1.40 परमाणुपरममत्त्वान्तोऽस्य वशीकारः
paramāṇu -parama-mahattvānto’sya vaśīkāraḥ
paramāṇu – smallest of the small; parama-mahattva – infinitely large; antaḥ – limit, end; asya – his; vaśīkāraḥ – mastery:
When the yogi develops the power of steadily contemplating on the smallest [the atomic particle] to that which is infinitely large [mahattva], he is said to have gained mastery of the mind.
1.40 paramāṇu -parama-mahattvānto’sya vaśīkāraḥ
When the yogi develops the power of steadily contemplating on the smallest [the atomic particle] to that which is infinitely large [mahatattva], he is said to have gained mastery of the mind.
The very condensed and pithy nature of this sūtra means that in order to actually fully understand the depth of its meaning, one must seek guidance from a genuine self-realized master. Otherwise, because it is dealing with something that is beyond the conventional experience, one needs to be given some sort of framework to try and understand.
Vyāsa and the other commentators briefly point to actually what is just one level of understanding and don’t actually comment further. Vyāsa, he says that: “Contemplating on subtle things, the mind can attain stability on the minutest. Similarly, contemplating on the quality of greatness, it can stabilize on the infinitely great which is limitless. Meditating between the two extremes, the mind acquires unimpeded power of holding on to whatsoever object it desires.”
The commentator Swami Hariharanānda, he states that: “Tanmātra…” (which I hope you will remember, we did a whole somewhat in-depth explanation on this. So, the tanmātras are sound, sight, or form etc – meaning the things; the objects of sensual stimulation. And it is considered a very subtle form of energy… like when we say ‘sound’, we’re not speaking of a sound… any particular sound, but this very subtle energy that is called ‘sound’, which is utilized throughout the material energy in so many different ways. So sound, taste, the hearing capacity, seeing, etc is synonymous with form.) So: “Tanmātra is the minute atom”, he says, “or monad of the material elements, like sound etc. And it is the subtlest state of such gross matters or material energy. The sense faculty and the power of cognizing the Tanmātra, are also subtle states.”
He is referencing that these are some of the…or that which has been referenced by Vyāsa. The ‘mahattva’ literally means ‘the greatest extent’ – that’s what it means. And it can be understood as the ‘mahat-tattva’, or the sum total of all the material energy.
All attempts to fix the mind should not be viewed, as we have stated before, from just a mechanistic perspective. The idea of holding the mind on a single object is for both the purpose of steadying the mind so that the acquired ability can be put to a higher purpose, and as a second point, to increasingly experience ‘my’ existence (the ātman) as being separate from the mind and body, and the actual source of consciousness, which is manifest by the mind and the body. So this is actually a very deep point. I can remember in my own life, when I began practicing ashtanga yoga as a young teenager, and not having very many references or materials available to me, that I wrongly considered this particular principle as being able to for instance – as sometimes is used in Buddhist meditation – to gaze upon the light of a candle, and to hold that within one’s mind and to forcibly hold the mind focused on that object. I am excluding all other perceptions; all other activities of the mind, which of course is almost an impossibility. But it was because of my immature understanding, and the fact that I was considering what was being stated in this sūtra as being something connected with my limited experience; my limited observation; my understanding.
When one has the fortune of being able to sit at the feet of an actual transcendentalist… and I am saying that in the literal and figurative sense, then one becomes exposed to increasingly deeper meanings.
So in the state of awareness… meaning what I’m referencing above a little earlier – that the purpose of steadying the mind was, you know, to acquire that ability; to put it to a higher purpose; but it was mostly to increase the experience of ‘my’ existence – ‘me’, the living being; the ātmā separate from my body and mind. And in that state of awareness, the living being is not submerged in material existence like other conditioned living beings are. So, you know, this is the material condition. There are those who become attracted to yoga, but still have an attraction for intoxicants or stimulants; who would want to sit in a natural surrounding and completely absorb themselves in meditation upon that which is natural and beautiful – sunsets, beach, or whatever, for instance. But the unfortunate reality – unless we introduce into that picture the existence…my existence as being transcendental to all of this, then that activity is simply to be submerged into material existence. But when a person is doing that and being more influenced by the mode of goodness – sāttva-guṇa, they experience some peace and happiness. When that absorption is in the mode of ignorance, they feel agitation and desire – the desire to excel and to create, and all these things. And that same focus or absorption, under the influence of the mode of ignorance, produces lethargy and sleep, a state of
The absorption that has been spoken of here, we must try to understand it from that which has been expounded upon by the Vedas and by the great transcendentalists. So, I’m going to give you a few different ways of understanding or appreciating this verse. One of the wonderful things about transcendental truth or instruction, is that there are many ways of appreciating. As one progresses spiritually, one comes to see things from different perspectives than they previously did and gain deeper insights and experiences on the spiritual journey.
The Vedas are filled with many references to different examples of meditation upon “the greatest of the great”, and the “smallest of the small”, which provide… maybe some of these verses will provide even deeper insights for you on this particular subject, and I’ll give you some examples. So, the first one is… and I think that probably all the examples I will give are from the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa… you may have noticed that I quote often from the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa. The Bhāgavat Pūraṇa is the great Pūraṇa. It is eighteen thousand ślokas; it is a massive work and was written by Śrīla Vyāsadeva as his natural commentary on the entire Vedas. So in this first example of ways of dealing with the subject of that which is “the greatest of great” and “smallest of the small”, it’s using Īśvara as being within both of those categories, and could become a focus for the yogi – the transcendentalist.
“Oh Lord Vāsudeva, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, You are the creator of the entire cosmic manifestation. You live as the Supersoul in everyone’s heart and are smaller than the smallest, yet You are greater than the greatest and are all-pervading. You appear completely silent, have nothing to do, but this is due to Your all-pervading nature and Your fullness and all opulences. I, therefore, offer my respectful obeisances unto You.” So, we see in this particular verse, that both “the greatest of the great” and “the smallest of the small” is referencing Īśvara. And one can use this meditation for the purpose of completely calming and stilling the mind and becoming absorbed in that which is transcendental. So in this next verse that I’m going to read, Īśvara is considered or used here, as an example of “the greatest of the great” and the ātman – the living being, as being “the smallest of the small.”
“Both the Supreme Soul (the mahata-mahīyān) and the atomic soul (the smallest of the small) are situated in the same heart of the living being.” So this verse is actually from the Kaṭha Upaniṣad, and here it describes this…We’ve referenced this before – the Upaniṣads; the Kaṭha Upaniṣad as well as two other of the Upaniṣads, have often used the example of two birds sitting within the same tree. And one of these birds is busily engaged in trying to enjoy their fruits of the tree and is experiencing moroseness and unhappiness. And that second bird is simply standing there in that same tree, waiting for the first bird to turn and recognize his eternal Friend. And in doing that, one becomes relieved of all unhappiness and experiences great transcendental joy. So, furthering that description, where the body is referenced as the tree and that there are two beings situated within that tree; within the region of the heart, the difference between these two birds is now explained. That one is considered “the greatest of the great” and the other – the living being, is considered “the smallest of the small.”
So in the third example that I’m going to offer here, of dealing with this particular subject that was mentioned by Patañjali, is in reference to the siddhis or the mystical abilities or powers that one can gain as a result of yogic practice. And these siddhis are referencing two of these siddhis, where one can become “the smallest of the small”, and then there is a reference also to” the greatest of the great.” So, in the first one it states:
“One who worships Me in my atomic form pervading all subtle elements, fixing his mind on that alone, obtains the mystic perfection called aṇimā.” So ‘aṇimā’ is one of the eight yogic opulences; the eight siddhis that one can acquire by the practice of yoga. But I will make the point here, that Patañjali and all commentators – Vyāsadeva the compiler of the Vedas also, have firmly stated that the goal of yoga practice should not be to acquire these siddhis, because it will interfere with one coming to the platform of actual self-realization.
In this verse there is reference to the Supreme Being this parampuruṣa – Īśvara, as having entered within actually all atoms. It is said that it is by His energy and presence, that for instance, the electrons can move about the core of the atom, in a similar way that His presence manifests as gravity which holds all of the planets in perfect orbit. In the commentary given by A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupada to this particular verse, he references that:
“Aṇimā refers to the mystic ability to make oneself “smaller than the smallest”, and thus able to enter into anything. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is within the atoms and atomic particles, and one who perfectly fixes his mind on that subtle atomic form of the Lord acquires the mystic potency called aṇimā, by which one can enter within even the most dense matter such as stone.”
And then in the very next verse in the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa it states that: “One who absorbs his mind in the particular form of the mahat-tattva and thus meditates upon Me as the Supreme Soul of the total material existence achieves the mystic perfection called mahimā. By further absorbing the mind in the situation of each individual element such as the sky, air, fire, and so on, one progressively acquires the greatness of each material element.” So this is from a portion of the Bhāgavata Pūraṇa known as the Uddhava gīta, which we will speak more about in much more detail when we deal with the third pāda – the Vibhūti pāda, so that we can have a better and more transcendental understanding of the nature of these mystic opulences that are described.
In relation to this particular sūtra that we’ve been reading, as previously stated, Patañjali clearly prioritizes an Īśvara-centered form of meditation. And he does this by placing Īśvara as the first on a list of available options, and also by dedicating so many sūtras to Īśvara. So reading this sūtra now in the same light, can actually really benefit these sincere sādhaka, and provide much deeper understanding. And when I say reading in the same light, that would be in reference to the previously stated verses that I have used here. Thank you very much.