The New Renderings,
New Ordering

Introductory Summary Verses


Now a discussion of yoga.


Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.


So that the Seer, Purusha, comes to know Itself and abide in Its own real, fundamental nature.


 Whereas in the normal state (of human suffering) the Seer is assimilated with the mind, its transformations and products.


Yogic activity consists of purification by asceticism (tapah), japa, and devotion to The Lord.

The Essence of Yoga


The yogic observances are purity, contentment, austerities (tapah, tapas), japa,and devotion to the Lord.


These are practiced for reducing impurities, afflictions, and distractions and acquiring samadhi.


By svadhyaya is produced communion with the deity in the form favored by the devotee.

The Problem


Those who develop wisdom come to see all creation, externals, and perceivables as unsatisfactory, containing inherent suffering (such as anxiety). This on account of constant change, conditioning (karma), and due to the unstable, dualistic nature of the natural forces that underly phenomena and the movement of the mind itself. This is the problem that yoga is pursued to solve.


Experience arises from the inability to distinguish between creation and (God) Purusha, though these are absolutely separate. One gets knowledge of Purusha by samyama (meditation) on Purusha (God) itself as apart from creation.


The afflictions/distractions are: Ignorance, asmita (the sense of "I exist"), desire, aversion, and attachment.


Ignorance is the substrate of the other four, whether the four are in a dormant, reduced, controlled, or expanded state.


Ignorance is taking the non-eternal, impure, evil, and non-atman to be eternal, pure, good, and atman.


Asmita, or the sense "I exist," arises when Pure Consciousness, the power-of-knowing, gets associated with a body and its senses.


The afflictions are to be suppressed by meditation.


The suppression of distracting vrittis is attained by abhyasa and non-attachment.


That suffering which has not yet come can be warded off.


The cause of that suffering which should be warded off is the entanglement of the Seer with the seen.

10:1 (A.O.)

The problem is solved by getting established in samadhi, which is liberation.


The seen consists of the elements and the sense organs. It is of the nature of Prakriti. Its purpose is experience and liberation of the jiva.


The seen is for the purpose of serving Purusha.

On Preparation


Vairagya is the self-mastery in which one does not crave for objects, whether seen, unseen, or heard about.


The mind is assisted towards stillness and samadhi by responding with benignity, compassion, delight, and indifference respectively towards these four types of people: The fortunate, the suffering, the virtuous, and the sinful.


"Self-restraints, fixed observances, posture, pranayama, abstraction, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi are the eight limbs of yoga.

"The self-restraints are abstention from harming others, from falsehood, from theft, from incontinence, and from greed."


The necessary virya is obtained when the devotee gets established in continence.

On Meditation


Fixing the mind on one thing is dharana.


Continuous concentration on the object is dhyana.


When the meditator gets true realization of the meditation object, penetrating and knowing the object's real nature, unconscious of himself as mind or knowledge, it is samadhi.


The three taken together are called samyama.


The mind is said to be in the inhibited or intercepted state when moment-by-moment the mind is continuously inhibited (by the meditation object) and a samskara of inhibition is created.


The mind's flow becomes steady by samsakaras.


Abhyasa is the effort towards becoming established in that state (of suppression).

Abhyasa becomes firmly-grounded when continued a long time without interruption and with reverence.

Samadhi comes soonest to those who desire it intensely.


Even among the ardent, there is the distinction of mild, medium, or intense means.

By svadhyaya is produced communion with the deity in the form favored by the devotee.

On Meditation Objects


By bhakti for the Lord (samadhi is attained).


Perfection of samadhi is attained by God-devotion.


The Lord God, Isvara, is a particular purusha (individual soul) in His own category, untouched by afflictions, works, the results of actions, or samskaras. 


He is omniscient.


Unconditioned by time. All greatness is His.


His evidence is the pranava, Aum.  


Or meditation on the mind of one who is free of desire.


In general on the dawning of transcendental perceptions the mind can be brought to stillness by fixing the mind on one of those.


Such as meditation on a radiant perception beyond sorrow.


One can meditate on the knowledge of dream or dreamless sleep.

10:2 (A.O.)

Meditation on akasa.


Or even on what appeals to him.


Samadhi is certainly attained by meditation on the richness of the pranava.


By mergence in pranava obstacles are destroyed, the consciousness turns inward.


Pranayama is to sit and cut off the flow of inbreath and outbreath. 


The inbreathing, outbreathing, and held operations, in terms of place, length, and number become progressively longer and more subtle. 


The fourth kind of pranayama is beyond the sphere of internal and external, and comes when the essential acts of puraka and rechaka have been comprehended. 

From that is dissolved the covering over light.


And fitness of the mind for dharana.

On Samadhi

In the highest vairagya, because of contact with Purusha, there is cessation of the least desire for any experience of the created world.


Then pratyahara, in which the senses finally imitate and follow the mind, likewise withdrawing themselves from their objects.


From pratyahara, supreme mastery over the senses.


Sabija samadhi is accompanied by gross thought, subtle thought, bliss, and the sense of "I am."


In sabija samadhi exists thought, knowledge related to words, and based on further sense perception, plus divine knowledge in mixed states and the mind alternates between them.


The other variety is Nirbija samadhi which contains only the subtle impressions (samskaras) of the first.


In one whose citta-vrittis are almost annihilated, fusion and entire absorption in one another of the cogniser, the cognition and the cognised occurs, as a transparent jewel placed near an object takes on that object's colors.


In Nirbija samadhi, all forms have vanished, memory is purified, the essence of the object alone shines forth.


By what has been said, the same two experiences, in the cases of meditation on subtle objects have also been revealed.


The province of subtle objects extends all the way up to the indissoluble level of prakriti.


The purity of Nirbija samadhi being attained, one knows pure light and prasad.


He has direct knowledge of things, different from knowledge based on testimony, inference.


His consciousness is truth- and right-bearing.


The samskaras produced by nirvikalpa samadhi overwrite other samskaras.


With the suppression of even the samskaras of sabija samadhi, one becomes established in Nirbija samadhi.

Metaphysics Of the Yoga-Sutra


The functions of the mind can always be known because of the constant nature of the Seer, the Lord, Purusha.


The transformation into another body (for another incarnation) is effected by the flow of prakritis; the jiva gets the body natural and appropriate to it.


Actions are neither white nor black in the case of sages, in the case of others they are of three kinds.


Having the three kinds of samskaras, they fruit variously as conditions become appropriate.


Even among the samskaras there is relationship
and they affect each other, though they may be
different, and though they may be separated by class, space, or time on account of correspondences.


And samskaras are without beginning because the will to live and desire for well-being are eternal.


But as they are bound together by cause, effect, substratum and support, samskaras are destroyed when those are destroyed.

On Siddhis


On destruction of impurities in the body and senses by tapas, occult powers arise.


By samyama (perfect meditation) on the light in the head (bindu), the yogi gets the vision of the Siddhas.


By samyama on the pit of the throat, the cessation of hunger and thirst.


By samyama (perfect meditation) on the heart, knowledge of the mind.


His yogic mastery extends from the finest atom to infinity.


These are obstacles in the way of samadhi, powers when the mind is outward-turned.


Siddhis are a fruit of samskaras, are endlessly varied, and are experienced in the realm of karma.

Religious Knowledge, Spiritual Vision
Julian C. Lee Mickunas



  The Yoga-Sutras On Meditation   

In this section I have organized all the Yoga-Sutra's instructions regarding meditation, of which there are many. Meditation is the central work of yoga and the basic subject of the Yoga-Sutra. Then the Sutra content on Aum appears like the the cake of the Yoga-Sutra feast. This section gets into the superlative and penultimate topic of ideal meditation objects. The meditation object called Aum is broached, but the material on Aum, because extensive, is broken out into a different section.

Meditation has already been introduced, because japa has been introduced. But because meditation is the central subject of the Yoga-Sutra (and meditation's goal, samadhi) it is natural that meditation is well-analyzed and explicated in the text. In the following verses the Sutra will turn to discussing meditation in more technical terms of dharana (concentration) and dhyana, or meditation proper, and samyama.

"But he who has not first turned away from his wickedness, who is not tranquil, and subdued, or whose mind is not at rest, he can never obtain the Self (even) by knowledge."
First Katha Upanishad, Chapter II, Verse 24, "The Upanishads," Translated by Max Muller

This is one of the many references to meditation in the Upanishads. Gambhirananda gives "...whose mind is not concentrated..." Nikhilananda gives "...whose mind is not at peace." Radhakrishnan gives "...he who has not a concentrated mind...whose mind is not composed..." The word used above for "wickedness" is duscaritat. Sankara gives that as "sinful works either prohibited or not sanctioned by the Vedas." Sir Monier Monier-Williams' A Sanskrit Dictionary gives duscaritat as: "misbehavior, misdoing, ill-conduct, wickedness" and notes that Buddha used the word to denote the "Ten Chief Sins" which include murder, adultery, lewdness." Duscaritat is a handy cover-all euphemism for sexual sin or failure in brahmacharya. When you hear "wickedness" think: Wanking, looking at porn. That's what will best keep sat-chit-ananda a far cry and keep you in hell-realms, far from samadhi, i.e. religious knowledge. The word used for "knowledge" above is prajna which means real, direct knowledge of God. The scripture may be saying that even prajna itself will not let the aspirant obtain Purusa (God) without moral rectitude and concentration of mind. Or, it may be saying that both the Self and prajna are a unavailable without them. Notice that this Verse from the Katha refers two of the three basic activities: japa (concentration of mind) and austerities (moral rectitude and brahmacharya.)

The assumption of the Yoga-Sutra is that the purpose of meditation is to attain samadhi, at which time the devotee disports with Saguna Brahman (in the case of savikalpa samadhi), or abides with Nirguna Brahman (in the case of nirvikalpa samadhi). Now, where is meditation in the verse about the three actions of yoga? Has it already brought meditation out for us? Indeed it has. Meditation was already right there in tapas, in svadhyaya, and right there already in bhakti.

Tapas is Meditation

Meditation is the highest kind of tapas, as the very mind, root of all sensory experience, is renounced in meditation! Many translations of the Upanishads even use the word tapas to mean concentration. For example, it is stated that the God as the Creator (Brahma) created the world by tapas, meaning by concentration. By thinking about it steady and intensely it came into being. Meanwhile, tapas in the sense of asceticism (fasting, holding a posture) increase the power of meditation. So meditation has been mentioned in tapas.

Svadhyaya is Meditation

It also fits the svadhyaya definitions of chanting and repetition of mantra. (Chanting and mantra repetition are certainly meditation techniques.)   

Bhakti For the Lord is Meditation
Meditation also lives right inside devotion-to-the-Lord or Isvara-pranidhana. Anybody devoted to anything will think of it all the time and be meditating on it. Intense longing and attention bring both dharana and dhyana, explained below. Meditation powered by feeling and devotion is the most effective. If one can get an intense longing for God, whether from attraction or for help with problems, his meditation will become empowered and that longing is itself meditation.


 Svādhyāyād işţa-devatā-samprayogah.    

By svadhyaya is produced communion with the deity in the form favored by the devotee.
This could be cited as an essential verse or even a summation of the entire Yoga-Sutra. If one were to ask "Which single verse most capsulizes  the essence of the Yoga-Sutra?" — it would be this one. By japa-meditation on any thing, one merges with it. Should one choose God, he merges with God and his suffering is ended.

This very verse is one of the proofs of the meaning of svadhyaya. As explored above, many writers render it with terms like "self-study" or "scriptural study." But does scriptural study give communion with the desired deity? The experience of communion with an object, verily, cometh from chanting and meditation on that object. Not as securely by pondering the multifarious ideas that teem in religious scriptures.

An opponent could argue that meditation is mentioned elsewhere in the Sutra as dharana and dhyana, so svadhyaya must mean something else separate from meditation. Answer: The Sutra, being primarily about meditation, contains a number of words related to meditation just as the Bhagavad-Gita contains a great many names for God.


is the most commonplace and simple term for meditation. It is usually associated with the counting of beads and has both out-loud and quiet forms. Japa has a commonplace image and that of an introductory technique as most new sadhakas are started out on japa right away. Of course new sadhakas would be started on a meditation technique right away, since meditation is the central work. That does not diminish it, make it less profound, or separate it from meditation. New baseball players are given a hat, mitt, and ball. New soldiers are given a gun, a canteen, and a knife. Does the introductory nature of those items make the gun and knife mere "preliminaries" to the soldier? Look at the verse: Japa gives communion with God. By japa or fundamental meditation, you merge with the desired deity.

Japa refers to the repetitive element of meditation and the physical movement of the fingers or mouth. The word does not specify what one is doing with the mind, or with the emotions. It does not make any reference to the quality or stage of the meditation. An ice skater can be said to be "ice skating." Or we can be more specific about his particular skating modification of the moment and say he is "Shadow Skating" or "Stroking." We can call meditation japa. Or we can refer to particular phases of it such as "dharana" or "dhyana." The meditation technique used by Nityananda and covered in detail in the Vijnana-Bhairava is called "the natural japa."

It has been often remarked in the literature that the beginner is given out-loud japa to do. Likewise, it has often been stated that silent japa is more powerful than out-loud. Elsewhere you may find the opposite stated: That out-loud is most effective. The truth is that out-loud japa has a grosser impact; silent meditation a finer impact. If we think of the washing of a rag, out-loud japa is best for washing a very dirty rag for the first time. It is best for getting at the large, coarse impurities and giving it a good going over. Silent meditation is the deeper clearing and gets at the subtle stains. It could be said that there is gross power in out-loud chanting and subtle power in silent meditation. You could say that you call on God more urgently with out-loud; you go more within towards samadhi with silent. It was by out-loud meditation that I had immediate kundalini phenomena at the age of 21, outside of any expectation. (This was with the Baha'i mantra that they call the "Greatest Name" and which Baha'is  were always afraid of using, or afraid of talking about, or of acknowleding as a mantra. But I went right for it.) Then later it was with out-loud chanting that yogic kriyas (movements) began to occur. In fact I do out-loud chanting very little now because the shakti-movements always come and they are distracting. The same is true with religious singing. One aspect of the word japa is that it contains no information about the quality of concentration or the contents of the mind. It refers to the simple act of repetition, whether aloud or mentally. Japa can be compared to the idling of the car engine. Getting into good concentration (dharana) and then continuous concentration (dhyana) and then complete absorption (samyama) are like getting into different gears. In all those phases, however, the engine is running; japa continues.

Now you know that japa is a simple word for meditation. Now the Sutra gets down to finer analysis of meditation, its different grades of quality , intensity, stages, and perfection.


 Dea-bandhas cittasya dharana.  

Fixing the mind on one thing is dharana.
Dharana is concentration. Concentration is the most basic aspect of meditation. Yet it's the part most difficult, what all struggle with as soon as they begin the work of meditating, or giving the mind back to God.

Truly, people think meditation is supposed to be easy. As soon as they find out it's difficult, they think there is something wrong with them. They say: "This is hard. My mind moves around. It won't stay on the mantra. Maybe I'm just not very good at meditation. Maybe meditation's not for me." Then they quit. Yet the sages say that controlling the mind is the most difficult of all human achievements; more difficult than  creating empires, controlling armies, and  conquering the world. This last verse "And the fitness of the mind for concentration" finally arriving at 2:53 after so many steps and instructions (in Patanjali's original order!) should spell delusions that meditation is easy. Why should getting God be so easy after our lifetimes of neglect, disloyalty, and piling up so much karmic obstruction between ourselves and Him? 

This brings to mind Krsna instructing Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita. Krsna had laid out some of the ways that an aspirant may meditate. Arjuna answers him with all our typical doubts, saying:
"I hear you speak of this yoga which is attained by stillness of mind, Lord.
But I see no foundation for it. For the mind is verily restless.
I deem it as hard to control as the wind."

I am paraphrasing this in my own way. Krsna answers him back:


"Yes, my devotee, the mind is indeed restless, but by vairagya (dispassion)
and by right technique, it can indeed  
be controlled."

Arjuna was already a bhakta and a yogi. Yet even he complained that he couldn't get his mind to  sit still. So why do you think it should be so easy for you? And having done no preparations?



 Tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam  
Continuous concentration on the object is dhyana.


When the meditator gets true realization of the meditation object, penetrating and knowing the object's real nature, unconscious of himself as mind or knowledge, it is samadhi.


The three taken together are called samyama.

The term samyama is brought out here. It will later have more  application in the section on siddhis or occult powers, most of which are effected by samyama on various meditation objects.


The suppression of distracting vrittis is attained by abhyasa and non-attachment.
All the techniques given here for the stilling of the mind and attainment of samadhi are now called abhyasa. The importance of detachment is repeated. The verse seems to be encouraging us that practice brings results, and reminding us of the baseline importance of non-attachment to worldly things and experiences for attaining yoga.


 Vyutthāna-nirodha-samskārayor abhibhava-prādurbhāvau nirodha-ksana-cittānvayo nirodha-parināmah.

The mind is said to be in the inhibited or intercepted state when moment-by-moment the mind is continuously inhibited (by the meditation object) and a samskara of inhibition is created.

Because this verse seems difficult, it will be useful to include another translation. Half of Dvivedi's translation:  

"Interception is the transformation of the mind at the moments of interception..."  
M.N. Dvivedi, "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali"

In other words, when one keeps returning the mind to its meditation object moment-by-moment, constantly, the mind is transformed into this other state that Patanjali is calling "intercepted." 

This verse 3:9 may seem highly technical and can confuse you. It gives the appearance of listing one more attainment of mind called "interception" (while other translators refer to it as successful "suppression"). However, this is just a new treatment of dhyana
vis, "Continuous concentration on the object is dhyana." In short, this verse is an amplification of Verse 3:2. Know it!

This is, in my view, another of 
the rare cases where the Yoga-Sutra contains some redundancy. Thus I changed the verse's location to nearer and following the verse on dhyanaThe yogi or yogess does not need to confuse themselves with the idea of "attaining both interception, then dhyana." They are one and the same. It would be like saying, "I have to light the bush on fire plus also set it aflame."

The verse does broach the role of samskaras, which is important, and this is asserted more in the next verse:


 Tasya prasānta-vāhitā samskārat.  

The mind's flow becomes steady by samsakaras.  

Both of the verses above bring up the principle in which the usual samskaras (impressions) of extravertiveness, or the samskaras that cause the mind to jump around in thoughts, are over-written by another different samskara that the yogi produces in himself, a samkara of inhibition-of-thoughts; a samskara of focus, control, and constant direction of the mind to the meditation object. Samskaras can help us stay world-distracted and keep the samsara ball rolling, but samskaras (conditioning) can also assist us to attain samadhi. The yogic samskara of concentration overwrites the dualistic samkaras of world-experience and stupidity.


The distraction-afflictions are ignorant illusion, the sense of "I," attraction, aversion, and attachment.

The Yoga-Sutra spends a great deal of time analyzing the  modifications of the mind that are to be reduced by meditation then eliminated by samadhi. At the beginning of the text it calls them vrittis or modifications of the mind. By Chapter Two it begins to refer to the modifications as klesas, a more complex word implying affliction and distraction. This change of terminology, plus the compound nature of the word klesa, is one of features making the Sutra difficult to follow in clear threads. I have sought to keep the thread more intact here by combining statements about suppression of vrittis and suppression of klesas. A happy religious fellow, i.e. the fellow practicing yoga, is suppressing them all.


They are to be suppressed by meditation (dhyana).


Abhyasa is the effort towards becoming established in that state (of suppression).


Abhyasa becomes firmly-grounded when continued a long time without interruption and with reverence.


Samadhi comes soonest to those who desire it intensely.


Even among the ardent, there is the distinction of mild, medium, or intense means.


COPYRIGHT 2011 Julian Lee.
All Rights Reserved.