Yoga sutras, II, 33-34 - Negative thoughts and emotions obstruct yama and niyama


[B]II, 33 vitarka bhadhane pratipaksa bhavanam
II, 34 vitarka himsayah krta anumoditah lobha kordha moha purvakah mrdu madhya adhimatrah dukha ajnana ananta phala iti pritipaksa bahavanam

When you are disturbed
by unwholesome
negative thoughts or emotions,
cultivation of their opposites
promote self-control
and firmness in the precepts.

Negative thoughts and emotions
are violent,
in that they cause injury
to yourself and others,
regardless of whether
they are performed
by you,
done by others,
or you permit them to be done.
They arise from greed,
anger or delusion
regardless of whether they
arise from mild,
moderate, or excessive
emotional intensity.
They result in
endless misery and ignorance.
Therefore, when you consistently cultivate
the opposite thoughts and emotions,
the unwholesome tendencies
are gradually destroyed.[/b]

M. Stiles

Iyengar explains that negative thoughts and emotions obstruct the principles of yama and niyama and therefore must be countered with right knowledge and awareness.

?When the mind is caught up in dubious ideas and actions, right perception is obstructed. ? (p. 138 ) He offers an alternative interpretation of sutra II, 33 ? rather than cultivating the opposite of the negative, unwholesome thought or emotion, ?the sadhaka has to analyze and investigate these ideas and actions and their opposites; then he learns to balance his thoughts by repeated experimentation… If a person is violent, he is violent. If he is angry, he is angry. The state is not different from the fact; but instead of trying to cultivate the opposite condition, he should go deep into the cause of his anger or violence. This is praksabhava. On should also study the opposite forces with calmness and patience. Then one develops equipoise.? ( p138 ) Without this balance or equipoise, one is not firmly grounded in the principles of yama and niyama. Without the foundations of yama and niyama, the practices of asana, pranayama, and pratyahara will not be stable. The use of discrimination helps to dispel theses negative thoughts and emotions and helps us to establish equipoise and balance.

Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publications India. 1993

Stiles, M., Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Boston, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. 2002


I haven’t read Mr. Iyengar’s book, but I’m going to take a stab at this.

First, though, we need to be precise about the language that we use when discussing the sutras. Since the sutras are written in Sanskrit, which often doesn’t translate easily into English, it can be helpful to look at the Sanskrit, and for that matter, also at the English.

I cannot find anywhere in your quote where it says that negative thoughts and emotions obstruct yama and niyama. It says that dubious ideas and actions obstruct [I]right perception[/I]. This cuts straight to the heart of yoga. A large part of the reason why we do yoga and meditation is to obtain what I call clarity of vision. This comes from sutra 1.41 where Patanjali talks about consiousness becoming like a transparent jewel, and again in 1.47, where he talks about the clarity of the inner being.

To be continued.


Hi Lavina,
Good to see you back, I love your posts, pushes me to examine my practice more?

Hi Asuri,

We can certainly discuss the rights & wrongs the ifs & buts ad nauseam, I am much more interested in peoples experience, when people put this sutra in practice ? how do they FEEL!
What are the results & reactions?



The key words in the two sutras are [I]pratipaksa bhavanam[/I].
[I]bhavanam[/I] has to do with production, creation, or birth;
[I]pratipaksa[/I] is contrary or adverse.
The translation is [I]cultivating the opposite[/I].

In my view, [I]pratipaksa bhavanam[/I] forms the philosophical basis for the practice of yama and niyama. Yama and niyama are contrary to lust, anger, greed, egotism, etc. Practicing them constitutes cultivating the opposites as discussed in sutras 2.33 and 34.

Discussing how to handle the [I]klesas [/I]or causes of suffering in sutra 2.10, Patanjali uses a similar word, [I]pratiprasava[/I], meaning counter-flow or to resolve them in the direction of their origin or cause. I mention this because Mr. Iyengar uses a different word, [I]praksabhava[/I], to identify the method he describes. Mr. Iyengar has gone further than offering an alternative interpretation of the sutras. He appears to be describing a method that is altogether different from the sutras, although it seems similar to [I]pratiprasava[/I].

Fin, sorry if you’re not all that interested.


Christopher, don’t be so sassy! :smiley: You are missing Fin’s invitation to take part in our sutra discussions. Lavina started our Patanjali’s sutra practice here in 2006, though this is the first sutra Lavina has posted since you have joined here. The framework that was established early-on for our sutra discussions is that of [I]svadyaya. [/I]This opportunity for introspective study, and community discussion and support, is a blessed rarity for many people[I]. [/I]Like Fin, preserving this container for our sutra discussions is important to me as well. Your mind is amazing and I enjoy it so much. I hope you will continue to add to this discussion as you are now, as well as add your personal experience of the sutras.




Thank you for pointing out the error of my ways, for which I apologize. Apparently my own lens could be clearer at times. I appreciate your encouragement and pointing me in the direction of the sutra discussions.


The translation and commentary of Swami Hariharananda Aranya, based on that of Vyasa, contains an interesting perspective. His translation of 2.34 reads in part "That they are the causes of infinite misery and unending ignorance is the contrary thought.

I believe that this is the correct interpretation and effective as well. For example, if we realize that harming someone who has angered us is not going to get us the satisfaction we crave, but will only lead to more trouble and misery, then we are going to seek another way of dealing with our anger.


Discipline actually strenghtens the ego. Only when you fail, the ego is wounded, and only when it bleeds to death through total surrender, you will become free.

The ego wants to be in control. But to be in control is an illusion. It is totally impossible for a human being to be in control. Until one does not accept this, and while tries one’s bests, does not trust oneself into the grace of the benevolent higher powers - " Thy will be done, not mine" - there is no place for real spiritual development.

The value of discipline is to expereince real loss. Until you lose because the lack of self discipline, you know the reason why, and it is easy to accept it. But when you lose in spite of your best efforts, you learn the limits of the ego, the limits of who you think you are. And the deep desire is awakened in the soul to transcend these limits, this total desperation, and you would give anything, accept any help for it to happen. This humble state of expectation is the most fertile soil for grace to be manifested.

Thus, yama and niyama, is only the ladder, but a very necessary one.

As time passes, I find more and more truth in the Aurobindo quote from my signature. I especially like it because it is not what one would expect from a yogi. The image of a suffering God, implying sacrifice is alien to yoga and more at home in christian spirituality. Thus, this quote represents for me the unity of truth, regardless of religion, tradition, discipline.


That’s quite a sermon, Hubert, and thankfully, not quite as long-winded as some of your other sermons. Still, it’s hard to see how it contributed anything to the understanding of the sutras that are the topic of the thread. You essentially admit that yama and niyama are necessary but inferior to your particular brand of religion.

Patanjali’s yoga is a system of philosophy. The beauty of philosophy is that it allows us to talk about the inner life without having to resort to the supernatural and the pious language of religion. Spirituality is removed from the realms of superstition and magic and placed into the realm of reason. The causes of suffering or klesas and the opposing forces are understood as forces of nature, like the laws of physics. Our progess on the path of dharma depends on our understanding and application of the principles, not on the favor of supernatural beings.


Thank you for your honesty. I like when people say what they think. It is important to know each other.

Perhaps my post did not contribute that much to the general understanding of the sutras, but it contributed to the understanding myself. (thanks to your valuable help)
What is actually part of the former. For to whom this understanding is targeted, if not for the thread readers and I am one of them.

[B]My mistake was that the sutra never says that you should perform an effort when dealing with negative thoughts or emotions. It says, cultivate the opposite. Thus, probably indifference is needed towards these negative emotions and thoughts, and not rejection, what implies the effort on the disciples part, and any effort requires discipline to maintain.[/B]
Thus, my reasoning that discipline is needed and that might strenghten the ego, starts on this false assumption. And the following addition about the death of the ego and the suffering God is indeed too far from the subject … but close to this particulat reader, who I am.

I did not say yama and niyama is inferior … I said it is important and necessary. In fact, my favorite limb of all, especially because they come first and I am a beginner. Or am I … I think I do not fit anymore into the box labeled yoga.

I think you mistake me for someone who just talks in a pious language, and is comfortably sitting in the sunday church, singing Hallelujah. Not that I’d judge that, but that’s not me.

I do not hide, and I confess that through many years (decades actually) of study I came to a comprehension of christian spirituality, where it is lit through by the same reason you require as the main bases of a philosophy. But what is philosophy ? It is love of wisdom. What is wisdom ? Knowing and applying the truth.

You let your prejudice against organized religion (well founded, and understandable), and my mistakes (because I inevitably do them) to cloud your perception of me. You are also eager to find the truth by reason wich I salute … but you must be careful to not mistake a mental construction for the truth. And especially, do not make that mental construction more important than real human beings. You also label things, like I am a religious christian person and there is the yoga philospohy of Patanjali (by the way, it is not a philosophy in the sense the word it is used in the western world, but given the ethimology of the word, I am not against this usage) and things should nicely fit into the boxes you labeled them. Which is how our mind works and is also important, and useful. Yet, reality does not work that way, it cares little for our boxes and labels.

I am not a religious person the way you think I am. What I beleive is at least as well built on reason than what you believe, but it would need a lot of work, effort and better english skills on my part to justify it - and I also realize that without doing it, my posts might seem inappropriate, or downright provokative. You also dismiss my efforts of trying to justify what I say, by criticising the lenghts of my posts. Well, they are of that lenght exactly because of what you name as reason. Reason is nothing than arriving from one thought to another, in an ordered, followable, and disciplined manner. By the nature of the things we discuss, I think it is not a fault to assume that a great deal of reasoning is required to comprehend them ?
Our science writes libraries about small things like a living cell … but we require to comprehend the Spirit in a forum thread, limited to 10,000 characters ? No, we discuss the sutras, and a few lines of them … and you are right, I am an intruder, who for some peculiar reason wants to spoil your scholarly activity discussing the truth. You see, I understand you. Perhaps it is a mistake for me to post here. I have arrived many times to this conclusion … yet sometimes I just cannot resist temptation.

But I am an advocate of humility, respect and admiration, advocate of openess, and direct talk without hinding behind some concepts or assumptions.

I congratulate your forum activity, I find that you are doing your best to become a good yoga teacher (if you are not one already). I hope my thoughts prove to be useful to you.


In my last post, I used the word dharma, because I believe that these two aphorisms, and a few others, are the root of what the Buddhists call dharma practice. Here are a few excerpts from an article on dharma practice:

Dharma is a Sanskrit word that literally means “a preventive measure.” It is something that we do in order to avoid problems.

…we often act destructivelywithout even knowing that it is destructive behavior. This is because we are under the influence of disturbing emotions, disturbing attitudes, and the compulsive impulses that come up from our habits. Not only do we act destructively toward others; we primarily act in self-destructive ways. In other words, we create more problems for ourselves…

…When we notice things that are causing our problems or are symptoms of our problems, we need to apply opponents to overcome them…

Taken from an article by Alexander Berzin, posted on The Berzin Archives

It seems clear that these two aphorisms are closely related to the concept of dharma practice. I highly recommend the Berzin Archives for anyone who has an interest in spiritual practice.


But I am an advocate of humility, respect and admiration

We know that egotism is one of the klesas or causes of suffering. Overcoming egotism doesn’t require the destruction or death of the ego. It simply requires those practices that you advocate.

The destruction of the ego is the path of liberation. That’s kind of extreme. After all, according to yoga philosophy, even Isvara himself has not attained liberation. Most of us aren’t seeking the destruction of our ego. We kind of enjoy life, and would like to be reborn into another life after we die, hopefully into a world that has less suffering than this one. We want our lives to be better, to enjoy better karma if you will. That is the motivation for the path of dharma.


Honest answer, and one what must be respected. Forgive me forgetting that.