Sutra I.24 – Chapter I, Sutra 24

क्लेशकर्मविपाकाशयैरपरामृष्टः पुरुषविशेष ईश्वरः॥२४॥


Isvara is a special (visesa) Soul (purusa), which is unaffected (aparamrstah) by the sources of suffering (klesas), action (karma), the consequences of our actions (vipaka) or the storage of these actions in our subconscious (asayaih).

PRACTICAL LIVING     Let us do some review (ksema) since this sutra reveals some new ideas. Under the ‘History’ page we explained that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are based on another philosophy called Samkhya. Samkhya states that all living beings are made of two things. Firstly, matter (prakrti), which includes our bodies, thoughts and emotions. These are constantly changing. Secondly, we also have a part of us that is unchanging, the Seer, our true nature, our Soul or Spirit (purusa).

This sutra is a continuation of the previous one, which mentioned the belief in a higher power of one’s choice. Patanjali offers this as a suggestion, as a tool for meditation for those who either have an inborn tendency to believe in God, or for those who do not have enough inner trust (see Sutra I.20). Here, Patanjali begins to describe what this higher power/light (isvara) is.

He says that unlike our bodies, thoughts and emotions (prakrti), isvara is not affected by the sources of suffering (klesas). Later in the beginning of chapter 2, we will explore these in detail. But for clarification, we will introduce them now. The klesas are what Patanjali says cause us pain. They are the reason for our suffering and are listed below:

1. avidya (misperception). Due to our conditioned minds, we see things from a colored lens instead of seeing things exactly as they are. Avidya is the root for the following klesas.

2. asmita (over-identification). Referred to as the ego, or the concept of “I am-ness”, this occurs when we over identify ourselves with our jobs, last names, cars, partners, homes…etc. This creates problems because it gives us the idea (or illusion) that we are what we have, so if we lose what we have, we lose part of ourselves.

3. raga (craving). A strong desire for an object, idea, belief system or person, we over attach to something to feel safe. We grab onto that as if it were our lives. We want to repeat experiences that were once enjoyable. But because matter is always changing, this often leads to disappointment and not living the present experience (we live the past or future experience).

4. dvesa (aversion). The other side of the coin to craving, this is avoiding an experience that we believe will give us pain. The problem is that when combined with misperception, we can end up avoiding social occasions, adventures, and, in general, many situations which actually bring us pleasure and joy because the mind links them to something previously experienced.

5. abhinivesa (fear). Perhaps the deepest klesa we have, it is based on the instinct of survival. We all want to live, and therefore fear death. But we also fear death of relationships, careers, financial stability, love, attention…you name it. Many of those fears are directly related to the above 4.

So isvara is this special entity that is not affected by the above. It is also not influenced by our actions (karma) and the results of our actions (vipaka). Our present life is a consequence of the actions we took in the past, whether they were positive or negative. Sometimes we see the results immediately, but sometimes they are only seen years or decades later. These actions leave traces (asayaih) in our subconscious and isvara is unaffected by these as well.

In summary, this sutra is telling us what isvara is not. It is different than human beings who are affected by all of these elements mentioned above. Isvara is a special soul/light (purusa), it’s the light of all lights. And whether you like calling it God, Ganesha, The Sun or anything else, it’s up to you.

IN THE YOGA WORLD     So isvara is a special purusa. There is a difference between purusa (individual soul) and purusa visesa (Special Soul). According to Samkhya, Purusa as explained in Sutra I.3, is present in each individual. The individual purusa in each human being, though it remains unaffected and unrelated to matter (prakrti), still appears (due to misperception) to be connected and related to prakrti, because the mind is ruled by the sources of suffering (the klesas). In Isvara, there is no delusion since there is no body and no mind. The kleshas have therefore no chance to affect the isvara. Nor does action (karma) and its consequences (vipaka).

In the end, Patanjali presents 7 sutras that describe the concept of a higher power and its qualities for those who would benefit from it. Please don’t misperceive this (avidya – one of the sources of suffering) and conclude that Yoga is religious! Patanjali was a wise man, and suggested this as an option because the object of meditation is not what matters. What is important is to choose something that brings us to an internal space of peace, awareness, trust and wisdom.

INSPIRATIONAL PERSON     Karuna is a being of faith. She is a beautiful woman, living Sutra I.24-Karunalife with an immense amount of energy, enthusiasm and love for self-growth. Her pursuit for self-healing and helping others transform is largely based on a faith in a higher power, a trust in life, and surrendering to that which we have no control over. She has a profound understanding that her isvara is unaffected by the can of worms that our minds are. Her devotion for that bigger light is beautiful to experience. Thank you Karunita for sharing your wonderful self with me for the past 3 weeks! Beijo com muito carinho!

Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!

Thanks and we will look at what is isvara is next week!

6 thoughts on “Sutra I.24 – Chapter I, Sutra 24

  1. I feel like this sutra is saying that my mind has become clouded throughout my life by experiences that were maybe bad or some even good, and that this special purusa (isvara) can occur when I finally just let it all go. The memories and all will still be with me, but they won’t affect how I feel or act. In other words, I have A LOT of work to do! Through my yoga practice and teacher training, I feel that I am becoming more aware of how I act toward myself and others and at different types of situations, but it’s quite hard to just let it go for me quite yet. How I react toward certain situations has sort of become a samskara that needs to be broken. I hope to achieve this level of yoga at sometime in my lifetime, but I realize that this will be a long journey that won’t be easy.

  2. Daniel I love the insight in your comment and totally relate. Learning about the kleshas really opened my eyes to a lot of Mala and sources of suffering in my life. Ietting go or ishvarapranihana has allowed me to connect to my true inner happy self. My purusa. One of the most difficult kleshas for me to let go of is my ragastic tendencies. My attachment to negative habits has been very dominant in my life. The things that were once exciting in my past are no longer and can bring suffering. The act of staying in the present is helping me recognize this and give my body and mind what it really needs through tapas.

  3. Pingback: Sutra I.25 – Chapter I, Sutra 25 | weeklysutra

  4. Pingback: Sutra I.26 – Chapter I, Sutra 26 | weeklysutra

  5. For physical pain, a deep cut or an internal pain inside the body, it is usually triggered by the local nervous system around the pain area sending information to the central nervous system, alerting us a pain sensation. Imagine how powerful if we could just forget, or let go of the pain, and focus on the breath, that is, we purposely deactivate the local nervous system that sends the pain signal and thus ignore it or even let it bypass us (we see it there, but dont hold on to it). This is the same effect as taking drugs, even if there are pains in the body, our minds got hallucinated to the point that we dont even know the pain is there, and ironically, we feel high and even happy. Let’s focus on our breath, it is very powerful. It’s the only tool that is left if our body is ever paralyzed.

    For emotional pain, for example, how should i let go of my ex girlfriend? Find a new one, a better one, a hotter one :). There’s no point of dwelling over the past. Just be aware that it’s there, failures come and go. Learn and move on. And when a door closes, a new door opens.

  6. So much of our suffering as individuals, and collectively, comes from the constant tension between mind and body, or between my body and mind, and your body and mind. How simple would it be if these were discrete components of our experience! But for us, our mind and body are inextricably linked, and in fact, this connection is the source of our living experience, and is the lens through which we process time itself.

    Not only can it be incredibly powerful to think of the doshas “beneath” or “beyond” the first couple of layers, that somewhere within us is purusa, but that as “special” as that is, to conceive of some thing even more isolated, perfect and ideal on which to focus our meditations.

    the sense of awe or reverence that we can gain from conceiving of something more, the most, total absence, total everything – well that feels quite palpable.

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