I.24 क्लेशकर्मविपाकाशयैरपरामृष्ट: पुरुषविशेष ईश्वर:

kleśa-karma-vipākāśayair aparāmṛṣṭaḥ puruṣa-viśeṣa īśvaraḥ
kleśa-karma-vipāka-āśayaiḥ aparāmṛṣṭaḥ puruṣa-viśeṣaḥ īśvaraḥ

Īśvara is a distinction of self that is untouched by afflictions, by actions and their consequences, and by the subsequent deposits on the consciousness.”

In beginning his exploration of īśvara, Patañjali casts ahead to the themes of Chapter Two. There, he describes the suffering of  life and defines the afflictions (kleśas). It is the nature of nature to change, to transform, and to include both joy and pain. Our actions and the actions of others have consequences that affect us through our lives. This is karma, and karma itself “cooks” or “ripens.” The word used for this ripening is vipāka (vi , intensity + pak to cook). There is thus a kind of inevitability to much that happens.

Īs̄vara, Patañjali says here, is puruṣa-viśesaḥ, “a distinction of puruṣa.” Vyaas Houston says that, in the Yoga Sūtras, puruṣa (which literally means “person”) is a synonym for drastṛ, the one who sees (sūtra I.3). The ordinary person sees things by means of his or her citta, which is affected by the patternings of experience (sūtra I.2). Afflictions (kleśas), actions (karma) and their results (vipāka), accumulate (āśayaiḥ) on the citta and cloud perception.

Īśvara  is different–īśvara is that part of self, that part of existence, that is “untouched” (aparāmṛṣṭaḥ) by cause and effect. Īśvara is pure awareness, not dependent on a citta. Īśvara, though in the world,  is apart from the world.

“I know there is a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not. It’s there, you can feel it in people–there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity…. What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol [hebrew, “the divine voice”]. You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t penetrate it.” –Leonard Cohen, quoted in an article by David Remnick, The New Yorker, October 17, 2016


“God or Universal Consciousness (īśvara), the universal I-AM, is the supreme ruler and author of the universe. It is of the nature of transcendental consciousness and is unaffected by the afflictions of relative life, actions, and their results.” – Ramamurti S. Mishra, MD, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p. 12

“Unlike the playful īsvara of Vedanta, Patañjali’s īśvara is not subject to cause and effect and is thus unmoved by devotional activities such as prayer or ritual….[it] is neither god nor puruṣa in the usual sense but rather a divine mirror toward which people throughout the ages might turn to catch a glimpse of their own true nature and its possibility of complete freedom from prakṛtic entrapment.” –Chip Hartranft, The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali, p. 12

“There is a principle permeating everything, due to which there is order in the world, due to which there is harmony in the world, due to which the movement of life becomes possible…. Life is a dance of the nameable and the unnameable, of temporary imbalances and eternal equipoise, or equanimity, of emergence and dissolution. Life is a dance of all that. If we recognize īśvara, the presence of the all-permeating principle, then we understand the dance of Life, the cosmic dance of Life.” –Vimala Thakar, Glimpses of Raja Yoga, p. 37

• Does your practice lead you to a timeless, spacious experience? Is your experience of practice “nameable” or “unnameable”?
• How does suffering affect your perspective?
• What does spiritual alignment mean to you? What role does choice play?
• Is it possible to be affected and unaffected by events–at the same time? In T.S. Elliot’s words, “To care and not to care”?


noun in compound

affliction (from kliś, “to distress”)


noun in compound

action, what is done (from kṛ, “to do”)


noun in compound

result, fruition (from vi-, which here has an effect of intensity, + pac, “to cook”)


masculine noun, 3rd case plural, “by”

accumulations, deposits (from ā-, “near to,” + śī, “to lie down”)


masculine noun, 1st case singular

untouched (from a-, “not,” + parā-, “back,” + mṛś, ” to touch”)


masculine noun in compound

person, self, soul


masculine noun, 1st case singular

distinction, excellence (from vi-, “separate,” + śiṣ, “to remain”)


masculine noun, 1st case singular

owner (from īś, “to own,” + vṛ, “to choose”)

Leave a Reply