I.40 परमाणुपरममहत्त्वान्तोऽस्य वशीकार:

paramāṇu-parama-mahattvānto ‘sya vaśīkāraḥ
parama-aṇu-parama-mahattva-antaḥ asya vaśīkāraḥ
“Coming into command of these methods brings an expansion to the smallest particle and to the infinitely great.”

 Patañjali speaks here of the limitless potential of the awareness. The citta, to use Hamlet’s phrase, is “infinite in faculty.” Yet its spaciousness is foreshortened and narrowed, its nimbleness is hobbled, by experience and circumstance. Our senses can  shut down as a way of protecting us, and our powers of observation can be overriden by anxiety, fear, depression. Through practice, we wake the senses; we restore the mind.

At the start of this chapter, Patañjali defined yoga as a process of removal–yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (I.2)– “Yoga is the removal of the patternings of the consciousness.” Though yoga can fairly be described as a discipline of the mind, it is a discipline that must be done with sensitivity. Its goal is liberation. Yoga practice frees citta, opens its potential.

In this sūtra, Patañjali gives a preview to the themes of chapter three, where he describes the powers (vibhūti). He says the citta will come to perceive parama-aṇu, the utmost small thing and parama-mahattva, the utmost greatness. Vaśīkāra, often translated as mastery, carries with it a sense of process. Derived from vaś, to will, and kṛ, to do, it emphasizes the doing–the coming into mastery, as it were. As we progress in the methods of clarifying citta (I.32-39), we are in the process of becoming more attentive, observing more carefully, experiencing more directly. We move toward the infinite as we grow more capable of witnessing the immediate.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.


“This sūtra describes how the ordinary mind is transformed into a super-mind, able to penetrate the boundless regions of space, and the deepest regions within.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.40

“The present sūtra tells us that when these obstacles are removed through meditation then there takes place a tremendous release of the energy of the mind. The mind is greatly vitalized with the result that it is able to cognize with uttermost clarity anything and everything that comes within its ken. This perceptive range covers the smallest as well as the biggest. The mind comes to a state where it has no frontiers to restrict its movement. It lives in the open spaces, directly under the vast sky, to put it in the words of the great Indian mystic, Kabir.” — Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 75

“Since the mind is potentially all-pervading and underpins all physical forms, it can pervade any form of any dimension and assume that form’s shape and qualities.” –Edwin Bryant, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p.141

“A tree has millions and millions of leaves. Each leaf is different, yet they are all part of the same tree. You also have numberless leaves in your various thought-waves, actions, reactions, fluctuations, feelings, failings and restraints, but they are all connected to the same root, the core of the being. You should aim to see yourself in totality, to see the tree in totality without naming it as flower, fruit, leaf or bark.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga, p. 71

• Has yoga increased your ability to attend to details? To perceive subtlety?
• Does yoga help you keep a wide perspective?
• Does your mind tend toward big ideas, to abstract thought–or to the particulars of things? When you meet someone, what do you notice? Are you more attuned to physical qualities or emotions?
• What does it mean to you “to live in the open spaces, directly under the vast sky”?


adjective in compound

farthest, most (a superlative, from pṛ, “to surpass”)


adjective in compound

minute, atomic


adjective in compound

farthest, most (a superlative, from pṛ, “to surpass”)


neuter noun in compound

greatness, magnitude


masculine noun, 1st case singular

end, limit


masculine pronoun, 6th case singular

of this


masculine noun, 1st case singular

mastery (from vaś, “to wish or will,” + kṛ, “to do” = “bringing into one’s command”)

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