Book 1, Sutra 3:Patanjali Yoga Sutra
“IN YOGA, THE SEER IS ESTABLISHED IN HIS OR HER OWN ESSENTIAL NATURE.”
This is another simple yet supremely profound sutra. It has been translated in many ways but unlike other sutras, where there is also a wide variety of translations, I have found that many, if not most, different translations of this line work well and even complement each other. Some other great versions of this sutra that I have found are:
“When the mind settles, we are established in our own essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness.” SHEARER
“Then the Seer abides in itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-Realization.” JNANESHWARA
“When this has been accomplished, the Yogi knows himself as he is in reality.” BAILEY
“Then the seer is established on his own.” SADHAKAS
“When this happens then the Seer is revealed, resting in his own essential nature, and one realizes the True Self.” STILES
“Then the seer dwells in his own true splendor.” IYENGAR
“Then the perceiver comes to consciousness of himself.”
“Then the witness is established in its own form, in pure Self-Awareness, ‘I AM:’ ‘Be still and know I am THAT I AM.” SHRI BRAHMANANDA SARASWATI
From these lines we get the idea that Patanjali is refering to something beyond simple lack of thoughts, or simple stillness of mind. It is a stillness of mind, of course, but it actually involves something much more transcendental than what those words themselves imply. In this sutra we learn that Yoga is a state of Being that is at peace (stillness) and also contains a dynamic, vibrant awareness of what we could call our True Self (our own essential nature) and this truth about ourselves must be so joyful, must fill us with so much contentment (concerning everything) that we get established in it permanently. In other words, Yoga is a state of Being that doesn’t come and go, so it is not like an “experience” of something or like a mood swing of “bliss.” Those types of things don’t last, can’t last, because they depend on mind stuff (which Patanjali called VRTTI, in Sanskrt) and mind stuff is like the wind, it is ever-changing. So, somehow Yoga refers to some state of Being that is beyond the mind that we ordinarily know (the mind that is changing, experiencing, referencing, considering, etc.).
And that is what the “essential” in “essential nature” refers to; something that is a solid core of unchanging Truth that isn’t “experienced” so much as “discovered,” because it was always there, beneath everything, unchanging. In Yoga we merge our “I AM” with that, instead of identifying with the stuff of the ever changing mind (which then subsides because we are no longer clinging to it), and then we become “established” or unmovable.