II.41 सत्त्वशुद्धिसौमनस्यैकाग्र्येन्द्रियजयात्मदर्शनयोग्यत्वानि च

sattva-śuddhi-saumanasyaikāgryendriya-jayātma-darśana-yogyatvāni ca
sattva-śuddhi-saumanasya-ekāgrya-indriya-jaya-ātma-darśana-yogyatvāni ca

“[From this,] clarity about the essence of things, cheerfulness, focus, refreshment of the senses, receptivity.”

There are a few sūtras in Patañjali’s work that stand out as almost complete statements on the aim of yoga (I.3, I.32, I.33, II.28 are examples). This sūtra is one. Describing five qualities of consciousness that come from the practice of śauca (cleanliness), Patañjali gives us an opportunity to consider what the yogic idea of purity is, what it is for, and what a concept of purity might mean for us as individuals.

Sattva-śuddhi (clarity about the essence of things), saumanasya (cheerfulness), ekāgrya (focus), indriya-jaya (refreshment of the senses), ātma-darśana-yogyatva (receptivity) all describe benefits for the consciousness that come from yogic practice. The subject of yoga is consciousness (citta), the apparatus that we perceive with, and through practice–whether this practice is āsana, prāṇāyāma, chanting, or some other form–we soften and release patterns of thinking and processing that obscure our view and our understanding.

Thus, the first word of this sūtra is sattva. Though in sankhya philosophy, the primary sense of sattva is the elemental force (guṇa) of brightness, it here has a broader sense of “what is.”  Sattva (from as, “to be”) is truth, essence, what is at the heart. It can also mean goodness. Śuddhi (from śudh, “to purify, make clear”) is purity or clarity, and so sattva-śuddhi is a phrase that suggests a clearing that reveals truth–it may intimate as well a readiness to see good and do good.

Saumanasya is a sweet-sounding word that suggests its own meaning: cheerfulness. From su-, “good,” + manas, “mind,” it stands in contrast to that affliction of mind that is daurmanasya (from dus, “bad, + manas, “mind,”), which might be translated as depression. If depression is a heavy thing, a state of mind that weighs a person down with past loss, frustration, fear–cheerfulness is the state that is light, free, like Emily Dickinson’s description of hope: “the thing with feathers.” Cheerfulness is perhaps a more generous state of being than depression. A college professor of mine once proclaimed, “It is a duty to be cheerful!” and he cited a rabbi whose name I have never been able to find. The phrase has stayed with me, though, often when I myself have struggled with depression. What can it mean to consider cheer a duty? The phrase has, at the least, helped me to be less satisfied with gloom, which has its own magnetism.

For Patañjali, cheerfulness is related to ekāgrya (one-pointedness, the ability to focus). As we will come to see in chapter three, focus–making the choice to place our attention somewhere and keep it there–is at the center of what yoga is. The choice of where we place our attention is key, though Patañjali has already suggested that any point that attracts the mind is suitable (I.39). In āsana practice, we direct our minds to the points of the body, to shapes in space, to the actions of the pose. In prāṇāyāma, we bring awareness to our breath. In the study of Sanskrit, the practitioner might take attention to the resonance of the word, the vibrations of its sound, to its derivation, its allusions and implications.

The fourth quality Patañjali describes is indriya-jaya, which means victory over or mastery of the senses. This mastery is often described as a restraint of the senses, but I would argue that it is equally a refreshment, a renewal of the senses. Many of us, especially in modern society, are cut off from our sense perceptions. We are de-sensitized. We may indeed be disassociated. Indeed, the conceptual mind often interferes with the direct perception of things. Yoga is a practice of letting go of concept, of conclusions (perhaps formed from trauma), to return to direct perception. The senses are key to this process.

Finally, yoga is considered to remove the obstacles from knowing ourselves, in the profoundest sense that the word “self” might mean. Ātma-darśana-yogyatva is “readiness for the vision of the ātman.” Ātman is self, spirit, soul, the ultimate reality. It is important to not let the concept of God, soul, or spirit interfere with the possibility of what this might be. The readiness for the vision (darśana) is perhaps, ultimately, a not-knowing–an openness, a receptivity of all the senses. “Don’t rush to finish your poem,” writes Rumi. See, feel, hear.

…how happy is the one
whose heart’s ear
hears that special voice
as it begins to arrive

clear your ears my friend
from all impurity
a polluted ear
can never hear the sound
as it begins to arrive

if your eyes are marred
with petty visions
wash them with tears
your teardrops are healers
as they begin to arrive

keep silence
don’t rush to finish your poem
the finisher of the poem
the creator of the word
will begin to arrive

–Rumi, translated by Nader Khalili in Rumi: Fountain of Fire


“The practice of āsanas is done, in general, for a sense of physical well-being. But along with this, one needs to develop the art of penetration, the art of insight and the art of looking at the mind through the body….If the first journey is from the body to the mind, the second journey is from the mind to the body. This kind of exchange between the body and mind corrects the process of breathing and opens the channel for prāṇa to move freely within. The prāṇa floats and swims in the body, reaching nooks and corners of the body along with the main stream or the main path where it finds its extension, expansion, breadth and width. This leads the inner body to bathe in prāṇa. The body is vitalised with prāṇika energy. It is an internal bath.” –Geeta Iyengar, introduction to Yoga in Action: Intermediate Course I

A psychological retreat does not necessarily imply moving away to a place not peopled by human beings. Such physical conditions of quiet may help, but are not absolutely necessary. What is important is to move away from the association of one’s own thoughts. The asamsarga must be with one’s own memory-associates. For it is these which bring in the other … causing distractions. The distracted mind is obviously tired, for it cannot rest even when the place is physically quiet. But he who can have moments of undistracted quiet, his mind is purified showing cheerfulness, one-pointedness, sense-control and a clarity of perception.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga: the Art of Integration, p. 176

• How does practice help you see your mind through your body?
• Does your practice support you emotionally? Does your practice help you access cheerfulness, clarity, balance, the ability to calmly focus? Do you become more receptive, more attentive with  practice?
• Do you bring cheerfulness to your interactions with others? How do you listen?
• What role does silence play in your life? In your practice? How does silence relate to leaving space, allowing for the unknown?


neuter noun in compound

true essence, goodness; of three guṇas, the quality of brightness (from as, “to be,” +-tva, “ness”‘; literally, “beingness”)


feminine noun in compound

purity (from śudh, “to purify, make clear”)


neuter noun in compound

cheerfulness, gladness (from su-, “good, sweet,” + manas, “mind,” + -ya, suffix that makes an abstract noun)


neuter noun in compound

one-pointedness, focused attention (from eka, “one,” + agrya, “pointed, foremost”)


neuter noun in compound

organ of sense (from Indra, name of lord of the atmosphere,  + –ya, suffix that designates belonging)


masculine noun in compound

victory, triumph (from ji, “to win”)


masculine noun in compound

the self, the true self, inner being, spirit, soul


neuter noun in compound

vision (from dṛś, “to see”)


neuter noun, 1st case plural

readiness, fitness (from yuj, “to yoke” + -tva, “-ness”; literally, fit for yoga)




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