Rev. Jaganath, Integral Yoga Minister and Raja Yoga master teacher, has spent a lifetime delving into the deepest layers of meaning in Patanjali’s words within the Yoga Sutras. Our series continues with sutras: 2.19 – 2.23, in which Patanjali further analyzes the nature of “the seen” (prakriti), the difference between the Seer (Purusha) and the seen, and what leads us to confuse the Seer and the seen.
Sutra 2.19: viśeṣa-aviśeṣa-liṅga-mātra-aliṅgāni guṇa-parvāṇi
The stages of the gunas are specific, non-specific, defined and undefinable (Swami Satchidananda translation). There are four different stages of the evolution of the seen. They are, from gross to subtle:
- Discernible by the senses: gross elements
- Not discernible by the senses: subtle elements
- The discriminative faculty (buddhi), the first product of prakriti
- Undifferentiated matter, the gunas in equilibrium without any form (Rev. Jaganath translation)
viśeṣa = discernible by the senses; specific, distinction, difference, peculiarity, characteristic difference, special property, a kind, species, individual, choice, distinguished, individual essence
from vi = asunder, away + śeṣa = remainder, from śis = to leave (See 1.22)
aviśeṣa = not discernible by the senses; nonspecific, indistinct, no distinction, no difference, no peculiarity, no sectarian mark (See above and 1.22)
from a = not + viśeṣa = distinct
Avisesa in this sutra refers to the inability of the senses to discern, to perceive, the subtle elements. It’s not that the elements do not have discernible characteristics.
liṅga = the purest product of prakṛti; designator, signifier, indicator, mark, spot, sign, badge, emblem, symptom, a proof, evidence, the sign of gender, the image of a god, an idol from liṅg = paint, mark
Linga can be understood as the invariable — constant — mark, which proves the existence of anything. For example, smoke is an invariable mark or sign — linga — of fire. In this sutra, it refers to buddhi, the first and most subtle evolute of prakriti. The existence and our experience of our intelligence (buddhi) stands as a sign, symptom, or evidence of the existence and nature of the Purusha due to its closeness to the Purusha.
Buddhi as the intellect and discriminative faculty helps us decide on courses of action in life.
mātra = suffix designating measure or quantity; entirely, only, elementary matter, element
from mā = measure
Linga (see above) + matra = lingamatra, refers to the state of matter prior to emergence of specific objects. It can also be understood as mahat or buddhi.
aliṅgāni = the gunas in equilibrium, undifferentiated matter; undefinable, literally, without mark, unmanifest
from a = not + liṅga = mark = formless, undifferentiated, equilibrium of the gunas
guṇa = left translated; qualities, constituent of nature, literally, strand or thread. Refer to 1.16 for more on guna.
parvāṇi = stages; division, level, limb, step of a staircase, member of a compound
from pṛ = fill
Sutra 2.20: draṣtā dṛśi-matrah śuddho’pi pratyaya-anupaśyaḥ
The Seer is nothing but the power of seeing which, although pure, appears to take on the qualities of the mind (Swami Satchidananda translation). The Seer is nothing but the sheer power of seeing — pure consciousness. Although it is pure and unchanging, it appears to have the qualities and contents of the mind (Rev. Jaganath translation).
draṣtā = the Seer (See 1.3); witness
dṛśi = the power of seeing; seeing, consciousness, perceiving, behold, look at, consider, to wait on, visit, to see with the mind, learn, understand, to notice, to care for, examine, try, to see by divine intuition, think of, find out, compose, contrive, become visible, appear, to be shown or manifested
from dṛś = to see
matrah = nothing but; the totality, simply, sheer, the full measure, only, alone, being nothing but
The word is often used to express emphasis.
śuddha = sheer; pure, correct, cleansed, pure spirit, bright, white, acquitted, free from error, faultless, blameless, accurate, exact, according to rule, complete, entire, unmitigated, tried, examined, sharp as an arrow
from śudh = purify, clean, to become pure, to become clear or free from doubts, to be excused or cleared from blame
We can see from the list of definitions of suddha, that pure represents only one dimension of this term. The sense of this word includes bright and white, accurate, complete, and sharp as an arrow. When combined with matrah (nothing but), a powerful three-dimensional image arises that offers a hint of the nature of pure consciousness.
api = although; also, even, too, reaching to, proximity, moreover, besides, surely
pratyaya = content of the mind (at any given moment); through the mind, intention, thoughts, firm conviction, basis, proof, ascertainment, to acquire confidence, assumption, notion, idea, the motive or cause of anything, the concurrent occasion of an event as distinguished from its proximate cause. Refer to 1.10 for more on pratyaya.
anupaśyaḥ = appears; to be looked upon, to be taken as, perceiving, keeping in view, seeing
from anu = after, alongside, near to, under subordinate to, after, with + paś = to perceive, see, behold
Sutra 2.21: tad-artha eva dṛśyasya-ātmā
The seen exists only for the sake of the Seer (Swami Satchidananda translation). The seen is worthwhile, beautiful, and pleasing since it has meaning — its nature and essence is truly for the purpose of experience and liberation (Rev. Jaganath translation).
Refer to 2.18 for more on the seen.
tad = (refers to the Seer); that, this
artha = purpose; meaning, aim, cause, motive, reason, advantage, use, utility, relating to a thing or object, material, means of life, object of the senses, matter, profit, for the sake of
Refer to 1.28 for more on artha.
Sutra 2.22: kṛita-arthaṃ prati naṣṭa api anaṣṭam tad anya-sādhāraṇatvāt
Although destroyed for him who has attained liberation, it [the seen] still exists for others, being common to them (Swami Satchidananda translation). For the liberated, the purpose of the seen — providing experiences and liberation — is fulfilled. It’s as if it disappears, although it doesn’t really vanish since the experience of its reality and its relevance is common to others (Rev. Jaganath translation).
kṛita= fulfilled; done, accomplished, completed
arthaṃ = purpose; refer to 1.28 for more on artha.
prati = for; with regard to, towards
naṣṭa = seems to disappear; disappeared, lost, destroyed, expelled, wasted, lost sight of, invisible, damaged, corrupted, spoiled, fruitless, in vain, deprived of, spoiled, in vain
from naś = perish, remove, drive away, expel, to lose from memory, to reach, attain, meet with, find
Of all the definitions listed for this word, fruitless and to lose from memory provide keys to unlocking the meaning of this sutra. The seen — the universe — doesn’t really disappear, but for the Self-realized individual, it loses its relevance for the purpose of liberation.
Nature’s highest purpose has been fulfilled for the realized being and its relevance for attaining happiness is radically changed. There are no more spiritual fruits to be harvested from the seen. And although the seen is not literally gone from memory, memories — thoughts and desires — of the world of matter lose their power to draw the mind away from realization of the Self as one’s True Nature.
The enlightened can still enjoy life in the world of matter. In fact, the enlightened enjoy it much more. There is a profound freedom that comes from the disappearance of fruitless hopes, fears, and cravings. See the definitions of api and anastam, below and sutras 4.31 and 4.32 for more on this subject.
api = although; even, also, too, moreover, besides, surely, and, uniting or annexing, reaching to, proximity, placing near or over
Since api has the sense of proximity, it emphasizes that the seen does not actually disappear: it nearly disappears.
anaṣṭam = it doesn’t really vanish; not destroyed (see nasta, above)
tad = (refers to the Self-realized); that
anya = others; different, other than, opposed to, one of a number
sādhāraṇatvāt = common; universality, community
from sadharana = having or resting on the same support or basis, belonging or applicable to all, from sā = with + dhāraṇa = holding, from dhṛ = to hold + tvat = having the quality of
Sutra 2.23: sva-svāmi-śaktyoḥ svarūpa-upalabdhi-hetuḥ samYogaḥ
The union of the Owner (Purusha) and Owned (prakriti) causes the recognition of the nature and powers of them both (Swami Satchidananda translation). Confusing the natures and powers of the Owner (Seer) and owned (seen) creates the condition for perceiving them as one (Rev. Jaganath translation).
sva = owned; own, one’s own
svāmi = owner; proprietor, master, chief, commander, a husband, lover, learned pundit
The Sutras refer to the relationship between Purusha and prakriti as Seer and seen and Owner and owned. In Hindu philosophy, that which is experienced — prakriti — must logically exist for the one that experiences — Purusha. This is why Purusha is referred to in terms that seem to indicate a kind of superiority. In fact, Purusha and prakriti are two coexistent eternal realities. In the Sutras and in Sankhya philosophy, they need each other. Their relationship is intimate. The Seer needs something to see, or why would it be called the Seer. The seen would not be referred to as seen if there were no Seer. Finally, the seen exists to give experiences and liberation to the Seer (2.18).
This might seem counter to much of what is taught and written about Yoga being all about oneness, that there is only one truth or reality and that the creation we see around us is just a manifestation of maya, illusion. There is only one essence and source. This is not, at least overtly, what Patanjali espouses. That vision of oneness migrated from Advaita Vedanta.
We need to keep in mind that all of these theories, theologies, and teachings are the attempts that highly spiritually evolved human beings made to describe what is indescribable. They are based on personal subjective experiences of subtle truths filtered through culture, capacity, and beliefs. Even the highest philosophy is transmitted by words and words are fingers that point to the truth, not the truth itself.
Becoming attached to whatever approach speaks most clearly to us can lead to an “only my way” or “only one way” thinking, an attitude that has wreaked a lot of havoc on our planet.
śaktyoḥ = powers; ability, strength, effort, energy, capability
In Sanskrit, shaktyoh is in the dual case, meaning it is specifically referring to two, in this case, the Seer and the seen.
svarūpa = nature of; one’s own form or shape, one’s own condition, character or distinct nature, peculiarity; refer to 1.3 for more on svarupa
upalabdhi = perceive; recognition, apprehension, acquisition, gain, observation, understanding, knowledge, becoming aware, knowledge, appearance, perceptibility, the condition of faculty of perceiving
from upa = to, unto + labdh, from labh = obtain, gain, acquisition
In the presence of the Purusha (Seer), the nature of prakriti is revealed, including its latent powers and qualities. The perceptive abilities of the yogi, steadily increasing through dedicated practice, gradually reveal more and more of the character of the seen. These increasingly subtle insights lead to being able to discern the distinction of the natures and capabilities of the Purusha and prakriti, which leads to liberation. (See 3.54)
hetuḥ = cause; reason (See 2.17)
samYogaḥ = apparent conjunction due to confusion; joining, conjunction, union (See 2.17, 2.23, 2.25)
from sam = together, with, completely, absolutely + Yoga = union, junction, addition, total, partaking of, putting on, application or concentration of thoughts, wealth, team, lucky conjuncture, diligence, strategy, disposition, device, any act conducive to concentrating the mind, combination, application, work, discipline, attaching, devotion, vehicle, original meaning of a word, contact with
from yuj = yoke; refer to 2.17 for more on samYoga.
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