Book 1, Sutra 18: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“AS STILLNESS OF THE MIND DEEPENS WITH CONTINUED PRACTICE, KNOWLEDGE OF THE GROSS AND SUBTLE ASPECTS OF REALITY FALL AWAY, LEAVING ONLY THE RESIDUE (“SAMSKARA”) OF KNOWING, ITSELF.”
This sutra is a development upon sutra 17. Because many or even most translators have assumed (incorrectly, I believe) that Patanjali is talking about “Samadhi” in sutra 17, this sutra 18 is also commonly connected to the word, “Samadhi.” However, as I discussed in my note to the previous sutra (and following translators like Tola and Dragonetti’s lead) this sutra is more likely intended to describe the process of stilling the mind or “nirodha” since Patanjali has yet to introduce the Sanskrt word, “Samadhi,” into his Sutra.
This sutra therefore describes the next stage in stilling the mind which we could also call meditation. In the prior sutra he described a stage of meditation in which the meditator becomes more and more finely attuned to the details of his body, emotions and thoughts. With this increasing awareness comes joy due to the levels of relaxation that are naturally produced. Now, in the stage described by sutra 18, the awareness of his or her body, emotions and thoughts falls away, leaving only the process of knowing itself. This process of knowing itself is indicated by the Sanskrt word, “samskaras,” which are residual impressions of being someone “special,” somewhere “special,” at some “special” time (now). These “samskaras” come out of the idea that “I,” someone “special,” exists and they make up the ultimate glue that binds us to the wheel of “samsara.” This wheel guarantees that not only are we reborn again and again but also that we must “pay” for our previous actions (our “karma”). So in future sutras Patanjali will talk further about how to soften and remove even this glue through yoga.
Patanjali’s description of the stages of meditation are parallel to the Buddha’s description of the stages of “jnana,” as I mentioned in the notes to the last sutra. And just as the Buddha warns that these stages are not the highest achievement for a yogi, Patanjali also says that the state of stillness described in sutra 18 is not the ultimate “nirodha” that we are seeking, but it is real close. The main problem is that the ego is still there (which is an accumulation of “samskaras”), allowing us to develop pride in the tremendously profound depths that our meditation has taken us.
Posted on December 21, 2015, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and tagged awareness, buddhism, ego, jnana, meditation, mindfullness, renunciation, samsara, samskara, yoga. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.