viśokā vā jyotiṣmatī
“Or, [a pravṛtti] that is sorrowless and filled with light.”
In the previous sūtra, Patañjali states that contemplating an object that has “risen” to one’s attention, that holds interest for one, is a means of calming the consciousness. Here, lyrically, in three words, he amplifies that and suggests that the contemplation that holds an object of light, a contemplation or thought or perception that is itself sorrowless, works an effect on the entire consciousness–like a wind that passes and clears the sky.
The subject of this sūtra is pravṛtti, carried over from I.35. Viśoka, literally “without sorrow,” and jotiṣmati, “holding light,” are feminine adjectives that modify the feminine pravṛtti (and thus one knows that it is pravṛtti that they refer to). These two sūtras as a pair demonstrate how the clearing of the mind that yoga effects is done by means of using the mind.
Vyāsa, the foremost of the classical commentators on Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras, suggests contemplation on the “the lotus of the heart” to experience the pravṛtti that is sorrowless and light-filled. There, he says, one will come to know the Self.
The Chāndogya Upaniṣad speaks of infinite space there, within the lotus of the heart, of true identity, a place “without grief”:
In the city of Brahman is a secret dwelling,
the lotus of the heart. Within this dwelling is a
space, and within that space is the fulfillment
of our desires. What is within that space
should be longed for and realized.
As great as the infinite space beyond is
the space within the lotus of the heart. Both
heaven and earth are contained in that inner
space, both fire and air, sun and moon, lightning
and stars. Whether we know it in this
world or know it not, everything is contained
in that inner space.
Never fear that old age will invade that
city; never fear that this inner treasure of all
reality will wither and decay. This knows no
age when the body ages; this knows no dying
when the body dies. This is the real city of
Brahman; this is the Self, free from old age,
from death and grief, hunger and thirst. In the
Self all desires are fulfilled.
—Chāndogya Upaniṣad, VIII, 1, i-v
“Here, the concentration is on the innermost core of the heart, wherein alone the sorrowless, effulgent light glows. That is the seat of the soul.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.36
“When the Mind comes to rest in Self-consciousness, it appears in the form of pure Self-consciousness, calm and infinite, like the calm ocean. …’Having recognized the Self as atomic, one comes to have the notion I am.’ ” – Vyāsa, commentary on I.36, translated by Gangānātha Jha, in The Yoga-Darshana
“In life, we have experienced at certain times, knowingly or unknowingly, a sudden sorrowless state that makes the mind a shining mind, serene and tranquil…listening to a beautifully played concerto or rāga, or watching the sunset over the horizon of a vast ocean, hearing the far cries of migrating birds, high in the vast blue sky, as they fly to lands in far-off places. The collection of this state keeps the mind tranquil.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sūtras
• Is there an object or place that conveys to you a sense of “sorrowless light”? Does going outdoors (see Mr. Iyengar’s quote above), listening to music, or some other activity give you this?
• What does fixing your attention on the area of your heart bring you?
• What does imagining a light in your heart bring? (Ramamurti Mishra singles out this meditation as a helpful [akliṣta] use of the imagination.)
• What is the effect–for you–of āsanas that lift the chest and support the heart?
feminine adjective, 1st case singular
sorrowless (from vi-, which here reverses meaning, + śuc, “to burn, to feel pain or sorrow”)
feminine adjective, 1st case singular
having light, luminous (from jyotis, “light,” + –mat, “having”)