Sūtra 1.3: Tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe’vasthānam

Translations
  • Then the seer abides in his own form.
  • When mental activity ceases, we are established in our essential essence.

Introductory Remarks

There are many paths to samādhi—sometimes for the benefit of different individuals, sometimes for the benefit of a single individual at different points in their life. This is usually seen as different philosophies, yoga philosophy being one among them. Some also refer to “the path of yoga,” whether that be the yoga of devotion, the yoga of knowledge, the yoga of action, the eight-limbed yoga of Patañjali. While every path appears externally unique, all paths are internally united, working toward the same goal—no matter the means, all paths focus on letting go of the ego.

But we must take care to remember that it is the ego itself that drives us to self-inquiry. The ego function in itself is therefore not negative. Within the ego function, there are two distinct perspectives: that of the notional ego, which takes the self to be the body-mind complex (“I am everything,” “I do this”), and that of the functional ego, which corresponds to the seer who comprehends the true state of reality. We make use of the notional ego to lead us into awareness of and ultimately identification with the functional ego.

What stands in the way of this discovery of and abiding in this functional ego (the essence of the aphorism we discuss today) is our unique set of rāgas (passionate or clinging attachments and aversions). So development of vairāgya, dispassion is the first step. To achieve vairāgya, we must must recognize, first, that there is passion; second, that passion leads to trouble; and third, that once passionate desires are satisfied, the happiness we thereby seek does not last. Only then can we let go. Spiritual growth begins with inquiry, when we ask, “What is it that truly brings me peace?” Yama, niyama, the limbs of yoga—these are all very practical ways of rehabilitating ourselves once we have entered the process of self-inquiry.

Remember that puruṣa must operate prakṛti for any activity to happen in this world. And one last note on duality: some say that prakṛti never truly disappears, that when the fluctuations of the mind cease, prakṛti simply becomes transparent, free of obstruction.

Discussion

STUDENTS (on the meaning of the sūtra):

  • We are not what we think we are, and yoga helps us know what we really are.
  • It seems to answer the question “Who am I?” This question seems to arise when consciousness develops, and maybe part of living is trying to answer that question.
  • In building on the previous sūtra, this sūtra describes what arises from restraint of thought patterns of the mind.
  • The Vedanta perspective points to a veil of ignorance that obscures the true nature of the self and suggests that, to pierce this ignorance, one needs knowledge, an understanding of who one really is.
  • The practice of āsana is so meaningful in this—an exploration of what your personal limitations truly are. In āsana practice, you have to face your limitations head on, and where you meet them, you learn more about yourself, what you can do, where your limitations really are, who you are.
  • In this sūtra is a sense of the external falling away, yet of something remaining—and it is what remains that this sūtra describes: the core You.

RAM: The word tadā (then) refers to the previous sūtra, which defines samādhi as “the restraint of all mental modes.” Tadā thus indicates the moment when samādhi occurs.

The phrase draṣṭuḥ svarūpe means “in the (true) nature of the seer.” The technical meaning of svarūpa refers to one’s form, but in the context of this sūtra, the word refers the true nature of one’s self. This is in contrast to the term svabhāva, which refers to what one takes oneself to be. In the vision of yoga, the puruṣa mistakenly takes itself to be associated with prakṛti, and yoga enables the puruṣa (the seeker) to understand that it is not associated with prakṛti. In this way, thus puruṣa can remain in right relationship with its own true nature.

Draṣta is an important word here. Derived from the verb dṛś (to see), draṣta (seer) refers to the subject, whereas dṛśya (object seen) refers to the object. We are good at distinguishing the core of our being (the seer) from the gross body (physical form), but less skilled at separating the seer from the subtle body (the mind, citta). We would not, for instance, say, “I am leg,” for we understand our legs to be objects that  are distinct from our deepest selves. Yet very often we identify ourselves with our mental state. We say, “I am happy,” when it would be more accurate say, “My mind is experiencing a state of happiness.” To free ourselves from the conflation of seer and mind, however, we must engage that very mind, using the idea of duality as a stepping stone, as a means to free our inherent nature from the force of prakṛti. When we are no longer bound by the dictates of our own minds, we see ourselves for what we truly are.

Once you have become centered in Yourself, you carry on as usual with your daily affairs. What has changed is how you perceive the world. This is the import of the word avasthānam in this aphorism.  Avasthānam means “abiding” or “remaining established.” It is useful here to remember the sage who, when asked to describe his life before enlightenment, said, “I chopped wood, made tea.” When asked to describe his life after enlightenment, he responds, “I chop wood, make tea.”

 

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