down the rule that if there is a healthy eye in line with the rays of light reflected from an object — such as a human body — the latter will be seen, and that no action of the mind of the person looked at can inhibit the functions of the optic nerves and retina of the onlooker. But the ancient Hindus held that all things are seen by reason of that differentiation of Sattwa — one of the three great qualities composing all things — which is manifested as luminousness, operating in conjunction with the eye, which is also a manifestation of Sattwa in another aspect. The two must conjoin; the absence of luminousness or its being disconnected from the seer's eye will cause a disappearance. And as the quality of luminousness is completely under the control of the ascetic, he can, by the process laid down, check it, and thus cut off from the eye of the other an essential element in the seeing of any object.

22. In the same manner, by performing Sanyama in regard to any particular organ of sense — such as that of hearing, or of feeling, or of tasting, or of smelling — the ascetic acquires the power to cause cessation of the functions of any of the organs of another or of himself, at will.

The ancient commentator differs from others with regard to this aphorism, in that he asserts that it is a portion of the original text, while they affirm that it is not, but an interpolation.

23. Action is of two kinds; first, that accompanied by anticipation of consequences; second, that which is without any anticipation of consequences. By performing concentration with regard to these kinds of action, a knowledge arises in the ascetic as to the time of his death.

Karma, resultant from actions of both kinds in present and in previous incarnations, produces and affects our present bodies, in which we are performing similar actions. The ascetic, by steadfastly contemplating all his actions in this and in previous incarnations (see Aphorism 18), is able to know absolutely the consequences resultant from actions he has performed, and hence has the power to calculate correctly the exact length of his life.

24. By performing concentration in regard to benevolence, tenderness, complacency, and disinterestedness, the ascetic is able to acquire the friendship of whomsoever he may desire.

25. By performing concentration with regard to the powers of the elements, or of the animal kingdom, the ascetic is able to manifest those in himself.

26. By concentrating his mind upon minute, concealed or distant objects, in every department of nature, the ascetic acquires thorough knowledge concerning them.

27. By concentrating his mind upon the sun, a knowledge arises in the ascetic concerning all spheres between the earth and the sun.

28. By concentrating his mind upon the moon, there arises in the ascetic a knowledge of the fixed stars.

29. By concentrating his mind upon the polar star, the ascetic is able to know the fixed time and motion of every star in the Brahmanda of which this earth is a part.

"Brahmanda" here means the great system, called by some "universe," in which this world is.

30. By concentrating his mind upon the solar plexus, the ascetic acquires a knowledge of the structure of the material body.

31. By concentrating his mind upon the nerve center in the pit of the throat, the ascetic is able to overcome hunger and thirst.

32. By concentrating his mind upon the nerve center below the pit of the throat, the ascetic is able to prevent his body being moved, without any resistant exertion of his muscles.

33. By concentrating his mind upon the light in the head the ascetic acquires the power of seeing divine beings.

There are two inferences here which have nothing to correspond to them in modern thought. One is, that there is a light in the head; and the other, that there are divine beings who may be seen by those who thus concentrate upon the "light in the head." It is held that a certain nerve, or psychic current, called Brahmarandhra-nadi, passes out through the brain near the top of the head. In this there collects more of the luminous principle in nature than elsewhere in the body and it is called jyotis — the light in the head. And, as every result is to be brought about by the use of appropriate means, the seeing of divine beings can be accomplished by concentration upon that part of the body more nearly connected with them. This point — the end of Brahmarandhra-nadi — is also the place where the connexion is made between man and the solar forces.

34. The ascetic can, after long practice, disregard the various aids to concentration hereinbefore recommended for the easier acquirement of knowledge, and will be able to possess any knowledge simply through the desire therefor.

35. By concentrating his mind upon the Hridaya, the ascetic acquires penetration and knowledge of the mental conditions, purposes, and thoughts of others, as well as an accurate comprehension of his own.

Hridaya is the heart. There is some disagreement among mystics as to whether the muscular heart is meant, or some nervous center to which it leads, as in the case of a similar direction for concentrating on the umbilicus, when, in fact, the field of nerves called the solar plexus is intended.

36. By concentrating his mind upon the true nature of the soul as being entirely distinct from any experiences, and disconnected from all material things, and dissociated from the understanding, a knowledge of the true nature of the soul itself arises in the ascetic.

37. From the particular kind of concentration last described, there arises in the ascetic, and remains with him at all times, a knowledge concerning all things, whether they be those apprehended through the organs of the body or otherwise presented to his contemplation.

38. The powers hereinbefore described are liable to become obstacles in the way of perfect concentration, because of the possibility of wonder and pleasure flowing from their exercise, but are not obstacles for the ascetic who is perfect in the practice enjoined.

"Practice enjoined," see Aphorisms 36, 37.

39. The inner self of the ascetic may be transferred to any other body and there have complete control, because he has ceased to be mentally attached to objects of sense, and through his acquisition of the knowledge of the manner in and means by which the mind and body are connected.

As this philosophy holds that the mind, not being the result of brain, enters the body by a certain road and is connected with it in a particular manner, this aphorism declares that, when the ascetic acquires a knowledge of the exact process of connecting mind and body, he can connect his mind with any other body, and thus transfer the power to use the organs of the occupied frame in experiencing effects from the operations of the senses.

40. By concentrating his mind upon, and becoming master of, that vital energy called Udana, the ascetic acquires the power of arising from beneath water, earth, or other superincumbent matter.

Udana is the name given to one of the so-called "vital airs." These, in fact, are certain nervous functions for which our physiology has no name, and each one of which has its own office. It may be said that by knowing them, and how to govern them, one can alter his bodily polarity at will. The same remarks apply to the next aphorism.

41. By concentrating his mind upon the vital energy called Samana, the ascetic acquires the power to appear as if blazing with light.

[This effect has been seen by the interpreter on several occasions when in company with one who had acquired the power. The effect was as if the person had a luminousness under the skin. — W. Q. J.]

42. By concentrating his mind upon the relations between the ear and A'kas'a, the ascetic acquires the power of hearing all sounds, whether upon the earth or in the aether, and whether far or near.

The word A'kas'a has been translated both as "aether" and "astral light." In this aphorism it is employed in the former sense. Sound, it will remembered, is the distinctive property of this element.

43. By concentrating his mind upon the human body, in its relations to air and space, the ascetic is able to change at will the polarity of his body, and consequently acquires the power of freeing it from the control of the laws of gravitation.

44. When the ascetic has completely mastered all the influences which the body has upon the inner man, and has laid aside all concern in regard to it, and in no respect is affected by it, the consequence is a removal of all obscurations of the intellect.

45. The ascetic acquires complete control over the elements by concentrating his mind upon the five classes of properties in the manifested universe; as, first, those of gross or phenomenal character; second, those of form; third, those of subtle quality; fourth, those susceptible of distinction as to light, action, and inertia; fifth, those having influence in their various degrees for the production of fruits through their effects upon the mind.

46. From the acquirement of such power over the elements there results to the ascetic various perfections, to wit, the power to project his inner-self into the smallest atom, to expand his inner-self to the size of the largest body, to render his material body light or heavy at will, to give indefinite extension to his astral body or its separate members, to exercise an irresistible will upon the minds of others, to obtain the highest excellence of the material body, and the ability to preserve such excellence when obtained.

47. Excellence of the material body consists in color, loveliness of form, strength, and density.

48. The ascetic acquires complete control over the organs of sense from having performed Sanyama (concentration) in regard to perception, the nature of the organs, egoism, the quality of the organs as being in action or at rest, and their power to produce merit or demerit from the connexion of the mind with them.

49. Therefrom spring up in the ascetic the powers; to move his body from one place to another with the quickness of thought, to extend the operations of his senses beyond the trammels of place or the obstructions of matter, and to alter any natural object from one form to another.

50. In the ascetic who has acquired the accurate discriminative knowledge of the truth and of the nature of the soul, there arises a knowledge of all existences in their essential natures and a mastery over them.

51. In the ascetic who acquires an indifference even to the last mentioned perfection, through having destroyed the last germs of desire, there comes a state of the soul that is called Isolation.

[See note on Isolation in Book IV.]

52. The ascetic ought not to form association with celestial beings who may appear before him, nor exhibit wonderment at their appearance, since the result would be a renewal of afflictions of the mind.

53. A great and most subtile knowledge springs from the discrimination that follows upon concentration of the mind performed with regard to the relation between moments and their order.

In this Patanjali speaks of ultimate divisions of time which cannot be further divided, and of the order in which they precede and succeed each other. It is asserted that a perception of these minute periods can be acquired, and the result will be that he who discriminates thus goes on to greater and wider perception of principles in nature which are so recondite that modern philosophy does not even know of their existence. We know that we can all distinguish such periods as days or hours, and there are many persons, born mathematicians, who are able to perceive the succession of minutes and can tell exactly without a watch how many have elapsed between any two given points in time. The minutes, so perceived by these mathematical wonders, are, however, not the ultimate divisions of time referred to in the Aphorism, but are themselves composed of such ultimates. No rules can be given for such concentration as this, as it is so far on the road of progress that the ascetic finds the rules himself, after having mastered all the anterior processes.

54. Therefrom results in the ascetic a power to discern subtile differences impossible to be known by other means.

55. The knowledge that springs from this perfection of discriminative power is called "knowledge that saves from rebirth." It has all things and the nature of all things for its objects, and perceives all that hath been and that is, without limitations of time, place, or circumstance, as if all were in the present and the presence of the contemplator.

Such an ascetic as is referred to in this and the next aphorism, is a Jivanmukta and is not subject to reincarnation. He, however, may live yet upon earth but is not in any way subject to his body, the soul being perfectly free at every moment. And such is held to be the state of those beings called, in theosophical literature, Adepts, Mahatmas, Masters.

56. When the mind no longer conceives itself to be the knower, or experiencer, and has become one with the soul — the real knower and experiencer — Isolation takes place and the soul is emancipated.




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