Book 1, Sutra 36: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“OR THE MIND CAN BE STEADIED AND OBSTACLES OVERCOME BY CONCENTRATING ON A PURE JOYOUS INNER LUMINOSITY.”
Patanjali listed the obstacles that can create distraction in the mind of the yogic practitioner in sutras 30-31. In sutra 32 he recommended that we apply a single antidote to any obstacle that might arise. Sutras 33-39 list examples of such antidote practices. This sutra recommends an absorbtion into what is called “sattva” in Ayurveda (the traditional system of medicine within India). It is pure light and pure joy, without any specific form or thought attached.
Just as Patanjali recommended “faking it till you make it” in regards to devotion towards God in sutra 28, here he recommends overcoming depression by faking a pure inner joy. And the technique involved is simply picturing a limitless source of soothing, happy light.
I don’t agree with some of the translators’ tendencies to identify technical terms and then ascribe complex characteristics to them. This sutra is case in point. Instead of admitting that this sutra is simple, some translators take the Sanskrt, “Vishokha Jyotismati” and say “this is a technical term.” They then add details like “envisioning the lotus chakra of the heart center” or “at the third eye center” (BrahmanandaSaraswati). These additional details may be helpful for some but confounding for others. Strictly speaking, they are not in Patanjali’s sutra. With this sutra, simpler is better. Just concentrate (by faking it if necessary) on an infinite light within that is purely happy. Don’t add additional thoughts or details but do let them fade away in the presence of such beautiful light, if they do arise.
Iyengar writes “The effort of stilling and silencing the mind brings forth the sorrowless effulgent light of the soul.” This is the opposite of what Patanjali is writing here. It is not our efforts to still the mind that produce the sorrowless light but the reverse. Patanjali is enumerating techniques that can produce stillness in the mind. Stillness of the mind is the goal and not the vision of infinite joyous light.