The Concept of Kaivalya in Yoga

The word Kaivalya means emancipation or liberation. It is otherwise called as Moksha in Sanskrit. Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras discussed the concept of Kaivalya in a very elaborate manner in the last chapter called the Kaivalya Pada. This chapter has a total of 34 aphorisms or sutras that describe the phenomenon of Kaivalya or emancipation. Patanjali says that the ultimate goal of man is to attain Kaivalya from the cycle of modifications from one species or genus into another. He accepts the concept of Jatyantara Parinama which says that man continues to be born again and again depending upon the changing circumstances. Sometimes he gets modified into other species or genus too. The word ‘species’ is meant by the word ‘Jati’.

Material substances get filled in the body of the human being at the time of the birth. Hence the modification into another species is by the filling in of material substance. Patanjali says that the primary goal of man is to aim for liberation or Kaivalya through Samadhi. To attain Kaivalya he should undergo the process of investigation of self-existence. How does the process of investigation into self-existence come to an end? Patanjali says that once the Yogi comes to know that the Purusha or the Supreme Entity is different from the intellect then the investigation into self-existence comes to an end. For this to happen, he should realize the Purusha. The Yogi reaches the threshold of Kaivalya the moment the investigation comes to an end.

Kaivalya Pada discusses the nature of the mind of the seeker of Reality when the Yogi realizes the distinct truth about Purusha. The aphorism 26 says ‘Tada vivekanimnam kaivalyapragbharam chittam’. It means ‘Then the mind bent towards discrimination or distinction has the burden of emancipation in front’. It only means that the Yogi is sure to burden the joy of emancipation in the future. The process of the attainment of liberation is dealt in a detailed manner by Patanjali. He says that prior to the occurrence of the final revelation, the Yogi is confronted with an invasion by the troop comprising of habitual potencies that existed in him before. These habitual potencies are dying and perishing as far as the Yogi is concerned. They continue to live unabated in the ordinary men. On the other hand they meet a natural end in the men of intellectual revelation.

The Yogi is adept in avoiding the habitual potencies. Hence he is not confronted by the challenges of afflictions or pains. His path to Kaivalya is bereft of impediments. He reaches and attains liberation effortlessly. Virtues and sins do not touch a Yogi and he reaches the situation in which all his actions and pains cease to exist. Patanjali says in the aphorism 30 ‘Tatah Klesakarmanivritthih’. It means ‘Then the cessation of all afflictions and actions’. What happens to the Yogi at the cessation of afflictions and actions? Patanjali says that his knowledge becomes infinite and boundless. He reaches a situation in which the knowable becomes a little. In short it can be said that he reaches a situation in which he comes to know everything by virtue of the quality of purity of the mind. His knowledge too becomes uncovered by impurities. He uses the word ‘Avarana’ meaning ‘envelope’. The knowledge that he gets finally is bereft of the cover of impurities. He is bestowed with the quality of non-attachment and hence the three gunas, namely , sattva, rajas and tamas begin to show no effect on him. It only means that the succession of changes of the various energies in him born of the three gunas gets terminated. When the succession of changes of the energies gets terminated, the Yogi gets merged into the state of Bliss.

Finally the Yogi attains Siddhis of various kinds. Patanjali speaks of Siddhis or accomplishments of a Yogi when he reaches the state of spiritual absorption that confers on him the status of emancipation. He gets the accomplishments born of birth, herb, prayer, penance and spiritual absorption. The Yogi gets the accomplishment born of birth of a bird flying in the sky. He gets the Siddhi by means of his devotion to specific herbs. The Siddhi of Anima or atomy can be achieved through mantra or prayer to deities such as Durga. By resorting to penance or Tapas, the Yogi gets Siddhi as Sage Vishvamitra performed miracles. Patanjali says that a Yogi can be conferred with eight different types of Siddhis when he is on the threshold of Kaivalya.

The eight types of Siddhis are Anima or becoming as small as an atom, Laghima or assuming lighness, Praptih or attaining anything he wishes, Prakamyam or thinking about the unthinkable, Mahima or assuming the greatest weight, Ishitvam or supreme power, Vasitvam or power to attract anyone and Kamavasayita or subjugating all sorts of desires. A Yogi can easily suppress all kinds of desires, such as those arising out of wealth, women and property. The system of Yoga does not speak about the Supreme Brahman that was later discussed at length by the Advaitins or the followers of Sankara. On the other hand the system of Yoga spoke about the Purusha which can be equated to the Brahman of the later Advaitins. According to the Yoga system of philosophy the Purusha is the highest and supreme entity. The Purusha has to be realized for the Yogi to attain the state of liberation or Kaivalya.

The system of Yoga does not use the word ‘Moksha’ but instead it uses the word Kaivalya. It is generally said that the philosophical system of Sankhya inspired both the Yoga and the Advaita systems to a great extent. Swami Vivekananda the great Indian monk once said that India truly owes a lot to Sage Kapila the founder of Sankhya system of philosophy. But for him even the system of Advaita would not have been there. The Sankhya system truly paved the way for both the Yoga and the Vedanta systems of philosophy. Patanjali of course was original to a great extent.

With due respect to your understanding of Sanskrit words and obvious scholarly approach to kaivalya, it is sometimes closer to heart to relate with Patanjali’s essence from one’s experience. That also requires to base one’s interpretation on a holistic framework of Yoga Sutra and the peculiar Samkhya philosophy along with Patanjali’s deviations therefrom. After all he calls them 'sutra’s wanting us to always look for a common thread running across.

Jatyantara parinama, appears unlikely to be talking about next birth. He has argued about reincarnation in the context of karma elsewhee. He is more likely describing the metamorphosis of a yogi upto that stage as no less than ‘being born again as a new species’.

The three planes of Existence that Patanjali uses through out, are physical, astral and causal (with their respective cognizing instruments of brain, manas and buddhi, the intellect) and he describes kaivalya as the ‘fourth state’. On the spiritual path, one realizes higher truth by elevating awareness from brain to manas to buddhi, each more and more subtle experience. But, Patanjali tells us that kaivalya cannot be even experienced and hence is beyond buddhi.

Patanjali is mentioning siddhis or powers as a fallout of the Yoga journey. The eight powers appear dazzling by themselves and some seekers do get entrapped. But, they seem to be designed to help in the further journey into the Yoga’s end zone, where the karma seeds of the very distant past are still likely to visit and make a yogi suffer. Though suffer he must, the ‘pain’ is not there since the inevitability of ‘cause and effect’ is fully understood by a yogi. Any literal translations of the siddhis may prove deceptive.

The preference for the word ‘kaivalya’ over ‘moksha’ is not difficult to understand. Moksha signifies a process of ‘crossing over’ (into the fourth state), while kaivalya is that state. So, by aming at achieving the moksha, one reaches the state of kaivalya. Patanjali further refines the concept by distinguishing samadhi with seed and one without. The ‘one without’ takes us into a pure desireless, non-dual state, a true Yoga. Non-duality is apparently a departure from classic Samkhya.

I would take issue with the statement that Samkhya paved the way for both Yoga and Vedanta. Yoga is very much a Samkhya document, although it has other influences as well. Vedanta on the other hand existed long before systems of philosophy came into being. Vedanta literally means the ‘ends of the Vedas’, referring to the Upanishads. Another central Vedanta text, the Brahma Sutra, i actually opposes the central idea of Samkhya.

Some traces of Samkhya thought can be found in the Upanishads, but the relation between Samkhya and Vedanta is controversial. My personal opinion is that they were conflicting philosophies, and may actually have originated in different cultures, which became merged at some point in the remote past. The Hindu version of Samkhya is a very much watered down version of the original, in which everything that they did not agree with has been removed.

Editing note: ‘i actually opposes’ should be ‘actually opposes.’

Also ‘Yoga is very much a Samkhya document’ should be ‘the Yoga Sutras is very much a Samkhya document’. Unfortunately the ability to edit a post has been removed.