I.19 भवप्रत्ययो विदेहप्रकृतिलयानाम्

bhava-pratyayo videha-prakṛti-layānām
bhava-pratyayaḥ videha-prakṛti-layānām

“For those who have had an out-of-body experience or a realization of the primary, unmanifest elements of creation, a movement toward becoming is necessary.”

Sutra I.19 is somewhat enigmatic. It has been read differently by different commentators, both classical and modern. In the Hindu tradition, those who are videha  (“out-of-body”) and those who are prakrti-layānām (“absorbed in the primary elements of nature”) could be considered evolved beings who choose to reincarnate. Bernard Bouanchaud and Mukunda Stiles, for example, interpret the sūtra to be speaking of those who are gifted with spiritual insight at birth. Others instead read a kind of warning: they understand Patañjali to be referring to yogis who, in Georg Feuerstein’s words, “have become side-tracked.”

I am intrigued by the phrase bhava-pratyaya, which can be translated as “a thought or movement toward becoming.” It contrasts with the phrase virāma-pratyaya, “a thought toward cessation,” that characterized the “other nirodha” of sūtra I.18, and in the traditional commentary, it is considered to be negative, to refer to attachment to the material world.

As I reflect on this phrase, I find myself considering that in my experience of the yoga path, I have found it is necessary “to become,” to experience myself as a being in a body, in order to sense, see, and feel what is real and true.

In Light on Life, BKS Iyengar writes: “If you say you are your body, you are wrong. If you say you are not your body, you are also wrong. The truth is that although body is born, lives, and dies, you cannot catch a glimpse of the divine except through your body.” (p. 26)

I have not had a complete out-of-body experience, but I am familiar with dissociating from the body, and  I am aware of the state that it leads to. Might bhava-pratyaya,  “a movement toward becoming,” be interpreted in a positive light?

• How has yoga affected the relation between your mind and your body?
• What is the effect, for you, of dissociating from physical experience?


adjective in compound

becoming (from bhu, “to be”)


masculine noun, 1st case singular

thought wave, movement towards something (prati-, “towards,” + i, “to go”)


adjective in compound

out-of-body (from vi- , “away from,”+ deha, “body”)


feminine noun in compound

nature, primary matter (from pra-, “towards,” + kṛ, “to do”)


masculine adjective, 6th case plural, “of those”


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