I.51 तस्यापि निरोधे सर्वनिरोधान्निर्बीजः समाधिः

tasyāpi nirodhe sarva-nirodhān nirbījaḥ samādhiḥ
tasya api nirodhe sarva-nirodhāt nirbījaḥ samādhiḥ

“On the nirodha of even that [imprint]–which follows from the nirodha of all–seedless samādhi.”

Patañjali has been describing a progression toward an experience of the Source. This is a direct experience (I.49), unmixed with concepts, vikalpa, or words, śabda (see I. 42-43). It is beyond what we have been taught or have surmised. Rohit Mehta tells of the approach to the door of Reality (p.154).

This experience in itself contains the power of nirodha–the removal of old patterns and worn-out beliefs. Nirodha brings transformation. We come to see with greater clarity and perceptiveness. Our whole self–sensing, feeling, responding–enters “the newness of life.”

The saṁskāra that removes other saṁskāras (I.50) can, over time, become its own fixed belief and limiting thought pattern. A style of practice, a beloved mantra, a favorite icon–these are good things. They usher us to the numinous, what is beyond our common perception. But these good things can also become barriers–blocks to seeing people and events freshly, fully, with love and compassion.

Patañjali challenges us here to let go of all impressions in the mind, even those we find most helpful. He coaches us to be willing to see with the eyes of a child, new-born. To do this, we must be willing to let go of our ideas about ourselves. We must be willing to let go of our certainties–our judgement of others, our conclusions about life. We must allow a state of not-knowing. This can feel dangerous. It can feel like a break from the past.

“A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavour to do, he drowns – nichtwahr? … No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up. … In the destructive element immerse.” –Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, ch. XX

Sūtra I.51 concludes what is known as the the Samādhi Pāda, the chapter on samādhi, absorption. Having presented us with the great challenge of releasing all samskāras, Patañjali will take a bit of a sidestep and will approach the subject in a more concrete way. We move next to the Sādhana Pāda, the chapter on practice.


“Patañjali says in the sūtra that sarva-nirodhan nirbīja samādhi, meaning that the nirbīja samādhi can come only when there is a total cessation of the functioning of all reactive centres with not even a subtle centre of identity remaining. There is absolutely no centre to which impressions of experience can cling. It is a state of experiencing without accumulation. The mind in this condition is ever fresh and vital. It is able to meet life anew from moment to moment.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on I.51

“This is the yoga state. One cannot will it, nor receive it verbally. The pure consciousness of the inner being alone shines there (I.3).” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on I.51

• Has yoga brought you freshness of perception?
• What does nirodha mean to you? How would you translate it?
• What habits of mind or routine behaviors are dear to you?
• Are you attached to the idea of being right?


masculine pronoun, 6th case singular, “of”

of that





masculine noun, 7th case singular, “in”

ending, removal (from ni, “in” or “down,” + rudh, “stop” or “check”)





masculine noun, 5th case singular, “due to”

ending, removal (from ni, “in” or “down,” + rudh, “stop” or “check”)


masculine adjective, 1st case singular

seedless (nir-, “without,” + bījaḥ, “seed”)


masculine noun, 1st case singular

absorption (from sam-, “with,” + ā, “towards,” + dhā, “to place, to hold”)


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