Ancient Yoga Sutras

The Ancient Secret Yogic Sutras of Patanjali

The illumined soul thinks always, ‘I am doing nothing.’   No matter what he sees, hears, touches, smells or eats. This he knows always: ‘I am not seeing, I am not hearing: It is the senses that see and hear and touch the things of the senses’ ~Bhagavad-Gita

The origination of the word Yoga dates back thousands of years, and actually means “Union”.  This Union is a unification of your body, mind, emotions, and ego with the Divine Source of all existence.   The great sage and master Avatar Patanjali was the founder and father of Yoga.  He was considered to be a fully self-realized avatar, who had mastered the mind, the body, its senses, and even this physical world.  He was also a profound knower of knowledge which made him an amazing philosopher and teacher of how to master your life.

The Ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date back more than 1500 years.  In my experience, they are the foundation and essential training manual for mastering the Mind and achieving Oneness with the Universe.  Incidentally, when one does master the mind, is the acquisition of Siddhi powers from the awakening of one’s Kundalini.  Patanjali warns us to be aware of this phenomena since the final aim and goal of one’s spiritual awakening is to liberate you from the cage of matter, while your mind is actually the highest form of matter.

“We must cultivate the power of concentration and remove all these obstacles to enlightenment  which are causing our sufferings.”  ~Patanjali

What Creates All Human Suffering?

1. Ignorance (of the Infinite Self)

2. Egoism (over-identification with limiting ideas)

3. Attachment (to that which dwells upon pleasure)

4. Aversion (to that which dwells upon pain)

5. The Desire to Cling to Life (fear of mortality)

To give you a taste of what is inside this deeply profound ancient text,  here is an excerpt from the book, “How to Know God The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali” by Christopher Isherwood and Swami Prabhavananda. To purchase the entire book of Ancient Yogic Sutras called “How to Know God” Click Here!


 The Atman (our infinite self ) is pure consciousness. It appears to take on the changing colors of the mind. In reality, it is unchangeable.  ~Patanjali

1. Concentration (Dharana) is holding the mind within a center of spiritual consciousness in the body, or fixing it on some divine form, either within the body or outside it.

The first five “limbs” of yoga have been discussed in the preceding chapter of the book, How to Know God. Three remain: concentration (Dharana), meditation (dhyana) and absorption (samadhi).

The centers of spiritual consciousness here referred to are the seven lotuses (II, 49-50). In order to con­centrate, you must first fix your mind upon the Inner Light within one of these lotuses, as your teacher di­rects. Or you may concentrate upon the form of your Chosen Ideal, trying to visualize that form either within a lotus or outside your own body altogether.

2. Meditation (dhyana) is an unbroken flow of thought toward the object of concentration. 

In other words, meditation is prolonged concentration. The process of meditation is often compared to the pouring of oil from one vessel to another, in a steady, unbroken stream. We have seen (1, 2) that Patanjali defines thought as a wave (vritti) in the mind. Ordinarily, a thought-wave arises, remains in the mind for a moment, and then subsides, to be succeeded by another wave. In the practice of meditation, a suc­cession of identical waves are raised in the mind; and this is done so quickly that no one wave is allowed to subside before another rises to take its place.

The effect is, therefore, one of perfect continuity. If you shoot a hundred feet of film without moving your camera or your object and then project the result on a screen, your audience might just as well be looking at a single still photograph. The many identical images are fused into one.

It will be seen from this definition that Patanjali ‘s dhyana does not exactly correspond to our usual under­standing of the word “meditation.” By “meditation” we commonly mean a more or less discursive operation of the mind around a central idea. If, for example, we say that we have been meditating on Christ, we are apt to mean that we have not only tried to fix our minds on Christ’s ideal form but have also been thinking about his teachings, his miracles, his disciples, his cruci­fixion, and so on. All this is very good, but it is a mere preliminary to what may properly be called Dharana and dhyana.

3. When, in meditation, the true nature of the ob­ject shines forth, not distorted by the mind of the perceiver, that is absorption (samadhi).

Ordinary sense-perception is distorted and colored by the imagination of the perceiver. We decide in advance what it is we think we are going to see, and this precon­ception interferes with our vision. Great painters have often been violently attacked because they painted scenery as it actually looked, not as people thought it ought to look.

The Atman remains forever outside the power of thought-waves, it is eternally pure, enlightened and free – the only true, unchanging happiness. ~Patanjali

It is only in the supersensuous perception of samadhi that we see an object in the truth of its own nature, absolutely free from the distortions of our imagination. Samadhi is, in fact, much more than perception; it is direct knowledge. When Sri Ramakrishna told Vive­kananda, “I see God more real than I see you,” he was speaking the literal truth. For Ramakrishna meant that he saw God in samadhi, while he saw Vivekananda with the eyes of his ordinary sense-perception which must necessarily retain a measure of distortion.

4. When these three, concentration, meditation and absorption are brought to bear upon one subject, they are called Samyama. Samyama is simply a convenient technical term which describes the three-fold process by which the true nature of an object is known.

5. Through mastery of Samyama comes the light of knowledge.

6. It must be applied stage by stage. 

Patanjali warns us not to go too fast. It is no use at­tempting meditation before we have mastered concen­tration. It is no use trying to concentrate upon subtle objects until we are able to concentrate upon gross ones. Any attempt to take a shortcut to knowledge of this kind is exceedingly dangerous.

One may, for ex­ample, obtain certain psychic experiences while under the influence of drugs. But such experiences, so ob­tained, can bring no lasting spiritual benefits. On the contrary, they are generally followed by a relapse into complete agnosticism and despair.

The Vishnu Purana, one of the Hindu scriptures, teaches the practice of meditation by stages, beginning with the worship of God with form and culminating in the realization of the oneness of Atman and Brahman:

Meditate on Vishnu, the Dweller in the hearts of all beings, seated on a lotus within the rays of the sun, his body luminous, adorned with a diadem, necklace, earrings, and bracelets of great luster, and holding conch shell and mace in his hands.

Then the wise man should meditate upon the luminous, benign form of the Lord, without the conch shell and mace, but adorned with ornaments.

As the mind becomes concentrated on the form, he must then keep his mind on the form without ornaments.

Then he must meditate upon his oneness with the lumi­nous form of the Lord.

Lastly, he must let the form vanish and meditate upon the Atman.

7. These three are more direct aids to experience than the five limbs previously described.

That is to say, the first five limbs of yoga are only a form of training for the aspirant, to prepare him for the practice of Samyama (concentration-meditation­-absorption). The mind and senses have to be purified by the cultivation of ethical virtues and the whole organism has to be strengthened in order that it may be able to undergo the tremendous experiences that await it. But this is just the beginning. Even the per­fection of Samyama is just the beginning. For, whenever we are inclined to feel proud of some tiny indication of spiritual growth in ourselves, we shall do well to remember Brahmananda’s amazing and sobering words: “Spiritual life begins after samadhi.”

8. But even these are not direct aids to the seedless samadhi.

The practice of Samyama leads to the lower samadhi. But the “seedless” samadhi (nirvikalpa) demands a further and even more intense spiritual effort. (See chapter I, aphorism 51.) Nearly everything Patanjali says here on the subject is simply recapitulation.) Patanjali now speaks of nirvikalpa:

9. When the vision of the lower samadhi is sup­pressed by an act of conscious control, so that there are no longer any thoughts or visions in the mind, that is the achievement of control of the thought-waves of the mind.

10. When this suppression of thought-waves becomes continuous, the mind’s flow is calm.

11. When all mental distractions disappear and the mind becomes one-pointed, it enters the state called samadhi.

12. The mind becomes one-pointed when similar thought-waves arise in succession without any gaps between them. 

It has been said that if the mind can be made to flow uninterruptedly toward the same object for twelve sec­onds, this may be called concentration. If the mind can continue in that concentration for twelve times twelve seconds (i.e., two minutes and twenty-four seconds), this may be called meditation. If the mind can continue in that meditation for twelve times two minutes and twenty-four seconds (i.e., twenty-eight minutes and forty-eight seconds), this will be the lower samadhi. And if the lower samadhi can be maintained for twelve times that period (i.e., five hours, forty-five minutes, and thirty-six seconds), this will lead to nirvikalpa samadhi.

13. In this state, it passes beyond the three kinds of changes which take place in subtle or gross mat­ter, and in the organs: change of form, change of time and change of condition. 

Vivekananda takes, as an example, a lump of gold. Change of form occurs when the gold is made first into a bracelet and then into an earring. Change of time occurs as it gets older. Change of condition occurs when the bright gold becomes dull, or wears thin. Similar changes occur in subtle matter and in the thought ­waves of the mind. The thought-waves may be of dif­ferent kinds, may refer to different periods of time, and may vary in intensity. But the mind, in the state of samadhi, is beyond all three kinds of changes.

14. A compound object has attributes and is subject to change, either past, present or yet to be mani­fested.

15. The succession of these changes is the cause of manifold evolution.

Every object within the realm of differentiated matter has attributes and is a compound object, since it is made of the three gunas in varying combinations. As has already been explained in chapter 1, the attributes of an object vary and change according to the action of the gunas and the constitution of the samskaras. Any object can change into any other object. Therefore, the enlightened yogi sees no essential difference between a piece of gold and a lump of mud. Hence, he acquires complete dispassion toward the object of the phenom­enal world.

16. By making Samyama on the three kinds of changes, one obtains knowledge of the past and the future.

Patanjali now begins to describe the various occult powers and the methods by which they are acquired. All authorities, including Patanjali himself, regard occult powers as the greatest stumbling blocks in the path to truth. “Heaps of rubbish,” Sri Ramakrishna calls them. Buddha told his disciples very definitely never to put their faith in miracles but to sec truth in the eternal principles. Christ spoke sharply against those who “seek for a sign,” and it is unfortunate that his strictures were not taken more seriously to heart by his followers.

Occult powers do, however, exist, and Patanjali, in his comprehensive treatise on yoga psychology, ob­viously cannot ignore them. We translate the aphorisms which follow for the sake of completeness, but we do so with a minimum of technical explanation. The sin­cere spiritual aspirant can have very little concern with such matters.

In the West, these powers are seldom exhibited and are therefore the object of a good deal of skepticism. Yet they are all within each one of us and could be developed through constant practice. Western man has made a different choice. He has preferred to concentrate on the production of mechanical rather than psychological powers; and so, instead of telepathy we have the telephone, instead of levitation we have the helicopter, and instead of clairvoyance, we have tele­vision.

We may regret the materialism that is expressed by such a choice; but perhaps it is the lesser of two evils. A community of degenerated yogis, using psychic powers for business and political ends, would be even more unpleasant to live in than our own atom-wielding world. So let us stop hankering after the psychic powers and turn back to the true path toward spiritual growth, remembering Patanjali’s warning: “They are powers in the worldly state, but they are obstacles to samadhi.

The mind seems to be intelligent and conscious. Yoga philosophy teaches that it is not. It has only a borrowed intelligence. The Atman is intelligence itself, is pure consciousness. The mind merely reflects that consciousness and so appears to be conscious. ~Patanjali

17. By making Samyama on the sound of a word, one’s perception of its meaning, and one’s re­action to it–three things which are ordinarily confused-one obtains understanding of all sounds uttered by living beings.

Ordinarily, we are aware of no distinction between hearing the sound of a word, understanding what it means, and reacting, in one way or another, to the in­formation it contains. If someone shouts “fire” we jump to our feet in an instant. But the yogi is able to separate these three functions. By making this Samyama, he can understand foreign languages and the sounds made by all kinds of animals.

18. By making Samyama on previous thought-waves, one obtains knowledge of one’s past lives.

When a thought-wave subsides, it remains within the mind, in a minute, subtle form. Therefore it can be revived as memory. And this memory can be made to extend backward into previous incarnations.

19. By making Samyama on the distinguishing marks of another man’s body, one obtains knowledge of the nature of his mind.

20. But not of its contents, because that is not the object of the Samyama.

In order to know the contents of another man’s mind, the yogi would have to make a second sarnyama on the heart (aphorism 35 of this chapter).

21. If one makes Samyama on the form of one’s body, obstructing its perceptibility and separating its power of manifestation from the eyes of the beholder, then one’s body becomes invisible.

22. Thus, also, its sounds cease to be heard.

In other words, it is possible for the yogi, while re­maining present in a room, to obstruct the outward manifestation of his body in such a way that the senses of other people will be unable to detect it. The reality behind the outward manifestation will remain, but, since this reality cannot be detected by the gross sense ­organs of others, the yogi will become unseen, unheard, unfelt, and so on.

23. By making Samyama on two kinds of karma-that which will soon bear fruit and that which will not bear fruit until later-or by recognizing the portents of death, a yogi may know the exact time of his separation from the body.

Portents of death include various physical and psychi­cal phenomena, together with visions of supernatural be­ings. (It is better not to be too explicit here, lest the reader should alarm himself unduly!) Hindus believe that it is very important to know the exact hour of one’s death in advance, because the thoughts one is thinking at that moment will to some degree determine the na­ture of one’s afterlife.

24. By making Samyama on friendliness, compassion, etc., one develops the powers of these qualities.

The reference Here is to aphorism 33 of chapter I: “friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous.” The yogi who mas­ters this Samyama has the power of giving joy to every­one he meets, and relieving him from pain and care.

25. By making Samyama on any kind of strength, such as that of the elephant, one obtains that strength.

26. By making Samyama on the Inner Light, one ob­tains knowledge of what is subtle, hidden, or far distant.

The Inner Light is the light of the lotus within the heart, referred to in aphorisrn 36 of chapter I.

27. By making Samyama on the sun, one gains knowledge of the cosmic spaces.

28. By making Samyama on the moon, one gains knowledge of the arrangement of the stars.

29. By making Samyama on the polestar, one gains knowledge of the motions of the stars.

It has already been remarked that there is a strong resemblance between the cosmology of Patanjali and the theories of modern atomic physics. Yet the ancient Hindus had, as far as we know, practically no scientific apparatus of any accuracy. This fact alone would seem to offer some proof of the validity of the psychic powers. For how else could these sages have formed such a correct and comprehensive picture of the nature of the universe? Their knowledge cannot have been based, as ours is, simply upon sense-perception assisted by instru­ments.

30. By making Samyama on the navel, one gains knowledge of the constitution of the body.

31. By making Samyama on the hollow of the throat, one stills hunger and thirst.

32. By making Samyama on the tube within the chest, one acquires absolute motionlessness.

The motionlessness, for example, of the snake or the lizard. This enables the yogi to meditate undis­turbed by the involuntary movements of his body.

33. By making Samyama on the radiance within the back of the head, one becomes able to see the celestial beings.

The radiance within the back of the head is not to be confused with the radiance of the seventh lotus, the highest center of spiritual consciousness, which is sit­uated at the top of the head (see 11, 50)­

34. All these powers of knowledge may also come to one whose mind is spontaneously enlightened through purity.

When the mind has reached a very high state of purification, the psychic powers may come to it spon­taneously and unbidden, without the making of any Samyama.

35. By making Samyama on the heart, one gains knowledge of the contents of the mind.

36. The power of enjoyment arises from a failure to discriminate between the Atman and the sattwa guna, which are totally different. The sattwa guna is merely the agent of the Atman, which is independent, existing only for its own sake. By making Samyama on the independence of the Atman, one gains knowledge of the Atman.

In the ordinary state of consciousness, the highest enjoyment we can know is the joy inspired by the guna of sattwa. This seems to us, in our ignorance, to be identical with the joy of the pure Atman; but it is not. Sattwa, even in its purest state, is still a guna; and sattwic joy still contains a measure of egotism. What

What we have to understand is that the gunas are only agents of the Atman, and that sattwic joy is only a pale re­flection of the joy of the Atman, which is without ego­tism and entirely independent of the gunas. By mak­ing this Samyama and discriminating between Atman and sattwa, the yogi passes beyond earthly enjoyment into the joy of the Atman itself.

37. Hence one gains the knowledge due to spon­taneous enlightenment and obtains supernatural powers of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell.

38. They are powers in the worldly state, but they are obstacles to samadhi.

39. When the bonds of the mind caused by karma have been loosened, the yogi can enter into the body of another by knowledge of the operation of its nerve-currents.

“The yogi,” says Vivekananda, “can enter a dead body and make it get up and move, even while he him­self is working in another body. Or he can enter a living body, and hold that man’s mind and organs in check, and for the time being act through the body of that man.”

This recalls a story that is told about Shankara, the great philosopher and saint. When Shankara was still a boy in his teens, there was a philosopher named Mandan Misra who held that the life of the householder was far superior to that of the monk; an opinion which was widely shared throughout India. Shankara deter­mined to hold a debate with Misra. knowing that if he could convert him he could also convert Misra’s many disciples. After considerable difficulties, he succeeded in making Misra agree to this. It was understood that Shankara, if he lost, should become a householder and that Misra, if he lost, should become a monk. At Shankara’s suggestion, Misra’s wife Bharati, herself a famous scholar, acted as umpire.

After a debate of several days, Misra was ready to admit total defeat. But Bharati said to Shankara: “Wait. Husband and wife are one person. You have only defeated half of us. Now you must debate with me. You may know all about philosophy, but I choose another subject. I choose sex. It is a great science. Be­fore you can claim either of us as your disciples, you will have to debate with me and defeat me on that.”

For the moment Shankara was baffled. As a monk and a mere boy, he knew nothing whatever about sex. However, a plan occurred to him. He asked for a month’s delay; and this Bharati granted.

At this time, it so happened that a king named Amaraka lay dying. Shankara told his disciples to hide his own body in a safe place and take great care of it. Then, by yoga power, he left his body and entered the newly dead body of the king. Amaraka apparently re­vived and continued to rule the kingdom under the guidance of Shankara.

Shankara-Amaraka proved to be a brilliant and just ruler, winning the admiration of all. But Amaraka’s two wives soon realized that something extraordinary had happened. For the new Amaraka not only showed astonishingly youthful energy; he seemed as ignorant of sexual love as a baby. Meanwhile, the preoccupations of kingship and domestic life began to cloud Shankara’s mind. He began to forget what he had done, why he had done it, and who he was. He began to believe that he really was Amaraka, and not Shankara.

Shankara’s disciples learned of this. Since monks were not admitted to the court, they disguised them­selves as wandering musicians and so came into his presence. Then they began to sing the poem called “Moha Mudgaram,” “The Shattering of Delusion,” which Shankara himself had composed:

Beloved, strange are the world’s ways and vast thy ignorance. Who is thy wife, and who thy son? Whose art thou? From what place come hence?

Ponder this in thy heart and bow to God in reverence.

The words recalled Shankara to awareness of his own identity. The body of King Amaraka fell dead to the ground as Shankara left it and returned to his own body.

Later, when Shankara appeared at Misra’s house, Bharati knew at once what it was that he had done, for she also possessed yoga powers, and she admitted defeat without further debate.

40. By controlling the nerve-currents that govern the lungs and the upper part of the body, the yogi can walk on water and swamps, or on thorns and similar objects, and he can die at will.

41. By controlling the force which governs the prana, he can surround himself with a blaze of light.

This is the force which regulates the various functions of the vital energy (prana). One of the brother-disciples of Sri Ramakrishna actually had this power; and it is recorded that he once used it to light the path for Ramakrishna on a dark night. However, Ramakrishna later found it necessary to take the power away from him because it was making him dangerously egotistic.

42. By making Samyama on the relation between the ear and the ether, one obtains supernatural powers of hearing.

43. By making Samyama on the relation between the body and the ether, or by acquiring through meditation the lightness of cotton fiber, the yogi can fly through the air.

44. By making Samyama on the thought-waves of the mind when it is separated from the body-the state known as the Great Disincamation-all coverings can be removed from the light of knowledge.

Like aphorism 39, this refers to the yoga power of Withdrawing the mind from one’s own body in order to make it pass into the body of another. In this state of withdrawal, the “Great Disincamation,” the mental coverings composed of rajas and tamas dwindle away and the light of sattwa is revealed.

45. By making Samyama on the gross and subtle forms of the elements, on their essential char­acteristics and the inherence of the gunas in them, and on the experiences they provide for the individual, one gains mastery of the elements.

46. Hence one gains the power of becoming as tiny as an atom and all similar powers; also perfection of the body, which is no longer subject to the obstructions of the elements.

Not only can the yogi become as tiny as an atom but as huge as a mountain, as heavy as lead, or as light as air. And the elements cease to obstruct him. He can pass through rock. He can hold his hand in the fire, unburned. He can walk through water, unwetted. He can stand firm against a hurricane.

47. Perfection of the body includes beauty, grace, strength and the hardness of a thunderbolt.

43. By making Samyama on the transformation that the sense-organs undergo when they contact ob­jects, on the power of illumination of the sense­

organs, on the ego-sense, on the gunas which constitute the organs, and on the experiences they provide for the individual, one gains mastery of the organs.

49. Hence the body gains the power of movement as rapid as that of the mind, the power of using the sense-organs outside the confines of the body, and the mastery of Prakriti. 

Aphorism 48 describes a progressive Samyama on all the separate phases of an act of cognition.

The power of using the sense-organs outside the confines of the body, mentioned in aphorism 49, en­ables one to exercise clairvoyance and clairaudience. Mastery of Prakriti, the primal cause, gives the yogi control of all the effects evolved from Prakriti-in other words, control of Nature.

50. By making Samyama on the discrimination be­tween the sattwa guna and the Atman, one gains omnipotence and omniscience.

This discrimination has already been discussed (aphorism 36 of this chapter).

51. By giving up even these powers, the seed of evil is destroyed and liberation follows.

The “seed of evil” is ignorance. Because of ignorance, man forgets that he is the Atman and creates for him­self the illusion of a private, separate ego-personality. This ego-personality is intent upon satisfying its desires, and acquiring possessions and powers over external nature. Of all powers, the psychic powers are, from the standpoint of the ego, the most desirable; and, of the psychic powers, omnipotence and omniscience (to which Patanjali has referred in the previous aphorism) are obviously the greatest. The yogi who has held even these powers within his grasp and nevertheless re­nounced them, has rejected the ultimate temptation of the ego. Henceforth, he is freed from bondage. (For example, Christ rejected the psychic powers offered to him by Satan in the wilderness.)

52. When tempted by the invisible beings in high places, let the yogi feel neither allured nor flat­tered; for he is in danger of being caught once more by ignorance.

“The invisible beings in high places” are the fallen yogis already referred to (I, 19) who have reached the state of disincarnate gods or become merged in the forces of Nature. Such beings have failed to find libera­tion precisely because they yielded to the temptations of the psychic powers. Therefore, it is said, they are jealous of those who seem about to overcome these temptations, and they try to drag them back into ignorance. In the commentary on Patanjali’s aphorisms which is attributed to Vyasa, the allurements offered to the yogi by “those in high places” are described, quaintly but forcefully, as follows: “Sir, will you seat yourself here? Will you rest here? You might enjoy this pleasure. You might find this maiden attractive. This elixir will banish old age and death. In this chariot you can fly through the air.

Over there are trees which grant all wishes. That heavenly stream will give you happiness. Those sages know everything. These nymphs are peerlessly beautiful, and you will not find them cold. Your eyes and cars, will become supernaturally keen, your body will shine like a diamond. In consequence of your distinguished virtues, honored Sir, you are entitled to all these rewards. Please enter into this heaven which is unfailing, ageless, deathless, and dear to the gods.”

Thus tempted, the yogi is advised to reply as follows: “I have been baked on the dreadful coals of reincarna­tion. I have writhed in the darkness of rebirth and death. Now, at last, I have found the lamp of yoga which dispels the shadows of ignorance. How then can I, who has seen its light, be led astray once more by sensual things?”

The great Hindu teachers all believed that a yogi’s spiritual development might be interfered with by external forces-by the disincarnate gods, by beings on the psychic or subtle plane of matter, or by earthbound spirits. And this belief is symbolized in the traditional Hindu ritualistic worship, which begins as follows:

First, the worshiper must try to feel the presence of God everywhere, as the all-pervading Existence. Then he must feel that the doors of his senses are locked and that he has entered into the shrine of his own heart, where God dwells. He must say: “As a man with eyes wide open sees the sky before him, so the seers see al­ways the supreme truth of God.” Trying to imagine that he has already gained this power of spiritual sight, he now opens his eyes, repeating his mantram as he does so. He must look about him, trying to see the presence of God in everything he sees and to know that by the power of the mantram the obstacles created by the disincarnate gods are being removed.

Next, he must throw a spoonful of water straight up into the air, as if into the psychic realm, invoking the protective power of God to remove all psychic obstacles.

Finally, he must take some rice between his right thumb and forefinger, and scatter it in a circle, saving: “May the earthbound spirits and the spirits that create obstacles be dissolved by the NN-111 of the Lord Shiva.” The earthbound spirits are said to be the spirits of those who have committed suicide. They are earthbound be­cause they still have to work out the karma which they have tried to reject by their act.

The worshiper is pray­ing that they may be released from their present form and thus set free to develop toward liberation. Some­times, a food offering is given to the earthbound spirits to propitiate them, and they are told either to leave the place or to remain and watch the worship without inter­fering, from a respectful distance.

It is only after performing these preliminary cere­monies that the worshiper can proceed to the direct ritualistic worship of his Chosen Deity.

Up to a certain point, temptation increases with spiritual growth. As the aspirant ceases to be a mere beginner and gains some mystical experience, his per­sonality becomes magnetic. He finds that he can exert psychological power over others, and also sexual attrac­tion. At the same time, his own senses grow keener and more capable of enjoyment. It is therefore easy for him to become involved in power- and sex-relationships which will make him forget his original purpose.

The very people who are drawn to him because of the god­like quality they see in his nature may be the ones who are most responsible for his gradual alienation from God. But, as Sri Krishna tells us, “no one who seeks Brahman ever comes to an evil end.” And so, even when such a lapse takes place, we may believe that the spiritual aspirant will eventually find his Way back to the path, and that those who tempted him from it will also, to some extent, have gained spiritual benefit from their association with him.

53. By making Samyama on single moments and on their sequence in time, one gains discriminative knowledge. 

By a “moment” is meant an indivisible unit, the smallest imaginable instant. A moment is regarded by Patanjali as an object. It belongs to the order of ex­ternal phenomena, like a dog, a diamond, or a tree. But a sequence of moments-that is to say, what we call “time”-is not an object; it is only a structure created by our minds, an idea.

By making Samyama on single moments and on their sequence in time, the yogi comes to realize that the entire universe passes through a change within every single moment. Hence, he understands that the nature of the universe is transitory. This understanding is what is meant by discriminative knowledge. Because tic yogi’s mind is not subject to the illusion of “time,” he can understand the real nature of his experiences. The rest of us, who think in terms of time-sequences, are constantly generalizing our sensations, mentally carrying over the sensations of one moment into the next and the next.

We say, “I was sad the whole after­noon,” when, in fact, we were only sad at 2:15, 2:37, or, and so forth. Thus we not only deceive ourselves but suffer much imaginary pain. There is a Zen Buddhist technique for enduring torture by breaking up the time-sequence, and concentrating only upon what is happening in each moment of the immediate present. In this way, suffering can be robbed of its continuity and made much more tolerable. For suffering is largely composed of our memory of past pain and our fear of repeated pain in the future, and this memory and this fear are dependent on our consciousness of a time-­sequence.

54. Thus one is able to distinguish between two exactly similar objects, which cannot be distin­guished by their species, characteristic marks, or positions in space.

Suppose you took two exactly similar, newly minted coins, showed first one, then the other; then changed them behind your back and showed them again. The yogi who had made this Samyama would, according to Patanjali, be able to tell you correctly which one you had showed him first.

The spiritual value of this power of discrimination lies, of course, in one’s ability to distinguish always be­tween the Atman and the non-Atman, the outward ap­pearance, however deceptive the latter may be.

55. This discriminative knowledge delivers a man from the bondage of ignorance. It comprehends all objects simultaneously, at every moment of their existence and in all their modifications.

Ordinary knowledge based on sense-perception is a sequence. We learn one fact about a given object, then another fact, then more and more facts. But the yogi who possesses discriminative knowledge understands objects totally and immediately. If, for example, he meets another human being, he knows him at once m all his past and future modifications, as a baby, a youth, an adult, and an old man. Such knowledge is infinite; it is within eternity, not time. It delivers a man from the bondage of karma and ignorance.

56. Perfection is attained when the mind becomes as pure as the Atman itself. When all the thought-waves in the mind have been stilled, the mind holds nothing but pure, undifferen­tiated consciousness. In this state, it is one with the Atman. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: “The pure mind and the Atman are the same.”


1. The psychic powers may be obtained either by birth, or by means of drugs, or by the power of words, or by the practice of austerities, or by con­centration.

Some are born with psychic powers as the result of their struggles in previous lives. And not psychic powers merely, but real spiritual genius. Such are those most mysterious of all human beings, the “natural” saints, who are filled with the knowledge and love of God even in early childhood and up seemingly un­touched by the temptations of worldliness.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna asks: “Suppose a man has faith but does not struggle hard enough? His mind wanders away from the practice of yoga and he fails to reach perfection. What will become of him then?” And Sri Krishna answers: “Even if a man falls away from the practice of yoga, he will still win the heaven of the doers of good deeds, and dwell there many long years. After that, he will be reborn into the home of pure and prosperous parents…. he will then regain that spiritual discernment which he acquired in his former body; and so he will strive harder than ever for perfection. Because of his practices in the previous life, he will be driven on toward union with Brahman, even in spite of himself.”

Certain drugs may produce visions but these are invariably psychic-not spiritual, as is commonly be­lieved. Furthermore, they may cause prolonged spirit­ual dryness and disbelief and may even do permanent damage to the brain.

The repetition of sacred words or mantrams is, as we have been told, an invaluable aid to spiritual prog­ress. There are also special mantrams which produce psychic powers.

The practice of austerities enormously strengthens the aspirant’s willpower. Hence also the psychic powers may be obtained.

But concentration is the surest of all the means of obtaining the psychic powers. This has been thoroughly discussed in the previous chapter.

2. The transformation of one species into another is caused by the inflowing of nature.

3. Good or bad deeds are not the direct causes of the transformation. They only act as breakers of the obstacles to natural evolution; just as a farmer breaks down the obstacles in a watercourse, so that water flows through by its own nature.

Here, Patanjali explains the Hindu theory of evolu­tion of species by means of an illustration from agri­culture. The farmer who irrigates one of his fields from a reservoir does not have to fetch the water. The water is there already. All the farmer leas to do is to open a sluice gate or break down a clam, and the water flows into the field by the natural force of gravity.

The “water” is the force of evolution which, accord­ing to Patanjali, each one of us carries within him, only waiting to be released from the “reservoir.” By our acts we “open the sluice gate,” the water runs down into the field; the field bears its crop and is thereby transformed. In other words, the form of the next rebirth is de­termined. “All progress and power are already in every man says Vivekananda. “Perfection is in every man’s nature, only it is barred in and prevented from taking its proper course. If anyone can take the bar off, in rushes nature.”

To pursue the image of the reservoir, the performance ­of bad deeds and the consequent accumulation of bad karma is like breaking the dam at the wrong place and thereby causing a disastrous flood which will ruin and disfigure the field. If this happens, the water is not to blame; it is in its nature to cause change of one kind or another. It has to be properly directed. And for that the farmer is entirely responsible.

It will be seen that there is a radical difference be­tween the ancient Hindu and the modern Eastern theories of evolution. As Vivekananda puts it: “The two causes of evolution advanced by the moderns, viz., sexual selection and survival of the fittest, are inadequate. Suppose human knowledge to have advanced so much as to eliminate competition, both from the function of acquiring physical sustenance and the ac­quiring of a mate. Then, according to the moderns, human progress will stop and the race will die. But Patanjali declares that the true secret of evolution is the manifestation of the perfection which is already in every being; that this perfection leas been barred and the infinite tide behind is struggling to express itself. Even when all competition has ceased this perfect nature behind will make us go forward until everyone has become perfect. Therefore there is no reason to believe that competition is necessary to progress. In the animal, the man was suppressed, but, as soon as the door was opened, outrushed man. So, in man, there is the potential god, kept in by the locks and bars of ignorance. When knowledge breaks these bars, the god becomes manifest.”

4. The ego-sense alone can create minds.

5. Though the activities of the different created minds are various, the one original mind controls them all.

These two aphorisms refer to the psychic power of creating for oneself a number of subsidiary minds and bodies, over which the original mind maintains control. Since it is the ego-sense which creates an individual mind (1, r7), it is theoretically evident that this ego­sense should be able to create subsidiary minds, revolv­ing like satellites around the original.

The idea is that the yogi might wish to have several minds and bodies in order to exhaust all of ]its karma more quickly. But the Wisdom of this plan would seem to be doubtful. There is a story of a king who made himself many bodies, hoping in this way to exhaust his craving for sexual enjoyment. But finally, he abandoned the attempt, de­claring: “Lust is never satisfied by gratification; it only flares up more and more, like a fire fed with butter.” Patanjali seems to admit this in the next aphorism:

6. Of the various types of mind, only that which is purified by samadhi is freed from all latent im­pressions of karma and from all cravings.

In other words, karma can only be exhausted by spiritual realization; never by mere satiety of experience.

7. The karma of the yogi is neither white nor black. The karma of others is of three kinds: white, black, or mixed.

The karma of ordinary people is either black (bad), white (good), or mixed. But when a man has attained samadhi his acts will cease to produce karmas for him, of any kind (see I, 18) . Nevertheless, since the illu­mined yogi continues to act, karmas are being produced, and there may even be some admixture of evil in them. Who gets these karmas? Shankara gives an interesting answer to this question. He says that those who love the illumined yogi will receive the good effects of his karma. while those who hate him will receive the bad.

Such is not the case, however, with an avatar or divine incarnation. An avatar, such as Krishna, Christ or Ramakrishna, is an actual incarnation of the God­head. He enters the phenomenal world by an act of grace and divine free will, not because he is forced to do so by the karmas of previous births. He comes into the world without karmas, and his acts in this world produce none. Therefore, the effects of his karmas cannot be received by others, either for good or for ill.

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be. ~Patanjali

For more information on the Yoga Sutras… Click Here!

To purchase the entire book of “How to Know God” Click Here!