Solely from perception of the distinction between buddhi and purusha comes all-knowingness and supremacy over all that exists. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 3.49
I’ve been thinking about this sutra lately, and here is my take on it.
Patanjali actually uses the word “sattva” and not buddhi, or chitta as is sometimes translated. But it makes little difference – the point is to distinguish between the polarities that we find in this life-of-opposites: Purusha and Prakriti,the self and the non-self, the changing and the changeless, the eternal and the transient, the seer and the seen, the manifest and the unmanifest, the real and the unreal, saguna and nirguna.
There appears to be many objects of duality, but they are all resolved by one process – the ability to distinguish the changing and the changeless. (The other dualities above are just different names for the changing/changeless.)
So take a look around where you are. Notice how everything is affected by time. Everything you see is changing, even if minutely. Seeing the changing (aka the world of boundaries and limitations) is obvious. What needs to be appreciated simultaneously is the changeless.
Through a process of rejecting the changing you eventually find the changeless. It is like digging a well and with each scoop you look at what you’ve scooped up and say, “It this water?” If it’s not water you chuck it away. It is useless to you. Likewise with this changing world. Ruthlessly, discard the changing and you eventually find the changeless.
Then when you look around you will say, “I see that everything is changing but there is no action at all. There is no change – only my Self.”
Only this one distinction is required. So how does this one distinction bring all-knowingness and supremacy?
It brings all-knowingness because it reveals Purusha – that by which all else is known. It reveals the light of all lights – Jyotishamjyoti.
In a cinematic analogy, it is like identifying yourself as the colourless light of the projector, rather than identifying with the characters and drama on the screen. All the stories on the screen – even a story of nescience – are all revealed by the light of the projector.
Supremacy arises like this: When Purusha (He) is mixed in with Prakriti (She), He is limited and finite and uncomfortable. She is unsteady, feels unappreciated and has to compete for His attention.
When He is separated out from Her, through clear discrimination, He discovers his true nature of eternal freedom, actionless peace and independence, he becomes happy. Now He looks at Her with steady, faultless, eternal affection – unconditional love – and this satisfies Her. Feeling this unconditional love She surrenders to Him and says, “How may I serve you?” Thus supremacy over all that exists is achieved through love.
Not to spoil a good romance, but even this is still in the realm of duality. Patanjali addresses this in the next verse:
Through non-attachment even to that – when the source of imbalance has collapsed – there is singularity, kaivalya. (3.50)
The source of imbalance is avidya – ignorance – and its vehicle is the ego. When the ego collapses the trinity of seer-seeing-seen is resolved. The mirage-like boundaries of He (the seer) and She (the seen) vanish into the nothingness that they already are and all that remains is seeing: pure consciousness: kaivalya – singularity of awareness.
Some say that this is the end of Yoga and the beginning of Vedanta.