Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali – The Raj Quartet Book Four of Four


The focus for these four short articles has been the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali. This is regarded as a primary text defining Yoga and its purpose especially with regard to the mind and the transformation of those things which block our understanding. Its four chapters are seen as a complete teaching on Royal Yoga, known as Rāja Yoga, hence the borrowing of the title from the author Paul Scott.

The first part of the quartet outlined chapter one, called Samādhi Pādaḥ. its 51 verses introduced the mind, its fluctuations, problems and possibilities. Entitled “The Jewel in the Crown”, it focused on the theme of mindfulness. Its teachings chart the transformation of the mind towards a flawless jewel in the crown of our being.

The second part of the quartet outlined chapter two, called Sādhana Pādaḥ. Its 55 verses introduce the theme of self-responsibility in finding the means for accessing and maintaining mindfulness. Entitled “The Day of the Scorpion”, it focused on the theme of practice. Its teachings reflect the qualities of the Scorpio personality, expressing determination and persistence in working with out inner process and individual patterning which distort our efforts to penetrate beyond our usual understanding.

The third part of the quartet outlined chapter three, called Vibhūti Pādaḥ. Its 51 verses introduce the possibilities for a person who has developed and refined the qualities of mindfulness and clarity. Entitled “The Towers of Silence”, it focused on the nature of the undisturbed mind, how with such a mind there is containment and flow unaffected by our inner and outer climate as well as attaining a view which goes beyond the normal range of perception and understanding. The mind can be likened to a tower of silence. Its teachings explore the directions for the mind with this potential and how this relates to the goal of Yoga.

This article looks at chapter four, called Kaivalya Pādaḥ. Its 34 verses bring us back to the heart of Yoga, the notion of Kaivalya or freedom. Having acquired strength, clarity, power and insight, we have amassed treasures from our practices, gained fruits from our endeavours. What do we do with these attributes, knowing that ultimately they can bind us more than if we had not possessed them?

The question here is with regard to the division of the spoils, how to free ourselves from these acquisitions. Patañjali reminds us in chapter three that these hard wrought acquisitions have to be surrendered in order to move towards a more important goal.

This is the focus and final teaching in the Raj quartet, surrendering what we have gained so that we are able to transcend that aspect of ourselves which seeks to gain, albeit, ‘spiritual’, wisdom and grace.

Patañjali begins by discussing how the powers are acquired:

C4 v1

‘Extraordinary powers come with birth or are attained through special herbs, specific incantations, certain austerities and the practice of meditation.’


C4 v6

‘Of these five the power obtained through meditation is free of the influence of unconscious impressions.’

By contrast,

C4 v7

‘Whereas the action of others are influenced by unconscious impressions’.

Where do these impressions come from?

C4 v10

‘The desire for self preservation is fundamental to existence so the unconscious impressions from which it arises must be beginningless.’

However they can be influenced by understanding the patterns by which we create them.

C4 v11

‘Unconscious impressions are formed by different experiences provoking responses based on our past actions. Sensitivity to our actions and habits breaks this pattern.’

But this sensitivity is dependent upon our desire to look at ourselves.

C4 v17

‘Perception depends on the presence of what is to be seen, on our state of mind and our desire to see.’

Yet this mind which we call the perceiver is constantly changing so is it that which really sees?

C4 v18

‘Only that which does not change can observe change. The Ciita (psyche) changes Cit (awareness) does not. The activities of the Citta are always known to the Cit.’

Furthermore the mind is enlivened by Cit (awareness).

C4 v24

‘Even though the mind has countless patterns it functions only in association with a higher force.’

How do we realise that force which cannot be known by the mind?

C4 v25

‘Interacting with the Cit in mind and not the Citta in mind ends the search for the nature of Awareness.’

What arises from this realisation?

C4 v26

‘The mind naturally gravitates towards a state of freedom.’

Are we now free from the effects of unhelpful unconscious impressions?

C4 v27

‘There can be breaks in this flow of clarity.’

What to do in these moments?

V4 v28

‘Come back to practices discussed previously in Chapter two verse one.’

What happens when we experience unwavering clarity?

C4 v29

‘The highest clarity, which transcends all knowledge, brings forth a state of ‘cloud pouring truth’, a rainfall of the highest bliss.’

What arises from this?

C4 v30

‘The mind is freed from all misunderstanding.’


C4 v31

‘Because nothing clouds the mind what is still to be known is insignificant.’


C4 v32

‘The mind is also freed from the influence the constant flux or changing states of energy.’


C4 v34

‘The Citta (psyche) having no purpose to fulfil withdraws and Cit (awareness) is established in its own power.’

With this final transformation we have come back to the point from which Patañjali began by asking for our attention in Chapter One Sūtra Two and defining Yoga as,

C1 v2

‘Yoga is the containment of the unhelpful activities of the Citta (psyche).’

Except that along the path Patañjali has started with what we see as mind and its problems. Patañjali then introduces practices to help stabilise the mind and develop clarity. Then refining this clarity through reflective and penetrative meditations. Finally Patañjali brought the practitioner to the point where the mind is totally receptive to the experience of the absolute and the realisation that follows.

yogena cittasya padena vācāṃ malaṃ śarīrasya ca vaidyakena I
yopākarottaṃ pravaraṃ munīnāṃ patañjaliṃ prāñjali rānato’smi II

‘Coming from the lineage of teachers who transformed impurities of the mind by Yoga,
of speech by grammar and of the body by medicine. To Patañjali I salute.’

For this royal teaching I salute Patañjali. For guidance in understanding the Yoga Sūtra I thank my teacher TKV Desikachar. However, errors are from my lack of understanding not from my teachers.

This article is also available as a downloadable PDF

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