Book 1, Sutra 41: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“AS IT BECOMES STILL, THE MIND BECOMES LIKE A FACETED CLEAR CRYSTAL IN WHICH THE EXPERIENCER, THE OBJECT OF EXPERIENCE AND THE PROCESS OF EXPERIENCING ITSELF IS SEEN TOGETHER SEAMLESSLY. WITH FOCUS AND STABILITY, A SATURATED TRUE COGNITIVE BLENDING IS REACHED (SAMAPATTI).”
Iyengar states that in the stage described by this sutra “The yogi realizes that the knower, the instruments of knowing and the known are one, himself, the seer.” He then identifies the key term of this sutra, “samapatti,” as indicating the original goal of yoga stated by Patanjali in sutra 3; that is, “assumption of the original form of the Seer.” Iyengar thus differentiates between “samadhi” and “samapatti.” “Samadhi,” Iyengar writes, “is profound meditation, profound absorption” while “samapatti” is “the balanced state of mind of the seer who, having attained samadhi, radiates his own pure state.”
Hartranft calls “samapatti” a “coalescence; a transparent way of seeing.” Similarly Woods states it is a “balanced state.” Purohit calls it an “illumination” and Taimni says it is a “consummation.” For Tola and Dragonetti “samapatti” has no English equivalent and so, they retain the Sanskrt. With “samapatti,” they explain, “the mind stabilizes itself; that is, it concentrates and fixes itself on a single object. As the fixation becomes increasingly intense, it carries with it the gradual elimination of all mental processes.” Tola & Dragonetti don’t agree that it is the final goal of Patanjali’s yoga. For them “samapatti” is a mental process itself and so, does not refer to total stillness.
The reason that I am dwelling on the definitions of “samadhi” and “samapatti” is because they play a key role in not only the following sutras in this book 1 but in many parts of the other books as well. So the decisions that translators make on how to define “samapatti” in this sutra affects the direction that their translations will take from here on.
What Patanjali explains here, and calls “samapatti,” could be also described as a shift into nonduality because it puts not only the seer but also the processing of seeing, itself, into focus. Just as a clear crystal becomes thoroughly colored by the surface that it rests on, so does the mind lose a sense of distinction, necessary for dual thinking, in “samapatti.” In other words, in “samapatti,” there is no sense of difference between what is seen, the seer, and the mechanics of seeing. All three of these components are witnessed together without a sense that anything is specifically happening. It is all just “THERE” with no one outside of that “THERE” to consider it in any special way.
In order for something to “happen” there must be sense of distinct components: subject versus object. The mechanics of seeing then operates to create a relationship between seer and the seen. But when that whole situation is turned into a well-examined crystal clear mixture; that is, when they are all seen together without maintaining mental distinctions between them; then there is a mental “saturation,” or a cognitive blending that is nondual. This is “samapatti” according to Patanjali.
It is easy to underestimate what is being said here. Patanjali is referring to a very elevated state of awareness that is the product of both practice and detachment (as he stated in sutra 12). Moreover, this elevated state will be referred to as the basis for many of the super powers Patanjali will describe in later parts of his Yoga Sutra. If we fail to realize how elevated “samapatti” is we may underestimate what is involved in realizing the super powers as well.
In the following sutras Patanjali will continue to elaborate on “samapatti,” enumerating different stages and qualities and also how it relates to “Samadhi.” It is helpful to keep in mind the analogy of the clear crystal that Patanjali gives us in this sutra for “samapatti” when we read his more nuanced descriptions in the sutras that follow. With that analogy we know that “samapatti” is always the case of a cognitive blending between subject and object, or perceiver and perceived.