Yoga Sutra 2.17 the Seer is Purusa, witness of the mind buddhi
The Seer-Seen conjunction is the cause of what is to be escaped
The Seer is Puruṣa, witness of the mind (buddhi). The Seen is all objects (dharma) presented by mind-sattva.
It has been said that the work is set out in four parts. One part out of the four has been explained: what is to be escaped is the pain which has not yet come. Now the second part, which is the cause, the reason, of the pain is again identified.
(Opponent) But the cause of pain has already been pointed out, at the end of the summing up (in II.15) when it was said that Ignorance is the seed which produces that great mass of pain.
(Answer) True, but what was indicated there was only the bare nature of pain and the bare nature of its cause. In the statement of the bare nature of these, the causality has not been made clear, (as it now is in the words) The Seer-Seen conjunction is the cause of what is to be escaped.
The two-element compound Seer-Seen means the Seer and the Seen. The conjunction is of the Seer and the Seen. It could have been a three-element compound – the single word Seer-Seen-conjunction; the fact that the division is made into the separate elements (Seer-Seen, conjunction) is to confirm that the two are of a different class. The sūtra might have said: (conjunction of) experiencer and experienced (bhoktṛ-bhogya), or of thing and its owner, or of pradhāna and Puruṣa. But by the expression of Seer-Seen he wishes to show the conjunction as of those two elements and in no other way.
The Seer is Puruṣa, witness of the mind (buddhi) as is going to be explained. One who habitually witnesses is called a witness. He witnesses the mind (buddhi) which is the Seen, the mind (antaḥkaraṇa) in the form of ideas.
(Opponent) The Seen is simply objects like sound.
(Answer) It is to meet this objection that he adds, The Seen is all objects (dharma) presented by mind-sattva. Objects like sound are perceived not independently but only as presented by mind-sattva, being forms of ideas in the mind. If they were seen independently, it would mean that there would be some objects known to Puruṣa and some unknown, but reason (nyāya) establishes that objects are always known to Puruṣa. So it is that all objects are seen only as presented by mind (buddhi).
The seen object is like a magnet, which serves by mere proximity; by the fact of being seen, it belongs to Puruṣa its lord, whose nature is seeing, inasmuch as the seen object takes on the nature of an object of experience. Taking on as its own a different nature, though independent it is dependent on another, because it serves the purpose of another. The conjunction of the two powers, Seer and Sight, is beginningless and purposive. As the cause of pain, it is the cause of what is to be escaped.
The seen object is like a magnet: it is like a magnet which serves by its action to create movement in the iron also. Because that (object) helps, as if it were a magnet, the two-fold purpose of Puruṣa, namely experience and release, by the fact of being seen, it belongs to Puruṣa, its lord, whose nature is pure consciousness (citi-svarūpa-mātra).
In what sense is it the property of Puruṣa? It takes on the nature of an object of experience (karma-viṣaya). In this compound karma-viṣaya, the element ‘karma’ has its sense of the grammatical object. The object is what becomes perceptible to that which is awareness (dṛṣi) by nature. To explain just how it is that it becomes objective, he says, It takes on as its own a different nature.
It takes itself to be of the nature of its own or another Puruṣa, and of the nature of objects like sound. It takes on itself the characteristics of their nature, taking the assumed characteristics of Puruṣa, or of objects like sound, to be its own being. When it takes on itself the nature of Puruṣa, then it assumes objectivity by the fact of being seen, and becomes a possession for the purpose of release. When it takes on itself the nature of objects like sound, it assumes objectivity by the fact of being seen, and becomes a possession for the purpose of experiencing in the world.
(Opponent) How can what is independent belong to another? What is independent does not look to anything else for its functioning. Even if that functioning does conform to a purpose of Puruṣa (by coincidence), it is a purely spontaneous functioning and nothing to do with serving Puruṣa. It is not reasonable that an independent and spontaneously acting thing should belong to another.
(Answer) Though independent, it is dependent on another because it serves the purpose of another, as carrying out the two purposes of Puruṣa. Therefore it belongs to that other. The conjunction of the two powers, Seer and Sight, is beginningless. He began with the pair Seer and Seen; now in summing up he speaks of the two powers as Seer and Sight. Since the conjunction of mind (buddhi) and Puruṣa comes into existence immediately on the rise of mind, it might be supposed that it had a beginning. It is to show how it has no beginning that he states that the conjunction is beginningless. Possessors of qualities (dharmin) being permanent, a relation between them would be permanent. Now the relation of the two powers of Seer and Seen is without a beginning, and purposive, since it is impelled by the purpose or goal of Puruṣa.
It follows that though the conjunction is thus beginningless, it will cease when the purpose ceases. A conjunction which is of the nature of possessors of qualities (dharmin), since it is from their very being, is not purposeful and so can only be eternal. But a conjunction which is only of passing qualities (dharma) will be passing. This conjunction of mind and Puruṣa is the cause of what is to be escaped, the cause of pain.
So it is said: by avoiding the cause that brings them together, there will be absolute prevention of pain. How so? Because we see that removing the cause of pain prevents pain. Just as there is vulnerability of the sole and sharpness of the thorn, and the prevention is either not treading with the foot on the thorn, or treading on it with sole protected. He who knows these two, adopts in practice a method of prevention, and adopting that method, does not experience the pain of being pierced.
Why is he not pierced? By virtue of his knowledge of the three elements.
Here rajas causes the hurt, and sattva it is which is hurt. Why so? Because sattva is in the position of object to the hurtful action.
So it is said in the teaching By avoiding the cause that makes them join; the conjunction being of mind and Puruṣa, and its cause being Ignorance. How is it to be avoided? By making it disappear through its opponent, Knowledge, right vision the adversary of Ignorance. Therefore by avoiding the cause of their conjunction there will be absolute perfect prevention of pain. What is this (avoiding)? It is seeing rightly.
How is it so? A well-known example is cited: just as there is vulnerability of the sole because of its tenderness and the sharpness of the thorn from its nature as a hard point. The fact is well known that this particular conjunction is a cause of pain. Prevention of the pain of being pierced by a thorn is either not treading not stepping with the foot on the thorn, or if there is some reason for stepping there, treading with the sole protected. He who knows these two the vulnerability and the sharpness, or the two methods of avoidance, he adopts in his life a method of prevention, one of the two; adopting that method, he does not experience the pain of being pierced by a thorn.
In the present case, there are Puruṣa and pradhāna, which in its relation to sattva is compared to the thorn; the particular conjunction between these two, caused by Ignorance, is the cause of pain. The preventive measure is this: either disregard of seen objects, guṇa-s and their combinations which are particularizations of pradhāna alone, realizing through right knowledge that there is no good to be pursued, because Puruṣa is immutable, or else, experience by the mind-sattva, like one treading on a thorn, but shielded by right knowledge, of the objects such as sound which come uninvited, realizing that the karma of taking on a body must be known assuredly to bring about its fruits. Thus knowing the method of prevention, like the prevention of the pain of being pierced by a thorn, he does not incur the pain of saṃsāra.
How is it so? By virtue of his awareness of the three elements. It is awareness of pradhāna, Puruṣa, and their conjunction, these three, that shows the effectiveness of knowledge, for we see that one who is not aware of his sole and the thorn and their coming together is caused pain by his unawareness.
To explain: Here rajas causes the pain; pradhāna was compared to the thorn, as inflicting pain, but it is only through rajas, inherently painful as that is. As the object of rajas, sattva alone is pained. Like an axe chopping, any hurtful action has to have an object to operate on. It is in the position of object to the pain caused by rajas. Puruṣa the witness is not the object pained by rajas, for the painful effect is an object witnessed by Puruṣa. An axe does not operate on the woodman himelf, nor is the result mere cutting, but actual splitting some object like a piece of wood. Thus the apparent suffering of Puruṣa is the production of an effect in sattva the object; rajas is like the axe on wood, and sattva simply functions as something seen by Puruṣa.
Sattva being an object to it, the pain does not belong to the immutable, actionless knower-of the-field (kṣetrajña), because the object is something shown to him. But sattva being pained, Puruṣa conforming to that form, is pained likewise. He now goes on to explain the nature of the Seen.
So the pain does not affect Puruṣa because Puruṣa is immutable, being the Seer. Pain is modification of some object; for instance, the result of chopping is a change in the thing chopped, namely that it is divided into two. It does not affect the immutable, actionless, knower-of-the-field (kṣetrajña) whose immutability is to be established by the fact that it is always the witness of objects.
(Opponent) If Puruṣa is thus not pained, then it means that pradhāna will not be working for the purpose of Puruṣa, for it has just been said that there is (experience, namely) conformity to the mental process.
(Answer) To this he says: because the object is something shown to him. Objects are shown to him, who is unchanging and actionless. So conforming to that form, imitating that form of sattva the object of sight; the conforming to that form is when the mental idea (bauddha pratyaya) is in proximity to sight, and there is an appearance in the form of sight. Just as in proximity to lac, a crystal appears in the form of lac, so Puruṣa too is pained- figuratively.
He now goes on to explain the nature of the Seen. In the previous sūtra the order was Seer and Seen, so it might seem that the nature of the Seer should be explained first. But to understand what the Seer is, there must first be knowledge of what the Seen is. He is the Seer of what is seen distinct from himself, and it is as distinct from it that he is established as the Seer in himself. In order of importance, true, the Seer comes first as in the previous sūtra, but the present order is adopted for the definition.