2.40 – Through cleanliness of one’s body comes the avoidance of death and disease.

शौचात् स्वाङ्गजुगुप्सा परैरसंसर्गः ॥४०॥

sauchat sva-anga jugupsa paraih asamsargah

  • sauchat – purity; cleanliness
  • sva – of self; one’s self; one’s own
  • anga – limbs; body; division; parts
  • jugupsa – detestable; disgust; dislike
  • paraih – others; adverse; end or limit; crossing; the other side
  • asamsargah – avoidance of contact with; non-association with

2.41 – The purifying force of nature brings cheerfulness, focused intent, mastery of the senses, and the capacity for Self-realization.

सत्त्वशुद्धिः सौमनस्यैकाग्र्येन्द्रियजयात्मदर्शन योग्यत्वानि च ॥४१॥

sattva shuddhi saumanasya ekagra indriya jaya atma darshana yogyatvani cha

  • sattva – primal force of luminosity; subtlest aspect of the intellect (buddhi)
  • shuddhi – purification
  • saumanasya – cheerfulness; gladness; delight
  • ekagra – one-pointed; intent; concentrated; focused
  • indriya – – senses; sense organ; power of the senses
  • jaya – victory; mastery
  • atma – the Self; soul; Spirit
  • darshana – seeing; observing; experiencing; presence; view; philosophy
  • yogyatvani – capacity; competence
  • cha – and; also; both

2.42 – From contentment, one attains the highest happiness.

संतोषातनुत्तमस्सुखलाभः ॥४२॥

santosha anuttamah sukha labhah

  • santosha – contentment
  • anuttamah – highest; unsurpassed
  • sukha – pleasure; delight; happiness
  • labhah – gain; obtain; receive

2.43 – Self-discipline destroys impurities and brings perfect mastery of the body and senses.

कायेन्द्रियसिद्धिरशुद्धिक्षयात् तपसः ॥४३॥

kaya indriya siddhih ashuddhi ksayat tapasah

  • kaya – the body
  • indriya – senses; sense organ; power of the senses
  • siddhih – perfection; powers; attainment
  • ashuddhi – impurity
  • ksayat – weaken; destroy; diminish
  • tapasah – self-discipline; heat; fire; warmth; austerity

2.44 – Self-reflection and study of sacred texts brings conscious communion with one’s desired form of Awareness.

स्वाध्यायादिष्टदेवता संप्रयोगः ॥४४॥

svadhyayat ishta devata samprayogah

  • svadhyayat – self-study; self-reflection; to recite; repeated recitation; recitation of sacred texts; recitation of mantras
  • ishta – loved; beloved; favorite; cherished; desired
  • devata – deity; Goddess or God; Divinity; Awareness
  • samprayogah – communion; joining together; union; connection

2.45 – Surrender to Awareness brings perfect unity with it.

समाधि सिद्धिःीश्वरप्रणिधानात् ॥४५॥

samadhi siddhih ishvara-pranidhana

  • samadhi – unity consciousness; union of subject and object; bringing together; deep absorption
  • siddhih – perfection; powers; attainment
  • ishvara-pranidhana – surrender to Awareness; devotion to God

Commentary on Sutras 2.40—2.45:

The niyamas are the positive traits we need to develop in order to stabilize higher states. The first is purity (sauca). And Patanjali devotes two verses to this niyama that describe the benefits of external cleanliness and the psychological benefits of internal purity.

The external practice of regular bathing and clean eating creates a robust immune system that protects the body from disease. And meditation acts as a psychological bath that purifies the mind and senses. When our field of consciousness is pure, it becomes easier for us to focus, control the senses, and recognize the Presence of Spirit.

This state of purification and upliftment allows us to practice the next niyama, contentment (santosha). Contentment is the ability to be in the reality of the moment without desiring it to be any other way. It’s the sweet feeling of ease and serenity, the knowing that all is eternally well. Patanjali tells us that this practice brings the highest happiness.

True contentment comes when we’re centered in the Presence of Spirit. It’s the recognition that, at our core, we are complete and whole, that there’s nothing outside ourselves we need.

The third through the fifth observances make up the practice of kriya yoga as described by Patanjali—self-discipline, Self-reflection, and surrender to Awareness. They are a complete path in themselves which is unpacked to reveal the more detailed way of ashtanga yoga, the eight-limbed practice laid out in Sutra 2.29. They are then integrated into the second limb, the niyamas, described here.

The benefits of these practices are:

  • Tapas (self-discipline) – perfect mastery of the body and senses
  • Svadhyaya (Self-reflection) – conscious communion with Awareness
  • Ishvara Pranidhana – perfect unity with Awareness

While the yamas involve pulling our attention away from destructive traits, the niyamas show us how to direct it toward the highest reality. Through tapas, self-discipline, we acquire the ability to do both. Initially, the friction of resistance will bring the heat of discomfort, but as described in Sutra 2.42, contentment will follow. And that will bring the highest happiness. But in the beginning, lifestyle changes will be experienced as a disturbance we must work through.

Through svadhyaya, Self-reflection, we will come into conscious communion Awareness Itself. The pain will begin to lessen, then dissolve. Self-reflection involves the practices of meditation, introspection, inquiry, and the study and recitation of sacred texts and mantras.

In the tradition, the study of sacred texts helps us discover our chosen form of deity (Ishta-devata). And once we discover the form we resonate with the most, we can practice japa (the recitation of that deity’s mantra). For some, the Ishta-devata may be the formless, innermost Self. For others, it may be a deity such as Ganesha, Shiva, Krishna, Kali, or to Jesus, Allah, or Tara. The nondual traditions teach that any form of deity worshiped is an aspect of your own Awareness. In other words, it is not a god which is separate and external from you.

Whatever form (or formlessness) one chooses should inspire a strong sense of devotion. It should open something deep inside the heart. An Ishta-devata gives the yogi a form to focus on and direct their energies toward. In the advanced stages of practice, all form gives way to formlessness. All aspects of the divine we were aware of are left behind until only Awareness Itself remains.

Through the last niyama, surrender to Awareness (Ishvara pranidhana), perfect unity with the Divine is experienced. That unity is samadhi or yoga, the subject of this entire treatise.