The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Exposition of the Ashtanga-Yoga (the eightfold Path of Yoga) which is chapter 28 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the twenty-eighth chapter of the Third Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 28 - Exposition of the Aṣṭāṅga-Yoga (the eightfold Path of Yoga)

The Lord said:

1 Oh Princess, I shall explain to you the nature of the sa-bīja[1] type of Yoga, by practising which only, the mind becomes tranquil and pure, and goes to the path (leading) to Brahman[2].

2.[3] Performance of one’s religious duties according to one’s capacity, aversion to irreligion, contentment in what one obtains by the Lord’s grace (or one’s fate); worshipping the feet of those who have realized the Soul (ātman).

3. Abstention from duties pertaining to dharma, artha and kāma (the first three common goals in life), devotion to duties leading to mokṣa (liberation), eating pure food in moderation and permanent stay in a safe, secluded place.

4. Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, acceptance of only the bare necessities of life, celibacy, penance, purity, study of Vedas (or Śāstras), (ritualistic) worship of the Supreme Man.

5. Silence, ever-firmness in bodily posture and steadiness, gradual control of breath, mental withdrawal of senses from their objects into the heart.

6. Concentration of the mind and the breath in one of the plexuses (like the mūlādhāra cakra), constant meditation of the līlās (sports, actions) of Lord, and concentration of the mind on God.

7. By these and other means (such as observance of vows, giving donations) one should attain control over his breath, and deliberately and without slackness, direct the mind to the right path—mind which has become polluted by going to the path of worldly enjoyment.

8.[4] Having firmly fixed his seat in a clean holy place, he should (firstly) get (thorough) control of his bodily posture. He should comfortably[5] be seated on that seat, and keeping his body erect, he should practise (breath-control).

9. He should purify the passage (path) of the breath, (the respiratory system) by systematic inhalation, retention and exhalation of breath or vice versa, so that the mind becomes quiescent and steady.

10. The mind of a yogin who has mastered his breathing, becomes pure immediately just as gold melted by the blast of wind and fire, gives up the dross mixed with it.

11. One should burn one’s impure humids in the body by breath-control, the sins by Dhāraṇā[6], the attachment to objects of senses by Pratyāhāra[7] and undivine qualities by meditation.

12. When one’s mind becomes pure and properly steady (poised), by Yoga, one should meditate on the form of the Supreme Lord, with his eyes fixed at the farthest end (the tip) of his nose.

13-18.[8] The Yogin should meditate on the complete form of God, till his mind is completely fixed on God; whose lotus-like face is kindly (i.e. gracious); whose eyes are reddish like the interior of a lotus; whose complexion is dark-blue like the petals of a blue lotus; who is holding (in his hands) a conch, a disc (Sudarśana-cakra) and a mace (Kaumodakī gadā) whose silk garments are yellow like the bright (shining); filaments of a lotus; whose chest bears the mark of Śrīvatsa; who wears the resplendent jewel kausṭubha around his neck; who is garlanded by a vanamālā about which intoxicated bees are humming sweetly; who is adorned with invaluable necklace, bracelets, crown, armlets (aṅgada) and anklets; whose waist (lit. hips) is engirdled by a lustrous belt; whose seat is in the lotus-like hearts (of his devotees); who is the most beautiful, serene, delighting the eyes and the minds (of his devotees); who is extremely charming to look; who is ever bowed (and respected) by all the worlds; who appears like a boy (of fifteen) in age; who is eagerly absorbed in (showering) grace on his servants; whose holy fame deserves to be eulogised; who has enhanced the fame of Bali and other puṇyaślokas (persons of hallowed name).

19. With his mind full of pure devotion, he should contemplate the God as standing, walking, sitting, lying, or occupying his heart—Lord whose līlās are worth looking.

20. When the sage finds that his mind becomes concentrated on all the members of the body of the Lord as a whole, he should try to fix on the members (of the body of the Lord) one by one.

21. He should reflect (contemplate) the lotus-like feet of the Lord which are enriched by the (lines showing) marks of the Vajra, the goad (aṅkuśa), the banner (dhvaja) and the lotus, and the lunar rays emanating from whose group of prominent, reddish, refulgent (toe-) nails have dispelled the dense darkness in the hearts (of his devotees).

22. One should contemplate for a long time the lotuslike feet of the Lord—Feet, the waters washing which flowed forth and became a great river, the Gaṅgā. God Śiva bore the sacred waters (of the Gaṅgā) on his head and became supremely auspicious. (One should meditate on) those feet which are like a thunderbolt discharged against the mountain of evils (sins) in the mind of the meditator (or the feet which detonate the Vajra, the mark on his feet, against the mountain of evils).

23. One should contemplate in one’s heart (the pair of the shanks and) knees of the All-pervading Lord who liberates from saṃsāra—the knees which are placed on her thighs and are gently served (pressed and massaged) with her brilliant sproutlike hands by Lakṣmī of lotus-eyes, who is the mother of god Brahmā, the creator of all the worlds.

24. (One should meditate in one’s hearts on) the thighs of the Lord which appear superbly beautiful on the shoulder of Garuḍa, and which are the source (or reservoir) of strength, and are like Atasikā (linseed) flower in complexion. He should further contemplate his waist or round hips which are encircled (lit. embraced) with a girdle which belts his yellow garment (Pītāmbara) reaching upto his ankles.

25. (One should contemplate) his deep lake-like navel on the stomach which is like a cave accommodating all the worlds and from which sprouted forth the lotus which was the seat of Gṇd Brahmā and the abode of the universe. One should meditate on his pair of emerald-like nipples which appear bright and white by the rays of the shining wreaths of pearls.

26. One should then contemplate in one’s heart the chest of the great God (Hari) which is the resting place of his Supreme Power (goddess Mahālakṣmī), and which brings great joy to men’s minds and eyes. Next, one should meditate upon the neck of Lord Hari who is bowed down by all the worlds—the neck which beautifies the Kaustubha jewel.

27. One should then visualize for meditation his arms, the armlets on which got burnished by the circular movements of the Mandara mountain (while the ocean was being churned for the nectar)—arms which are the support of the Lokapālas (deities protecting the world). (One should then contemplate) the Sudarśana disc of one thousand blades (spokes) of unbearable splendour (and velocity), and the conch which looks like a royal swan in his lotus-like hand (due to whiteness of the conch and the swan).

28. Then one should remember (contemplate) the Lord’s beloved mace, Kaumodakī, besmeared with the thick (mud-like) blood of inimical warriors. (Then one should contemplate) the garland (in his neck) which is (as if) resonant with the humming swarm of bees around it. He should (next) meditate on the spotless jewel Kaustubha which represents the essential principle of jīvas[9] (beings).

29. One should (then) properly contemplate the lotuslike face of the Lord who, with his mind full of compassion for his servants, has assumed a form (incarnation) in this world—(his) face (beautiful) with shapely prominent nose and spotless cheeks illuminated by the oscillations of the refulgent earrings of crocodile-like shape.

30.[10] With close attention, one should contemplate in mind the lotus-like face of Hari which manifests itself in the mind—face looking beautiful due to the locks of curly hair around it, and lotus-like eyes with flashing charming eye-brows, and which thus surpasses in beauty the lotus-abode of Lakṣmī, which, due to its beauty is attended upon (hovered round) by black-bees and resorted to by a pair of fish.

31. With perfect and intense devotion one should contemplate for a long time the glances of the eyes of Hari who is. dwelling in the cave in the form of one’s heart—glances which are cast with great mercy and favour for soothing the terrible-most afflictions of three types (—ādhyātmika, ādhibhautika and ādhidaivika), and which are accompanied with affectionate smile, and which confer abundance of grace (upon his devotees).

32. (One should then contemplate) Hari’s most enchanting smile which dries up the sea of tears caused by the intense grief of all the people who bow to him; (and should meditate on) his circular eyebrows which he has bent by his Māyā to entice and delude the god of love for the sake of sages (whom he—the god of Love—disturbs in their meditations).

33. Viṣṇu manifests himself in the cave of the heart in one’s body. With a heart full of (lit. moistened with) devotion, one should contemplate on Viṣṇu’s loud laugh as an object of meditation—laugh which exhibits his row of teeth like Kunda buds, which appear reddish by the bright glow of his lower lip. Having dedicated one’s mind to him, one should not desire to look anywhere else.

34. In this way (of meditating on the Lord) the sage gets the love of Hari engendered in him. His heart is melted with devotion. He finds his hair standing on their ends through ecstatic joy. Due to the tears of joy flowing on account of his ardent love for God, he finds himself frequently submerged in the flood of joys. He gradually disentangles himself from his heart which is like a hook to secure the Lord.[11]

35.[12] When the mind becomes unattached and withdrawn from the sense-objects, it loses its support (to function as the meditator has no standing in the absence of the object of meditation. It becomes dissolved in Brahman (i.e. its being is transformed into Brahman) just as a flame in the absence of its support (oil, wick etc.) becomes one with the Mahābhūta Fire. In this stage, a man who is free from the flow of guṇas i.e. the limitations of the body etc. at once realizes his Soul directly as one (without distinction such as the meditator and the object of meditation).

36. Even he (the devotee or Yogin) becomes dissolved in Brahman which is beyond pleasure and pain. In this last stage attained by the practice of Yoga, his (Yogiri’s) mind finally withdraws (and becomes free from avidyā). Tha Yogin thus realizes the essential nature of the Soul and transfers from himself the agency of the pleasure and the pain to ahaṃkāra (ego), known as asat which is the produce of avidyā.

37. Just as an addict, blind with the intoxication of wine, is not conscious of the existence of the garment he has worn, the perfect Siddha who has reached the final stage (described above) is not conscious whether his body is sitting or standing or is removed to another place or has returned by the will of the destiny, because he (the siddha) has reached (realized) his real self.

38. So long as the karma which is the cause of the body is effective (and not exhausted) till that period the body along with the sense-organs which is at the mercy of the fate does definitely exist. But he who has mastered the Yoga upto the Samādhi and who has realized the thing (i.e. the Soul) does not again accept the body along with its attendants (the Prapañca) as if it is an appearance in a dream. (He becomes free from the ahaṃkāra regarding his boḍy, his relatives, belongings etc.).

39. Just as a man is found to be different from his son or wealth, even though they are accepted as his own, similarly the Soul is distinct from his boḍy (and things in association with it, though they are regarded as his self).

40-41. Just as the (real) fire is different from the firebrand or from the sparks (emanating from it) or the smoke (issuing from it) or the burning wood is regarded as the fire, so also the Seer is different and distinct from bhūtas, sense- organs and the mind (antaḥ-karaṇa); the Brahman is different from what is designated as jīva, and the Lord (Supreme Soul) is different from Prakṛti.

42. Just as all types of beings (whether born from the womb or from the egg or from perspiration or germinating from seeds as plants) are identical from the point of their constitution from Mahābhūtas, similarly one should see (the identity of) the Soul (ātman) in all beings and of all beings in the ātman.

43. Just as the fire, though one, appears to be different according to the difference in the quality of its source (i.e. the shape, size and quality of the wood burnt by it)—similarly the embodied Soul appears different according to the difference in quality of its boḍy (whether human, divine etc.).

44. Therefore, after conquering this incomprehensible Prakṛti, God Viṣṇu’s own power, which is of the form of cause and effect (sat and asat), one remains in one’s own (original, pure) form.

Footnotes and references:


sabīja: The Yoga is of two types; sabīja and nirbīja. Sabīja requires an object for meditation (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā) which is according to Padaratnāvalī & Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa Viṣṇu. The nirbīja-yoga, consists of curbing the wavering mind and subjugating it solely to the Self as prescribed in the Bhagavad Gītā 6.26 (Subodhinī).


sat-patha [patham]—(1) The path of bhakti (Dīpinī); (ii) The path leading to the realization of ātman (Subodhinī) or of the Lord (Subodhinī, Siddhāntapradīpa).


Although the commentators label the virtues enumerated in these (2-6) verses as yama and niyama, the first two aṅgas of Yoga, it is an elucidation of Ys. 2.30-32. Cf. the list of virtues in Bhagavad Gītā 16.1-3; 17.7-11, 17.14-16 as ‘means to knowledge’ as the daivī sampad and as moral discipline (tapas)


This is practically a quotation from Bhagavad Gītā 6.11-13.


svasti: Bhāvāratha Dīpikā reads svastikam āsīnam and interprets: ‘in the bodily posture called svastikāsana’. He quotes a verse describing this posture. Bhāgavata Candrikā, VC., Siddhāntapradīpa, Subodhinī follow Bhāvāratha Dīpikā


Dhāraṇā—‘Fixed attention’ is binding the mind to a place like a plexus (cakra) in the body—YS. 3.1.


Pratyāhārasva-viṣayāsamprayoge cittasya svarūpānukāra ivendriyāṇāṃ pratyāhāraḥ / YS. 2.54. ‘Pratyāhāra (withdrawal of the senses) is as it were the imitation of the mind-stuff itself on the part of the organs by disjoining themselves from their objects’. Wood—The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali 197-98.


From this verse, the author gives the different mental representations of Viṣṇu on which the Yogin should meditate in a serial order.


The gem, Kaustubha represents the Soul—the jīva-tattvaBhāgavata Candrikā, Kramasandarbha.


ātmānam asya jagato nirlepam aguṇāmalam /
bibharti kaustubha-maṇi-svarūpaṃ bhagavān hariḥ //Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.22.68.

‘Lord Hari wears on his neck the gem Kaustubha which is a form of the Soul of the living beings. It is destitute of any deposit, guṇa or dirt.’


By clever arguments Subodhinī tries to show that the nine-fold devotion is described in verses 29 and 30.


citta-baḍiśa [baḍiśam] etc. (i) The angle in the form of citta which hooks up the Lord who is difficult to capture—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā

(ii) He should gradually disengage his mind from the person of the Lord which is to be meditated. He should then meditate on his pratyagātmā (Soul).—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(iii) The sage who directs the hook of his heart to the Lord—the object of contemplation, disengages it (and enters samādhi without any purposeful efforts).—Padaratnāvalī

This is the method of sabīja samādhi.

(iv) The heart of Yogin is hard like a hook. Its touch is troublesome to the Lord. When this hook is removed (disengaged), God confers experience of Pratyagātmā and Mokṣa on the Yogin but not the experience of the Supreme Soul.

(v) The hook of the mind which is the instrument of grasping worldly objects and turned to meditation etc. which lead to the attainment of Hari.—Siddhāntapradīpa


Bhāgavata Candrikā—Explanation may be summarised as follows:

When mind becomes unattached, it becomes destitute of objects of senses like a flame of lamp free from smoke. When the mind ceases to think about these and rises above the contemplation of forms etc., it abandons its external activities. Then the individual Soul loses attachment to his body and the idea of being absolutely independent and directly finds himself to be a part or attribute of the Supreme Self.—Bhāgavata Candrikā

Sārārthadarśinī: When mind becomes unattached and free from viṣayas (objects of senses), it loses its stay or support, (as it has nothing to think about). Hence it naturally attains to nirvāṇa like the flame of lamp when deprived of its wick and oil. In this stage of dissolution of mind, jīva, directly experiences the identity of the pure Soul and individual Soul (jīva). Thenceforth he never returns to saṃsara.

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