• Dipanshu

1.36 Follow the Light!

Updated: Nov 8

YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 36 | COMMENTARY


Visoka va jyotismati


विशोका वा ज्योतिष्मती ॥१.३६॥

Viśoka̅ va̅ jyotiṣmati̅ ||1.36||


In the sorrowless state, by attuning the mind to the illumination within (one can control the mind).


“There is a light that never goes out.” _ The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead




The previous sutra talks of sensory objects and how becoming aware of a particular sensory object can stabilise the mind. We talked about a technique – Trataka – in the previous sutra where one gazes at a particular object (usually a candle flame) to stabilise the mind.


Sadness and misery seem to take out energy from us. Research shows that people who are sad, or clinically depressed may tend to sleep more. When we are happy, we feel enthusiastic and dynamic. We feel ready to do anything. In this state, when we are happy and cheerful, stabilising the mind is easy. If we can hold this state for longer and longer periods of time, the mind can come under control, and conversely, as the mind stabilises, we will be more peaceful and cheerful.


There are thoughts itself which are illuminating – they bring Sattvik happiness – happiness that is untainted and blissful. If one stays with the thought with commitment for a long time, the thought takes the practitioner beyond the gunas altogether. The thought is not supposed to provide any answers or insights, the thought simply removes all that is false. This illumination clears the intellect and the memory from deep set patterns in the unconscious mind. Ramana Maharishi, a great saint from South India who lived in the 20th century, said that the path of self-enquiry, sitting with the thought of “Who am I” will set one free.


Another dimension of the sutra is focusing on the sensory objects within. The sensory objects without, no matter how subtle, are gross in nature. If we keep on listening to music outside, we will never sit in silence and try to attune to the music within. If we keep on looking at the candle flame, we will never close our eyes and see the flame burning within. All that is without is within, says the Shiva Samhita. This sutra follows the same theme. Yoga texts talk about visualising light at one of two locations – in the centre of the chest (the Anahata Chakra), or the centre of the head, in between the eyebrows (the Ajna Chakra). With time and regular practice, the practitioner is able to visualise the light and the mind progresses inwards at a great speed, dropping its patterns and associations. Distractions, and uncontrolled thoughts fall off. Another sensory object is the Anahat Naad – the unstruck sound that is sound of the soul. Laya Yoga expounds on attaining Liberation by tuning into the Anahat Naad.


The mental fortitude and clarity of intellect and memory required to be able to focus on the sensory object within, or a particular thought within is the purpose of techniques like Trataka which have been discussed in the commentary of the previous sutra. All other techniques discussed before also aim to refine the memory and remove learned and conditioned patterns which in fact have no foundation, and are not the basis of how to live life. Maharishi Patanjali is making sure that the practitioner is not stuck on the outside world, but is, eventually, able to turn the mind inwards and not be dependent on the world which is seen outside and must be dropped to experience the silence within.

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