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Patanjali’s Two Types of Samadhi

Siva in samadhiSutras 17 and 18 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

17. Samprajñata Samadhi is that which is accompanied by reasoning, reflection, bliss and sense of pure being.

Samprajñata samadhi, also known as savikalpa samadhi, is defined by A Brief Sanskrit Glossary as:

“State of superconsciousness, with the triad of meditator, meditation and the meditated; lesser samadhi; cognitive samadhi; samadhi of wisdom; meditation with limited external awareness. Savikalpa samadhi.”

It is a kind of superconscious bridge between relative and absolute consciousness, partaking of both, but neither exclusively. Its distinctive qualities are:

  1. The capacity for vitarka–thought and reasoning with sense perception.
  2. The capacity for vichara–subtle thought and reflection.
  3. Experience of bliss (ananda).
  4. Experience of the sense of “I am,” “I exist,” the sense of individuality of being (asmita).

Vyasa and Shankara consider this sutra as a list of ascending forms of lesser samadhi. Vyasa sums it up:

“Of these the first samadhi–with verbal associations, vitarka–is associated with all four [forms]. The second–with subtle associations, vichara–is without the verbal associations of the first. The third–with associations of bliss, ananda–is without the subtle associations of the second. The fourth, being pure I-am, is without the association of bliss. All these samadhis rest on an object.”

Shankara explains regarding this:

“In this sequence of four, an earlier one is associated with the qualities of all the later ones, and a later one is without the qualities of any earlier one.”

18. The remnant impression left in the mind on the dropping of the Pratyaya after previous practice is the other [i.e., Asamprajñata Samadhi].

There are two forms of samadhi: samprajñata and asamprajñata. Samprajñata samadhi is characterized by the four qualities listed in the last sutra.

When those four are also removed by further practice, then the state of asamprajñata is reached. Jnaneshvara Bharati puts it very well and completely:

“The other kind of samadhi is asamprajñata samadhi, and has no object in which attention is absorbed, where only latent impressions [samskaras] remain; attainment of this state is preceded by the constant practice of allowing all of the gross and subtle fluctuations of mind [vrittis] to recede back back into the field from which they arose.”

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