III.11 सर्वार्थतैकाग्रतयोः क्षयोदयौ चित्तस्य समाधिपरिणामः

sarvārthataikāgratayoḥ kṣayodayau cittasya samādhi-pariṇāmaḥ
sarva-arthatā-ekāgratayoḥ kṣaya-udayau cittasya samādhi-pariṇāmaḥ

“The diminishment of the tendency to consider all purposes and the rising of the ability to choose one focus is the samādhi transformation of citta.”

Citta, consciousness, is like water. It can spread wide and it can narrow to one point of focus. The interplay between these two cpacities is what Patañjali explores here. Sarvārthatā  (from sarva, “all,” + artha, “purpose”) is the abiity or tendency to consider many purposes or interests–my own, others. One of the advantages of getting outside, taking a walk, perhaps, is to open up one’s view. To see other living things–people, birds, squirrels, trees, plants–brings a relaxation of focus that is rejuvenating.

Likewise, in yoga practice, when we choose a point of focus and release habitual and fixed concerns (if only briefly), we are refreshed. We go deep into our subject like water penetrating the soil. It is as thought there is only the point of focus–we are emptied, and the goal alone shines forth. This is the definition of samādhi (see III.3), which is often translated as absorption.

The ability to choose and go to a point of focus, to one place, is called ekāgratā. As samādhi is experienced, Patañjali says here, that ability grows. With the ability of increased ekāgratā comes increased powers–accomplishments, understanding, readiness to learn.

For me, the ability to do one thing, to keep my task simple–for that matter, the ability to live one day at a time–is an invaluable life skill (see III.1), at the heart of the yoga process. Yet I do not especially like the translation “one-pointedness.” The term ekāgratā has a bigger meaning, which Patañjali will develop in III.12. Eka is the number one, and agra means first, foremost, preeminent. Agra is the summit of a mountain; it is the best of any kind of thing. Like the word artha, it can also mean goal. Ekāgra carries with it, then, a sense of value.

What is important? What point do I choose for my focus? What is my goal? We make these choices all day long, every day. We may be especially aware of the need to make them during times of disruption, when our patterns and schedules are overthrown. The corona-virus pandemic has brought such disruption; it has tossed upside down many norms, activities, businesses. Many have lost their means of support. As a society, we have not provided the relief to allow vulnerable people to stay safely in their homes. The fires on the West Coast, the floods in the South, likewise, have displaced thousands in a short time. We have a looming crisis of homelessness.

I recently heard an interview with one of our outstanding progressive journalists, John Nichols. He spoke movingly about “necessary change.” Perhaps we all are resistant to change. We would like things to be as they were or how we thought they were. Yet, with an exhalation, we must shift our attention to how things are. We must choose our focus, consider anew, what is important?

“There is a transformation … in this country. … There is something happening out there. Instead of simply focusing on frustrations at the national level, I would always encourage people to keep an eye on the grassroots around the country. There is an awful lot of evidence that the battlers for necessary change are prevailing, in a lot of places. And one final thing I will say about that: I always use the word ‘necessary change’. … Right now there is no alternative, that works, to Medicare for All. There is no alternative to a Green New Deal. There is no alternative to fundamental criminal justice reform. These are the things that need to happen. … We are in a moment, with the corona virus pandemic, with mass unemployment, with this rising cry for racial justice, where big things are possible. We don’t want to miss this moment.” –John Nichols, interviewed August 18, 2020, on  The Nomiki Konst Show, 36:40-38:20

In the United States, we have an election coming up. I will vote early. I will encourage everyone I know to vote, and I will reach out to those I don’t know. Every action matters. We don’t want to miss this moment.


Citta takes the form of any object seen, observed or thought of. It can spread itself as much as it desires. When it spreads, it is multi-faceted; when it remains steadily focused, it is one-pointed. When it is scattered, distraction and restlessness set in.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on III.11

“In practice, the arising of ekāgrata saṁskara and the overpowering of sarvārthatā saṁskara can be inferred with the release of exhalation, when citta can flow as with the breath into its selected location.” –Vyaas Houston, Yoga Sūtras, the Practice, p. 57

Samādhi brings significant changes in the mental environment. It’s almost like renovating a house, adding a new floor, more rooms, windows, and closets. We see fresh vistas through new openings and suddenly find storage places for everything. Our newly refurbished house impacts our lives on many practical and emotional levels. Similarly, the mind undergoing the transforming process of samādhi begins to operate in a state of heightened receptivity that opens it to subtle influences, knowledge, and experiences.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on III.11

• What object of attention do you consider foremost for your practice? For example, as you practice āsana, you may choose a succession of points of focus. What are important points? What is the foremost point?
• What thoughts interrupt your focus the most? How do you respond to interruptions? Do you ever become too focused on a point? Are you aware of any tendency in yourself to be obsessive or hypervigilant?
• How do you find balance in yourself? Do you hold an ultimate priority that helps you?
• Have global events of climate change, covid, political upheaval shifted your priorities? What is uppermost in value for you today? Was it different yesterday?


feminine noun in compound

tendency to consider all purposes or objects (from sarva, “all,” + artha, “purpose,” + -ta, “-ness”)


feminine noun, 6th case dual (both elements in compound are in the 6th case), “of”

one-pointedness, ability to choose a focus and hold it, the understanding of what is the primary thing (from eka, “one,” + agra, “first, foremost, goal, point” + -ta, “-ness”)


masculine noun in compound

diminishment, destruction (from kṣi, “to destroy”)


masculine noun, 1st case dual (both elements in compound are in 1st case)

uprising (from ut, “up,” + i, “to go”)


neuter noun, 6th case singular

mind, consciousness, life field (from cit, “to perceive, to observe, to know”)


masculine noun in compound

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


masculine noun, 1st case singular
transformation, change (from pari-, “around,” + nam, “to bend”)

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