Yoga-sutras (with Bhoja’s Rajamartanda)

by Rajendralala Mitra | 1883 | 103,575 words

The Yoga-Sutra 4.17, English translation with Commentaries. The Yogasutra of Patanjali represents a collection of aphorisms dealing with spiritual topics such as meditation, absorption, Siddhis (yogic powers) and final liberation (Moksha). The Raja-Martanda is officialy classified as a Vritti (gloss) which means its explanatory in nature, as opposed to being a discursive commentary.

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation of Sūtra 4.17:

सदा ज्ञाताश्चित्तवृत्तयः तत्प्रभोः पुरुषस्यापरिणामित्वात् ॥ ४.॥१७ ॥

sadā jñātāścittavṛttayaḥ tatprabhoḥ puruṣasyāpariṇāmitvāt || 4.||17 ||

17. The functions of the thinking principle are always known, for its presiding soul is unmodifiable.

The Rajamartanda commentary by King Bhoja:

[English translation of the 11th century commentary by Bhoja called the Rājamārtaṇḍa]

[Sanskrit text for commentary available]

To remove the doubt that since the perceiving soul does not perceive a yellow colour when it perceives a blue, there is liability of its assuming, like the thinking principle, different shapes, or being modified from its being at times the perceiver, he says:

[Read Sūtra 4.17]

All the functions of the thinking principle—characterised as they are by proofs, misconceptions, &c.,—are “always,” i.e., at all times, known to its percipient soul, since it is unmodifiable, or wanting in liability to change from its being of the form of the intellect (cidrūpa). Were it mutable, the constant perceptibility of those functions would not follow, the mutability being (necessarily) occasional. The meaning is this. The soul of the form of intellect always remaining as the presiding principle, and its intimate associate, the pure element, the thinking principle, being also always present, by whatever object it (the latter) is modified in shape there is the probability of that object being always brought into contact with the shadow of the former (soul, cit); and such being the case it is established that there is constant perceptibility, and never can there be any apprehension of change.

Notes and Extracts

[Notes and comparative extracts from other commentaries on the Yogasūtra]

[Having explained the relation of cognition to cognizables, and the rationale of the process by which things become known or unknown, the author proceeds to explain how it is that the thinking principle, which, under the circumstances alleged, is always changing and assuming new forms, should still be able to know different objects, or have the power of understanding. The thinking principle is admitted to be in se unconscious, and is itself undergoing constant modifications, and cannot therefore exercise intelligence, and be itself the cause of knowledge. But, says the author, its presiding soul is constant and immutable, and associated with that soul it derives reflected intelligence, and by its aid it is always able to know whatever external object casts its shadow on it. In other words, though the thinking principle is itself unconscious, it derives intelligence from the soul which is pure intelligence and absolutely immutable.

The Pātañjala Bhāṣya explains the aphorism by saying,

(yadi cittavat prabhurapi puruṣaḥ pariṇameta tatastadviṣayā cittavṛttayaḥ śabdādiviṣayavat jñātājñālāḥ syuḥ, sadājñātatvantu manasastatprabhoḥ puruṣasyāpariṇāmitvamanumāpayati.)

“Had the presiding soul been liable, like the thinking principle, to constant mutation, then objects or the functions of the thinking principle would have become, like sounds and other objects, sometimes known and sometimes unknown to it; but constant consciousness (lit. perceptibility) of the mind is indicated by the immutability of its presiding soul.”—

This idea is further developed in other commentaries.]

Now it may be said that since the thinking principle itself, from excess of the quality of goodness, is the illuminant, it can from its self-illumination, illuminate both itself and the object, and the act of perception can thereby be completed, what is the use of the assumption of a separate percipient? To allay this doubt, he says:

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