1.37 वितरगविषयं वा चित्तम्

vīta-rāga-viṣayaṁ vā cittam

vīta – free from, absence; raga – desire, attachment; viṣayaṁ – for sense objects; vā – or; cittam – mind:

Stability is also attained by contemplation upon a saintly yogi whose mind is free from material desires.

1.37  vīta-rāga-viṣayaṁ vā cittam  

Stability is also attained by contemplation upon a saintly yogi whose mind is free from material desires.

In this sūtra, Patañjali does not specifically state “saintly yogi” or “transcendentalist”, however, it is implied by referencing a mind or rather, more accurately, a state of consciousness which is free from ‘raga’. Raga refers to material desire or to material attachment. So, such a state is found of course in the topmost transcendentalists and meditating upon such a personality advances one towards the goal of yoga – that is, samādhi. So, this sūtra is very pithy, of course, and condensed. And it contains within it probably one of the most important of spiritual principles that a sincere aspirant must adopt in order to succeed in achieving the highest goal of yoga. The power of transcendental spiritual association – that is… with a transcendentalist – was very pointedly established throughout the Vedas, and here I’ll just make reference to a couple of verses…one of them of course, being from the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa in the first canto, where it states:

“The value of a moment’s association with one devoted to the Lord (Īśvara) cannot be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which are for those who are meant for death.”

This is quite an extremely direct śloka. We find that most people…in fact, all people have…and perhaps at different times or points in their life, very clear or specific goals – those things that they hold to be important, and what they aspire for. And within the Vedas these things have generally been divided into three principal categories. One of them is to attain what they describe as being “the heavenly planets” – the heavenly planets being places within the material dimension that have an incredibly heavenly atmosphere. The second group is liberation from matter – from the material world; from material existence. And of course the third category is the infinite variety of worldly benedictions – prestige, honor, power, prosperity, a good partner in life, children, education – all of these different things that people may…artistic talent also…that people may desire and aspire for. And that category has been described as being the desires of those who are meant for death, meaning that their lives do not produce any other brilliant sort of outcome other than the eventual demise of their body, and which brings the entire pursuits of their life to a stunning and abrupt end.

 So, it raises the question of course: How does one gain such association, to be able to come to the point of being able to contemplate upon such a saintly yogi and their state of consciousness? And of course, it means that one would have to be given intimate association with such a person. And then – given that transcendentalists are not inclined towards casual association, and they generally strictly avoid association with those categorized as materialists, then the question arises: How will this even become possible to gain the association of such a personality? And of course, the answer to this, is that advanced transcendentalists are predisposed towards showing mercy – ‘karuṇā’ – to the innocent and sincere seekers. And this has pretty much been pointed out in the previous sūtra (number 33), when it talked about how one should deal with four types of people within this world, and one of those was of course, to show mercy to the innocent and sincere.

When one seeks out or endeavors to establish a relationship with such a transcendentalist, what would be the nature of that relationship? And this is a very incredibly important point, and it deals with the nature of the guru-śiṣya relationship – guru, of course, being a spiritual teacher and śiṣya, meaning one who is a surrendered servant or sincere student of such a personality. This truth is spoken about in the Bhagavad-gīta in the fourth chapter, the thirty-fourth verse, where it states:

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.”

Here, two specific things are underlined in the nature of this relationship. If one is desirous of seeking the highest truth or the highest reality, then one should approach a duly qualified person. And then one should approach them in a mood of tremendous humility with this recognition that my life is not so fantastic; I am not completely spiritually realized, and therefore I must be prepared to radically alter my value system; my perception of things. And so, the way that that happens – the revelation of truth, or the acquisition of truth is first, through submissive inquiry. Submissive inquiry is a really important point; it speaks to… well there’s two things here – one is, to succeed in spiritual life you must question everything; everything must be questioned, including my own consciousness and my own value system, and the way I claim to be seeing things, and that which I hold to be truthful – I must question everything. But one must do it in a mood of submissiveness.

When one approaches a transcendentalist, it should be after establishing their qualification, and if we have come to understand that this person is actually self-realized, then I must question, but I must not do it in an arrogant or challenging manner. I must question deeply, and even if I get an answer that I don’t particularly like at the time, I should take it away and really contemplate upon it in submissiveness, and try to understand what is the perspective of the transcendentalist; what is the truth that has been presented, and aspire to realize that.

Then the second component of this relationship is the rendering of service. This rendering of service means that one becomes a humble servant of such a transcendentalist. This condition of humility and thankfulness that one should feel towards the actual authorized, or bona fide and self-realized spiritual teacher…the humility – the requirement of humility in order to be able to be open to considering the messages that will be passed is so important…and the gratitude. And that is expressed of course, and these two things are cultivated in the rendering of even menial service to such a spiritual personality. In the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, there is also a very famous verse that states: “To understand these things properly, (meaning the highest spiritual truths) one must humbly approach, with firewood in hand, a spiritual master who is learned in the Vedas and firmly devoted to the Absolute Truth.”

Some people may question what is this reference to firewood here; is this for cooking meals? And of course, the answer is no, this is in reference to the performance of yajña – the fire sacrificial offering that is usually done to consecrate special events. The event being mentioned to, or referred to here is of course, to accept spiritual initiation. And spiritual initiation is such a grave and serious thing, that one is practically handing over their life to such a transcendentalist. And should they agree to accept one as a student, and then later as a disciple…initiated disciple, then this event known as dīkṣā or initiation, will be consecrated by a fire sacrifice.

This then of course, raises the question of how do we know who is actually such a qualified transcendentalist? So, I’m going to read another verse for you here from the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa, where the great yogic sage Prabuddha…yogendra…where he instructs a very great king – his name was Nimi. So, he informs the king:

“Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the Vedas (scriptures) by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.”

This is filled with great transcendental meaning, and it is very unfortunate, that in the world since time immemorial, there have always been an abundance of individuals who aspire to promote themselves as being spiritual teachers or gurus, and who are actually unqualified. When an innocent person, or an ignorant person, approaches and accepts such a unqualified person as guru, then it is considered actually a calamity.

One of the problems that people have in the Western world…and even now today in India, most people have actually no clear parameters for ascertaining or making an informed judgment, as to who is actually a  spiritual teacher. Many people are simply swept away by the external appearance of someone – that they look really cool, or they’ve got the right length of hair…or no hair, and the type of robes they may be wearing, etc. And the fact that they may have even numerous disciples. But if we are simply using this as the criteria, and some sentiment or emotion that arises within the mind, one can…and will, unfortunately, be misled.

Therefore, learning what are the qualifications of such a person is incredibly important. In the Vedas, they have a saying that one must learn to “see with their ears” – that is quite an extraordinary statement. It means that the eyes are unreliable for trying to ascertain that which is actually true, and one should instead be more focused on listening to what is spoken by these personalities. This is what it means to see with one’s ears. And so, there is a great need for an aspirant to be able to safeguard themselves on the spiritual journey, by being able to ascertain what are the actual qualifications of such a transcendentalist.

There are a number of verses in the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gīta that actually deal with the subject of qualification. And it begins with a question that is put to Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa by Arjuna, where he says:

“O Kṛṣṇa, what other symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?” The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: “O Pārtha, when a man gives up all varieties of desire for sense gratification, which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind, thus purified, finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is said to be in pure transcendental consciousness.”

So, this is really extraordinary, that the first qualification that’s been laid out…or rather, a symptom of a person’s qualification, is that they have given up all varieties of desire for sense gratification. So, you know the symptom of one entangled in the material world…the foundation of their life is this illusion; this untruth, that the body and the mind is who I am. And of course, this then leads to the idea that I can find happiness; I can become fulfilled, by different varieties of activity that stimulate the different senses, and when these senses become stimulated, there will be a certain level of pleasure that is experienced, and I will therefore become happy. A transcendentalist, having realized their true and eternal spiritual nature, and being absorbed in an ocean of immeasurable transcendental happiness and spiritual experience in their meditation, absolutely lose all interest in sensual stimulation – trying to fulfill different desires that arise in the mind, which are described here as… that these desires for sense gratification, they “arise from mental concoction”.

The mind is always speculating and suggesting what will bring one happiness; what is in one’s true interest, but it is simply always a product of a mental concoction. The material energy by nature does not have the characteristic of containing blissfulness, and therefore no matter how you experience it; how you put it together; how much of it you put into the different orifices of your body, or rub it on your body, or you know… transmit somehow or other to the mind, one cannot find actual blissfulness. Moving to the next verse:

“One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.”

So now we have this further information which is expounding on this principle that a transcendentalist…one of their qualifications is that they are not disturbed in mind, even in the midst of the threefold miseries. So we have spoken of this before – ādhyātmika, ādhibhautika, and ādhidaivika – the suffering caused, or unhappiness caused, by one’s own body or mind, the miseries arising from other living entities which they may inflict upon my own body or mind, and those miseries that come of their own accord by…through the agency of nature. And it describes…and this is a constant theme mentioned in all the great Vedic texts… this position of equanimity that is experienced by the transcendentalist, where they are not moved by unhappiness, nor moved or elated when there is so-called happiness. And of course, with this will be also a freedom from all forms of attachment, fear – which is rooted in the acceptance of the body as being the self, and then the fact that the body will ultimately die, and then anger. Anger is always the product of material contemplation – contemplation of the sense objects, one develops attachment, from this attachment comes lust or extreme self-centered desire, and from that comes anger. In the next verse it says:

“In the material world, one who is unaffected by whatever good or evil he may obtain, neither praising it nor despising it, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.” And that’s expounding the principle just mentioned in the previous verse. “One who is able to withdraw his senses from the sense objects, as the tortoise draws its limbs within its shell, is firmly fixed in perfect consciousness.”

This is something that we’ve referenced before earlier, in relation to the sāṅkhya yoga process and actually is part of the ashtanga yoga process, or what is called ‘pratyahara’ which we will discuss in some length when we come to that section. But the idea of being the master of one’s mind, and therefore controlling and… not not so much controlling, as not being affected by certain desires that may arise within the mind. And then finally:

“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” So this is the final verse in this series that describes the condition of the actual transcendentalist.

Many people become very saddened when they gain the association of a person whom they may value or hold in high esteem and think to be a transcendentalist. And then drawing close to that person, at some point down the road they are suddenly exposed to something that is quite shocking, and quite devastating. And people then have a big struggle… you know – “Do I walk away from this, or do I stay?” And they are in a position where on one side there is this strong sentimental attachment, and I have built these ideas that this person is of great stature, and my connection with him provides me with some idea of my own value, or worth or importance. And then being exposed to something very terrible, and I must choose – “Do I shut my eyes to this? Do I try to explain it away…that it was some spiritual thing?”

I can remember somewhat recently a very famous swami in South India, and his driver had hidden a camera in his private quarters and got a video of him engaging in very degraded sexual activity with a well-known and very beautiful actress from South India. And then his attempt to immediately recover from that exposure, was to state that what he was doing was not mundane – he was actually engaged in some tantric exercise that is transcendental in nature. And of course, those that are gullible; those that are sentimental will buy into that kind of idea… and that idea is completely contrary to everything that is taught within the Vedas.

In my own life, I have had the opportunity to have the association, and be able to serve, two wonderful transcendentalists, and it has had an extraordinary effect on my life. One of the things that becomes immediately apparent, in close proximity or endeavoring to completely apply the teachings of such personalities to one’s life, is that one will quickly encounter a rebellious mind, who wants one to follow it, and to engage in endless material activity in the hope… the vain hope, of finding actual happiness. The transcendentalists are in that state ’24/7′. There are no ‘holidays’; there are no ‘times out’, you know …you take a timeout or relax from being transcendentally situated. And having this opportunity to have such wonderful and saintly association, completely transformed my life, and made it very clear and apparent to me what it is that I should be aspiring for.

So, this sūtra is actually of great significance, and contains, as all of them do, much more information than what may appear to the neophyte when they first read these verses. And this is our aspiration or desire – to actually enter into the full transcendental reality of what has been taught here by Patañjali. Thank you