Discussion of Sutra 2.21 — April 7 and 9, 2015

This week we will continue our work with the second pada (chapter) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and specifically, Sutra 2.21. Some translations and commentary follow.

Sutra 2.21
Nature and intelligence exist solely to serve the seer’s true purpose, emancipation. Intelligence exists to serve the the seer’s agent, to free the consciousness from avidya (ignorance). The natural tendency of all the soul’s agents — mind, senses of perception and organs of action — to be drawn to and identify with the sensory and phenomenal world is to be avoided by discrimination, a faculty of intelligence. Uninterruped yogic sadhana (practice/spiritual journey) will help us overcome these obstacles and allow the soul to reveal itself. (Iyengar)

The phenomenal world exists to reveal the truth that pure awareness is just seeing itself. Pure awareness does not correspond in any way to the categories or behaviors of nature. It never changes, nor can it be regarded as manifest or unmanifest. It is witnessing alone, devoid of content. Therefore the phenomenal world of consciousness must be the stage not only for the earthly experience of birth, life, death, and rebirth but also for realization. Recognizing this, Patanjali asserts that the primal purpose of the phenomenal world is to reflect the true nature of awareness back to itself. (Hartranft)

The seen exists only for the sake of the Seer. Using devotee’s language, we might say that the purpose of creation — why life exists at all — is to serve the purpose of its Creator, which we know is the liberation of the individual (Sutra 2.18) There is no simple, satisfying answer as to why life is this way. The response to this question lies outside the grasp of the mind. It is one of many spiritual puzzles, the solutions to which we will discover not by use of logic but by transcending ignorance. (Carrera)

All knowables, in terms of color, form, cognition, and feelings, are seen by purusa (pure awareness) through modifications of the intellect, mind and senses. This includes all exercise of the will. But when the mind becomes completely purified of its outgoing nature, there are no more objects to be experienced by pursusa. At this point, it is said that purusa becomes isolated within itself, which is known as liberation. (Baba Hari Dass).