Patanjali Yoga Sutras 2:1—2:20

Reference: Patanjali Yoga Sutras

These notes are derived from the book FOUR CHAPTERS ON FREEDOM by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, First edition 1976, Published by Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India.

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Sutra 2:1 Discipline for sadhana

Tapahsvadhyayesvarapranidhanani kriyayogah II 1 II

Tapah: austerity; svadhyaya: self-study of scriptures; ishvara pranidhana: surrender to God; kriya yoga: practical yoga 

Tapas, svadhyaya and Ishvara pranidhana constitute kriya yoga. (1)

The word tapas refers to a process, which completely illuminates the imperfections. It involves self-purification. It has a psychic nature. It is becoming aware of the unassimilated impressions and assimilating them. The word svadhyaya refers to the detailed study of your own self. It includes study of the entire physical, mental, emotional and spiritual structure of your personality. You are looking at your own consciousness. The phrase Ishvara pranidhana refers to placing the mind completely at the disposal of the inner self. These three acts constitute kriya yoga.

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Sutra 2:2 Why discipline?

Samadhibhavanarthah klesatanukaranarthascha II 2 II

Samadhi: samadhi; bhavanarthah: for developing the state of; klesa: cause of afflictions; tanu: thin; karanartha: for making; cha: and 

For developing the consciousness of samadhi and for the purpose of thinning out the cause of afflictions (kriya yoga is practised). (2)

The purpose of Kriya Yoga is to develop the consciousness of samadhi to reduce the causes of afflictions. This requires discipline.

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Sutra 2:3 Causes of pain

Avidyasmitaragadvesabhinivesah klesah II 3 II

Avidya: ignorance; asmita: l-feeling; raga: liking; dvesa: repulsion, dislike; abhinivesah: fear of death; klesah: afflictions, agony

Ignorance, I-feeling, liking, disliking and fear of death are the kleshas (afflictions). (3)

Ignorance, I-feeling, liking, disliking and fear of death are all klesha (agonies) that exist inside our very being. Everyone feels subconscious pain, but our superficial daily activities do not allow us to be aware of it, otherwise we would see pain in all its vividness. These klesha are rooted far back in the mind. They are removed by samadhi.

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Sutra 2:4 Avidya is the root cause 

Avidyaksetramuttaresam prasuptatanuvichchhinnodaranam  II 4 II

Avidya: ignorance; ksetram: field; uttaresam: of the following; prasupta: dormant; tanu: thin; vichchhinna: scattered; udaranam: fully operated, expanded 

Avidya is the field of the following (kleshas) in the states of dormant, thin, scattered or expanded. (4)

Kesha’s extend to the behavior of man. It is due to the compulsion of klesha that an individual or a whole nation may set itself to work for achieving certain goals. What appears to be natural behavior my actually be driven by klesha. The kleshas have four states of expression. They may be dormant, when you cannot perceive them; sometimes they become thin and they are experienced in mild fashion. In the scattered condition they give rise to an oscillating state; otherwise they may be fully expressed. These various stages of the kleshas are observed in various people at different times. So long as they are there, it is impossible to realize the self.

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Sutra 2:5 (i) Avidya – ignorance

Anityasuchiduhkhanatmasu nityasuchisukhatmakhyatiravidya II 5 II

Anitya: not eternal; asuchi: impure; duhkha: pain; anatmasu: non-atman; nitya: eternal; suchi: pure; sukha: happiness; atma: self; khyati: knowledge; avidya: ignorance

Avidya is to mistake the non-eternal, impure, evil and object for the eternal, pure, good and atman (respectively). (5)

Avidya (ignorance) is mistaken perception. Avidya is called maya in a cosmic context. It is not seeing things for what they are. It is misperceiving a whole scale of values as the black and white of duality. It is to be fixated on the body. We misunderstand our relations with people due to avidya. Avidya has been there from birth. Its end marks a new state in evolution. Ability to differentiate is the key.

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Sutra 2:6 (ii) Asmita – ‘I-feeling’

Drgdarsanasaktyorekatmatevasmita II 6 II

Drg: purusha, power of consciousness, power to see; darsana: that which is seen, cognition; saktyoh: of the two powers; ekatmata: identity; iva: as if; asmita: l-feeling 

Asmita is the identity as it were of the purusha with the buddhi. (6)

When the considerations of the body, actions and mind are part of the awareness of ‘I am’ we have asmita. It is identification with the vehicle and the role one is playing. On average, asmita is rooted in identification with the body. An intellectually developed person identifies with the higher functions of the mind. The power of seeing, thinking and hearing are attributed to the senses and the mind. It appears as if the eyes are seeing, etc. There may not be such identification, but when we are not aware of this fact, this very non-awareness is called asmita. 

In truth, the power is cognition is distinct from what is seen. It is not possible to overcome asmita through the intellect. It can only be done through meditation. If you are able to go higher in meditation, crossing avidya, you can realize the real nature of purusha. Then asmita is transcended. The other method of the jnana yogis requires a purification of the heart and the intellect. Thus asmita, which is an offshoot of avidya, can be overcome.

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Sutra 2:7 (iii) Raga

Sukhanusayi ragah II 7 II

Sukha: pleasure; anusayi: accompanying; ragah: liking 

Raga is the liking accompanying pleasure. (7)

Whenever there is an object of pleasure and the mind runs after it, wishing to have the pleasurable experience again and again, this is called raga. 

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Sutra 2:8 (iv) Dvesha

Duhkhanusayi dvesah II 8 II

Duhkha: pain; anusayi: accompanying; dvesah: repulsion 

Dvesha is the repulsion accompanying pain. (8)

Whenever there is an object of pain and the mind runs away from it, wishing to avoid it, this is called dvesha. Raga and dvesha are definite conditions of our mind and they prevent one from rising to spiritual heights. Dvesha is a more powerful binding force. When dvesha is removed, meditation becomes deeper and then raga can also be given up.

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Sutra 2:9 (v) Abhinivesha – clinging to life

Svarasavahi viduso’pi tatharudho’bhinivesah II 9 II

Svarasavahi: substained by its own force; vidusah: of the learned; api: even; tatha: like that; rudhah: dominating; abhinivesah: fear of death, clinging to life 

Abhinivesha is the desire for life sustained by its own force which dominates even the learned. (9)

Even learned people fear death. They have an equally strong desire for life. This is true of the philosopher, the thinker and the layman. It can be seen in everybody, therefore, it is called svarasavahi—a natural force inherent in everyone. This is one of the most dominant kleshas (afflictions). This klesha is latent in sannyasins. It is on the verge of extinction in those who have attained viveka, but in most people it is in a most active condition, so much so that if anyone is suffering from disease, everyone will be in a panic. 

In the Indian scriptures it is said that this abhinivesha is due to attachment to the body. If attachment is reduced then fear of death can be reduced to a minimum. While overcoming the kleshas, one should start with abhinivesha and go up to dwesha, then raga, then asmita, then avidya.

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Sutra 2:10 Kleshas can be reduced

Te pratiprasavaheyah suksmah II 10 II

Te: they (kleshas); pratiprasavah: involution; heyah: reducible; suksmah: subtle 

Those kleshas are reducible by involution when they are subtle. (10)

The kleshas (afflictions) may be reversed from active to alternating, to attenuated, to latent. In the last stage, the spiritual aspirant may find that for many years the vrittis do not trouble him and he is at ease for a long time. This is called a ‘key out’ in Scientology. But the seeds of kleshas are still there, and they may suddenly become active again. Here the abhinivesha is to be resolved back to dwesha. These two are to be resolved back to raga, these three to asmita, and ultimately these four are to be resolved back to avidya. This process is not of the intellect. For this, the entire yoga discipline will have to be used.

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Sutra 2:11 By meditation 

Dhyanaheyastadvrttayah II 11 II

Dhyana: meditation; heyah: reducible; tadvrttayah: their modification 

The modifications of the kleshas are reducible through meditation. (11)

One can understand these kleshas by just watching one’s mind. They are not only in the subconscious but are also found in the conscious mind.  By meditating upon the various stages of the kleshas, they can ultimately be annihilated. By close observation, the active vrittis go back to the attenuated state, and then to the subtle state; therefore, you will find spiritual aspirants who practise meditation become calmer. Viveka should be introduced when this has taken place. By a rational approach, the cause of the kleshas should be found out, and removed by dwelling upon it. The earnest aspirant should retire into seclusion for some time in order to see the seeds of the kleshas in their manifested form. Thus he can overcome or eliminate the kleshas. It is very difficult to observe the subtle kleshas and to find out whether you have them, because they are in your inner nature.

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Sutra 2:12 Karmashaya and reincarnation 

Klesamulah karmasayo drstadrstajanmavedaniyah II 12 II

Klesa: affliction; mulah: root; karma: action; asayo: reservoir; drsta: seen, present; adrsta: not seen, future; janma: birth; vedaniyah: to be experienced 

This storehouse of karmas which is the root cause of afflictions is to be experienced in the present and future births. (12)

The karmas cause kleshas (afflictions), and the kleshas give rise to fresh karmas. With the fresh karmas, one accumulates fresh samskaras (impressions), and then those samskaras once again strengthen the cause of afflictions. These afflictions are then experienced in the present and future births. If the karmas are to be annihilated, it becomes essential for one to go back to their source, the seeds of avidya (the unassimilated impressions) and assimilate them.

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Sutra 2:13 Fruits of karmashaya 

Sati mule tadvipako jatyayurbhogah II 13 II

Sati mule: so long as the root is there; tat: it; vipakah: ripening; jati: birth, class; ayuh: span of life; bhogah: experience 

So long as the root of karmashaya is there, it ripens and gives birth and class, span of life and experience. (13)

Life is nothing but birth, span of life and different experiences. All these aspects of life are the fruits of the karmashaya (store of unassimilated impressions or samakaras). Unless assimilated these impressions continue forever.

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Sutra 2:14 Fruits depend on past merits

Te hladaparitapaphalah punyapunyahetutvat II 14 II

Te: they; hlada: joy; paritapa: sorrow; phalah: fruits; punya: merit; apunya: demerit; hetutvat: on account of 

They (birth, etc.) have happiness or sorrow as their fruits depending upon merit or demerit. (14)

From the past actions we get various fruits in the form of birth, span of life and experiences, which may be enjoyable or distressing. The impression of a good action gets assimilated easily. The impression of a bad action remains to be assimilated, and it creates havoc until it is assimilated.

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Sutra 2:15 Pleasure and pain are both painful 

Parinamatapasarnskaraduhkhairgunavrttivirodhachcha duhkhameva sarvam vivekinah II 15 II

Parinama: result, consequence; tapa: acute suffering; samskara: impression; duhkhaih: by these three pains; guna: (three) gunas; vrtti: modification of mind; virodhat: on account of, opposing; cha: and; duhkham: pain; eva: only; sarvam: all; vivekinah: those who have discrimination 

In the case of one who has discrimination (viveka), all is painful because of pains due to change, acute suffering, samskaras, and also due to gunas and vrittis in opposition. (15)

For one who has developed discrimination, and is able to know truth and untruth, everything in life is painful, including success, position, and power, because every action is always accompanied by change, suffering and unassimilated impressions. Anything enjoyable, ultimately, also leads to pain. Property and wealth becomes the cause of anxiety when one is afraid of losing them. Furthermore, there is always a conflict at the conscious or subconscious level between what one desires and what exists as the characteristics of nature.

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Sutra 2:16 Future pain avoidable

Heyam duhkhamanagatam II 16 II

Heyam: to be avoided; duhkham: misery; anagatam: future 

Suffering which has not yet come should be avoided. (16)

The present suffering has to be undergone and finished with. But future suffering can be avoided by properly managing our present karma. 

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Sutra 2:17 Cause of what is to be avoided

Drastrdrsyayoh samyogo heyahetuh II 17 II

Drastr: seer; drsyayoh: seen; samyogo: union; heyahetuh: cause of what is to be avoided 

The union between seer and seen is the cause of what is to be avoided. (17)

The “union between seer and seen” is actually the identification of oneself with some object out there. Suffering begins with such identification. 

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Sutra 2:18 Properties of nature

Prakasakriyasthitisilam bhutendriyatmakam bhogapavargartham drsyam II 18 II

Prakasa: light, illumination; kriya: activity; sthiti: steadiness; silam: qualities; bhuta: elements; indriya: sense organs; atmakam: being of the nature; bhoga: experience; apavarga: liberation; artham: for the sake of; drsyam: seen 

The seen (drishya) has the properties of light, activity and stability; it is of the nature of the elements and sense organs and has experience and liberation as its objectives. (18)

We see what is in nature. The nature has the attributes of light, activity and solidity. All natural elements and sense organs have these attributes. We experience these attributes for the sake of liberating ourselves from them.

We experience nature through our physical and mental senses. The physical senses involve, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. The mental senses involve cognition through thinking, reasoning, recalling and feeling. Cognition is not limited to the waking state. It may go on even in dream, or meditation. We may cognize consciously or subconsciously. Nature consists of all manifestations whether objective or subjective.

The attribute of light, activity and solidity are represented by sattva, rajas, and tamas respectively. In science, they mean vibration, motion and inertia. Sattva develops to the degree there is harmony, consistency and continuity. Ultimately, there is liberation when identification ceases and we see things as they are.

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Sutra 2:19 Four stages of the gunas

Visesavisesalirigamatralingani gunaparvani II 19 II

Visesa: with difference; avisesa: no difference; Iingamatra: with a mere mark; alingani: without any mark; gunaparvani: state of the gunas

Vishesha, avishesha, lingamatra and alinga are the stages of the gunas. (19)

The four stages of the gunas (natural characteristics) are: diffentiation, non-differentiation, essence and non-essence.

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Sutra 2:20 The seer defined 

Drasta drsimatrah suddho’pi pratyayanupasyah II 20 II

Drasta: seer, purusha; drsimatrah: only pure consciousness; suddho: pure; api: also, though; pratyaya: concept; anupasyah: appears to see 

The seer is pure consciousness only, but in spite of its purity it appears to see through the mental concept. (20)

What we see is colored when we look through colored glasses. Similarly, mental filters color the viewpoint, so that the thing viewed is altered.

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