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Everyday Questions on
Patanjalis Yoga Aphorisms

Part II

            Articles from Theosophy Magazine in

            Vol. 35 pgs. 227, 262, 318, 373, 421, 467, 514, 563

© 2006 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö 

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APHORISMS 33, 35-45 (Book I): What is the function of the VIRTUES in the attainment of Soul-knowledge? A contrast between the Christian idea of the virtues and Patanjali’s treatment would be helpful.
The fundamental distinction between Patanjali’s “virtues” and those traditionally associated with Christianity clearly lies in the fact that for Patanjali “benevolence” and “tenderness” are means to the end of individual mastery over everything from the “atomic to the infinite.” The Christian seems to have a historic propensity for regarding the virtues as ends in themselves, or at least, as attainments which automatically bring the reward of a completely passive existence in heaven.


It is probably significant that Patanjali makes no emotional appeal whatsoever in favor of the virtues, once again unlike enthusiastic Christian hot-gospellers.


The attainment of virtues in Patanjali’s terms seems a rather matter-of-fact necessity, part of establishing sufficient self-control for the accomplishment of the further “ends” of evolution.


Each virtue depends, Patanjali implies, upon an understanding of the laws applicable to each psychical and mental division of man’s nature. A “virtue” is therefore like an ability to typewrite forty words a minute – an author can make good use of such a “virtue,” but only, in the final analysis, if he has something important to say through the medium he has mastered. In the strictest sense, then, the virtues are not “accomplishments” in themselves, nor in fact guarantees of accomplishments.


They represent stages of self-control without which accomplishments cannot be made – simply because clarity and objectivity of mind are imperative.  

APHORISM 10 [Book I]: Is there a way for us to go to SLEEP by force of will? If so, there must be a way to die by force of will. Can this be the fact?

Sleep is not to be attained by the direct force of will in the case of ordinary men, although the high adept may paralyze his lower principles by an act of will – ”put them to sleep,” so to speak. But anyone can will to rest, knowing that rest is necessary, and sleep will follow the subduing of restless energies which at the moment need rehabilitation rather than strained exercise.


Sleep is the force of All Life, working preservatively and regeneratively rather than creatively – not a force rooted in the individual.


Death is similar in this respect, yet it would take a great Yogi indeed to know with surety that all karmic opportunities of a lifetime had been exhausted in a manner corresponding to the instinct which often enables a man to know when sleep is justifiable. The ending of a life has a semi-finality in karmic terms which the ending of a day does not. The same personality cannot be called forth in exact duplication ever again after death, while in sleep the innumerable threads of personality remain unbroken. Therefore for one to say he is “through with life,” in its present context, implies a complete knowledge of karma – a knowledge which apparently even great adepts do not claim.

APHORISM 4 [Book I] states that except during concentration, “the soul is in the same form as the modification of the mind.” Does this mean that to keep the soul in a pure state, it would be well not to expose the mind to the contemplation of anything unpleasant? And if so, does not this savor of the ideas of Christian Science? Might it not encourage a drawing away from contacts with the end in view of not contaminating the Soul? How can the work of aiding suffering humanity be accomplished while we are so concerned with keeping the Soul from being affected by the Mind, the brain, the senses?

It is very evidently true that the soul cannot exist in a state of full concentration if the mind is affected by something “unpleasant.” But the whole meaning of the state of full concentration – which is simply the state of balance – lies in its definition as an awareness so acute that no-thing seems unpleasant (or pleasant, either, in the usual highly personal sense). The Christian Scientist denies the existence of the various real things which he is afraid he will have to view as “unpleasant” if he allows himself to view them at all. He seeks to escape the fear of “evil” by avoidance. The “Yogi of time’s duration” meets directly all apparent evil, and conquers its potentially corrupting effect by understanding rather than avoidance. This is the only satisfactory “escape from evil” and it is accomplished only in the mental state called “concentration” by Patanjali. It might be said that the Sage, instead of seeing “pleasantness” or “unpleasantness,” sees in all events and beings only various degrees of significance.

APHORISM 46 [ Book I]: “The mental changes described in the foregoing constitute meditation with its seed.” “Meditation with its seed” is often used in the connotation of very concentrated, but personal thinking. Is not here a very subtle form of selfishness, which is accompanied by an anticipation of consequences?

Aphorism 44 [Book I], preceding, is a definitive statement from Patanjali that in meditation with its seed “the object selected for meditation” may be “of a higher nature than sensuous objects.” A practical ideal to be realized, then, as for instance a specific social improvement, may be clarified and given deeper significance by concentration during meditation. Nothing necessary in the furtherance of growth can be accurately regarded as selfish. Selfishness may be said to enter, in the case of those who “meditate” concentratedly upon a specific human or social need, only when the desire of the individual to be the revered and recognized agent of such improvement is added to the desire for the accomplishment itself. So, in endeavoring to establish the nature of “selfishness” and “unselfishness” as related to meditation, the line of demarcation must be seen to be not between “meditation with its seed” and “meditation without a seed,” but rather in the nature of the “seed.” For there is obviously, in Patanjali’s own terms, a necessity for both types of meditation. “Meditation without a seed,” or with only the subtle seed of egoic isolation and perfection, might be the exclusive state of none but the Dharmakayas, who apparently have finished with all desire to work for and through the world. Yet this state, the state of abstract objectivity – possibly symbolized by Pythagoras in his insistence that his disciples concentrate on mathematics – is necessary for all men: it affords impersonal balance to their “meditations” upon the specific things their destiny will impel them to accomplish. “Anticipation of consequences,” for instance, is required for the most thoughtful efforts in mankind’s behalf, yet to prevent that anticipation from being either fearfully or greedily personal the interposition of periods of “abstract meditation” becomes an indispensable aid.


BREATH regulation is frequently referred to in Book II. Theosophical teachings definitely warn against this hatha yoga practice. Is not Patanjali accounted a real teacher? How explain? And how, as on page 35, Aphorism 50 [Book II], could the regulation of the breath be restricted by conditions of time, place, and number, each of which may be long or short?

Just as it is possible to do a great many things with atomic energy, so does Patanjali say that many things can be accomplished by psycho-physiological control. Breathing practices, however, are but one method of attaining psychical discipline, and as H. P. Blavatsky pointedly observes in
Isis Unveiled (II, 635), they are not a natural or normal method for Western peoples. Patanjali was an Eastern teacher, concerned with the peculiar psychical temperament of the East of his time. An identical psycho-physiological equation may never exist in the West, nor may special breathing exercises, as a “technique,” ever become an appropriate discipline in this cycle of accelerated Manasic evolution.

Patanjali introduces the subject of “breath-control” as a legitimate object for practical study (even for Hindus) only after “purification of the mind” (see Aphorism 41, [Book I] has been attained. It becomes entirely natural to assume that when a disciple has mastered all the usual quixotic quandaries of the dual human mind, on that plane, he may wish to “stretch” the usefulness of his physiological organism, thus making a more refined medium for the use of soul and mind power. Breath control means control over those semi-astral nerve centres which maintain the normal tone of physiological existence involuntarily. Conscious control over these same functions can therefore be thought of as introducing a new dimension of occult receptivity to what is otherwise simply the average psycho-physiological equation. There are “times and conditions,” according to Patanjali, presumably in accordance with the necessity for various phases of practical occultism, when such control over the hitherto “involuntary” centres is not only helpful but actually necessary, though this type of control may be attained in more than one way. The repeated warnings against Hatha Yoga practices are a cognizance of this fact, and Easterners are also directed against premature attention to a phase of control which does not find rightful usage until the basic principles of Raja Yoga have been assimilated.

APHORISM 18 (Book II) reads: “The Universe, including the visible and the invisible, the essential nature of which is compounded of purity, action, and rest, and which consists of the elements and the organs of action, exists for the sake of the soul’s experience and emancipation.” This is a very interesting and no doubt deeply significant statement on the “essential nature” of the Universe, but the terms “purity, action, and rest” need some elaboration for the average student in order to convey a description of the Universe: can this be done?

“Purity,” “action” and “rest,” in universal terms, are suggestive of the three fundamental propositions of the Secret Doctrine. Purity is simply that which is indivisible. In man, and in all monadic intelligence, the “indivisible” is the inextinguishable power to acquire experience. Action is the process of interweaving one being’s use of this power with the differing uses made by other beings of the same power. The “law of cycles,” universal aspect of the Second Proposition, is descriptive of that type of “interweaving” among beings which results in periodical embodiment. “Rest” has only one dynamic meaning, that of assimilation, and assimilation is the keynote of the Third Proposition.

Any “description of the universe,” however, is of necessity inadequate unless it is perceived to be directly applicable to the psychological life of the individual. In the life of mind-consciousness, “purity” and “action” cannot be separated, for “purity” in the moral sense always means a relatively perfect degree of conscious motion – not immobility or inaction. Rest, in an evolutionary sense, becomes reflection upon the nature of action – and its various degrees of purity. This is the only real rest, for it lessens inner tensions by conveying an even deeper evaluative power to the soul.

What is the peculiar value of Aphorism 6 [Book II]? How could this fact affect a man’s life and character?

Aphorism 6 of Book II may become more specifically instructive if considered with Aphorism 6 of Book III. Identifying “the power that sees with the power of seeing,” and the soul with its tools of perception (including the mind) leads to a “fixation” with regard to “modifications of the mind.” In Aphorism 6, Book III, the implication that it will finally be necessary to do away with all “modifications of the mind” means that no formulation of words in philosophy, nor any specific religious devotion, will ever in any final sense represent Truth. The disciplines of philosophy, of course, are supposedly self-initiated, while the disciplines of religion are required by authority or by temporary acceptance of an occult Teacher or transmitter, but all disciplines, whether philosophical or religious are “modifications of the mind” and therefore can but represent partial truth. The mind able to look directly upon realities can use no intermediate form or focus whatsoever, as each form or focus becomes the modifier of the object to be perceived.

Every formulation of philosophy, every metaphysical system, every scheme of the categories of “reality,” will at some time be discarded as a particular, and therefore a limiting, focus for Truth. As Krishna says, when the heart is free from delusion, the disciple will “attain to high indifference as to those doctrines which are already taught or which are yet to be taught.” Even the familiar statements of the Three Fundamental Propositions of the Secret Doctrine, as approaches to the several facets of reality, must finally give way to a formless realization of THAT for which the Fundamentals are abstract “representations.” Every noble habit, painstakingly acquired as the very highest embodiment of devotion to one’s fellows, must be abandoned as a habit or specific practice. The essences of the noble philosophies and religions, however, will live on in pure form, or rather, formlessness, in the same way that the individual ego itself is said to outlive the destruction of worlds, solar systems and even universes.



APHORISM 9 (Book II): I can not see how any basic drive of human life could be felt by the wise as by the unwise. I can not believe that the wise could possibly be held in a worn-out body so long as are, or have been, the unwise. What is the relation between Tanha and Skandhas?

The “wise” man is the man who has gradually established sympathetic understanding with every form of intelligence – including the “lower” as well as the “higher.” It is the nature of purely psychophysical intelligence to focus nearly all energy upon the continuance of existence, because that particular organic complex can only be enlightened by higher intelligence so long as it shall live. This is the physical instinct for preservation, and it is normal and beneficial. The “wise” man not only “feels” this, as it exists in his own physical instrument – he will feel it more keenly than anyone else, because he is more understanding and sympathetic toward “life” in particular and as a whole. Nor will he sacrifice the body lightly. The difference between the wise and the unwise in respect to “thirst for life” lies in the fact that the wise are not subject to this feeling – they simply feel it, whereas the unwise, possessing “misconceptions of duties and responsibilities” allow the feelings of the body to eclipse the needs of the soul. No wise man is completely indifferent to the matter of preserving his life upon earth – the suicides are not the “wise” but those so tragically confused that they feel nothing with clarity. There is more than considerable difference between an ability to detach oneself, when necessary, from a feeling, and the tamasic state of living in an indifferent stupor in regard to all feelings. Physical “Tanha” can be very properly expressed as physical dynamism and intensity, without developing the skandhas which signify fear of death or any other ignoble physical cravenness.

Yet just as death should not be feared, but rather respected, so should life not be feared. The wise man is the man possessed of a maximum of intensity on every plane; he should be distinguished by his deeper appreciation of every form of beauty, for instance, including the beauty and magic of physical vitality.

APHORISM 16 [Book II]: (a) Do our imaginations and fears for the future cause any injury to the soul, other than waste of time and energy?
(b) Is Mr. Crosbie’s statement on page 8 of
The Friendly Philosopher, “I used to look calmly and dispassionately at the very worst picture I could conjure up as happening to myself,” etc., to be regarded as contradictory to this Aphorism?

For man as Kshatriya or actor, there are two realities. The present moment is real, and eternal verities are real. Fear, as Patanjali endeavors to show, is invariably rooted in “illusion,” a realm between the Present and the Eternal. No one fears the present moment, but fears instead moments not yet come. All that he may do in any moment is act, and while he acts there is room within his consciousness only for action and not for fear. Nor can anyone fear anything measured against the infinite background of eternity. Neither the moment nor eternity relate themselves to the countless numbers of “uncertain desires” which crowd the human mind. Uncertain desires relate only to an illusory sense of time, whereas now, the sphere of action, is an ultimate reality.

Fear distorts human relationships, for emotionalism renders potential philosophical attitudes inoperative. If a situation we have feared confronts us, we view it not as it actually is, but as warped by our fright and fancy. Thus fears alter the being himself so far as his existence as an effective center of action is concerned, and constantly affect all others with whom he comes in contact. For the evolving ego this alteration of psychic condition is a very specific injury, for it is a limitation on growth. His own karmic “circle of necessity” becomes more complicated, since the conditioning effect of his fears blocks any natural or balanced working out of his destiny. He is sundered, disparted, acts in hesitant fragmentary fashion, and therefore reaps fragmentary, confusing karma.

Patanjali’s “meditation” is a term for the internal acts which establish a true relationship between the individual student and the events and beings that become relevant to his own soul pilgrimage. This, Patanjali suggests, is accomplished by excluding from meditation the confused feelings which comprise the innumerable conflicts of mind on matters not presently resolvable. The practice of mental discipline leads to the attainment of philosophy, and philosophy is to be judged in turn by action – by the degree to which it impels the individual to live fully in each moment while yet overshadowed by a sense of eternity.

(b) Robert Crosbie’s statement seems clearly to be a way of laying fears to rest rather than a way of indulging in them by pre-occupation. This method in the strictest sense is a device for dealing with any hidden fears that might lurk within the subconscious mind. As a device it is but one practical means to an end, and, like all devices, it should ultimately be dropped by the proper wayside. Any specific discipline must be transcended, however necessary it may once have been. If this particular practice were made a ritual for daily use it could lead to a psychological unbalance but one step removed from the original lurking worries. The hypochondriac is an example of one who misapplies the suggested method, for the hypochondriac often imagines the most dire physical happenings, while deriving secret pleasure from the fact that he really does not believe his actual situation will ever be “that bad.” Such a distortion of the method would, however, be a way of trying to achieve a relative, external calmness by indulging in a specialized kind of controlled worry. Mr. Crosbie’s intent was obviously to test the extent and nature of his inner calmness – and to better evaluate whatever final obstacles remained to bar its complete attainment.

Are not APHORISMS 23 and 24 [Book II] somewhat contradictory? If “the conjuncture of the soul with the organ of thought, and thus with nature, is the cause of its apprehension of the actual condition of the nature of the Universe and of the soul itself,” is this not highly desirable? If so, why should the cause of this conjuncture be quitted, as stated in APHORISM 24? And further, how can ignorance, cause of all the “afflictions,” lead to such a noble result?

This question might be paraphrased: “Is evolution desirable, since one of the conditions of evolution is the incomplete knowledge of all the beings involved?” The English language seems lacking in appropriate terms to distinguish between evolution impelled by the trial and error process which accompanies ignorance, and completely self-directed evolution. The organ of thought is composed of the physical and the astral brains. These material foci are necessary as direct contact-points for the soul in journeying through those realms of experience which the simultaneous presence of myriads of differing classes of monads make possible for the soul. In the strictest sense the self-conscious man, or the monad, is not “ignorant,” yet while in manifestation the man can not exhaust the infinite variety and significance of experience in the whole vast society of selves.

Obviously the word “ignorance” carries with it differing implications according to its context. In the most universal philosophical sense it is simply the symbol of unfulfilled or uncompleted destiny – the impulsion to a further growth which may finally bring spiritual understanding. But ignorance is also a symbol for the degree to which the inertia of matter unnecessarily retards the widening of soul-perception. This “ignorance” ceases, says Patanjali, with the attainment of “perfect discriminative knowledge.” “The isolation of the soul” mentioned in Aphorism 25 means that the soul is no longer confused or involved in acts of ignorance by the influence of matter. The soul sees body as body and soul as soul, and thus transcends the confusions of incarnation by reaping the benefits of learning which only incarnation makes possible.

APHORISM 34 [Book II]: Please clarify what is meant by “questionable things” in relation to motive and sins of omission.

“Questionable things” are simply those things done without sufficient concentration upon the possibility of doing something better. Any act is questionable not in itself, but in its relation to other acts which might be performed instead. Therefore all “wrong doing” is, in this sense, part of an “error of omission.” As regards motive, the theosophical admonition that motive must be checked by mind, is once again a way of saying that no one can have a completely pure motive unless his mind clearly sees alternative courses of action and the nature of the continuance of both alternative actions in terms of karmic consequences. It is the “good” we do not see rather than the “evil” we do see that is the cause of karmic difficulty. Similarly, if we see nothing but “good,” we do not see true good at all – since the latter exists at all times as the better or best alternative rather than as a thing in itself. One of the occult failures of modern world religions has been their failure to provide philosophical means by which “good” and “evil” are seen to have meaning only in their relationship one with the other. “As wise as serpents and as harmless as doves” means knowledge of the alternatives which line the path of choice.



 APHORISIM 36 (Book II): Why should a Yogi in whom veracity is complete pay the penalty of becoming a focus for “bad” works? I can understand better his being a focus for “good” works, but I should think such a Yogi would be karma-less.

It is necessary to assume that a Yogi should have counterbalanced both the cause and the effect in himself because of his complete veracity; but for others he is a representation of both philosophical truth and correct action, and is an open channel for their karma. If those who share the same environment as the Yogi are envious or resentful of him they will act in all things with partially impure motives, since recognition of a Teacher is proof that one recognizes truth in action when he sees it. “Good” karma comes to the man who understands some of the principles of wisdom, of which one of the basic, as well as most “human,” is respect and gratitude for the wisdom of the teacher whose vision of truth is clearer than one’s own. Unless the relationship between any individual and the Yogi is a proper one, the karma of that individual will be “mixed” rather than good, and thus the Yogi will feel those mixed effects, while he enjoys the fruits of his own right thought and action. He is also a key to the right thought and action of others. He is, in fact, the “key man” in society, as was Plato’s philosopher-king, and, unless his place be recognized, society (or karma) will withhold certain benefits (or good karma) which would otherwise accrue. Without any conscious effort to be such, the Yogi is an open sesame for the good karma of others. He is the truth before men which they must be able to identify if they are to have the complete wisdom which brings right action and “good karma.”

The same principle would apply to what is called “bad” karma – for the usual classes of “bad karma” would simply be the results of denying truth. Yet another principle is also involved in the matter of a good and great man being the focus for karma resulting from “bad works” – a principle known as “the economy of nature.” Just as poisonous mushrooms seek the shade of a great oak, since otherwise the conditions necessary for their growth do not exist, so also do many dire and troublesome events focus around the yogi, for the reason that only he has sufficient wisdom to deal with them. The breadth of his knowledge can make room for human confusion or malignance in others, since his nature will not be inwardly troubled by anything that befalls. In this way, perhaps, can many “bad things” come to the great and wise.

APHORISM 37 [Book II]: “When abstinence from theft, in mind and act, is complete in the Yogee, he has the power to obtain all material wealth.” Would this mean that such an one as described above could, if he chose, become very wealthy in this commercial civilization of today? If honesty is thus seen to be such an important factor in the acquirement of material wealth, why it is that such a large percentage of relatively dishonest men are so materially wealthy, and conversely, why do many honest men barely manage to acquire enough wealth to support their families?

The average “honest man” is not a yogi, as the latter term is used by Patanjali. “The Yogee of time’s duration” has more than one kind of wisdom, honesty being for him simply the inconspicuous by-product of knowledge of all things in their proper relation one to another. The Yogi has a highly developed manasic faculty – manas lighted brilliantly by fusion with the inspiration of Buddhi. Such a man can acquire any “material wealth” that is really needed by applying his crystal-clear mind to the problem presented, or he can inspire such trust in others that they will without question place all wealth under his stewardship. The latter, in fact, would be the most natural working out of karma in our age, since the direct acquisition of wealth in the commercial world would be something of a waste of time for a great spiritual teacher. For the average honest man, however, there are still many obstacles to be overcome. As the potentialities of his mind develop he may find it increasingly difficult to be honest – just as the awakening faculties of man after the first rounds and races tend to confuse him and suggest through vivid imagination the “beauties” of the road of exploitation. In a practical sense, men do not shower trust upon the honest man unless he is also provenly a wise and practical man, for honesty in itself does not insure that the best use will be made of property or wealth entrusted to his care.

APHORISM 38 [Book II]: Why should “continence” be so important, when it applies only to the body – the ephemeral?

The place of occurrence of this reference to continence suggests that more is meant to be conveyed by the word than simply physical chastity. The qualities discussed as unworthy in previous aphorisms are enmity, theft, anger, questionable things, etc. Aphorism 39 [Book II ] speaks of “covetousness” in exactly the same way. Continence, in this context, becomes the ability to restrain all forms of self-indulgence or sensualism. It is the tendency to self-indulgence which takes strength from the body and from the mind. Sensual self-indulgence is first a mental misuse of the energies of the body –  instead of raising the level of expression for the body-lives, the soul infuses itself into a “stretching” of the normal capacities for psychic feeling and thus exploits and damages a normal capacity. The effects of this are both bodily and mental, as the decline of Grecian civilization in particular attests.

APHORISM 42 [Book II] : If it is possible for a Yogi to acquire superlative felicity, how are we to understand APHORISM 15, of this Book, which says that to the man who has attained the perfection of spiritual cultivation, “all mundane things are alike vexatious.”

Mundane things as mundane things would clearly be “vexatious” to the knower of spiritual reality. Yet in all things and events the Sage, it is said, can see the spiritual in the physical – beyond and above it, no matter how superficially interwoven the two may be. Aphorism 15 also posits that mundane things are vexatious until the “highest condition” is reached. Beyond that point nothing is vexatious, and when nothing is longer vexatious one is in a state of superlative felicity. When one fears no failure, dreads no disappointment, he can begin to truly live with vitality and full awareness on all planes.



IT seems strange that this is the only Book [Book III] which has no title. Can it be simply because it serves as a continuation of Book II ? In Book II, Aphorism 29, the last three practices named are not taken up until the beginning of Book III, but the remainder of the Book is very detailed and specific in contrast to this beginning.

In the commentary upon Aphorism 4 of this Book [III] it is explained that the word “Sanyama” – used more frequently than any other capitalized designation in Book III –  cannot be properly rendered in English. A title for Book III which employed “restraint” or a similar word would therefore be misleading. From consideration of these tangible difficulties regarding a name for such instructions, it is natural to notice the similar difficulties which would inevitably attend the “titling” of any subjects relating to practical occultism. Techniques for “Getting Occult Power” might command fascination – but for the wrong reasons. Patanjali, apparently, as would any initiate, avoided calling special attention to such things, but simply mentioned them after the proper philosophical background had been provided. In this sense, the chapter is a continuation of Book II.

Mr. Judge states in the Preface that “Book III is for the purpose of defining the nature of the perfected state” – a definition which can be understood only in terms of the philosophical clarifications offered in Books I and II. When abrupt transitions of development occur in Patanjali, a reference to Mr. Judge’s preface will often offer a germinal thought on the general scope and purpose of the several Books taken as a whole. For instance, the problem of separating philosophic ideas from specific techniques of psychological discipline is illumined by Mr. Judge’s explanations. The last paragraph of the preface implies another factor which should be borne in mind: the “specifics” of such teachings as Patanjali’s are peculiarly fitted for men of a certain “temperament” and character, and are not as universally applicable as might be supposed.

Aphorism: In “The Voice of the Silence,” Samadhi is referred to as “the state of faultless vision.” How would it be possible to reach such a high state of consciousness by concentrating on a material subject or object of sense?

An Adept is one who moves with the knowledge that there is no real distinction between spirit and matter. Any form or object becomes for him, it is said, the mirror of the universe – both objective and subjective. All definitions of Samadhi are not, it should be noted, synonymous with “the highest spiritual state.” As a sort of “beatific vision,” Samadhi may be compared with devachan – if we can imagine devachan consciously controlled by one in that state. Samadhi can be entered by all those who attain a certain degree of knowledge of occultism – by those who move toward becoming Dharmakayas, as well as by those on the Nirmanakaya path. H.P.B. called Samadhi an “ecstatic trance,” and it is also implied by her that Samadhi should not be confused with the state of Samadhana (see Glossary) in which “a Yogi can no longer diverge from the path of spiritual progress.”

One of the first principles infused in the teachings of initiated occultists is that control of all one’s faculties and the perfection of Yoga do not mean automatic entrance into the highest initiation. The purpose of Raj Yoga is “divine union,” but its practice is the exercise of will upon the various degrees of resistance encountered in the world of matter. In a special sense, therefore, the practice of Yoga is a science relating to matter – power over various forms of matter invisible to the naked eye. But Raj Yoga means the fitting use of the knowledge, as well as the ability to command the unseen forces of nature.

APHORISM 5 [Book III]: (a) In what way is the “discerning power” to be distinguished from discrimination It is clear that true discrimination is by no means “ordinary.”
 (b) In the note on
APHORISM 6 [Book III], it is suggested that special modifications ensue after many other “afflictions” are removed, these, too, to be got rid of by means of Sanyama. Would this refer to the trials of chelaship?

All human beings exercise some form or degree of discrimination – the highest degree obviously calling for considerable development of “discerning power.” This “power” is, of course, common to all men, and is the root of self-consciousness. All men must discriminate, in the sense that they select or prefer, but the “discerning power,” as Patanjali speaks of it, connotes more than simply conscious personal preference. We can know that we prefer something, yet it is far more important to know exactly why. A full manifestation of discerning power would occur within the mind of the man who is able to see the correct proportions of all the factors involved in each opportunity for choice. This would also be “discrimination” in its philosophic meaning.

 (b) “Chelaship” in the philosophical sense means any self-conscious pledge to undertake one-pointedness in action. The “afflictions and obstructions described in the previous books” have primarily to do with mental discipline – the attainment of concentration and one-pointedness in thought. This mental discipline is but a means to the “end” of action, however, and the practical use of a discipline involves complications which can be revealed only in and through action. Thus the chela, be he one of Patanjali’s pupils or a worker for the present Theosophical Movement, will inevitably encounter all manner of disquieting circumstances and attitudes, which tend to test and strain his initial mental calmness. But such an one has the advantage of the instilled habits of mental discipline, and the advantage of viewing goals and purposes integrated with that discipline. This is the difference between “chelaship” and religion, for the latter demands “devotion” during periods of both outer and inner strain without having first supplied that mind-control which enables the devotee to meet all circumstances as a responsible moral agent. For the religious man (whether he be called Christian, Buddhist or Theosophist), the burning issues of life tend to be over-simplified if he simply refers to hallowed phrases instead of giving them needed thinking on his own part, and his inner growth can thus be considerably retarded.



APHORISM 9 (Book III): Here it is said that there are two trains of self-reproductive thought, but that the mind, in passing from one to the other, is concerned with both those trains. Is it possible for the mind to THINK of two things or subjects at the same time?

Self-reproductive thought must be based upon some genuine apprehension of reality, else it is not thought, but simply the recording of impressions. There are, however, two “realities.” There is the reality of any given moment, the relationships between beings at any certain point in time, and there is the reality of a universal spiritual evolution – which has nothing to do with “physical” time – and which represents the highest principle of both man and nature. For man, the problem of understanding is dual – he must understand the phenomenal world by correlating the activities of any, and finally all, manifested beings with his own activities. He must also understand, through the medium of his highest faculties, the noumenal essence, the changeless, in and beyond all diversities in beings. He must cognize both the phenomenal world and the noumenal world at the same time, neither abstract philosophical understanding nor specific knowledge being sufficient in itself. Nirodha is described as that state wherein comprehension of both exists. “Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves” is a saying which indicates the necessity for knowing the complexities of the objective world while retaining the calmness of spiritual understanding of the whole as the whole.

It is not possible to think of two “things” or “subjects” at the same time, but it is possible and finally necessary to see both aspects of life, phenomenal and noumenal, at the same time.

APHORISM 10 [Book III]: What more could be asked of the mind than an uniform flow” – NIRODHA? Or, could it logically be concluded that this refers to the flow between higher and lower manas?

It is one thing to observe the inter-penetration of two different spheres of intelligence, and quite another, to form from that preliminary knowledge a perfect synthesis. A “uniform flow” between higher and lower manas means that the body and the psychic energies are controlled by understanding, but it is said that the trained seer can see the “All” in any one “object.” Nirodha might be regarded as a state of wise flexibility, while Ekagrata is the attainment of a wise concentration. It is interesting to note that here, as in many other portions of Patanjali’s instructions, the teacher describes state after state of Yogic attainment. The reader may be somewhat disconcerted to discover that just when Patanjali seems to have described the state most important to attain, he immediately proceeds to outline further steps in the deepening of perception. The profundity of this method should not escape notice, for it conveys the constant suggestion of further evolution, through and beyond any state. Patanjali’s disciples could not think there is a final achievement in real Yoga. To formulate the end of all attainment would invite the student to imagine he had mastered ultimate knowledge every time he reached anything that vaguely resembled “The Goal.” Actually, there will always be further steps in spiritual evolution. The first sign of progress toward a goal is not proof that the goal has been attained. The man who seeks Samadhi, for instance, may think that almost any semi-spiritual psychic experience is Samadhi – if Samadhi is the only description offered him of a “spiritual state.” One of the minor curses of profane, popular religions is in their over-simplification of all descriptions of inner attainment. Not one word-symbol, nor two, but many are needed to impress powerfully upon the aspirant that evolution is an endless series of progressive awakenings.

APHORISM 14 [Book III]: Is this Aphorism to be understood – together with the note – in connection with Aphorism 45, Book I? Is there any relation with EKAGRATA, of Aphorism 12, Book III? If EKAGRATA is a synonym of Mahat, as the GLOSSARY states, it would seem impossible to reach such a state.

All roads to perception of Reality, whether they begin with the problem of understanding the phenomenal world, or the problem of understanding the noumenal world, must end with perception of the “two in one.” Concentration upon any “subtle object,” states Aphorism 45, Book I, “ends with the indissoluble element called primordial matter.” Primordial and universal Mahat – Eka – are both descriptions of reality. Mind and matter are not separate, even though, as stated in the Voice, “the self of matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet.” To see truly that there is universal intelligence in matter – and universal matter in intelligence – is to enter a state of “Ekagrata.”

Here it is stated: The nature of the mind of another person becomes known to the ascetic when he concentrates his own mind on that of another person.” Yet, Aphorism 20 [Book III] shows that only the performance of SANYAMA with that object in view will reveal the FUNDAMENTAL BASIS of the other person’s mind.     
(a) Why is
MOTIVE so little emphasized in Patanjali?
(b) Is the present-day mind reader” to be considered in the class with Patanjali’s ascetic”?

Motive is not under-emphasized in Patanjali. It is simply not called motive. It should be remembered that Patanjali’s Yoga instructions are entirely in the nature of a scientific treatise, and exclude religious or devotional exhortation. Motive in Patanjali is discussed indirectly in terms of the highest states of consciousness, for these involve an ever-clearer perception of the “One in All”the basis for universal interdependence and the feeling of brotherhood. Patanjali may be said to insist upon two points in respect to what we call motive. First, that the highest motive is impossible without the highest knowledge. Second, that the first stages of concentration and meditation may be attained by any man who desires them ardently, with whatever motive. But Patanjali insists that until the higher forms of knowledge are attained (right motive), it is impossible to have perfection of any of the powers of Yoga. Patanjali is attempting to lay a basis for understanding what “right motive” is, rather than telling his disciples to be sure to have it – as the protagonists of all religions never tire of doing.

 (b) None of the modern “mind readers” have followed the disciplines which Patanjali lists as prerequisites for the ascetic, so they can hardly be considered “in the same class.”

There is an extremely important distinction between casual “mind reading” and that concentration which enables a man to know the fundamental basis of another’s mind. The former “accomplishment” may be purely a passive psychic sensitivity which enables specific astral impressions to be read. The latter has to do, not with petty details, nor yet with invading the privacy of a man’s creative thoughts, but rather with understanding the whole general trend and color of another’s life-current of thought. Only an adept can accurately sense the nature of this general trend.



APHORISM 21 (Book III): The note on this Aphorism speaks of luminousness as the manifestation of SATTVA, while the eye is also a manifestation of SATTVA in another aspect. Now, according to the GLOSSARY, Sattva is goodness, or purity – one of the three divisions of nature – and it is difficult to see the connection between the quality of goodness in nature and such an objective quality as luminousness, while the human eye is even more objective. Please explain.

It is necessary for the theosophical student to return in this instance, as in so many others, to some of the fundamental clarifications made by H. P. Blavatsky in the Secret Doctrine. Spirit and matter, she states, are not two realities but two aspects of the same reality. Similarly, the quality of tamas or inertia is not a description of matter, but rather the description of a certain aspect of matter – more clearly, spirit-intelligence temporarily represented as matter and exhibiting one characteristic predominantly. So with sattva, there is not “a certain proportion” of matter, out of which human eyes are constructed, which is “Sattvic.” Spirit-matter, in a certain condition, produces an aspect able to exhibit the unique qualities of luminousness.

 It is not difficult to see why “goodness” and “luminousness” are both associated with Sattva, since one is the most highly perceptive state viewed from the standpoint of the soul, and the other is the most perceptive state afforded by conditions of matter.

APHORISM 22 [Book III]: I can understand how a power over oneself, one’s own organs and functions, is lawful, but it does not seem lawful to use such power over others. Nor, in Aphorism 24 [Book III], can I understand there to be any wisdom in being able to acquire the friendship of whomsoever one may desire. How can one want a friendship that is not mutually desirable? I hold the same reserve with regard to Aphorism 35 [Book III].

It may first be noted that such powers are described as being held only over the five physical senses. This is not, for instance, a power to interfere with the egoic discriminative faculties. Rather its exercise might be used in order to avoid the distraction of perceptive intelligence by sensory impressions, so that the perception itself might become clear. It is common human experience to have one’s most dispassionate discriminative faculties hindered by the intrusion of sights, sounds, and odors. The ascetic of pure mind would, by his own superior powers of concentration, be able to inspire continued attention of others upon soul realities – oblivious of external intrusions. And this possibly to such a degree that awareness of objects of sense would disappear altogether.

To have the power of acquiring “a friendship of whomsoever he may desire” does not mean that the devotee of yoga is able to create a “friendship” that is not mutually desirable. Rather, the powers of the yogi simply make his friendship discernible and desirable to others. This may be done by projecting enough of the yogi’s essential feeling and quality of character to demonstrate the levels of real communication which exist, even if usually hidden, between any two souls. Aphorism 35 [Book III] does not suggest that the yogi judges the “mental conditions, purposes, and thoughts of others” but simply that he is able to see them clearly. This is not a special faculty to be developed apart from growth in general discrimination. It is simply the inevitable outcome of understanding one’s own nature thoroughly – which, before its completion, does involve such specific matters as awareness of the condition of all the nervous centers of the body. The word “heart” may symbolize both the qualities of soul and the nature of a specific psycho-physical condition in the nervous system. Though the words and approach are entirely different, this would indicate a knowledge of what is now called psycho-biology, common enough in Patanjali’s time, but built upon a more solid philosophical foundation than that supplied by the orthodox assumptions of contemporary materialism.

APHORISMS 30-33 [Book III]: Is not this type of concentration dangerous for the Westerner, or for anyone, without the guru’s direction and protection? The worst danger seems indicated in Aphorism 52 [Book III], as a corollary of Aphorism 33[Book III].

This type of concentration would not be “dangerous for the Westerner” if all the preliminary steps of training assumed by Patanjali had been taken in proper fashion. However, an almost unsolvable difficulty lies in the fact that the whole psychic environment of our latter “Iron Age” militates against knowledge and a control of occult forces and powers. The conditions under which the equivalent of Patanjali’s “Guru assistance” might exist today would obviously be extremely difficult to obtain. The freakish psychic involvements of many theosophists in the periods of Theosophical Society-confusion which followed the deaths of H. P. Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge do indicate that certain forms of insanity may be contracted through exercising the desire to establish personal communication with “higher entities.” The most amusing as well as the most tragic illustration of this is to be found in the cases of C. W. Leadbeater and Mrs. Besant, who gave out interviews with the Manu and Solar Logos. There are many ways in which undisciplined psychics may suffer “a renewal of afflictions of the mind,” as indicated in Aphorism 52 [Book III]. The legends of occultism contain mysterious references to the “star rishis,” elementals apparently charged with sufficient sensual power to confuse the psychic and the biological natures of those who trespass with questionable motives upon realms presently beyond normal ability to control.

How does the practice shown in Aphorism 34 [Book III] differ essentially from “New Thought” practices? According to that cult, if, for instance, you desire money – concentrate on getting it, and you will get it.

The essential difference between the practices suggested by Aphorism and those of “New Thought” is that Patanjali describes concentration upon a desired understanding, whereas “New Thought” involves concentration upon a physical consummation of wish-fulfillment. There is not, however, an “essential difference” between “New Thought” procedures and the habits of Hatha Yoga. This for the reason that in neither instance is there a primary concern with understanding. Those who separated the schools of Hatha Yoga from Raja Yoga in Patanjali’s time – and this was done then as well as during later periods of great philosophical corruption in Eastern lands – were divorcing the Science of Ends from the Science of Means. The whole karma of Western culture is a crude and awful reflection of the same psychological tendency.

The desire for knowledge is always pure, and the Means undertaken, if this End be genuinely in view, will not corrupt the practitioner. Aphorism 34 [Book III], in its suggestion that after long practice the ascetic can “disregard the various aids to concentration hereinbefore recommended,” is another indication that Patanjali’s whole emphasis was upon knowledge or understanding. The greatest teachers and instructors are never primarily concerned with the specific results which may be attained by a pupil; they are rather themselves concentrated upon aiding the student to understand the basic principles and theories of their science. This will be found to hold true even today in the meticulous disciplines of the physical sciences. “New Thought” practices are like irresponsible scientific experimentation; they produce results, but those results confuse, rather than improve the processes of thought.



APHORISM 28 (Book III): By concentrating his mind upon the moon, there arises in the ascetic a knowledge of the fixed stars.” How is this to be explained? In S.D. II, 701, it is said that “even great adepts, trained seers though they are, can claim acquaintance with the nature and appearance of planets and their inhabitants belonging to our solar system only.”

In the passage from the Secret Doctrine cited by the questioner, it is very plainly indicated that we are to regard the matter of “fixed stars” from the viewpoint of archaic as well as modern science. Our sun, however slowly, revolves around a fixed point in the Milky Way. It would appear, then, that Aphorism 29 [Book III] gives a clue to Aphorism 28 [Book III], by pointing us to the law of cycles, and stating that by concentration of the mind upon the polar star, the ascetic is able to know the fixed time and motion of every star in the universe. Since no atom in the universe is without life and consciousness and motion, and man’s principles are allied to the planets of our solar-system – their atoms and molecules in constant circulation – and since the ascetic can know of the spheres between the earth and sun (Aphorism 27 [Book III]), then, it must be that he can know, analogically, the rate of motion of our sun. The moon is not only the nearest geographical point of reference for the ascetic, but has also the strongest astral connection with our earth, of all the planets.

That the sun and moon are the deities of our planetary macro-cosmos, (S.D. II, 639 fn) is a clue to the intelligences using those mediums of expression, or motions. The Secret Doctrine statement quoted in the question also indicates quite another matter for our consideration, namely that the nature of the planets and their “inhabitants” outside our solar-system can not be thoroughly known even to high adepts, who can have access, even in spirit, only to the planes of consciousness within our solar system. The work of the highest adept is, after all, work in the context of a particular or historical cycle. Their activity requires specific knowledge of the evolutionary status of beings involved in our solar system, while like knowledge of the beings in other solar systems is unnecessary.

APHORISM 33 [Book III]: “By concentrating his mind upon the light in the head the ascetic acquires the power of seeing divine beings.” The note says that the seeing of divine beings can be accomplished by concentrating upon that part of the body more nearly connected with them.” But I would think that divine beings could be contacted only through one’s own divine nature–not through the BODY.

There is no form, however divine, which cannot be perceived through the medium of the body. In this instance, the head is said to collect some of “the luminous principle in nature,” and becomes an appropriate means or instrument for the faculty in question. The body thus serves to condense the more highly refined matter which is the substratum of such visions. As intimated by Aphorism 33 [Book III], this variety of substance is not an integral part of the physical organism. Yet it is connected with the more gross form of the brain. The highest powers come into use with the blending of the essences of all planes. Every being has, by definition, a Form, and this form can be perceived by the faculty of the total human organism which corresponds to the matter and qualities of appearance on that particular plane. There are “lives,” for instance, of differing development informing every one of the physical organs of man’s body, and each class of intelligence has a distinctive rapport with all life of that class and degree. The “Elementals” of Theosophical parlance are all “divine beings,” whether presently embodied or disembodied. The four lower principles of the seven-principled man serve as connecting links for the mind-soul in learning how to understand and finally to utilize the elemental forces of all nature.

(b) Then turn to Aphorism 52 [Book III] Why should one want to see divine beings, if it means to renew the afflictions of the mind? Aphorism 52 [Book III] suggests a very different point of view from Aphorism 33[Book III].

Aphorism 38 [Book III] described the nature of the “affliction” of the mind which Aphorism 52 [Book III] suggests may flow from association with celestial beings: “The powers hereinbefore described are liable to become obstacles in the way of perfect concentration, because of the possibility of wonder and pleasure from their exercise, but are not obstacles for the ascetic who is perfect in the practice enjoined.” It is then necessary to contrast “association” with “seeing,” since the vision mentioned in Aphorism 33 [Book III] could mean simply a clear perception that a divine luminousness exists in varying degrees with varying beings, yet to attempt definite contact or association might well be a mixing of karma and lead to the type of psychological confusion described.

Aphorism 39 [Book III]: The inner self of the ascetic may be transferred to any other body and there have complete control.” Is this the rationale of the borrowed body,” or does it simply mean the identifying of the ascetic’s mind with the mind of another – or both?

This Aphorism illustrates amply what Mr. Judge meant on page xi, Preface, by saying that Patanjali had no need to enforce the doctrine of reincarnation, and that it is assumed all through the Aphorisms. Here, we find the intimation that the ascetic consciously and voluntarily enters body after body, and assumes control in each one, because in preceding bodies that inner self had gained philosophical knowledge as well as the power to control bodily and sensory operations. All men use “borrowed bodies,” since all bodies are made up of terrestrial and chemical elements which are returned after the death of the body; but, the ascetic “borrows” in full knowledge of the process. The inner self does not attach itself to a “foreign” mind and body – that is, to a body not belonging to it under Karma.

It seems as if the questioner is considering the possibility of the ascetic controlling the will and choice of other minds. Such control would be utterly contrary to the science of Raja Yoga. All that may be done is to intensify the spiritual force of another mind, at that other’s wish and desire. It may be done by a sort of spiritual osmosis, or participation in the spiritual or luminous essence of the true adept. The case of “borrowed bodies” in a specific sense, when a body must be deserted by its inmate, and is taken over by one who knows how to do so, and who can use it for the benefit of mankind, follows the same occult law. There must be some karmic relationship between the one who is through with a particular body, and the one who is able to revivify it for a high purpose.

APHORISM 42 [Book III]: (a) By concentrating his mind upon the relations between the ear and AKASA, the ascetic acquires the power of hearing all sounds, whether upon the earth or in the aether, and whether far or near.” How relate this to Aphorism 17 [Book III]?

This Aphorism simply chooses another suggestive way of saying that all powers and faculties in the universe are related to man’s sevenfold organism. Here again an understanding of the Aphorism demands recognition of the fundamental occult fact that no knowledge is possible on any plane without a grasp of the principles which apply on all planes. Akasa is the universal principle corresponding to Sound, and once the ascetic can attune the physical organ of sound with the true medium of its transmission – the Akasa – no sound in the visible or invisible worlds would be beyond his power to hear. Aphorism 17 [Book III] discusses the “power of understanding the meaning of any sound uttered by any sentient being.” This might be regarded as the object to be held in view in the practice of Aphorism 42 [Book III], for unless a power is used to extend understanding, it does not become part of the soul, and therefore is lost at death.

(b) Science considers that sound is transmitted through material mediums, as earth, water, air; that each liquid and solid has a characteristic rate of sound transmission, and gases have a range of rates depending on their pressure; but in a void or vacuum there is no transmission of sound. What, then, is the basis of the note, saying that Sound is the distinctive property of aether, when physical vacuums do not affect the aether, but do affect physical sound?

It is a fundamental postulate of occultism that no absolute vacuum exists. A given area in space may be denuded of all those properties which act as known transmitting agents for the vibration of sound, while within that relative vacuum there are still forms of life and substance through which sound can be transmitted. It is necessary to recognize this principle, since, actually, for science as for occultism, there can be no break in the organic continuity of nature forces, even though such forces go through numerous transformations. A corollary from the science of today is suggested in the present investigation of supersonic waves and of innumerable sounds which cannot be recorded by the physical ear. From this it would follow most naturally that there are still other agencies of sound which as yet have not been represented by mathematical equation, nor given a place in the formulation of scientific theory.

Theosophy Magazine vol. 35



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