yoga sutras – sixth exploration: steady state of mind

“(The mind in the yogic state of Samapatti) is like a pure crystal which reflects the colors of an object brought into its proximity, but which neither receives not retains any stain on its body such as can be seen when the object is moved away from it. And even while reflecting the colors of an adjacent object, it absorbs no stain and remains wholly uninvolved in the colors it reflects.”

This post is an excerpt of the text on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: “The Authentic Yoga” by P.Y. Deshpande, in which he gives an excellent overview from Sutra 4 to Sutra 44. This concise exposition of most of Part I of the Yoga Sutras will require some contemplation on the part of those readers who are not already familiar with the terminology and logic of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, thus it is not a “quick read”, but rather a resource for the earnest student of this path.

rock one

“The inner logic of the Sutras runs as follows:

1. Sutra 2 speaks of citta-vrtti-nirodha and Sutra 4 speaks of vrtti-sarupya. This latter generates a river of conditional consciousness (sansarapragbhara cittanadi) in which men are born, inevitably come to grief, and then pass away.One who becomes aware of this senseless absurdity and the utter meaninglessness of life which it involves, halts for a moment to take stock of this senseless drifting.
In this halting, he perceives the fact that at the root of this senseless drifting lies the choice-making tendency with which man is born, and that this tendency works through built-in likes and dislikes. It is this movement of the choice-making tendency that lands man in the enslaving, confusing and corrupting prison-house of vrtti-sarupya – a home-made world of gratuitous identifications with vrttis.

One who sees this opts in favor of not making choices, and then sees what happens. This negative act of non-choosing, with a view to stepping out of the prison-house of vrrti-sarupya, lands man in the discipline of Yoga.

2. The negative movement started by the negative act of not-choosing, discloses to one’s view the following facts: that vrttis are of two kinds: the painful and the painless; that man tends to accept the painless and reject the painful; that this uncritical acceptance and rejection, out of which vrtti-sarupya is born, lands man in a way of life governed by the five-fold vrttis, and that it is this way of life which forms the nature and the structure of the conditioned psyche through vrrti-sarupya.

Perception of this pattern of vrtti-sarupya as a whole, strengthens one in his resolve to keep on with not-choosing. It is this perceptive resolve that discloses that the continuity of vrttis, or the river of conditioned consciousness, is not a fact but a fiction. The fact is that vrttis are discontinuous; that, if one is attentive enough, one sees that in between two vrttis there comes an interval devoid of any movement of the mind. This is named sthiti or steady state of mind (Sutras 12 – 14). Energetic interest in this sthiti is called abhyasa (Sutra 13.).

3. Abhyasa discloses that the steady state comes, stays awhile, and passes away. This brings to awareness the fact that there must be something within the mind which propels the movement of vrttis, despite one’s having opted for not-choosing. One then discovers that the words and impregnation of past experiences are the two factors, the combined operation of which, constituting a force brought into being by past choice, keeps the river of conditioned consciousness perpetually moving.

This perception brings on a state of total disillusionment (vairagya) regarding words and experiences. One therefore resolves not to have anything to do with them, and to stay on in a steady state devoid of or uninfluenced by words and experiences. This perception discloses an altogether new world in which the mind moves on without the help of words and experiences. This is called the world of vasikara vairagya.

4. The word vasikara is derived from the root vas turning to vasi, combined with the root kr. The dynamic combination of these two verbs means: ‘to subdue, overcome, win over’. Vairagya, which negates the obsessive influence of words and experiences, brings into being a positive inner movement which goes on subduing and overcoming the past-propelled movement of vrttis which repeatedly disturbs the steady state of mind. This subduing and overcoming of the enslaving power of words and experiences results in negating the impregnations on the brain cells and the mind. And as these past impregnations (smrti-samskara) wear out and become inoperative, the mind becomes free, pure and crystal clear.

The walls around it, built up by past impregnations, crumble down, along with all the accumulated rubbish and, therefore, the mind as it were spreads out and extends, as though it has no barriers or frontiers. It is such a free, pure and crystal clear mind that has an inherent power of penetrating into the innermost recesses of the psychosomatic organism of man, on the one hand, and the objective world extending up to the boundless skies, on the other.

Norway Rocks by Darius

Norway Rocks by Darius

5. Sutra 40 describes the vasikara power of ‘mind-in-vairagya’. It states that the steady state of mind, now cleansed of all the rubbish of past impregnations, acquires such a mighty sweep that it ranges from the tiniest particles of the body to the vastness of galaxies in the boundless skies. The process by which such a sweeping, penetrating and expanding power comes about is explained in Sutra 41.

Sutra 41 states that, as a result of the power of the vasikara movement, mind becomes pure and crystal clear. And, just as a pure crystal reflects the colors of objects brought in to its proximity, so also the mind, now becomes pure and clear, reflects the colors of the subtle interaction between man and the objective world. This interaction constantly goes on through the senses, although man caught up in vrtti-sarupya remains insensitive to it.

Purity and clarity, which vasikara vairagya brings about, make the mind extraordinarily sensitive to everything that takes place within and without, every moment. Such a mind, therefore, reflects the ‘receiver’, the ‘received’ and the ‘instrument of receiving’, the senses – the combined operation of which keep man in constant interaction with the world in which he finds his being.

This extraordinarily reflective and highly sensitive state of mind is named as Samapatti in Sutra 41. Samapatti means ‘meeting, encountering’. The entity called ‘Man’ and the entity called the ‘world’, inclusive of man, meet and encounter each other on the ground called citta or the mind. There is no man without mind; and there is no choice-making mind without man. Man and the world meet each other through the senses on the ground of mind. Here they react with or respond to each other. The build-in choice-making tendency of man disturbs, distorts and turns topsy-turvy the natural order of things. This generates inner tensions which seek outward expression. In Part II we find what the Yoga Sutras have to say on this matter. For the present we are concerned with the broad outlines of Yoga and Samadhi.

We have so far traveled from (a) cittavrttinirodha to sthiti; (b) from sthiti to vairagya; and (c) from the vasikara power of vairagya to Samapatti – the reflecting state. Sutras 42 to 45 tell us that this Samapatti state of mind flowers into four kinds of Samadhi, all of which fall under the category of sabiya Samadhi (Sutra 46).

There is one more important point which has to be noted in connection with Samapatti, the reflecting state. Mind in this state not only reflects everything that goes on as a result of the constant interaction between man and the world, but it also remains totally unsullied by what it reflects. It is like a pure crystal which reflects the colors of an object brought into its proximity, but which neither receives not retains any stain on its body such as can be seen when the object is moved away from it. And even while reflecting the colors of an adjacent object, it absorbs no stain and remains wholly uninvolved in the colors it reflects. Mind in Samapatti behaves exactly like this. It reflects everything, within and without, but remains totally uncontaminated by such reflections.

clear quartz crystal2

This is in sharp contradiction with the vrttisarupya state. In this latter state of mind, for a split second, it reflects the colors, but immediately gets identified with the choices made in respect of them. It therefore reflects nothing because the dirt of identification destroys its reflectivity and renders it insensitive to ‘what is’. The exact opposite of this is the case with the Samapatti state. Samapatti is thus a state of total transformation, of the vrtti-sarupya state. Because of this transformation, whatever now enters into the crystal clear mind undergoes transformation by the very power of pure perception.

Sutra 42 speaks of the first transformation that comes about. This is named as savitartka Samapatti. In this kind of Samapatti one sees the operation of words, their meanings and the knowledge they impart, along with the confusion that results through their intermixture. In this perception, each of these three factors, along with their specific functions, is seen as distinct from the other two. Because of the very clear perception of these distinctions there is no room for confusion, which is invariably born of the mixing up of these three factors with each other.

It is such confusion that leads to mistaking words for their meaning, and vice versa. And since knowledge is nothing but a process of recognition of things through words and their conventional meanings, it also becomes a bewildering mess of confusion, full of inner and unnoticed contradictions. Again, since knowledge is always of the past, and thus a built-in-reaction to present perception, it is invariably tied up with words and their fixed meanings based on the impregnations of past experiences.

All this chaos and confusion is seen through and transcended in savitartka Samapatti. This is called savitartka because all knowledge obtained through words and their conventional meanings is basically inferential. Tarka means inference. And inference needs a referent embedded in the memory apparatus. The influence which this inferential knowledge exercises on the minds of men all over the world is so colossal, and the social prestige it enjoys is so awful, that man’s enslavement to it seems almost irremediable. Savitarka Samapatti liberates man from this stupefying enslavement.

Having seen through the nature and structure of inferential knowledge, one gets liberated from its tentacles. This freedom from inferential knowledge brings on a state of mind which is named as nirvitarka SamapattiSamapatti devoid of tarka and inferential knowledge (Sutra 43). This is brought about by a process of negating all word-generated memory impregnations, on the basis of which the operation and recognition and inference generally works. The mind is cleansed of all past impregnations, and the vessel of memory emptied of them, acquires a purity and clarity in which not recognition but pure perception prevails. In this state all inferential knowledge, along with words and their conventional meanings is seen as an impediment to direct perception of truth, or of things as they are.

Rock Formations on Return from Blue City

Sutra 44 speaks of savicara and nirvicara Samapatti. When one is free from the tentacles of inferential knowledge, one begins to see things as they are in their existential radiance, without the agency of words and their conventional meanings. One then finds oneself in a state of free inquiry, an investigative thought process, which is vicara. This is distinct from all inferential processes.

In fact these latter have no place in vicara or free inquiry. In free inquiry one just observes what it, and never comes to any conclusion. Because to get caught up in conclusions, which necessarily involves choosing and inference, is to go back to confusion and chaos. One therefore stays in a state of alert attention and just sees things as they are in their existential authenticity. Such pure seeing reveals the subtle elements which underlie things in their natural interaction with each other.

Sensitivity is now so sharp and so penetrating that things and their subtle movements which have never been seen before, are now perceived as though in the light of their inner illumination. This is savicara Samapatti. And when the subtle elements underlying the movement of things are seen, it happens that, just because they are seen as they are, they dissolve into a state of being in which these subtle things lose all marks by which they could be identified. And, as there is now nothing to identify, the movement of vicara comes to an end. This state is called nirvicara Samapatti.

All these four kinds of Samapatti fall under one head, called sabija Samadhi. The question here is: why is this Samadhi associated with a ‘seed’ (bija)? What exactly is indicated by the word bija or seed? How can nirvitarka Samapatti, in which things are seen as they are in their existential radiance, be a product of any seed? And again, how can nivicara Samapatti, in which subtle elements underlying all massive objects are seen to dissolve in a kind of emptiness of space, be said to be associated or supported by any seed?”

The last Sutras of Part I, that I will present in another post, throw some light on these questions.

Related Post:

Yoga Sutras: yoga-a-movement-of-discontinuity


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