The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Part 1 out of 2
THE YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI
"The Book of the Spiritual Man"
An Interpretation By
Bengal Civil Service, Retired; Indian Civil Service, Sanskrit Prizeman;
Dublin University, Sanskrit Prizeman
INTRODUCTION TO BOOK I
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are in themselves exceedingly brief, less
than ten pages of large type in the original. Yet they contain the
essence of practical wisdom, set forth in admirable order and detail.
The theme, if the present interpreter be right, is the great regeneration,
the birth of the spiritual from the psychical man: the same theme
which Paul so wisely and eloquently set forth in writing to his disciples
in Corinth, the theme of all mystics in all lands.
We think of ourselves as living a purely physical life, in these material
bodies of ours. In reality, we have gone far indeed from pure physical
life; for ages, our life has been psychical, we have been centred and
immersed in the psychic nature. Some of the schools of India say that
the psychic nature is, as it were, a looking-glass, wherein are mirrored
the things seen by the physical eyes, and heard by the physical ears.
But this is a magic mirror; the images remain, and take a certain life
of their own. Thus within the psychic realm of our life there grows up
an imaged world wherein we dwell; a world of the images of things
seen and heard, and therefore a world of memories; a world also of
hopes and desires, of fears and regrets. Mental life grows up among
these images, built on a measuring and comparing, on the massing of
images together into general ideas; on the abstraction of new notions
and images from these; till a new world is built up within, full of
desires and hates, ambition, envy, longing, speculation, curiosity,
The teaching of the East is, that all these are true powers overlaid by
false desires; that though in manifestation psychical, they are in
essence spiritual; that the psychical man is the veil and prophecy of the
The purpose of life, therefore, is the realizing of that prophecy; the
unveiling of the immortal man; the birth of the spiritual from the
psychical, whereby we enter our divine inheritance and come to
inhabit Eternity. This is, indeed, salvation, the purpose of all true
religion, in all times.
Patanjali has in mind the spiritual man, to be born from the psychical.
His purpose is, to set in order the practical means for the unveiling
and regeneration, and to indicate the fruit, the glory and the power, of
that new birth.
Through the Sutras of the first book, Patanjali is concerned with the
first great problem, the emergence of the spiritual man from the veils
and meshes of the psychic nature, the moods and vestures of the
mental and emotional man. Later will come the consideration of the
nature and powers of the spiritual man, once he stands clear of the
psychic veils and trammels, and a view of the realms in which these
new spiritual powers are to be revealed.
At this point may come a word of explanation. I have been asked why
I use the word Sutras, for these rules of Patanjali's system, when the
word Aphorism has been connected with them in our minds fora
generation. The reason is this: the name Aphorism suggests, to me at
least, a pithy sentence of very general application; a piece of
proverbial wisdom that may be quoted in a good many sets of
circumstance, and which will almost bear on its face the evidence of
its truth. But with a Sutra the case is different. It comes from the same
root as the word "sew," and means, indeed, a thread, suggesting,
therefore, a close knit, consecutive chain of argument. Not only has
each Sutra a definite place in the system, but further, taken out of this
place, it will be almost meaningless, and will by no means be
self-evident. So I have thought best to adhere to the original word.
The Sutras of Patanjali are as closely knit together, as dependent on
each other, as the propositions of Euclid, and can no more be taken
out of their proper setting.
In the second part of the first book, the problem of the emergence of
the spiritual man is further dealt with. We are led to the consideration
of the barriers to his emergence, of the overcoming of the barriers,
and of certain steps and stages in the ascent from the ordinary
consciousness of practical life, to the finer, deeper, radiant
consciousness of the spiritual man.
1. OM: Here follows Instruction in Union.
Union, here as always in the Scriptures of India, means union of the
individual soul with the Oversoul; of the personal consciousness with
the Divine Consciousness, whereby the mortal becomes immortal, and
enters the Eternal. Therefore, salvation is, first, freedom from sin and
the sorrow which comes from sin, and then a divine and eternal
well-being, wherein the soul partakes of the being, the wisdom and
glory of God.
2. Union, spiritual consciousness, is gained through control of the
versatile psychic nature.
The goal is the full consciousness of the spiritual man, illumined by the
Divine Light. Nothing except the obdurate resistance of the psychic
nature keeps us back from the goal. The psychical powers are spiritual
powers run wild, perverted, drawn from their proper channel.
Therefore our first task is, to regain control of this perverted nature,
to chasten, purify and restore the misplaced powers.
3. Then the Seer comes to consciousness in his proper nature.
Egotism is but the perversion of spiritual being. Ambition is the
inversion of spiritual power. Passion is the distortion of love. The
mortal is the limitation of the immortal. When these false images give
place to true, then the spiritual man stands forth luminous, as the sun,
when the clouds disperse.
4. Heretofore the Seer has been enmeshed in the activities of the
The power and life which are the heritage of the spiritual man have
been caught and enmeshed in psychical activities. Instead of pure
being in the Divine, there has been fretful, combative. egotism, its
hand against every man. Instead of the light of pure vision, there have
been restless senses nave been re and imaginings. Instead of spiritual
joy, the undivided joy of pure being, there has been self-indulgence of
body and mind. These are all real forces, but distorted from their true
nature and goal. They must be extricated, like gems from the matrix,
like the pith from the reed, steadily, without destructive violence.
Spiritual powers are to be drawn forth from the }'sychic meshes.
5. The psychic activities are five; they are either subject or not subject
to the five hindrances (Book II, 3).
The psychic nature is built up through the image-making power, the
power which lies behind and dwells in mind- pictures. These pictures
do not remain quiescent in the mind; they are kinetic, restless,
stimulating to new acts. Thus the mind-image of an indulgence
suggests and invites to a new indulgence; the picture of past joy is
framed in regrets or hopes. And there is the ceaseless play of the
desire to know, to penetrate to the essence of things, to classify. This,
too, busies itself ceaselessly with the mind-images. So that we may
classify the activities of the psychic nature thus:
6. These activities are: Sound intellection, unsound intellection,
predication, sleep, memory.
We have here a list of mental and emotional powers; of powers that
picture and observe, and of powers that picture and feel. But the
power to know and feel is spiritual and immortal. What is needed is,
not to destroy it, but to raise it from the psychical to the spiritual
7. The elements of sound intellection are: direct observation, inductive
reason, and trustworthy testimony.
Each of these is a spiritual power, thinly veiled. Direct observation is
the outermost form of the Soul's pure vision. Inductive reason rests on
the great principles of continuity and correspondence; and these, on
the supreme truth that all life is of the One. Trustworthy testimony,
the sharing of one soul in the wisdom of another, rests on the ultimate
oneness of all souls.
8. Unsound intellection is false understanding, not resting on a
perception of the true nature of things.
When the object is not truly perceived, when the observation is
inaccurate and faulty. thought or reasoning based on that mistaken
perception is of necessity false and unsound.
9. Predication is carried on through words or thoughts not resting on
an object perceived.
The purpose of this Sutra is, to distinguish between the mental process
of predication, and observation, induction or testimony. Predication
is the attribution of a quality or action to a subject, by adding to it a
predicate. In the sentence, "the man is wise," "the man" is the subject;
"is wise" is the predicate. This may be simply an interplay of thoughts,
without the presence of the object thought of; or the things thought
of may be imaginary or unreal; while observation, induction and
testimony always go back to an object.
10. Sleep is the psychic condition which rests on mind states, all
material things being absent.
In waking life, we have two currents of perception; an outer current
of physical things seen and heard and perceived; an inner current of
mind-images and thoughts. The outer current ceases in sleep; the inner
current continues, and watching the mind-images float before the field
of consciousness, we "dream Even when there are no dreams, there is
still a certain consciousness in sleep, so that, on waking, one says, "I
have slept well," or "I have slept badly."
11. Memory is holding to mind-images of things perceived, without
Here, as before, the mental power is explained in terms of
mind-images, which are the material of which the psychic world is
built, Therefore the sages teach that the world of our perception,
which is indeed a world of mind-images, is but the wraith or shadow
of the real and everlasting world. In this sense, memory is but the
psychical inversion of the spiritual, ever-present vision. That which is
ever before the spiritual eye of the Seer needs not to be remembered.
12. The control of these psychic activities comes through the right use
of the will, and through ceasing from self- indulgence.
If these psychical powers and energies, even such evil things as
passion and hate and fear, are but spiritual powers fallen and
perverted, how are we to bring about their release and restoration ?
Two means are presented to us: the awakening of the spiritual will,
and the purification of mind and thought.
13. The right use of the will is the steady, effort to stand in spiritual
We have thought of ourselves, perhaps, as creatures moving upon this
earth, rather helpless, at the mercy of storm and hunger and our
enemies. We are to think of ourselves as immortals, dwelling in the
Light, encompassed and sustained by spiritual powers. The steady
effort to hold this thought will awaken dormant and unrealized
powers, which will unveil to us the nearness of the Eternal.
14. This becomes a firm resting-place, when followed long,
persistently, with earnestness.
We must seek spiritual life in conformity with the laws of spiritual life,
with earnestness, humility, gentle charity, which is an acknowledgment
of the One Soul within us all. Only through obedience to that shared
Life, through perpetual remembrance of our oneness with all Divine
Being, our nothingness apart from Divine Being, can we enter our
15. Ceasing from self-indulgence is con- scious mastery over the thirst
for sensuous pleasure here or hereafter.
Rightly understood, the desire for sensation is the desire of being, the
distortion of the soul's eternal life. The lust of sensual stimulus and
excitation rests on the longing to feel one's life keenly, to gain the
sense of being really alive. This sense of true life comes only with the
coming of the soul, and the soul comes only in silence, after
self-indulgence has been courageously and loyally stilled, through
reverence before the coming soul.
16. The consummation of this is freedom from thirst for any mode of
psychical activity, through the establishment of the spiritual man.
In order to gain a true understanding of this teaching, study must be
supplemented by devoted practice, faith by works. The reading of the
words will not avail. There must be a real effort to stand as the Soul,
a real ceasing from self-indulgence. With this awakening of the
spiritual will, and purification, will come at once the growth of the
spiritual man and our awakening consciousness as the spiritual man;
and this, attained in even a small degree, will help us notably in our
contest. To him that hath, shall be given.
17. Meditation with an object follows these stages: first, exterior
examining, then interior judicial action, then joy, then realization of
In the practice of meditation, a beginning may be made by fixing the
attention upon some external object, such as a sacred image or
picture, or a part of a book of devotion. In the second stage, one
passes from the outer object to an inner pondering upon its lessons.
The third stage is the inspiration, the heightening of the spiritual will,
which results from this pondering. The fourth stage is the realization
of one's spiritual being, as enkindled by this meditation.
18. After the exercise of the will has stilled the psychic activities,
meditation rests only on the fruit of former meditations.
In virtue of continued practice and effort, the need of an external
object on which to rest the meditation is outgrown. An interior state
of spiritual consciousness is reached, which is called "the cloud of
things knowable" (Book IV, 29).
19. Subjective consciousness arising from a natural cause is possessed
by those who have laid aside their bodies and been absorbed into
Those who have died, entered the paradise between births, are in a
condition resembling meditation without an external object. But in the
fullness of time, the seeds of desire in them will spring up, and they
will be born again into this world.
20. For the others, there is spiritual consciousness, led up to by faith,
valour right mindfulness, one-pointedness, perception.
It is well to keep in mind these steps on the path to illumination: faith,
velour, right mindfulness, one-pointedness, perception. Not one can
be dispensed with; all must be won. First faith; and then from faith,
velour; from va lour, right mindfulness; from right mindfulness, a
one-pointed aspiration toward the soul; from this, perception; and
finally, full vision as the soul.
21. Spiritual consciousness is nearest to those of keen, intense will.
The image used is the swift impetus of the torrent; the kingdom must
be taken by force. Firm will comes only through effort; effort is
inspired by faith. The great secret is this: it is not enough to have
intuitions; we must act on them; we must live them.
22. The will may be weak, or of middle strength, or intense.
Therefore there is a spiritual consciousness higher than this. For those
of weak will, there is this counsel: to be faithful in obedience, to live
the life, and thus to strengthen the will to more perfect obedience. The
will is not ours, but God's, and we come into it only through
obedience. As we enter into the spirit of God, we are permitted to
share the power of God.
Higher than the three stages of the way is the goal, the end of the
23. Or spiritual consciousness may be gained by ardent service of the
If we think of our lives as tasks laid on us by the Master of Life, if we
look on all duties as parts of that Master's work, entrusted to us, and
forming our life-work; then, if we obey, promptly, loyally, sincerely,
we shall enter by degrees into the Master's life and share the Master's
power. Thus we shall be initiated into the spiritual will.
24. The Master is the spiritual man, who s free from hindrances,
bondage to works, and the fruition and seed of works.
The Soul of the Master, the Lord, is of the same nature as the soul in
us; but we still bear the burden of many evils, we are in bondage
through our former works, we are under the dominance of sorrow.
The Soul of the Master is free from sin and servitude and sorrow.
25. In the Master is the perfect seed of Omniscience.
The Soul of the Master is in essence one with the Oversoul, and
therefore partaker of the Oversoul's all-wisdom and all-power. All
spiritual attainment rests on this, and is possible because the soul and
the Oversoul are One.
26. He is the Teacher of all who have gone before, since he is not
limited by Time.
From the beginning, the Oversoul has been the Teacher of all souls,
which, by their entrance into the Oversoul, by realizing their oneness
with the Oversoul, have inherited the kingdom of the Light. For the
Oversoul is before Time, and Time, father of all else, is one of His
27. His word is OM.
OM: the symbol of the Three in One, the three worlds in the Soul; the
three times, past, present, future, in Eternity; the three Divine Powers,
Creation, Preservation, Transformation, in the one Being; the three
essences, immortality, omniscience, joy, in the one Spirit. This is the
Word, the Symbol, of the Master and Lord, the perfected Spiritual
28. Let there be soundless repetition of OM and meditation thereon.
This has many meanings, in ascending degrees. There is, first, the
potency of the word itself, as of all words. Then there is the manifold
significance of the symbol, as suggested above. Lastly, there is the
spiritual realization of the high essences thus symbolized. Thus we rise
step by step to the Eternal.
29. Thence come the awakening of interior consciousness, and the
removal of barriers.
Here again faith must be supplemented by works, the life must be led
as well as studied, before the full meaning can be understood. The
awakening of spiritual consciousness can only be understood in
measure as it is entered. It can only be entered where the conditions
are present: purity of heart, and strong aspiration, and the resolute
conquest of each sin.
This, however, may easily be understood: that the recognition of the
three worlds as resting in the Soul leads us to realize ourselves and all
life as of the Soul; that, as we dwell, not in past, present or future, but
in the Eternal, we become more at one with the Eternal; that, as we
view all organization, preservation, mutation as the work of the Divine
One, we shall come more into harmony with the One, and thus remove
the barrier' in our path toward the Light.
In the second part of the first book, the problem of the emergence of
the spiritual man is further dealt with. We are led to the consideration
of the barriers to his emergence, of the overcoming of the barriers,
and of certain steps and stages in the ascent from the ordinary
consciousness of practical life, to the finer, deeper, radiant
consciousness of the spiritual man.
30. The barriers to interior consciousness, which drive the psychic
nature this way and that, are these: sickness, inertia, doubt,
lightmindedness, laziness, intemperance, false notions, inability to
reach a stage of meditation, or to hold it when reached.
We must remember that we are considering the spiritual man as
enwrapped and enmeshed by the psychic nature, the emotional and
mental powers; and as unable to come to clear consciousness, unable
to stand and see clearly, because of the psychic veils of the
personality. Nine of these are enumerated, and they go pretty
thoroughly into the brute toughness of the psychic nature.
Sickness is included rather for its effect on the emotions and mind,
since bodily infirmity, such as blindness or deafness, is no insuperable
barrier to spiritual life, and may sometimes be a help, as cutting off
distractions. It will be well for us to ponder over each of these nine
activities, thinking of each as a psychic state, a barrier to the interior
consciousness of the spiritual man.
31. Grieving, despondency, bodily restless ness, the drawing in and
sending forth of the life-breath also contribute to drive the psychic
nature to and fro.
The first two moods are easily understood. We can well see bow a
sodden psychic condition, flagrantly opposed to the pure and positive
joy of spiritual life, would be a barrier. The next, bodily restlessness,
is in a special way the fault of our day and generation. When it is
conquered, mental restlessness will be half conquered, too.
The next two terms, concerning the life breath, offer some difficulty.
The surface meaning is harsh and irregular breathing; the deeper
meaning is a life of harsh and irregular impulses.
32. Steady application to a principle is the way to put a stop to these.
The will, which, in its pristine state, was full of vigour, has been
steadily corrupted by self-indulgence, the seeking of moods and
sensations for sensation's sake. Hence come all the morbid and sickly
moods of the mind. The remedy is a return to the pristine state of the
will, by vigorous, positive effort; or, as we are here told, by steady
application to a principle. The principle to which we should thus
steadily apply ourselves should be one arising from the reality of
spiritual life; valorous work for the soul, in others as in ourselves.
33. By sympathy with the happy, compassion for the sorrowful,
delight in the holy, disregard of the unholy, the psychic nature moves
to gracious peace.
When we are wrapped up in ourselves, shrouded with the cloak of our
egotism, absorbed in our pains and bitter thoughts, we are not willing
to disturb or strain our own sickly mood by giving kindly sympathy to
the happy, thus doubling their joy, or by showing compassion for the
sad, thus halving their sorrow. We refuse to find delight in holy things,
and let the mind brood in sad pessimism on unholy things. All these
evil psychic moods must be conquered by strong effort of will. This
rending of the veils will reveal to us something of the grace and peace
which are of the interior consciousness of the spiritual man.
34. Or peace may be reached by the even sending f orth and control
of the life-breath.
Here again we may look for a double meaning: first, that even and
quiet breathing which is a part of the victory over bodily restlessness;
then the even and quiet tenor of life, without harsh or dissonant
impulses, which brings stillness to the heart.
35. Faithful, persistent application to any object, if completely
attained, will bind the mind to steadiness.
We are still considering how to overcome the wavering and
perturbation of the psychic nature, which make it quite unfit to
transmit the inward consciousness and stillness. We are once more
told to use the will, and to train it by steady and persistent work: by
"sitting close" to our work, in the phrase of the original.
36. As also will a joyful, radiant spirit.
There is no such illusion as gloomy pessimism, and it has been truly
said that a man's cheerfulness is the measure of his faith. Gloom,
despondency, the pale cast of thought, are very amenable to the will.
Sturdy and courageous effort will bring a clear and valorous mind.
But it must always be remembered that this is not for solace to the
personal man, but is rather an offering to the ideal of spiritual life, a
contribution to the universal and universally shared treasure in heaven.
37. Or the purging of self-indulgence from the psychic nature.
We must recognize that the fall of man is a reality, exemplified in our
own persons. We have quite other sins than the animals, and far more
deleterious; and they have all come through self-indulgence, with
which our psychic natures are soaked through and through. As we
climbed down hill for our pleasure, so must we climb up again for our
purification and restoration to our former high estate. The process is
painful, perhaps, yet indispensable.
38. Or a pondering on the perceptions gained in dreams and dreamless
For the Eastern sages, dreams are, it is true, made up of images of
waking life, reflections of what the eyes have seen and the ears heard.
But dreams are something more, for the images are in a sense real,
objective on their own plane; and the knowledge that there is another
world, even a dream-world, lightens the tyranny of material life. Much
of poetry and art is such a solace from dreamland. But there is more
in dream, for it may image what is above, as well as what is below; not
only the children of men, but also the children by the shore of the
immortal sea that brought us hither, may throw their images on this
magic mirror: so, too, of the secrets of dreamless sleep with its pure
vision, in even greater degree.
39. Or meditative brooding on what is dearest to the heart.
Here is a thought which our own day is beginning to grasp: that love
is a form of knowledge; that we truly know any thing or any person,
by becoming one therewith, in love. Thus love has a wisdom that the
mind cannot claim, and by this hearty love, this becoming one with
what is beyond our personal borders, we may take a long step toward
freedom. Two directions for this may be suggested: the pure love of
the artist for his work, and the earnest, compassionate search into the
hearts of others.
40. Thus he masters all, from the atom to the Infinite.
Newton was asked how he made his discoveries. By intending my
mind on them, he replied. This steady pressure, this becoming one
with what we seek to understand, whether it be atom or soul, is the
one means to know. When we become a thing, we really know it, not
otherwise. Therefore live the life, to know the doctrine; do the will of
the Father, if you would know the Father.
41. When the perturbations of the psychic nature have all been stilled,
then the consciousness, like a pure crystal, takes the colour of what it
rests on, whether that be the perceiver, perceiving, or the thing
This is a fuller expression of the last Sutra, and is so lucid that
comment can hardly add to it. Everything is either perceiver,
perceiving, or the thing perceived; or, as we might say, consciousness,
force, or matter. The sage tells us that the one key will unlock the
secrets of all three, the secrets of consciousness, force and matter
alike. The thought is, that the cordial sympathy of a gentle heart,
intuitively understanding the hearts of others, is really a manifestation
of the same power as that penetrating perception whereby one divines
the secrets of planetary motions or atomic structure.
42. When the consciousness, poised in perceiving, blends together the
name, the object dwelt on and the idea, this is perception with exterior
In the first stage of the consideration of an external object, the
perceiving mind comes to it, preoccupied by the name and idea
conventionally associated with that object. For example, in coming to
the study of a book, we think of the author, his period, the school to
which he belongs. The second stage, set forth in the next Sutra, goes
directly to the spiritual meaning of the book, setting its traditional
trappings aside and finding its application to our own experience and
The commentator takes a very simple illustration: a cow, where one
considers, in the first stage, the name of the cow, the animal itself and
the idea of a cow in the mind. In the second stage, one pushes these
trappings aside and, entering into the inmost being of the cow, shares
its consciousness, as do some of the artists who paint cows. They get
at the very life of what they study and paint.
43. When the object dwells in the mind, clear of memory-pictures,
uncoloured by the mind, as a pure luminous idea, this is perception
without exterior or consideration.
We are still considering external, visible objects. Such perception as
is here described is of the nature of that penetrating vision whereby
Newton, intending his mind on things, made his discoveries, or that
whereby a really great portrait painter pierces to the soul of him whom
he paints, and makes that soul live on canvas. These stages of
perception are described in this way, to lead the mind up to an
understanding of the piercing soul-vision of the spiritual man, the
44. The same two steps, when referring to things of finer substance,
are said to be with, or without, judicial action of the mind.
We now come to mental or psychical objects: to images in the mind.
It is precisely by comparing, arranging and superposing these
mind-images that we get our general notions or concepts. This
process of analysis and synthesis, whereby we select certain qualities
in a group of mind-images, and then range together those of like
quality, is the judicial action of the mind spoken of. But when we
exercise swift divination upon the mind images, as does a poet or a
man of genius., then we use a power higher than the judicial, and one
nearer to the keen vision of the spiritual man.
45. Subtle substance rises in ascending degrees, to that pure nature
which has no distinguishing mark.
As we ascend from outer material things which are permeated by
separateness, and whose chief characteristic is to be separate, just as
so many pebbles are separate from each other; as we ascend, first, to
mind-images, which overlap and coalesce in both space and time, and
then to ideas and principles, we finally come to purer essences,
drawing ever nearer and nearer to unity.
Or we may illustrate this principle thus. Our bodily, external selves are
quite distinct and separate, in form, name, place, substance; our
mental selves, of finer substance, meet and part, meet and part again,
in perpetual concussion and interchange; our spiritual selves attain
true consciousness through unity, where the partition wall between us
and the Highest, between us and others, is broken down and we are
all made perfect in the One. The highest riches are possessed by all
pure souls, only when united. Thus we rise from separation to true
individuality in unity.
46. The above are the degrees of limited and conditioned spiritual
consciousness, still containing the seed of separateness.
In the four stages of perception above described, the spiritual vision
is still working through the mental and psychical, the inner genius is
still expressed through the outer, personal man. The spiritual man has
yet to come completely to consciousness as himself, in his own realm,
the psychical veils laid aside.
47. When pure perception without judicial action of the mind is
reached, there follows the gracious peace of the inner self.
We have instanced certain types of this pure perception: the poet's
divination, whereby he sees the spirit within the symbol, likeness in
things unlike, and beauty in all things; the pure insight of the true
philosopher, whose vision rests not on the appearances of life, but on
its realities; or the saint's firm perception of spiritual life and being. All
these are far advanced on the way; they have drawn near to the secret
dwelling of peace.
48. In that peace, perception is unfailingly true.
The poet, the wise philosopher and the saint not only reach a wide and
luminous consciousness, but they gain certain knowledge of
substantial reality. When we know, we know that we know. For we
have come to the stage where we know things by being them, and
nothing can be more true than being. We rest on the rock, and know
it to be rock, rooted in the very heart of the world.
49. The object of this perception is other than what is learned from the
sacred books, or by sound inference, since this perception is
The distinction is a luminous and inspiring one. The Scriptures teach
general truths, concerning universal spiritual life and broad laws, and
inference from their teaching is not less general. But the spiritual
perception of the awakened Seer brings particular truth concerning his
own particular life and needs, whether these be for himself or others.
He receives defined, precise knowledge, exactly applying to what he
has at heart.
50. The impress on the consciousness springing from this perception
supersedes all previous impressions.
Each state or field of the mind, each field of knowledge, so to speak,
which is reached by mental and emotional energies, is a psychical
state, just as the mind picture of a stage with the actors on it, is a
psychical state or field. When the pure vision, as of the poet, the
philosopher, the saint, fills the whole field, all lesser views and visions
are crowded out. This high consciousness displaces all lesser
consciousness. Yet, in a certain sense, that which is viewed as part,
even by the vision of a sage, has still an element of illusion, a thin
psychical veil, however pure and luminous that veil may be. It is the
last and highest psychic state.
51. When this impression ceases, then, since all impressions have
ceased, there arises pure spiritual consciousness, with no seed of
The last psychic veil is drawn aside, and the spiritual man stands with
unveiled vision, pure serene.
INTRODUCTION TO BOOK II
The first book of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is called the Book of
Spiritual Consciousness. The second book, which we now begin, is
the Book of the Means of Soul Growth. And we must remember that
soul growth here means the growth of the realization of the spiritual
man, or, to put the matter more briefly, the growth of the spiritual
man, and the disentangling of the spiritual man from the wrappings,
the veils, the disguises laid upon him by the mind and the psychical
nature, wherein he is enmeshed, like a bird caught in a net
The question arises: By what means may the spiritual man be freed
from these psychical meshes and disguises, so that he may stand forth
above death, in his radiant eternalness and divine power? And the
second book sets itself to answer this very question, and to detail the
means in a way entirely practical and very lucid, so that he who runs
may read, and he who reads may understand and practise.
The second part of the second book is concerned with practical
spiritual training, that is, with the earlier practical training of the
The most striking thing in it is the emphasis laid on the
Commandments, which are precisely those of the latter part of the
Decalogue, together with obedience to the Master. Our day and
generation is far too prone to fancy that there can be mystical life and
growth on some other foundation, on the foundation, for example, of
intellectual curiosity or psychical selfishness. In reality, on this latter
foundation the life of the spiritual man can never be built; nor, indeed,
anything but a psychic counterfeit, a dangerous delusion.
Therefore Patanjali, like every great spiritual teacher, meets the
question: What must I do to be saved? with the age- old answer: Keep
the Commandments. Only after the disciple can say, These have I
kept, can there be the further and finer teaching of the spiritual Rules.
It is, therefore, vital for us to realize that the Yoga system, like every
true system of spiritual teaching, rests on this broad and firm
foundation of honesty, truth, cleanness, obedience. Without these,
there is no salvation; and he who practices these, even though
ignorant of spiritual things, is laying up treas- against the time to
1. The practices which make for union with the Soul are: fervent
aspiration, spiritual reading, and complete obedience to the Master.
The word which I have rendered "fervent aspiration' means primarily
"fire"; and, in the Eastern teaching, it means the fire which gives life
and light, and at the same time the fire which purifies. We have,
therefore, as our first practice, as the first of the means of spiritual
growth, that fiery quality of the will which enkindles and illumines,
and, at the same time, the steady practice of purification, the burning
away of all known impurities. Spiritual reading is so universally
accepted and understood, that it needs no comment. The very study
of Patanjali's Sutras is an exercise in spiritual reading, and a very
effective one. And so with all other books of the Soul. Obedience to
the Master means, that we shall make the will of the Master our will,
and shall confirm in all wave to the will of the Divine, setting aside the
wills of self, which are but psychic distortions of the one Divine Will.
The constant effort to obey in all the ways we know and understand,
will reveal new ways and new tasks, the evidence of new growth of
the Soul. Nothing will do more for the spiritual man in us than this, for
there is no such regenerating power as the awakening spiritual will.
2. Their aim is, to bring soul-vision, and to wear away hindrances.
The aim of fervour, spiritual reading and obedience to the Master, is,
to bring soulvision, and to wear away hindrances. Or, to use the
phrase we have already adopted, the aim of these practices is, to help
the spiritual man to open his eyes; to help him also to throw aside the
veils and disguises, the enmeshing psychic nets which surround him,
tying his hands, as it were, and bandaging his eyes. And this, as all
teachers testify, is a long and arduous task, a steady up-hill fight,
demanding fine courage and persistent toil. Fervour, the fire of the
spiritual will, is, as we said, two-fold: it illumines, and so helps the
spiritual man to see; and it also burns up the nets and meshes which
ensnare the spiritual man. So with the other means, spiritual reading
and obedience. Each, in its action, is two-fold, wearing away the
psychical, and upbuilding the spiritual man.
3. These are the hindrances: the darkness of unwisdom, self-assertion,
lust hate, attachment.
Let us try to translate this into terms of the psychical and spiritual
man. The darkness of unwisdom is, primarily, the self-absorption of
the psychical man, his complete preoccupation with his own hopes and
fears, plans and purposes, sensations and desires; so that he fails to
see, or refuses to see, that there is a spiritual man; and so doggedly
resists all efforts of the spiritual man to cast off his psychic tyrant and
set himself free. This is the real darkness; and all those who deny the
immortality of the soul, or deny the soul's existence, and so lay out
their lives wholly for the psychical, mortal man and his ambitions, are
under this power of darkness. Born of this darkness, this psychic self-
absorption, is the dogged conviction that the psychic, personal man
has separate, exclusive interests, which he can follow for himself
alone; and this conviction, when put into practice in our life, leads to
contest with other personalities, and so to hate. This hate, again,
makes against the spiritual man, since it hinders the revelation of the
high harmony between the spiritual man and his other selves, a
harmony to be revealed only through the practice of love, that perfect
love which casts out fear.
In like manner, lust is the psychic man's craving for the stimulus of
sensation, the din of which smothers the voice of the spiritual man, as,
in Shakespeare's phrase, the cackling geese would drown the song of
the nightingale. And this craving for stimulus is the fruit of weakness,
coming from the failure to find strength in the primal life of the
Attachment is but another name for psychic self-absorption; for we are
absorbed, not in outward things, but rather in their images within our
minds; our inner eyes are fixed on them; our inner desires brood over
them; and em we blind ourselves to the presence of the prisoner' the
enmeshed and fettered spiritual man.
4. The darkness of unwisdom is the field of the others. These
hindrances may be dormant, or worn thin, or suspended, or expanded.
Here we have really two Sutras in one. The first has been explained
already: in the darkness of unwisdom grow the parasites, hate, lust,
attachment. They are all outgrowths of the self-absorption of the
Next, we are told that these barriers may be either dormant, or
suspended, or expanded, or worn thin. Faults which are dormant will
be brought out through the pressure of life, or through the pressure of
strong aspiration. Thus expanded, they must be fought and conquered,
or, as Patanjali quaintly says, they must be worn thin,-as a veil might,
or the links of manacles.
5 The darkness of ignorance is: holding that which is unenduring,
impure, full of pain, not the Soul, to be eternal, pure, full of joy, the
This we have really considered already. The psychic man is
unenduring, impure, full of pain, not the Soul, not the real Self. The
spiritual man is enduring, pure, full of joy, the real Self. The darkness
of unwisdom is, therefore, the self-absorption of the psychical,
personal man, to the exclusion of the spiritual man. It is the belief,
carried into action, that the personal man is the real man, the man for
whom we should toil, for whom we should build, for whom we should
live. This is that psychical man of whom it is said: he that soweth to
the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.
6. Self -assertion comes f rom thinking of the Seer and the instrument
of vision as forming one self.
This is the fundamental idea of the Sankhya philosophy, of which the
Yoga is avowedly the practical side. To translate this into our terms,
we may say that the Seer is the spiritual man; the instrument of vision
is the psychical man, through which the spiritual man gains experience
of the outer world. But we turn the servant into the master. We
attribute to the psychical man, the personal self, a reality which really
belongs to the spiritual man alone; and so, thinking of the quality of
the spiritual man as belonging to the psychical, we merge the spiritual
man in the psychical; or, as the text says, we think of the two as
forming one self.
7. Lust is the resting in the sense of enjoyment.
This has been explained again and again. Sensation, as, for example,
the sense of taste, is meant to be the guide to action; in this case, the
choice of wholesome food, and the avoidance of poisonous and
hurtful things. But if we rest in the sense of taste, as a pleasure in
itself; rest, that is, in the psychical side of taste, we fall into gluttony,
and live to eat, instead of eating to live. So with the other great
organic power, the power of reproduction. This lust comes into being,
through resting in the sensation, and looking for pleasure from that.
8. Hate is the resting in the sense of pain.
Pain comes, for the most part, from the strife of personalities, the
jarring discords between psychic selves, each of which deems itself
supreme. A dwelling on this pain breeds hate, which tears the warring
selves yet further asunder, and puts new enmity between them, thus
hindering the harmony of the Real, the reconciliation through the
9. Attachment is the desire toward life, even in the wise, carried
forward by its own energy.
The life here desired is the psychic life, the intensely vibrating life of
the psychical self. This prevails even in those who have attained much
wisdom, so long as it falls short of the wisdom of complete
renunciation, complete obedience to each least behest of the spiritual
man, and of the Master who guards and aids the spiritual man.
The desire of sensation, the desire of psychic life, reproduces itself,
carried on by its own energy and momentum; and hence comes the
circle of death and rebirth, death and rebirth, instead of the liberation
of the spiritual man.
10. These hindrances, when they have become subtle, are to be
removed by a countercurrent
The darkness of unwisdom is to be removed by the light of wisdom,
pursued through fervour, spiritual reading of holy teachings and of life
itself, and by obedience to the Master.
Lust is to be removed by pure aspiration of spiritual life, which,
bringing true strength and stability, takes away the void of weakness
which we try to fill by the stimulus of sensations.
Hate is to be overcome by love. The fear that arises through the sense
of separate, warring selves is to be stilled by the realization of the One
Self, the one soul in all. This realization is the perfect love that casts
The hindrances are said to have become subtle when, by initial efforts,
they have been located and recognized in the psychic nature.
11. Their active turnings are to be removed by meditation.
Here is, in truth, the whole secret of Yoga, the science of the soul.
The active turnings, the strident vibrations, of selfishness, lust and hate
are to be stilled by meditation, by letting heart and mind dwell in
spiritual life, by lifting up the heart to the strong, silent life above,
which rests in the stillness of eternal love, and needs no harsh
vibration to convince it of true being.
12. The burden of bondage to sorrow has its root in these hindrances.
It will be felt in this life, or in a life not yet manifested.
The burden of bondage to sorrow has its root in the darkness of
unwisdom, in selfishness, in lust, in hate, in attachment to sensation.
All these are, in the last analysis, absorption in the psychical self; and
this means sorrow, because it means the sense of separateness, and
this means jarring discord and inevitable death. But the psychical self
will breed a new psychical self, in a new birth, and so new sorrows in
a life not yet manifest.
13. From this root there grow and ripen the fruits of birth, of the
life-span, of all that is tasted in life.
Fully to comment on this, would be to write a treatise on Karma and
its practical working in detail, whereby the place and time of the next
birth, its content and duration. are determined; and to do this the
present commentator is in no wise fitted. But this much is clearly
understood: that, through a kind of spiritual gravitation, the
incarnating self is drawn to a home and life-circle which will give it
scope and discipline; and its need of discipline is clearly conditioned
by its character, its standing, its accomplishment.
14. These bear fruits of rejoicing, or of affliction, as they are sprung
from holy or unholy works.
Since holiness is obedience to divine law, to the law of divine
harmony, and obedience to harmony strengthens that harmony in the
soul, which is the one true joy, therefore joy comes of holiness:
comes, indeed, in no other way. And as unholiness is disobedience,
and therefore discord, therefore unholiness makes for pain; and this
two-fold law is true, whether the cause take effect in this, or in a yet
15. To him who possesses discernment, all personal life is misery,
because it ever waxes and wanes, is ever afflicted with restlessness,
makes ever new dynamic impresses in the mind; and because all its
activities war with each other.
The whole life of the psychic self is misery, because it ever waxes and
wanes; because birth brings inevitable death; because there is no
expectation without its shadow, fear. The life of the psychic self is
misery, because it is afflicted with restlessness; so that he who has
much, finds not satisfaction, but rather the whetted hunger for more.
The fire is not quenched by pouring oil on it; so desire is not quenched
by the satisfaction of desire. Again, the life of the psychic self is
misery, because it makes ever new dynamic impresses in the mind;
because a desire satisfied is but the seed from which springs the desire
to find like satisfaction again. The appetite comes in eating, as the
proverb says, and grows by what it feeds on. And the psychic self,
torn with conflicting desires, is ever the house divided against itself,
which must surely fall.
16. This pain is to be warded off, before it has come.
In other words, we cannot cure the pains of life by laying on them any
balm. We must cut the root, absorption in the psychical self. So it is
said, there is no cure for the misery of longing, but to fix the heart
upon the eternal.
17. The cause of what is to be warded off, is the absorption of the
Seer in things seen.
Here again we have the fundamental idea of the Sankhya, which is the
intellectual counterpart of the Yoga system. The cause of what is to
be warded off, the root of misery, is the absorption of consciousness
in the psychical man and the things which beguile the psychical man.
The cure is liberation.
18. Things seen have as their property manifestation, action, inertia.
They form the basis of the elements and the sense-powers. They make
for experience and for liberation.
Here is a whole philosophy of life. Things seen, the total of the
phenomena], possess as their property, manifestation, action, inertia:
the qualities of force and matter in combination. These, in their
grosser form, make the material world; in their finer, more subjective
form, they make the psychical world, the world of sense-impressions
and mind-images. And through this totality of the phenomenal, the
soul gains experience, and is prepared for liberation. In other words,
the whole outer world exists for the purposes of the soul, and finds in
this its true reason for being.
19. The grades or layers of the Three Potencies are the defined, the
undefined, that with distinctive mark, that without distinctive mark.
Or, as we might say, there are two strata of the physical, and two
strata of the psychical realms. In each, there is the side of form, and
the side of force. The form side of the physical is here called the
defined. The force side of the physical is the undefined, that which has
no boundaries. So in the psychical; there is the form side; that with
distinctive marks, such as the characteristic features of mind-images;
and there is the force side, without distinctive marks, such as the
forces of desire or fear, which may flow now to this mind-image, now
20. The Seer is pure vision. Though pure, he looks out through the
vesture of the mind.
The Seer, as always, is the spiritual man whose deepest consciousness
is pure vision, the pure life of the eternal. But the spiritual man, as yet
unseeing in his proper person, looks out on the world through the eyes
of the psychical man, by whom he is enfolded and enmeshed. The task
is, to set this prisoner free, to clear the dust of ages from this buried
21. The very essence of things seen is, that they exist for the Seer.
The things of outer life, not only material things, but the psychic man
also, exist in very deed for the purposes of the Seer, the Soul, the
spiritual man Disaster comes, when the psychical man sets up, so to
speak, on his own account, trying to live for himself alone, and taking
material things to solace his loneliness.
22. Though fallen away from him who has reached the goal, things
seen have not alto fallen away, since they still exist for others.
When one of us conquers hate, hate does not thereby cease out of the
world, since others still hate and suffer hatred. So with other
delusions, which hold us in bondage to material things, and through
which we look at all material things. When the coloured veil of illusion
is gone, the world which we saw through it is also gone, for now we
see life as it is, in the white radiance of eternity. But for others the
coloured veil remains, and therefore the world thus coloured by it
remains for them, and will remain till they, too, conquer delusion.
23. The association of the Seer with things seen is the cause of the
realizing of the nature of things seen, and also of the realizing of the
nature of the Seer.
Life is educative. All life's infinite variety is for discipline, for the
development of the soul. So passing through many lives, the Soul
learns the secrets of the world, the august laws that are written in the
form of the snow-crystal or the majestic order of the stars. Yet all
these laws are but reflections, but projections outward, of the laws of
the soul; therefore in learning these, the soul learns to know itself. All
life is but the mirror wherein the Soul learns to know its own face.
24. The cause of this association is the darkness of unwisdom.
The darkness of unwisdom is the absorption of consciousness in the
personal life, and in the things seen by the personal life. This is the fall,
through which comes experience, the learning of the lessons of life.
When they are learned, the day of redemption is at hand.
25. The bringing of this association to an end, by bringing the
darkness of unwisdom to an end, is the great liberation; this is the
Seer's attainment of his own pure being.
When the spiritual man has, through the psychical, learned all life's
lessons, the time has come for him to put off the veil and disguise of
the psychical and to stand revealed a King, in the house of the Father.
So shall he enter into his kingdom, and go no more out.
26. A discerning which is carried on without wavering is the means of
Here we come close to the pure Vedanta, with its discernment
between the eternal and the temporal. St. Paul, following after Philo
and Plato, lays down the same fundamental principle: the things seen
are temporal, the things unseen are eternal.
Patanjali means something more than an intellectual assent, though
this too is vital. He has in view a constant discriminating in act as well
as thought; of the two ways which present themselves for every deed
or choice, always to choose the higher way, that which makes for the
things eternal: honesty rather than roguery, courage and not
cowardice, the things of another rather than one's own, sacrifice and
not indulgence. This true discernment, carried out constantly, makes
27. His illuminations is sevenfold, rising In successive stages.
Patanjali's text does not tell us what the seven stages of this
illumination are. The commentator thus describes them;
First, the danger to be escaped is recognized; it need not be
recognized a second time. Second, the causes of the danger to be
escaped are worn away; they need not be worn away a second time.
Third, the way of escape is clearly perceived, by the contemplation
which checks psychic perturbation. Fourth, the means of escape, clear
discernment, has been developed. This is the fourfold release
belonging to insight. The final release from the psychic is three-fold:
As fifth of the seven degrees, the dominance of its thinking is ended;
as sixth, its potencies, like rocks from a precipice, fall of themselves;
once dissolved, they do not grow again. Then, as seventh, freed from
these potencies, the spiritual man stands forth in his own nature as
purity and light. Happy is the spiritual man who beholds this
seven-fold illumination in its ascending stages.
28. From steadfastly following after the means of Yoga, until impurity
is worn away, there comes the illumination of thought up to full
Here, we enter on the more detailed practical teaching of Patanjali,
with its sound and luminous good sense. And when we come to detail
the means of Yoga, we may well be astonished at their simplicity.
There is little in them that is mysterious. They are very familiar. The
essence of the matter lies in carrying them out.
29. The eight means of Yoga are: the Commandments, the Rules,
right Poise, right Control of the life-force, Withdrawal, Attention,
These eight means are to be followed in their order, in the sense which
will immediately be made clear. We can get a ready understanding of
the first two by comparing them with the Commandments which must
be obeyed by all good citizens, and the Rules which are laid on the
members of religious orders. Until one has fulfilled the first, it is futile
to concern oneself with the second. And so with all the means of
Yoga. They must be taken in their order.
30. The Commandments are these: nom injury, truthfulness, abstaining
from stealing, from impurity, from covetousness.
These five precepts are almost exactly the same as the Buddhist
Commandments: not to kill, not to steal, not to be guilty of
incontinence, not to drink intoxicants, to speak the truth. Almost
identical is St. Paul's list: Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt
not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet. And in the same
spirit is the answer made to the young map having great possessions,
who asked, What shall I do to be saved? and received the reply: Keep
This broad, general training, which forms and develops human
character, must be accomplished to a very considerable degree, before
there can be much hope of success in the further stages of spiritual
life. First the psychical, and then the spiritual. First the man, then the
angel. On this broad, humane and wise foundation does the system of
31. The Commandments, not limited to any race, place, time or
occasion, universal, are the great obligation.
The Commandments form the broad general training of humanity.
Each one of them rests on a universal, spiritual law. Each one of them
expresses an attribute or aspect of the Self, the Eternal; when we
violate one of the Commandments, we set ourselves against the law
and being of the Eternal, thereby bringing ourselves to inevitable con
fusion. So the first steps in spiritual life must be taken by bringing
ourselves into voluntary obedience to these spiritual laws and thus
making ourselves partakers of the spiritual powers, the being of the
Eternal Like the law of gravity, the need of air to breathe, these great
laws know no exceptions They are in force in all lands, throughout al
times, for all mankind.
32. The Rules are these: purity, serenity fervent aspiration, spiritual
reading, and per feet obedience to the Master.
Here we have a finer law, one which humanity as a whole is less ready
for, less fit to obey. Yet we can see that these Rules are the same in
essence as the Commandments, but on a higher, more spiritual plane.
The Commandments may be obeyed in outer acts and abstinences; the
Rules demand obedience of the heart and spirit, a far more awakened
and more positive consciousness. The Rules are the spiritual
counterpart of the Commandments, and they have finer degrees, for
more advanced spiritual growth.
33. When transgressions hinder, the weight of the imagination should
be thrown' on the opposite side.
Let us take a simple case, that of a thief, a habitual criminal, who has
drifted into stealing in childhood, before the moral consciousness has
awakened. We may imprison such a thief, and deprive him of all
possibility of further theft, or of using the divine gift of will. Or we
may recognize his disadvantages, and help him gradually to build up
possessions which express his will, and draw forth his self-respect. If
we imagine that, after he has built well, and his possessions have
become dear to him, he himself is robbed, then we can see how he
would come vividly to realize the essence of theft and of honesty, and
would cleave to honest dealings with firm conviction. In some such
way does the great Law teach us. Our sorrows and losses teach us the
pain of the sorrow and loss we inflict on others, and so we cease to
Now as to the more direct application. To conquer a sin. let heart and
mind rest, not on the sin, but on the contrary virtue. Let the sin be
forced out by positive growth in the true direction, not by direct
opposition. Turn away from the sin and go forward courageously,
constructively, creatively, in well-doing. In this way the whole nature
will gradually be drawn up to the higher level, on which the sin does
not even exist. The conquest of a sin is a matter of growth and
evolution, rather than of opposition.
34. Transgressions are injury, falsehood, theft, incontinence, envy;
whether committed, or caused, or assented to, through greed, wrath,
or infatuation; whether faint, or middling, or excessive; bearing
endless, fruit of ignorance and pain. Therefore must the weight be cast
on the other side.
Here are the causes of sin: greed, wrath, infatuation, with their effects,
ignorance and pain. The causes are to be cured by better wisdom, by
a truer understanding of the Self, of Life. For greed cannot endure
before the realization that the whole world belongs to the Self, which
Self we are; nor can we hold wrath against one who is one with the
Self, and therefore with ourselves; nor can infatuation, which is the
seeking for the happiness of the All in some limited part of it, survive
the knowledge that we are heirs of the All. Therefore let thought and
imagination, mind and heart, throw their weight on the other side; the
side, not of the world,.but of the Self.
35. Where non-injury is perfected, all enmity ceases in the presence of
him who possesses it.
We come now to the spiritual powers which result from keeping the
Commandments; from the obedience to spiritual law which is the
keeping of the Commandments. Where the heart is full of kindness
which seeks no injury to another, either in act or thought or wish, this
full love creates an atmosphere of harmony, whose benign power
touches with healing all who come within its influence. Peace in the
heart radiates peace to other hearts, even more surely than contention
36. When he is perfected in truth, all acts and their fruits depend on
The commentator thus explains: If he who has attained should say to
a man, Become righteous! the man becomes righteous. If he should
say, Gain heaven ! the man gains heaven. His word is not in vain.
Exactly the same doctrine was taught by the Master who said to his
disciples: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye re mit they
are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are
37. Where cessation from theft is perfected, all treasures present
themselves to him who possesses it.
Here is a sentence which may warn us that, beside the outer and
apparent meaning, there is in many of these sentences a second and
finer significance. The obvious meaning is, that he who has wholly
ceased from theft, in act, thought and wish, finds buried treasures in
his path, treasures of jewels and gold and pearls. The deeper truth is,
that he who in every least thing is wholly honest with the spirit of Life,
finds Life supporting him in all things, and gains admittance to the
treasure house of Life, the spiritual universe.
38. For him who is perfect in continence, the reward is valour and
The creative power, strong and full of vigour, is no longer dissipated,
but turned to spiritual uses. It upholds and endows the spiritual man,
conferring on him the creative will, the power to engender spiritual
children instead of bodily progeny. An epoch of life, that of man the
animal, has come to an end; a new epoch, that of the spiritual man, is
opened. The old creative power is superseded and transcended; a new
creative power, that of the spiritual man, takes its place, carrying with
it the power to work creatively in others for righteousness and eternal
One of the commentaries says that he who has attained is able to
transfer to the minds of his disciples what he knows concerning divine
union, and the means of gaining it. This is one of the powers of purity.
39. Where there is firm conquest of covetousness, he who has
conquered it awakes to the how and why of life.
So it is said that, before we can understand the laws of Karma, we
must free ourselves from Karma. The conquest of covetousness brings
this rich fruit, because the root of covetousness is the desire of the
individual soul, the will toward manifested life. And where the desire
of the individual soul is overcome by the superb, still life of the
universal Soul welling up in the heart within, the great secret is
discerned, the secret that the individual soul is not an isolated reality,
but the ray, the manifest instrument of the Life, which turns it this way
and that until the great work is accomplished, the age-long lesson
learned. Thus is the how and why of life disclosed by ceasing from
covetousness. The Commentator says that this includes a knowledge
of one's former births.
40. Through purity a withdrawal from one's own bodily life, a ceasing
from infatuation with the bodily life of others.
As the spiritual light grows in the heart within, as the taste for pure
Life grows stronger, the consciousness opens toward the great, secret
places within, where all life is one, where all lives are one. Thereafter,
this outer, manifested, fugitive life, whether of ourselves or of others,
loses something of its charm and glamour, and we seek rather the
deep infinitudes. Instead of the outer form and surroundings of our
lives, we long for their inner and everlasting essence. We desire not so
much outer converse and closeness to our friends, but rather that quiet
communion with them in the inner chamber of the soul, where spirit
speaks to spirit, and spirit answers; where alienation and separation
never enter; where sickness and sorrow and death cannot come.
41. To the pure of heart come also a quiet spirit, one-pointed thought,
the victory over sensuality, and fitness to behold the Soul.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, who is the
supreme Soul; the ultimate Self of all beings. In the deepest sen se ,
purity means fitness for this vision, and also a heart cleansed from all
disquiet, from all wandering and unbridled thought, from the torment
of sensuous imaginings; and when the spirit is thus cleansed and pure,
it becomes at one in essence with its source, the great Spirit, the
primal Life. One consciousness now thrills through both, for the
psychic partition wall is broken down. Then shall the pure in heart see
God, because they become God.
42. From acceptance, the disciple gains happiness supreme.
One of the wise has said: accept conditions, accept others, accept
yourself. This is the true acceptance, for all these things are what they
are through the will of the higher Self, except their deficiencies, which
come through thwarting the will of the higher Self, and can be
conquered only through compliance with that will. By the true
acceptance, the disciple comes into oneness of spirit with the
overruling Soul; and, since the own nature of the Soul is being,
happiness, bliss, he comes thereby into happiness supreme.
43. The perfection of the powers of the bodily vesture comes through
the wearing away of impurities, and through fervent aspiration.
This is true of the physical powers, and of those which dwell in the
higher vestures. There must be, first, purity; as the blood must be
pure, before one can attain to physical health. But absence of impurity
is not in itself enough, else would many nerveless ascetics of the
cloisters rank as high saints. There is needed, further, a positive fire of
the will; a keen vital vigour for the physical powers, and something
finer, purer, stronger, but of kindred essence, for the higher powers.
The fire of genius is something more than a phrase, for there can be
no genius without the celestial fire of the awakened spiritual will.
44. Through spiritual reading, the disciple gains communion with the
divine Power on which his heart is set.
Spiritual reading meant, for ancient India, something more than it does
with us. It meant, first, the recital of sacred texts, which, in their very
sounds, had mystical potencies; and it meant a recital of texts which
were divinely emanated, and held in themselves the living, potent
essence of the divine.
For us, spiritual reading means a communing with the recorded
teachings of the Masters of wisdom, whereby we read ourselves into
the Master's mind, just as through his music one can enter into the
mind and soul of the master musician. It has been well said that all
true art is contagion of feeling; so that through the true reading of true
books we do indeed read ourselves into the spirit of the Masters, share
in the atmosphere of their wisdom and power, and come at last into
their very presence.
45. Soul-vision is perfected through perfect obedience to the Master.
The sorrow and darkness of life come of the erring personal will
which sets itself against the will of the Soul, the one great Life. The
error of the personal will is inevitable, since each will must be free to
choose, to try and fail, and so to find the path. And sorrow and
darkness are inevitable, until the path be found, and the personal will
made once more one with the greater Will, wherein it finds rest and
power, without losing freedom. In His will is our peace. And with that
peace comes light. Soul-vision is perfected through obedience.
46. Right poise must be firm and without strain. Here we approach a
section of the teaching which has manifestly a two-fold meaning. The
first is physical, and concerns the bodily position of the student, and
the regulation of breathing. These things have their direct influence
upon soul-life, the life of the spiritual man, since it is always and
everywhere true that our study demands a sound mind in a sound
body. The present sentence declares that, for work and for meditation,
the position of the body must be steady and without strain, in order
that the finer currents of life may run their course.
It applies further to the poise of the soul, that fine balance and stability
which nothing can shake, where the consciousness rests on the firm
foundation of spiritual being. This is indeed the house set upon a rock,
which the winds and waves beat upon in vain.
47. Right poise is to be gained by steady and temperate effort, and by
setting the heart upon the everlasting.
Here again, there is the two-fold meaning, for physical poise is to be
gained by steady effort of the muscles, by gradual and wise training,
linked with a right understanding of, and relation with, the universal
force of gravity. Uprightness of body demands that both these
conditions shall be fulfilled.
In like manner the firm and upright poise of the spiritual man is to be
gained by steady and continued effort, always guided by wisdom, and
by setting the heart on the Eternal, filling the soul with the atmosphere
of the spiritual world. Neither is effective without the other.
Aspiration without effort brings weakness; effort without aspiration
brings a false strength, not resting on enduring things. The two
together make for the right poise which sets the spiritual man firmly
and steadfastly on his feet.
48 The fruit of right poise is the strength to resist the shocks of
infatuation or sorrow.
In the simpler physical sense, which is also coveted by the wording of
the original, this sentence means that wise effort establishes such
bodily poise that the accidents of life cannot disturb it, as the captain
remains steady, though disaster overtake his ship.
But the deeper sense is far more important. The spiritual man, too,
must learn to withstand all shocks, to remain steadfast through the
perturbations of external things and the storms and whirlwinds of the
psychical world. This is the power which is gained by wise,
continuous effort, and by filling the spirit with the atmosphere of the
49. When this is gained, there follows the right guidance of the
life-currents, the control of the incoming and outgoing breath.
It is well understood to-day that most of our maladies come from
impure conditions of the blood. It is coming to be understood that
right breathing, right oxygenation, will do very much to keep the
blood clean and pure. Therefore a right knowledge of breathing is a
part of the science of life.
But the deeper meaning is, that the spiritual man, when he has gained
poise through right effort and aspiration, can stand firm, and guide the
currents of his life, both the incoming current of events, and the
outgoing current of his acts.
Exactly the same symbolism is used in the saying: Not that which
goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the
mouth, this defileth a man.... Those things which proceed out of the
mouth come forth from the heart . . out of the heart proceed evil
thoughts, murders, uncleanness, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
Therefore the first step in purification is to keep the Commandments.
50. The life-current is either outward, or inward, or balanced; it ;is
regulated according to place, time, number; it is prolonged and subtle.
The technical, physical side of this has its value. In the breath, there
should be right inbreathing, followed by the period of pause, when the
air comes into contact with the blood, and this again followed by right
outbreathing, even, steady, silent. Further, the lungs should be evenly
filled; many maladies may arise from the neglect and consequent
weakening of some region of the lungs. And the number of breaths is
so important, so closely related to health, that every nurse's chart
But the deeper meaning is concerned with the currents of life; with
that which goeth into and cometh out of the heart.
51. The fourth degree transcends external and internal objects.
The inner meaning seems to be that, in addition to the three degrees
of control already described, control, that is, over the incoming
current of life, over the outgoing current, and over the condition of
pause or quiesence, there is a fourth degree of control, which holds in
complete mastery both the outer passage of events and the inner
currents of thoughts and emotions; a condition of perfect poise and
stability in the midst of the flux of things outward and inward.
52. Thereby is worn away the veil which covers up the light.
The veil is the psychic nature, the web of emotions, desires,
argumentative trains of thought, which cover up and obscure the truth
by absorbing the entire attention and keeping the consciousness in the
psychic realm. When hopes and fears are reckoned at their true worth,
in comparison with lasting possessions of the Soul; when the outer
reflections of things have ceased to distract us from inner realities;
when argumentative - thought no longer entangles us, but yields its
place to flashing intuition, the certainty which springs from within;
then is the veil worn away, the consciousness is drawn from the
psychical to the spiritual, from the temporal to the Eternal. Then is the
53. Thence comes the mind's power to hold itself in the light.
It has been well said, that what we most need is the faculty of spiritual
attention; and in the same direction of thought it has been eloquently
declared that prayer does not consist in our catching God's attention,
but rather in our allowing God to hold our attention.
The vital matter is, that we need to disentangle our consciousness
from the noisy and perturbed thraldom of the psychical, and to come
to consciousness as the spiritual man. This we must do, first, by
purification, through the Commandments and the Rules; and, second,
through the faculty of spiritual attention, by steadily heeding endless
fine intimations of the spiritual power within us, and by intending our
consciousness thereto; thus by degrees transferring the centre of
consciousness from the psychical to the spiritual. It is a question, first,
of love, and then of attention.
54. The right Withdrawal is the disengaging of the powers from
entanglement in outer things, as the psychic nature has been
withdrawn and stilled.
To understand this, let us reverse the process, and think of the one
consciousness, centred in the Soul, gradually expanding and taking on
the form of the different perceptive powers; the one will, at the same
time, differentiating itself into the varied powers of action.
Now let us imagine this to be reversed, so that the spiritual force,
which has gone into the differentiated powers, is once more gathered
together into the inner power of intuition and spiritual will, taking on
that unity which is the hall- mark of spiritual things, as diversity is the
seal of material things.
It is all a matter of love for the quality of spiritual consciousness, as
against psychical consciousness, of love and attention. For where the
heart is, there will the treasure be also; where the consciousness is,
there will the vesture with its powers be developed.
55. Thereupon follows perfect mastery over the powers.
When the spiritual condition which we have described is reached, with
its purity, poise, and illuminated vision, the spiritual man is coming
into his inheritance, and gaining complete mastery of his powers.
Indeed, much of the struggle to keep the Commandments and the
Rules has been paving the way for this mastery; through this very
struggle and sacrifice the mastery has become possible; just as, to use
St. Paul's simile, the athlete gains the mastery in the contest and the
race through the sacrifice of his long and arduous training. Thus he
gains the crown.
INTRODUCTION TO BOOK III
The third book of the Sutras is the Book of Spiritual Powers. In
considering these spiritual powers, two things must be understood and
kept in memory. The first of these is this: These spiritual powers can
only be gained when the development described in the first and second
books has been measurably attained; when the Commandments have
been kept, the Rules faithfully followed, and the experiences which are
described have been passed through. For only after this is the spiritual
man so far grown, so far disentangled from the psychical bandages
and veils which have confined and blinded him, that he can use his
proper powers and faculties. For this is the secret of all spiritual
powers: they are in no sense an abnormal or supernatural overgrowth
upon the material man, but are rather the powers and faculties inherent
in the spiritual man, entirely natural to him, and coming naturally into
activity, as the spiritual man is disentangled and liberated from
psychical bondage, through keeping the Commandments and Rules
already set forth.
As the personal man is the limitation and inversion of the spiritual
man, all his faculties and powers are inversions of the powers of the
spiritual man. In a single phrase, his self seeking is the inversion of the
Self-seeking which is the very being of the spiritual man: the ceaseless
search after the divine and august Self of all beings. This inversion is
corrected by keeping the Commandments and Rules, and gradually,
as the inversion is overcome, the spiritual man is extricated, and
comes into possession and free exercise of his powers. The spiritual
powers, therefore, are the powers of the grown and liberated spiritual
man. They can only be developed and used as the spiritual man grows
and attains liberation through obedience. This is the first thing to be
kept in mind, in all that is said of spiritual powers in the third and
fourth books of the Sutras. The second thing to be understood and
kept in mind is this:
Just as our modern sages have discerned and taught that all matter is
ultimately one and eternal, definitely related throughout the whole
wide universe; just as they have discerned and taught that all force is
one and eternal, so coordinated throughout the whole universe that
whatever affects any atom measurably affects the whole boundless
realm of matter and force, to the most distant star or nebula on the
dim confines of space; so the ancient sages had discerned and taught
that all consciousness is one, immortal, indivisible, infinite; so finely
correlated and continuous that whatever is perceived by any
consciousness is, whether actually or potentially, within the reach of
all consciousness, and therefore within the reach of any consciousness.
This has been well expressed by saying that all souls are fundamentally
one with the Oversoul; that the Son of God, and all Sons of God, are
fundamentally one with the Father. When the consciousness is cleared
of psychic bonds and veils, when the spiritual man is able to stand, to
see, then this superb law comes into effect: whatever is within the
knowledge of any consciousness, and this includes the whole infinite
universe, is within his reach, and may, if he wills, be made a part of his
consciousness. This he may attain through his fundamental unity with
the Oversoul, by raising himself toward the consciousness above him,
and drawing on its resources. The Son, if he would work miracles,
whether of perception or of action, must come often into the presence
of the Father. This is the birthright of the spiritual man; through it he
comes into possession of his splendid and immortal powers. Let it be
clearly kept in mind that what is here to be related of the spiritual man,
and his exalted powers, must in no wise be detached from what has
gone before. The being, the very inception, of the spiritual man
depends on the purification and moral attainment already detailed, and
can in no wise dispense with these or curtail them.
Let no one imagine that the true life, the true powers of the spiritual
man, can be attained by any way except the hard way of sacrifice, of
trial, of renunciation, of selfless self-conquest and genuine devotion to
the weal of all others. Only thus can the golden gates be reached and
entered. Only thus can we attain to that pure world wherein the
spiritual man lives, and moves, and has his being. Nothing impure,
nothing unholy can ever cross that threshold, least of all impure
motives or self seeking desires. These must be burnt away before an
entrance to that world can be gained.
But where there is light, there is shadow; and the lofty light of the soul
casts upon the clouds of the mid-world the shadow of the spiritual
man and of his powers; the bastard vesture and the bastard powers of
psychism are easily attained; yet, even when attained, they are a
delusion, the very essence of unreality.
Therefore ponder well the earlier rules, and lay a firm foundation of
courage, sacrifice, selflessness, holiness.
1. The binding of the perceiving consciousness to a certain region is
Emerson quotes Sir Isaac Newton as saying that he made his great
discoveries by intending his mind on them. That is what is meant here.
I read the page of a book while inking of something else. At the end
of he page, I have no idea of what it is about, and read it again, still
thinking of something else, with the same result. Then I wake up, so
to speak, make an effort of attention, fix my thought on what I am
reading, and easily take in its meaning. The act of will, the effort of
attention, the intending of the mind on each word and line of the page,
just as the eyes are focussed on each word and line, is the power here
contemplated. It is the power to focus the consciousness on a given
spot, and hold it there Attention is the first and indispensable step in
all knowledge. Atten. tion to spiritual things is the first step to
2. A prolonged holding of the perceiving consciousness in that region
is meditation (dhyana).
This will apply equally to outer and inner things. I may for a moment
fix my attention on some visible object, in a single penetrating glance,
or I may hold the attention fixedly on it until it reveals far more of its
nature than a single glance could perceive. The first is the focussing
of the searchlight of consciousness upon the object. The other is the
holding of the white beam of light steadily and persistently on the
object, until it yields up the secret of its details. So for things within;
one may fix the inner glance for a moment on spiritual things, or one
may hold the consciousness steadily upon them, until what was in the
dark slowly comes forth into the light, and yields up its immortal
secret. But this is possible only for the spiritual man, after the
Commandments and the Rules have been kept; for until this is done,
the thronging storms of psychical thoughts dissipate and distract the
attention, so that it will not remain fixed on spiritual things. The cares
of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word of the
3. When the perceiving consciousness in this meditative is wholly
given to illuminating the essential meaning of the object contemplated,
and is freed from the sense of separateness and personality, this is
Let us review the steps so far taken. First, the beam of perceiving
consciousness is focussed on a certain region or subject, through the
effort of attention. Then this attending consciousness is held on its
object. Third, there is the ardent will to know its meaning, to illumine
it with comprehending thought. Fourth, all personal bias - all desire
merely to indorse a previous opinion and so prove oneself right, and
all desire for personal profit or gratification must be quite put away.
There must be a purely disinterested love of truth for its own sake.
Thus is the perceiving consciousness made void, as it were, of all
personality or sense of separateness. The personal limitation stands
aside and lets the All-consciousness come to bear upon the problem.
The Oversoul bends its ray upon the object, and illumines it with pure
4. When these three, Attention, Meditation Contemplation, are
exercised at once, this is perfectly concentrated Meditation (sanyama).
When the personal limitation of the perceiving consciousness stands
aside, and allows the All-conscious to come to bear upon the problem,
then arises that real knowledge which is called a flash of genius; that
real knowledge which makes discoveries, and without which no
discovery can be made, however painstaking the effort. For genius is
the vision of the spiritual man, and that vision is a question of growth
rather than present effort; though right effort, rightly continued, will
in time infallibly lead to growth and vision. Through the power thus
to set aside personal limitation, to push aside petty concerns and
cares, and steady the whole nature and will in an ardent love of truth
and desire to know it; through the power thus to make way for the
All-consciousness, all great men make their discoveries. Newton,
watching the apple fall to the earth, was able to look beyond, to see
the subtle waves of force pulsating through apples and worlds and
suns and galaxies. and thus to perceive universal gravitation. The
Oversoul, looking through his eyes, recognized the universal force,
one of its own children. Darwin, watching the forms and motions of
plants and animals, let the same august consciousness come to bear on
them, and saw infinite growth perfected through ceaseless struggle.
He perceived the superb process of evolution, the Oversoul once more
recognizing its own. Fraunhofer, noting the dark lines in the band of
sunlight in his spectroscope, divined their identity with the bright lines
in the spectra of incandescent iron, sodium and the rest, and so saw
the oneness of substance in the worlds and suns, the unity of the
materials of the universe. Once again the Oversoul, looking with his
eyes, recognized its own. So it is with all true knowledge. But the
mind must transcend its limitations, its idiosyncrasies; there must be
purity, for to the pure in heart is the promise, that they shall see God.
5. By mastering this perf ectly concen- bated Meditation, there comes
the illumina- tion of perception. The meaning of this is illustrated by
what has been said before. When the spiritual man is able to throw
aside the trammels of emotional and mental limitation, and to open his
eyes, he sees clearly, he attains to illuminated perception. A poet once
said that Occultism is the conscious cultivation of genius; and it is
certain that the awakened spiritual man attains to the perceptions of
genius. Genius is the vision, the power, of the spiritual man, whether
its possessor recognizes this or not. All true knowledge is of the
spiritual man. The greatest in all ages have recognized this and put
their testimony on record. The great in wisdom who have not
consciously recognized it, have ever been full of the spirit of
reverence, of selfless devotion to truth, of humility, as was Darwin;
and reverence and humility are the unconscious recognition of the
nearness of the Spirit, that Divinity which broods over us, a Master
o'er a slave.
6. This power is distributed in ascending degrees.
It is to be attained step by step. It is a question, not of miracle, but of
evolution, of growth. Newton had to master the multiplication table,
then the four rules of arithmetic, then the rudiments of algebra, before
he came to the binomial theorem. At each point, there was attention,
concentration, insight; until these were attained, no progress to the
next point was possible. So with Darwin. He had to learn the form and
use of leaf and flower, of bone and muscle; the characteristics of
genera and species; the distribution of plants and animals, before he
had in mind that nexus of knowledge on which the light of his great
idea was at last able to shine. So is it with all knowledge. So is it with
spiritual knowledge. Take the matter this way: The first subject for the
exercise of my spiritual insight is my day, with its circumstances, its
hindrances, its opportunities, its duties. I do what I can to solve it, to
fulfil its duties, to learn its lessons. I try to live my day with aspiration
and faith. That is the first step. By doing this, I gather a harvest for the
evening, I gain a deeper insight into life, in virtue of which I begin the
next day with a certain advantage, a certain spiritual advance and
attainment. So with all successive days. In faith and aspiration, we
pass from day to day, in growing knowledge and power, with never
more than one day to solve at a time, until all life becomes radiant and
7. This threefold power, of Attention, Meditation, Contemplation, is
more interior than the means of growth previously described.
Very naturally so; because the means of growth previously described
were concerned with the extrication of the spiritual man from psychic
bondages and veils; while this threefold power is to be exercised by
the spiritual man thus extricated and standing on his feet, viewing life
with open eyes.
8. But this triad is still exterior to the soul vision which is
unconditioned, free from the seed of mental analyses.
The reason is this: The threefold power we have been considering, the
triad of Attention, Contemplation, Meditation is, so far as we have yet
considered it, the focussing of the beam of perceiving consciousness
upon some form of manifesting being, with a view of understanding
it completely. There is a higher stage, where the beam of
consciousness is turned back upon itself, and the individual
consciousness enters into, and knows, the All consciousness. This is
a being, a being in immortality, rather than a knowing; it is free from
mental analysis or mental forms. It is not an activity of the higher
mind, even the mind of the spiritual man. It is an activity of the soul.
Had Newton risen to this higher stage, he would have known, not the
laws of motion, but that high Being, from whose Life comes eternal
motion. Had Darwin risen to this, he would have seen the Soul, whose
graduated thought and being all evolution expresses. There are,
therefore, these two perceptions: that of living things, and that of the
Life; that of the Soul's works, and that of the Soul itself.
9. One of the ascending degrees is the development of Control. First
there is the overcoming of the mind-impress of excitation. Then comes
the manifestation of the mind-impress of Control. Then the perceiving
consciousness follows after the moment of Control.
This is the development of Control. The meaning seems to be this:
Some object enters the field of observation, and at first violently
excites the mind, stirring up curiosity, fear, wonder; then the
consciousness returns upon itself, as it were, and takes the perception
firmly in hand, steadying itself, and viewing the matter calmly from
above. This steadying effort of the will upon the perceiving
consciousness is Control, and immediately upon it follows perception,
Take a trite example. Supposing one is walking in an Indian forest. A
charging elephant suddenly appears. The man is excited by
astonishment, and, perhaps, terror. But he exercises an effort of will,
perceives the situation in its true bearings, and recognizes that a
certain thing must be done; in this case, probably, that he must get out
of the way as quickly as possible.
Or a comet, unheralded, appears in the sky like a flaming sword. The
beholder is at first astonished, perhaps terror-stricken; but he takes
himself in hand, controls his thoughts, views the apparition calmly,
and finally calculates its orbit and its relation to meteor showers.
These are extreme illustrations; but with all knowledge the order of
perception is the same: first, the excitation of the mind by the new
object impressed on it; then the control of the mind from within; upon
which follows the perception of the nature of the object. Where the
eyes of the spiritual man are open, this will be a true and penetrating
spiritual perception. In some such way do our living experiences come
to us; first, with a shock of pain; then the Soul steadies itself and
controls the pain; then the spirit perceives the lesson of the event, and
its bearing upon the progressive revelation of life.
10. Through frequent repetition of this process, the mind becomes
habituated to it, and there arises an equable flow of perceiving
Control of the mind by the Soul, like control of the muscles by the
mind, comes by practice, and constant voluntary repetition.
As an example of control of the muscles by the mind, take the
ceaseless practice by which a musician gains mastery over his
instrument, or a fencer gains skill with a rapier. Innumerable small
efforts of attention will make a result which seems well-nigh
miraculous; which, for the novice, is really miraculous. Then consider
that far more wonderful instrument, the perceiving mind, played on by
that fine musician, the Soul. Here again, innumerable small efforts of
attention will accumulate into mastery, and a mastery worth winning.
For a concrete example, take the gradual conquest of each day, the
effort to live that day for the Soul. To him that is faithful unto death,
the Master gives the crown of life.
11. The gradual conquest of the mind's tendency to flit from one
object to another, and the power of one-pointedness, make the
development of Contemplation.
As an illustration of the mind's tendency to flit from one object to
another, take a small boy, learning arithmetic. He begins: two ones are
two; three ones are three-and then he thinks of three coins in his
pocket, which will purchase so much candy, in the store down the
street, next to the toy-shop, where are base-balls, marbles and so on,
-and then he comes back with a jerk, to four ones are four. So with us
also. We are seeking the meaning of our task, but the mind takes
advantage of a moment of slackened attention, and flits off from one
frivolous detail to another, till we suddenly come back to
consciousness after traversing leagues of space. We must learn to
conquer this, and to go back within ourselves into the beam of
perceiving consciousness itself, which is a beam of the Oversoul. This
is the true onepointedness, the bringing of our consciousness to a
focus in the Soul.
12. When, following this, the controlled manifold tendency and the
aroused one-pointedness are equally balanced parts of the perceiving
consciousness, his the development of one-pointedness.
This would seem to mean that the insight which is called
one-pointedness has two sides, equally balanced. There is, first, the
manifold aspect of any object, the sum of all its characteristics and
properties. This is to be held firmly in the mind. Then there is the
perception of the object as a unity, as a whole, the perception of its
essence. First, the details must be clearly perceived; then the essence
must be comprehended. When the two processes are equally balanced,
the true onepointedness is attained. Everything has these two sides,
the side of difference and the side of unity; there is the individual and
there is the genus; the pole of matter and diversity, and the pole of
oneness and spirit. To see the object truly, we must see both.
13. Through this, the inherent character, distinctive marks and
conditions of being and powers, according to their development, are
By the power defined in the preceding sutra, the inherent character,
distinctive marks and conditions of beings and powers are made clear.
For through this power, as defined, we get a twofold view of each
object, seeing at once all its individual characteristics and its essential
character, species and genus; we see it in relation to itself, and in
relation to the Eternal. Thus we see a rose as that particular flower,
with its colour and scent, its peculiar fold of each petal; but we also
see in it the species, the family to which it belongs, with its relation to
all plants, to all life, to Life itself. So in any day, we see events and
circumstances; we also see in it the lesson set for the soul by the
14. Every object has its characteristics which are already quiescent,
those which are active, and those which are not yet definable.
Every object has characteristics belonging to its past, its present and
its future. In a fir tree, for example, there are the stumps or scars of
dead branches, which once represented its foremost growth; there are
the branches with their needles spread out to the air; there are the
buds at the end of each branch and twig, which carry the still closely
packed needles which are the promise of the future. In like manner,
the chrysalis has, as its past, the caterpillar; as its future, the butterfly.
The man has, in his past, the animal; in his future, the angel. Both are
visible even now in his face. So with all things, for all things change
15. Difference in stage is the cause of difference in development.
This but amplifies what has just been said. The first stage is the
sapling, the caterpillar, the animal. The second stage is the growing
tree, the chrysalis, the man. The third is the splendid pine, the
butterfly, the angel. Difference of stage is the cause of difference of
development. So it is among men, and among the races of men.
16. Through perfectly concentrated Meditation on the three stages of
development comes a knowledge of past and future.
We have taken our illustrations from natural science, because, since
every true discovery in natural science is a divination of a law in
nature, attained through a flash of genius, such discoveries really
represent acts of spiritual perception, acts of perception by the
spiritual man, even though they are generally not so recognized. So
we may once more use the same illustration. Perfectly concentrated
Meditation, perfect insight into the chrysalis, reveals the caterpillar
that it has been, the butterfly that it is destined to be. He who knows
the seed, knows the seed-pod or ear it has come from, and the plant
that is to come from it. So in like manner he who really knows today,
and the heart of to-day, knows its parent yesterday and its child
tomorrow. Past, present and future are all in the Eternal. He who
dwells in the Eternal knows all three.
17. The sound and the ob ject and the thought called up by a word are
confounded because they are all blurred together in the mind. By
perfectly concentrated Meditation on the distinction between them,
there comes an understanding of the sounds uttered by all beings.
It must be remembered that we are speaking of perception by the
Sound, like every force, is the expression of a power of the Eternal.
Infinite shades of this power are expressed in the infinitely varied
tones of sound. He who, having entry to the consciousness of the
Eternal knows the essence of this power, can divine the meanings of
all sounds, from the voice of the insect to the music of the spheres.
In like manner, he who has attained to spiritual vision can perceive the
mind-images in the thoughts of others, with the shade of feeling which
goes with them, thus reading their thoughts as easily as he hears their
words. Every one has the germ of this power, since difference of tone
will give widely differing meanings to the same words, meanings
which are intuitively perceived by everyone.
18. When the mind-impressions become visible, there comes an
understanding of previous births.
This is simple enough if we grasp the truth of rebirth. The fine harvest
of past experi ences is drawn into the spiritual nature, forming, indeed,
the basis of its development. When the consciousness has been raised
to a point above these fine subjective impressions, and can look down
upon them from above, this will in itself be a remembering of past
19. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on mind-images is gained
the understanding of the thoughts of others.
Here, for those who can profit by it, is the secret of thought-reading.
Take the simplest case of intentional thought transference. It is the
testimony of those who have done this, that the perceiving mind must
be stilled, before the mind-image projected by the other mind can be
seen. With it comes a sense of the feeling and temper of the other
mind and so on, in higher degrees.
20. But since that on which the thought in the mind of another rests
is not objective to the thought-reader's consciousness, he perceives the
thought only, and not also that on which the thought rests.
The meaning appears to be simple: One may be able to perceive the
thoughts of some one at a distance; one cannot, by that means alone,
also perceive the external surroundings of that person, which arouse
21. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the form of the body, by
arresting the body's perceptibility, and by inhibiting the eye's power of
sight, there comes the power to make the body invisible.
There are many instances of the exercise of this power, by mesmerists,
hypnotists and the like; and we may simply call it an instance of the
power of suggestion. Shankara tells us that by this power the popular
magicians of the East perform their wonders, working on the
mind-images of others, while remaining invisible themselves. It is all
a question of being able to see and control the mind-images.
22. The works which fill out the life-span may be either immediately
or gradually operative. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on these
comes a knowledge of the time of the end, as also through signs.
A garment which is wet, says the commentator, may be hung up to
dry, and so dry rapidly, or it may be rolled in a ball and dry slowly; so
a fire may blaze or smoulder. Thus it is with Karma, the works that fill
out the life-span. By an insight into the mental forms and forces which
make up Karma, there comes a knowledge of the rapidity or slowness
of their development, and of the time when the debt will be paid.
23. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on sympathy, compassion
and kindness, is gained the power of interior union with others.
Unity is the reality; separateness the illusion. The nearer we come to
reality, the nearer we come to unity of heart. Sympathy, compassion,
kindness are modes of this unity of heart, whereby we rejoice with
those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. These things are
learned by desiring to learn them.
24. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on power, even such power
as that of the elephant may be gained.
This is a pretty image. Elephants possess not only force, but poise and
fineness of control. They can lift a straw, a child, a tree with perfectly
judged control and effort. So the simile is a good one. By detachment,
by withdrawing into the soul's reservoir of power, we can gain all
these, force and fineness and poise; the ability to handle with equal
mastery things small and great, concrete and abstract alike.
25. By bending upon them the awakened inner light, there comes a
knowledge of things subtle, or concealed, or obscure.
As was said at the outset, each consciousness is related to all
consciousness; and, through it, has a potential consciousness of all
things; whether subtle or concealed or obscure. An understanding of
this great truth will come with practice. As one of the wise has said,
we have no conception of the power of Meditation.
26. By perf ectly concentrated Meditation on the sun comes a
knowledge of the worlds.
This has several meanings: First, by a knowledge of the constitution
of the sun, astronomers can understand the kindred nature of the stars.
And it is said that there is a finer astronomy, where the spiritual man
is the astronomer. But the sun also means the Soul, and through
knowledge of the Soul comes a knowledge of the realms of life.
27. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the moon comes a
knowledge of the lunar mansions.
Here again are different meanings. The moon is, first, the companion
planet, which, each day, passes backward through one mansion of the
stars. By watching the moon, the boundaries of the mansion are
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