There is a constant dichotomy in our world: good/evil, helpful/harmful, pleasant/unpleasant, right/wrong, beneficial/unprofitable, and so on. And from an absolute point of view, these concepts are quite conditional. What would be poison to one person in one situation would be medicine to another, and vice versa. And notions of right and wrong, right and wrong often turn into dogmas, which cause no less harm than the absence of any principles and rules at all. In his philosophical treatise on yoga, Patanjali described such a phenomenon as “viveka. And this is the key to understanding how to distinguish black from white. Moreover, it is the key to understanding that life is not a black and white movie and that there is a whole gamut of colors in addition to these two and

Viveka means ‘discernment’ in Sanskrit. This concept is revealed in Sutra 24, Chapter 4. One of the more curious translations of this sutra is that of Falkov, and in his version the sutra reads, “For one who has attained mastery in discernment, the contradictions of the nature of the soul are softened. The point is that all contradictions exist only at the level of the mind. The soul itself is inherently pure and blissful and knows the absolute truth exactly. Only avidya (ignorance) causes the mind to be tormented by doubts and contradictions. And in chapter 4, sutra 24, Patanjali reveals the key to eliminating all contradictions and doubts – one must establish oneself in discernment, or viveka. Another facet of this sutra is revealed in Svensson’s translation: “He who has seen the difference no longer has any doubts about the nature of the Atman. That is, he who has learned to distinguish correctly between reality and illusion, the essential and the transient, has come to know the nature of the Atman as it is.

Zagumyonov’s translation of this sutra reveals in more detail the essence of viveka and states between and by what this distinction is made: “For one who sees the distinction between mind and purusha, contemplation of one’s own being ceases. What does it mean that contemplation of one’s own being ceases? He who has recognized the difference between the conditioned, darkened mind and purusha becomes aware of the illusory nature of his personality, his ego, realizing that it is only a set of samskaras (karmic imprints) and nothing more. This is what it says: “contemplation of one’s own being ceases. In Krishnamacharya’s translation, one who has attained viveka is called “a person of extraordinary clarity. It is very accurately stated that one who has developed viveka has a clear perception of reality. Krishnamacharya also points out that such a person is “free from the desire to know the nature of the perceiver. Why is such a person free from this desire? At first glance, it may seem that ignorance is involved, because only ignorant people are free from such a desire. Not at all. The desire to know the nature of the perceiver is the deep desire of every living being, which may not be realized because of avidya (ignorance). Therefore it is not the ignorant person who is free from this desire, but, on the contrary, only he who has already cognized this nature, and this happens, as has been said above, by virtue of viveka.

The concept expressed in sutra 24 has its continuation in sutra 25 of chapter 4, where Patanjali describes the fruits, or consequences, of viveka. In Falkov’s translation, this sutra reads as follows: “And then the consciousness, aspiring to recognition, returns to its former freedom. Bailey’s interpretation makes the consequences of viveka even clearer: “Then the mind aspires to recognition and increasing enlightenment as to the true nature of the one self. Thus, viveka enables the distinction between the Soul and the Ego, that is, the true eternal reality and the illusory temporal reality. Simply put, viveka is the process of removing the masks from one’s true face. And the deeper one’s rooting in vivek is, the more profound the knowledge of one’s own self can be achieved. Viveka is also a purer, unclouded view of reality. And the more rooted one is in vivek when looking at external objects, the less projections that the mind places on the original reality remain in this view.

Sometimes the concept of vivek is interpreted as conscience. This interpretation also has the right to exist. The word conscience is interpreted as a “shared message. Joint with whom? As one version, a joint message with a higher consciousness. If we compare this with Patanjali’s interpretation of viveka as a distinction between the self and the non-self, between the eternal and the transient, and so on, we can see a certain identity between these interpretations. Conscience, as a “joint message” with higher consciousness, also provides insight into what is eternal and true and what is temporary and illusory. Thus, viveka enables one to distinguish between reality and illusion on a deep, intuitive level, and to have ideas about moral norms of behavior on an intuitive, rather than dogmatic, level.