An Introduction
to Yoga

by Annie Besant

The Meaning of the Universe

  • The Unfolding of Consciousness
  • The Oneness of the Self
  • The Quickening of the Process of Self-Unfoldment
  • Yoga is a Science
  • Man a Duality
  • States of Mind
  • Samadhi

The Literature of Yoga

  • Some Definitions
  • God Without and God  Within
  • Changes of Consciousness and Vibrations of Matter
  • Stages of Mind
  • Inward and Outward-turned Consciousness
  • The Cloud

Relation to Indian Philosophies

  • Mind
  • The Mental Body

Mind and Self

  • Methods of Yoga
  • To the Self by the Self
  • To the Self through the Not-Self

  • Yoga and Morality
  • Composition of States of the Mind

Pleasure and Pain

  • Inhibition of States of Mind
  • Meditation with and without Seed
  • The Use of Mantras


  • Obstacles to Yoga
  • Capacities for Yoga
  • Forthgoing and Returning
  • Purification of Bodies
  • Dwellers on the Threshold
  • Preparation for Yoga
  • The End
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Book 2
Interpretation By Charles Johnston

The first book of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is called the Book of
Spiritual Consciousness. The second book, which we now begin, is
the Book of the Means of Soul Growth. And we must remember that
soul growth here means the growth of the realization of the spiritual
man, or, to put the matter more briefly, the growth of the spiritual
man, and the disentangling of the spiritual man from the wrappings,
the veils, the disguises laid upon him by the mind and the psychical
nature, wherein he is enmeshed, like a bird caught in a net

The question arises: By what means may the spiritual man be freed
from these psychical meshes and disguises, so that he may stand forth
above death, in his radiant eternalness and divine power? And the
second book sets itself to answer this very question, and to detail the
means in a way entirely practical and very lucid, so that he who runs
may read, and he who reads may understand and practise.

The second part of the second book is concerned with practical
spiritual training, that is, with the earlier practical training of the
spiritual man.

The most striking thing in it is the emphasis laid on the
Commandments, which are precisely those of the latter part of the
Decalogue, together with obedience to the Master. Our day and
generation is far too prone to fancy that there can be mystical life and
growth on some other foundation, on the foundation, for example, of
intellectual curiosity or psychical selfishness. In reality, on this latter
foundation the life of the spiritual man can never be built; nor, indeed,
anything but a psychic counterfeit, a dangerous delusion.

Therefore Patanjali, like every great spiritual teacher, meets the
question: What must I do to be saved? with the age- old answer: Keep
the Commandments. Only after the disciple can say, These have I
kept, can there be the further and finer teaching of the spiritual Rules.

It is, therefore, vital for us to realize that the Yoga system, like every
true system of spiritual teaching, rests on this broad and firm
foundation of honesty, truth, cleanness, obedience. Without these,
there is no salvation; and he who practices these, even though
ignorant of spiritual things, is laying up treas- against the time to


1. The practices which make for union with the Soul are: fervent
aspiration, spiritual reading, and complete obedience to the Master.

The word which I have rendered "fervent aspiration' means primarily
"fire"; and, in the Eastern teaching, it means the fire which gives life
and light, and at the same time the fire which purifies. We have,
therefore, as our first practice, as the first of the means of spiritual
growth, that fiery quality of the will which enkindles and illumines,
and, at the same time, the steady practice of purification, the burning
away of all known impurities. Spiritual reading is so universally
accepted and understood, that it needs no comment. The very study
of Patanjali's Sutras is an exercise in spiritual reading, and a very
effective one. And so with all other books of the Soul. Obedience to
the Master means, that we shall make the will of the Master our will,
and shall confirm in all wave to the will of the Divine, setting aside the
wills of self, which are but psychic distortions of the one Divine Will.
The constant effort to obey in all the ways we know and understand,
will reveal new ways and new tasks, the evidence of new growth of
the Soul. Nothing will do more for the spiritual man in us than this, for
there is no such regenerating power as the awakening spiritual will.

2. Their aim is, to bring soul-vision, and to wear away hindrances.

The aim of fervour, spiritual reading and obedience to the Master, is,
to bring soulvision, and to wear away hindrances. Or, to use the
phrase we have already adopted, the aim of these practices is, to help
the spiritual man to open his eyes; to help him also to throw aside the
veils and disguises, the enmeshing psychic nets which surround him,
tying his hands, as it were, and bandaging his eyes. And this, as all
teachers testify, is a long and arduous task, a steady up-hill fight,
demanding fine courage and persistent toil. Fervour, the fire of the
spiritual will, is, as we said, two-fold: it illumines, and so helps the
spiritual man to see; and it also burns up the nets and meshes which
ensnare the spiritual man. So with the other means, spiritual reading
and obedience. Each, in its action, is two-fold, wearing away the
psychical, and upbuilding the spiritual man.

3. These are the hindrances: the darkness of unwisdom, self-assertion,
lust hate, attachment.

Let us try to translate this into terms of the psychical and spiritual
man. The darkness of unwisdom is, primarily, the self-absorption of
the psychical man, his complete preoccupation with his own hopes and
fears, plans and purposes, sensations and desires; so that he fails to
see, or refuses to see, that there is a spiritual man; and so doggedly
resists all efforts of the spiritual man to cast off his psychic tyrant and
set himself free. This is the real darkness; and all those who deny the
immortality of the soul, or deny the soul's existence, and so lay out
their lives wholly for the psychical, mortal man and his ambitions, are
under this power of darkness. Born of this darkness, this psychic self-
absorption, is the dogged conviction that the psychic, personal man
has separate, exclusive interests, which he can follow for himself
alone; and this conviction, when put into practice in our life, leads to
contest with other personalities, and so to hate. This hate, again,
makes against the spiritual man, since it hinders the revelation of the
high harmony between the spiritual man and his other selves, a
harmony to be revealed only through the practice of love, that perfect
love which casts out fear.

In like manner, lust is the psychic man's craving for the stimulus of
sensation, the din of which smothers the voice of the spiritual man, as,
in Shakespeare's phrase, the cackling geese would drown the song of
the nightingale. And this craving for stimulus is the fruit of weakness,
coming from the failure to find strength in the primal life of the
spiritual man.

Attachment is but another name for psychic self-absorption; for we are
absorbed, not in outward things, but rather in their images within our
minds; our inner eyes are fixed on them; our inner desires brood over
them; and em we blind ourselves to the presence of the prisoner' the
enmeshed and fettered spiritual man.

4. The darkness of unwisdom is the field of the others. These
hindrances may be dormant, or worn thin, or suspended, or expanded.

Here we have really two Sutras in one. The first has been explained
already: in the darkness of unwisdom grow the parasites, hate, lust,
attachment. They are all outgrowths of the self-absorption of the
psychical self.

Next, we are told that these barriers may be either dormant, or
suspended, or expanded, or worn thin. Faults which are dormant will
be brought out through the pressure of life, or through the pressure of
strong aspiration. Thus expanded, they must be fought and conquered,
or, as Patanjali quaintly says, they must be worn thin,-as a veil might,
or the links of manacles.

5 The darkness of ignorance is: holding that which is unenduring,
impure, full of pain, not the Soul, to be eternal, pure, full of joy, the

This we have really considered already. The psychic man is
unenduring, impure, full of pain, not the Soul, not the real Self. The
spiritual man is enduring, pure, full of joy, the real Self. The darkness
of unwisdom is, therefore, the self-absorption of the psychical,
personal man, to the exclusion of the spiritual man. It is the belief,
carried into action, that the personal man is the real man, the man for
whom we should toil, for whom we should build, for whom we should
live. This is that psychical man of whom it is said: he that soweth to
the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.

6. Self -assertion comes f rom thinking of the Seer and the instrument
of vision as forming one self.

This is the fundamental idea of the Sankhya philosophy, of which the
Yoga is avowedly the practical side. To translate this into our terms,
we may say that the Seer is the spiritual man; the instrument of vision
is the psychical man, through which the spiritual man gains experience
of the outer world. But we turn the servant into the master. We
attribute to the psychical man, the personal self, a reality which really
belongs to the spiritual man alone; and so, thinking of the quality of
the spiritual man as belonging to the psychical, we merge the spiritual
man in the psychical; or, as the text says, we think of the two as
forming one self.

7. Lust is the resting in the sense of enjoyment.

This has been explained again and again. Sensation, as, for example,
the sense of taste, is meant to be the guide to action; in this case, the
choice of wholesome food, and the avoidance of poisonous and
hurtful things. But if we rest in the sense of taste, as a pleasure in
itself; rest, that is, in the psychical side of taste, we fall into gluttony,
and live to eat, instead of eating to live. So with the other great
organic power, the power of reproduction. This lust comes into being,
through resting in the sensation, and looking for pleasure from that.

8. Hate is the resting in the sense of pain.

Pain comes, for the most part, from the strife of personalities, the
jarring discords between psychic selves, each of which deems itself
supreme. A dwelling on this pain breeds hate, which tears the warring
selves yet further asunder, and puts new enmity between them, thus
hindering the harmony of the Real, the reconciliation through the

9. Attachment is the desire toward life, even in the wise, carried
forward by its own energy.

The life here desired is the psychic life, the intensely vibrating life of
the psychical self. This prevails even in those who have attained much
wisdom, so long as it falls short of the wisdom of complete
renunciation, complete obedience to each least behest of the spiritual
man, and of the Master who guards and aids the spiritual man.

The desire of sensation, the desire of psychic life, reproduces itself,
carried on by its own energy and momentum; and hence comes the
circle of death and rebirth, death and rebirth, instead of the liberation
of the spiritual man.

10. These hindrances, when they have become subtle, are to be
removed by a countercurrent

The darkness of unwisdom is to be removed by the light of wisdom,
pursued through fervour, spiritual reading of holy teachings and of life
itself, and by obedience to the Master.

Lust is to be removed by pure aspiration of spiritual life, which,
bringing true strength and stability, takes away the void of weakness
which we try to fill by the stimulus of sensations.

Hate is to be overcome by love. The fear that arises through the sense
of separate, warring selves is to be stilled by the realization of the One
Self, the one soul in all. This realization is the perfect love that casts
out fear.

The hindrances are said to have become subtle when, by initial efforts,
they have been located and recognized in the psychic nature.

11. Their active turnings are to be removed by meditation.

Here is, in truth, the whole secret of Yoga, the science of the soul.
The active turnings, the strident vibrations, of selfishness, lust and hate
are to be stilled by meditation, by letting heart and mind dwell in
spiritual life, by lifting up the heart to the strong, silent life above,
which rests in the stillness of eternal love, and needs no harsh
vibration to convince it of true being.

12. The burden of bondage to sorrow has its root in these hindrances.
It will be felt in this life, or in a life not yet manifested.

The burden of bondage to sorrow has its root in the darkness of
unwisdom, in selfishness, in lust, in hate, in attachment to sensation.
All these are, in the last analysis, absorption in the psychical self; and
this means sorrow, because it means the sense of separateness, and
this means jarring discord and inevitable death. But the psychical self
will breed a new psychical self, in a new birth, and so new sorrows in
a life not yet manifest.

13. From this root there grow and ripen the fruits of birth, of the
life-span, of all that is tasted in life.

Fully to comment on this, would be to write a treatise on Karma and
its practical working in detail, whereby the place and time of the next
birth, its content and duration. are determined; and to do this the
present commentator is in no wise fitted. But this much is clearly
understood: that, through a kind of spiritual gravitation, the
incarnating self is drawn to a home and life-circle which will give it
scope and discipline; and its need of discipline is clearly conditioned
by its character, its standing, its accomplishment.

14. These bear fruits of rejoicing, or of affliction, as they are sprung
from holy or unholy works.

Since holiness is obedience to divine law, to the law of divine
harmony, and obedience to harmony strengthens that harmony in the
soul, which is the one true joy, therefore joy comes of holiness:
comes, indeed, in no other way. And as unholiness is disobedience,
and therefore discord, therefore unholiness makes for pain; and this
two-fold law is true, whether the cause take effect in this, or in a yet
unmanifested birth.

15. To him who possesses discernment, all personal life is misery,
because it ever waxes and wanes, is ever afflicted with restlessness,
makes ever new dynamic impresses in the mind; and because all its
activities war with each other.

The whole life of the psychic self is misery, because it ever waxes and
wanes; because birth brings inevitable death; because there is no
expectation without its shadow, fear. The life of the psychic self is
misery, because it is afflicted with restlessness; so that he who has
much, finds not satisfaction, but rather the whetted hunger for more.
The fire is not quenched by pouring oil on it; so desire is not quenched
by the satisfaction of desire. Again, the life of the psychic self is
misery, because it makes ever new dynamic impresses in the mind;
because a desire satisfied is but the seed from which springs the desire
to find like satisfaction again. The appetite comes in eating, as the
proverb says, and grows by what it feeds on. And the psychic self,
torn with conflicting desires, is ever the house divided against itself,
which must surely fall.

16. This pain is to be warded off, before it has come.

In other words, we cannot cure the pains of life by laying on them any
balm. We must cut the root, absorption in the psychical self. So it is
said, there is no cure for the misery of longing, but to fix the heart
upon the eternal.

17. The cause of what is to be warded off, is the absorption of the
Seer in things seen.

Here again we have the fundamental idea of the Sankhya, which is the
intellectual counterpart of the Yoga system. The cause of what is to
be warded off, the root of misery, is the absorption of consciousness
in the psychical man and the things which beguile the psychical man.
The cure is liberation.

18. Things seen have as their property manifestation, action, inertia.
They form the basis of the elements and the sense-powers. They make
for experience and for liberation.

Here is a whole philosophy of life. Things seen, the total of the
phenomena], possess as their property, manifestation, action, inertia:
the qualities of force and matter in combination. These, in their
grosser form, make the material world; in their finer, more subjective
form, they make the psychical world, the world of sense-impressions
and mind-images. And through this totality of the phenomenal, the
soul gains experience, and is prepared for liberation. In other words,
the whole outer world exists for the purposes of the soul, and finds in
this its true reason for being.

19. The grades or layers of the Three Potencies are the defined, the
undefined, that with distinctive mark, that without distinctive mark.

Or, as we might say, there are two strata of the physical, and two
strata of the psychical realms. In each, there is the side of form, and
the side of force. The form side of the physical is here called the
defined. The force side of the physical is the undefined, that which has
no boundaries. So in the psychical; there is the form side; that with
distinctive marks, such as the characteristic features of mind-images;
and there is the force side, without distinctive marks, such as the
forces of desire or fear, which may flow now to this mind-image, now
to that.

20. The Seer is pure vision. Though pure, he looks out through the
vesture of the mind.

The Seer, as always, is the spiritual man whose deepest consciousness
is pure vision, the pure life of the eternal. But the spiritual man, as yet
unseeing in his proper person, looks out on the world through the eyes
of the psychical man, by whom he is enfolded and enmeshed. The task
is, to set this prisoner free, to clear the dust of ages from this buried

21. The very essence of things seen is, that they exist for the Seer.

The things of outer life, not only material things, but the psychic man
also, exist in very deed for the purposes of the Seer, the Soul, the
spiritual man Disaster comes, when the psychical man sets up, so to
speak, on his own account, trying to live for himself alone, and taking
material things to solace his loneliness.

22. Though fallen away from him who has reached the goal, things
seen have not alto fallen away, since they still exist for others.

When one of us conquers hate, hate does not thereby cease out of the
world, since others still hate and suffer hatred. So with other
delusions, which hold us in bondage to material things, and through
which we look at all material things. When the coloured veil of illusion
is gone, the world which we saw through it is also gone, for now we
see life as it is, in the white radiance of eternity. But for others the
coloured veil remains, and therefore the world thus coloured by it
remains for them, and will remain till they, too, conquer delusion.

23. The association of the Seer with things seen is the cause of the
realizing of the nature of things seen, and also of the realizing of the
nature of the Seer.

Life is educative. All life's infinite variety is for discipline, for the
development of the soul. So passing through many lives, the Soul
learns the secrets of the world, the august laws that are written in the
form of the snow-crystal or the majestic order of the stars. Yet all
these laws are but reflections, but projections outward, of the laws of
the soul; therefore in learning these, the soul learns to know itself. All
life is but the mirror wherein the Soul learns to know its own face.

24. The cause of this association is the darkness of unwisdom.

The darkness of unwisdom is the absorption of consciousness in the
personal life, and in the things seen by the personal life. This is the fall,
through which comes experience, the learning of the lessons of life.
When they are learned, the day of redemption is at hand.

25. The bringing of this association to an end, by bringing the
darkness of unwisdom to an end, is the great liberation; this is the
Seer's attainment of his own pure being.

When the spiritual man has, through the psychical, learned all life's
lessons, the time has come for him to put off the veil and disguise of
the psychical and to stand revealed a King, in the house of the Father.
So shall he enter into his kingdom, and go no more out.

26. A discerning which is carried on without wavering is the means of

Here we come close to the pure Vedanta, with its discernment
between the eternal and the temporal. St. Paul, following after Philo
and Plato, lays down the same fundamental principle: the things seen
are temporal, the things unseen are eternal.

Patanjali means something more than an intellectual assent, though
this too is vital. He has in view a constant discriminating in act as well
as thought; of the two ways which present themselves for every deed
or choice, always to choose the higher way, that which makes for the
things eternal: honesty rather than roguery, courage and not
cowardice, the things of another rather than one's own, sacrifice and
not indulgence. This true discernment, carried out constantly, makes
for liberation.

27. His illuminations is sevenfold, rising In successive stages.

Patanjali's text does not tell us what the seven stages of this
illumination are. The commentator thus describes them;

First, the danger to be escaped is recognized; it need not be
recognized a second time. Second, the causes of the danger to be
escaped are worn away; they need not be worn away a second time.
Third, the way of escape is clearly perceived, by the contemplation
which checks psychic perturbation. Fourth, the means of escape, clear
discernment, has been developed. This is the fourfold release
belonging to insight. The final release from the psychic is three-fold:
As fifth of the seven degrees, the dominance of its thinking is ended;
as sixth, its potencies, like rocks from a precipice, fall of themselves;
once dissolved, they do not grow again. Then, as seventh, freed from
these potencies, the spiritual man stands forth in his own nature as
purity and light. Happy is the spiritual man who beholds this
seven-fold illumination in its ascending stages.

28. From steadfastly following after the means of Yoga, until impurity
is worn away, there comes the illumination of thought up to full

Here, we enter on the more detailed practical teaching of Patanjali,
with its sound and luminous good sense. And when we come to detail
the means of Yoga, we may well be astonished at their simplicity.
There is little in them that is mysterious. They are very familiar. The
essence of the matter lies in carrying them out.

29. The eight means of Yoga are: the Commandments, the Rules,
right Poise, right Control of the life-force, Withdrawal, Attention,
Meditation, Contemplation.

These eight means are to be followed in their order, in the sense which
will immediately be made clear. We can get a ready understanding of
the first two by comparing them with the Commandments which must
be obeyed by all good citizens, and the Rules which are laid on the
members of religious orders. Until one has fulfilled the first, it is futile
to concern oneself with the second. And so with all the means of
Yoga. They must be taken in their order.

30. The Commandments are these: nom injury, truthfulness, abstaining
from stealing, from impurity, from covetousness.

These five precepts are almost exactly the same as the Buddhist
Commandments: not to kill, not to steal, not to be guilty of
incontinence, not to drink intoxicants, to speak the truth. Almost
identical is St. Paul's list: Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt
not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet. And in the same
spirit is the answer made to the young map having great possessions,
who asked, What shall I do to be saved? and received the reply: Keep
the Commandments.

This broad, general training, which forms and develops human
character, must be accomplished to a very considerable degree, before
there can be much hope of success in the further stages of spiritual
life. First the psychical, and then the spiritual. First the man, then the
angel. On this broad, humane and wise foundation does the system of
Patanjali rest.

31. The Commandments, not limited to any race, place, time or
occasion, universal, are the great obligation.

The Commandments form the broad general training of humanity.
Each one of them rests on a universal, spiritual law. Each one of them
expresses an attribute or aspect of the Self, the Eternal; when we
violate one of the Commandments, we set ourselves against the law
and being of the Eternal, thereby bringing ourselves to inevitable con
fusion. So the first steps in spiritual life must be taken by bringing
ourselves into voluntary obedience to these spiritual laws and thus
making ourselves partakers of the spiritual powers, the being of the
Eternal Like the law of gravity, the need of air to breathe, these great
laws know no exceptions They are in force in all lands, throughout al
times, for all mankind.

32. The Rules are these: purity, serenity fervent aspiration, spiritual
reading, and per feet obedience to the Master.

Here we have a finer law, one which humanity as a whole is less ready
for, less fit to obey. Yet we can see that these Rules are the same in
essence as the Commandments, but on a higher, more spiritual plane.
The Commandments may be obeyed in outer acts and abstinences; the
Rules demand obedience of the heart and spirit, a far more awakened
and more positive consciousness. The Rules are the spiritual
counterpart of the Commandments, and they have finer degrees, for
more advanced spiritual growth.

33. When transgressions hinder, the weight of the imagination should
be thrown' on the opposite side.

Let us take a simple case, that of a thief, a habitual criminal, who has
drifted into stealing in childhood, before the moral consciousness has
awakened. We may imprison such a thief, and deprive him of all
possibility of further theft, or of using the divine gift of will. Or we
may recognize his disadvantages, and help him gradually to build up
possessions which express his will, and draw forth his self-respect. If
we imagine that, after he has built well, and his possessions have
become dear to him, he himself is robbed, then we can see how he
would come vividly to realize the essence of theft and of honesty, and
would cleave to honest dealings with firm conviction. In some such
way does the great Law teach us. Our sorrows and losses teach us the
pain of the sorrow and loss we inflict on others, and so we cease to
inflict them.

Now as to the more direct application. To conquer a sin. let heart and
mind rest, not on the sin, but on the contrary virtue. Let the sin be
forced out by positive growth in the true direction, not by direct
opposition. Turn away from the sin and go forward courageously,
constructively, creatively, in well-doing. In this way the whole nature
will gradually be drawn up to the higher level, on which the sin does
not even exist. The conquest of a sin is a matter of growth and
evolution, rather than of opposition.

34. Transgressions are injury, falsehood, theft, incontinence, envy;
whether committed, or caused, or assented to, through greed, wrath,
or infatuation; whether faint, or middling, or excessive; bearing
endless, fruit of ignorance and pain. Therefore must the weight be cast
on the other side.

Here are the causes of sin: greed, wrath, infatuation, with their effects,
ignorance and pain. The causes are to be cured by better wisdom, by
a truer understanding of the Self, of Life. For greed cannot endure
before the realization that the whole world belongs to the Self, which
Self we are; nor can we hold wrath against one who is one with the
Self, and therefore with ourselves; nor can infatuation, which is the
seeking for the happiness of the All in some limited part of it, survive
the knowledge that we are heirs of the All. Therefore let thought and
imagination, mind and heart, throw their weight on the other side; the
side, not of the world,.but of the Self.

35. Where non-injury is perfected, all enmity ceases in the presence of
him who possesses it.

We come now to the spiritual powers which result from keeping the
Commandments; from the obedience to spiritual law which is the
keeping of the Commandments. Where the heart is full of kindness
which seeks no injury to another, either in act or thought or wish, this
full love creates an atmosphere of harmony, whose benign power
touches with healing all who come within its influence. Peace in the
heart radiates peace to other hearts, even more surely than contention
breeds contention.

36. When he is perfected in truth, all acts and their fruits depend on

The commentator thus explains: If he who has attained should say to
a man, Become righteous! the man becomes righteous. If he should
say, Gain heaven ! the man gains heaven. His word is not in vain.

Exactly the same doctrine was taught by the Master who said to his
disciples: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye re mit they
are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are

37. Where cessation from theft is perfected, all treasures present
themselves to him who possesses it.

Here is a sentence which may warn us that, beside the outer and
apparent meaning, there is in many of these sentences a second and
finer significance. The obvious meaning is, that he who has wholly
ceased from theft, in act, thought and wish, finds buried treasures in
his path, treasures of jewels and gold and pearls. The deeper truth is,
that he who in every least thing is wholly honest with the spirit of Life,
finds Life supporting him in all things, and gains admittance to the
treasure house of Life, the spiritual universe.

38. For him who is perfect in continence, the reward is valour and

The creative power, strong and full of vigour, is no longer dissipated,
but turned to spiritual uses. It upholds and endows the spiritual man,
conferring on him the creative will, the power to engender spiritual
children instead of bodily progeny. An epoch of life, that of man the
animal, has come to an end; a new epoch, that of the spiritual man, is
opened. The old creative power is superseded and transcended; a new
creative power, that of the spiritual man, takes its place, carrying with
it the power to work creatively in others for righteousness and eternal

One of the commentaries says that he who has attained is able to
transfer to the minds of his disciples what he knows concerning divine
union, and the means of gaining it. This is one of the powers of purity.

39. Where there is firm conquest of covetousness, he who has
conquered it awakes to the how and why of life.

So it is said that, before we can understand the laws of Karma, we
must free ourselves from Karma. The conquest of covetousness brings
this rich fruit, because the root of covetousness is the desire of the
individual soul, the will toward manifested life. And where the desire
of the individual soul is overcome by the superb, still life of the
universal Soul welling up in the heart within, the great secret is
discerned, the secret that the individual soul is not an isolated reality,
but the ray, the manifest instrument of the Life, which turns it this way
and that until the great work is accomplished, the age-long lesson
learned. Thus is the how and why of life disclosed by ceasing from
covetousness. The Commentator says that this includes a knowledge
of one's former births.

40. Through purity a withdrawal from one's own bodily life, a ceasing
from infatuation with the bodily life of others.

As the spiritual light grows in the heart within, as the taste for pure
Life grows stronger, the consciousness opens toward the great, secret
places within, where all life is one, where all lives are one. Thereafter,
this outer, manifested, fugitive life, whether of ourselves or of others,
loses something of its charm and glamour, and we seek rather the
deep infinitudes. Instead of the outer form and surroundings of our
lives, we long for their inner and everlasting essence. We desire not so
much outer converse and closeness to our friends, but rather that quiet
communion with them in the inner chamber of the soul, where spirit
speaks to spirit, and spirit answers; where alienation and separation
never enter; where sickness and sorrow and death cannot come.

41. To the pure of heart come also a quiet spirit, one-pointed thought,
the victory over sensuality, and fitness to behold the Soul.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, who is the
supreme Soul; the ultimate Self of all beings. In the deepest sen se ,
purity means fitness for this vision, and also a heart cleansed from all
disquiet, from all wandering and unbridled thought, from the torment
of sensuous imaginings; and when the spirit is thus cleansed and pure,
it becomes at one in essence with its source, the great Spirit, the
primal Life. One consciousness now thrills through both, for the
psychic partition wall is broken down. Then shall the pure in heart see
God, because they become God.

42. From acceptance, the disciple gains happiness supreme.

One of the wise has said: accept conditions, accept others, accept
yourself. This is the true acceptance, for all these things are what they
are through the will of the higher Self, except their deficiencies, which
come through thwarting the will of the higher Self, and can be
conquered only through compliance with that will. By the true
acceptance, the disciple comes into oneness of spirit with the
overruling Soul; and, since the own nature of the Soul is being,
happiness, bliss, he comes thereby into happiness supreme.

43. The perfection of the powers of the bodily vesture comes through
the wearing away of impurities, and through fervent aspiration.

This is true of the physical powers, and of those which dwell in the
higher vestures. There must be, first, purity; as the blood must be
pure, before one can attain to physical health. But absence of impurity
is not in itself enough, else would many nerveless ascetics of the
cloisters rank as high saints. There is needed, further, a positive fire of
the will; a keen vital vigour for the physical powers, and something
finer, purer, stronger, but of kindred essence, for the higher powers.
The fire of genius is something more than a phrase, for there can be
no genius without the celestial fire of the awakened spiritual will.

44. Through spiritual reading, the disciple gains communion with the
divine Power on which his heart is set.

Spiritual reading meant, for ancient India, something more than it does
with us. It meant, first, the recital of sacred texts, which, in their very
sounds, had mystical potencies; and it meant a recital of texts which
were divinely emanated, and held in themselves the living, potent
essence of the divine.

For us, spiritual reading means a communing with the recorded
teachings of the Masters of wisdom, whereby we read ourselves into
the Master's mind, just as through his music one can enter into the
mind and soul of the master musician. It has been well said that all
true art is contagion of feeling; so that through the true reading of true
books we do indeed read ourselves into the spirit of the Masters, share
in the atmosphere of their wisdom and power, and come at last into
their very presence.

45. Soul-vision is perfected through perfect obedience to the Master.

The sorrow and darkness of life come of the erring personal will
which sets itself against the will of the Soul, the one great Life. The
error of the personal will is inevitable, since each will must be free to
choose, to try and fail, and so to find the path. And sorrow and
darkness are inevitable, until the path be found, and the personal will
made once more one with the greater Will, wherein it finds rest and
power, without losing freedom. In His will is our peace. And with that
peace comes light. Soul-vision is perfected through obedience.

46. Right poise must be firm and without strain. Here we approach a
section of the teaching which has manifestly a two-fold meaning. The
first is physical, and concerns the bodily position of the student, and
the regulation of breathing. These things have their direct influence
upon soul-life, the life of the spiritual man, since it is always and
everywhere true that our study demands a sound mind in a sound
body. The present sentence declares that, for work and for meditation,
the position of the body must be steady and without strain, in order
that the finer currents of life may run their course.

It applies further to the poise of the soul, that fine balance and stability
which nothing can shake, where the consciousness rests on the firm
foundation of spiritual being. This is indeed the house set upon a rock,
which the winds and waves beat upon in vain.

47. Right poise is to be gained by steady and temperate effort, and by
setting the heart upon the everlasting.

Here again, there is the two-fold meaning, for physical poise is to be
gained by steady effort of the muscles, by gradual and wise training,
linked with a right understanding of, and relation with, the universal
force of gravity. Uprightness of body demands that both these
conditions shall be fulfilled.

In like manner the firm and upright poise of the spiritual man is to be
gained by steady and continued effort, always guided by wisdom, and
by setting the heart on the Eternal, filling the soul with the atmosphere
of the spiritual world. Neither is effective without the other.
Aspiration without effort brings weakness; effort without aspiration
brings a false strength, not resting on enduring things. The two
together make for the right poise which sets the spiritual man firmly
and steadfastly on his feet.

48 The fruit of right poise is the strength to resist the shocks of
infatuation or sorrow.

In the simpler physical sense, which is also coveted by the wording of
the original, this sentence means that wise effort establishes such
bodily poise that the accidents of life cannot disturb it, as the captain
remains steady, though disaster overtake his ship.

But the deeper sense is far more important. The spiritual man, too,
must learn to withstand all shocks, to remain steadfast through the
perturbations of external things and the storms and whirlwinds of the
psychical world. This is the power which is gained by wise,
continuous effort, and by filling the spirit with the atmosphere of the

49. When this is gained, there follows the right guidance of the
life-currents, the control of the incoming and outgoing breath.

It is well understood to-day that most of our maladies come from
impure conditions of the blood. It is coming to be understood that
right breathing, right oxygenation, will do very much to keep the
blood clean and pure. Therefore a right knowledge of breathing is a
part of the science of life.

But the deeper meaning is, that the spiritual man, when he has gained
poise through right effort and aspiration, can stand firm, and guide the
currents of his life, both the incoming current of events, and the
outgoing current of his acts.

Exactly the same symbolism is used in the saying: Not that which
goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the
mouth, this defileth a man.... Those things which proceed out of the
mouth come forth from the heart . . out of the heart proceed evil
thoughts, murders, uncleanness, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
Therefore the first step in purification is to keep the Commandments.

50. The life-current is either outward, or inward, or balanced; it ;is
regulated according to place, time, number; it is prolonged and subtle.

The technical, physical side of this has its value. In the breath, there
should be right inbreathing, followed by the period of pause, when the
air comes into contact with the blood, and this again followed by right
outbreathing, even, steady, silent. Further, the lungs should be evenly
filled; many maladies may arise from the neglect and consequent
weakening of some region of the lungs. And the number of breaths is
so important, so closely related to health, that every nurse's chart
records it.

But the deeper meaning is concerned with the currents of life; with
that which goeth into and cometh out of the heart.

51. The fourth degree transcends external and internal objects.

The inner meaning seems to be that, in addition to the three degrees
of control already described, control, that is, over the incoming
current of life, over the outgoing current, and over the condition of
pause or quiesence, there is a fourth degree of control, which holds in
complete mastery both the outer passage of events and the inner
currents of thoughts and emotions; a condition of perfect poise and
stability in the midst of the flux of things outward and inward.

52. Thereby is worn away the veil which covers up the light.

The veil is the psychic nature, the web of emotions, desires,
argumentative trains of thought, which cover up and obscure the truth
by absorbing the entire attention and keeping the consciousness in the
psychic realm. When hopes and fears are reckoned at their true worth,
in comparison with lasting possessions of the Soul; when the outer
reflections of things have ceased to distract us from inner realities;
when argumentative - thought no longer entangles us, but yields its
place to flashing intuition, the certainty which springs from within;
then is the veil worn away, the consciousness is drawn from the
psychical to the spiritual, from the temporal to the Eternal. Then is the
light unveiled.

53. Thence comes the mind's power to hold itself in the light.

It has been well said, that what we most need is the faculty of spiritual
attention; and in the same direction of thought it has been eloquently
declared that prayer does not consist in our catching God's attention,
but rather in our allowing God to hold our attention.

The vital matter is, that we need to disentangle our consciousness
from the noisy and perturbed thraldom of the psychical, and to come
to consciousness as the spiritual man. This we must do, first, by
purification, through the Commandments and the Rules; and, second,
through the faculty of spiritual attention, by steadily heeding endless
fine intimations of the spiritual power within us, and by intending our
consciousness thereto; thus by degrees transferring the centre of
consciousness from the psychical to the spiritual. It is a question, first,
of love, and then of attention.

54. The right Withdrawal is the disengaging of the powers from
entanglement in outer things, as the psychic nature has been
withdrawn and stilled.

To understand this, let us reverse the process, and think of the one
consciousness, centred in the Soul, gradually expanding and taking on
the form of the different perceptive powers; the one will, at the same
time, differentiating itself into the varied powers of action.

Now let us imagine this to be reversed, so that the spiritual force,
which has gone into the differentiated powers, is once more gathered
together into the inner power of intuition and spiritual will, taking on
that unity which is the hall- mark of spiritual things, as diversity is the
seal of material things.

It is all a matter of love for the quality of spiritual consciousness, as
against psychical consciousness, of love and attention. For where the
heart is, there will the treasure be also; where the consciousness is,
there will the vesture with its powers be developed.

55. Thereupon follows perfect mastery over the powers.

When the spiritual condition which we have described is reached, with
its purity, poise, and illuminated vision, the spiritual man is coming
into his inheritance, and gaining complete mastery of his powers.

Indeed, much of the struggle to keep the Commandments and the
Rules has been paving the way for this mastery; through this very
struggle and sacrifice the mastery has become possible; just as, to use
St. Paul's simile, the athlete gains the mastery in the contest and the
race through the sacrifice of his long and arduous training. Thus he
gains the crown.