II.26 विवेकख्यातिरविप्लवा हानोपायः

viveka-khyātir aviplavā hānopāyaḥ
viveka-khyātiḥ aviplavā hāna-upāyaḥ

“Discernment is realized and does not drift. This is the path of leaving.”

The divine one is a negation of negations and a denial of denials.
–Meister Eckhart

Upāyaḥ is a path or a way. Hānam is leaving, abandonment, cessation, dissolution. In sūtra II.25, Patañjali has described the Via Negativa, letting go to uncertainty, perhaps darkness, a practice of releasing preconceptions, conclusions, of conceptualizing itself. This path requires a willingness to not know, certainly to not know as the mind knows. It is hāna-upāyaḥ, the path of leaving.

Though there is a not-doing in the renunciation of the path of leaving, there is an active component as well. Viveka-khyātiḥ aviplavā, says Patañjali, “Discernment is realized and does not drift.” The practitioner grows in understanding of her own consciousness, of the patterns of her mind, even the quality of her temperament. She separates the vehicle of understanding from understanding itself, or, perhaps more to the point, she separates the means of knowing a thing from the thing itself.

A good translation for viveka is “discernment.” Khyātiḥ, literally “naming,” is trickier. The word gets at an idea of ownership, realization, embodiment. Viveka-khyātiḥ is a process–ongoing, dynamic–not a completed state. We don’t have to “accomplish” it. It is enough to begin to “not drift.” Krishna tells Arjuna: On this path no effort is wasted” (Bhagavad Gītā, II.40).

Yoga practice requires much ongoing humility and practicality.

As yoga practitioners, we do not become all-knowing, but we do learn to discern our own role in things, our own limitations–our own abilities too. We learn we are connected to a great source of life, and that we are part of that life. In this sense, possibility is limitless.

Meister Eckhart has said, “The path of which I speak is beautiful and pleasant and joyful and familiar.”  (As quoted in Matthew Fox’s Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, p.xxiii.) This seems both encouraging and true. The yogic process of removal brings us into the fullness of the day, to our own physical self and to the natural world around us. Practice offers a revelation of beauty. It returns us to a state we perhaps knew only when very young–to the wonder of our creation. And it is in this sense that the path is familiar. I have been here before! How good to come home.


“If this awareness which clearly distinguishes things is kept uninterrupted then it will lead to the dissolution of avidyā. … It may be asked: What has one to be aware of?  It has to be with reference to the observer-observed phenomenon. This means one has to be aware of the whole process of continuity by which asmitā or the sense of I-ness keeps itself going. This demands watching the process of attachments and repulsions because they constitute the field in which there is to be seen the abhiniveśa of asmitā itself. In other words it is through rāga and dveṣa that the sense of I-ness seeks to continue itself.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, The Art of Integration, commentary on II.26

“Consciousness projects meaning onto things but then, forgetting its projection, assumes those given meanings belong to those things. … A king wished for the most accurate rendering of his kingdom, and so commissioned his cartographer to create a map on a 1:1 scale. The map was impeccably accurate. But of course its size demanded that it cover over the land that it depicted, denying it sun and rain. The king could then see an exact representation of what he possessed, but as he gazed at the picture of his land, the land itself perished, along with his wealth. In our context, the king might be consciousness, the cartographer his cognitive faculty, and the land he covers over and kills with his representational fetish is, tragically, his living world. This thread offers another possibility: if we recognize the difference between the map (projected meaning) and the land (the thing itself), the map will be lifted away to more clearly reveal what it was meant to represent.”  — Matthew Remski, Threads of Yoga, pp. 134-35, commentary on sūtras II.23-26

• How would you describe the discernment that yoga brings?
• In what ways do you “project meaning” onto things?
• Have you come to know your limits better? Your likes and dislikes?
• Do you experience your practice as a return?


noun in compound

discernment, awareness (from vi-, “distinct” + vic, “to examine”)


feminine noun, 1st case singular

naming, recognition, realization (from khyā, “to name”)


feminine noun, 1st case singular

not drifting (a-, “not,” + viplū, “to float, drift”)


neuter noun, 6th case singular, “of”

leaving, abandoning, cessation (from hā, “to leave”)


masculine noun, 1st case singular

path, way (upa + i, “to go”)

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