Yoga Sutra 1.36-1.37
Translation and Commentary
When a state of worrylessness and effulgence manifests directly from inside, it leads the mind to a state of concentration.
Download 1.36 Audio Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD
viśokā that which is devoid of worry and grief
jyotiṣmatī that which is filled by light; that which is accompanied by light
Detachment Draws the Mind Inward
An experience of the inner light shining in the cave of the heart is the gift of non-attachment—and from that experience perfect stability of mind arises.
On the surface, this sutra is telling us that by practicing concentration on something that is either devoid of worry or full of illumination, one attains concentration of mind. The question is, how can one reach the point in the inward journey which is free from all worry and strife? How can one acquire an object of meditation which, by its intrinsic virtue, is never stained by worry or grief? The answer is simple for those who know the sources of the practice this sutra is describing, for this sutra embodies the essence of a vast literature belonging to both Vedic and Buddhist traditions—the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Lotus Sutra, to name only a few.
The process of acquiring a disturbed, distracted, or stupefied mind begins with carelessness. We entertain useless thoughts, and due to our carelessness, we do not notice how these thoughts are influencing our mind. Each thought creates a groove in our mindfield. Over time, these grooves create attachment toward the objects of our thoughts. Long before we notice a visible effect, there evolves either a desire to achieve those objects or an aversion to them. Either way leads to anger, for anger is a direct outcome of our desires and aversions. Anger clouds our understanding, damages our memory, and ultimately we lose our power of discrimination. This process is subtle but potent. The scriptures say that only a vigilant person can detect the unwholesome behaviors of mind when it is carelessly entertaining useless thoughts.
It is only after we learn to conduct our thoughts, speech, and action in a balanced manner and can enjoy the objects of our senses as a matter of choice that we reclaim our joyful mind.
For most people, the way to reclaim a pristine state of mind is to free themselves from attachment and aversion. The desire to enjoy sense pleasure is natural to all living beings. However, when a craving grips us—coming and going on its own—we lose our joyful, pristine state of mind. It is only after we learn to conduct our thoughts, speech, and action in a balanced manner and can enjoy the objects of our senses as a matter of choice that we reclaim our joyful mind. The prerequisite to achieving the object of meditation, which by its very virtue transcends all forms of sorrow, is to first free oneself (vi) from all worries (shoka). You can only be a friend to someone who is similar to you. A joyous object of meditation is not available to a sorrowful mind.
The one who transcends all forms of sorrow or who, in other words, is an embodiment of everlasting joy, resides in the cave of one’s own heart. It is the Divine within us. Its luster is said to be brighter than the sun, moon, and all other celestial bodies. The experience of this inner light at the heart center is common to all spiritual traditions. Jews call it the Star of David and Christian mystics call it the Sacred Heart. The Buddhists call it Amitabha and the Hindus, Narayana, but in both traditions the Divinity is described as pure light residing at the lotus of the heart.
The yoga tradition describes meditation on light (jyotis) in a detailed and methodical manner. In fact, the most traditional method of meditating on Divinity, known as manas puja (mental worship), consists of systematically entering the cave of the heart and visualizing a lotus growing in a lake of ambrosia. This lotus consists of eight petals. Each petal is lit by an eternal flame, and at the center burns the main flame that represents the Transcendental Being. The metaphysical significance of the lotus and its eight petals, as described in the Upanishads, serves as a ground for the complex and comprehensive scheme of yantras and mandalas described in tantric texts. This particular sutra confirms that meditation at the heart center is one of the surest ways of cultivating a one-pointed mind.
Stability of mind comes by making it free from attachment or by meditating on one who is free from attachment.
Download 1.37 Audio Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD
vītarāgaviṣaya = vīta + rāga + viṣaya
- vīta away from; done with; devoid of
- rāga attachment; coloring; preoccupations
- viṣaya object
Together, vītarāgaviṣaya means one whose mind is not colored by preconceived notions and prejudices; one whose perception is not colored by desire, anger, hatred, greed, and ego; a person of undistorted perception; a person who sees things the way they are; a person whose mind is not under the influence of sense cravings.
- vā and/or
- cittam mind
This sutra can be interpreted in two different ways. According to the first interpretation, it is vairagya (non-attachment) that brings stability to the mind. Cultivating a state of desirelessness eliminates all the causes of distractions and disturbances. Therefore, to acquire a calm, tranquil, and one-pointed mind, simply renounce your desires. Cultivate a mind-set whereby you see no difference between loss and gain, success and failure, honor and insult. This is an art that is almost impossible to master, especially if we have to live in the world and comply with its rules and laws. This practice belongs to those who are truly on the path of renunciation.
According to the second interpretation of sutra 1.37, you gain stability of mind by meditating on someone who is perfectly established in the principle of nonattachment. This interpretation is based on the belief that you become what you think. If you constantly think of thieves and thieving, the idea of theft will pervade your mind and you will end up cultivating the mind of a thief. Similarly, if you meditate on one who is free from all desires, you will cultivate a dispassionate mind.
The problem is, how do we know who is perfectly established in the principle of non-attachment? Dispassion is an extremely subtle mental attribute, for only one who is blessed with this attribute can know if he or she has it. Meditating on someone on the basis of guesswork could be a big mistake. Even if we are certain, it requires an unshakeable faith in that person, and an unalloyed faith is not so easy to acquire. That is why masters prescribe this practice only for insightful students—those with the ability to discern who is truly established in non-attachment.
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>>