Yoga Sutra 1.21-1.22

Translation and Commentary

May 13, 2013    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait


It [victory over mind] is close to those with intense desire.
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Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, Phd

tīvra intense; steadfast
saṃvegānām possessive case of saṃvega
saṃ complete; full
vega speed
Together the word saṃvega means thoughts, feelings, aspirations, desire, ambition—all at full speed
āsannaḥ in close proximity


It is very close to those who are charged with the highest degree of intense desire, and even that intensity could be mild, intermediate, or supreme.
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Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, Phd

mṛdu mild; soft; tender
madhya intermediate
adhimātratvāt dative of adhimātratva, the highest level; utmost; unprecedented; supreme

tato'pi = tataḥ + api
tataḥ due to that; for that reason; thereafter
api also

viśeṣaḥ special; distinction; outstanding

All-consuming desire

A burning desire to attain mastery over the mind is the first—and most essential—attribute of a seeker.

Behind any accomplishment there is always a force—desire.

Here, Patanjali invests two sutras simply to inform us that we must have a strong desire to achieve mastery over the mind and its modifications. Remember, sutra form demands that every word be absolutely essential—using even one extra word compromises the value of the text. Patanjali could have compressed the content of these two sutras into one word, mumukṣūṇām (those who intensely desire freedom), appended it to the previous sutra, and saved space. But he did not make a mistake. By dedicating two full sutras to this point, Patanjali emphasizes the crucial importance of the desire for attaining victory over the mind. This cannot be given; it can only be earned.

Behind any accomplishment there is always a force—desire. The strength of your desire determines how easily you will attain your goal. It determines how easy it will be to overcome obstacles when they arise and indicates what kind of aspirant you are.

The lowest grade aspirants are those whose desire to gain selfmastery and attain victory over the mind and its modifications has sparked a curiosity to explore that possibility. This is a mild degree of desire, and it can be extinguished quite easily by fear of failure. The spark is too small to propel them forward. Such people know the value of achieving the higher goal of life; they wish to attain it, but they do not have enough motivation to really start. They enjoy daydreaming. The intermediate grade of aspirants are those endowed with a higher degree of intense desire, but one that is still not powerful enough to carry them through. They start their quest with great enthusiasm, but when confronted with obstacles they drop it in disappointment.

The highest grade aspirants are those endowed with a supremely intense desire—a desire that has consumed all other desires. Such aspirants see nothing other than the goal and will settle for nothing other than what they have set out to achieve. This is a burning desire; it is a smokeless fire that consumes all obstacles, including fear of death. For aspirants of this category, the goal is within arm’s reach. In the language of the mystics, "Turn your face, you are there."

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than a quarter of a century, he is the author of fourteen books, including his recently-released The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and his autobiography Touched by Fire: The Ongoing Journey of a Spiritual Seeker. Pandit Tigunait holds two doctorates: one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad in India, and another in Oriental Studies from the... Read more>>