I.45 सूक्ष्मविषयत्वं चालिङ्गपर्यवसानम्

sūkṣma-viṣayatvaṃ cāliṅga-paryavasānam
sūkṣma-viṣayatvam ca

“And subtle objects extend all the way to the unmanifest.”

Subtle objects (sūkṣma-viṣaya) range from what is simply difficult to see, just beyond our ordinary perception, to what is perhaps truly beyond–what is incomprehensible.

Sūkṣma can mean “minute, small fine, atomic”; our English word “subtle” is a good translation. “Subtle” comes from the Latin “subtilis,” used to describe finely woven cloth. It is from sub (under) + texare (to weave) and so literally means “underwoven.” Thus the subtle involves what is “under” the surface of things–similarly, sūkṣma (as defined by saṅkhya philosophy) is what lies under the manifest, what causes what we see.

This sūtra can be understood to be both about the expansiveness of consciousness (like I.40) and about its limitation. Paryavasānam is a destination point, a termination. The subtle extends to the limit of aliṅga, which is (in saṅkhya) undifferentiated prakṛti–pure energy. What is it to see past that? To know past that?

In the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gītā, Krishna describes the body, the mind, all life, as the “field” (kṣetra). The knower of the field (kṣetrajña) is Brahman, which is “not being, and not not-being”:

It dwells in all, in every hand and foot and head, in every mouth and eye and ear in the universe. Without senses itself, it shines through the functioning of the senses. Completely independent, it supports all things. Beyond the guṇas, it enjoys their play. It is both near and far, both within and without every creature; it moves and is unmoving. In its subtlety (sūkṣma) it is beyond comprehension.
The Bhagavad Gīta, XIII.13-15


“The province or field of samādhi that is connected with the finer objects extends beyond the manifestation of the guṇas (the forces of nature) to the formless (aliṅga) state of subtle energies, that is to say, up to prakṛti or supreme nature.” –Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on I.45

“This aphorism defines the limits of the mind’s capacity to perceive objects. Ranging from the visible to the invisible, understanding would be limitless, attaining all, if not for the source of perception. This origin can only be glimpsed through its manifestations, even those of infinite subtlety. The most subtle manifestation is the joy, the beatitude, the infinite love that emanates from this source and allows a correct vision of reality in and around oneself.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on I.45

“It matters little whether one is thinking about God or Mammon, for what matters is not a change in the pattern of thinking, from concrete to abstract; what is of fundamental importance is the transformation in the very quality of the mind. In this sūtra the word used is aliṅga. Now this word means Prakṛti or manifestation. More truly it means manifestation in an undifferentiated form or manifestation in its subtlest aspect. Whether subtle or crude, it is manifestation. Thinking can move only in the field of manifestation. But it is the Unmanifest which  gives meaning to manifestation, and so thinking, however abstract it may be, cannot give us the meaning of manifestation.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on I.45

•What “underweaves” your life?
•Has your practice helped you understand your own motives, purposes better? Does it help you appreciate the experience of others?
•Are you more or less patient with complexity and difficulty as time goes by?
•What do you consider the limits of thinking? What is an example of that from your experience? What is the “transformation of the mind”?


adjective in compound

subtle (possibly derived from sūc, “to pierce, point; hint, intimate”)


neuter noun, 1st case singular

object-ness (from viṣ, “to act,” + tva, which makes an abstract noun)





neuter noun in compound

what is undifferentiated, unmarked (from a, “not,” + liṅg, “to paint”; liṅga, a mark or characteristic)


neuter noun, 1st case singular; second part of adjectival compound

termination, the point somethings extends to (from pari, “all around,” + ava, “away,” + so, “to end”; paryaso = “to reach the end point”)

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