tadā – then; draṣṭuḥ – the seer (individual self); svarūpe – one’s own form, essential nature, form; avasthānam – stands, abides, situated, resides
Upon achieving the condition of yoga (samādhi), the seer (individual self) abides in his own spiritual form/nature.
In the previous verse Patañjali spoke about the cessation of all activities that manifest from material consciousness – the activities that generally take place within the mind. It’s very interesting that Vyāsa, in his commentary style, generally puts a question before the śloka, or the sūtra, which is used as a device to understand the sūtra as being an answer to this question, thereby providing context to comprehend it. And the question that Vyāsa puts here is fundamentally that, “when the mind and consciousness are no longer absorbed in that which is material, what will be the nature of the puruṣa?” Now, looking at the English synonyms for the Sanskrit words:
Tadā, means ‘then’, and draṣṭuḥ is another form of this word often used by Patañjali the ‘seer’ meaning the – the individual spiritual ‘self’, who is the actual perceiver. In using the word ‘seer’, he is not intending that it is the process of physical sight. It is actually used in a more metaphorical way.
When we closely observe how sensual perception takes place, with physical sight for instance, light strikes an object and then bouncing off it, enters the lens in the eye and stimulates photosensitive cells in the back of the eyeball, which are then agitated to produce electrical impulses. Those electrical impulses travel down the optic nerve and stimulate the visual cortex of the brain. When you look at the mechanism of seeing (physical sight), the mechanism does not explain how we actually see. When asked how is it that you can see, most people say, “Well it’s because I’ve got eyes.” But actually, the eyes don’t truly ‘see’. They just allow light and images from the transformations of light to enter, and to stimulate the back of the eye – the photosensitive cells that then create electrical impulses. So how is seeing actually taking place?
This is a very big subject, and of course in modern times, as with the interest in quantum physics, they also examine this phenomenon in a focused way, and have begun to question where and how perception is actually taking place. The yogi’s, who would engage in these activities as part of the journey towards self-discovery, understood that, like a movie screen, the mind becomes the repository for sensory perception, and is also like a movie screen, upon which all the different sensual perceptions are projected. But who is it sitting in that movie house and looking at the screen? Who is the one that’s actually observing? The entity doing the actual observing is named by Patanjali, as ‘the seer’. And so here in this verse, we begin to examine the nature of that seer.
The next word, svarūpe, sva means ‘one’s own’, meaning its inherently part of you. And the word rūpa literally means ‘form’. So svarūpe means one’s own form or on a deeper level, one’s essential nature. The next word avasthānam means that one stands, abides, resides, or is situated in, that condition or state.
So when we look at the ideas within this sūtra and the previous one together, we have an interesting flow. “When the endless mental fluctuations and modifications (vṛtti), which characterize material consciousness, are suspended or arrested, that is Yoga. Upon achieving the condition of yoga ( samādhi), the seer (individual self) abides in his own spiritual form or nature.” This is an amazing and extremely import idea that’s been presented by Patañjali.
I would just like to bring your attention to three of the words from the second sutra in the first pāda. And that is yogaś citta and nirodhaḥ .
yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ 1.2
draṣṭuḥ svarūpe ‘vasthānam 1.3
When the endless mental fluctuations and modifications (vṛtti), which characterize material consciousness, are suspended or arrested, that is Yoga. 1.2
Upon achieving the condition of yoga (samādhi), the seer (individual self) abides in his own spiritual form/nature. 1.3
Now, let us compare this with a verse in the sixth chapter, Dhyāna-yoga, of the Bhagavad-gītā.
yatroparamate cittaṁ niruddhaṁ yoga-sevayā
yatra caivātmanātmānaṁ paśyann ātmani tuṣyati 6.20
yatra—in that state of affairs where; uparamate—cease (because one feels transcendental happiness); cittam—mental activities; niruddham—being restrained from matter; yoga-sevayā—by performance of yoga; yatra—in which; ca—also; eva—certainly; ātmanā—by the pure mind; ātmānam—the self; paśyan—realizing the position of; ātmani—in the self; tuṣyati—one becomes satisfied;
In the stage of perfection called trance, or samādhi, one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one’s ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. 6.20
There is an amazing similarity between the verse in the Bhagavad-gīta, and the two sutras above.
The verse in the Bhagavad-gītā is in the chapter where the process and the end result of meditation are explained. We have these three words – cittaṁ niruddhaṁ yoga. While the term yoga here is used to identify the performance, or the activities, or engagement in the process of yoga, it could also be understood as Patañjali used it in the second sūtra. This verse, could in fact be used to further expound upon, or even replace the two sutras of Patañjali:
When Patañjali speaks of the svarūpe – the essential form or nature of the seer, he does not expand on this. He has chosen not to speak further to this subject, and we can see that his focus – at least at this point, and through much of the Yoga-sūtra, is primarily on the contemplative process of meditation to attain samādhi, and the very nature of the mind that needs to be overcome or dealt with, by the practitioner or aspirant – the sādhaka, or the yogi.
Of course, we can ask, “Well why doesn’t he say anything about the actual nature of the living being?” We cannot actually say, and nor do I think it is appropriate to speculate on his reason, but I find it of great interest myself, primarily because of the way in which I have also been instructed and taught by my gurus. – My spiritual teachers taught that there can be different experiences of self-realization.
Full self-realization means the realization of one’s (the ātmā’s) actual essence, position, and natural function. My Guru Maharaj told me, that with anything you want to examine and know the truth about, it is essential to know what its essence is: What constitutes it? What is it made from? What is the essence of this object we’re seeking to understand? Position relates to: Where does it fit in the bigger scope of things? What is the nature of my connection or relationship with other living beings – other spiritual beings? What is my connection or relationship with the material world in which I find myself in this embodied state? that the answers to these questions explain where the object will ‘fit’ within its environment. And the third part of knowing something in truth, is to understand its natural function: In its pure and uncontaminated state, what is the natural function of this object? And here we are referring to the ātmā – the spiritual being, or the self.
So the process of self-realization can be experienced in a realization of one’s essence, one’s position – which also includes the realization of my essence, and a realization of one’s natural function, which includes the realization of my essence and position. There is a correlation between these three experiences of self-realization and what we can broadly term as God realization, or realization of the highest Truth, the Ultimate Truth.
While spiritual realization of my essence is considered the perfection of human existence, the understanding and realization of my position is even more perfect, with realization of the natural function of the eternal being categorized as most perfect. We will explore this subject further as we go forward.