Yoga Sutra 1.32 practise meditation on one principle

Sūtra I.32

To prevent them, practice on one principle

To prevent the distractions, let the mind practise meditation on one principle.

It has been said that they are inhibited by detachment and practice; the first has been described, and now he deals with practice. To prevent them, these distractions practice on one principle, on a single truth.

(Opponent) That one principle cannot be the object of meditation practice, because it is a real thing, and the fullness of real things like self (ātman) cannot even be spoken. They are established in their own greatness and not simply mental. He is going on to deny that such real things have any dependence on the mind, for instance in sūtra IV.16, A thing is not dependent on a single mind.

(Answer) With this doubt in mind the commentator says, let the mind practise meditation on one principle. Here he is showing how to understand what the sūtra says about practice on one principle.

But for one who (like a Buddhist) holds that mind is something momentary, no more than the (succession of) ideas determined by each object in turn – for him mind must be invariably one-pointed, and can never be distracted.

(Opponent) There is no one enduring mind which could hold an idea resting on a single principle. The mind is simply the ideas, each determined by an object in turn and each perishing each moment. There is no stability in the ideas which could be known as a self. Nor is any mind perceived as an enduring possessor of the ideas, apart from them. Even the idea of I as ‘I’ is only a relation of similarity because it too is only a flow (of ideas). It is as with a lamp-flame, which is nothing more than the hairs of the wick.

(Answer) This would mean that the possessor of the successive I-notions would be itself different for each one, because it would be identical with the ideas, which are absolutely distinct from each other. The possessor would have as its object the idea of the ‘I’ then present, and so be different from the possessors of the I–notions which are past or to come, because they would have other notions for their objects, different as a cloth from a jar, or rather, differentiated by time as a jar now present is different from one that has been broken or one not yet made. All the I-notions would be separate mental objects, just because they are notions, like notions of a jar and a cloth and other things.

He points out, moreover, that the view would contradict the (Buddhist’s own) scripture: for one who holds that mind is something momentary … mind must be invariably one-pointed, just because there could be no distraction there. And since the mind could only be one-pointed and without distraction, the teaching of the scripture about removing distraction would be meaningless. There is the teaching (in Buddhist scripture also) of meditation on friendliness, etc., for training the mind, and to hold the mind to be as he maintains, would contradict the scripture.

(Opponent) Neither is there distraction if we accept your theory of something which possesses the successive ideas (vṛtti), because it is not separate from them; so the teaching about removing distraction would be pointless for you too.

(Answer) Not so, because we maintain that it possesses idea after idea. If indeed the ideas were produced separate from each other, independent and absolutely separate from their possessor, and determined each by its object, there would be this difficulty. But we do not admit this.

What then is our position? In its nature as possessor of the ideas, mind is a unity which has many objects; it is apart from the field of its objects, the ideas, and is steady, since we do not accept the illusion of its being both existent and non-existent. And so the commentator shows that the theory of self (ātman) is correct.

It is a fact that mind is withdrawn from all quarters and concentrated in samādhi on one object (in Buddhism also) and is then one-pointed. It follows that it is not something determined by successive objects.

If this mind runs in various directions because of the change of ideas, then for you (the Buddhist), just as if you were a follower of Sāṅkhya and yoga, it is withdrawn restrained from all quarters from all objects and concentrated in samādhi made steady on one object such as the self (ātman) and is then one-pointed. The sense is that this is something which is a proper goal of human effort.

So the teaching of scripture about training the mind is logical. It follows that it is not something determined by successive objects: from his own scriptural teaching about training the mind, the advocate of momentariness has already assumed, like the follower of Sāṅkhya and yoga, a mind which is a unity but with many objects, and not determined by successive objects. Otherwise he would be contradicting his own scripture.

If one (a Buddhist) holds that a mind is one-pointed as a stream of similar thoughts, one-pointedness being a property of the stream-mind, then the stream-mind, being composed of momentary instants, cannot be a unity.

(Opponent) A stream of similar thoughts is the one-pointed mind. It is a stream of thoughts which are similar, alike, and as that single series, the mind is one-pointed. The opposite, a stream of thoughts which are dissimilar, is distraction. One-pointedness is attained by ruling out distraction, and that is the purpose of the teaching, so where is there any contradiction of our scripture?

(Answer) There is, for the Buddhist does not admit that a stream of mind is a single thing to be possessor of qualities. For he does not accept a stream-mind which is a single thing possessing the qualities of the ideas past, present and future. If he did accept it, he would have to give up his own position. How so? Because the stream-mind, not being momentary, cannot be a single thing (which in the Buddhist system must be momentary) which could have the quality of one-pointedness. For all he accepts is ideas, closely following on one another like a line of red ants.

(Opponent) Let us suppose that even if it is not a single thing, there can still be a quality of one-pointedness of the totality of the ideas as streams of similar ideas, as it were the illumination consisting of all the rays of a lamp.

(Answer) Not so; for things which rise and perish at different times cannot form a combination. And the example does not demonstrate the point; the many rays do not make up one illumination, because they are different from one another. The illumination is not one single quality of the rays.

It may be maintained that it is as a member of the stream that an idea has the quality of one-pointedness; but since each idea is determined by its object, whether the stream be of similar or dissimilar ideas, each must be one-pointed and there will never be distraction. Therefore there has to be some enduring mind, one but with many objects. How could ideas be produced, inherently independent and not linked to a single mind? For one idea would remember what had been seen by another idea, and one idea would have experiences in accordance with the karma-s accumulated by other ideas.

(Opponent) It may be maintained that it is as a member of the stream that an idea has the quality of one-pointedness, as in a line of red ants, each single ant is red.

(Answer) That involves the same defect as before. Each idea is a member of the stream, whether that is of similar or dissimilar ideas, and as before, it follows that it can only be one-pointed, since it is determined by its object; as a result there will never be distraction. And so if the training of the mind is to be taught by the scripture, some enduring mind has to be accepted, one but with many objects.

How could ideas be produced, inherently independent and not linked to a single mind as their cause? You must answer this. For it would mean that one would remember something seen by another – Yajñadatta would be remembering what had been seen by Devadatta.

And one idea would have experiences in accordance with the karma-s accumulated by other ideas. An unborn son ought not to come to enjoy the fruit, heaven or the like, of accumulated karma performed by his father (for himself).

(Opponent) For the purpose of the particular consciousness of the future son, the active consciousness as it perishes lays down some saṃskāra in the seed-bed consciousness (ālaya-vijñāna).

(Answer) Not so; because the seed-bed consciousness and the active consciousness are entirely distinct, and moreover are not real (vastu).

If the active consciousness is not different from the seed-bed consciousness, then they are one and the same thing and there is a difference only in name, so there would not be a memory connected with the laying down of a saṃskāra. If however they are different, in that case the separate active consciousness, just because it is separate, will not register as a saṃskāra in this particular seed-bed consciousness any more than in the seed-bed consciousness of some other stream.

Even if we allow that it does lay down a saṃskāra, still the seed-bed consciousness, being the saṃskāra-s laid down by the active consciousness, is not relevant to another place and time. And since it is accepted (by the Buddhist) as momentary, inasmuch as it perishes instantly, it cannot serve to help any other consciousness. If we allow that it can help even though separated by time and space, then it will also have to help in the production of yet other separate series.

If it remains as it is into another time, then momentariness is abandoned; if it stays for another moment, why should it not stay for a long time?

(Opponent) The first seed-bed consciousness perishes after it has laid down a saṃskāra of the future seed-bed consciousness, which is similar to itself, of the particular saṃskāra of the active consciousness which is to exist in the future time.

(Answer) Not that either. Because there is no other saṃskāra. If there were one, it would entail an infinite regress. If there is no substratum, then how can the idea of a seed-bed consciousness of the active consciousness help for laying down a saṃskāra? If a seed-bed consciousness is to lay down the saṃskāra of the future seed-bed consciousness which is to arise in the future and which does not exist yet, let the active consciousness itself lay down the saṃskāra of the future active consciousness which is to arise, but which does not exist yet, without looking to a seed-bed consciousness.

There is no example of something perishing laying down a saṃskāra of something else which is in the future and not yet existent. Nor can it make a saṃskāra in what is merely future. It is a contradiction to say that a future thing is being impressed with a saṃskāra by a previous thing, and at the same time to say that it is future. If a future thing, not existent at the time, is to be so impressed, what sense would it have to speak of the series as being the same or not the same? No definite connection being there, anything could be impressed by anything.

It cannot be a simultaneous disappearance of the perishing one and rise of the future one, because that would entail non-momentariness.

(Opponent) Let it be like the ends of a balance – one goes down as the other comes up. It is a simultaneous perishing of the previous one and rise of the following one, of two momentary things (vastu).

(Answer) No, for that goes against your premise. For the one who holds this position (Vaināśika Buddhist) does not accept any other agency apart from the action of rise and destruction.

When action and agent are separate, inasmuch as the production of the action by the agent has to be something enduring, the doctrine of momentariness has to be abandoned. If there is nothing enduring, then the purpose of the action which is its motive would become no purpose.

If the action alone is the agency, and the agent is action, then the words ‘action’ and ‘agent’ would be synonyms. By the same reasoning, because a sprout is born and Devadatta is born, ‘sprout’ and ‘Devadatta’ should be synonyms. For in both cases there would be mere action of birth.

(Opponent) One action of birth is particular to Devadatta, and the other is particular to the sprout.

(Answer) Then distinction of agency is admitted, for there is no distinction in the fact itself.

(Opponent) One action of production is in itself distinct from another action of production, as the forms characterizing them are distinct.

(Answer) No, because that would entail the oneness of existence and nonexistence. ‘Here a sprout is born: the sprout dies’ – that which is born is that which dies. In this case when it is said ‘birth’ and ‘death’, it is sprout-birth and sprout-death. For the sprout is said to be the action or agent.

(Opponent) Still, the action of sprout-death is separate from the action of sprout-birth.

(Answer) Then the sprout-birth would be permanent, because the death is something separate from it.

(Opponent) It can be a combination of destruction and production.

(Answer) That would mean that a non-existent could be a combination. Why so? On your theory, there is no agent apart from the action itself; destruction itself has birth and destruction, and birth itself has birth and destruction. That non-existent (agency) cannot have attributes like being a combination, for what is non-existent has no attributes; thus you blur the distinction between existent and non-existent, and your assumption cannot be justified through perception or inference.

As to the example of the rise and fall respectively of the two ends of a weighing balance, the two ends of the balance are there at the same time, and the fall of one is due to the addition of something else, a weight, and so is the rise of the other. But here it is the destruction and production of two consciousnesses, one present and one future, and as in the case of the cause of the movement of the balance, unless there is some third thing as an outside cause, they will not happen at the one time. One cannot say that what is merely perishing produces a consciousness similar to itself; it would be absurd that Devadatta in the act of dying should by his death produce a son like himself.

(Opponent) As the lump of clay perishes in causing the production of a jar, so here.

(Answer) No, because that is simply the parts of the clay changing into the form of the jar. It is like one sorceress that possesses the many qualities, of lump of clay, of jar, and of others.

As to the case when seeds have made a dynamic-impression (vāsanā) on something else, the so-called conforming to the impressing thing by the thing impressed is still not a case of causation, because both the thing impressed and the impressor are enduring. For it is only enduring things, like the sprouts in the seeds, which are impressed by the dynamic-impressions of the seeds. There are also subtle parts of the impressing substance which do not at all enter into the process. Therefore it is logical that it is only presently existent sprouts, etc., which are impressed by the dynamic-impressions of the seeds. For there is no production of non-existent things like the horns of a hare. If it were a non-existent thing which is produced, then since the impressed and the impressor would both have perished, and what is not presently existing has nothing to distinguish it, it would not conform to the impressing substance, and would not arise. Or else, it might turn out to be something else, like a hand.

Or if absolute non-existence is to be produced, like the horn of a hare, then something defined as non-existent in the three periods of time would have to be in the impressed seed. Therefore an enduring agency, in conjunction with the several mental processes of present and future, has to be admitted.

To try to force this argument is to exemplify the fallacious argument that cow-dung, as being also a product of the cow, can make a milk dish.

And to suppose the mind to be a stream of different things would be to deny one’s own experience. When it is said ‘What I saw, that I am touching’, and ‘What I touched, that I remember’, though there is difference in the ideas, there is no difference in the notion of the ‘I’ as the common subject which has those ideas. This common self, the notion ‘I’, has as its field a single possessor of the ideas; how could it refer to a possessor of the ideas which is present as a mere similarity in absolutely separate minds? The idea of this identical ‘I’ is grasped in one’s own experience.

The man who seeks to maintain otherwise, namely that mind is no more than momentary ideas, exemplifies the fallacious argument that cow-dung, as being also a product of the cow, can make a milk dish. However energetically one may argue with many reasons, such as the fact that they are both products of the cow, one cannot make cow-dung out to be milk, and neither can he make memory and so on possible for a mind consisting of moments.

To suppose the mind to be a stream of different things would be to deny one’s own experience; if the mind is to be no more than ideas, it denies one’s own experience, in that one does not remember what has been seen by someone else.

If a (Buddhist) witness were asked, ‘What did you see?’ he would have to say ‘I did not see’, for on his theory what was seen was seen by another. How can there be such a denial of experience? What I saw, that I am touching and I alone; what I touched, that I am remembering and I alone. It is when there is one single subject of both the idea and the memory that knowledge presents a jar in the form ‘this is that’, otherwise it would be in the form ‘what someone resembling me saw is what I, who resemble him, am touching’. The idea ‘I’ in every man is present as one single subject of memory and of ideas, and it is directly perceived in ideas like ‘I am seeing’, ‘I am touching’ and ‘I am remembering’ as the one subject of those ideas, established as the identical possessor of the ideas.

(Opponent) The object of an idea is quite different from the memory of it, and even in regard to the same thing, the ‘I’ of the thinking would not be the ‘I’ of the remembering, by the simple fact that the words ‘thinker’ and ‘rememberer’ are different.

(Answer) No, because we see it directly, as he shows: The idea of this identical ‘I’ is grasped in one’s own experience.

And the supremacy of direct perception cannot be challenged by other means of right knowledge, because it is only by virtue of direct perception that they find any application.

(Opponent) ‘Thinker’ and ‘rememberer’ are different words and different ideas, so the I-notion is to be inferred as applying to different things.

(Answer) The supremacy of direct perception its authoritativeness, as of what is before the very eyes, cannot be challenged cannot be impugned from the side of inference.

This I-notion is a matter of right knowledge by direct perception, not something existing as a single subject only by similarity between ideas and memories of it. If what is proved by direct perception were to be challenged by inference, then the authoritativeness of inference itself would be lost, because inference is itself based on perception. So he points out that it is only by virtue of direct perception that other means of right knowledge find their application as such. The opponent, by his denial of direct perception, with the (consequent) denial of inference, is exposed to the fallacy of undermining his own position.

What holds (ādhāra) the saṃskāra of the idea of the present moment is no different from what holds the saṃskara-s of the past and future ideas; there is something which illumines them, as of the nature of self, as belonging to the same stream.

The substratum (āsraya) of the saṃskāra of the idea of the present moment is no different from the substratum upholding the saṃskāra-s of the past and future ideas; there is something which illumines them, from its nature as the self, as belonging to the same stream.

The present possessor of the I-notion is not separate from the past and future possessors of it; they have the idea as from their very nature, being joined to the same stream.

The idea now present is not separated from the possessors of the idea in the past and future, because there is something which illumines them, by nature coloured by the self, as belonging to the same stream.

The present possessor of the idea is not separated from the ideas past and future, because there is something which illumines them, as of the nature of self, as belonging to the same stream.

Since it is not found that separate streams mutually confound their memories, and memory is only observed in the individual stream, it is certain that there is a single subject in each. It is known to be so by the proof of direct perception, of all proofs the weightiest, so there is nothing left to be demonstrated by inference. No one takes a mirror to look at a mark on the palm of his hand.

Even so, some who will not accept the collapse of the inferences presented by the Vaināśika Buddhists, still produce plausible counter-inferences, and so he sums up: Therefore the mind is something enduring, one and with many objects, and it is for such an enduring mind that the training (parikarman) is prescribed by the teaching (śāstra). He is showing that the teaching is meaningful.

Therefore it is established that the mind is one, with a number of objects. The method of training this mind is now to be given.


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