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Book 1, Sutra 50: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“THE ‘SAMSKARA’ CREATED BY THIS NEW WISDOM STOPS THE CREATION OF ANY OTHER TYPE OF ‘SAMSKARAS.'”

 

I have retained the Sanskrt word, “samskara,” here because of its complexity. “Samskaras” are commonly translated as “subliminal activators or residual impressions.” Simply stated, they are the latent tendencies that support our habits, which are themselves created by past actions. This gets even more complicated because “samskaras” are also inherited from past lives. So we are born with certain “samskaras” and we are constantly creating new ones in our lives. The old ones surface to create impulses to act in certain habitual ways. Those old ones then get exhausted but identical new ones are created by our re-enactment of past habits.

“Samskaras” imprison us within the wheel of rebirth. In other words, the latent tendencies and impulses that we die with lead to being born again. Although Patanjali has not told us that yoga is concerned with ending the cycle of rebirth we can logically connect “samskaras” to “vrttis” or disturbances of the mind. Later in book 4, sutras 8 & 9, Patanjali will talk more about “samskaras” and connect them to “vasanas.” Either way, it is certain that within Patanjali’s system “samskaras” must come to an end in order to reach the highest level of samadhi, as he will describe in the final sutra 51.

The wisdom born of samadhi causes these latent and unconscious tendencies and orientations to dissipate. Under the influence of this wisdom, we see only the underlying purpose or meaning to life and its objects. Seeing only the central purpose of life, the yogi is therefore not paying attention to anything else and so becomes naturally detached, “vairagyam.”

As Patanjali says in sutra 12, it is “vairagyabhyam” which causes the ending of mental disturbances, “citta vrtti nirodhah.” So the “prajna” of samadhi therefore generates an ever increasing “vairagya.” This is why the realization of “nirvicara samapatti,” the state of meditation in which this greater wisdom (which the Buddha calls “prajnaparamita”) arises, is the end of any effort that the yogi has to put forth. After that wisdom arises it has a life of its own, naturally terminating existing “samskaras” with its own “samskara.” And in the next sutra, Patanjali will tell us that this final “samskara” of the wisdom itself ends on its own naturally, completely freeing the mind of the yogi. Then the yogi has reached “nirbijah samadhi” which Patanjali will describe in the next, the final, sutra of book 1.

 

 

 

Book 1, Sutra 46: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

“THESE STATES OF SAMAPATTI CAN BE CALLED ‘SABIJAH SAMADHI,’ OR SAMADHI WITH SEED.”

 

Samadhi with seed is the state of complete stillness that is still anchored to a center, or a seed. It is not yet a completely liberated mind. It still has a reference point and so, assumably, is still subject to the possibility of being disturbed or distracted. In samadhi with seed we have yet to reach a state that is beyond the possibility of being either disturbed (conforming to the “vrtti,” as sutra 4 describes) or distracted (“viksepah” from sutra 30). In other words, at that point none of the potential distractions listed in sutra 30 could possibly lead to any negative states listed in sutra 31. That is, such a yogi could never fall into a state of depression, pain or anxiety due to the occurrence of sickness, apathy, indecision, heedlessness (lack of mental focus to do the work), laziness, lust, wrong ideas or a perceived failure of any type. Even if these obstacles did arise the mind of the yogi could not waver. That is the goal of “yogas citta vrtti nirodhah.”

At this point, with sabijah samadhi, the yogi is almost there. His or her concentration is established and correct, focusing only on the underlying purpose of both objects existing and their related thoughts. But that concentration is still dependent on a center and so is not yet unassailable.

This book 1 of the Yoga Sutras is entitled “On Samadhi” but it is only now, at sutra 46, that we have reached the beginning of the description of “samadhi.” Only one earlier sutra (20) even mentions the word, itself. So we have been building up to the goal of yoga so far with the sutras. But it is important to remember that “samadhi,” although it is now a widely recognized word socially, is not the end goal of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. He first mentions “samadhi” in sutra 20 as ONE of the necessary components of the goal. In sutra 20 Patanjali told us that faith, energy, a purified memory, “samadhi,” and profound wisdom (“prajna”) lead us to the goal of yoga.

For this reason, and a few others I will go into later, I doubt that the individual chapter titles are part of Patanjali’s original text. I believe that they were added later in order to make the text easier to digest and understand. They are simplifications of the topics covered but they are not entirely accurate.

 

 

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 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.