I.50 तज्ज: संस्कारोऽन्यसंस्कारप्रतिबन्धी

tajjaḥ saṁskāro ‘nya-saṁskāra-pratibandhī
tad-jaḥ saṁskāraḥ anya-saṁskāra-pratibandhī

“Born of that [prajñā], a saṁskāra that checks other saṁskāras.”

The word saṁskāra comes from saṁskṛ (sam-, “with,” + kṛ, “to do”), which means “to form well, to refine or polish.” The same root forms the base of “Sanskrit”—the language—and conveys the sense “that which is well-formed.” Saṁskāra can, similarly, mean perfection, polishing, cultivation, education. The word can refer to a polishing stone.

In the context of yoga–which could be described as the cultivation of citta (mind, consciousness)–saṁskāra refers to the impression on the mind of past experience and past thought. Our experiences mark us. They form us. To some extent, they determine our next behavior. In yoga practice, we learn to heighten our awareness of our own tendencies. We choose to look at our own imprints. We come to know them better. In the alchemy of that process, we lessen them.

How does that happen? There is a saṁskāra, says Patañjali in this sūtra, that has the power to bind the “other” saṁskāras and checks them (pratibandhī—from prati-, “toward or against,” + bandh, “to bind”—a thing possessing the ability to obstruct).  This saṁskāra is born of the calmed, clear state of sūtra I.47, a state of friendliness, compassion, joy, presence. It is a saṁskāra that expresses the power and love of the Self within. It is a polishing stone.

Yoga is about possibility. We believe ourselves to be our old patterns, our old thoughts (see sūtra I.4). We think we know what the future holds based upon what comes before. Indeed as we explore the influence that saṁskāras have, why wouldn’t we? Yet the spiritual path is one of surprises.

On this journey, we allow ourselves to be de-constructed, un-formed. Whatever edifice we have built up to make our way through life—our presumed identity, including family heritage, cultural values, past attainments, achievements—is broken. Our purpose shifts. We commit to become more present to–in Rohit Mehta’s words–“the livingness of things and events.” We are available to see, feel, hear–act.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” –Isaiah 43:19


“The expression “mental permeation” [saṁskāra] represents an essential mode of human functioning. Our behavior is conditioned by the past. The greater the attention we pay to an act, the greater its influence on future action. The influence takes concrete form in a series of habitual behaviors that are often unconscious. … It would be an illusion to try to live without any habits at all. It is preferable to replace negative conditioning little by little with positive attitudes. … Remaining available, present, and open enables one to see clearly—immediately.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on I.50

“An open mind is that in which there is no centre of psychological recognition. That which is ‘recognized’ is not new, but the livingness of things and events is ever new.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 100

“A new life begins with this truth-bearing light.” — BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali,  commentary on I.50

•Have you changed patterns in your body through āsana and prāṇāyāma? Your mind?
•Has practice ever surprised you?
•What would you describe as “a new thing” in your life?
•Are you open to possibility?


pronoun in compound



masculine adjective, 1st case singular

born of


masculine noun, 1st case singular

impression on consciousness of past experience, conditioning (from sam-, “with,” + kṛ, “to do”)


adjective in compound



masculine noun in compound

impression on consciousness of past experience, conditioning (from sam-, “with,” + kṛ, “to do”)


neuter noun, 1st case singular

possessing the ability to obstruct (from prati- + bandh, “to bind,” + in, “having the quality of”)

2 thoughts on “I.50 तज्ज: संस्कारोऽन्यसंस्कारप्रतिबन्धी

  1. Julia,

    Thanks again!!!! this passage by by Bernard Bouanchaud had me all happy as can be , “It would be an illusion to try to live without any habits at all,” yet what lies behind each habit patterns and its construct is the utmost of fascination….


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