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Book 1, Sutra 47: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“THROUGH NIRVICARA SAMAPATTI, PURITY IS ACHIEVED AND THE PRIMORDIAL SELF BECOMES ILLUMINATED AND CLEARLY SEEN.”

 

With this sutra we have come full circle and reached the promise that Patanjali made in sutra 3:

“tada drastuh svarupe ‘vashtanam.”

In that sutra Patanjali promised that through “yoga, the seer [gets] established in his or her own essential nature.” As I noted in the commentary to that sutra, the key word in that sutra is “svarupe,” roughly meaning “one’s own form.” In this sutra Patanjali uses the Sanskrt word, “adhyatma,” which is roughly translated as “higher,” “original,” or “first self.” It could also be translated literally as “study of the self or the soul.” Although Patanjali uses the word, “atma,” frequently, this sutra is the only one that contains, “adhyatma.”

“Know Thyself” is, of course, the age-old truth engraved by the Oracle at Delphi, ancient Greece. But this dictum is repeated in many other places as well. “Adhyatma” is, in fact, used by Krishna in a number of his key teachings within the Bhagavad Gita. In sloka 8:3 from that text Krishna defines “adhyatma” specifically. There are many different existing translations of that line but in the compilation that I made of that text, entitled “The Bhagavad Gita In Focus,” (www.bhagavadgitainfocus.com) I list that sloka in this way:

“The principle behind awareness (adhyatma) is the essence of being ‘I’ (svabhavo).”

Krishna also uses “adhyatma” in another critical line within the Bhagavad Gita, 13:12. In that sloka Krishna identifies stable knowledge of the “adhyatma” as part of what true knowledge is. I list that sloka as saying:

“constancy of Self-knowledge (“adhyatma”)/ and an appreciation of Absolute Truth as the highest form of wealth;/ this is knowledge and anything to the contrary is ignorance.”

So, with these past 47 sutras, Patanjali has delineated a path to reaching and realizing that Self-knowledge: the highest stage of meditation beyond both sense impressions and their related thoughts (nirvicara samapatti).

 

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