II.2 समाधिभावनार्थ: क्लेशतनूकरणार्थश्च

samādhi-bhāvanārthaḥ kleśa-tanū-karaṇārthaś ca
samādhi-bhāvana-arthaḥ kleśa-tanū-karaṇa-arthaḥ ca

“[The actions of yoga are for] the purpose of realizing samādhi and the purpose of thinning the kleśas.”

Chapter One ended with a definition of “seedless samādhi,” a state in which
is freed of preconceptions, the imprints of past history, and comes to experience fresh, new. This is the state of yoga. The actions of tapas, svādhyāya, and īśvara praṇidhāna, Patañjali tells us in today’s sūtra, are to help us approach this state: they are samādhi-bhāvana-arthaḥ, for the purpose of realizing samādhi. Arthaḥ is purpose, aim (Siddhartha, a name for the Buddha, means “one with powerful aim”); bhāvana derives from bhu, “to be,” and so has a sense not so much of doing samādhi as becoming it. The English word “realize” expresses this sense well.

We “become” samādhi when we are are able to come present, bring our perceptions to what is before us–like a gemstone that is saturated with the color of its object (I.41). It is “as though” we have no identity of our own. Though our citta still exists and is separate from the object of perception, the state of samādhi is as though  citta were empty (I.43).

The process that takes us to samādhi is not an assumption of new powers but a removal of obstructions to our own inner nature, which is inherently equipped to be attentive, sensitive. And so Patañjali declares here that equal to the goal of realizing samādhi is the endeavor to alleviate affliction:  kleśa-tanū-karaṇa-arthaḥ. The word kleśa comes from kliś, “to trouble, harm, torment.” In I.5, we learned that our thoughts and feelings, the imprints on our minds, can be either kliśta or akliśta, harming or non-harming. It is important to recognize the harmful imprints, that is, the false perceptions, most of all. These obscure our view, take us to obsession, delusion, perhaps disaster.

We tell ourselves stories about ourselves. Often these stories serve to cover painful feelings. They can obscure unsupportable memories of trauma, disappointment, fear, our own bad behavior. Yoga is about coming into awareness of the fullness of our stories. Yoga is concerned with truth.

I know now that all people hunger for a noble, unsullied past, that as sure as the black nationalist dreams of a sublime Africa before the white man’s corruption, so did Thomas Jefferson dream of an idyllic Briton before the Normans, so do all of us dream of a time when things were so simple. I know now that that hunger is a retreat away from the knotty present into myth and that what ultimately awaits those who retreat into fairy tales, who seek refuge in the mad pursuit to be made great again, in the image of a greatness that never was, is tragedy.”  –Ta-Nehesi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power, p. 10


“The goal of yoga is not to obtain something that is lacking; it is the realization of an already present reality. Yoga practice does not bring about samādhi directly–it removes the obstacles that obstruct its experience.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on II.2

“We are like a man who has put his shirt on inside out and back to front. The only way he can rectify his error is to take it off, work out how it should be, and start again. Through yoga, we take off the shirt of our ignorance, study it, and put it back on correctly, as a shirt of knowledge.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 193

“The word kleśa which has been translated as affliction really means both suffering and the cause of suffering. The preliminary discipline of Yoga enables one to understand the cause of suffering, and this surely is necessary if one is to find freedom from sorrow.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 108

•Has yoga helped you come to know your own story, know yourself, better?
•Has your awareness of what is happening around you increased?
•What do you consider to be your afflictions (not in Patañjali’s terms but your own)?
•Patañjali suggests that we do not eradicate the afflictions, we “thin” them. How does this speak to your own experience of affliction?


masculine noun in compound

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


neuter noun in compound
realization, feeling (from bhū, “to be, become”)

masculine noun, 1st case singular

purpose, aim, object (from arth, “to strive to obtain”)

masculine noun in compound

 affliction (from kliś, “to trouble, harm, torment”)

adjective in compound

thin, weak (from tan, “to thin, stretch”)


neuter noun in compound

making (from kṛ, “to do”)


masculine noun, 1st case singular

purpose, aim, object (from arth, “to strive to obtain”)




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