Yoga Sutra Study – 3.45


Sthula svarupa suksma anvaya arthavatva samyamat bhutajayah

 “By samyama on the elements – their mass, forms, subtlety, conjunction and purposes, the yogi becomes Lord over them all.”

 Objects in the universe exist at various levels, but they are all made from the five basic elements: earth (prthvi), water (ap), fire (tejas), air (vayu) and ether (akasa). The five elements can be described by five attributes:

 –       Mass, or grossness (sthula): What we can perceive by the sense organs. The way in which the senses grasp the elements is the character of the elements, such as the shape of an object, whether it is light, sound or water, etc.

 –       Form (svarupa): The essential nature of the element. It is the status from its own point of view, independent of what we think or what our senses interpret. For example, an object’s solidity, fluidity, mobility, etc. Svarupa is at higher level which is beyond our interpretation.

 –       Subtlety (suksma): An element’s subtle essence, also known as tanmatra, which is the subtlest form in which the element can still be perceived. It is the vibration of an object, perceived in samadhi.

 –       Conjunction (anvaya): The combination of the qualities (gunas) in an element. The five elements are nothing but sattva, rajas and tamas. Every element has a particular makeup of the three gunas. However, the gunas undergo some peculiar modification of themselves and their presence in the elements is hidden.

 –       Purpose (arthavatva): The purpose for which they exist. An element exists and experiences, but there is only one purpose for these, liberation. 

The above are the five aspects of the elements. In this sutra, Patanjali teaches us to concentrate and do samyama on them. We may practice this on any object, not only focus on its external form, but also try to penetrate it deeper and deeper. For example, when you are sitting at the beach, focus on the sand. Firstly, what color is it? Then samyama on its essential nature, such as humidity. Next, try to perceive its subtle essence, in samadhi. The fourth step is to samyama on the combination of gunas in sand. Lastly, which is also the most important step, is to perceive its purpose of exist. The sand does not exist for itself. It brings forth consciousness and awareness. As Sri Aurobindo says:”Matter itself, you will one day realize, is not material, it is not substance, but a form of consciousness, guna, the result of quality of being, perceived by sense knowledge.”


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