Yoga Sutra 1.40-1.41
Translation and Commentary
Thereafter, a yogi’s mastery stretches from the smallest atom to the biggest objects.
Download 1.40 Audio Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD
paramāṇu = parama + āṇu
- parama highest; absolute
- āṇu atom
Together, paramāṇu means the smallest particle imaginable.
paramamahattvānta = parama + mahattva + anta
- parama highest; absolute
- mahattva the essence of being big; grand
- anta the end; border; the end of territory; the final stage
Together, this compound means the biggest entity; the highest expansiveness; the sum total of primordial energy and matter, prakriti.
asya sixth case singular (possessive) of the pronoun idam; refers to one who has attained stability of, or absolute concentration of, mind.
vaśīkāraḥ a particular state of samadhi described in sutra 1.15; a state of mind that is fully controlled; a mind free from all forms of attachment, including the attachment to celestial pleasures described in the books
A calm, clear, inward-flowing mind is the key to mastery over both the outer and the inner world.
That is why it is important that a person on the path of personal transformation and self-discovery acquire a clear, calm, and tranquil mind.
In this sutra, Patanjali is describing the abilities of a yogi who has gained perfect mastery over his or her mind. In previous sutras, he explains that a confused mind is not fit to follow any path, and further, that a confused mind cannot be truly productive either in the external world or in the spiritual world. That is why it is important that a person on the path of personal transformation and self-discovery acquire a clear, calm, and tranquil mind. It is only with such a tranquil mind that one can assess the real cause of any disturbance, and further, can discover the tools and means to overcome the fundamental causes of disturbances in both the inner and the outer world.
In previous sutras, Patanjali also explains that inner restlessness and the practice of concentration do not go together. It is through a two-fold method of a systematic practice (abhyasa) and dispassion (vairagya) that one can attain freedom from inner restlessness and acquire a clear, calm, and tranquil mind. It is this kind of mind that is fit to practice the yoga that has mastery over mental modifications as its goal.
Once the mind is with you, once it has become calm and tranquil and has acquired the ability to stay focused on an object for a prolonged period, you have become master of yourself and the bigger world of which you are a part. Here, in this sutra, Patanjali explains how far this mastery stretches. He states that such a yogi has the ability to penetrate the smallest of the small particles—atoms.* Her mind has become so subtle, so condensed, so compressed and, therefore, so small that it can penetrate even a paramanu, the smallest entity imaginable, and build its home there. In other words, such a yogi is able to perceive that which is imperceptible to the ordinary mind. Her perception is so clear that she can penetrate mysteries that are impenetrable to an ordinary mind. Her mental stability is such that, while sitting in the midst of a swirling cloud of atoms, she remains as immobile as a mountain.
Such a yogi can also focus his mind on immense objects, such as mountain ranges and even stars. He is able to stretch the size of his mind to accommodate the biggest entities in the universe. He is able to see all of nature—the most expansive, primordial energy field—all at once. Due to the expanded field of his mind, he can see what is going on in the world, its cause, and its effect. Such a yogi has the capacity to comprehend the subtle causes of even the most complex issues. It is such yogis who foresee events fully matured, even when they are still well hidden deep beneath the dense layers of time and space.
Furthermore, such a yogi is able to go back and forth between extremes—from the subtlest to the grossest, from the smallest to the biggest. She is able to stay focused on one extreme, but she can also instantly switch to the next extreme and reach there without hindrance. Her ability to switch her focus between two objects that are totally contrary to each other in their shape, size, and nature is what Patanjali means by mastery over the mind.
Such a masterful yogi is capable of focusing on that which is steady as well as that which is constantly moving. Having attained that level of mastery, the yogi is no longer in need of any embellishment induced by practice to maintain her yogic ability.
A tranquil mind is like a crystal—it assumes the color of whatever is in its proximity, be it an object of concentration, the process of concentration, or the pure consciousness that witnesses the inner functioning of the mind.
Download 1.41 Audio Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD
kṣīṇavṛtteḥ = kṣīna + vṛtti (sixth case singular)
- kṣīṇa extinct; destroyed; erased; cleansed; attenuated
- vṛtti modifications; thought constructs
The compound kṣīṇavṛtteḥ refers to a mind that is no longer affected by its own modifications; a clear, calm, and tranquil mind.
abhijātasya sixth case singular (possessive) of abhijāta
In Indian mythology, abhijāta refers to a special gem that fulfills all wishes. It is said to have the capacity to produce anything the wearer of the gem wishes.
maṇeḥ sixth case singular (possessive) of maṇi, jewel
grahītṛgrahaṇagrāhyeṣu = grahītṛ + grahaṇa + grāhya (sixth case plural)
- grahītṛ recipient; perceiver; the witness
- grahaṇa the process of receiving, perceiving; in this context, the process of concentration
- grāhya receivable; perceivable; in this context, the object of concentration
Together, the compound means in relation to the object of meditation, the process of meditation, and the pure transcendental consciousness that witnesses all internal states and functions.
tatsthatadañjanatā = tat + stha + tad + añjanatā
- tat that
- stha standing; established in; based upon
- tad that
- añjanatā the quality of having a color or characteristics
samāpattiḥ the end result; conclusion; mental occurrence
In this sutra, Patanjali is making two important points: first, the mind is like a wish-yielding gem, and second, the mind has the ability to assume the color of anything in its proximity. The first point indicates that the mind is a field of a limitless creative energy. It has the capacity to create, maintain, and demolish anything it wishes. The mind is creator of both its misery and of its happiness. It has the capacity both to guide and to misguide, to bless and to curse. However, as described in the previous sutra, once the mind is clear, calm, and tranquil and has gained the ability to focus on both the subtlest and grossest, the minutest and the biggest, it has no taste for anything negative, destructive, and painful.
The yogi with a crystal-clear mind lives in the world and yet remains unaffected by it.
The second point indicates that, like a crystal, a clear, calm, and tranquil mind assumes the color of whatever lies in its closest proximity. Because it has lost its taste for that which is negative, destructive, and painful, it naturally discovers that which is positive, constructive, and joyful. Such a mind, propelled by the law “similar attracts similar” is drawn toward that which is good and auspicious, and vice versa. The result is that this crystal-clear mind finds itself on the path of transformation effortlessly. For a yogi with such a mind this world is beautiful, peaceful, and joyful. Nothing is distasteful—everything is good and auspicious. The idea of discomfort has vanished from his life. He is content.
The yogi with a crystal-clear mind lives in the world and yet remains unaffected by it. She is fully aware of her thought process but does not identify herself with her thoughts. She is fully aware of her goals and objectives, but those goals and objectives do not taint her mind. She enjoys every bit of this world, and once the enjoyment is over, no trace of the past lingers in her mind. She is free of the memories of the past and thus has no reason to be anxious about the future. Such a person is liberated here and now.
*Note: In Indian philosophy, the word paramanu (atom) is defined as an entity so small it can no longer be split. In other words, the state of matter where the distinction between matter and energy becomes blurry is called paramanu, the indivisible particle, imperceptible to the naked eye.
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>>