Book 1, Sutra 19: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“THIS STATE OF STILLNESS IS THE SAME AS EXPERIENCED BY DISEMBODIED SOULS AND SOULS, EMERGING FROM THE UNMANIFEST, WAITING FOR BODIES.”
Due to the confusion over how to translate the previous two sutras, combined with the terse nature of this sutra there is a wide range of opinion as to what this sutra refers to. I would list them here if that was useful but I am afraid that they are mostly confusing and artificially contrived (out of frustration in the translators, I would guess). Sutras are connected to each other and so, if you miss-translate one it will be doubly hard to correctly translate the next in the series and triply hard to work out the meaning of the third.
This sutra is meant to warn and humble meditators. First of all, it deflates the ego of a meditator who has reached a state of stillness of mind that is free of consciousness of body, emotions and thought by telling such a person that this state is natural to dead people and souls emerging out of the primordial energetic matrix. The meditation doesn’t sound so wonderful after you compare it in this way. This is not meant to dissuade people from putting in the effort to reach this state. Certainly, such a state of stillness requires a Herculean effort and willpower but it doesn’t mean liberation or enlightenment. Secondly, Patanjali is warning meditators not to get attached to the peacefulness of this state and go no further with yoga. The qualities that they must continue to develop in order to progress further towards the goal of Truth are listed in the next sutra.
At this point we can understand a little better what Patanjali meant when he wrote “Yogas chitta vrtti nirodhah” in sutra 2. Although he is connecting yoga to the process of stilling the mind he is referring to a stillness of mind that is quite profound, maybe even indescribable. The stillness of mind that Patanjali is referring to is free even of the sense of existing as a separate object, free of the idea of “experiencing,” itself.
The very advanced stage of stillness that he refers to in this sutra is quite an accomplishment but, possibly, is still far from the stillness that is our goal. It is still quite attached to “my own experience.” In order to get beyond that, we have to focus in more than one way. In order to reach Truth or liberation we have to do more than just meditate. We have to meditate with vigorous faith in the truth of Oneness.