II.34 वितर्का हिंसादयः कृतकारितानुमोदिता लोभक्रोधमोहपूर्वका मृदुमध्याधिमात्रा दुःखाज्ञानानन्तफला इति प्रतिपक्षभावनम्

vitarkā hiṁsādayaḥ kṛta-kāritānumoditāḥ lobha-krodha-moha-pūrvakā mṛdu-madhyādhimātrā duḥkhājñānānanta-phalā iti pratipakṣa-bhāvanam

vitarkāḥ hiṁsā-ādayaḥ kṛta-kārita-anumoditāḥ lobha-krodha-moha-pūrvakāḥ mṛdu-madhya-adhimātrāḥ duḥkha-ajñāna-ananta-phalāḥ iti pratipakṣa-bhāvanam
“Thoughts that are harmful (and counter to the yamas, the niyamas) can result in actions done, caused to be done, or approved of; they may be caused by greed, anger, or delusion; and they may be mild, medium, or extreme. They bear fruits of unending pain and ignorance. Therefore, embody the opposite.”

If the practitioner does not already have a keen sense of the bad outcome that follows harassing, oppressing, “counter” thoughts, Patañjali elaborates here. He makes clear that actions will spring from such thoughts (whether one is directly involved, indirectly, or approves from a distance); he describes accompanying or precipitating moods (desire, anger, confusion); and he considers their degree, that is, the degree that one may suffer from them (mild, medium, excessive). The fruit of harmful (hiṁsa) thoughts, he asserts, are “unending” pain and ignorance. With a dramatic flourish, he concludes: iti pratipakṣa-bhāvanam, “therefore, embody the opposite” (the opposite being ahiṁsa and all the principles of the yamas and niyamas, see II.33).

The phonetics of this sūtra are stark: slow, dark vowel sounds; aspirated, voiced consonants; resonant, repeating nasals (m and n consonants); and undulating compound structures. It is daunting to chant. The grammar is also notable, essentially a list of predicate nominative nouns and adjectives, all plural, building a feeling, perhaps, of the ongoing effects of harmful thoughts, the long reach of violence.

As I mentioned in the last sūtra, B.K.S. Iyengar sees two aspects to pratipakṣa-bhāvanam: yes, practice the opposite, recommit to the principles of non-violence, truth, contentment, etc.; but also examine the behavior–“go deep into the cause.” In his commentary on II.33, he establishes that yoga is not primarily about will power, discipline, or just doing–though yoga includes those. Above all, yoga is about awareness. Yoga is about bringing presence. We bring our heart and our love to all aspects of ourselves.

Again, the word bhāvanam derives from bhū, “to be.” It is related to being rather than doing, just as feeling and emotions, to some extent, just “are.” We can’t, actually, just will them to be the opposite. As Mr. Iyengar says, “If a person is violent, he is violent. If he is angry, he is angry.” The immutable emotions–stubborn, resistant–do, of course, over time, transform. They move. They are meant to. Psychological health might be described as a person’s ability to have difficult emotions and allow them to be and to move–without harming others or oneself. Indeed, can one have those feelings and still be loving?

A friend of mine recently observed that he has always associated love with happiness, that he has always connected the feeling of love with being happy with a person. Now, as he grows older, he is beginning to question whether he can love when he is angry.

This is profound. I consider anger to be an important inner warning signal. Anger lets me know when something is amiss. It is a critical part of my ability to protect myself–which every creature needs. Anger can be a fuel for positive action. I see that it can also be destructive. I continue to learn this in my relationship with my husband. If he triggers my anger, it is best not to strike out. A mild bump back, fine. An assault on his purpose, his motives, or an accusation that overstates the case–not good. It harms the trust between us.

How do I handle my anger? Can I make space for it? Can I, to use Bernard Bouanchaud’s image, “swim against the current” of the feeling to its source? Can I be in that current, the flow of my life, and let myself be lifted, buoyed up by the waters of awareness?

Rohit Mehta says, “When thoughts of hatred come it is essential for one to inquire into the nature of one’s love.” Can I love when I am angry? Can I love when I am frightened? When I or others have failed or done wrong? When terrible events unfold?

We live in a time of tremendous environmental and political challenge. We see the “unending” fruits of pain and ignorance from colonization, resource extraction, cultural domination and destruction. Pratipakṣa-bhāvanam has relevance here too. The yamas call us to take part in our world. Whether we have committed, been indirectly involved, or tacitly accepted injustice (kṛta-kārita-anumoditāḥ), can we name it for what it is? Can we take responsibility? Can we seek to be truthful, to know, to understand? Can we get involved and choose to have insight into the other? Can we bring love?

Well I burned in the heat of the summers of heartbreak,
And I heard the trees as they swayed in the wind,
And now I follow the heart and have no other religion,
And I do no other thing.
And I do no other thing.
The heart’s enough. That’s it.
–Jonathan Richman, “And Do No Other Thing”


“Some people give an objective interpretation to the sūtra and maintain that if one is violent, one should think of the opposite, or, if one is attached, then non-attachment should be developed. This is pratipakṣa-bhāvana. If a person is violent, he is violent. If he is angry, he is angry. The state is not different from the fact; but instead of trying to cultivate the opposite condition, he should go deep into the cause of his anger or violence. This is pakṣa-bhāva. One should also study the opposite forces with calmness and patience. Then one develops equipoise.” —B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on II.33

“Turning the mental attitude in the other direction does not merely replace a feeling with its opposite (for example, replacing violence with nonviolence). Rather, it has us swim against the current to go back to its source and accept the evidence of its negative, perpetual effects.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, p. 117

“When one is assailed by thoughts of violence, it is necessary to explore the content and implication of one’s own concept of non-violence. When thoughts of hatred come it is essential for one to inquire into the nature of one’s love. One is reminded here of the words of the great mystic, Mencius:

‘If you love men and they are unfriendly, look into your love; if you rule men and they are unruly, look into your wisdom; if you are courteous to them and they do not respond, look into your respect.’ ”

—Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, pp.156-7

• How might you adjust your practice to address being anxious, angry, depressed, tired?
• Does your practice bring you into more awareness of negative emotions? Is that sometimes difficult? Do you understand more about the sources of your pain because of practice?
• Has yoga helped you become a more responsible person? What does that mean to you?
• How are you guided by pratipakṣa-bhāvanam?


masculine noun, 1st person plural

belief, thought (from vi-, “distinct,” + tark, “to think”)


feminine noun in compound

harm, injury (from han, “to hurt”)


masculine noun, 1st case plural

beginning with, etc. (used to indicate a group, the first of which is named)


adjective in compound

done (from kṛ, “to do”)


adjective in compound

caused to be done (from kṛ, “to do”)


masculine adjective, 1st case plural

approved (from anu-, “after,” + mud, “rejoice”)


masculine noun in compound

greed (from lubh, “to desire”)


masculine noun in compound

anger, wrath (from krudh, “to be angry)


masculine noun in compound

confusion (from muh, “to be bewildered”)


masculine adjective, 1st case plural

preceded by (from pūrva, “front, East”; as in pūrvottanasana)


adjective in compound

soft, gentle, mild (from mṛd, “to rub”)


adjective in compound

middle, moderate


masculine adjective, 1st case plural

extreme (from adhi, which adds intensity, + mātra, “measure” )


neuter noun in compound

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


neuter noun in compound

ignorance (from a-, “not,” + jña, “to know”)


adjective in compound

unending (from an-, “not,” + anta, “end”; as in anantāsana)


masculine noun, 1st case plural

fruit (from phal, “to bear fruit”)


conjunction (indeclinable)



masculine noun in compound

opposite side (from prati-, “in opposition to” + pakṣa, “side, flank, wing”)


neuter noun, 1st case singular

feeling, realizing, cultivating, becoming, embodying (from bhū, “to be”)

2 thoughts on “II.34 वितर्का हिंसादयः कृतकारितानुमोदिता लोभक्रोधमोहपूर्वका मृदुमध्याधिमात्रा दुःखाज्ञानानन्तफला इति प्रतिपक्षभावनम्

  1. Dear Julia,
    Henriet and I continue to meet by phone every other week for sutra study and to apply them to our lives. We read other sources, and then on the phone we take turns reading your commentary, which is always a treat. We love it that you so fully share how you bring the sutras into your life. The poetry and quotes you include from many sources add so much richness.
    Henriet and I have each chosen a niyama to focus on for the next few months; I chose tapas; she chose santosha. We already see the fruits of this focus and accountability.
    Thank you for all the heart, soul and wisdom you put into your commentaries. We very much appreciate them!
    Heartfelt good wishes from Ani and Henriet, the Nadler sisters!

    • Hi Ani and Henriet,
      Wonderful to hear that the blog is useful to you. I have hoped that it could be a tool for diving into this material. Best wishes for your niyama exploration. I hope you will share when we get to those sūtras!
      Much love, Julia

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