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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book 1, Sutra 43: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“WHEN MEMORY IS PURIFIED AND THERE IS A REALIZATION OF EMPTINESS THEN MEANING ALONE STANDS FORTH WITHOUT SENSE IMPRESSIONS. THIS IS CALLED NIRVITARKA SAMAPATTI.”

 

Some translators define “nirvitarka” in the general sense as “without thought” but the earlier sutra 17 established “vitarka” as the type of mental activity connected with incoming sense impressions. In a way, then, “vitarka” is the sensual input that happens before we “think” about what we are sensing. “Nirvitarka” is then a state that is free of sensual input. In this state the external world makes no impression upon the mind of the yogi. But something does remain, however. That something is called “artha” and it is the key to this sutra. But before we get to what “artha” is we must look at the rest of the sutra.

The second component of this sutra, after “vitarka,” is the purification of memory. The third component is “emptiness” (shunya). There is a lot of disagreement over what exactly Patanjali means by either. What is he calling “empty?” And how is that connected to memory?

Some say that it is the mind of the yogi that becomes empty and others say that it is the object focused upon that becomes empty. But Patanjali is making a more profound statement than either of these options. I connect Patanjali’s phrase “svarupa shunya” to the very profound idea, found within the Buddha’s teachings, that every object is empty. Patanjali is saying that at this stage in “samapatti,” or cognitive blending, the yogi clearly sees that the material form, “svarupa,” of every object he or she focuses on contains no special substance that makes it distinct from other objects. Every object is essentially the same as every other because the form or shell is empty. This is “svarupa shunya:” the emptiness of form.

How does the purification of memory play a role in this? When the memory is purified, the yogi enters a state that is beyond time as a linear mechanism. In other words, memory is what gives power to cause and effect. Something from the past happened to create something significant in the present. That is the awareness created by memory. Without memory, the whole idea of change, which requires linear time, collapses. Without memory, nothing is changing because there is no observation of objects through the progression of time, past to present to future.

Therefore, a yogi whose memory is purified doesn’t see linear time as a fact, doesn’t respect change and so, doesn’t register the characteristics of forms as real (since all forms are a result of cumulative changes compiled by linear time). Without perception of the characteristics of forms, those forms are seen as empty. So if all objects are empty then what is left at that point for the yogi to perceive? In the “nirvitarka samapatti” of this sutra what the yogi perceives remaining is the third component: “artha” or the functional meaning connected to a form.

Many translators try to interpret “artha” in this sutra as meaning “objects in themselves” but in other sutras (sutras 28, 32, 42 and 49) “artha” clearly is more about the meaning or functioning or purpose of an object rather than referring to the object itself. The Sanskrt word, “visaya,” is used to designate an object in 6 other sutras (11, 15, 33, 44, 45, 49). Why would Patanjali suddenly use the word, “artha,” to designate something he has consistently used “visaya” for? Of the 27 translations I reviewed, about half translated “artha” as object and the other half translated it as some type of meaning.

If “artha” is meaning or purpose, what type of meaning is Patanjali talking about here? In the earlier sutra 28 where Patanjali gave us the instructions to repeat the mantra of Iswara, he claimed that by repeating the mantra we would realize the “artha.” Some have interpreted this as indicating that by repeating the mantra we would understand the meaning OF THE MANTRA but Patanjali was indicating a much more profound realization than that. The “artha” that a user of the mantra will realize is not that of the mantra but of Iswara, itself. In other words, by repeating the “pranava” mantra Patanjali says that we will realize the functional meaning of God: the what, why, where and how of God.

In this sutra, “artha” has a similarly profound meaning. When the yogi enters the “samapatti” state that is beyond sense impressions (“nirvitarka”) only this very profound “artha” remains. In other words, when a yogi focuses on an object in this way he or she sees only the essential meaning behind life. The only thing seen in this state of consciousness is the underlying how and why things happen from the most profound, fundamental perspective. No sense impressions interfere with this pure communion of “artha” or “purpose.” The yogi is completely alone with an understanding of why everything IS.

This interpretation of “artha” is also supported by the use of this word in the prior sutra 42. There Patanjali listed 4 Sanskrt terms that, he said, get mixed together in the “savitarka samapatti.” These four terms are “sabda,” “artha,” “jnana” and “vikalpa.” They refer to the four components of experiencing an object: its name, its functional purpose, observational facts about its form and inferential guesswork connected to its potential and future life. Of these four, only “artha,” purpose, remains in “nirvitarka samapatti.”

As Sadhakas writes, “the ultimate purpose [of Yoga] is for one to know life, to understand this world and see through its limitations. We require a tremendous capacity to know it fully.” For Patanjali then “artha” refers to that full knowledge in sutra 28, 42, 43 and in sutra 49 which we shall look at in a future post. The fact that this understanding of the word “artha” fits all the sutras in which Patanjali uses it is a sign that we are on the right track.

 

 

 

Book 1, Sutra 42: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“WITH SAVITARKA SAMAPATTI, THE OBJECT’S NAME, THE MEANING BEHIND THE NAME AND ALL OTHER INFORMATION CONNECTED TO THAT OBJECT ARE BLENDED TOGETHER SEEMLESSLY.”

 

In this sutra Patanjali continues to describe “samapatti,” or the state of cognitive blending analogously described by the clear crystal in the last sutra. Here he adds 5 Sanskrt terms: “sabda,” “artha,” “jnana,” “vikalpa,” and “savitarka.” Roughly translated these terms mean “name,” “meaning,” “factual knowledge,” “conceptualization” and “sensorially based perception.” Translations differ somewhat on how Patanjali intended these 5 terms to relate to each other and to “samapatti.” Some translators wrote that the first 4 terms are blended together to get a new version of “samapatti” called “savitarka samapatti.”

I don’t think the “samapatti” described in this sutra is a “new” one that differs from the “samapatti” of the last sutra but I do admit that the following sutras will describe further refinement of “samapatti.” For now, Patanjali is simply giving us more information about the cognitive blending called “samapatti.” Just as the last sutra stated that it was a blending of experiencer, experience and the process of experiencing itself, in this sutra Patanjali describes it as a blending of the theoretical knowledge of an object (name, meaning, inferences, references, etc.) with the sensual knowledge of that object. We can call this “savitarka samapatti,” or “samapatti with sensation” in order to distinguish it from the higher or more refined “nirvitarka samapatti” or “samapatti without sensation” that Patanjali will describe next.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Book 1, Sutra 40: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“WITH A CONCENTRATED, UNDISTRACTED MIND COMES MASTERY OVER EVERYTHING FROM THE SMALLEST PARTICLE TO THE UNIVERSE AS A WHOLE.”

 

In the sutras of Book 3, Patanjali will focus on developing “siddhis,” or super powers. In this sutra he indicates them with a broad wave of his hand, vaguely saying that everything, from the smallest to the largest thing, comes under the sovereignty of one who has reached an undistracted mental state. He doesn’t give us any more detail in this sutra about what kind of power he is referring to but by looking ahead to book 3 we can make guesses. In book 3 Patanjali mentions the ability to know extensive facts about a wide variety of objects so we can guess that this sutra also indicates to a broad range of knowledge about the physical world. In book 3 Patanjali also talks about the yogi’s ability to travel in super human ways so we can guess that this sutra also indicates an ability to move around the universe quite easily, on the smallest scales as well as on the largest ones.

In book 3, Patanjali talks about the “siddhis” but also warns that they are obstacles to the yogi on his or her path to complete realization. We can assume that is because having super powers can actually increase the busy-ness of the mind and that is opposite to the goals Patanjali stated in the beginning of book 1. He doesn’t warn us about the super powers, like the one mentioned in this sutra, in book 1 however, probably because he is mentioning them only cursorily. Mentioning the super powers here, he is making sure that the instructions of book 1 contain the fruits of the other books as well. In other words, Patanjali is telling us that, although each of the four books of his Yoga Sutra contain different descriptions of yogic practices, they are all really leading to the same place and will all eventually produce the same (fantastic) results.

 

 

 

 

Book 1, Sutra 39: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“OR THE MIND CAN BE STEADIED BY FOCUSING ON ANY OBJECT OR PRINCIPLE THAT IS APPEALING.”

 

Patanjali listed the obstacles that can create distraction in the mind of the yogic practitioner in sutras 30-31. In sutra 32 he recommended that we apply a single antidote to any obstacle that might arise. Sutras 33-39 list examples of such antidote practices.

Is Patanjali telling us in this sutra to meditate on whatever we like (whatever “pleases us and brings calmness to the mind” according to Brahmananda Saraswati) and it will work to calm our minds? Or are there certain objects and principles that will work (“are suitable”) and ones that aren’t?

“It is immaterial what one takes for [the object of meditation]. . . . whatever [thing] is agreeable. An aspirant should choose for himself that object on which he can concentrate his mind” according to Satyananda Saraswati.

But Iyengar says that the object of meditation must be “an object conducive to meditation; not one which is externally pleasing but auspicious and spiritually uplifting. Practicing this simple method of one-pointed attention, the sadhaka gradually develops the art of contemplation.” Sadhakas also finds a middle ground: “An object which appeals to one and helps in concentration may be selected.” Swami Satchidanananda also says “anything that one chooses that is elevating” is okay.

Technically speaking the Sanskrt of this sutra, “Yathabhimata dhyanad va,” does not contain any restrictions. Literally it could be read as “concentrate on whatever you like.” I expect that we will come back to this sutra in future sections of Patanjali’s Sutra where concentration on various objects is explained further.

 

 

 

 

Book 1, Sutra 38: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“OR THE MIND CAN BE STEADIED BY FOCUSING ON KNOWLEDGE OR EXPERIENCE GAINED WHILE SLEEPING.”

 

Patanjali listed the obstacles that can create distraction in the mind of the yogic practitioner in sutras 30-31. In sutra 32 he recommended that we apply a single antidote to any obstacle that might arise. Sutras 33-39 list examples of such antidote practices.

Translators and commentators differ on exactly what Patanjali is referring to here. He doesn’t give us a lot of instructions on how to use this tool to steady the mind. The assumption must be that a competent teacher would provide the details.

Brahmananda Saraswati suggests that this is “self-analysis through dream analysis and analysis of deep sleep.” Vishnudevananda says “Many times the Truth is revealed by the superconscious during sleep. . . . if that knowledge is meditated on consciously, great progress can be made upon the path.” Satyananda Saraswati says “The mind can be controlled by developing the method of conscious dreaming and conscious sleeping. . . . There is a method of seeing dreams consciously, but it is dangerous and only a few can practice it. . . . It is meant only for people who are psychic.”

Nambiar combines this sutra with the last one: “Meditate on the dream experience of a holy personality or a divine symbol to stabilize the mind.” Shearer says that it’s about “witnessing the processing of dreaming or dreamless sleep.”

 

 

 

 

Book 1, Sutra 37: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“OR THE MIND CAN BE STEADIED BY FOCUSING ON SOMEONE WHO IS ALREADY FREE FROM ALL DESIRES.”

 

Patanjali listed the obstacles that can create distraction in the mind of the yogic practitioner in sutras 30-31. In sutra 32 he recommended that we apply a single antidote to any obstacle that might arise. Sutras 33-39 list examples of such antidote practices.

There are other Hindu scriptures that extol the benefits of being around a realized soul. The Buddha taught that there is no greater blessing in the world than to have elevated or enlightened friends. But this sutra is interesting in that it is suggesting a mental focus rather than a physical proximity to a “saint” or holy person.

The benefits of mentally focusing on a saint and physically being near one can be hard to explain. They seem to be magical and/or mystical. Many people within the worldwide yoga community have experienced such blessings. The good news that Patanjali is sharing here, however, is that we don’t need to find such a person and get close to them. We can simply focus our minds on one of them in order to receive a stilling/calming effect.

What does it mean to focus our mind on a saint? I suggest it could be described as a meditative obsession. In other words, one might need to read about the life of such a person, hear recordings of such a person and maybe even get a picture of such a person to look at. Of course, meeting such a person directly would also be helpful. These might be tools for building an intense mental fixation or focus on the saint. Patanjali says that such a focus can bring us instantaneous benefits when faced with an obstacle that threatens to distract us from yoga. When we feel lust or depression coming on we can instantly think of “our” saint, picturing him or her in our mind, and receive a flood of cooling, calming energy pouring over us.

 

 

 

 

Book 1, Sutra 36: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“OR THE MIND CAN BE STEADIED AND OBSTACLES OVERCOME BY CONCENTRATING ON A PURE JOYOUS INNER LUMINOSITY.”

 

Patanjali listed the obstacles that can create distraction in the mind of the yogic practitioner in sutras 30-31. In sutra 32 he recommended that we apply a single antidote to any obstacle that might arise. Sutras 33-39 list examples of such antidote practices. This sutra recommends an absorbtion into what is called “sattva” in Ayurveda (the traditional system of medicine within India). It is pure light and pure joy, without any specific form or thought attached.

Just as Patanjali recommended “faking it till you make it” in regards to devotion towards God in sutra 28, here he recommends overcoming depression by faking a pure inner joy. And the technique involved is simply picturing a limitless source of soothing, happy light.

I don’t agree with some of the translators’ tendencies to identify technical terms and then ascribe complex characteristics to them. This sutra is case in point. Instead of admitting that this sutra is simple, some translators take the Sanskrt, “Vishokha Jyotismati” and say “this is a technical term.” They then add details like “envisioning the lotus chakra of the heart center” or “at the third eye center” (BrahmanandaSaraswati). These additional details may be helpful for some but confounding for others. Strictly speaking, they are not in Patanjali’s sutra. With this sutra, simpler is better. Just concentrate (by faking it if necessary) on an infinite light within that is purely happy. Don’t add additional thoughts or details but do let them fade away in the presence of such beautiful light, if they do arise.

Iyengar writes “The effort of stilling and silencing the mind brings forth the sorrowless effulgent light of the soul.” This is the opposite of what Patanjali is writing here. It is not our efforts to still the mind that produce the sorrowless light but the reverse. Patanjali is enumerating techniques that can produce stillness in the mind. Stillness of the mind is the goal and not the vision of infinite joyous light.

 

 

 

 

High vibration music video

http://www.patreon.com/posts/4511871

A delight from a fountain of musical delight: Janapriya.