1.39 वितरगविषयं वा चित्तम्
yathā – as, in that way; bhimata – desired, of choice; dhyanāt – meditation; vā – or:
Or by meditation (fixing the mind) upon anything suitable for yoga, according to one’s choice the mind becomes stable.
Or by meditation (fixing the mind) upon anything suitable for yoga, according to one’s choice, the mind becomes stable.
So just as a reminder, what is being discussed here and the previous verses, and this being the last one in this section, was ways in which the mind can become stabilized. The mind being seen by the great transcendentalist Patañjali here, as being principally an enemy, in that when it is unrestrained it simply contributes to the ongoing and continuous cycle; being bound to the cycle of repeated birth and death. And the need to bring the mind under control, to stabilize it, and to fix it on that which is transcendental, is the focus of the practice of someone who is undertaking a yogic practice.
In his commentary, Vyāsa says whatever is considered suitable for the purpose of yoga, can be contemplated upon. If one can get the mind stabilized there, one can get stability elsewhere also. So, many say that the object of the previous sūtras in this group, is to simply bring stability to the mind, so that having acquired this ability, it can be applied for spiritual meditative practice. And while this may be the case, at least to a certain extent…in a limited degree, it will be the actual absorption of the mind in that which is transcendental which will lead to samādhi. To simply see this as almost like an exercise in a gymnasium, where one will work the mind muscles to bring it to a fixed point, and then to try and begin engaging in that which is transcendental – this is a very arduous and extremely difficult path, and will in all likelihood be unsuccessful. The need from the very beginning, to have the mind absorbed in that which is spiritual or transcendental is really important, and actually foundational to being able to advance spiritually.
The objects that are purely spiritual, that the mind can focus upon, are first the ātmā – the spiritual living being; oneself. The next one, would be Brahman – the limitless ocean of spiritual effulgence; the Brahmajyoti, which is a feature of the highest truth.. of the Absolute Truth. The second… or the third one here, which is also the second aspect of…or feature of, the Absolute Truth, which is Paramātma – the Supreme Soul or Īśvara, sitting within the heart of all living beings, and was the principal focus of meditation for yogis since time immemorial. And then the fourth item, which is the third in the three aspects of the Absolute Truth, is Bhāgavan. This is also Īśvara, but manifesting different characteristics than the Paramātma – the Supersoul residing within the heart of all living beings. And it is anything that is connected with this Highest Truth – and specifically, here I’m referencing Bhāgavan – that one is able to become absorbed in limitless spiritual activity, spiritual focus, spiritual thought, and meditation, that will draw one increasingly deeper and deeper into the transcendental or spiritual world, and a world of great and wonderful spiritual experience.
Absorption in that which is material to the exclusion of that which is spiritual, it cannot loosen the tight knot of material entanglement, or the influence of the false ego – the ahaṇkāra, and the mind will remain under the influence of the three guṇas – the three qualities, or the three modes of material nature. This statement that I’ve made, really needs to be understood, and one can take a great deal of time and over time to frequently revisit this point, reflecting and meditating upon it in order to be properly guided towards the actual goal of self-realization and God-realization. So I’ll just repeat it… I’ll put it on the screen here: “Absorption and that which is material, to the exclusion of that which is spiritual, cannot loosen the tight knot of material entanglement or the influence of the false-ego (the ahaṇkāra), and the mind will remain under the influence of the tri-guṇas.” This is why I I mentioned at the beginning of this commentary, that it is not that one can use any material object or any aspect of material energy alone, and to the exclusion of that which is spiritual, and make that the focus of one’s meditation.
It is true that one can do it, and it may strengthen the capacity to hold the mind in some focus, but it will not loosen the tight knot of material entanglement; it will not purify the living being from the terrible influence of the false ego – this ahaṇkāra.
So a transcendental object is not just essential…necessary, rather, but it is essential. So in one of the previous sūtras – number seventeen, in the first pāda, it states: “When concentration (samādhi) is reached gradually with the help of deliberation on gross forms, then reflection on subtle objects, then a state of blissfulness and finally awareness of one’s true individuality which is called Samprajñāta samadhi.” So here, the concentration upon the material energy that’s mentioned, was part of a flow leading one towards the vision of one’s own spiritual existence. So what is being spoken of here in this sūtra that I’ve just mentioned, and the one that we’re commenting on now, it’s not simply a fixing of the mind upon the material energy. That, is actually what material existence is defined by; material existence as the total fixation of the mind upon that which is material, and this is how we define material existence.
So trying to become increasingly pointed in one’s focus upon material existence, does not bring about a change of consciousness. So it is really important to not misunderstand this sūtra: “Or by meditation (fixing the mind) upon anything suitable for yoga, according to one’s choice, the mind becomes stable.” So he’s clearly letting us know there are choices available to the sādhaka – the aspirant on the path here of yoga; the practitioner of sadhana. But these choices, they do not include material activities, material desires, material objects. This cannot bring about a transcendental experience. Thank you very much.