Yoga Sutra - Sādhana Pada 2.26
विवेकख्यातिरविप्लवा हानोपायः ॥२६॥
viveka-khyātiḥ aviplavā-hāna-upāyaḥ ||26||
The means of escape is unfaltering discriminative discernment.
The means to liberation is uninterrupted discriminative discernment.
If suffering is eliminated by the removal of its cause, ignorance, and this results in puruṣa being established in its own true nature, then what is the means, upāya, to accomplish this? asks Vyāsa rhetorically, as he prepares to discuss the fourth aspect of the science of yoga, the means of liberation. The means indicated here by Patañjali is viveka–khyāti, discriminative discernment. Viveka, Vyāsa reiterates, is defined as the cognition of the distinction between buddhi and puruṣa, but as long as false knowledge has not been removed, discrimination remains shaky (false knowledge, Vijñānabhikṣu reminds us, consists of saṁskāras of ignorance, avidyā, which keep arising in the mind). Śaṅkara quotes a verse here: “As unrefined gold does not shine forth, so the knowledge of an immature person attached to the world does not shine forth.”
When false knowledge becomes like a burnt seed that is incapable of sprouting, says Vyāsa, or, put differently, when the sattva of the intelligence has been cleansed of the dirt of rajas, then cognition attains a state of utmost clarity. At this point, the pure flow of discriminative discernment can proceed unchecked. Therefore, concludes Vyāsa, the path to liberation, namely, the disassociation of puruṣa from buddhi, occurs when false knowledge is destroyed like burnt seeds. Vijñānabhikṣu adds to this that it is viveka–khyāti, discriminative discernment itself, that burns the seeds of false knowledge, at which time all latent saṁskāras of ignorance become like a barren woman incapable of giving birth.
“Vyāsa notes that discriminative discernment is initially shaky, as it begins to take up the task of destroying the seeds of ignorance, the distracting saṁskāras imprinted in the citta that surface continually as a result of rajas and tamas. Only once this task is fully accomplished by practice, and these saṁskāras become impotent and can no longer arise, can discriminative awareness reign supreme, and the sattva of the mind and intelligence remain undisturbed, aviplava. Then, says Śaṅkara, “As seeds burnt by fire no longer sprout, so is the case with kleśas burnt by the fire of knowledge; the ātman no longer encounters them.” Vyāsa calls this stage vaśīkāra–saṁjñā, which literally means knowledge that exerts control. In other words, discriminating discernment controls and eventually burns up the emergence of unwanted saṁskāras.
The commentators state that discriminating discernment is initially awakened by listening to the śāstras, the sacred texts, and becomes strengthened by contemplation on their content, pursued with reverence, for a long time. It then develops further by the practice of yoga that will be outlined in the following sūtras. This discrimination exposes and undermines one’s attachments in the form of desires for worldly or heavenly enjoyment, continues Hariharānanda. In time, discrimination becomes so powerful that the possibility of falling into illusion again becomes completely eradicated, all wrong notions remaining like parched seeds deprived of their potency. Discrimination has now reached a state where it can flow undisturbed. With discrimination in absolute control, the citta is no longer disturbed, and, free from distraction, can now reflect on the puruṣa. The yogī thus approaches liberation.