Yoga Sutra - Sādhana Pada 2.9
स्वरस्वाहि विदुषोऽपि समारूढोऽभिनिवेशः ॥९॥
sva-rasa-vāhī viduṣaḥ api samā-rūḍhaḥ abhiniveśaḥ ||9||
Desire for continuity, arising even among the wise, is sustained by self-inclination.
[The tendency of] clinging to life affects even the wise; it is an inherent tendency.
The commentators consider this clinging to life kleśa, abhiniveśaḥ, to be a synonym for the fear of death. All living beings, says Vyāsa, wish that they would never die and could live forever. The inherent nature of such a wish, he says, suggests that the nature of death has been experienced in the past. From this one can conclude that one has undergone previous births. In other words, just as the previous sūtras indicated that attachment or aversion to something is caused by positive or negative memories of that thing, aversion to death likewise indicates that one’s memory retains unpleasant recollections of past deaths, although these are latent or subconscious in the present life. It is perhaps because fear of death pertains to past-life rather than present-life saṁskāras, suggests Balslev (1991), that clinging to life is characterized as an independent kleśa rather than relegated under the category of the previous kleśa of dveṣa, aversion.
Even a newly born worm is afraid of death, Vācaspati Miśra argues to make this case. This fear cannot be explained by the standard means of attaining knowledge established by Patañjali in I.7: direct perception, inference, or verbal testimony. In other words, Vijñānabhikṣu elaborates, one might argue that a person’s fear of death need not be based on previous death experiences in past lives but can easily be accounted for by the fact that one directly perceives death around one and can thus infer that one, too, is going to die. Or, one might attain this knowledge of the imminence of death from the testimony of reliable people such as parents or teachers, or from scriptures or books of knowledge. But a newly born worm has not had these perceptions or inferences or testimonies yet nonetheless displays a fear of death.
The same innate fear of death is visible in the human infant, says Vācaspati Miśra. A newborn infant cannot have inferred the reality of death or heard about it any more than the worm. Given the Yoga position indicated in the last verse that dveṣa, aversion, like rāga, attachment, is the product of memory, how can this innate fear of death be accounted for unless all creatures have latent recollections of previous deaths? Such experiences are embedded in the citta in the form of saṁskāras or mental imprints, that subconsciously cause creatures to avoid death. These saṁskāras underlie the clinging to life of all creatures noted in this sūtra. This seems to be a form of a long-standing argument offered by most Hindu sects in defense of the existence of the soul that instinctive memories in the newborn and, indeed, any type of memories whatsoever, require a preexisting substratum, or soul, on which to initially inhere, or find their support.
As Patañjali indicates in this sūtra, the kleśa of clinging to life is found even in the learned, not just the ignorant. The vidvān (here in the genitive form viduṣo) is one who has vidyā, knowledge, that is, one who is learned in the scriptures. Even the wise pursuing liberation, who are aware of the temporality of all things, are subject to this kleśa, say the commentators. This is because it is a stronger saṁskāra than other saṁskāras, says Vijñānabhikṣu (although Vācaspati Miśra adds that this is the case only for those whose wisdom is based on perception, inference, and testimony, not for those who have actually attained samādhi).