Yoga off the mat: Freedom

The impressions I discussed in last month’s blog post are all made up of the same ‘stuff’. That stuff is made up of the three primal elements or gunas.

The three gunas are rajas, sattvas and tamas:

  • Sattvas: light, illumination, harmony and clarity.
  • Rajas: activity, motion, energy, movement, forever changing.
  • Tamas: darkness, dullness, heaviness, obstruction and veiling.

Think of the gunas as the ink used to print a photo. When the photo is printed we do not seem them separately but as one picture. The gunas exist, and there is a constant fluctuation between them – up and down through the levels.

The objects which veil the Self are constructed via the interplay of the three gunas. To be free of the three gunas is to be free of all of their manifestations. This is not merely about practising non-attachment from physical objects, but moving to a subtler level and unattaching oneself from the subtlest building blocks of the mind.

The objects themselves

Throughout the sutras, we are taught about ‘colouring’, where our own unique set of circumstances ‘colours’ everything from thoughts to actions. Here in this chapter, we are shown again that minds will always perceive objects differently. So, while the object can exist without the mind, it is the colouring of the mind that determines our perception of the object. Once more we are instructed to reduce the colouring to see clearly.

A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.

Mahatma Gandhi


The mind is not self-illuminating, in fact, the yogi is seeking to have an experience of pure consciousness (purusha). So while it may appear that the mind has its own light, this is because purusha is shining upon it.

In this next section of the chapter, the highest stage of discrimination is explained. While we have already discussed the power of discrimination in previous sutras, here we are honing in on the perception between the most delicate aspect of mind and individuality, and pure consciousness (purusha).

We are instructed here that the mind is powered by pure consciousness. Think of your mind as an iPhone and pure consciousness (purusha) as electricity. You cannot use the iPhone without the electricity stored within its battery, can you? Yet electricity can exist without the iPhone, just as pure consciousness exists without the mind.