Intuitive discernment or the ability to distinguish or differentiate all things is one of the different types of Spiritual Power or siddhis outlined in the Vibhuti Pada (Book III) of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. To understand this subject, please make sure you have read the previous Sutra (54) explaining the knowledge born of the awareness of Ultimate Reality because this one is a continuation of the process described therein.
Now assuming that you did what I told you to do, let's proceed to Sutra 54.
“Jati-laksana-desair anyatanavacchedat tulyayos tatah pratipattih”
"From it (Vivekajam-jnanam) knowledge of distinction between similars which cannot be distinguished by class, characteristic or position."
— I.K. Taimni, The Science Of Yoga
"This insight allows one to tell things apart which, through similarities of origin, feature, or position, had seemed continuous."
— Chip Hartranft, The Yoga-Sûtra of Patañjali
"Hence comes discernment between things which are of like nature, not distinguished by difference of kind, character or position."
— Charles Johnston, The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali: The Book of the Spiritual Man
Attaining Intuitive Discernment
As stated in the previous sutra, Vivekajam-Jnanam is the divine knowledge (Jnana) which sees the difference between the false and the Ultimate Reality via intuitive discernment (Viveka). This can be attained by performing Samyama Meditation on the Crown Chakra.
In physical reality, knowing the difference between two things which are similar in class, characteristic, or position is quite simple. A scientist, for example, can use a microscope to analyze a sample of two similar things and he discovers certain qualities which are unique to each object. This discovery allows him to tell how one thing is different from another. But, according to the yogis, things don’t work the same way in the subtle and causal realms. What are found there do not appear in any way like the things found in the material universe. Well, who are we to argue?
To understand the process of discerning things which cannot be distinguished by class, characteristic, or position, I need to define two Sanskrit words – Samapattih and Pratipattih.
Samapattih means coalescence or unified contemplation. It is the union of two things apparently separate.
Pratipattih means understanding. It is the discrimination of two things originally fused or inseparable.
So what needs to be done in order to discern or distinguish things found in the world beyond like the similar units of time mentioned in the previous sutra?
That’s where these words come in. When you gain the ability, through Samadhi, to fuse consciousness with any object to understand its nature (a process called Samapattih), you then learn how to separate the higher mental elements of those objects using your intuitive discernment or Vivekajam-Jnanam, this process is called Pratipattih. With this kind of knowledge, you can immediately see what makes everything in this world appear similar and different at the same time.
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