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Yoga Sutra

Sadhana Pada: Sutra 2.4

अविद्याक्षेत्रमुत्तरेषां प्रसुप्ततनुविच्छिन्नोदाराणाम्॥४॥

avidyā kṣetram-uttareṣām prasupta-tanu-vicchinn-odārāṇām

avidyā = nescience, ignorance

kṣetram= the location or ground

uttareṣām = for the rest (other than avidya)

prasupta = seed, latent, dormant

tanu= weakened

vicchinna = inconsistent

udārāṇām = awakened

Nescience or ignorance is the breeding ground for the other obstacles in the form of being latent or weakened or inconsistent or active

In the last Sutra, five distractions or obstacles were listed.


Now the Sage starts to describe what is Avidya, the first obstacle. Avidya is the ground on which the rest of the obstacles have roots. Avidya may be in the stage of an impression that has the potential to become an obstacle. 


Or it may be in a weakened form. It means the ignorance that causes the hindrance might be controlled and still exists in the attenuated form. It is possible only by exercising the right knowledge or awareness.

Thirdly, it may exist inconsistently. With repeated measures of control, it may go on and off.

The other possibility is that the hindrance is actively operating in its full strength, uncontrolled.


These are the four possibilities for Avidya to exist. Avidya ceases to exist when it goes beyond these four stages. In that case, it becomes a burned seed that could not germinate. Ignorance is the cause of these hindrances. All obstacles have their root in ignorance. If you have the right knowledge, there is no place for other Kleshas or obstacles.

Commentary by Maharishi Vyasa
Avidya is the breeding ground for those that follow whether they are dormant, attenuated, separated, or operative

Ignorance is the productive ground for the rest namely egoism and others which may be of four kinds: dormant, weak, separated, and operative.

What is dormancy? It is in the seed form abiding in the mind which has no reality yet. The operative state is coming face to face with the object.

But for the one who has reached elevation to have the burned seeds, there is no activation even when the object is in the closest proximity. What can germinate from a burned seed? He who has got his obstacles away is the only fortunate person said to be in his last body. He only is in the fifth stage with burned seed, not others. Although there is an existence of hindrances, the potential nature of the seed is burned already. There is no activation of the hindrances even when the object is face to face. Thus the potential nature of the seed and its failure to germinate have been described.

Now, attenuation is described. The hindrances when countered or overpowered by the cultivation of the opposites become attenuated.

When the hindrances are attenuated, intercept repeatedly and move on actively again. This is the third stage and is called interception or separation. How it is done? For example, when someone is in love with an object, no anger is felt towards that object. Both anger and love don't go in one direction. When love is felt in one direction, the anger won't move in that direction. It does not necessarily mean that the anger is felt in another direction. Suppose, Chaitra is in love with one woman, it is not that he is in anger with (not in love with) another woman. The fluctuation of his love is fixed in one direction, his fluctuations in other directions have the potential to be there. They are yet to come and are presently not operative. This is the moment with dormancy, attenuation, and interception.

When the fluctuation fixed upon one direction is sustained, the hindrance is active or operative. No hindrances pass over these four stages. When the opposites are cultivated, they cease to exist. Their reality is not true. Hence, they are the varieties of Avidya or undifferentiated consciousness. The avidya gives the form to the object and it permeates in all the hindrances. When Avidya goes, hindrances also go.

Commentary by Swami Vivekananda
Ignorance is the productive field of all of them that follow, whether they are dormant, attenuated, overpowered, or expanded.

Impressions are the cause of these, and these impressions exist in different degrees. There are the dormant. You often hear the expression “innocent as a baby,” yet in the baby may be the state of a demon or of a god which will come out by and by.


In the Yogi these impressions, the Samskaras left by past actions, are attenuated; that is, in a very fine state, and he can control them, and not allow them to become manifest.


Overpowered means that sometimes one set of impressions is held down for a while by those that are stronger, but they will come out when that repressing cause is removed.


The last state is the expanded when the Samskaras, having helpful surroundings, have attained to great activity, either as good or evil.


Commentary by Sri Osho

There can be many forms of the causes of misery: they can be in the form of seeds. You can carry your misery in the form of a seed -- dormant. You may not be aware of it, but in a certain situation, if the soil is right and the seed can get the water and the sun, it will sprout.


So sometimes for years, you feel that you have no greed, and suddenly one day when the right opportunity arises, the greed is there. Then the seeds are in a very feeble form that you are not aware of, so feeble that unless you search deeply within yourself, you will not be able to see that they are there. Or they may be in an alternating form: sometimes you feel happy and sometimes you feel unhappy. You feel happy with love, you feel unhappy with hate, but hate and love are two alternating phenomena of the same energy. Sometimes they will be in their perfect form: when you are depressed, so depressed that you want to commit suicide; or sometimes when you are so happy that you feel like going mad.


All these forms have to be watched because Patanjali says, 'All these forms exist because of unawareness; you are not aware.'

First become aware of the surface phenomena: greed, anger, hate; then go deeper, and you will be able to feel the alternating phenomenon - both are connected. Go still deeper, become more aware, and you will feel a very feeble phenomenon inside you, shadow like, but any time it can gain substance.


So it happens with a holy man - who just a moment before was holy - that a beautiful woman comes, and all holiness disappears; just in a single moment! It was there in a feeble form. Or, it can be in a seed form. To know the seed form is the most difficult because it has not sprouted. It needs perfect awareness. But the whole method of Patanjali is awareness: become more and more aware.


You will become more aware if you become austere, simple. You will become more aware and self study will become possible. With self study, self drops and one feels surrendered. And to be surrendered is to be on the right track.

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