3.30 – Samyama on the navel chakra brings knowledge of the structure and systems of the body.
नाभिचक्रे कायव्यूहज्ञानम् ॥२९॥
nabhi chakra kaya vyuha jnanam
- nabhi – navel
- chakra – energy center; circular; wheel
- kaya – the body
- vyuha – arrangement; structure; formation
- jnanam – knowledge; awareness
3.31 – By samyama on the pit of the throat, hunger and thirst are overcome.
कन्ठकूपे क्षुत्पिपासा निवृत्तिः ॥३०॥
kantha kupe ksut pipasa nivrittih
- kantha – throat
- kupe – well; pit; hole; cave
- ksut – hunger
- pipasa – thirst
- nivrittih – no movement; inactivity
3.32 – Samyama on kurma nadi (either located below the throat or at the base of the spine – see commentary) brings steadiness.
कूर्मनाड्यां स्थैर्यम् ॥३१॥
kurma nadyam sthairyam
- kurma – tortoise
- nadyam – subtle energy channel; nerve
- sthairyam – steadiness; stability; firmness; constancy
3.33 – By samyama on the light at the crown chakra, one perceives what the masters perceive.
मूर्धज्योतिषि सिद्धदर्शनम् ॥३२॥
murdha jyotisi siddha darshanam
- murdha – the crown of the head; the peak; highest point
- jyotisi – on the light
- siddha – master; perfected one; sage
- darshanam – seeing; observing; experiencing; presence; view; philosophy
3.34 – Or, through a flash of intuitive insight, all is revealed.
प्रातिभाद्वा सर्वम् ॥३३॥
pratibhat va sarvam
- pratibhat – flash of intuitive insight; shine upon; to make clear or manifest; a revelation
- va – or
- sarvam – all; every
3.35 – Samyama on the heart center brings full knowledge of the field of consciousness.
ह्र्डये चित्तसंवित् ॥३४॥
hirdaye chitta samvit
- hirdaye – the heart
- chitta – consciousness; field of consciousness; reflecting; mind; thought
- samvit – to know; to be aware of
Commentary on Sutras 3.30—3.35:
Patanjali takes us from the macro to the micro, contrasting the practice of samyama on distant celestial objects with samyama on various centers within the body. The first in this list is the navel chakra, which in the later tantric tradition became known as manipura chakra. It’s an interesting lead-in because manipura is the sun of the body. It’s the seat of agni, representing both the digestive and spiritual fire.
Just as samyama on the sun brings knowledge of the worlds, samyama on the inner sun at the navel brings knowledge of the structure and systems of the body. By examining the level of our inner fire, we can gain insight into the health of our internal organs and the overall condition of our immune system. Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, gives great importance to agni and provides us with methods for balancing it.
Whether Patanjali meant this or not, Sutra 3.30 leads nicely into the next sutra because when our digestive fire is burning high, we can experience a sharp hunger or thirst. And we’re told in 3.31 that the yogi can regulate their appetite through samyama on the throat chakra.
Sutra 3.32 (samyama on kurma nadi) is similar to 3.29 (samyama on the polestar) in that both help us become steady and centered. The term kurma means “tortoise,” and *nadi” means “energy channel.” There’s some debate as to the exact location of this particular channel. Most say it’s located between the chest and the throat. But some scholars position it at the base of the spine in what later became known as muladhara chakra.
The muladhara theory makes sense because of an old Indian myth about the world resting on the back of a turtle. (Interestingly, this myth also shows up in Native American mythology.) In the same way, the spinal column and chakra system rest on muladhara chakra, which is also the seat of the earth element, the most steady and stable of the five elements. In fact, “earth” is another definition of the word kurma.
Whatever the case, when we rest our attention on any of the nadis or chakras, we become more calm and steady. And Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are not meant to be a standalone manual for our practice. To apply the principles of the text effectively, we should receive guidance from the teachings of a living tradition. Our personal tradition and inner discernment will guide us toward the desired results.
Sutra 3.33 tells us we will perceive what the masters perceive if we practice samyama on the light at the crown chakra. However, we should be cautious here because intensive meditation on the crown, without a strongly developed foundation throughout the rest of the chakra system, can leave us spaced out and ungrounded.
The masters of yoga can effortlessly abide in sahasrara, aka the thousand-petaled-lotus, the highest of all the chakras. And what the masters perceive is the wide open sky of Awareness known as chidakasha in Sanskrit. Chidakasha is the infinite expanse of Pure Consciousness, eternal, unbounded Awareness.
Or, through a flash of intuitive insight, all knowledge is revealed (3.34). In other words, at any moment, if we are open to the influence of grace, that sky of Awareness can descend upon us as a lightning bolt of awakening.
Patanjali introduced us to this idea in the middle of chapter one in Sutras 1.20—1.23, where he tells us:
- Higher samadhi (seedless samadhi) can come through intuitive insight.
- For one with an intense desire for the freedom of Awareness, samadhi is near.
- The closeness of that samadhi depends on whether one’s training is mild, moderate, or intensive.
- Or samadhi can come through surrender to Awareness.
We can prepare ourselves for the lightning bolt of awakening by cultivating a deep longing for truth, training intensively, and surrendering to Awareness. Of these, surrender is the key to a balanced and sustainable practice and will keep us from becoming frantic and fanatical.
Sutra 3.35 brings us back into the body, where we focus on the heart center. Through samyama here, the full knowledge of chitta is revealed. Chitta is our field of consciousness containing all of our mental/emotional/instinctual makeup. Patanjali first introduces us to the term in Sutra 1.2, where he states that when all the fluctuations in chitta are still, we experience yoga—the bringing together (yoking) of our attention and Awareness.
Through the practice of samyama on the heart center, we can comprehend the whole of our lower nature. In other words, we see under the hood, getting a view of the conditionings, patterns, thought constructs, tendencies, and karmic residue below.
While we got an immersive experience of our Self through a flash of intuition or samyama on the light at the crown, now we see the work that still needs to be done if we’re to abide in that highest state.