Book 1, Sutra 25: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“THEREIN LIES THE UNSURPASSABLE SEED OF ALL KNOWLEDGE.”
Continuing from the past sutra, Patanjali is here referring again to “Iswara” or God. A seed contains all the components in a compact form that are necessary to make something come to life. The seed of all knowledge is that which can grow into the larger tree of all knowledge. Patanjali additionally adds that this seed is unsurpassable (because the other option, that the “all knowledge” is unsurpassable is redundant). So, a focus on or surrender to (“pranidhana”) God is a seed that, once planted within the mind and heart, grows into the tree of all knowledge.
Going back to the debate that the prior sutras initiated about whether Patanjali is expressing any real religious sentiment here, I would say that he is. The wording of this sutra doesn’t seem to contain anything but the highest regard for religious or devotional sentiment towards a singular God that one can have a personal relationship to. This sutra doesn’t seem to read as a strictly vedantic one, wherein religious sentiment may be acknowledged as a useful tool to gain renunciation but is considered extraneous to the ultimate truth of Brahman, the True Self or the “I AM” consciousness.
My reading of this sutra and the previous one, ties Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra to the Bhagavad Gita in which religious devotion and surrender are a central theme. The commentaries of some of the translators that I have read seem to agree. Examine the wording from the following quotes from various commentaries. The religious or devotional sentiment is quite strong and often unqualified by vedantic phrases like “I AM” or “pure consciousness.”
“In uniting with Him [Iswara], the highest knowledge is obtained.” Vishnudevananda Saraswati (who is from the Divine Life, Swami Sivananda, tradition).
Ishwara “knows all that is to be known, nothing is beyond. The disciple, now ‘as one’ with Ishwara, also knows everything.” Sri Rama
“In God, the reality of the universe is revealed and manifested to its point of omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.” Brahmananda Saraswati. It is interesting to note that Swami Brahmananda Saraswati was the Shankacarya of Jyotir Mutt which is a well-known center for advaita vendantic learning. There is no fence straddling concerning religious sentiment in this quote from him, however.
Of course, there are other translators that do straddle the fence, holding on to the possibility that Patanjali considered religious sentiment a tool for the yogi to transcend to non-duality but not directly part of that ultimate Truth:
“In that Self is the unsurpassed source of omniscience.” Mukunda Stiles
“In that pure consciousness the seed of omniscience has reached its highest development and cannot be exceded.” Jnaneshvara
“In the I AM, the seed idea is unsurpassed.” Condron