the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali
Kaivalyam: Absolute Freedom
By M. Govindan Satchidananda
What is the ultimate goal of Yoga? In the
fourth and final pada (chapter) of the Yoga-Sutras, Patanjali
elaborates on this question, and defines it as: Kaivalyam.
Most translators and commentators have translated this term
as "Aloneness," particularly those who have emphasized
Patanjali's philosophical dualism. They have concluded that
the final goal of the realized soul is departure from the physical
plane. Divorce between the spirit and the flesh again, so often
repeated in spiritual literature. While Patanjali's Kriya Yoga,
is based upon the Samkhya philosophy, as exemplified by purusha
(consciousness, the Self, the Seer, the subject) versus prakriti
(Nature, the Seen, the object) in my book, "The Kriya
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas," I have shown
the influence of Tantra, in general, and Siddhantha in particular,
on Patanjali's philosophy and theology. Based upon this new
perspective, another meaning of the word "Kaivalyam" as "Absolute
Freedom, is more precise.
As kaivalyam is the goal of Classical Yoga,
it is important to have a clear understanding of the meaning
of this term. Most commentators, such as the noted scholar,
Georg Feuerstein, have concluded rather bleakly that the goal
of "Aloneness" as described by Patanjali, requires
that one leave behind this world when one reaches the highest
state of "non-distinguished cognitive absorption," (Sutra
I.18) known as asamprajnata samadhi. This conclusion is perhaps
rooted in the bias against Nature, and especially "human
nature," which seems to pervade spiritual traditions in
general, and renunciant traditions in particular. In this bias,
there is the assumption that the laws of Nature are immutable,
and that therefore the only way around them, so to speak, is
to leave this world behind. This ignores the great potential
for the Self-realized soul to transform its human vehicle,
including the intellectual, mental, vital and even the physical
bodies. The Yoga Siddhas, and more recently Sri Aurobindo and
contemporary writers such as Ken Wilbur have however, affirmed
our potential for such a transformation of our human nature
on a collective scale. But there are many older sources in
the literature of the Yoga Siddhas. Unfortunately, until recently,
these sources have been largely ignored outside of very limited
circles of initiates.
At the beginning of the Yoga-Sutras, (I.3)
Patanjali informs us of this when he says: "The Seer abides
in his own true form (svarupa)." That is, the individual
soul or jiva, assumes by expansion, its true nature or form,
Siva, the Supreme Consciousness. The perfection of cognitive
absorption, in its progressive stages, as described by Patanjali
and the Siddhas, brings about a radical transformation at many
levels. The ordinary human nature, previously motivated only
by the constituent forces of nature (the gunas) is replaced
by a higher nature (svarupa) according to Patanjali in the
fourth pada. ( see IV.34).
IV.34: "Thus the supreme state
of Absolute freedom (kaivalya) manifests while the qualities
themselves into Nature, having no more purpose to serve the
Self. Or (from another angle), the power of pure consciousness
settles in its own pure Nature (svarupa)"
The term svarupa means literally "ones
own true form or pure nature nature." Tirumular and other
siddhas have referred often to svarupa as "self-illuminating
manifestness." In Tamil, this may be pronounced as "soruba" and
the state of samadhi which Babaji and the 18 Siddhas have attained
is referred to in their literature as "soruba samadhi," wherein
the body glows with a golden luster. IV. 34 means essentially
that the laws governing our ordinary human nature, including
those of the physical body, including the play of the constituent
forces (gunas) are replaced by that of a higher nature. Sri
Aurobindo referred to this higher nature as the "supramental."
In verse II.25 Patanjali defines kaivalyam
as follows: "Without this ignorance (avidya) no such union
(samyoga) occurs. This is the absolute freedom (kaivalyam)
from the Seen." Avidya is defined by Patanjali in verse
II.5 as "ignorance." There he states" "Ignorance
is seeing the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure,
the painful as pleasurable and the non-Self as the Self."
In verse II.17 Patanjali informs us of samyoga,
"The cause (of suffering) to
be eliminated is (samyoga) the union of Seer and the Seen."
Samyoga may be understood as that ordinary
state of human consciousness where the Self is identified with
the objects of its experience. For example, when we say, "I
am tired," or "I am concerned." Or "I want
that," we are manifesting the state of samyoga, the union
of the Seer and the Seen.
In the fourth pada, verse 27, Patanjali informs
us that the method to free ourselves from this state of samyoga
is to continue to detach from the false identification with
the vrittis or fluctuations arising within consciousness and
their attendant klesas or afflictions. This method is explained
in sutra I.12:
"By constant practice and with
detachment (arises) the cessation (of identifying with the
And in verse II.26 he says: "Uninterrupted
discriminative discernment is the method for its removal."
The term Siddhantha means the final end of
perfection or accomplishment for the Saivite. A siddha is one
who manifests siddhi or perfection or special powers. "I
am the Supreme one" says the Vedantin. "I shall become
the Supreme One" says the Siddhantin. While kaivalya refers
to the final attainments, it also marks the beginning of unlimited
possibilities. But kaivalyam understood as a beginning of "absolute
freedom" is synonymous with the state of a Siddha, who
has allowed the Supreme Being to descend within himself or
herself at all levels, in complete surrender. This brings about
an integrated development at all levels, not simply a vertical
ascent out of the world, as in most spiritual traditions. Only
such an all encompassing transformation merits recognition
with the term "perfection." To be spiritually awakened
in a diseased body, and a disturbed mind and vital, is not
perfection. Whether a Siddha continues to remain on the physical
plane is unimportant. If he or she does, it is only to be instrumental
in the awakening and transformation of the human race. If they
depart, it is not because they are forced to do so, due to
a degeneration of the human organism. And unlike the bodhisattva
vow in Buddhism, where one promises to return until all sentient
beings reach final liberation, the Siddhantin is dedicated
to the transformation of this world, which is not illusionary
or without value. This world is intrinsically divine. It is
our collective divine "edge" where the Lord, through
us, realizes its greatest potential.
Thus the fourth pada, is not the final one.
The final one is yet to be written by all of us, as we realize
our evolutionary potential.
In Sutra IV.2, Patanjali informs us of not
only the possibility, but the likelihood that the human species
will evolve into something new, with as yet undreamed of possibilities:
"The transformation into another
species (is due to) the vast possibilities inherent in Nature."
What the Siddhas attained individually can
be a goal, or final attainment, for the rest of us, even collectively.
The collective transformation of the human species is rarely
referred to in spiritual liberation literature. Modern siddhas
such as Sri Aurobindo and Ramalinga Swamigal have also provided
much guidance. By following their example, and teachings, sincere
students of Yoga may work towards such a goal of Absolute Freedom.
They have shown us the path to such a complete surrender and
transformation. Only then will our highest potential as human
beings be realized. Only then will kaivalyam, absolute freedom,
Copyright 2003 by Marshall Govindan.
All rights reserved.