1.32 ततप्रतिषेधर्थम् एकतत्त्वाभ्यसः


tat – that, these; pratiṣedha – counteract, negating; artham – for the purpose; eka – one, single; tattva – essence, truth, reality, principle; abhyāsaḥ – practice:

These distractions can be counteracted by the practice of concentration upon a single truth or reality.

1.32 tat-pratiṣedhārtham-eka-tattvābhyāsaḥ

These distractions can be counteracted by the practice of concentration upon a single truth or reality.

Patañjali, earlier in the twelfth sūtra in this pāda, stated that “These states of mental fluctuation (vṛtti) cease by practice and by detachment.” So he mentions the characteristics of such “practice” (abhyāsa) in the verses that then followed, but here in this particular verse, he defines the specific nature of such practice as being, “concentration upon a single truth or reality.” However in the very pithy nature of sūtra writing, Patañjali does not name or elaborate on what that “single truth” is in this particular sūtra, and of course, that opens the door for many people to speculate about what that is. But knowing the context…or rather, within the context of everything else that has been stated, we know that truth (tattva) must be transcendental in nature, and it cannot be material.

Two of the characteristics of that which is spiritual, or transcendental is that, 1) it must be eternal, and 2) that it should not be subject to change, ever. When we consider those criteria in relation to the material energy, the material energy in all its forms manifests the characteristics of temporariness and of change – constant change. Therefore, meditation upon the material energy, as previously discussed…when it ever happened it was for the purpose of discovering the nature of the self, because of the contrasting natures of material and spiritual existence.

If you recall, there were previous mentions… contemplation upon the buddhis, the mahat-tattva – the different aspects or manifestations of this material energy. So material delusion is really founded upon the principle of considering the body, or that which is temporary and subject to change, as being the self – who I am – which is eternal and changeless. The self is eternal, and it is changeless, but the body is not. So, meditation upon the material energy, can therefore assist in an awareness of the ātmā or puruṣa and its nature, but this meditation is not the topmost pure transcendental absorption. Within some different yoga processes…within a Sāṅkhya yoga process for instance, there is often a reference to a specific term meaning ‘not that.’

In this type of reflection, one considers different things, and considers whether that is me… like for example, when one considers the body to be the self, which is the overwhelming illusion that is experienced by almost all living beings. If I were to have a limb amputated there would be a recognition that ‘I’ still exist. It is not like now only 80% of me, or 85% of me exists – that I have become less. No, I am still whole. And so, in this way the yogis would even meditate upon their different limbs, the different sense organs and consider this did not…if it was no longer attached to this body would I still exist? And their answer would be yes, I do still exist. And so, in this way they would draw the conclusion that the body is not the self.

So, any reflection upon the material energy was generally done as part of a meditation to discover the distinction between myself – the pure spiritual being, and the nature of the material energy. The idea of so-called meditation upon a beautiful sunset or an amazing natural landscape is not actually or factually a spiritual undertaking, if it is devoid of a link to the ātmā or the paramātma. There is… the absorption in things that are beautiful and natural, and peaceful…what they do, is help the living being become more influenced by what is called sattva guna – the mode of goodness. And that is why people feel a great deal of peacefulness and even happiness in these forms or types of meditation. But that peacefulness that they are experiencing, or happiness, is not purely transcendental and it’s very much in what is called the mode of goodness. In the yoga system, one was actually advised to seek to become free from the influence of rajas and tamas – of passion and ignorance – and to be more situated in the mode of goodness, where one can actually experience a very deep sense of peace and happiness, as I mentioned. But what it does is sets up the living entity – it puts you in an environment or a state of consciousness where you become more inclined towards that which is transcendental, whereas when one is more influenced by the modes of passion and ignorance, one is not generally very inclined in those states towards a transcendental absorption. One tends to become more absorbed in that which is temporary; that which is material.

Apart from meditation upon the ātma or paramātma, it is meditation upon the parampuruṣa – the Supreme puruṣa, or Īśvara, that best fits the instruction of this sūtra. And it is the intent of Patañjali, given his two statements in the previous ślokas – twenty-seven and twenty-eight, where he had stated: “The transcendental sound personifying Him is AUṀ.”  And this is in reference to Īśvara. And then: “That sound AUṀ should be recited repeatedly and meditated upon contemplating its meaning.” So, contemplating its meaning, means to contemplate the characteristics, the qualities, and the nature of this Divine Personality – Īśvara, who is the puruṣa-viśeṣa; who is the special puruṣa, unlike all other puruṣas.

The conclusive Vedic teachings (siddhānta) on this matter, deal with the nature of the ultimate reality as being Īśvara, and all of His manifest spiritual energies – that is, the puruṣa or ātma is included within the vast spiritual energies of Īśvara. So, if someone asks why Patañjali is not more specific here, we should understand that this sūtra is very consistent with the very pithy nature of sūtra writing as a genre, where things are expressed in a very concise and brief way. But we should also consider the fact that Patañjali was writing for a knowledgeable audience, who were steeped… I mean really steeped, in the vast ocean of Vedic truth. And this is evidenced by… as we stated before, his use of naming just one item in a list, and then going ‘etcetera,’ or when he mentions… for instance, in one place there are five things, but then he does not actually name them, was because these things were commonly known.

And so it is within this context, that this reference to a single truth or ultimate reality actually references the highest spiritual reality, which is Īśvara. Thank you very much.