3.19 – By samyama on another’s ideas, one gains knowledge of their state of consciousness.

प्रत्ययस्य परचित्तज्ञानम् ॥१९॥

pratyayasya para chitta jnana

  • pratyayasya – of the contents of consciousness; mental content; idea; notion; cognition; conception
  • para – another; other
  • chitta – consciousness; field of consciousness; reflecting; mind; thought
  • jnana – knowledge; awareness

3.20 – But the supporting content of the other’s state of consciousness remains out of reach.

न च तत् सालम्बनं तस्याविषयीभूतत्वात् ॥२०॥

na cha tat salambana tasya avisayin bhutatvat

  • na – no; not
  • cha – and; also; both
  • tat – that
  • salambana – supporting
  • tasya – of that; his; her
  • avisayin – out of reach; absence; not having an object
  • bhutatvat – of being; of existence

Commentary on Sutras 3.19 and 3.20:

When our field of consciousness is still and concentrated, we can intuitively sense another person’s state of consciousness and get a feel for their subtle thought processes and intentions. And that can help us cultivate empathy and attunement.

This sutra has nothing to do with gaining control over others so we can manipulate them for selfish purposes. Instead, the deeper we progress spiritually, the less egocentric we will become. Developing attunement with others will make us more aware of their needs and allow us to become better servants.

The first step in gaining insight into the states of consciousness of others is to gain an intimate understanding of our own. That is achieved by the daily practice of meditation and by calmly observing our thoughts, moods, and states of consciousness throughout the day.

We can trace some of our own constructs and tendencies back to their seed form and then work to remove them. But the subtle samskaras within another’s field of consciousness remain out of our reach. We can’t step inside another’s mind and influence their karma. While this may be possible for some advanced yogis who serve as gurus (see Sutra 3.39), it’s not the purpose of this particular samyama practice.