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: 2.26 – 2.27, in which Patanjali explains how viveka, discriminative discernment removes the blocks to perceiving one’s true nature.
Sutra 2.26: viveka-khyātir aviplavā hāna-upāyaḥ
Uninterrupted discriminative discernment is the method for its removal (Swami Satchidananda translation). The remedy that removes ignorance is an unwavering flow of discriminative discernment (viveka) which perceives the difference between the Seer and seen (Rev. Jaganath translation).
viveka = unwavering discriminative discernment; discernment, consideration, discussion, investigation, true knowledge, right judgment, the faculty of distinguishing and classifying things according to their real properties, (in Vedanta) the power of separating the invisible Spirit from the visible world (or spirit from matter, truth from untruth, reality from mere semblance or illusion) (See 2.15, 2.26, 2.28, 3.53, 3.55, 4.26, 4.29)
from vic = to sift, to separate, deprive of, to discriminate, discern, judge
The nature of viveka is sattva: clear, luminous, tranquil. Refer to 2.15 for more on viveka.
khyātir = discernment; perception, knowledge, view, idea, being well-known, fame (See 1.16)
from khyā = to see, to be named, to be known, to relate, tell, declare
In addition to discernment, khyatir means fame or to be well-known. This suggests a degree of discernment that stands out from what is common. It’s not just being able to tell the difference between red and blue, one shade of red from another, or olive oil from France from that produced in Italy. It is discernment of a much higher order than that, and its purpose is different. Khyatir, paired with viveka, refers to the most highly refined, intuitive state of discernment that is ultimately able to perceive the difference between Seer and seen, mind and Self. (See 4.25 and 4.26).
aviplavā = unwavering, flow; unfaltering, unbroken, uncorrupted, chaste, to swim, slope towards, be inclined to
from a = not + vi = as (asunder, away) + plava, from plu = float
hāna = removal; escape (see 2.25) absence, escape, giving up, relinquishing, abandoning, cessation, gone, departed, the act of abandoning, relinquishing, giving up, getting rid of
from ha = depart
upāyaḥ = remedy’ goal, means, method, that by which one reaches a goal, coming near, approach, arrival, strategy, joining in or accompanying (in singing)
from upa = to, unto + aya, from i = go
In Hindu astrology, an upaya is a remedy for difficult situations and karma. These remedies can include mantras, meditation, prayer, pujas and ritual sacrifices, fasting, charity, and the use of gemstones.
If ignorance is the disorder, then the remedy needs to be able to remove ignorance. Viveka is the remedy and is composed of the yogic lifestyle and practices such as meditation, devotion to Ishvara, and nonattachment.
Sutra 2.27: tasya saptadhā prānta-bhūmiḥ prajñā
One’s wisdom in the final stage is sevenfold (Swami Satchidananda translation). For the yogi who attains this unwavering discernment (viveka), seven insights arise that lead to the final stage – liberation (Re. Jaganath translation).
tasya = (refers to the yogi); his (or her)
from tad = he, she, it, that, this, these, in that place, then, at that time, in that case, in this manner, for that reason
saptadhā = sevenfold; in seven parts, seven times
from sapta = seven + dhā, suffix = fold, that which expresses location: here, there, with
prānta = final; edge, boundary, margin, verge, extremity, end, a point or tip, dwelling near the boundaries, the back part of a carriage, brought forward to completion, going beyond the existing boundaries, breaking of old boundaries, finding a new edge
from pra = before, forward + anta = end, limit
This refers to an insight that precedes the liberating samadhi. This insight is pranta-bhumih, unerring wisdom that goes beyond old boundaries of scriptural texts, ritual, tenets, and teachings. It is direct perception, without the mediation of logic, past conceptions, desires, and habit.
From this insight, the yogi finds a new edge (suggested by one of the definitions of pranta). Hence, the seven insights that lead to liberation arise, one leading to the next. The inner pilgrimage taken by yogis leads them beyond boundaries of what the ego could perceive as conceivable. To directly experience what was once inconceivable is innate to the experience of Yoga.
bhūmiḥ = stage; place the earth, soil, ground, territory, country, district, a place, situation, position, posture, attitude, floor of a house, stage of Yoga (See 1.14, 1.27, 3.6)
In metaphysics, bhumih refers to a step, a degree, or a stage of attainment. In Buddhism, bhumi refers to the ten stages Buddhists must go through to attain buddhahood.
prajñā = insight; wisdom, intuitive insight (See 1.20, 1.48, 1.49, 2.27, 3.5)
In Buddhism, prajna is understood as true or transcendental wisdom. Refer to 1.20 for more on prajna.
From the practice of unwavering discriminative discernment, the spirit of deep inquiry is ignited and seven insights arise that strengthen the yogi’s resolve and expand the boundaries of consciousness. This prepares the individual for intuitive insight, which leads to liberation.
Patanjali offers no details on the seven insights he is referring to, but a commonly accepted list follows:
- Through viveka, the causes of suffering are recognized. Therefore, there is nothing more to be known on this subject.
- The causes of suffering, having been identified, are progressively weakened.
- Through samadhi, the causes of suffering are eliminated. There is nothing more to be gained in this area.
- Mastery in viveka having been reached, there is nothing else self-effort can accomplish.
- Sattva dominates the functioning of the mind-stuff.
- The gunas, having fulfilled their purpose, lose their foothold like stones falling from a mountain peak, and incline toward reabsorption into prakriti.
- The Purusha is realized as independent from the gunas. Liberation is attained.
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