The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Book 4 – Illumination

23. Then the mind stuff, reflecting both the knower and the knowable, becomes omniscient.

This sutra is in the nature of a summation and emphasizes the fact that the mind, being stilled and quiescent through the practise of concentration and meditation, becomes the reflector of “that which is above and of that which lies below.” It is the transmitter of the knowledge of the self to the physical brain of the man in incarnation, and the transmitter also of all that which the self knows and perceives. The field of knowledge is seen and known. The knower is also perceived, and the “perception of all objects” becomes possible. It becomes literally true, therefore, that for the yogin nothing remains hidden or unknown. Information on all subjects becomes possible to him, for he has an instrument which he can use to ascertain that which the soul knows concerning the Kingdom of God, the realm of spiritual truth. He can also enter into communication and convey to the soul that which is known to the man in physical incarnation. Thus the knower, the field of knowledge and knowledge itself are brought into conjunction and the medium of this union is the mind.

This is one great stage upon the path of return, and though in due time the intuition will supersede the mind, and direct spiritual perception take the place of mental perception, yet this stage is an advanced and important one, and opens the door to direct illumination. Nothing need now hinder the downflow of spiritual force and wisdom into the brain, for the entire lower threefold man has been purified and dominated, and the physical, emotional and mental bodies form simply a channel for the divine light, and constitute the vehicle through which the life and love of God may manifest.

24. The mind stuff also, reflecting as it does an infinity of mind impressions, becomes the instrument of the Self and acts as a unifying agent.

Nothing remains for the spiritual man to do in connection with this purified lower self but to learn to use his instrument, the mind, and through it the other two bodies are directed, controlled and utilized. Through the eight means of yoga his instrument has been discovered, developed and mastered and must now be brought into active use, and employed in three ways.

  • As a vehicle for the life of the soul.
  • In the service of the Hierarchy.
  • In cooperation with the plan of evolution.

In Book I. Sutra 41, we find these words: “To him whose Vrittis (modifications of the substance of the mind) are entirely controlled there eventuates a state of identity with, and similarity to, that which is realized. The knower, knowledge and the field of knowledge become one, just as the crystal takes to itself the colors of that which is reflected in it.” This gives us a picture of what happens to the man who has mastered his instrument. He registers in his brain, via the mind, that which is true and real; he becomes aware of the nature of the ideal and bends every power which he possesses to the work of bringing that ideal into objective manifestation; he sees the vision of the kingdom of God as it will be in the latter days, and all that he has and is he renders up in order that the vision may be seen by all; he knows the plan, for it is revealed to him in the “secret place upon the Mount of God,” and he cooperates with it intelligently upon the physical plane; he hears the Voice of the Silence and obeys its injunction, working steadily at the task of spiritual living in a world consecrated to things material.

All this is possible to the man who has stilled the versatile psychic nature and has mastered the kingly science of Raja Yoga.

In the hidden literature of the adepts the following stanzas sum up the state of the man who has achieved, who is master and not servant, conqueror and not slave:

    “The fivefold one hath entered into peace, yet walks our sphere. That which is dense and dark now shineth with a clear pure light, and radiance poureth from the seven sacred lotuses. He lighteneth the world, and irradiateth the nethermost place with fire divine.

    That which hath hitherto been restless, wild as the ocean, turgid as the stormy sea, lies quiet and still. Limpid the waters of the lower life and fit to offer to the thirsty ones who, groping, cry of thirst.

    That which hath slain and veiled the Real for many lengthy aeons is itself slain, and with its death the separated life is ended. The One is seen. The Voice is heard. The Real is known, the Vision glimpsed. The fire of God leaps upward into a flame.

    The darkest place receives the light. The dawn appears on earth. The dayspring from on high, sheds its bright beams in hell itself, and all is light and life.”

Then before the liberated yogi a choice is placed. He faces a spiritual problem and its nature has been conveyed to us in the following fragment of an old esoteric catechism:

  “What dost thou see, 0h! liberated one? Many who suffer, Master, who weep and cry for help.

    What will thou do, Oh! man of peace? Return from whence I came.

    Whence comest thou, Pilgrim divine? From the lowest depths of darkness, thence upwards into light.

   Where goest thou, 0h! Traveller upon the upward way? Back to the depths of darkness, away from the light of day.

    Wherefore this step, 0h! Son of God? To gather those who stumble in the darkness and light their steps upon the path.

    When is the term of service, 0h! Savior of men? I know not, save that whilst one suffers I stay behind and serve.”

25. The state of isolated unity (withdrawn into the true nature of the Self) is the reward of the man who can discriminate between the mind stuff and the Self, or spiritual man.

This state of isolated unity must be regarded as the result of the attainment of a particular state of mind, rather than as a separative reaction. All meditation work, all moments of reflection, all affirmative exercises, all hours of recollection of one’s true nature are means employed to detach the mind from the lower reactions and tendencies, and build in the habit of a constant realization of one’s true divine nature. When this realization is achieved, the need for such exercises ceases and one enters into one’s heritage. The isolation referred to is the detachment of the self from the field of knowledge, the involving of the refusal of the self to seek outward-going sensuous experience and its standing firm in the state of spiritual being.

The man becomes conscious of himself as the knower and is no longer primarily concerned with the field of knowledge, as in the early stages of his unfoldment; neither is he engaged with knowledge itself, as during the stage of mental development either as an advanced man or as a disciple. He can discriminate between all three, and identifies himself henceforth neither with the field of knowledge, life in the three worlds through the medium of his three vehicles, and the five senses plus the mind, nor with the knowledge gained nor the experience undergone. He knows the self; he identifies himself with the true knower, and thus sees things as they are, dissociating himself entirely from the world of sensuous perception.

He does this, however, whilst functioning as a human being on earth. He participates in earth experience; he involves himself in human activities; he walks among men, eating and sleeping, working and living. Yet all the time he “is in the world, yet not of the world,” and of him it can be said as it was said of the Christ,

    “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil., II, 6, 7, 8.)

He is at-one with the soul of all, but isolated off, separated from all that concerns the form or material nature. The next three sutras should be read as one, giving as they do a picture of the gradual growth of the spiritual nature in the man who has arrived at the state of discriminating detachment, and through utter dispassion, knows the meaning of isolated unity.

26, 27, 28. The mind then tends towards discrimination and increasing illumination as to the true nature of the one Self. Through force of habit, however, the mind will reflect other mental impressions and perceive objects of sensuous perception. These reflections are of the nature of hindrances and the method of their overcoming is the same.

The right tendencies and rhythm having been set up, it becomes simply a question of steady perseverance, common sense and endurance. Unless the utmost vigilance is exerted, the old habits of mind will very easily reassert themselves, and even until the final initiation the aspirant must “watch and pray.”

The rules which govern victory, the practices which bring success are the same for the advanced expert warrior and initiate as they are for the humblest neophyte. In Book II the methods whereby the hindrances and obstacles could be overcome and negated are most carefully given and from the moment of stepping upon the probationary path until that high moment when the last great initiation has been experienced, and the liberated man stands forth in the full light of day, these methods and modes of disciplined living must be adhered to unswervingly. This involves patience, the capacity to go on after failure, to persevere when success seems far away. This was well known to the great initiate, Paul, and was the cause of his injunction to the disciples he sought to help. “Stand therefore… and having done all, stand.” James gives us the same thought where he says “Behold we count them happy that endure.”

It is the going on when the point of exhaustion has been reached, the taking of another step when the strength to do so seems gone, the holding steady when there seems nothing but defeat ahead, and the determination to endure whatever may be coming, when endurance has been taxed to the limit, which is the hallmark of disciples of every degree. To them goes out the clarion call of Paul:

    “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

    Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the word of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph., VI, 14, 15, 16, 17.)

The equally clear command of Krishna to Arjuna sounds out also:

    “Having regard to thy duty, deign not to shrink back. For nothing is better for a warrior than a righteous battle. And such a battle has come to thee of its own accord, a very door of heaven will be opened; happy the warriors… who find such a fight as this… Therefore, arise, determined to do battle. Making equal good and ill fortune, gain and loss, victory and defeat, gird thyself for the fight.” (Gita II, 31, 32, 37, 38.)