1.32 – The disturbances can be neutralized by meditating on a single principle of reality.
tat pratisedha artham eka tattva abhyasah
- tat – that
- pratisedha – neutralize; prevent; restrain; negate
- artham – for the sake of; for the purpose of; objects; forms
- eka – one
- tattva – principle; essence
- abhyasah – training; practice; discipline; habit; drill
1.33 – The field of consciousness becomes tranquil by cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward joy, compassion toward suffering, happiness toward virtue, and dispassion toward vice.
मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षाणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातः चित्तप्रसादनम् ॥३३॥
maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam
- maitri – friendliness; amity; good will
- karuna – compassion; empathy
- mudita – joy; rejoicing in; gladness
- upekshanam – dispassion; disregard; indifference
- sukha – pleasure; delight; happiness
- duhka – suffering; misery; grief; distress; pain; unease
- punya – virtuous; righteous; good works
- apunya – nonvirtuous; vice; unrighteous; evil deeds
- vishayanam – relating to; adjacent to
- bhavanatah – contemplation; dwelling upon; absorption in; building; developing; cultivating
- chitta – consciousness; field of consciousness; reflecting; mind; thought
- prasadanam – clearing; calming; soothing; appeasing; tranquilizing
1.34 – Tranquility is also established by the practice of pranayama.
प्रच्छर्दनविधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य ॥३४॥
prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama
- prachchhardana – exhaling
- vidharanabhyam – retention; restraining
- va – or
- pranasya – of breath; of vital energy
1.35 – Or by focusing the mind on subtle rising sensory perceptions.
विषयवती वा प्रवृत्तिरुत्पन्ना मनसः स्थितिनिबन्धिनी ॥३५॥
vishayavati va pravritti utpanna manasah sthiti nibandhani
- vishayavati – of the objects of the senses
- va – or
- pravritti – perception; cognition of; activity; rise; flow
- utpanna – born; risen; to come forth; appeared
- manasah – mental; of the mind
- sthiti – focused; fixedness; sustaining; maintaining; stabilizing; steadiness; inertia
- nibandhani – firmly established; bond; tie
1.36 – Or by meditation on the luminous field beyond all sorrow.
विशोका वा ज्योतिष्मती ॥३६॥
vishoka va jyotishmati
- vishoka – free from sorrow
- va – or
- jyotishmati – luminous; glowing; radiant
1.37 – Or by contemplating a mind which is free from all attachments.
वीतरागविषयम् वा चित्तम् ॥३७॥
vita raga vishayam va chittam
- vita – free from; devoid of; gone away; disappeared; departed
- raga – attachment; passion; desire; longing
- vishayam – object of sensory experience; content; subject matter; impressions
- va – or
- chittam – consciousness; the field of consciousness; reflecting; mind; thought
1.38 – Or by sustained awareness of the states of dreaming and deep sleep.
स्वप्ननिद्राज्ञानालम्बनमं वा ॥३८॥
svapna nidra jnana alambanam va
- svapna – dream
- nidra – deep sleep; slumber
- jnana – knowledge; awareness
- alambanam – base; sustaining; support; foundation; depending on; resting upon
- va – or
1.39 – Or by meditation on anything one desires.
yatha abhimata dhyanat va
- yatha – as
- abhimata – wished; desired; loved; liked
- dhyanat – by meditation
- va – or
Commentary on Sutras 1.32—1.39
In Sutra 1.29 we learn that all obstructions to the inward flow of consciousness are removed through the contemplation of OM. Now, in this series of sutras, we’re given more methods to help us overcome the obstacles to freedom.
Meditating on a Tattva
Patanjali tells us that all disturbances in consciousness created by the nine types of obstacles can be neutralized by meditating on a single principle of reality—a tattva. All tattvas are manifestations of OM. They’re all vibrations of Awareness. By meditating on one vibratory frequency at the exclusion of all others, consciousness becomes focused, the disturbances dissolve, and tranquility is restored.
Sutras 1.33—1.39 provide examples of tattvas for samyama practice.
Cultivating Right Attitudes in Relationships
Sutra 1.33 is about creating harmonious relationships. It’s easy to become stressed and off-center while relating to others. If we’re in a lower state and encounter someone happier than us, we may become annoyed at their positivity. If our hearts our closed, we become insensitive to the suffering of others. Jealousy might arise if we see someone doing good in the world or achieving success. Or, we might get pulled into drama when we associate with those going through it or stressed by the state of the world after watching the news.
Through the meditative cultivation of friendliness toward the joy of others, compassion toward their suffering, happiness toward their virtue, and dispassion toward their vices, we can maintain an open heart and a pure and tranquil mind.
No matter what drama unfolds around us, we can remain centered and peaceful. Our presence can become a calming influence on all those we encounter.
Another way to smooth out the troublesome ripples in consciousness is to direct our attention to the breath.
The breath is a bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind. It’s the action of the autonomous nervous system (normally carried out by the unconscious mind) which is easiest to bring under conscious control. Knowing this, we can override restricting subconscious conditionings by using various breathing techniques to create desirable responses within the body.
We can trigger a relaxation response by using deep, diaphragmatic breathing with slightly longer exhalations than inhalations. The parasympathetic nervous system then becomes more dominant, and heart rate variability is established. When that happens, there’s a reduction in cortisol and adrenaline levels and an upswing in mood-enhancing chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins.
Pranayama balances the energy flows of the body. It clears a pathway through which dormant forces can rise and higher states of consciousness can unfold. Through the practice of pranayama, we become empowered. Rather than remaining slaves to our conditionings, we can break free of habit-driven lower states of mental dullness, doubt, laziness, etc. With the help of the breath, we can yoke (remember, the word “yoga” means “to yoke”) all of our energies toward our highest purpose, the liberation of consciousness.
Meditation on Subtle Sensory Perceptions
During periods of deep meditation, inner perceptions may arise. For example, we may sense subtle sounds, various colored lights, delicate tastes or scents, or blissful sensations. Like a mantra or the breath, we can use these subtle perceptions as objects of meditation. The idea is to trace them back to their source. And the finer the object of meditation, the easier this process becomes. For this reason, subtle perceptions can be powerful aids.
It’s important to remember that subtle sensory perceptions are not necessarily signs of higher consciousness. Some beginners may experience them, while some advanced practitioners may not. The perceptions themselves are of little importance. They may even become obstacles if we get attached to them.
So rather than chasing after lights and bells, our primary focus should be increasing awareness of the sacred Presence within and around us. But if we do encounter subtle perceptions, we can draw them in as part of the flow and use them to help us establish the inner current that will nourish our growth.
Absorption in the Luminous Field
As we move beyond our thoughts and emotions we may experience Presence as a radiant field. That field is the light of the Self. Through higher meditation, we can bathe in it, wash our sorrows away, and emerge cleansed and renewed.
The more often we return to the source of inner radiance, the more it transforms us. Stress, tensions, and fears dissolve, our health improves, and our mind grows clear and sharp.
It’s easy to identify people who have regular access to this field. The reflection of the inner light shines within their eyes. Smiles and laughter come quickly to them, and they are warm and approachable.
Bliss is the most refined of all the layers of our existence. It’s the backdrop of reality, the subtle sweetness behind all experiences. Meditation on the luminous field reveals this truth and allows us to live from that place of innate joy.
Meditation on the Mind of a Master
Some spiritual adepts, free from all attachments and aversions, continuously abide in a state of joy and clarity. Such a being is known as a jivamukti, a free yet embodied soul.
What would it be like to live without attachments? How would it feel to move freely through the world, enjoying the beauty of nature, the taste of good food, the touch of a lover, the company of close friends—but to be untethered to anything or anyone?
In this sutra, Patanjali is encouraging us to step inside the consciousness of a free being. He wants us to explore life through their eyes so we might get a taste of their enlightened existence.
In lower conditioned states, we encounter a person or object we find attractive, then grasp on and refuse to let go. We attach ourselves to how things were in a particular place or time, then suffer when our bodies grow old, close friends and relatives pass on, or we lose our wealth, health, or both.
The enlightened remain detached from the world. But not detached in the way we may think. They immerse themselves fully in the waters of life yet remain unaffected by its turbulence. They feel all the raw intensity of emotions, then let them pass through. They experience heightened sensations of pleasure and pain without grasping on or pulling away from either.
Sustaining Awareness During Dreams and Deep Sleep
We all get glimpses of unrestricted Awareness. One of the easiest times to access this is in the stillness of the night when no distractions are present. In Sutra 1.38, we’re invited to carry our practice into those hours by cultivating a sustained awareness of the states of dreaming and deep sleep.
Researchers say that most of us dream 4-6 times a night for a total of close to 2 hours. But most of us forget all but a few of the more vivid details and have little or no recollection of our time in deep sleep.
Advanced yogis have access to a state beyond waking, dreaming, and deep sleep called “turiya,” which means “the fourth”. That fourth state of consciousness is always present but mostly unnoticed. It’s the state of pure witnessing, observing, or seeing.
From the perspective of the changeless witness, they watch all our states come and go. As the witness, they silently observe all their daily actions. And at night, take in dreams the way most people watch movies. They can even remain aware during the empty nothingness of deep, dreamless sleep while resting fully in the arms of Awareness.
We can learn to cultivate this perpetual lucidity. One way to begin is by setting the intention to become aware of the transitions between states. Intentions carry power. For example, many of us have had the experience of deciding to wake up at a certain time, then coming to at that exact moment. In the same way, we can train ourselves to be aware of the process of waking up by simply setting the intention to do so.
Often, as that moment approaches, we’re dreaming of something. Then the dream fades, and we begin to notice our body. At that juncture, when the tide of sleep is flowing out and the new day is moving in, we can glimpse the always-present motionless state of turiya.
It’s like watching a movie and noticing the screen when the credits roll. Just as we’re not aware of the screen when we’re absorbed in the drama of the film, we become so absorbed in our waking or dreaming activities that we remain unaware of the screen of consciousness behind them.
At the junction of sleep and waking, consciousness becomes very still, like how it would be if all of our conditionings were wiped clean. In that timeless second, before we become aware of the body or absorbed in thoughts about the day, there are no ripples, no colorings, just our natural state. Our conditionings (samskaras), which create the waves in consciousness, are inactive, and we get an undistorted glimpse of the reflection of Awareness.
The more we experience and contemplate this, the more we notice it throughout the day. We see it in the breaks between actions, the gaps between thoughts, and the pauses between breaths. Eventually, the noticing of turiya gives way to a state called “turiyatita,” meaning “beyond the fourth.” This is another way of describing the unified state of yoga, the ceaseless recognition of our true nature.
Meditating on Whatever You Desire
The last method Patanjali gives for overcoming disturbances is to meditate on anything we desire. It’s easy to become absorbed in what we’re attracted to. Is there a particular form of the Divine you resonate with? A mantra that you find compelling? Use that as your vehicle.
Some people become transported by devotional chanting or affirmative prayer. Others are either disinterested or repelled by this approach but find great pleasure in contemplating metaphysical principles or in the practice of Self-inquiry.
The path of yoga is an exploration of consciousness. So try following your inspiration rather than blindly following a teaching or a prescriptive set of techniques. Become curious and see where your intuition leads.
Some people may take this as a license to reject all their training and blindly follow their bliss. But remember, a musician can only engage in improv after they’ve mastered their instrument.