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What Happens to the Yogi in Samadhi?

smiling buddha in samadhiSutras 40 through 46 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

  • Sutra 1:40. His mastery extends from the finest atom to the greatest infinity.

This is not as big a leap as it seems, for it does not mean that after the preceding steps the yogi is master of the cosmos, from smallest to largest. Rather, it is speaking of the range of the yogi’s awareness/concentration. The adept yogi can attune his awareness to perceive the smallest or most subtle objects and also direct his awareness to encompass that which is not only the largest, but also That Which is Infinite. In other words, there is no limitation to his awareness–under the direction of his will.

  • Sutra 1:41. In the case of one whose Chitta-­Vrttis have been almost annihilated, fusion or entire absorption in one another of the cognizer, cognition and cognized is brought about as in the case of a transparent jewel (resting on a colored surface).

The precision of Patanjali is to be noticed and admired. He could have said that the fusion takes place when the modifications of the chitta have ceased, but that is not accurate. The fusion can occur when the modifications have almost come to an end. There is no room for inaccuracy or exaggeration in Yoga.

Patanjali is telling us that when the modifications of the mind-substance are almost eliminated, the yogi is able to completely unite his awareness to his own Self as the knower, the very process and instruments of knowing, and any object that he is perceiving. The Buddhists call this “penetration.”

  • Sutra 1:42. Savitarka Samadhi is that in which knowledge based only on words, real knowledge and ordinary knowledge based on sense perception or reasoning are present in a mixed state and the mind alternates between them.

In A Brief Sanskrit Glossary, vitarka is defined as: “Thought; reasoning; cogitation with sense perception; discussion; debate; logical argument.”

Savitarka Samadhi is the state of union with an object in which the yogi is able to conceptualize and intellectually define what he is perceiving. He is able to internally analyze and recognize what he perceives. Basically, he can still “think” in that state, though it may not be in the usual internal verbalization which we usually mean by “thinking.” In Savitarka Samadhi there is not pure, direct Knowing that is a divine quality. Rather it is a mixture of intellection and direct perception. However it is the step before Nirvitarka Samadhi, and its attainment assures the yogi that he is approaching the summit of Kailash.

  • Sutra 1:43. On the clarification of memory [smriti], when the mind loses its essential nature [swarupa], as it were, and the real knowledge of the object alone shines (through the mind) Nirvitarka Samadhi is attained.

Nirvitarka Samadhi is the state of union with an object in which remembrance of their names and qualities is not present. That is, the mind ceases to be either a perceiver through the outer senses or a thinker in either words or concepts, and becomes so perfect a knower that no distinction can be found in knowing, knower, or known. This is a state of perfect (total) unity in which outer and inner, object and subject, simply no longer exist–literally. I do not mean they are not present, I mean they are no more in the absolute sense.

  • Sutra 1:44. By this (what has been said in the two previous Sutras) Samadhis of Savichara, Nirvichara and subtler stages (I-17) have also been explained.

Here are the definitions given in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary:

Savichara samadhi: A stage in samadhi wherein the mind (chitta) is identified with some subtle object and assumes its form, being aware of what it is and capable of analyzing it by means of the purified buddhi; with deliberation and reasoning or inquiry.

Nirvichara samadhi: A stage in samadhi wherein the mind (chitta) no longer identified with a subtle object or assumes its form, simply resting in perception without analytical awareness of its nature by means of the buddhi, whose operation has become completely suspended so that only pure awareness remains; without deliberation and reasoning or inquiry.

Nevertheless, only an adept yogi really knows what Patanjali is talking about.

  • Sutra 1:45. The province of Samadhi concerned with subtle objects extends up to the Alinga stage of the Gunas.

In meditation, consciousness is the ultimate object, but our perceptions need to pass through the intervening veils of subtle vibrations between our higher mind, the buddhi, and Consciousness itself. Consequently, even though right from the beginning we should be at least dimly aware of the principle of Consciousness, nevertheless, we will start to experience the subtle elements (bhutas), the subtle energies of our inner makeup.

If the meditation is proceeding as it should, we experience increasingly subtle elements while at the same time our awareness of Awareness steadily increases. This is the savichara samadhi Patanjali is talking about. Eventually the original state of pradhana (prakriti) is experienced that is beyond the point of differentiation of the three gunas. This is the highest point of savichara samadhi. “Alinga” means: without any attribute, characteristic or mark, and in this sutra refers to the undifferentiated prakriti.

Just as the buddhi borders on the Self and reflects the Self, so is this state of samadhi. It is at the apex of experiencing subtle vibration with profoundly experiencing Consciousness, for Vyasa says: “There is nothing more subtle beyond pradhana.”

  • Sutra 1:46. They (stages corresponding to subtle objects) constitute only Samadhi with ‘seed’.

Sabija, “with seed,” means that which possesses attributes, and produces samskaras or subtle karmas in the experiencer. Sabija samadhi is Savikalpa samadhi wherein the seeds of samskaras or karmas are not destroyed, and which produces the highest and subtlest of samskaras or karmas.

Next Sutras: The “Dawning of the Spiritual Light” in Samadhi

Previous Sutras: Seven Ways to Purify the Mind, Part 2

Further Reading: How to Be a Yogi, a book on living the spiritual life.

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