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Issue I

The Way of the Witness
by Christopher Key Chapple



From the earliest text of Indian Philosophy, the Rig Veda, comes an image that has profoundly influenced the Upanishads, the formal schools of Samkhya and Yoga, as well as epic and puranic literature. This image is a simple one: two birds in the same tree, one active, the other looking on. The identical passage quoted above is repeated in the Mundaka Upanishad (III:l:l) and the Svetashvatara Upanishad (4:6). At first glance this verse might appear to be a direct reference to dualism: two diametrically opposed birds are portrayed: one bird eats, the other does nothing. However, the tree, the universal symbol of life, brings the two together, linking them for as long as the one bird looks on, or for as long as the other bird is not satiated. At any moment, either could fly away. Yet, in this tableau, both are present, in proximity to one another. Does the eating bird know she is being watched? Probably not; no one likes to eat while another stares on. Is the onlooker truly interested in what transpires? Again, probably not; if so, then he himself would eat. Of the pair, the less familiar is the onlooker. It is easy for the reader of the text to identify with the eater of the sweet berry; we all have done the same. But what does it mean to be a mere onlooker?

Herein is the departure point for one major thread of Indian philosophical and religious thought, a thread that can be traced through various texts and traditions mentioned in the above paragraph. In each of these there looms the presence of an anonymous witness who, by his mere silence and noninvolvement, is said to ultimately vivify and allow shape to be given to that which is human. The active bird represents a self involved and identified with the world; the inactive bird represents that other mode of being human that neither claims nor rejects the world, remaining ever aloof and hence always free. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Uddalaka Aruni refers to what may be equated with the onlooking bird as "the unseen Seer, the unheard Hearer, the unthought Thinker, the ununderstood Understander...the Self (atman), the Inner Controller (antaryamin), the Immortal (amrta)" (III:7:23). In contrast to this is the realm of activity, the bird that eats and enjoys, exemplified in the Bhagavad Gita as the field, spanning the "gross elements, the sense of I, the intellect, the unmanifest, the ten senses and one (mind), and the five sensory realms" (XIII:S). In the Samkhya and Yoga schools of thought, both of these are seen as integral to being human, interacting and complementing one another until true knowledge of the seer is gained.

The Samkhya Karika

The unseen seer and the field are the basis for the way of philosophy or seeing (darsan) known as Samkhya, which in turn is the basis for the many practices outlined in the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali. Although Samkhya terminology pervades the Shvetasvatara and Maitri Upanishads and is used extensively in the Mahabharata and the Puranas, its formal expression is found in a different genre of literature, the Samkhya Karika of Isvarakrisna, probably written in the third century C.E. Unlike the picturesque Vedic and Upanishadic texts, the Samkhya Karika is terse and precise, in the classical tradition of stringing together epigrammatic philosophical statements. The entire system is laid out in 72 short verses. In the analysis that follows, we will investigate the Samkhyan position on consciousness, the nonconscious, and the relationship between the two, focusing on the key tattvas of purusha, prakriti, and buddhi.

The first usage of a term equivalent to the English word conscious is found in negative form, when prakriti, the realm of manifestation, the "seen", is said to be nonconscious (acetana). In this and other aspects, purusha, the seer, is said to be the opposite: other than the three constituents (gunas) of prakriti (that is, neither light, passionate, or dull), distinct, specific, conscious and nonproductive (SK XI). Furthermore, the purusha is also said to be uncaused, infinite, all-pervasive, inactive, single, unsupported, nonmergent, not made of parts, and independent (SK X), which are the qualities also used to describe prakriti in her unmanifest form. A few passages later, Isvarakrisna positively describes purusha as "witness, isolated, indifferent, spectator, inactive" (SK XIX), which may be translated more poetically as a "free, nonaligned witnessing, a state of nonreactive looking on." Due to this characterization, purusha will henceforth be regarded analogous with the English words "pure consciousness". Although purusha in other contexts refers to man or cosmic man (cf. the Purusha Sukta, Rig Veda X:90), due to the inclusion of the terms witness (saksitva) and spectator (drashtritva) in the above verse and the use of the word cetana (derived from the verbal root cit, meaning "to be conscious") in other verses (XX, XI, LV), it consistently is seen to signify a specialized mode of consciousness, a free, actionless witnessing.

Five proofs are given for the existence of purusha, listed by Isvarakrisna as follows:

1) because aggregations exist for another
2) because this other must be different from the gunas
3) because there must be an organizing power
4) because there does exist an enjoyer, or experience
5) because there is activity for the sake of (eventually leading to) liberation (SK XVIII).

The first four proofs are various ways of stating that in order for something to be perceived, there must be a seer; the last, as we will see, says that all activity takes place for the ultimate purpose of letting one know that one's true self is in no way linked to activity. It should also be noted that the text asserts the existence of multiple purushas, thus distinguishing Samkhya from the monistic thought of Vedanta. It is stated that multiple purushas exist because of the multiplicity of births and death; each life requires its own organizing consciousness. Furthermore, each person operates in his or her own sphere of action, and each exhibits different combinations of the three gunas (see SK XVIII).

In its pure state, consciousness or purusha is unable to create anything of its own accord. It is only when purusha comes into association with the nonconscious prakriti that the world is generated and things are presented to consciousness. This process is described in Karika XXI, which likens the association (samyoga) of purusha and prakriti to the teaming up of a blind man with a lame man. The blind man is like prakriti, who can move but cannot see because she is nonconscious; the lame man is like purusha, who can see but cannot move. The joining of these two forces is to their mutual benefit: purusha is given something to see and prakriti gains the perspective of consciousness that illumines all her wares.

After samyoga, the emergence of the manifest world takes place through the unfoldment of 23 other tattvas (literally "that-nesses"), each of which is composed of varying degrees of three constituents or strands (gunas): heaviness (tamas), passion (rajas), and lightness (sattva). The first tattva to emerge is intellect (buddhi), closely followed by sense-of-self (ahamkara) and the perceptive vehicle or mind (manas). These three are collectively referred to as the inner organ (antahkarana); predominated by sattva, they determine how the rest of the world will be perceived.

Through the combined qualities of sattva and rajas, the five sense organs and the five organs of action are generated. These ten (eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin; voice, hands, feet, and the respective organs of reproduction and excretion) constitute the conditions necessary for human corporeality. Concurrently, rajas combines with tamas to bring out of prakriti the five subtle elements (sound, touch, form, taste, smell), which are then said to generate the five gross elements (space, wind, fire, water, earth). These twenty-three, like prakriti herself, are nonconscious; the aggregate of them provides the subjectivity and objectivity essential for experience to be presented to consciousness. In an inversion of the western Cartesian model, the "physical world" appears only after the basic constituents of mind and the sense and action organs have been formed. (See diagram one.)


The attainment of liberation in the Samkhya system requires that one thoroughly comprehend the process of manifesting the world and gain the ability to reverse the process. The projection of world production is the basic human condition--the three gunas pervade all things and all personalities--but all this is fundamentally nonconscious. Although everyone is conscious according to Samkhya, few people see pure consciousness as distinct from the manifest and unmanifest forms of prakriti. To achieve this goal, Samkhya examines how perception works, thereby giving clues to how this world-generating process can be reversed and arrested, allowing pure consciousness to shine unimpaired.

The key to this liberating process is the buddhi (intellect), the first product to issue from prakriti when she associates with purusha. According to the Samkhya Karika, buddhi serves two functions, both as the conduit that allows the data collected by prakriti to be presented to purusha [36] and as the vehicle for liberation [37]. Let us examine its function as a conduit first. Because of its elevated status, the buddhi, although a product of prakriti and hence nonconscious, appears to be conscious: "From the association [of purusha and prakriti], the nonconscious [bears] the mark of consciousness. Thus in the movement of the gunas, the indifferent one is as if active" [20]. The buddhi is the venue for this confusion: being mistaken for purusha, it causes action to be attributed to the consciousness that in reality is forever inactive. When this happens the world-spinning process begins. The sense of self (ahamkara), the process of mistakenly claiming responsibility for and authority over all actions of consciousness, thus ignores the fact that the person who says "I know' is merely a product of prakriti and is incapable of knowing anything without consciousness. It becomes impossible to distinguish the pure, undefiled, neutral witness (purusha) from the "I maker" (ahamkara), the temporally bound aspect of prakriti that lays claim to the manifest and mistakenly attributes consciousness to itself. Access to the world subsequently generated is limited to and defined by this all-pervasive, I-centered interpretation, which is subject to change and continually vacillating between experiences of and identification with pleasure and pain. Life thus lived--nonconsciously--is an unending repetition of bitter and sweet, as long as buddhi remains confused as to its authentic nature as nonconscious. Furthermore, the undisciplined buddhi, in addition to its fundamental confusion, is laden with impressions of past action. These embedded inclinations determine the outlook and orientation of the sense of self (ahamkara); this in turn influences the constitution of one's corporeality and thence the perception of the world. As long as the buddhi remains confused and sullied by the influence of previous karma, the world as generated leads to repeated pain and delusion. Identity is on the side of the nonconscious.

We have seen that buddhi is where things first go away; it is also the locus wherein liberation may be brought about. Buddhi has the possibility of learning what it is not and thereby releasing prakriti from her ignorance [37]. Several verses in the Samkhya Karika discuss buddhi, dividing this tattva into bhavas, states of being which illustrate modes of action. Two groupings of bhavas are cited by Ishvarakrisna. The first, an eightfold analysis, outlines the means by which the intellect may be elevated to the point of being able to discriminate between the changes of prakriti and the unchanging witness or purusha. This analysis will be examined in detail. The second grouping details fifty forms of delusion, including five types of ignorance, twenty-eight varieties of incapacity, nine illusory complacencies, and eight false perfections (see SK XLVII-LI).

The eight bhavas fall into two groups, one "sattvic," the other "tamasic." Virtue (dharma), knowledge (jñana), nonattachment (viraga), and power (aishvarya) constitute its sattvic aspect; the tamasic aspect is composed of four bhavas opposite to those listed above: nonvirtue (adharma), ignorance (añjana), attachment (raga), and weakness (anaishvarya). These states of being pervade and shape the body--the lower consciousness--that is then generated, including one's sense of self, its corresponding effect on one's perception of the world, and the path of action pursued as a result. If the buddhi finds its predominant expression in inability to succeed (anaishvarya), that person is said to be lazy and his or her attitude is most likely to be "the world is against me". His or her actions would then prove ineffectual. On the other hand, when vigor and positive thinking prevail, as would be the case for someone established in the power (aishvarya) bhava, success in action undoubtedly follows, even though such action would remain nonconscious action. Similarly, fixity in the attachment bhava results in the constant pursuit of desire and inevitable periodic disappointment; nonattachment brings a state of contentment. Ignorance leads to continued bondage. Virtue allows one to ascend to happier states, nonvirtue results in descent into activities associated with lower states of existence [44). Each of these bhavas further binds one to inauthentic consciousness, with one notable exception.

Of the intellect's eight bhavas, knowledge (jñana) holds the most elevated position, the key to liberation through which the distinctness of purusha and prakrti is discerned. Samkhya Karika verse 63 states:

It is by the seven forms (of bhavas) that prakriti binds
herself for herself. And indeed, for the sake of purusha,
she frees herself by means of one (knowledge).

Through the application of knowledge, cultivated and nurtured by contemplation on the process by which prakriti creates the world and then mistakes an aspect of herself to be consciousness, the purusha is seen to have always been free of identity with the world of action. Hence, the experience of liberation is described by Ishvarakrisna as follows:

Thus from the analysis of the tattvas,
arises the knowledge 'I am not, nothing is mine I do not
exist.' [This knowledge) is all-encompassing,
free from error, pure, and final [67].

The buddhi awakens to its mistake; the cultivation of knowledge results in the cessation of the conception of self which sets itself up as the candidate for suffering. All such action is seen to be merely a manifestation, a play of false consciousness and self-consciousness, taking place while purusha, one's authentic identity, remains eternally unaffected, unattached.

At this moment of release, prakriti desists, no longer compelled to continue her dance. However, this experience does not necessarily cancel the possibility that purusha will ever again experience her; the hiatus from the dance may only be temporary, as indicated in Karika 68:



The body, due to the force of past impressions, continues,
like a potter's wheel.

Not until death is an eternal and absolute isolation (kaivalyam) from prakriti attained. However, action which previously has been claimed by the sense of self is now performed selflessly, without selfish concern for doership or results.

The image of the potter's wheel, in addition to showing how life continues after knowledge is gained, also provides an excellent simile for understanding Samkyha's philosophy of freedom through detachment in action, a way to be conscious in the midst of the nonconscious. A potter creates dishes, bowls, and other utensils for use in everyday life. The first task for the potter is to center all the elements and confine the clay on the rotating wheel. In order for this to take place, the mind has to be stilled. The hands do the work; if a thought enters such as "I am going to make a perfect pot," the process is ruined and the pot is knocked off center. A steady detachment must be maintained: the action is performed but the doer does not claim the fruits. Sitting above the spinning wheel, distanced yet intimately involved, the witness silently watches the pot grow and take shape. There is reciprocity between the stillness--the authentic consciousness--and the activity, the realm of manifestation, the nonconscious pot which is being created. The two modes work together for the creation of a new order.

This skill in action, taken beyond the metaphor of the potter's wheel, liberates a person to move through life using what is needed but avoiding the pitfalls and broken dreams inherent in inauthentic consciousness. When the mind fills up with thoughts preoccupied with the sense of self, it becomes impossible to move unencumbered; when the mind is pacified it no longer inserts the artificial "I" barrier between the pure witness and the task at hand. Consciousness becomes authentic when I, me, or mine no longer intrudes. Hamlet's flaw cannot arise. Self-conscious identity, the locus of ignorance, doubt and discomfort, must be transcended in order for the silent, unseen witness to be realized. We have briefly surveyed what in Samkhya constitutes consciousness, the nonconscious, and the link between the two. Consciousness is purusha, the unmanifest witness, not prakriti or any fabrication of her gunas. The association of the two result in the emergence of buddhi, often translated as intellect. From buddhi then arises ahamkara, the sense of personal identity, which serves as the focal point for all data regarding the "outside" world. However, the ego only appears to be conscious due to ignorance. Ahamkara claims to be conscious but in fact never is.

The question may be posed, is consciousness continuous with the cosmos? By "realizing" purusha, are all things known? Both ideas--cosmos and all things--denote structure, the universe, "reality." Purusha can take part in no such constructs; it has been defined as without parts, noncreative, inactive, and independent. Descriptions of purusha in Samkhya, though not elsewhere (cf. Rig Veda X:90), are indisputably antistructure, acosmic. Only prakriti is associated with creation or cosmos and she at best would be dubbed inauthentic consciousness. However, it is asserted that by gaining knowledge, by discriminating the difference between the seer and the seen, the highest human modality is attained, a way of seeing that cannot be paralleled or surpassed.

Modern scholarship has raised the question as to whether the so-called Samkhya evolutionary scheme is to be interpreted as a cosmogonic myth or as illustrative or processes taking place within each individual. Frank Podgorski has noted that Dasgupta and Frauwallner, interpreting Samkhya in light of the Puranas, have seen the " tattvas as primarily the constitutive cosmological substructure underlying our universe; their interpretation resembles in some ways our modern scientific theories of subatomic particles" (Podgorski: 88). To the contrary, Podgorski agrees with Gerald Larson, who writes that in Samkhya the world is not understood in itself apart from the fact of human existence. In a sense, then, the world is uniquely human" (Larson: 135). I would like to add that cosmological explanations are simply irrelevant to the Samkhya thrust: questions about the origins of things can only be asked or answered by a limited sense of self (ahamkara), and hence are outside the domain of what Samkhya considers to be true knowledge. A further question might be raised: can consciousness be utilized for liberation? By definition, consciousness cannot do anything and hence cannot advance one to liberation. Discriminative knowledge is said to be the only vehicle by which liberation is attained, but it is a knowledge that paradoxically reveals the fact that consciousness can never be bound. "No one is bound, no one is released...only prakriti in its various forms is bound and released" (SK LXII). It is only the nonconscious that strives for release, and this release comes about when all effort, all show, all dance ceases, as articulated in the following verse: "Just as a dancer stops dancing after having been seen by the audience, so does prakriti cease after having exhibited herself to purusha" (SK LIX). It is when one becomes aware of the bondage that keeps one active that one can begin the process of reversal. The Maitri Upanishad articulates this dilemma as follows, dialectically implying the solution:

Now, because of being overcome,
he goes to confusedness,
he sees not the blessed Lord,
the causer of action,
who stands within oneself.
Borne along and defiled by the stream of gunas,
unsteady, wavering, bewildered, full of desire,
distracted, this one goes to the state of self-conceit
In thinking 'This is I' and 'That is mine,'
he binds himself with his self,
as a bird does with a snare (3:2).

The telos of Samkhya is found in the opposite, when the liberated one proclaims "I am not, nothing is mine, I do not exist." All confusion, unsteadiness, desire, and self-conceit have been dissolved, resulting in purification and liberation.

The image of the potter's wheel, in addition to showing how life continues after knowledge is gained, also provides an excellent simile for understanding Samkyha's philosophy of freedom through detachment in action, a way to be conscious in the midst of the nonconscious. A potter creates dishes, bowls, and other utensils for use in everyday life. The first task for the potter is to center all the elements and confine the clay on the rotating wheel. In order for this to take place, the mind has to be stilled. The hands do the work; if a thought enters such as "I am going to make a perfect pot," the process is ruined and the pot is knocked off center. A steady detachment must be maintained: the action is performed but the doer does not claim the fruits. Sitting above the spinning wheel, distanced yet intimately involved, the witness silently watches the pot grow and take shape. There is reciprocity between the stillness--the authentic consciousness--and the activity, the realm of manifestation, the nonconscious pot which is being created. The two modes work together for the creation of a new order.

This skill in action, taken beyond the metaphor of the potter's wheel, liberates a person to move through life using what is needed but avoiding the pitfalls and broken dreams inherent in inauthentic consciousness. When the mind fills up with thoughts preoccupied with the sense of self, it becomes impossible to move unencumbered; when the mind is pacified it no longer inserts the artificial "I" barrier between the pure witness and the task at hand. Consciousness becomes authentic when I, me, or mine no longer intrudes. Hamlet's flaw cannot arise. Self-conscious identity, the locus of ignorance, doubt and discomfort, must be transcended in order for the silent, unseen witness to be realized. We have briefly surveyed what in Samkhya constitutes consciousness, the nonconscious, and the link between the two. Consciousness is purusha, the unmanifest witness, not prakriti or any fabrication of her gunas. The association of the two result in the emergence of buddhi, often translated as intellect. From buddhi then arises ahamkara, the sense of personal identity, which serves as the focal point for all data regarding the "outside" world. However, the ego only appears to be conscious due to ignorance. Ahamkara claims to be conscious but in fact never is.

The question may be posed, is consciousness continuous with the cosmos? By "realizing" purusha, are all things known? Both ideas--cosmos and all things--denote structure, the universe, "reality." Purusha can take part in no such constructs; it has been defined as without parts, noncreative, inactive, and independent. Descriptions of purusha in Samkhya, though not elsewhere (cf. Rig Veda X:90), are indisputably antistructure, acosmic. Only prakriti is associated with creation or cosmos and she at best would be dubbed inauthentic consciousness. However, it is asserted that by gaining knowledge, by discriminating the difference between the seer and the seen, the highest human modality is attained, a way of seeing that cannot be paralleled or surpassed.

Modern scholarship has raised the question as to whether the so-called Samkhya evolutionary scheme is to be interpreted as a cosmogonic myth or as illustrative or processes taking place within each individual. Frank Podgorski has noted that Dasgupta and Frauwallner, interpreting Samkhya in light of the Puranas, have seen the " tattvas as primarily the constitutive cosmological substructure underlying our universe; their interpretation resembles in some ways our modern scientific theories of subatomic particles" (Podgorski: 88). To the contrary, Podgorski agrees with Gerald Larson, who writes that in Samkhya the world is not understood in itself apart from the fact of human existence. In a sense, then, the world is uniquely human" (Larson: 135). I would like to add that cosmological explanations are simply irrelevant to the Samkhya thrust: questions about the origins of things can only be asked or answered by a limited sense of self (ahamkara), and hence are outside the domain of what Samkhya considers to be true knowledge. A further question might be raised: can consciousness be utilized for liberation? By definition, consciousness cannot do anything and hence cannot advance one to liberation. Discriminative knowledge is said to be the only vehicle by which liberation is attained, but it is a knowledge that paradoxically reveals the fact that consciousness can never be bound. "No one is bound, no one is released...only prakriti in its various forms is bound and released" (SK LXII). It is only the nonconscious that strives for release, and this release comes about when all effort, all show, all dance ceases, as articulated in the following verse: "Just as a dancer stops dancing after having been seen by the audience, so does prakriti cease after having exhibited herself to purusha" (SK LIX). It is when one becomes aware of the bondage that keeps one active that one can begin the process of reversal. The Maitri Upanishad articulates this dilemma as follows, dialectically implying the solution:

Now, because of being overcome,
he goes to confusedness,
he sees not the blessed Lord,
the causer of action,
who stands within oneself.
Borne along and defiled by the stream of gunas,
unsteady, wavering, bewildered, full of desire,
distracted, this one goes to the state of self-conceit
In thinking 'This is I' and 'That is mine,'
he binds himself with his self,
as a bird does with a snare (3:2).

The telos of Samkhya is found in the opposite, when the liberated one proclaims "I am not, nothing is mine, I do not exist." All confusion, unsteadiness, desire, and self-conceit have been dissolved, resulting in purification and liberation.

The Yoga Sutra

The Samkhya system as articulated by Ishvarakrisna the yoga philosophy of Patañjali, as given in the Yoga Sutra (ca. 200 C.E.). Both speak of the seer and the seen; both stress suffering as the reason to seek release from bondage. However, whereas the former focuses exclusively on the cultivation of knowledge as the means to liberation, yoga, while not denying the efficacy of knowledge, advances several ancillary techniques to help bring about what it, like Samkhya, describes as kaivalyam or isolation, the nonmistaking of the seen for the seer. The practices of yoga are myriad and, as Frauwallner has remarked, "The Yoga Sutra of Patañjali is composed of elements which in no way give a uniform, homogeneous picture."(Frauwallner: 335). However, despite the variegated array of paths described in the text, the references to pure consciousness (drastr or seer) are consistent both within the sutras and with the Samkhya system.

In the second of Patañjali's sutras, we find what may be considered the definition of yoga: Yoga is the suppression of mind fluctuations (yogascitta-vritti-nirodha, 1:2). In order to understand this epigrammatic rendering of yoga, it is necessary to first explicate the nature of that which yoga is not: the fluctuations (vritti) of the mind (citta, the process of grasping and appropriating the world of objects.

The term citta, variously translated as consciousness and thinking principle, is central to the yoga system. Like the Samkhya term cetana, it is derived from the verbal root cit, but whereas cetana implied a purified form of consciousness, the citta is assumed within yoga to initially be impure. The citta is regarded as the vehicle for perception, wherein the contents of experience take form for presentation to the seer. It is also the receptacle for the effects of karma, the residue (samskara or vasana) left by past activity that conditions future actions. The function of the citta is instrumental; in a sense, it is like a computer ready to be programmed. It is colored with each fluctuation (vritti), each wave that pervades and becomes the citta in the form of various perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and so forth.

Five fluctuations are listed and described in the first section of the Yoga Sutra (1:5-11). In valid cognition (pramana), objects are perceived; such cognition is any experience wherein prakriti finds full manifestation in one or more of the gross elements. Such experience is verified via three avenues: perception, inference, or a credible verbal account (pratyaksa, anumana, agama). Any perception of plants, animals, automobiles, buildings, clothing, oceans, etc., or inference or testimony about any such object, is typified as belonging to the first class of fluctuation. Such "things" are, metaphorically speaking, no more than a ripple (vritti) in the field that allows for the perception of objectivity (citta). The second class of fluctuation is error (viparyaya), considered to be a misguided ripple, one that does not correspond to reality. The next, imagination (vikalpa), involves a notion, not necessarily an error, which does not correspond to an object but may in fact serve a useful function. Examples would be metaphor and simile in poetry. In states of meditation, the engagement of imagination is considered important to strengthen the mind. In the fourth fluctuation, sleep (nidra), one thought predominates to the exclusion of all others, perhaps analogous to a brain scan wherein sleep is registered as a distinct, uniform wave pattern. Memory (smrti), the last fluctuation listed, operates exclusively on the level of the inner organ (intellect, sense of self, and mind), when the contents of a previous experience are returned to consciousness via thought, although there is no longer any corresponding structure on the gross level. The five fluctuations of valid cognition, error, imagination, sleep and memory represent five discrete moments, five aspects of reality that account for all human experience. Each, as listed in the system, is a mechanical operation. This analysis, which explains the scope of awareness-with-content, is not unlike the account of states of consciousness that might be given by a contemporary neurophysiologist.

The citta-vritti analysis summarizes the normal range of human functioning, encompassing three modes of conventional transactions: things (as registered in pramana), thoughts (in pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa, and smrti), and sleep (nidra). Each of these states take form through a subjective appropriator, an "I" that claims experience. In Yoga Sutra IV:4, it is stated that "states of awareness (in particularized form) arise from the sense-of-I (asmita) exclusively." That is, the perception of discrete objects or thoughts as described in the citta-vritti complex arise from and "to" the sense of self (ahamkara). In such a state, the "higher" self, the noncreative witness (drastr), is forgotten. The unseen seer is blended into the seen; the impure is taken for the pure, the nonself is taken for the self (YS II:S-6). The result is evolution, the emergence of the that, the reification and solidification of the world in the form of fluctuations. This movement, the perception of things, thoughts, or sleep as appropriated by the sense of self and therefore separate from it, constitutes conventional experience. If one's world is limited to consciousness of things, life is spent in the unending generation of essentially the same patterns, like the bar in a ripple tank, continually emanating a surface of interfering waves, with the still water, the bearer of other possibilities, forgotten.

Citta-vritti is, by nature, fraught with the causes of affliction (klesa), rooted in avidya, and characterized as impermanent, impure, and painful (anitya, asuchi, duhkha) (YS II:S). The text states: "To the one who possesses discrimination, all is pain (YS II:lS). However, yoga does not stop with existential despair; we are not condemned to eternally generate the same painful wave patterns. As with Samkhya and Buddhism, the purpose of yoga is the cessation of pain, effected by states of suppression (nirodha) of the wave generating habituations. This suppression which is defined as yoga, takes many forms. The wide range of methods indicates an emphasis on the ongoing application of yogic techniques, not a deadening of the mental faculties that merely leaves one in a stupor.

The first method mentioned by Patañjali is composed of practice and dispassion (abhyasa and vairagya, I:12-16). Another method is to apply faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom (sraddha, vrrya, smrti, samadhi, prañja, I:12-16), practices that have direct parallels in Buddhism. Yet another is to dedicate one's meditation to the primal teacher, Ishvara, who remains untainted by the ravages of change inflicted by association with prakriti (I:23-32, II:l, 32, 45). Appropriate behavior in interpersonal relationships is seen to be another tool for achieving yoga: Sutra I:33 states: "One should cultivate friendship with the joyful, compassion for the sorrowful, gladness for those who are virtuous, and equanimity in regard to the nonvirtuous; through this, the mind is pacified." In gaining control over the breath, the yogin masters the senses, including the thinking process (I:34; II: 49-53). Other practices in the first section of the text include directing one's consciousness to one who has conquered attachment, or meditating on an auspicious dream experience, or centering the mind in activity, or cultivating thoughts that are sorrowless and illuminating, or by any other means, as desired (I:35-39).

The second section (pada) of the Yoga Sutra outlines two main forms of practice, each containing multiple aspects. The first, Kriya Yoga, involves austerity, self study, and dedication with the express purpose of uprooting the influence of impurity (klesa) (II:1-27). The second, Ashtanga Yoga, contains the well-known eight limbs of yoga, each of which may be considered a distinct form of practice: abstinences (yama), observances (niyama), postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), nonattachment(pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and unitive attention or absorption (samadhi) (II:2B-III:3). The last three stages constitute "inner yoga" and are referred to collectively as samyama (III:4), a process that dissolves the separation between the seer and the field that arises due to the mistaken notions of the ahamkara. The most intriguing of the three is samadhi, said to involve "the shining forth of the intended object alone, as if empty of own form " (III:3). In this state the interpretive obscurations that dictate sedimented experience are dissolved, thus rendering the experience ineffable, "empty of own-form' (svarupa sunya), an experience described as shining or luminous (nirbhasa).

In the first section of the Yoga Sutra, appropriately titled the Samadhi Pada, Patañjali outlines a progression of levels of samadhi. In the beginning, one uses thoughts (vitarka) and reflections (vicara) to enhance the concentration process. Then one enters into state of free thought and reflection. When the higher forms of concentration are achieved, the world of manifestation is called back to its source: prakriti is held in abeyance and the practitioner is ready for the state of pure consciousness, described as follows:

The accomplished one of diminished modifications, like a clear jewel assuming the color of a near object, has unity among the grasper, the grasping, and the grasped (I:41).

Through the application of states of samadhi, the effects of past action are obstructed (I:50). The yogin arrests the tendency to generate and be captivated by the manifest world which is seen as separate from himself or herself. Ultimately, the state of seedless (nirbija) or object-less (asamprañjata) samadhi is achieved, which brings about the total suppression of the mind's fluctuations.

In order to better understand this culminating phase of yoga, we need to examine its descriptions in the later sections of the Yoga Sutra. The third pada describes how the practice of inner yoga allows one to gain control over the way in which the world is construed. Through samyama, the subtle body experiences various abilities, from learning of the history of one's past actions to obtainment of a beautiful and robust body (see III:l B48). These are seen as merely preparatory to the cultivation of discriminative discernment, the type of knowledge that secures liberation:

Of the one who has pure discernment between sattva (the most subtle aspect of the world of emergence) and purusha (the nonemergent pure seer) there is sovereignty over all and knowledge of all (III:49).

However, even this falls short of the goal, because it too can be a coveted experience. Hence, the final phase is described as being disinterested even in knowledge.

From dispassion even toward this, and from the destruction of the seed of this impediment, arises kaivalyam (III:SO).

This final attainment, referred to as kaivalyam (III:SO) or pure aloneness, is of special interest for the present study. The culmination of the first book is seedless absorption (nirbija samadhi). In this state, all is said to be halted (sarva nirodha): the world generating process of citta-vritti stops (I:51). The second book restates the goal of liberation as it is given in the Samkhya Karika: The reason for the seen is the seer (II:21). When the purpose of the seen is accomplished, it disappears (II:22). One misperceives oneself as the owner of the experience due to ignorance (II:22-230. When this mistaken notion ends, liberation takes place, defined as isolation from the seen" (tad drseh kaivalyam, II:2S).

Three terms appear in the final pada, aptly named Kaivalyam, in reference to the attainments of yoga: kaivalyam, dharma-megha, and citi-sakti. The first has been used in two earlier sections, and is clearly referring to the state wherein the seer shines forth, not subject in any way to the seductive wiles of prakriti. Kaivalyam, often translated as isolation, can also be seen as singleness, oneness, aloneness. It gives a sense of fulfillment, an absence of the need to look outward to confirm one's position in the world of circumstance. As such, it can be seen as a positive statement of mature independence. The second term, dharma-megha, only appears once. However, the image it projects is powerful. In this state, all debts have been paid (prasamkhyane); there is no concern for gain (akusidasya). It is said to proceed from discriminative discernment (viveka khyati), a reference to the power of seeing the difference between the one who sees and the one who is mistaken for the seer. And it is referred to as a samadhi (N:29). Furthermore, it is said in the following sutra that action of a special nature ensues from it: "From that, there is a cessation of afflicted action" (IV:3O). The usage and implications of the term dharma megha indicate that the yogin, having penetrated and obliterated his former, obliterated his former, limited dharma, now takes on a dharma as unlimited as the clouds, and what then proceeds is a cloud of virtue, a cloud of righteousness. This theme of transformation is continued with the third word used in the fourth section to denote the status of the yogin: citi-sakti. The word citi appears twice, the first time in explanation of how higher awareness (citi) at times does not become dissolved into prakriti. This occurs in samadhi when the intellect (buddhi) takes the form of the perceived object (IV:22). The implication here is that a purified state has been entered into; no "lower self or ahamkara is claiming the experience. This ability is further attested to in the final passage of the text:

Kaivalyam is the calling back of the gunas,
which have been emptied of their purpose
(of performing) for purusha.
Then there is steadfastness
in the own-form (of the seer):
the power of pure consciousness (citi-sakti) (IV:34).

Thus defined, kaivalyam is not isolation in the sense of a shuttered retreat from the world. Rather, it is a way of being in the world without falling into the trap of considering oneself different from what is seen: an act of pure consciousness takes place wherein the seer does not become enmeshed in prakriti.

In states of conventional consciousness, the "I" (ahamkara) thinks it is the seer. When it is revealed that "I am not the seer' (cf. SK LXIV: "I do not exist, nothing is mine, I am not"), a perception of the distinction of seer from seen arises (viveka khyati). This breaks down the theoretical self (ahamkara that stood apart from the object. In samadhi, when the I no longer appropriates experience, there arises the consubstantiation of seer, seeing, and seen--a purified, clarified form of consciousness a state of unitive attention. In the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the one who sees the field (prakriti: citta-vritti, ahamkara) as distinct from the knower of the field (purusha) is called wise. Krsna advises Arjuna that "He who sees himself not to be the doer, he sees indeed (BG XIII:29). When the seer is perceived as distinct from the "I" that claims, the yogin then loses interest in the generation of compulsive citta-vrittis; in a sense there is no longer anyone at home to collect the interest (cf. SK XVI). Nothing is claimed by the "I". With this movement the sediment of prior conditioning (samskara) is cleared away; objects shine forth devoid of inherent, defined form (svarupa-sunya); the consciousness-of or "I-vs.-that" consciousness has retreated; pure witnessing takes place. In this state of pure consciousness, attention cannot be separated from the intended: awareness is both subject-free (anahamvadi) and object-free (nirvastuka). Yoga may thus be defined not as a union of appropriating self with objects, even religious objects of appropriation, nor as Cartesian separation of thinker from thought, but rather as a moment in which there is the nonseparation of knower, knowing, and known.

Unlike some other schools of Indian thought, both Samkhya and Yoga affirm the existence of the "objective world" (prakriti), using various arguments to establish this position (e.g., many people see it, and therefore it does not proceed from the mind alone [YS IV:lS, 16]; effects relate directly to their cause [SK 9], etc. Prakriti is considered to be real; the external world is not denied. However, the purpose of yoga is not to describe the world "out there"; there is nothing new anyway, just different combinations of the same old elements. The point of yoga is to have direct access to the intended world without the interference of impure residues. Yoga seeks to sever projects, present from a time without beginning, that obscure direct perception through the seer. The technique is almost shamanistic: the yogi excises a part of his corpus of being--citta vritti--so that the unseen seer, the witness, may be known.

Epilogue

Might it not be supposed that there are analogues for this special state of purified consciousness outside the formal descriptions found in Sanskrit literature? Thinking back to the description of the seer as "free, nonaligned witnessing, a state of nonreactive looking on," I am reminded of the word darshan, translated as seeing, and cited as the one catchword that conveys the process of what is considered religious in popular Hinduism. Diana Eck described the process as follows:

When the Hindus go to temple, they do not commonly say, 'I am going to worship,' but rather, 'I am going for darshan.' They go to 'see' the image of the deity--be it Krsna or Durga, Shiva or Vishnu--present in the sanctum of the temple, and they go especially at those times of day when the image is beautifully adorned with fresh flowers and when the curtain is drawn back so that the image is fully visible. The central act of Hindu worship, from the point of view of the lay person, is to stand in the presence of the deity and to behold the image with one's own eyes, to see and be seen by the deity... Beholding the image is an act of worship, and through the eyes one gains the blessings of the divine (Eck:3).

Could it not be that in those acts of worship, despite the level of formal training one has received, and despite the subsequent failure of a person to remain in that el