visesa the art of distinguishing or discriminating
avisesa uniform, alike, without any difference
lingamatra indicator, mark, sign, phenomenal
alingani without mark, without sign, unevolved
gunaparvani changes in qualities
Commentary from Light on the Yoga Sutras by B.K.S. Iyengar
The gunas generate their characteristic divisions and energies in the seer. Their stages are distinguishable and non-distinguishable, differentiable and non-differentiable.
This sutra analyses nature (prakrti) by identifying the progressive layers of its manifestation, from the most specific and definable up through the non-specific and non-distinguished and back to the undifferentiated or universal.
To release ourselves from the confines of nature, we have to be familiar with its geography and its divisions, and with how these are affected and changed by the gunas, so that we can understand the internal rules that govern nature in all its forms, however subtle.
Nature (prakrti) consists of cosmic intelligence (mahat), which has the three qualities of luminosity (sattva), action and motion (rajas), and inertia (tamas). It is the changing influence of these qualities that gives form to our life in its cycle of births and shapes our characteristics according to the nature of our past actions and experiences. Prakrti also manifests its energy in the character of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether; and in the five subtle manifestations of smell, taste, shape, touch, and sound.
The individual counterpart of cosmic intelligence (mahat) is consciousness, or citta. Citta consists of mind (manas), which reviews sensory and vibrational stimuli; intelligence (buddhi), which is the discriminative faculty; and ego or small self (ahamkara) which is the individual ‘I’. In addition, hidden deep in man’s nature is a powerful hidden spiritual weapon; conscience (antahkarana or dharmendriya) which embodies eithical and moral principles. Antahkarana observes right and wrong in one’s conduct and motives, helps to cultivate citta and directs it to perform only the right actions.
There are also the five senses of perception – ears, tongue, eyes, nose and skin, and five organs of action – legs, arms, speech, genital and excretory organs.
These are the principles of prakrti. The five elements, intelligence, senses of perception and organs of action are distinguishable, that is, physically manifest in concrete form. The other parts, the five subtle manifestations of the elements and the ‘I’ consciousness (ahamkara, antahkarana and asmita) exist in a non-distinguishable or vibrational form, being non-primary and unevolved matter. Yet, all these revolve around the three gunas of nature;tamas, rajas, and sattva.
The principles (tattvas) of distinguishable elements (visesa) produce changes which may be pleasant, unpleasant, or stuporous (a state of suspended or deadened sensibility). The unspecified principles (avisesa tattvas) are unevolved matter, and when such matter is transformed into a specified state, creation takes place. This is called pravrttimarga. The reverse process, nivrtti marga, is the merging of the specified matter in the unspecified, of the non-specified in and of nature (see sutra I.45) into the universal spirit (purusa). The merging of nature into spirit is a divine marriage, which becomes possible through the work of yoga.
Translation from Light on the Yoga Sutras by B.K.S. Iyengar
More reading in Light on the Yoga Sutras about the Cosmology of Nature on page 25