Yoga Sutra 1.26-1.28

Translation and Commentary

May 10, 2013    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

The Supreme Teacher

Filling the mind with God is the quickest (and surest) way to achieve the goal of yoga.


Unlimited by time, God is the teacher of all previous teachers.
Download 1.26 Audio Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, Phd

pūrveṣām possessive of pūrva, the previous ones
api even, also
guruḥ teacher; spiritual preceptor; one who dispels the darkness of ignorance
kālena instrumental case of kāla, time; with time, by time, through time
an-avacchedāt not being limited by

The relationship between God and spiritual teachers in the East has been the source of confusion for millennia, and this confusion has recently gotten worse. In India today, for example, some holy men and women are believed to be incarnations of gods and goddesses, and their followers believe that, sooner or later, through the grace of these gods-incarnate, they will be blessed with worldly and spiritual success. It is on the ground of this belief that a guru cult takes root. The worship of personality then becomes the focal point of spirituality, and this inevitably leads to disappointment and disillusionment.

Patanjali was evidently aware of the confusion caused by this cult mentality and thus devoted an entire sutra to putting the issue to rest. He reverses by 180 degrees the cultish notion that the guru is God by saying that God is the guru of all previous gurus because he alone is not limited by time. This means that no physical teacher can ever have the knowledge of infinite truth, for such knowledge is available only to the one who transcends time. And because God alone transcends time, all mysteries are known only to God. It is the light of this supreme being, God, that enlightens the minds and hearts of individuals.

In reality, it is this light of God that is the true guide. This inner light is not a person, but it dispels the darkness of ignorance (avidya) enabling us to see through the wall of false identification (asmita), attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha), and fear of death (abhinivesha). Attaining union with this inner guide is the goal of yoga. Once we decide to employ all of our resources—physical, mental, and material—to attain this union, the inner guide arranges for a guide in the external world to come forward and pave our way for the inward journey.


Praṇava [Om] is the denoter of That [God].
Download 1.27 Audio Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, Phd

tasya possessive case of tat, that; of that; of God; of that special Puruṣa
vacakaḥ denoter; that which makes the unmanifest become manifest; that which brings that transcendent being to the realm of comprehension
praṇavaḥ the sound Om; that which is imbued with newness; ever new.

Om is God in the form of sound. The sound Om is as pervasive as God itself. By repeating Om one can gain a direct experience of consciousness beyond time and space and attain freedom from ignorance, false identification, attachment, aversion, and fear of death. By repeating Om one can attain freedom from the bondage of karma; one can gain mastery over the unconscious mind where karmic impressions are deposited; and one can gain access to the realm of intuition. According to various masters, Om is representative of all sacred mantras. Therefore, by repeating the mantras that equal Om in sacredness, a yogi attains union with God.


Repetition of That means to contemplate the meaning of That.
Download 1.28 Audio Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, Phd

tat That; special Purusa; inner being; the state of consciousness untouched by afflictions, karmas, and the vehicle of karmas
japaḥ even, also
tat That
artha meaning; content
bhāvanam contemplation; wondering; to feel; to think

Remembering or repeating the sound Om means to contemplate on the existence of God. As explained in the previous sutra, the meaning of Om or any other sacred mantra is God. Therefore, repeating such a mantra means filling one’s mind and heart with the feeling of God. More clearly, meditation on a mantra means to cultivate feeling for God and to concentrate one’s mind on that feeling. You are what you think. By thinking of a mantra that is God, you become God. Thus, say the scriptures, “The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman.” The person thinking of Brahman becomes Brahman. The Bible too says, “Be still and know that I am God.” By meditating on God, godly conditions such as freedom from ignorance, false identification, and so on begin to fill the space in our mindfield. Consequently the mind becomes clear, cheerful, radiant, and one-pointed. It becomes a perfect conduit for Self-realization.

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>>