Ghost Yoga – Yoga Sutras 1.19

Yoga philosophy explains the concept of being in a ghost body and even how certain types of meditation can lead the yogi to inhabit such a body for a vast period of time. Here we’ll examine Sutra 1.19 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras where this meditation is described.

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Here’s an excerpt from my book, “Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Revolution: How Timeless Yoga Wisdom Can Revolutionize Our Lives Today” (

Yoga Sutras 1. 19: Some attain full focus on the subtle aspects of material reality and live a disembodied existence.

Some background about the soul and of material nature is necessary to better understand this sutra.

In the Vedic viewpoint, life is the symptom of the soul and has nothing to do with matter. Souls assume bodies due to their fluctuations, but at no point is the existence of the soul dependent on the body. It’s the other way around. The body needs the presence of the soul to exist. Without the soul, the body starts to decompose and merge back with nature. Before attaining spiritual perfection, the soul can experience life only in one body or another. When the term of one body is finished, the soul must carry on in another body.

Bodies are made of material energy, but material energy is not so simple. As modern scientists have found, material nature can exist in subtle forms, which are far removed from the “solid” manifestations of reality such as stones and logs, earth, wind, and fire. Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that super-subtle elements of reality exist in the form of what we translate as mind, intelligence, and false ego. These are not just concepts; they are real elements of physical reality, just like water. Of course, this is all very hard to conceptualize, because it goes way beyond our direct sensory experience. You can’t smell, see, hear, or touch mind, intelligence, or false ego. The best you can hope for is to perceive the existence of these subtle elements, because you do have mind, intelligence, and false ego right now.

Ether is the finest aspect of nature still perceived by our regular senses. It can be translated as “vacuum,” and you can perceive it by the space it takes up. If there is a perfect vacuum inside a bottle, you can measure the space the vacuum takes up. Mind is finer and cannot be measured in any way. Intelligence is finer than the mind, and false ego is the subtlest aspect of reality. False ego is the soul’s identification with matter. Intelligence is how to explore and interpret the world in that identification. For that, it requires a mind to coordinate the senses and thoughts, which then requires a physical body to interact with denser material reality: solids, liquids, radiant energy, gases, and vacuum.

Bodies are thus composed of all of the elements of material nature, from false ego to solids. But not all bodies are like this.

Ghosts, for example, have bodies made of only the subtle elements of mind, intelligence, and false ego. That’s why you normally can’t see them and they can’t touch anything but can go through walls, float around, etc.

Other cosmic creatures exist in similar subtle, or disembodied, forms—even bodies made exclusively of intelligence and false ego.

What this sutra is stating is that a yogi might inadvertently become stuck in such a body if, when following the meditation-only path of yoga, he or she focuses his or her mind entirely on such a subtle aspect of material energy, instead of on its true spiritual form. The yoga tradition goes as far as to state how long such a state would last, according to the subtle element of matter on which the soul fixes its consciousness. Those who fix their minds on intelligence for example, merging into it, would remain in such a state for 100 thousand Manu periods. A Manu period is 310 million Earth years, so such a yogi would remain in such a state for 31 trillion years—a very peaceful 31 trillion years, to be sure, but not the final goal of yoga. Such a yogi would eventually have to return to a gross physical body and try again.


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