Book 1, Sutras 44 & 45: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“THIS SAME PROCESS OF MEDITATIVE COGNITIVE BLENDING RELATING TO OBJECTS ALSO HAPPENS RELATING TO THOUGHT ITSELF. ULTIMATELY THEN THE YOGI SEES THE PURPOSE AND MEANING BEHIND EVEN THE MOST SUBTLE OF THOUGHTS AND THEIR CORRESPONDING OBJECTS.”
In sutras 41, 42, and 43 Patanjali described the characteristics and development of a meditative cognitive blending called “samapatti” specifically related to the sensual experience of objects. In this sutra he states that the same characteristics and stages of development apply to meditative cognitive blending when it is focused on thoughts as objects.
In sutra 41 Patanjali used the analogy of a clear crystal to describe this state of cognitive blending. In sutra 42, with “savitarka samapatti,” the yogi loses a sense of the boundaries between himself and the physical object being focused on. All of it takes on a similar coloration just like what happens to a clear crystal. In sutra 43, with “nirvitarka samapatti,” the sense impressions drop away, leaving only the underlying purpose behind an object’s existence.
Now, in this sutra, with “savicara samapatti,” instead of a cognitive blending with a physical object, there is a cognitive blending with a thought. The cognitive blending means that the thoughts are without a sense of ownership or a sense of their origination and destination. Thoughts are just there, without a sense of “mine” or “not-mine.” In “nirvicara samapatti,” the next stage of development, the details of the thought fall away completely, leaving only the realization of the purpose behind the thought existing at all. This is a realization of the nature of the mind.
The important technical thing to realize is that thoughts always have objects: “vicara” has “visaya.” All thoughts, even the most subtle ones, concern the experience of objects. For this reason “vitarka” (sense impressions of an object) and “vicara” (thought impressions of an object) form the simplest division of all of life experience. From the standpoint of the mind there ARE ONLY sense impressions of objects and the processing thoughts that follow them. Those two together make up all of mental activity. They comprise the “vrtti,” or mental fluctuations which Patanjali focused on in the very beginning of this Yoga Sutra.
In sutra 45 Patanjali explains this further by saying that thoughts are connected to even the most subtle and primary objects of existence, matter itself. In other words, there is no object that is beyond the range of thought, “vicara.” So the mind is potentially all comprehensive. That is what sutra 45 says.
When the yogi is “nirvitarka” and “nirvicara” he or she has effectively stilled the mind in the way that Patanjali recommends in sutra 2: “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah.” This is not the final stage of evolution for the yogi but it is the end of his or her own efforts. The rest of the way to full and complete liberation happens on its own, automatically, as Patanjali will tell us in sutra 50.