This week we will discuss Sutras 2.16-2.17 and again, I encourage you to read and bring along with you to class any translations you have. Here are some different translations of the sutras:
Sutra 2.16 provides:
Suffering that has yet to manifest is to be avoided. (Bryant)
The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided. (Iyengar)
Suffering that has not yet arisen can be prevented (Harttranf)
The pain of the future is avoidable (Baba Hari Dass)
Sutra 2.17 provides:
The conjunction between the seer and that which is seen is the cause of suffering to be avoided (Bryant)
The cause of pain is the association or identification of the seer (atma) with the seen (prakrti) and the remedy lies in their dissociation (Iyengar)
The preventable cause of all this suffering is the apparent indivisibility of pure awareness and what it regards (Hartranft)
The conjunction of the knower and the knowable is the cause of the avoidable pain (Baba Hari Dass)
This is a helpful passage by Carerra:
It might seem paradoxical that Sri Patanjali cites “the union of the Seer and the seen” as the cause of pain. After all, isn’t union — Yoga — what we’re seeking? This sutra seems to suggest that Oneness, instead of bringing the end of ignorance and pain, is the cause of suffering. It might be clearer if we replace the word “union” with “confusion”….. In this context, it represents the fundamental inappropriate or false correlation: mistaking the mind-stuff, which is part of Prakriti, for the Seer. If we believe that we are the mind, we tend to make choices that serve its whims, fears, and habit. We look to sense objects — the “seen” — to bring security, happiness, wisdom, to give us what they cannot. This mistaken approach to life is the cause of pain and is rooted in ignorance (avidya).
And another by Hartranft:
Patanjali attributes this [fundamental inability to see things as they are] to a curious affinity between nature (prakrti) and pure awareness. Although realization reveals them to be mutually exclusive, nature and awareness maintain a relationship through consciousness that Pantanjali calls indivisibility or samyoga. In this relationship, awareness is utterly invisible, overshadowed by the vibrant representational pageant of the phenomenal world that forms in consciousness. Thus consciousness, which arises from prakrti, takes itself to be the witnessing entity. But as Patanjali points out [in Sutra 4.19], consciousness is nothing but display — it can’t actually see itself, and its content is visible to awareness alone.
And finally, Iyengar:
A wise person notices that inner harmony is disturbed when the mind lets itself be lured into indiscriminately sampling the world of phenomena. He tries to remain free by avoiding material attachment, in which objects draw the intelligence like a magnet and the self is enticed into an illusory relationship with the external, seen world, provoking pleasures and pains. The intelligence is the vehicle closet to the soul, which must be wary of its influence if the seer is to remain free. Otherwise, intelligence enmeshes the seer in a painful relationship with external objects. As long as intelligence is undiscriminating, there is suffering. The moment it develops discriminative power, it realizes its source, and mingles with the seer. Then there is transparency between the seer and the seen, allowing free, uncontaminated passage between them.