Sankara on the Yoga Sutras

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Sankara on the Yoga Sutras
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Introduction for the General reader

The text translated here is a historical find: an unknown commentary on the Yoga sutra of Patanjali by Sankara, the most eminent philosopher of ancient India. Present indications are that it is likely to be authentic, which would date it about AD 700.

The many references to Yoga meditation in his accepted works have sometimes been regarded as concessions to accepted ideas of the time, and not really his own views. If he has chosen to write a commentary on yoga meditation, It must have been a central part of his own standpoint, although he was opposed to some of the philosophical doctrines of the official Yoga school. One would expect a tendency to modify those unacceptable doctrines if this text is really by Sankara. This turns out to be the case.

For those familiar with yoga meditation, who to go straight into the text, here is the method of presentation:

(1) The Basic text, the Yoga sutras of Patanjali (about AD 300), is displayed in large type thus:

Sutra I.1 Now the exposition of Yoga.

(2) Below each sutra is a (mostly brief) commentary by Vyasa (about AD 600). This is printed in italics, and set in from the left-hand margin. Sometimes this commentary is printed in separate paragraphs.

The word Now means that this is the beginning, and the topic now begun is understood to be an exposition of yoga.

(3) Below each section of the Vyasa commentary, and sometimes below the sutra itself, is the newly discovered Sankara sub-commentary (technically called a vivarana), printed in Roman type and not set in from the margin, thus:

No one will follow through with the practices and restrictions of yoga unless the goal and the related means to it have been clearly set out, and the commentator first explains what they were in the mind of the sutra author, so that people may be led to practice.

The structure of the Sanskrit text, which has to be followed in the translation, is that the words or phrases of the original sutra, then of Vyasa's bhasya commentary, have first to be quoted and glossed, in order. In this translation, the sutra or bhasya words being glossed in the main Sankara vivarana are given italics.


Introduction for the general reader 1
Technical introduction 17
1 Yoga theory
Sutra I.1 Now the exposition of Yoga 51
Sutra I.2 Yoga is inhibition of the mental processes 60
Sutra I.3 Then the Seer is established in his own nature 64
Sutra I.4 Otherwise, it conforms itself to the mental process 65
2 Mental Processes
Sutra I.5 The mental processes are of five kinds; they are tainted or pure 69
Sutra I.6 Right knowledge illusion logical construction sleep memory 70
Surta I.7 Right knowledge is either direct perfection inference or authority 70
Sutra I.8 Illusion is false knowledge based on an untrue form 88
Sutra I.9 Logical construction is something that follows verbal knowledge but has no real object 90
Sutra I.10 The mental process which rests on the nation of non-existence is sleep 93
Sutra I.11 Memory is not letting slip away an object experienced 94
3 Practice
Sutra I.12 Their inhibition is by practice and detachment 97
Sutra I.13 Practice is the effort at steadiness in it 97
Sutra I.14 But practised for a long time uninterruptedly and with the reverence it becomes firmly grounded 98
Sutra I.15 Detachment is the consciousness of self-mastery of one who has no thirst for any object either seen or heard about 98
Sutra I.16 It is the higher detachment when from knowledge of Purusa there is no thirst for (even) the guna-s 99
Sutra I.17 It is cognitive because accompanied by verbal associations (vitarka)with subtle associations (vicara) with joy (ananda)and the form of I-am-ness (asmita) 101
Sutra I.18 The other (samadhi) follows on the practice of the idea stopping and consists of samskara-s alone 103
Sutra I.19 It results from birth in the case of gods discarnate and in the case of those who absorb themselves into prakrti 104
Sutra I.20 For others, it comes after faith energy memory (cognitive) samadhi and knowledge 105
Sutra I.21 For those who practice with ardent energy, it is near 106
Sutra I.22 Even among the ardent, there is a distinction between mind or moderate or intense 106
5 God
Sutra I.23 Or by a special devotion to the Lord 107
Sutra I.24 Untouched by taints or karma-s or their fruition or their latent stocks is the Lord who is a special kind of Purusa 107
Sutra I.25 In whom the seed of omniscience becomes transcendent 111
Sutra I. 26 The teacher of even the first teachers because not particularized by time 129
Sutra I.27 Of him, the expression is pranava (OM) 131
Sutra I.28 Repetition of it and meditation on its meaning 134
6 Obstacles
Sutra I.29 From that realization of the separate consciousness and absence of obstacles 135
Sutra I.30 Illness apathy doubt carelessness laziness failure to withdraw misconceptions failure to attain a state instability (in the state)-these distractions of the mind are the obstacles 136
Sutra I.31 Pain frustration restlessness of the body spasmodic breathing in or out are the accompaniments of these distractions 138
Sutra I.32 To prevent their practice on one principle 139
7 Special Practices
Sutra I.33 The mind is made clear by meditation on friendliness towards the happy compassion for the suffering goodwill towards the virtuous and disinterest in the sinful 146
Sutra I.34 Or by expulsion and retention of prana 147
Sutra I.35 Or achievement of supernormal perception of a divine object brings the mind to steadiness 148
Sutra I.36 Or a radiant perception beyond sorrow 149
Sutra I.37 Or on a mind whose meditation is on freedom from passion 150
Sutra I.38 Or meditating on the knowledge of dreams and sleep 150
Sutra I.39 Or by meditation on what appeals to him 151
Sutra I.40 His mastery extends right to the ultimate atom and to the ultimate magnitude 151
Sutra I.41 Identification-in-samadhi (samapatti) is when the mental process has dwindled and the mind rests on either the knower or the knowing process or a known object and like a crystal apparently takes on their respective qualities 152
Sutra I.42 The samadhi -identification is called sa vitarka when it is mixed up with mental constructs of word thing and idea 156
Sutra I.43 When there is purification from memories (that samadhi) apparently empty of its own nature of knowledge with the object alone shining forth is nir-vitarka 158
Sutra I.44 In the same way, when it is on subtle objects, it is called sa- vicara (with subtle associations) and nir-vicara (without subtle associations) 164
Sutra I.45 The scale of (causal)subtlety of objects ends in pradhan 165
Sutra I.46 These are samadhi from-a-seed 167
Sutra I.47 From skill in nir-vicara a clearness in the self 167
Sutra I.48 In this, the knowledge is truth-bearing 167
Sutra I.49 This knowledge is of a particular thing unlike knowledge from authority or from inference 168
Sutra I.50 The samskara produced by it inhibits other samskara-s 169
Sutra I.51 When that too is produced by it inhibited everything is inhibited and thus this samadhi is without- seed 171
1 Yoga of action
Sutra II.1 Tapas, self -study, and devotion to the Lord are the yoga of action 174
Sutra II.2 To actualize samadhi and thin out the taints 177
2 Taints
Sutra II.3 Ignorance, I-am-ness, desire, hate, and instinctive self-preservation, are the taints 177
Sutra II.4 Ignorance is the field of germination of the subsequent ones, whether dormant or thinned out or checked or active 179
Sutra II.5 Ignorance is the conviction of permanence, purity, happiness and self in what are really impermanent, impure, painful and not self 185
Sutra II.6 The single selfhood, as it were, of the powers of the seer and seeing is I-am-ness 191
Sutra II.7 Desire follows pleasure 193
Sutra II.8 Hate follows pain 193
Sutra II.9 With spontaneous momentum, instinctive even in a Knower is self-preservation 193
Sutra II.10 In their subtle state, they are to be got rid of by dissolution in their source 195
Sutra II.11 Mental processes arising from them are got rid of by meditation 195
Sutra II.12 Rooted in taints is the karma stock to be felt in present or future lives 196
Sutra II.13 While the root is there, it will bear the fruit of birth, life span and experience 199
Sutra II.14 Their fruits are joy and suffering caused by virtue and sin 210
4 pain
Sutra II.15 Because of the sufferings caused by changes and anxieties and the samskara-s of them and from the clash of the guna-s to the clear-sighted, everything is pain alone 211
5 Guna-s 217
6 Release
Sutra II.16 What is to be escaped is the pain not yet come 223
Sutra II.17 The Seer-Seen conjunction is the cause of what is to be escaped 223
7 Guna-s again
Sutra II.18 With a constant tendency towards light, action, and fixity, the Seen consists of the elements and the senses being for the purpose of experience and transcendence 227
Sutra II.19 What Particularizes itself and what does not what goes (linga, the Great principle) and what does not (a-linga, pradhana), are guna-implementers 233
8 Purusa
Sutra II.20 The Seer is sight alone; though pure he looks on at the thoughts 239
Sutra II.21 The essence of the Seen is to be for the purpose of him alone 243
9 Seer-Seen
Sutra II.22 For one purpose has been affected, it is ended, but not for others, because it is common 244
Sutra II.23 The conjunction causes awareness of the natures of the two powers, the property and possessor 245
Sutra II.24 Its cause is Ignorance (a- vidya) 250
Sutra II.25 Without it, there is no conjunction, and that release is Transcendental Aloneness (kaivalya) of the power-of-sight 252
10 Release again
Sutra II.26 Unwavering knowledge- of -the difference is the means of release 254
Sutra II.27 Therein, the ultimate state of Knowledge is seven-fold 255
11 Yoga
Sutra II.28 From following up the methods of yoga, destruction of impurity and a growing light of knowledge up to Knowledge-of -the-difference 257
Sutra II.29 Restraints, observances, posture, restraint of vital currents, dissociation, concentration, meditation, samadhi are the eight methods 260
12 Restraints
Sutra II.30 Of these, harmlessness, truth- speaking no stealing brahmacarya, and not holding possessions are the restraints 261
Sutra II.31 When practised universally without qualification of Birthplace time or obligation, they are called the Great Vow 263
13 Observances
Sutra II.32 Purity, contentment, tapas, self-study, and devotion to the Lord are the observances 264
14 Contrary ideas
Sutra II.33 If there is construction by contrary ideas, a meditation on their opposite 266
Sutra II.34 The contrary ideas, violence and the others, done or caused to be done or approved of, preceded by greed anger or delusion, mild-medium, or intense-all result in endless pain and Ignorance. This is the meditation on their opposite 267
15 Perfections
Sutra II.35 With the establishment of harmlessness in his presence enmity is abandoned 269
Sutra II.36 With the establishment of truth, events confirm his words 269
Sutra II.37 With the establishment in non-stealing, all precious things come to him 270
Sutra II.38 With establishment in Brahmacarya, the attainment of energy 270
Sutra II.39 With firmness in not possessing property clear knowledge of the condition of birth 270
Sutra II.40 From purity distaste for his own body and no intercourse with others 271
Sutra II.41 Purity of mind- sattva, cheerfulness one-pointedness, the conquest of the senses and fitness for vision of the self 271
Sutra II.42 From contentment attainment of unsurpassed happiness 272
Sutra II.43 From the destruction of impurity by tapas, the perfection of body and senses 272
Sutra II.44 From self-study, communication with the deity of his devotion 272
Sutra II.45 From devotion to the Lord's perfection in samadhi 273
16 Controls
Sutra II.46 Posture is to be firm and pleasant 273
Sutra II.47 By relaxing effort and by samadhi (samapatti) on infinity 274
Sutra II.48 From that, he becomes immune to the opposites 275
Sutra II.49 Pranayama is to sit in the posture and cut off the flow of in-breath and out-breath 275
Sutra II.50 The external internal and fixating operations practised in terms of place time and of number became long and fine 275
Sutra II.51 The fourth pranayama comes when both external and internal fields have been felt into 278
Sutra II.52 Thereby is destroyed the covering of the light 278
Sutra II.53 Fitness of the mind for concentrations 278
Sutra II.54 Dissociation is when the senses disjoined from their respective objects assume as it were the nature of the mind itself 278
Sutra II.55 From that supreme mastery of the senses 279
1 Inner Methods
Sutra III.1 Dharana is binding the mind to a place 282
Sutra III.2 Continuity of the mind there is dhyana (meditation) 282
Sutra III.3 That same (meditation), when it comes to shining forth as the object alone, apparently empty of its own nature as knowledge is called samadhi 283
Sutra III.4 The tried (held) at the one place is samyama 284
Surta III.5 From mastery of that the light of knowledge (prajna) 284
Sutra III.6 Its application is by stages 285
Sutra III.7 Compared to the previous means this tried is the direct means 286
Sutra III.8 Even that is an indirect means as regards unseeded (Yoga) 287
Sutra III.9 The inhibitive transformation of the mind is when extravertive samskara is overcome and the samskara of inhibition is predominant and the mind itself is in a temporary state of inhibition 288
Sutra III.10 It has a peaceful flow, by reason of the samskara-s 289
Sutra III.11 The destruction of the mind's depressiveness and rise of its one-pointedness is the samadhi transformation 290
Sutra III.12 In that (samadhi) the sameness of the idea has subsided and the newly arisen idea in the mind is its transformation of one-pointedness 290
2 Change
Sutra III.13 By (analogy with) that are explained the transformations of dharma time-phase and basis (avastha) in the elements and in the senses 291
Sutra III.14 What confirms the subsided uprisen and indetermination dharma- is the dharma 303
Sutra III.15 The difference in sequence causes the differences in the changes 306
Sutra III.16 From samyama on the three changes knowledge of what is past and future 309
Sutra III.17 There is confusion from the mutual projection of words, meaning and ideas onto each other. From samyama on their distinctness (comes) an understanding of the cries of all beings 310
4 Glories
Sutra III.18 From the direct perception of the samskara-s , knowledge of previous lives 327
Sutra III.19 (from direct perception through samyama)of his thought, knowledge of the mind of another 328
Sutra III.20 But not the subject of those ideas, because that was not the field of the samyama 329
Sutra III.21 From samyama on the form of the body its potentiality of being seen is nullified. Being disjoined from the light of the eye it disappears 329
Sutra III.22 Karma is rapid or slow. From samyama on it or on omens there comes foreknowledge of death 330
Sutra III.23 (From samyama) on friendliness and the others (compassion and goodwill sutra I.33) (there arise) powers 331
Sutra III.24 Powers like the power of an elephant (come from samyama) on them 331
Sutra III.25 By Projecting the light of supernormal radiant perception(I. 36) onto what is subtle hidden or remote (he comes to) the knowledge of that 332
Sutra III.26 From samyama on the sun, knowledge of the worlds 332
Sutra III.27 (from samyama) on the moon knowledge of the dispositions of the stars 334
Sutra III.28 (From samyama)on the pole star knowledge of their motions 335
Sutra III.29 On the navel circle knowledge of the plan of the body 335
Sutra III.30 At the pit of the throat cessation of hunger and thirst 335
Sutra III.31 On the tortoise nerve rigid steadiness 336
Sutra III.32 On the light in the head vision of the perfect ones 336
Sutra III.33 By pratibha supernormal knowledge too (he knows) everything 336
Sutra III.34 On the heart awareness of the mind 337
5 Knowledge
Sutra III.35 Experience is an idea which does not distinguish sattva and Purusa though they are absolutely separate; by samyama on what is for its own sake (distinct) from what is for the sake of another there comes knowledge of Purusa 337
Sutra III.36 From the arise of supernormal knowledge and hearing touch sight taste and awareness of events 339
Sutra III.37 They are obstacles in samadhi but perfections in the extravertive state 339
6 Glories (continued)
Sutra III.38 From loosening of the cause of tying and awareness of how the mind moves the mind can enter another body 340
Sutra III.39 By mastering the upgoing vital current (udana) he passes untouched over water mud thorns and so an and at death he takes the upward course 340
Sutra III.40 From mastery of samana blazing light 341
Sutra III.41 From samyama on the relationship between hearing and space divine hearing 342
Sutra III.42 From samyama on the relation between the body and space followed by identification in samadhi (samapatti) with the lightness of a thread he travels through space 343
Sutra III.43 The great bodiless is a mental process (vrtti) functioning exterior (to the body) and not imaginary; from this comes dwindling away of the covering of the light 343
Sutra III.44 From samyama on their physical form inherence and purposefulness: the conquest of the elements 344
Sutra III.45 From it (the samyama)manifest a set of eight powers like becoming minute and perfection of the body with freedom from impediment for its (bodily) attributes 348
Sutra III.46 The perfection of the body is grace splendour power and diamond hardness 350
Sutra III.47 From samyama on their perception, essential nature I am ness inherence and purposefulness (comes)conquest of the senses 350
Sutra III.48 From that speediness of the mind independence of physical organs and conquest of nature 351
Sutra III.49 Having simply the knowledge that (mind-) sattva and Purusa are different one has omnipotence over all beings and is omniscient 352
Sutra III.50 From Indifference to that, too the seeds of imperfection are destroyed and there is Transcendental Aloneness 553
Sutra III.51 No reaction of attachment or pride in case of invitations from rulers of celestial realms for undesirable consequences follow 354
7 Transcendental Aloneness
Sutra III.52 From samyama on the instant and on the two sequences of instants comes knowledge born of discrimination 356
Sutra III.53 From this (knowledge) there is clear knowledge of two things (seemingly) equivalent because they cannot be distinguished by class characteristics or position 358
Sutra III.54 Knowledge born of discrimination having all times for its object is called Transcendent 361
8 Transcendental Aloneness
Sutra III.55 When the (mind-) sattva is like Purusa in purity there is Transcendental aloneness. So it is 362
1 Perfections
Sutra IV.1 Perfections (siddhi) arise from birth or from drugs or from mantras- s or from tapas or from samadhi 366
Sutra IV.2 The transformation into another life is implemented by prakrti 367
Sutra IV.3 The cause is not the impelling drive itself but it makes a breach in the retaining barrier of the nature as does a farmer (for irrigation) 367
Sutra IV.4 The minds are projected from bare I-am-ness 369
Sutra IV.5 In the variety of activities, it is the one mind that simples the several minds 369
Sutra IV.6 Of those (minds with perfections)the mind whose perfections arise out of meditation (dhyana) has no karma-stock 370
2 Karma
Sutra IV.7 The karma of the yogin is neither white nor black; of the others, it is of three kinds 370
Sutra IV.8 Therefore their consequent manifestation is of those samskara groups (vasana) that are compatible with it 374
Sutra IV.9 Because there is sameness of form of memory and samskara-s there is consequent succession between them even though separated by class and place and time 376
Sutra IV.10 They are beginningless because hope is eternal 377
Sutra IV.11 They are held together by cause-effect repository focal point When these cease they too cease 379
Sutra IV.12 What are past and future do actually exist but there is a difference of time -phase in their dharma-s 381
3 Time
Sutra IV.13 They are manifest or subtle and consist of the of guna-s 385
Sutra IV.14 A thing is what it is by the fact of a unitary change 387
4 Against Buddhism
(Sutra IV.14, continued)
Sutra IV.15 Since there is a difference of the minds while the object is the same the two must be distinct categories 389
Sutra IV.16 It is not dependent on a single mind for when it was not giving rise to valid cognition in that mind what would it be? 392
Sutra IV.17 According to whether the mind is coloured by it a thing is known or unknown 394
Sutra IV.18 To Him the Lord the mental processes are always known from the fact of the unchangeability of Purusa 395
Sutra IV.19 It (mind) is not self-illumining, because it is itself something perceived 397
Sutra IV.20 They cannot both be clearly ascertained at the same time 399
Sutra IV.21 If it is to be seen by another idea further and yet further ideas will be required. And there will be confusion about memories 400
Sutra IV.22 In the assumption of its (the mind's) form on the part of the unmoving consciousness is awareness of the idea of the self 402
5 Mind
Sutra IV.23 Mind coloured by the seer and seen has the various purposes 404
Sutra IV.24 Though it is a mélange of countless samskara-groups, it must exist for the purposes of another because it is a construct 406
6 Release
Sutra IV.25 For him sees that One apart cessation of meditation on his own being 408
Sutra IV.26 Then the mind is inclined to discrimination and is borne on towards Aloneness 409
Sutra IV.27 At intervals in it other ideas arise from samskara-s 409
Sutra IV.28 The escape from these is like that described in the case of the taints 410
Sutra IV.29 For one who is through and through a man of discriminative knowledge but is not grasping over his meditation practice there comes about the samadhi called Raincloud of Dharma 410
Sutra IV.30 From that cessation of taints and karma-s 411
Sutra IV.31 Then with the infinity of knowledge free from all veiling taint the knowable comes to be but a trifle 412
Sutra IV.32 With that the guna-s have fulfilled their purpose and the succession of their changes comes to an end 413
Sutra IV.33 The succession is conjoined to each instant, (but) recognizable at the very end 413
Sutra IV.34 Transcendental Aloneness is the withdrawal of the guna-s now without any purpose of purusa; or it is the establishment of the power-of -consciousness in its own nature 417
(Salutations and colophon) 418

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