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Yoga Sutra 1.3 – Seeing from the Soul

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Sutra 1.3

Tada drastuh svarupe 'vasthanam

Then the seer abides in its true nature

Et voilà! Sutra 1.3 lets us know what happens when we succeed in quieting the mind as described in Sutra 1.2.

Truth be told, you can get pretty far with the first three sutras alone. That’s because, by understanding these first three, you understand the objective of yoga in a nutshell. 

What remains in the text is essentially a “how to” for arriving at the pinnacle state described here in sutra 1.3 when the “seer abides in its nature.” 

So what do we mean by “the seer” and what is its true nature anyway? 

Let’s dive in!

Did you miss the explanation of Sutra 1.2? Click here to read.

Table of Contents

Who Is the Seer?

“Seer” is one name among many that signifies the soul

The soul or the self is thought to sit at the core of our being. 

At other points in the text, the “seer” is thought of as an individual’s light of consciousness or…

  • the enjoyer, 
  • the perceiver, 
  • the jivatman or Atman
  • purusha….

To understand this way of thinking, it helps to envision every human being as one node of the greater, all-encompassing (God) consciousness. 

When you get right down to it, the soul that sits at the center of your core operates with the same pure awareness that sits at the center of my core (and your neighbor’s, and your mom’s, and your ex’s for that matter…). 

The Beloved Ocean Metaphor

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If consciousness is an ocean, then each of us is a single droplet of the ocean — made up of the exact same stuff as the whole.

What Is The Soul's True Nature?

The true nature of the soul is pure awareness.

Up until this point in your path, it is assumed, the aspirant has mistakenly identified with the objects of perception that arise in the thinking mind. 

Yoga practices offer the chance to remember ourselves as we truly are.

The Crystal Metaphor Is Helpful

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The self (or the seer, or the soul…) can be thought of as a perfectly clear crystal. 

As the crystal encounters objects of sense perception, they are reflected in the crystal’s surfaces and appear to change its color. 

The person mistakenly identifies with these objects of perception, taking them to be the true nature of the crystal. This is the misidentification or ignorance that will be spoken of many times in future sutras. 

Yoga is the process of realization that shows us we are NOT our minds nor are we the thoughts that arise as a result of perceiving sense objects. Instead, we are that purely transparent crystal reflecting divine consciousness. 

Wait, did the human forget or did the soul forget its nature? 

Great question!

Importantly, it is the human who mistakenly identifies with the senses and thoughts. 

The soul has never taken on anything that wasn’t itself. 

By quieting the mind and sense perceptions, the human can identify itself again as the soul. This is considered a remembering since what we are has always been the soul. 

Earthly incarnation and the noise of the mind has brought us into ignorance, but through yoga we have the means to wake up to the remembrance. 

In a way, by following the teachings of yoga, we get to take off the cloak of human experience and live from the point of view of our innermost being.

HOW do we live from soul consciousness?

The “how to” is beyond the scope of Sutra 1.3, but the process will be spelled out in the upcoming sutras. 

In sum, the sutras teach us which kinds of thoughts and obstacles tend to arise, and then we are essentially written a prescription for how to bring them under control.

The prescription entails: 

  1. personal practices (yamas)
  2. social practices (niyamas)
  3. breathwork (pranayama)
  4. seated practices (asana)
  5. control of the senses (pratyahara)
  6. concentration (dharana)
  7. meditation (dhyana), and
  8. absorption (samadhi)

These make up the eight-fold path of raja yoga, and their details will be illuminated as the sutras unfold. 

Won't it be disruptive to my life to "live as the soul"?

Well, yeah. It could be disruptive, for sure. But it doesn’t have to be.

You will likely experience disruption in certain areas of life if you are not currently living in alignment with your soul’s callings. 

As you identify more and more with your soul self, the parts of you that are not in alignment will likely be “burped up” so that you can eventually settle into the most authentic, truest version of you.

This process will potentially be painful if you have many parts of you that are not living in service of your highest self.

If you go with the process bravely, however, the soul won’t steer you wrong. The process of yoga is the processing of WAKING UP.

A few favorite translations of Sutra 1.3:

Edwin Bryant: When that is accomplished, the seer abides in its own true nature.

Mukunda Stiles: When this happens, then the Seer is revealed, resting in its own nature, and one realizes the True Self.

Sri Swami Satchidananda: Then the Seer (Self) abides in Its own nature.

homework for the seeker

Two Pieces of "Homework" for the Aspiring Yogi

1. A Contemplation:

What is my soul asking me to do right now?  

In as many moments as you can remember this week, hold this question lightly in your heart.

You are most apt to hear your soul’s calling in the form of…

  • emotions
  • instinct
  • preferences + aversions
  • an inner voice, intuition
  • free-written journaling
  • your heart’s desire in any given moment

It’s important to give yourself plenty of rest and quiet moments.

It’s not advisable to start by asking about big, heavy, long-term life choices. Start instead with little decisions here and there, and try to trust the unfolding!

2. Meditation Prompt:

Can I just notice the moment when my mind chatter ceases (if even for a split second)?  

In my own practice, it usually takes me about 20 minutes to experience mental stillness. 

I know when it happens because I feel like I begin to sit with bated breath. All is black and yet “I” am still there. 

I’d love to know if (and when and how!!) you arrive at this point of stillness in your meditations!

Do share in a comment below. 

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8 Essential Sutras

To recap: Sutra 1.3

(When the mind is quiet) the soul rests in its own nature.

The soul is the inner self and its true nature shines forth as pure awareness, unsullied by thought forms and sense objects. 

Awesome Versions of The Sutras

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