Yoga Sutra 1.35

Translation and Commentary

May 4, 2013    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait


Or when a sensory experience manifests directly from inside, it leads the mind to a state of concentration.
Listen to Sutra 1.35 Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD

viṣayavatī comprised of an object; accompanied by the object of the senses
and, or

pravṛtiḥ = pra + vṛtiḥ

  • pra special, refined, superior
  • vṛtiḥ modification of mind; thought construct; revolving power of mind

Together, pravṛtiḥ means special modification of mind; mental modification related to subtle elements (tanmātra) manifesting directly from the inner potentials of the senses.

utpannā that which is born, manifest, or evolved
manasaḥ possessive case of manas, the mind; related to or of the mind

sthitinibandhinī = sthiti + ni + bandhinī

  • sthiti stability; condition; state
  • ni completely; without leaving out any part; or definitely; with all certainty
  • bandhinī that which binds, yokes, or unites

Thus sthitinibandhinī means that which, with all certainty, binds the mind to a particular state; that which forces the mind to remain concentrated on one object; that which makes the mind become one-pointed.

Delight Draws the Mind Inward

Effortless concentration is the gift of a sensory experience arising from the inner realm.

A scattered and tired mind has no capacity to see the truth. This sutra offers a solution to this problem.

The science of yoga proclaims that the human body is the repository of limitless powers and privileges. In this body, there is heaven and there is hell. Through viveka shakti (the power of discrimination), we distinguish the celestial conditions from the hellish ones, and through the methodical practice of yoga, we gain access to the conditions we desire.

We employ our mind and senses to explore the objects of our desire only in the external world because we are unfamiliar with the limitless possibilities within. The problem with the outward search is that both the senses and the objects of the senses have their own limitations. As soon as the senses contact their corresponding objects, the objects are consumed and the senses are left with unsatisfied hunger. The desire to find satisfaction forces the mind to keep pushing the senses to bring experiences to it again and again. In the process, the mind forms a habit of constantly running from one object to another, but it is never satisfied with the experience it gains through the senses in the external world. Eventually, the capacity of the senses is drastically diminished and the mind becomes exhausted. A scattered and tired mind has no capacity to see the truth. This sutra offers a solution to this problem.

The commentator, Vyasa, explains that when concentration is practiced at the tip of the nostrils, a celestial aroma manifests, forcing the mind to become one-pointed. He goes on to explain that by concentrating at the tip of the tongue, the experience of celestial taste manifests. Similarly, celestial form manifests from concentrating at the soft palate, celestial touch from concentrating at the middle of the tongue, and celestial sound from concentrating at the root of the tongue. Manifestation of these extraordinary experiences captivates the mind, destroys doubt, and eventually serves as the passage to samadhi.

The question is, when the mind is already scattered and exhausted, how can we use it to concentrate on the tip of the nostrils, tip of the tongue, and so on? This sutra is referring to the spontaneous manifestation of those extraordinary experiences and the fact that when those experiences occur, the mind no longer finds an excuse to run elsewhere. It is only when we connect this sutra with sutras 24 and 25 in chapter three that we can understand the circumstance in which these experiences spontaneously manifest. Sutra 3.24 tells us how by practicing concentration, meditation, and samadhi (samyama) the essences of the senses reveal themselves to the mind. It is in the subtle realm of the senses (tanmatra) that these extraordinary powers and privileges are contained. When, as a result of yoga sadhana, these privileges present themselves to the mind, the mind is thrilled and this internal thrill makes it one-pointed. In other words, it is the state of wonder, having its origin in sensory revelation, that makes the mind naturally one-pointed and thus fit for entering the state of samadhi.

Sutra 1.35 is clearly referring to the manifestation of supernatural powers (siddhis) and the ways of using those siddhis to attain a clear and one-pointed mind. In this regard, the commentator makes an emphatic statement: “Only after gaining a direct experience of the powers and abilities residing in the subtle realm is an aspirant blessed with true faith.” Direct experience comes from practice. The practice pertaining to meditation on the celestial fragrance, for example, is possible only if the celestial fragrance has truly manifested at the tip of the nostrils. Imagining a fragrance is totally different from actually experiencing it, and, according to Vyasa, this sutra is recommending meditation on celestial fragrance, which has the tip of the nostrils as its locus.

So how do we reach a point where the celestial fragrance manifests itself? The answer is simple: look at the sutra immediately preceding this one. Sutra 1.34 tells us, “By practicing a special pranayama that involves forceful exhalation (pracchardana) or retention of breath (vidharana) one acquires a pristine state of mind.” As I explained in the commentary on sutra 1.34, this particular pranayama has a direct effect on the olfactory bulb and the olfactory nerves. Not only does it cleanse the region of the nostrils, eyes, and ears, it also awakens the energy that lies dormant in these sense organs. If practiced properly and in combination with the nasal wash (jala neti), this pranayama can energize the nerve endings in our nasal passage, thereby stimulating the center of smell in our brain, which is the reservoir of all fragrances found anywhere in the universe. External fragrances, coming in touch with our olfactory nerves, simply serve as a means to remind our brain of the fragrance the external object contains. The true experience of smell occurs in the brain, not in the nostrils. The practice of pranayama, however, can reverse this process—pulling forward the aroma in the brain and dropping it at the tip of the nostrils. Once that is done, the mind is awestruck and thereafter finds no reason to run after external fragrances, which are inferior in quality and short-lived. Similarly, if during the practice of bhastrika pranayama, which is done in the style described in sutra 1.34, air is allowed to flow while touching the soft palate, it stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands, shaking off the dormancy of the surrounding energy. The result is that at the climax of the practice, the yogi begins to experience the manifestation of light similar to that of the moon, sun, planets, gems, or flames. Once the light manifests from within, the mind becomes concentrated.

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>>