4.19 – Consciousness is not self-luminous, it is observed (by Awareness).

न तत्स्वाभासं दृश्यत्वात् ॥१९॥

na tat svabhasam drishyatvat

  • na – no; not
  • tat – that
  • sva-bhasam – self-luminous
  • drishyatvat – observed; perceived; the seen

4.20 – Because of this, consciousness cannot reflect both Awareness and external objects at the same time.

एक समये चोभयानवधारणम् ॥२०॥

eka-samaye cha ubhaye anavadharanam

  • eka-samaye – at the same time
  • cha – and; also; both
  • ubhaye – both
  • anavadharanam – not able to ascertain; inattentive; not aware of

Commentary on Sutras 4.19 and 4.20:

Consciousness is not self-luminous. But because of the veil of avidya (spiritual ignorance), we are conditioned to believe it is. Out of our conditionings, we construct a false-self that believes it shines by its own light and acts of its own accord. We forget that our Self, our innermost Awareness, illuminates our consciousness.

From the limited viewpoint of consciousness, we can either look out into the world of form or inward toward formless Awareness. We can’t do both at the same time.

Usually, our attention is focused outward through the senses into the world. And so we reflect only the material aspect of existence and believe it’s the only reality.

That’s why our yoga practice is so important. It teaches us to direct our attention inward so our consciousness can perceive Awareness. Eventually, we identify as Awareness rather than any external form.

Throughout the process, we learn to focus on a single object at the exclusion of all others. We also learn to sink back into Awareness and gain a partial view of It and the object together. Eventually, we transcend the object and perceive only Awareness.

An awakened master, who fully abides in the light of Awareness, can be simultaneously conscious of the world and Awareness. That is because their locus, their default center of functioning, is Awareness Itself, which is self-luminous.