Patanjali Yoga Sutras 2:21—2:40

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.


Sutra 2:21 Prakriti is only for purusha

Tadartha eva drsyasyatma II 21 II

Tadartha: for the sake of that (purusha); eva: alone; drsyasya: of the seen; atma: nature 

For the sake of that (purusha) alone does prakriti exist. (21)

Purusha is the cognizer and prakriti is the medium of cognition. The entire process of evolution right from the very beginning is meant for serving the purpose of the purusha alone, which is to attain liberation (The Static Viewpoint).


Sutra 2:22 Prakriti after liberation

Krtartham prati nastamapyanastam tadanyasadharanatvat II 22 II

Krtartham: a person whose purpose is fulfilled; prati: towards; nastam. destroyed; api: although; anastam: not destroyed; tat: that; anya: other; sadharanatvat: on account of being common 

To one whose purpose is fulfilled the seen becomes non-existent but for others it is not destroyed because cognition is common to all. (22)

Upon liberation, the identification of purusha with prakriti is completely destroyed. The consciousness evolves as the perceptual elements get increasingly assimilated. Ultimately, the consciousness becomes completely continuous, consistent and harmonious, and the granularity of perceptual elements is totally destroyed. The purusha looks at prakriti with totally fresh eyes. Prakriti remains, and so does its cognition. However, there are others who are still subject to identification, which is expressed as the granularity of perceptual elements. Their cognition of prakriti continues to be distorted or biased, giving an unfair or misleading view.


Sutra 2:23 Why union?

Svasvamisaktayoh svarupopalabdhihetuh samyogah  II 23 II

Sva: of one’s own; svami: master; saktayoh: of the two powers; svarupa: one’s essential nature; upalabdhi: acquirement; hetuh: purpose; samyogah: coming together 

The purpose of coming together of purusha and prakriti is to experience the essential nature and to achieve, in themselves, the powers of purusha and prakriti. (23)

When purusha and prakriti come together we have existence and viewpoint. The viewpoint embarks on a journey of self-realization as the inherent powers of purusha and prakriti unfold. 


Sutra 2:24 Avidya is the cause 

Tasya heturavidya II 24 II

Tasya: of it (union); hetuh: cause; avidya: lack of inner awareness 

The cause of coming together is avidya. (24)

Here “coming together” means identification. It is identifying self with something else. It is not seeing the essential nature of self. That is avidya. When one perceives the identification, then the realization of essential nature follows.


Sutra 2:25 Definition of hana

Tadabhavat samyogabhavo hanam taddrseh kaivalyam II 25 II

Tat: that (avidya); abhavat: by absence; samyoga: union; abhavah: absence; hanam: avoidance; tat: that(state); drseh: of the seer; kaivalyam: liberation 

By the absence of avidya the union (between the purusha and prakriti) disappears. This is hana (avoidance), called liberation of the purusha. (25)

With the removal of avidya, the cause of the identification of the purusha with prakriti is removed. This is called hana (killing, destroying, removing, dispelling), in which the purusha is liberated.


Sutra 2:26 The means for hana

Vivekakhyatiraviplava hanopayah II 26 II

Viveka: discrimination; khyatih: awareness; aviplava: without fluctuation; hanopayah: the means of avoidance (hana) 

The unfluctuating awareness of the real (vivekakhyati) is the means for avoidance of avidya. (26)

There are different types of knowledge, such as, the knowledge through the indriyas (sense organs), memories, imagination, and reasoning. If we want to realize the real nature of purusha, we cannot depend on knowledge from these sources. That would need a different kind of knowledge altogether called vivekakhyati (knowingness). It is not possible to weigh the earth using scales, but you can do it through the laws of physics. Similarly, you can know the  reality of nature only by dispelling avidya through unfluctuating knowingness (the static viewpoint).


Sutra 2:27 Stages of enlightenment 

Tasya saptadha prantabhumih prajna II 27 II

Tasya: of it, the purusha; saptadha: sevenfold; prantabhumih: bordering province; prajna: the cognizing consciousness 

There are seven stages of enlightenment of that purusha. (27)

These stages are contemplative: firstly, realization of what is to be avoided; secondly, awareness of the means for that removal; thirdly, awareness of spiritual evolution; fourthly, awareness of fulfillment and accomplishment; fifthly, awareness of the purpose of experience and liberation; sixthly, awareness of the fulfillment of the work of the gunas; and lastly, awareness of one’s own self. Through these seven stages, a higher kind of awareness is developed which is called vivekakhyati (knowingness).


Sutra 2:28 Necessity of yoga practice

Yoganganusthanadasuddhiksaye jnanadiptiravivekakhyateh II 28 II

Yoganga: a part of yoga; anusthanat: by practice; asuddhi: impurity; ksaye: destruction; jnana: spiritual knowledge; diptih: radiance; avivekakhyateh: till the awareness of reality 

By the practice of the parts of yoga impurity diminishes until the rise of spiritual knowledge culminates in awareness of reality. (28)

The impurity of the mind (identification) is destroyed by the practice of yoga. This gives rise to spiritual illumination, which results in deeper awareness of reality. This is the higher self.


Sutra 2:29 Eight parts of yoga discipline 

Yamaniyamasanapranayamapratyaharadharanadhyanasamadhayo’stavangani II 29 II

Yama: self-restraints; niyama: fixed rules; asana: postures; pranayama: breath control; pratyahara: sense withdrawal; dharana: concentration; dhyana: meditation; samadhi: samadhi; asta: eight; ahgani: parts 

Self restraints, fixed rules, postures, breath control, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation and samadhi constitute the eight parts of yoga discipline. (29)

The raja yoga of Patanjali is divided into eight limbs. Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama and pratyahara form the external means of yoga. Dharana, dhyana, and samadhi form the internal means. The external and internal means are interdependent. Every stage of raja yoga makes way for the next higher stage. They must be practiced in the given sequence as slowly as possible, so that there is no reaction due to suppression.


Sutra 2:30 The five yamas

Ahimsasatyasteyabrahmacharyaparigraha yamah II 30 II

Ahimsa: non-violence; satya: truthfulness; asteya: honesty; brahmacharya: sensual abstinence; aparigraha: non-acquisitiveness; yamah: self-restraints.

Non-violence, truth, honesty, sensual abstinence and non-possessiveness are the five self-restraints. (30)

This sutra names the yamas. They will be discussed individually in the following sutras.


Sutra 2:31 The great discipline 

Jatidesakalasamayanavachchhinnah sarvabhauma mahavratam II 31 II

Jati: class of birth; desa: country, or place; kala: time; samaya: circumstances; anavachchhinnah: unconditioned, unlimited; sarvabhauma: universal; mahavratam: the great discipline 

When practiced universally without exception due to birth, place, time and circumstances they (yamas) become great disciplines. (31)

There should be no modification in Yamas due to differences in country, birth, time, place and circumstances. These Yamas should be practiced universally. Then they become great disciplines.


Sutra 2:32 The five niyamas

Sauchasantosatapahsvadhyayesvara pranidhanani niyamah II 32 II

Saucha: cleanliness; santosa: contentment; tapah: tapas, austerity; svadhyaya: self-study; isvara pranidhanani: resignation to God; niyamah: fixed rules

Cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study and resignation to God constitute fixed observances. (32)

This sutra names the niyamas.


Sutra 2:33 Way to remove disturbances

Vitarkabadhane pratipaksabhavanam  II 33 II 

Vitarka: passions; badhane: on disturbance; pratipaksa: the opposite; bhavanam: pondering over 

When the mind is disturbed by passions one should practice pondering over their opposites. (33)

During the practice of yama and niyama, evil passions come up due to old habits and they create disturbances. Suppression will not do. The best thing is to ponder over the opposite tendencies. For example, hate is to be won over by love because they are the opposite of each other. When it comes to mind that honesty does not pay and nobody cares for an honest person, one should be ready with the opposite argument, namely, that it is only through honesty that one can succeed on the spiritual path. 

Actually the two opposites tendencies make a single scale. For example, love and hate form the two ends of the same scale of affinity. After focusing on the opposite tendency, one should become aware of the whole scale to understand the gradient changes between the two ends of the scale.


Sutra 2:34 Their degree and nature

Vitarka himsadayah krtakaritanumodita lobhakrodhamohapiirvaka mrdumadhyadhimatra duhkhajnananantaphala iti pratipaksabhavanam II 34 II 

Vitarka: evil passions; himsadayah: violence and others; krta: done by one’s self; karita: done through others; anumodita: approved; lobha: greed; krodha: anger; moha: confusion; purvaka: preceded by; mrdu: mild; madhya: medium; adhimatra: intense; duhkha: pain; ajhana: ignorance; ananta: infinite; phalah: results; iti: like that; pratipaksa: opposite; bhavanam: thinking 

Thinking of evil thoughts, such as violence, whether done through oneself, through others, or approved, is caused by greed, anger and confusion. They can be either mild, medium or intense. Opposite conception is thinking that these evil thoughts cause infinite pain and ignorance. (34)

Sometimes an individual does not practice violence himself, but he may have it done through others, or he may tolerate it being done by others. All these flows must be addressed in yoga. This also applies to other vitarkas that amount to falsehood, theft and so on. These vitarkas are to be wiped out completely, irrespective of their cause, intensity and effect. This takes opposite conception. For example, one’s attention may be fixed on immediate pleasure, such as, on eating or drinking prohibited things. But as one looks at the pain and harm resulting from long term habit of such indulgence, one may be able to overcome such tendencies.


Sutra 2:35 Fruits of (i) non-violence

Ahimsapratisthayam tatsamnidhau vairatyagah II 35 II

Ahimsa: non-violence; pratisthayam: on being firmly established; tatsamnidhau: in its vicinity; vaira: hostility; tyagah: abandonment 

On being firmly established in ahimsa, there is abandonment of hostility in his vicinity. (35)

For the spiritual aspirant, ahimsa means absence of any harmful intention whatsoever. When one is established in ahimsa, a magnetic security develops around one that influences anybody who approaches. Lord Buddha had developed the practice of ahimsa so much that he converted any cruel person into a kindhearted one. 


Sutra 2:36 Fruits of (ii) truth

Satyapratisthayam kriyaphalasrayatvam II 36 II

Satya: truthfulness; pratisthayam: on being firmly established; kriya: action; phala: result or fruit; asrayatvam: basis 

When firmly established in truthfulness, the results are entirely based on actions. (36)

When the aspirant becomes established in truthfulness the karmas no longer influence him. He is free of unassimilated impressions and he clearly perceives what is there. The results proceed directly from the actions he takes. 


Sutra 2:37 Fruits of (iii) honesty

Asteya pratisthayam sarvaratnopasthanam II 37 II

Asteya: honesty; pratisthayam: on being firmly established; sarva: all; ratna: gems; upasthanam: self-presentation 

On being firmly established in honesty, all gems present themselves. (37)

The aim of asteya (honesty) is to render the entire life clean, in order to purify the entire structure of personality. When the spiritual aspirant is established in the yogic virtue of honesty, he develops a kind of awareness by which he becomes aware of hidden wealth.


Sutra 2:38 Fruits of (iv) brahmacharya

Brahmacharyapratisthayam viryalabhah  II 38 II

Brahmacharya: sexual abstinence; pratisthayam: on being firmly established; virya: indomitable courage; labhah: gain 

On being firmly established in brahmacharya, virya is gained. (38)

When firmly established in brahmacharya, the yogi gains vigour, energy and courage, whereby he becomes free of the fear of death. 


Sutra 2:39 Fruits of (v) non-passiveness

Aparigrahasthairye janmakathantasambodhah II 39 II

Aparigraha: non-possessiveness; sthairye: on becoming steady; janma: birth; kathanta: how and from where; sambodhah: knowledge 

On becoming steady in non-possessiveness, there arises the knowledge of how and from where birth (comes). (39)

Aparigraha means giving up the tendency to accumulate objects of utility and enjoyment. The aspirant keeps only those objects that are essential for living. This keeps the mind unoccupied and also he does not have to worry about anything because there in nothing to be protected. The samskaras of possessiveness must first be completely washed away and then one can start a new life. Aparigraha is practiced to break the old habits. When they are broken, one can have different things which are needed for social work and service to humanity. When this sadhana is firmly established, the aspirant comes to know about the previous birth—its kind, its time and its reason. 


Sutra 2:40 Fruits of (vi) cleanliness

Sauchatsvangajugupsa parairasamsargah II 40 II

Sauchat: from cleanliness; svariga: one’s own body; jugupsa: indifference; paraih: with others; asamsargah: non-attachment 

From cleanliness there comes indifference towards body and non-attachment to others. (40)

From this sutra begins the discussion of the niyamas. It is said that by practicing bodily or physical cleanliness you develop in the course of time a kind of indifference towards your own body. At the same time a kind of non-attachment to others is also developed.


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