I.39 यथाभिमतध्यानाद्वा

yathābhimata-dhyānād vā
yathā-abhimata-dhyānāt vā
“Or, by meditation as desired.”

In sūtras I.32-39, Patañjali has suggested the means to overcome obstacles. What kind of obstacles? All obstacles? In some sense, in the context of yoga, obstacles of any kind are the same–they create disruptions of citta. Any misfortune, any challenge has its outer consequences and its inner effects. Patañjali’s yoga raises our awareness of the inner disruption. It teaches us how distorted our perceptions can become–also what tremendous potential for understanding and empathy is possible when the citta is in its full and clear state.

Patañjali here offers a final method of overcoming obstacles: meditation on any object that is interesting, appealing, any focus that brings enjoyment. The phrase he uses is 
yathā-abhimata, which means in the manner that is desired. It is a wonderful statement that suggests, to me, that focus and comtemplation will not be achieved by fighting my true inclinations. I can trust my own nature in this path that I am on. I can trust my heart to guide me.


“On the face of it this sūtra [I.39] is simple: it describes meditation on a pleasing object. Its deeper, hidden meaning is harder to comprehend. Having explained various methods of meditation with support, Patañjali now comes to subjective meditation. The most ‘pleasing’ object of meditation is in fact one’s very existence, the core of the being. Patañjali advises us to trace the seed of that core, the living spirit that pervades everything from the most infinitesimal particle to the infinitely greatest.”
–B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.39

“This method complements the preceding ones, opening the field to every possiblity. There is total freedom of choice, except for one condition: one must feel drawn to the object, especially at first. As time goes on, mastery allows the choice of varied objects. Any “object” is possible: a sound, a text, a mantra, a symbol, an aphorism, a mental attitude, and for believers, God.”–Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on I.39

“There is no path to meditation. To meditate is to move in a pathless region, like sailing on uncharted seas. It has to be yathā abhimata–completely according to one’s own inclination and interest. … The fact of the matter is that we do not know ourselves…we mean we are not aware of our reactions and responses to the situations of every day life. It is this knowledge that will give us information about our inclinations and interests. We must know ourselves as a fact and not as an ideal. Self-knowledge is the knowing of ourselves as we are in our daily relationships. Without this knowledge there is no foundation for our spiritual endeavour. The way of meditation begins here and not in imagining some supreme state and trying to identify ourselves with that imaginary state. In order to go far, one must begin near and in meditation one has to go very very far.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on I.39

“Though the practitioner is a subject and āsana an object, the āsana should become the subject and the doer the object, so that sooner or later the doer, the instrument (body) and the āsana become one.”
–B.K.S. Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga, p. 53


• Review sutras I.32-39. Of the various means of clarifying citta that Patañjali describes, what resonates with you the most?
• What object of meditation is most effective for you? What is the most enjoyable? Do you trust your inclinations?
• What is the object of your awareness in āsana practice? Do you consider your āsana practice to be a meditation?
• What benefit comes from considering the āsana a subject and the “doer” an object (see above quote from Tree of Yoga)?



as, in the manner described


past passive participle

desired, wished, favorite (abhi,“towards,” + man, “to think”; abhiman, “to think of, to long for”)


neuter noun, 5th case singular, “by”

meditation (from dhyai, “to think of, contemplate, imagine”)



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