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The Flowering of Freedom:
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Part Five

by Richard Miller May, 2016

Shiva as the Lord of Dance, LACMA

Shiva as the Lord of Dance, LACMA

Editor's Note: Dr. Miller has translated several classical Indian texts from Sanskrit into English. This is the fifth part of Richard's translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, along with his rich insights and incisive commentary.

Read Previous Chapters:

I. 23-29

Īśvara & OM

In these seven sutras, Patañjali advocates the two means of 1) effortless surrender and 2) the use of sound for stabilizing and turning attention away from objective, ever-changing, and distracting objects towards contemplating and realizing non-objective unchanging Essential Nature.

How is surrender helpful in realizing Essential Nature?

I. 23. īśvara - praṇidhānād - vā

īśvara: essential nature with attributes

praṇidhānād: self-surrender; renunciation of the fruits of one’s actions

vā: or

Yoga is when, through effortless surrender of the ego-I principle and relinquishment of identification with thoughts, Essential Nature is revealed.

Relinquishing identification from thoughts, and especially the ego-I thought, is not brought about through sheer force of will, but rather through effortless surrendering one’s personal will to the will of Essential Nature. Here, a shift occurs within from feeling, “I’m living life” to realizing that “life is living me”.

Lord Shiva and His son Lord Murugan appears as the student and the teacher of Pranava respectively by R.K.K. Rajarajan

Lord Shiva and His son Lord Murugan appear as the student
and the teacher of Pranava respectively, by R.K.K. Rajarajan

What is this great force called īśvara?

I. 24. kleśa - karma - vipāka - āśayaiḥ - aparāmṛṣṭaḥ - puruṣaviśeṣa īśvaraḥ

kleśa: affliction; misery

karma: action as a result of prior conditioning

vipāka: fruition

āśayaiḥ: seed impressions of desires

aparāmṛṣṭaḥ: untouched

puruṣa: Essential Nature

viśeṣaḥ: special; particular

puruṣaviśeṣaḥ: distinct manifestation of Essential Nature

īśvara: Essential Nature with attributes

Essential Nature is incapable of being touched, tainted, or corrupted by personal actions or conditioning, which otherwise cause misery and suffering for those who are identified with these conditioned actions of the body, mind and senses.

Essential Nature is always present and unchanging, and is here before, during, and after all changing manifestation of body, mind, senses, and world. It can be discerned by contrasting what is changing, with what is always present and unchanging.

How can Essential Nature be so extraordinary?

I. 25. tatra - niratiśayaṁ - sarvajṇabījaṁ

tatra: there

niratiśayaṁ: unsurpassed

sarvajṇabījaṁ: beyond limitation; everywhere

Essential Nature is beyond personal limitation and conditioning. All sense of self-limitation dissolves upon transcending identification with thought and the ego-I principle, which otherwise obscure unconditioned Essential Nature through identification with the conditional manifestations of the body, mind, senses, and world.

The manifestations of nature, including the body, mind and sensory perceptions, go through five rites of passage: birth, growth, stability, decay, and death. On the other hand, Essential Nature is unborn, unconditioned, and unchanging, and is untouched by birth and death.

How long has Essential Nature existed?

I. 26. sa eṣa - pūrveṣāmapi - guruḥ - kālenānavacchedāt

sa eṣa: that

pūrveṣam: the ancient's teacher

api: even

guruḥ: spiritual mentor

kālena: time

anavacchedāt: beyond cause/effect; unconditioned

Essential Nature is the source of inspiration and enlightenment of all the sages from beginningless time, for it has always existed.

Essential Nature has been the teacher of all teachers for it is unconditioned and exists outside of time, space, and limitation. It is the source of all knowledge; the teacher behind all teachers. It is the voice of pure Stillness, beyond action and inaction, beyond sound and silence.



How does one refer to Essential Nature?

I. 27. tasya - vācakaḥ - praṇavaḥ

tasya: its

vācakaḥ: designator

praṇavaḥ: symbol of supreme sound

Essential Nature may be verbally alluded to as the sound, OM.

OM (A-U-M) is a sound that is ever new, always fresh, yet always the same. It is the sound that can be heard in all natural phenomena, from the sound of the ocean, wind, an engine or the ringing of the inner ear. The sound OM arises, unfolds, and dissolves within unchanging Essential Nature, and is therefore an exquisite and direct pointer to Essential Nature. It can be used to draw attention away from identification with thoughts, so that attention can then be turned into realizing Essential Nature.

How does one utilize OM in service of realizing Essential Nature?

I. 28. tajjapaḥ - tadarthabhāvanaṁ

tajjapaḥ: constant repetition

tadartha: its meaning

bhāvanaṁ: mentally dwelling upon

By constantly repeating the sound, OM, while also turning attention to realizing Essential Nature, is the right use of OM.

While sound, such as OM, is an objective arising, it can serve as a direct pointer to non-objective Essential Nature, within which it arises. It is because of this contrast, that OM can reveal Essential Nature.

There must be a deep yearning to realize Essential Nature. Just as a lover deeply desires to find his/her beloved, the yogi must deeply yearn with every breath to transcend all barriers that keep him/her separate from realizing Essential Nature. This 24/7/365 yearning is what ultimately brings us home to Self-Realization.

Mount Kailash, Manasarovar

Mount Kailash, Manasarovar

What happens when a person surrenders to Essential Nature?

I. 29. tataḥ - pratyakcetanādhigamaḥ - api - antarāyābhāvaśca

tataḥ: from this practice

pratyak: in-turned

cetana: consciousness

adhigamaḥ: attainment

api: in addition to

antarāya: obstacle

abhāvaḥ: absence

ca: and

When one experiences Om in this manner, attention, which is otherwise turned towards the ever-changing objects of body, senses, mind, and world, is turned inward. Inquiry into Essential Nature, in which OM arises, effortlessly dispels all obstacles or distractions without one having to struggle with them.

The mind’s tendency to remain identified with the ever-changing objects of the body, mind, senses, and world is gradually replaced with the tendency for attention to turn effortlessly towards realizing unchanging Essential Nature.

Dr. Richard C. Miller

by Dr. Richard C. Miller

May, 2016

About Dr. Richard C. Miller

Richard C. Miller, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, author, researcher, yogic scholar and spiritual teacher who, for the past 45 years, has devoted his life and work to integrating the ancient nondual wisdom teachings of Yoga, Tantra, Advaita, Taoism, and Buddhism with modern Western psychology. Richard is the founding president of the Integrative Restoration Institute, co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, founding editor of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and a founding member and past president of the Institute for Spirituality and Psychology.

Richard serves as a research consultant for the iRest Meditation protocol that he developed (Integrative Restoration ~ iRest), a modern adaptation of the ancient nondual practice of Yoga Nidra, documenting its efficacy on health, healing, and well-being with diverse populations that include active-duty soldiers, veterans, children, youth, college students, seniors, the homeless, the incarcerated, and people experiencing issues such as sleep disorders, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, chemical dependency, and anxiety.

In 1983, after decades of searching, Richard met his spiritual mentor, Jean Klein, who introduced him to the non-path, non-method, and non-goal realization of nonduality. Richard now shares the paradox of nondual instruction through international training sessions, meditation retreats on awakening, and the integration of enlightened living into daily life. For information on Richard’s teachings visit

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