III.15 क्रमान्यत्वं परिणामान्यत्वे हेतुः

kramānyatvam pariṇāmānyatve hetuḥ
krama-anyatvam pariṇāma-anyatve hetuḥ

“The unique path is the cause of the uniqueness of the transformation.”

The last sūtra offered us a chance to explore the scope of change, to consider our limits and our potential. Today’s reading challenges us with how.  What are the steps to change? How does it happen? How do we invite change in and partner with it? What methods and practices do we embrace?

Krama (from kram, “to walk, go, step”) refers to the steps we have taken, the path we have walked. In the context of yoga practice, it is taken to refer to the sequence of instruction, the method of learning.

Anyatva  is distinctness, otherness, the particulars of a thing. To understand a transformation (pariṇāma), says Patañjali, look at the particulars of what has come before. Notice the details. How have events unfolded? The uniqueness of the steps explains the uniqueness of what unfolds.

B.K.S. Iyengar, in his commentary on III.15, examines the importance of proper sequence for “harmonious and organic growth.” Bernard Bouanchaud, similarly, discusses method and results. Different individuals, he states, will benefit from different approaches.

I have translated krama not as sequence, but as path, to emphasize the more general implications here. The distinctive events of our lives, and how we have met them, stepped through them, affects how we develop. The steps that have been taken before we are born set the circumstances that we are born to. They live in us.

Adrienne Rich, in her remarkable poem Sources, searches out the foundations of herself. She proclaims that she does not look to another person or thing to heal or fix her. She looks to herself.

I refuse to become a seeker for cures.
Everything that has ever
helped me has come through what already
lay stored in me. Old things, diffuse, unnamed, lie strong
across my heart.

The old things, the things stored in her, include places, parentage, and upbringing. She contemplates the powerful influence of her father on her, her Jewish heritage he never acknowledged, his gift of drive and purpose, his fear and concealment, his domination. She sees his formidable effect on her, her own revolt against his “power and arrogance.” She grapples with how he has shaped her identity, and she looks past him, to the sources that shaped him, to the choices that are her own.

With whom do you believe your lot is cast?
From where does your strength come?

I think somehow, somewhere
every poem of mine must repeat those questions

which are not the same. There is a whom, a where
that is not chosen that is given and sometimes falsely given

in the beginning we grasp whatever we can
to survive

–Adrienne Rich, “Sources”

Like Adrienne Rich, we might consider what we have grasped at “to survive.” Are there teachings we have been given, perhaps when we were very young, that we may need to cast off? Are there stories about our origins, or who our people were, that we now question?

Krama refers to the steps that have brought me to where I am today, the steps of my parents and their parents, my steps. Krama also casts forward. What steps will I take? How will I live? What are the methods I choose, personally and as a participant in society? I must know where my strength comes from. Change requires strength.


“Different methods produce different changes. … To acquire a certain level in a foreign language, for example, one might take classes, individual lessons, or a correspondence course, or one might stay in the country where the language is spoken. The rate of learning differs according to the method used. The method must also suit a student’s aptitudes and temperament. For example, a gregarious person who is not so fond of books and solitude would learn more with a maximum of human contact and, therefore, might prefer to spend time with native speakers of the language.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on III.15

“There is a logic to the involutionary spiritual journey, just as there is in the growth of a plant from seed, to stem, to bud, to flower, to fruit. The original, pure consciousness which we trace through Patañjali’s method is the seed of transformation in oneself. Our own self is the maker of our own spiritual destiny.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, commentary on III.15

“When time-succession is seen without the comprehension of the timeless moment then the former makes no sense whatever. It appears to be a frustrating process moving in a seeming aimlessness. Rabindranath Tagore states this beautifully in his book Sadhana: ‘If we do not see the Infinite Rest, and only see Infinite Motion, then existence appears to us a monstrous evil, impetuously rushing towards an unending aimlessness.’ … It is only when the manifest drops away that the Unmanifest can be seen in all its glory. And the dropping away of the manifest is the cessation of the thinker and the thought. In this utter silence of consciousness the timeless moment conveys the secret of time; it is in this timeless moment that the meaning of the Time-sequence is comprehended.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on III.15

• Do you tend to repeat or vary the sequence of practice? What are the benefits of repetition? Variation? Can you trace your own development as a yoga practitioner? What was the start like? How has the change gone?
• Do you recognize that a method that you value might not be right for another person? What is an example of that?
• With whom do you believe your lot is cast? (Who have you been walking with? Who do you choose to walk with going forward?)
• From where does your strength come?


masculine noun in compound

going, proceeding, sequence, method (from kram, “to walk, go, step”)


neuter noun, 1st case singular

otherness, distinctiveness, singularity (from anya, “other,” + –tva, “-ness”)


masculine noun in compound

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


neuter noun, 7th case singular

otherness, distinctiveness, singularity (from anya, “other,” + –tva, “-ness”)


masculine noun, 1st case singular

cause (from hi, “to incite”)

Leave a Reply