Sankara on the Yoga Sutras – About the text

                                                                  The Complete Commentary by Shankara on the Yoga Sutras



This is a ground breaking translation of a major work which surfaced only in 1952. It claims to be by S’ankara Bhagavatpada (700AD), India’s greatest philosopher and spiritual teacher. If accepted as authentic, which seems increasingly likely, it will transform S’ankara studies and parts of Indian philosophical tradition.

There is a chapter on this text in Wilhelm Halbfass: Tradition and Reflection, which discusses the text and some main concepts, though not the yoga practices.

It is a sub-commentary on the Vyasa commentary (about 500 AD) to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (about 200 AD). This text will entail a re-thinking of S’ankara and his presentation of the Advaita Non-dual doctrine and practice.

In his Brahma Sutra commentary, S’ankara rejects two basic tenets of the Yoga school, but accepts yoga practice as authoritative for meditation, and indeed God-vision (sutra III.2.24). S’ankara’s Gita commentary has many of the technical terms of yoga as for instance samahita-citta (8 times); Madhusudana in his own later sub-commentary on the S’ankara, cites nearly all of the first 51 sutras of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra first part. Here in this massive newly discovered text, S’ankara comments exhaustively on the Sutras and the early Vyasa commentary, both of which he glosses word for word.

But as the translator illustrates in his Technical Introduction, S’ankara here swings the Yoga doctrine towards his own Advaita (as he does with similar semi-dualistic passages in the Gita) with copious citations from the Upanishads and the Gita itself.

The text is brilliantly written, and shows marked originality of thought. For instance, there are over two hundred similes and analogies, some of them apparently unique to this work, and therefore of exceptional interest. He does not hesitate to modify the Vyasa commentary, and even the implied meanings of the sutras themselves, in order to introduce Advaitic concepts. Some of these original passages are to be given on  Trevor Leggett’s original books site.

As several reviewers have pointed out, the translation has been kept lucid and fully understandable for the general reader. It is important not merely academically but as an authoritative guide on meditation.


The present work is the first complete English translation of a highly significant historical find, an unknown early Sanskrit sub-commentary purporting to be by Sankara, on the Yoga sutras of Patanjali. It is judged to be a genuine work of Sankara, India’s greatest religious and philosophical genius and architect of the non-dual Vedanta school.

This is a sub-commentary (vivarana) to the terse exposition of Patanjali by Vyasa, the earliest surviving classic of the Yoga school. That school differs from Sankara’s Vedanta on several philosophical points, but he regarded it as authoritative on meditation practice, which is central to both schools. The existence of this vivarana is of great importance to the study and reappraisal of Sankara’s thought and teaching. It is now clear that the many references in Sankara’s works to Yoga practice are not mere concessions to accepted ideas of the time, but that it was central to his practice.

The vivarana is written with great originality and confidence. The long commentary on God completely jettisons the narrow sutra definition in favour of a supreme Creator, as evidenced by many ingenious arguments on the lines of the present day cosmological anthropic principle. The doctrine that the future already exists, and that time is purely relative, anticipate the Einstein era.

This study consists of revised editions of Trevor Leggett’s two previous volumes, which presented Parts One and Two of the vivarana, and the new translations of Parts Three and Four. The complete work is thus published here for the first time. In the book, the Patanjali sutras (about AD 300) are accompanied by Vyasa’s commentary (about AD 540-650) and by the Sankara vivarana commentary (about AD 700) to allow full textual and philosophical comparison.


Introduction for the general reader

Technical introduction


1 Yoga theory
Sutra I.1 Now the exposition of Yoga
Sutra I.2 Yoga is inhibition of the mental processes
Sutra I.3 Then the Seer is established in his own nature
Sutra I.4 Otherwise, it conforms itself to the mental process

2 Mental Processes
Sutra I.5 The mental processes are of five kinds; they are tainted or pure
Sutra I.6 Right knowledge, illusion, logical construction, sleep, memory
Sutra I.7 Right knowledge is either direct perception, inference, or authority
Sutra I.8 Illusion is false knowledge based on an untrue form
Sutra I.9 Logical constructions is something that follows verbal knowledge but has no real object
Sutra I.10 The mental process which rests on the notion of non-existence is sleep
Sutra I.11 Memory is not letting slip away an object experienced

3 Practice
Sutra I.12 Their inhibition is by practice and detachment
Sutra I.13 Practice is the effort at steadiness in it
Sutra I.14 But practised for a long time, uninterruptedly and with reverence, it becomes firmly grounded
Sutra I.15 Detachment is consciousness of self-mastery, of one who has no thirst for any object either seen or heard about
Sutra I.16 It is the higher detachment when from knowledge of Purusa there is no thirst for (even) the guna-s

4 Samadhi
Sutra I.17 It is cognitive because accompanied with verbal associations (vitarka), with subtle associations (vicara), with joy (ananda), and the form of I-am-ness (asmita)
Sutra I.18 The other (samadhi) follows on practice of the idea of stopping, and consists of samskara-s alone
Sutra I.19 It results from birth in the case of gods discarnate, and in the case of those who absorb themselves into prakrti
Sutra I.20 For the others, it comes after faith, energy, memory, (cognitive) samadhi, and knowledge
Sutra I.21 For those who practise with ardent energy, it is near
Sutra I.22 Even among the ardent, there is a distinction of mild or moderate or intense.

5 God
Sutra I.23 Or by special devotion to the Lord
Sutra I.24 Untouched by taints or karma-s or their fruition or their latent stocks is the Lord, who is a special king of Purusa
Sutra I.25 In whom the seed of omniscience becomes transcendent
Sutra I.26 The teacher of even the first teachers, because not particularized by time
Sutra I.27 Of him, the expression is pranava (OM)
Sutra I.28 Reception of it and meditation on its meaning

6 Obstacles
Sutra I.29 From that, realization of the separate consciousness, and absence of obstacles
Sutra I.30 Illness, apathy, doubt, carelessness, laziness, failure to withdraw, misconceptions, failure to attain a state, instability (in the state) – these distractions of the mind are the obstacles
Sutra I.31 Pain, frustration restlessness of the body, spasmodic breathing in or out are the accompaniments of these distractions
Sutra I.32 To prevent them, practice on one principle

7 Special Practices
Sutra I.33 The mind is made clear by meditation on friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the suffering, goodwill towards the virtuous, and disinterest in the sinful
Sutra I.34 Or by expulsion and retention of prana
Sutra I.35 Or achievement of supernormal perception of a divine object brings the mind to steadiness
Sutra I.36 Or a radiant perception beyond sorrow
Sutra I.37 Or on a mind whose meditation is one freedom from passion
Sutra I.38 Or meditating on the knowledge of dream and sleep
Sutra I.39 Or by meditation on what appeals to him
Sutra I.40 His mastery extends right to the ultimate atom and to the ultimate magnitude

8 Absorption
Sutra I.41 Identification-in-samadhi (samapatti) is when the mental process has swindled and the mind rests on either the knower or the knowing process or a known object, and like a crystal apparently takes on their respective qualities
Sutra I.42 The samadhi-identification is called sa-vitarka when it is mixed up with mental constructs of word, thing and idea
Sutra I.43 When there is purification from memories, (that samadhi) apparently empty of its own nature of knowledge, with the object alone shining forth, is nir-vitarka
Sutra I.44 In the same way, when it is on subtle objects, it is called sa-vicara (with subtle association) and nir-vicara (without subtle association)
Sutra I.45 The scale of (causal) subtlety of objects ends in pradhana
Sutra I.46 These are samadhi from-a-seed
Sutra I.47 From skill in nir-vicara, a clearness in the self
Sutra I.48 In this, the knowledge is Truth-bearing
Sutra I.49 This knowledge is of a particular thing, unlike knowledge from authority or from inference
Sutra I.50 The samskara produced by it inhibits other samskara-s
Sutra I.51 When that too is inhibited, everythings inhibited, and thus this samadhi is without-seed


1 Yoga of action
Sutra II.1 Tapas, self-study, devotion to the Lord, are the yoga of action
Sutra II.2 To actualize samadhi and thin out the taints

2 Taints
Sutra II.3 Ignorance, I-am-ness, desire, hate, instinctive self-preservation, are the taints
Sutra II.4 Ignorance is the field of germination of the subsequent ones, whether dormant or thinned out or checked or active
Sutra II.5 Ignorance is the conviction of permanence, purity, happiness and self in what are really impermanent, impure, painful and not self
Sutra II.6 The single selfhood, as it were, of the power of seer and seeing is I-am-ness
Sutra II.7 Desire follows on pleasure
Sutra II.8 Hate follows on pain
Sutra II.9 With spontaneous momentum, instinctive even in a knower, is self-preservation
Sutra II.10 In their subtle state, they are to be got rid of by dissolution in their source
Sutra II.11 Mental processes arising from them are got rid of by meditation

3 Karma
Sutra II.12 Rooted in taints is the karma-stock to be felt in present or future lives
Sutra II.13 While the root is there, it will bear the fruit of birth, life span and experience
Sutra II.14 Their fruits are joy and suffering caused by virtue and sin

4 Pain
Sutra II.15 Because of the sufferings caused by changes and anxieties and the samskara-s of them, and from the clash of the guna-s, to the clear-sighted, everything is pain alone

5 Guna-s

6 Release
Sutra II.16 What is to be escaped is the pain not yet come
Sutra II.17 The Seer-Seen conjunction is the cause of what is to be escaped

7 Guna-s again
Sutra II.18 With a constant tendency towards light, action, and fixity, the seen consists of the elements and the senses, being for the purpose of experience and transcendence
Sutra II.19 What particularizes itself, and what does not, what goes (linga, the Great principle) and what does not (a-linga, pradhana), are guna-implementers

8 Purusa
Sutra II.20 The Seer is sight alone; though pure, he looks on at the thoughts
Sutra II.21 The essence of the Seen is to be for the purpose of him alone

9 Seer-Seen
Sutra II.22 For one whose purpose has been effected, it is ended, but not for others, because it is common
Sutra II.23 The conjunction causes awareness of the natures of the two powers, the property and its  possessor
Sutra II.24 Its cause is Ignorance (a-vidya)
Sutra II.25 Without it, there is no conjunction, and that release is Transcendental Aloneness (kaivalya) of the power-of-sight

10 Release again
Sutra II.26 Unwavering Knowledge-of-the-difference is the means of release
Sutra II.27 Therein, the ultimate state of the Knowledge is seven-fold

11 Yoga
Sutra II.28 From following up the methods of yoga, destruction of impurity and a growing light of knowledge up to Knowledge-of-the-difference
Sutra II.29 Restraints, observances, posture, restraint of vital currents, dissociation, concentration, meditation, samadhi are the eight methods

12 Restraints
Sutra II.30 Of these, harmlessness, truth-speaking, no stealing, brahmacarya, not holding possessions, are the restraints
Sutra II.31 When practised universally without qualification of birth, place, time, or obligation, they are called the Great Vow

13 Observances
Sutra II.32 Purity, contentment, tapas, self-study, and devotion to the Lord are the observances

14 Contrary ideas
Sutra II.33 If there is obstruction by contrary ideas, meditation on their opposite
Sutra II.34 The contrary ideas, violence and the others, done or caused to be done or approved of, preceded by greed, anger or delusion, mild, medium, or intense-all result in endless pain and Ignorance. This is the meditation on their opposite

15 Perfections
Sutra II.35 With establishment of harmlessness, in his presence enmity is abandoned
Sutra II.36 With establishment of truth, events confirm his words
Sutra II.37 With establishment is non-stealing, all precious tings come to him
Sutra II.38 With establishment in brahmacarya, attainment of energy
Sutra II.39 With firmness in not possessing property, clear knowledge of the conditions of birth
Sutra II.40 From purity, distaste for his won body and no intercourse with others
Sutra II.41 Purity of mind-sattva, cheerfulness, one-pointedness, conquest of the senses, and fitness for vision of the self
Sutra II.42 From contentment, attainment of unsurpassed happiness
Sutra II.43 From destruction of impurity by tapas, perfection of body and senses
Sutra II.44 From self-study, communion with the deity of his devotion
Sutra II.45 From devotion to the Lord, perfection in samadhi

16 Controls
Sutra II.46 Posture is to be firm and pleasant
Sutra II.47 By relaxing effort and by samadhi (samapatti) on infinity
Sutra II.48 From that, he becomes immune to the opposites
Sutra II.49 Pranayama is to sit in the posture and cut off the flow of in breath and out-breath
Sutra II.50 The external, internal, and fixating operations, practised in terms of place, of time and of number, become long and fine
Sutra II.51 The fourth pranayama comes when both external and internal fields have been felt into
Sutra II.52 Thereby is destroyed the covering of the light
Sutra II.53 Fitness of the mind for concentrations
Sutra II.54 Dissociation is when the senses, disjoined from their respective objects, assume as it were the nature of mind itself
Sutra II.55 From that, supreme mastery of the senses


1 Inner Methods
Sutra III.1 Dharana is binding the mind to a place
Sutra III.2 Continuity of the mind there is dhyana (meditation)
Sutra III.3 That same (meditation), when it comes to shine forth as the object alone, apparently empty of its won nature as knowledge, is called samadhi
Sutra III.4 The triad (held) at the one place is samyama
Sutra III.5 From mastery of that, the light of knowledge (prajna)
Sutra III.6 Its application is by stages
Sutra III.7 Compared to the previous means, this triad is the direct means
Sutra III.8 Even that is an indirect means as regards unseeded (yoga)
Sutra III.9 The inhibitive transformation of the mind is when extravertive samskara is overcome and the samskara of inhibition is predominant, and mind itself is in a temporary state of inhibition
Sutra III.10 It has a peaceful, flow, by reason of the samskara-s
Sutra III.11 The destruction  of the mind’s dispersiveness, and rise of its one-pointedness, is the samadhi transformation
Sutra III.12 In that (samadhi) the sameness of the idea which has subsided and the newly arisen idea in the mind is its transformation of one-pointedness

2 Change
Sutra III.13 By (analogy with) that, are explained the transformations of dharma, time-phase and basis (avastha) in the elements and in the senses
Sutra III.14 What conforms to the subsided, uprisen and indeterminable dharma-s is the dharmin
Sutra III.15 Difference of sequence causes the differences of the changes
Sutra III.16 From samyama on the three changes, knowledge of what is past and future

3 Meaning-flash
Sutra III.17 There is confusion from the mutual projection of word, meaning and idea on to each other. From samyama on their distinctness (comes) understanding of the cries of all beings

4 Glories
Sutra III.18 From direct perception of the samskara-s, knowledge of previous lives
Sutra III.19 (From direct perception through samyama) of his thought, knowledge of the mind of another
Sutra III.20 But not the subject of those ideas, because that was not the field of the samyama
Sutra III.21 From samyama on the form of the body, its potentiality of being seen is nullified. Being disjoined from the light of the eye, it disappears
Sutra III.22 Karma is rapid or slow. From samyama on it, or on omens, there comes foreknowledge of death
Sutra III.23 (From samyama) on friendliness and the others (compassion and goodwill, sutra I.33) (there arise) powers
Sutra III.24 Powers like the power of an elephant (come from samyama) on them
Sutra III.25 By projecting the light of supernormal radiant perception (I.36) on to what is subtle, hidden or remote, (he comes to) knowledge of that
Sutra III.26 From samyama on the sun, knowledge of the worlds
Sutra III.27 (From samyama) on the moon, knowledge of the dispositions of the stars
Sutra III.28 (From samyama) on the Pole Star, knowledge of their motions
Sutra III.29 On the navel circle, knowledge of the plan of the body
Sutra III.30 At the pit of the throat, cessation of hunger and thirst
Sutra III.31 On the tortoise nerve, rigid steadiness
Sutra III.32 On the Light in the head, vision of the perfect ones
Sutra III.33 By the pratibha supernormal knowledge too (he knows) everything
Sutra III.34 On the heart, awareness of the mind

5 Knowledge
Sutra III.35 Experience is an idea which does not distinguish between sattva and Purusa, though they are absolutely separate; by samyama on what-is-for-its-own-sake, (distinct) from what-is-for-the-sake-of-another, there comes knowledge of Purusa
Sutra III.36 From that arise supernormal knowledge and hearing, touch, sight, taste and awareness of events
Sutra III.37 They are obstacles in  samadhi, but perfections in the extravertive state

6 Glories (continued)
Sutra III.38 From loosening of the cause of tying, and awareness of how the mind move, the mind can enter another body
Sutra III.39 By mastering the upgoing vital current (udana), he passes untouched over water, mud, thorns and so on, and at death he takes the upward course
Sutra III.40 From mastery of samana, blazing light
Sutra III.41 From samyama on the relation between hearing and space, divine hearing
Sutra III.42 From samyama on the relation between the body and space, followed by identification-in-samadhi (samapatti) with the lightness of a thread, he travels through space
Sutra III.43 The Great Bodiless is a mental process (vrtti) functioning exterior (to the body), and not imaginary; from this comes dwindling away of the covering of the light
Sutra III.44 From samyama on their physical form, inherence and purposefulness: conquest of the elements
Sutra III.45 From it ( the samyama) manifest a set of eight powers like becoming minute, and perfection of the body, with freedom from impediment for its (bodily) attributes
Sutra III.46 The perfection of the body is grace, splendour, power and diamond hardness
Sutra III.47 From samyama on their perception, essential nature, I-am-ness, inherence and purposefulness, (comes) conquest of the senses
Sutra III.48 From that, speediness as of the mind, independence of physical organs, and conquest of nature
Sutra III.49 Having simply the knowledge that (mind-)sattvaa and Purusa are different, one has omnipotence over all things and is omniscient
Sutra III.50 From indifference to that too, the seeds of imperfection are destroyed, and there is transcendental Aloneness
Sutra III.51 No reaction of attachment or pride in case of invitations from rules of celestial realms, for undesirable consequence follow

7 Omniscience
Sutra III.52 From samyama on the instant, and on the two sequence of instants, comes knowledge-born-of-discrimination
Sutra III.53 From this (knowledge) there is clear knowledge of two things (seemingly) equivalent because they cannot be distinguished by class, characteristic or position
Sutra III.54 Knowledge-born-of-discrimination, having all, and all times, for its object, is called Transcendent

8 Transcendental Aloneness
Sutra III.55 When the (mind-)sattva is like Purusa in purity, there is Transcendental Aloneness. So it is


1 Perfections
Sutra IV.1 Perfections (siddhi) arise from birth or from drugs or from mantra-s or from tapas or from samadhi
Sutra IV.2 The transformation into another life is implemented by prakrti
Sutra IV.3 That cause is not the impelling drive itself, but it makes a breach in the retaining barrier of the natures, as does a farmer (for irrigation)
Sutra IV.4 The minds are projected from bare I-am-ness
Sutra IV.5 In the variety of activities, it is the one mind that impels the several minds
Sutra IV.6 Of those (minds with perfections), the mind whose perfections arise out of meditation (dhyana) has not karma-stock

2 Karma
Sutra IV.7 The karma of the yogin is neither white nor black; of the others, it is of three kinds
Sutra IV.8 Therefore their consequent manifestation is of those samskara-groups (vasana) that are compatible with it
Sutra IV.9 Because there is sameness of form of memory and samskara-s, there is consequent succession between them, even though separated by class and place and time
Sutra IV.10 They are beginning less, because hope is eternal
Sutra IV.11 They are held together by cause-effect-repository-focal-point. When these cease, they too cease
Sutra IV.12 What are past and future do actually exist, but there is difference of time-phase in their dharma-s

3 Time
Sutra IV.13 They are manifest or subtle, and consist of the guna-s

Sutra IV.14 A thing is what it is by the fact of a unitary change

4 Against Buddhism
(Sutra IV.14, continued)
Sutra IV.15 Since there is difference of the minds, while the object is the same, the two must be distinct categories
Sutra IV.16 It is not dependent on a single mind, for when it was not giving rise to valid cognition in that mind, what would it be?
Sutra IV.17 According to whether the mind is coloured by it, a thing is known or unknown
Sutra IV.18 To Him, the Lord, the mental processes are always known, from the fact of the unchangeability of Purusa
Sutra IV.19 It (mind) is not self-illumining, because it is itself something perceived
Sutra IV.20 They cannot both be clearly ascertained at the same time
Sutra IV.21 It is to be seen by another idea, further and yet further ideas will be required. And there will be confusion of memories
Sutra IV.22 In assumption of its (the mind’s) form on the part of the unmoving consciousness, is awareness of the idea of the self

5 Mind
Sutra IV.23 Mind, coloured by Seer and seen, has the various purposes
Sutra IV.24 Though it is a melange of countless samskara-groups, it must exist for the purposes of another, because it is a construct

6 Release
Sutra IV.25 For him who sees that one apart, cessation of meditation on his own being
Sutra IV.26 The the mind is inclined to discrimination, and is borne on towards Aloneness
Sutra IV.27 At intervals in it, other ideas arise from samskara-s
Sutra IV.28 The escape from these is like that described in the case of the taints
Sutra IV.29 For one who is through and through a man of discriminative knowledge, but is not grasping over his meditation practice, there comes about the samadhi called Raincloud of Dharma
Sutra IV.30 From that, cessation of taints and karma-s
Sutra IV.31 Then, with the infinity of knowledge free from all veiling taint, the knowable comes to be but a trifle
Sutra IV.32 With that, the guna-s have fulfilled their purpose, and the succession of their changes comes to an end
Sutra IV.33 The succession is conjoined to each instant, (but) recognizable at the very end
Sutra IV.34 Transcendental Aloneness is withdrawal of the guna-s, now without any purpose of Purusa; or it is the establishment of the power-of-consciousness in its own nature


…We are happy to have the first complete translation of this important work.

On the question of its authenticity, there is much work to be done … the author in his long introduction discusses briefly but effectively many points, textual and philosophical. Of interest even to the ordinary reader is, that S’ri S’ankara had an idea of gravitation as a pull (p.6) And this is vouched for by (his) observation under the Yogasutra I.25 (of the present text), the Prashna Upanishad 3.8 and the Taittiriya Upanishad 2.2.

It is a pleasure indeed to go through the lucid English translation…There are some critical points to be made, but of only minor nature. We heartily congratulate Mr. Leggett on his success in bringing out the first faithful and lucid translation of this difficult text.

Adyar Library Bulletin, 1991

…the author hereby completes his monumental translation work…a truly admirable piece of scholarly labour…a real help to students of comparative religion and philosophy, as to those involved in meditation.

The Technical Introduction gives the author’s textual analysis of the shifting positions of S’ankara and other commentators on the Yoga Sutra, as well as correspondences with his Bhagavad Gita commentary and some further arguments in favour of S’ankara’s authorship….

…translation itself is very readable as far as the difficult subject allows; its lucid style being no doubt the result of the author’s thorough acquaintance with the subject-matter; not only theoretically, but also practically through his own meditational practice, a rare combination of unbiased scholarship and personal involvement.<br><br>

Dr. Karel Werner: The Middle Way