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The Final Stages of Samadhi

dawning of the spiritual lightSutras 49 through 51 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

  • Sutra 49. The knowledge based on inference or testimony is different from direct knowledge obtained in the higher states of consciousness (I-48) because it is confined to a particular object (or aspect).

That is, such knowledge is only relative and limited to one object at a time, whereas the knowing in samadhi is absolute, unlimited, and all-inclusive, for Brahman is described as “That which when known, all becomes known.”

  • Sutra 50. The impression produced by it (Sabija Samadhi) stands in the way of other impressions.

Vyasa explains this perfectly, saying: “The samskara produced by truth-bearing knowledge removes the accumulated deposit of samskaras of extraversion. When the extravertive samskaras are overcome, no ideas arising from them appear. With inhibition of extravertive ideas, samadhi becomes habitual. Then there is knowledge from that samadhi; from that, more samskaras are laid down of knowledge, and so a fresh deposit of samskaras is built up. From that again knowledge, and from that more samskaras of it.” Shankara expands on this, commenting: ”Knowledge must set up a samskara. Each time the knowledge is renewed, its special samskara is reinforced. But the renewal of the knowledge is from again taking up meditation on the object, different from itself. It can do this because it is produced by a different object, namely the thing as it really is [yathartha].”

The samskaras produced by sabija samadhi erase the samskaras of ignorance. Vyasa explains this, continuing: “Why would not this new accumulation of samskaras draw the mind into involvement with it? It is because samskaras of knowledge cause the destruction of the taints [kleshas], and so do not constitute anything that would involve the mind. In fact they make the mind cease its activity, for the exertions of mind come to an end in knowledge [khyati].”

This may seem technical, but it is an absolutely practical analysis, for Patanjali intends for us to compare what he says with our meditation experiences and thereby know whether or not we are truly progressing toward enlightenment. In the same way the Bhagavad Gita describes the state of mind of a liberated person in such a way that only the yogi can know whether or not he is in that state. No one can cite the Gita to prove to others that he is liberated–he alone can know the truth of the matter. Both the Gita and the Yoga Darshan are practical manuals of higher consciousness.

  • Sutra 51. On suppression of even that owing to suppression of all (modifications of the mind) ‘Seedless’ [nirbija] Samadhi (is attained).

From sabija samadhi the yogi passes on to nirbija samadhi, the final step in the liberation of his consciousness. This produces no samskaras and dissolves the samskaras accumulated from sabija samadhi. Vyasa: “Thus the samskaras do not cause the mind to continue to exist, but prevent its involvement with anything. The mind, no longer involved, ceased to exists, along with the samskaras which have promoted release. When mind ceases, Purusha abides in his own nature alone, and is therefore called pure, alone, and released.”

The section on samadhi (samadhi pada) is now completed.

Next Wednesday we will post the last of three podcasts by Abbot George Burke about his memories of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, founder of the Divine Life Society and Sivanandashram. Stay tuned! In this podcast, Abbot George tells some stories about disciples of Sivananda and other devotees whom he saw become utterly transformed — testimonies both to the power of satsang and the power of yoga.

Click here to listen to the podcasts Remembering Sivananda, Part 1, and Remembering Sivananda, Part 2

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