Abide: Yoga Sutra 1.3

Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam

Tada = “then”, drastuh = “the Seer”svarupe = in one’s own nature/form (sva–in one’s ownrupe–form/nature) avasthanam = “abides/resides”

“Then the seer [Self] abides in its own true nature”

Aaaand… we get to our first verb: abides.

[Who can hear the word “abide” and not think of the Big Lebowski? Anyone? Dating myself here?]

With “abide”, we get just about as gentle an action as a verb can convey. Abide is a verb in the same way shavasana is an asana. Shavasana or “corpse pose” is an essential part of the practice, yet we arrive in shavasana and release all effort. Likewise, settling into one’s own nature ideally comes without struggle. Even so, we have over 200 sutras ahead to guide us in that goal, so there is going to be some effort: at understanding, at practicing, at learning how to abide in our essential selves because most likely, our lives has been a series of circumstances and habits that have alienated us from ourselves.

We also get a shift from “now” (Atha, from the first sutra) to “then”. In other words, there are certain conditions to abiding in one’s true nature, a shift in awareness, a settling of the mind that is our natural state. Easy right? Not when everything life confronts us with pulls us out of that true nature. The separation is part of being a material entity. It’s too easy to divorce body from mind, the temporal from the eternal. This has been so for a very long time, even before rampant advertising came along to widen the gap–deliberately so because as long as we feel incomplete, we will search outside ourselves to their products for fulfillment.

Our true nature is not something outside of us that we have to strain and struggle for. It’s not Mount Everest. It’s inherent. It’s right there. All it takes is patient practice to maintain, but many of us don’t have the patience to abide there. We worry that we’re not doing it right. We look at the charts with chakras laddered up to the crown and think, “Oh, I’ll never get up that high,” like it’s a distant star that only a few lucky astronauts will ever approach.

You’ve already “been that high”. That star is within you. You’ve abided there in those times when you’ve fully engaged the moment and needed for nothing outside yourself. When you felt a sense of connection, even when you found yourself in a crisis yet moved calmly through it, doing what needed to be done without baggage or anxiety. When you were in the flow of things.

We don’t need to acquire anything to get there. We need, instead, to pare away the excess, the habits of thought that lure us out of the sense of self.  Then, that person is referred to as “the Seer” because we become the peaceful observer of our experiences.


[This is a series of commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a classical text compiling yogic wisdom. Claims date the writing anywhere from 5000 BCE to 300 CE. It is often regarded as a core text of yogic philosophy.]


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