Philosophy Discussion, Feb. 17 and 19, 2015, Sutra 2.11

This week we look at one more sutra that guides us in how to eliminate the kleshas — Sutra 2.11. This sutra tells us that the fluctuations of consciousness created by gross and subtle afflictions are to be silenced through meditation.

Here is some of the commentary:

[This sutra and the preceding one] point to a way of controlling the modifications of thought-waves. In sutra 2.10, the mind is stilled through involution, the practice of renunciation or folding-in of the mind. Here Patanjali offers meditation as another method to quiet the mind. By these means, the mind’s impulses are reduced to their subtlest point and it is compelled to rest silently in its source, the soul. (Iyengar)

Vyasa (an ancient sage/commentator) clarifies that the seed power, or fructifying ability of the kleshas is weakened by the practice of kriya yoga (discipline, self-study, surrender) and then eradicated by the practice of meditation. He gives the useful example of washing garments: gross dirt is first removed from soiled clothes, and then efforts are directed at the finer dirt. In the same way, the gross manifestations of the kleshas can be easily removed by kriya-yoga, but the more subtle ones require greater efforts. (Bryant)

Obstacles in the active state are referred to in sutra 2.4 as “intercepted” and “sustained”: those obstructions that have noticeable presence and impact on the conscious mind. Meditation averts awareness away from the obstacles, which will gradually wither from lack of attention. (Carrera)

By meditation you can understand the thought form and clean them up. Then when you have gotten a glimpse of where and how they are, you can slowly trace them to their root and finally cut it out. When you want to uproot a tree, you cut the branches first and then dig to the very root. (Satchidananda)

It has to be borne in mind that Patanjali prescribes the preliminary discipline of kriya yoga for bringing about an attenuation of the afflictions. This means the lessening of the impact of various afflictions which come in the life of an individual. He describes this process in the second sutra of this book as…making the afflictions attenuated. It is only in this condition that one can look into the causes of these. When the afflictions are fully active, one cannot trace their causes. It is only when these become spasmodic or feeble that we can undertake the process described in the tenth sutra. An intellectual examination from abhinvesa (fear of death) to avidya (ignorance — mistaking the non self as the Self) is possible only when the afflictions become attenuated. But an intellectual examination from effect to cause cannot lead to the breaking up of these. As stated above, to know the cause does not bring about the dissolution of the effect. So long as the cause and effect are separated by a distance whether of time or space, as in the case of an intellectual understanding, the problem of bridging the distance remains. For the dissolution of the afflictions, which is freedom from sorrow and suffering, one has to move beyond the intellectual process. Pantanjali therefore tells us in clear terms that the afflictions can cease completely only in the state of meditation. (Rohit Mehta)