Yoga Sutra - Sādhana Pada 2.17
द्रष्टृदृश्ययोः संयोगो हेयहेतुः ॥१७॥
draṣṭṛ-dṛśyayoḥ saṃyogaḥ heya-hetuḥ ||17||
The cause of what is to be avoided is the union of seer with the seen.
The conjunction between the seer and that which is seen is the cause [of suffering] to be avoided.
The seer, draṣṭṛ, of this sūtra, says Vyāsa, is the puruṣa soul who cognizes through buddhi, intelligence. The discussion of the mind so far has generally focused on citta, which, we recall, consists of manas, the sorting and processing aspect of cognition; ahaṅkāra, the aspect of cognition underpinning self-identity and ego; and buddhi, intelligence, the discriminating aspect of the mind. The ensuing discussion will focus more specifically on buddhi. This is the aspect of citta immediately adjacent to the puruṣa (in the sense of being the first interface between the awareness of the puruṣa and the world of prakṛti and her effects), the first and most subtle covering, so to speak.
Patañjali’s reference to that which is seen, dṛśya, consists of all objects that present themselves to the intelligence. These objects act like magnets attracting the awareness of puruṣa because of proximity. On account of seeing these objects, the puruṣa becomes like their master, says Vyāsa, and, on account of being seen, the objects of experience become, as it were, the property of puruṣa, the seer, though they do not exist within puruṣa. Though different from and external to puruṣa, these objects as if take on the nature of puruṣa, becoming animated due to reflecting the consciousness of puruṣa. This beginningless association, saṁyoga, between these two is the cause of suffering that is to be avoided. Therefore, the absolute remedy for suffering is ceasing the association between puruṣa and intelligence.
We see, continues Vyāsa, that there are remedies for suffering in this world. For example, the sole of the foot is capable of being pierced, and the thorn of piercing it. The remedy is to remove the thorn from the foot (or, better still, not to put the foot on the thorn).
Likewise, the remedy for the suffering of embodied existence is to remove puruṣa from its association with prakṛti. One who knows these three features—the locus of pain, the cause of pain, and the remedy for pain—need not undergo suffering.
Vyāsa further notes that on a metaphysical level, suffering is the result of rajas disturbing sattva. When undisturbed, sattva produces a type of happiness; it is rajas that causes suffering. Everyone has experience that well-being, peace, and happiness are the result of moderation, says Hariharānanda. When rajas activates and one becomes overactive—overindulgent or hyperenergetic—one’s peace of mind is destroyed and is replaced by suffering, either mental (in the form, say, of incessant anxiety or craving) or physical (in the form, say, of ulcers, indigestion, or sexual disease). Likewise, if tamas activates and inertia sets in, one cannot feel satisfied or self-content at all. Since the natural state of the mind is sattva, it is rajas and tamas that are the disrupters. When sattva is disrupted, suffering is the result.
When the puruṣa’s awareness pervades this sattva disrupted by rajas and tamas, continues Vyāsa, it becomes aware of this suffering. However, the suffering is not actually located in the puruṣa, which is changeless and actionless; it is located in the buddhi, intelligence, whose pure sattva nature is being disturbed by rajas.
Vācaspati Miśra elaborates on this: The intelligence is molded by the objects of the senses —sound, etc.—and takes on their characteristics, like liquid copper takes on the form of the mold into which it is poured. The intelligence is thus transformed by input transmitted through the senses. The awareness of puruṣa pervades the intelligence and is misidentified with it by the mind, or more precisely, by the kleśas in the mind. Thus puruṣa becomes aware of intelligence in whatever forms it is molded into by the objects of the senses. Since intelligence is inert and animated only by the consciousness of puruṣa, if this connection between puruṣa and buddhi is not made, the knowable cannot be known—objects cannot be experienced. It is due to the conjunction between the two that the consciousness of puruṣa can become aware of this transformed buddhi, and through it all the objects of experience.
Due to being pervaded by puruṣa, the states of buddhi are assigned to puruṣa by the mind. If the state of buddhi is of undisturbed sattva, it appears as if the puruṣa is happy, and if of sattva disturbed by rajas and tamas, it appears as if puruṣa is suffering. Either way, neither state is ultimately an actual state of puruṣa, but of the intelligence and mind with which puruṣa is misidentified. Pleasure and pain, in and of themselves, are unconscious characteristics of buddhi; it is only when they are pervaded by the conscious self that “I am happy” or “I am sad” becomes a conscious state of awareness. Experience of pain is just experience of buddhi, the intelligence, says Vijñānabhikṣu, not of anything actually transpiring in puruṣa itself; but due to ignorance, one thinks that puruṣa is in pain.
Puruṣa, says Vyāsa, is changeless and actionless; it is the subject, and pain can reside only as an object (pain is an object of experience). Vijñānabhikṣu gives the example of water on a leaf: The water does not change the leaf—even though there is contact between them, their properties are different. Likewise, the ever-changing states of the buddhi do not change consciousness—even though there is conjunction between them, the properties of puruṣa and prakṛti are different. But, Vyāsa adds, even the wise must work to rid themselves of this identification with pain caused by conjunction between the two.
Vācaspati Miśra raises the issue of whether the relationship between puruṣa and the intelligence is innate or coincidental. It cannot be innate, he says, since then it would never cease to exist and thus there would be no hope of liberation; so it must be coincidental. However, this conjunction between these two entities must have existed eternally. This is because the mind is the product of karma and the kleśas, etc., but karma and the kleśas can exist only if the mind is there as their substratum. Like the chicken and the egg, one cannot come into being without the other. Therefore, as with all other Indic soteriological schools, Yoga avoids this dilemma by positing that they must be beginningless. Since the mind, with its inherent karmas and kleśas, exists only for fulfilling the purpose of puruṣa, the conjunction between mind and puruṣa must also be beginningless by a similar logic. At the end of each creation cycle, the mind with its karmas and kleśas dissolves into prakṛti to be reactivated at the beginning of the next cycle in the same state in which it was found at the end of the previous cycle, just as the earth becomes parched after the summer season but springs back into life after the rainy season, before eventually becoming parched again.
While one might question Vācaspati Miśra’s logic, as a point of information, no Indic school of thought considers speculation into how the soul originally became enmeshed in saṁsāra to be fruitful—embodied existence is considered to have been eternal in terms of its origins. But, as Hariharānanda notes, just because this conjunction is beginningless does not mean that it has to be endless. How it began is a question that cannot be answered and thus is fruitless to pose, but inquiring how it can be ended is the goal of human life. It can be terminated by yoga. Actually, this conjunction between puruṣa and prakṛti is brought about by Īśvara, says Vijñānabhikṣu, presenting the theistic perspective; it cannot be understood by even the best of yogīs, nor by the process of logic. He quotes the Bhāgavata Purāṇa: “The bondage and pitiful circumstance of the independent and free soul goes against all logic; such is the māyā potency of the Lord” (III.7.9)