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The Four Qualities Necessary for Samadhi

yogi-silhouette in samadhiSutra 20 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

20. [In the case] of others [upaya-pratyaya yogis] it is preceded by faith [shraddha], energy [virya], memory [smriti] and high intelligence [samadhi-prajña] necessary for Samadhi.

Upaya-pratyaya yogis are those that have followed the traditional sequence of yogic practices and disciplines. Their attainments are directly related to–a result of–specific methods. They have not arisen “out of the blue” but have a firm, known basis.

Blavatsky often warned her students to not put faith in “natural” psychics who had either been born psychic or had suddenly, spontaneously become psychic. She explained that such persons have no real control over and understanding of their abilities. Further, their abilities could lessen or disappear as mysteriously as they appeared. Instead she advised them to only consult and have faith in “developed” psychics–those who had become psychic by following specific disciplines and who could keep themselves up to the optimum level through those practices.

The superconscious experience of authentic yogis is preceded and produced by:

  1. Shraddha–the faith, confidence, or assurance that arises from personal experience. It can also be based on developed intuition. It may even be faith in a teacher who has been perceived to be trustworthy–faith that stimulates the yogis to practice faithfully. Shraddha can be a factor behind perseverance in yoga practice.
  2. Virya is strength, power, energy, and courage. Obviously all are needed to initiate and maintain yoga sadhana unto its fruition.
  3. Smriti is memory or recollection. In this context it means a constant awareness of divine realities, a continual keeping in mind the principles of spiritual life and especially remembering to maintain constant mental practices such as mantra japa.
  4. Samadhi-prajna is an interesting hybrid term. Prajna is basically consciousness, but it is also intelligent awareness or wisdom, and even intelligence itself. Samadhi-prajna is all this, but it has been produced by samadhi–including the basic spiritual opening states that lead up to full-blown samadhi. Ordinary prajna can be possessed by anyone who has a developed brain and nervous system, but samadhi-prajna is rooted in spirit-consciousness–spirit-intelligence.

Becoming special people

I think we can conclude that samadhi is only attained by special people possessing markedly special qualities and abilities. Fortunately, we can all be such special persons, for that is our potential and our destiny. But we must work at it untiringly and constantly. Yogis do not go on vacations any more than God does. “Full steam ahead” is the way.

Vyasa encapsulates it perfectly: “The samadhi resulting from a means [i.e., practice] is for yogis. Faith is a settled clarity of the mind: like a good mother, it protects a yogi. When he has that faith, and is seeking knowledge, there arises in him energy. When energy has arisen in him, his memory stands firm. When memory stands firm, his mind is undisturbed and becomes concentrated in samadhi. To the mind in samadhi comes knowledge by which he knows things as they really are. From practice of these means, and from detachment from the whole field of mental process, arises asamprajñata samadhi.”

Then Vyasa writes a kind of preface or introduction for the next sutra:

“Yogis are of nine kinds, according to the methods which they follow, either mild or moderate or intense, and then subdivided according to the energy–mild, moderate or intense–with which they practice these respective methods. A mild method may be practiced with mild or moderate or ardent energy, and so with the moderate method. Of those who practice intense methods,…”

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