Yoga Sutra 1.51
Translation and Commentary
Upon cancellation of even that, everything else is cancelled. This is called nirbija samadhi.
tasyāpi = tasya + api
- tasya possessive of tat; of that, pertaining to that, related to that
- api also, even
nirodhe locative of the word nirodha; upon restraining, controlling, cancelling
together, upon cancellation of even that; upon going beyond even that state of meditation
sarvanirodhāt = sarva + nirodhāt
- sarva all
- nirodhāt from the cancellation of, the restraint of, the mastery of
together, due to the cancellation of everything; because of the fact that all mental impressions have been cancelled, erased
nirbījaḥ without seed, without any consequence; technically nirbīja refers to the highest state of samādhi
samādhiḥ the completely still state of mind; spiritual absorption
As described in the previous sutras, receiving revelation is a great spiritual achievement. Revelation grants us a clear understanding of ourselves and our relationship with creation and its creator, as well as of our place and role in this world. This clear, crisp self-understanding takes away most of our fears and doubts, enabling us to live happily and peacefully. This peaceful state of mind is called samadhi, the ground for self-realization.
Neither joyful spiritual experiences nor calamitous worldly events make any difference to our peacefulness of mind. This is the culmination of a meditative state that is filled with the light of revelation.
In this state of samadhi, we begin to see the reality of ourselves and this world without any distortion. Samsara, the cycle of birth and death, is no longer a mystery. Our past deeds, including even the most sublime spiritual endeavors and their subtle impressions, lose their grip on our mind. The charms and temptations of the world no longer have an impact on our minds and senses. This is called moksha, freedom. We begin to live in the world while remaining above it. Desirelessness becomes part of our nature. Even highly sought spiritual powers, such as clairvoyance, the vision of gods and goddesses, the ability to see the past or the future, astral travel, and the power to be in more than one place at a time become insignificant. Neither joyful spiritual experiences nor calamitous worldly events make any difference to our peacefulness of mind. This is the culmination of a meditative state that is filled with the light of revelation. And it is this state that has been described in the previous sutra (1.50): Subtle impressions born of that intuitive wisdom cancel all other samskaras. The present sutra, however, takes us a step beyond.
This “step beyond” refers to an amazing level of freedom, one that escapes the comprehension of everyone save those who have the courage to lose themselves totally in the transcendental Divine Being. Such a yogi sees both birth and death as a shadow of his soul. This realization grants freedom from the greatest fear—the fear of death.
The fear of death haunts the mind of even the wisest among us. Normally, “death” means the disintegration of the body that begins the moment we stop breathing. This idea of death is accompanied by pain and a sense of hopelessness. In the final analysis, however, fear of death refers to the fear of losing that which we hold most dear. To some, it is money that is most dear. To others, it is our long-cherished self-image. Still others hold family and children most dear. We read scriptures and hear the sermons of priests and holy men who tell us to surrender our little self and its trivial belongings, and aspire to know our higher self and the boundless grandeur that comes with it, but unfortunately, that is the very thing that deep within we refuse to do. Attachment to what we have been considering “me” and “mine” is so strong that we feel terrified at the prospect of losing it. Losing it is annihilation. Losing it is death.
Revelation brings the clearest understanding of who within us must die so that we can become established in our immortal self. In other words, revelation brings us the gift of immortality. But the idea of our familiar self dying churns our mind at its very core, causing us to run away from the reality which is so brilliantly revealed. For ages adepts and serious students of meditation have had one experience in common: right before becoming absorbed into non-dual reality, they rush back to the familiar world of duality. Sacrificing what little we know to gain the knowledge of infinity is very difficult. According to this sutra, unless we cross this threshold, we will not attain perfection in yoga.
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>>