II.15 परिणामतापसंस्कारदुःखैर्गुणवृत्तिविरोधाच्च दुःखमेव सर्वं विवेकिनः

pariṇāma-tāpa-saṁskāra-duḥkhair guṇa-vṛtti-virodhāc ca
duḥkham eva sarvam vivekinaḥ
pariṇāma-tāpa-saṁskāra-duḥkhaiḥ guṇa-vṛtti-virodhāt ca
duḥkham eva sarvam vivekinaḥ

“Due to the pain of change, the suffering from that change, and the imprints of that suffering–[which derive] from the collisions of the guṇas--to the person of discernment, all, really, is pain. ”

There is perhaps a human predilection to seek out the cause of suffering in right/wrong behavior. But though sūtra II.14 suggests that good deeds, right actions, virtue affect what we will experience, Patañjali here follows up that reflection with a bigger, more powerful statement:

sarvam duḥkham
All is pain.

In case we are tempted to develop a formula of what we consider to be correct behavior to protect us from future harm–Patañjali says no. There is no life without suffering. And, as we walk the path of yoga, as we come to open our senses more, see more clearly, come into fuller awareness–as we become more discriminating (vivekin means “one who discerns”)–we come to know this more.

Sarvam duḥkham is the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, and there are strong parallels here between Buddhist teachings and yoga. Edwin Bryant describes this sūtra as pivotal to Ch. II and at the heart of the entire text.

Human suffering is not caused by good and bad events per se. It cannot be delineated by dualistic principles alone. Patañjali tells us that pain arises from the very movement of the guṇas–from change, loss, the imprints of past events. The guṇassattva, rajas, tamas–do not stand still. They roll, they tumble, they bump up against each. The phrase Patañjali uses–guṇa-vṛtti-virodha–means literally “the collisions of the movement of the guṇas.”

Pariṇāma (from pari-, “around,” + nam, “to bend”) means change. The word appears–importantly and in a positive sense–in Ch. III to describe the transformation of citta, in other words, the process of yoga itself. Change is integral to what the world is and how nature unfolds. As a practitioner who works with āsana and the body, I am curious about the changes of aging. Some are not what have been described. (For example, my body seems to be capable of retaining flexibility as the years pass by.) Others have surprised me. (I seem to lose strength more rapidly now than when I was younger.) To observe these changes–but also to not be limited by the assumptions of my mind–is practice. More often than not, I find my body ready to enter and partake of the dynamism of the guṇas, the flow of their “collisions.” I am revived as I do this. I am calmed.

In the ancient poem The Epic of Gilgamesh, perhaps the oldest written story there is, Gilgamesh king of Uruk loses his beloved friend, and he is stricken with grief. He mourns his friend and becomes afraid of his own death. He leaves his kingdom and embarks on a journey to find Utnapishtim, the Faraway, a man who has been granted immortality.  After much struggle, he arrives, and he asks Utnapishtim to explain to him life and death, and how he might find life. Utnapishtim responds:

“There is no permanence. Do we build a house to stand forever, do we seal a contract to hold for all time? Do brothers divide an inheritance to keep forever? Does the flood time of rivers endure? It is only the nymph of the dragon fly who sheds her larva and sees the sun in his glory. From the days of old there is no permanence.” —The Epic of Gilgamesh, author unknown, translated by N. K. Sandars

Rohit Mehta argues that the mind seeks to establish “psychological continuity,” as though, to use the language of Utnapishtim, a house could stand forever, and a contract would hold for all time. Yet it is in becoming like the nymph of the dragon fly, “who sheds her larva,” that we come to see reality as it is.


“The First Noble Truth of Buddhism, sarvam duḥkham, all is suffering, consists of the exact same terms adopted by Patañjali. Indeed, the other three Noble Truths are predicated upon the first (that there is a cause of this suffering, that there is a possibility of putting an end to suffering, and that there is a path to accomplish the removal of suffering)….This sūtra is actually the pivot of this chapter, which in turn, is the heart of the entire text.” —Edwin Bryant, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.15

“Man forever is concerned with the problem of sorrow and suffering. His one effort is to avoid suffering that threatens to come. Life moves on relentlessly into an unknown future, and man wants to know what the nature of that future is. He goes to astrologers and occultists to know what is in store for him in terms of the future. But all these predictions are of no avail, for all predictions suggest a static approach to life. … To live in the present–that is indeed of fundamental importance. But this living must be such that one needs no psychological future for the fulfillment of the present or of the past. … Patañjali speaks of this as he takes us into the deeper understanding of the instruments and the practices of Yoga. He tells us that one who is established in Yoga knows how to live in the present with a completeness which is not dependent upon any future whatsoever.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, pp.123-24

•Does yoga practice increase your awareness of pain–on a body level, a psychological level?
•In what sense might it be important to bring pain in to greater awareness?
Past, present, future? Are there circumstances where denial of pain is important?
•Has yoga brought you greater sensitivity to the suffering of others (consider sūtra I.33)?
•Does yoga practice help you process the experience of aging? How?


masculine noun in compound

transformation, change (from pari-, “around,” + nam, “to bend”)


neuter noun in compound

pain, suffering, burning, can also mean discipline, transformation (from tap, “to be hot, to burn, to suffer”)


masculine noun in compound

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


neuter noun, 3rd case plural, “because of”

pain, suffering (from dus, “bad,” + kha, “space, axle-hole, aperture”)


masculine noun in compound

force, constituent of nature (in saṁkhya philosophy, there are three: sattva, rajas and tamas)


feminine noun in compound

movement, patterning (from vṛt, “to abide, to move, to turn, to condition”)


masculine noun, 5th case singular, “from”

opposition, conflict, collision (vi-, prefix that can add intensity or give sense of “away,” + rudh, “to stop”)





neuter noun, 1st case singular

pain, suffering (from dus, “bad,” + kha, “space, axle-hole, aperture”)



only, just, indeed, really


neuter noun, 1st case singular



masculine noun, 6th case singular, “of”

discerner, one who is discerning (from vi-, “distinct” + vic, “to examine”)

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