Chapter 1 – Concentration/Samadhi Pada – Part 16
Types of Engrossments, cont. – Yoga Sutras (1.44-1.46)
Overview: Savichara and Nirvitarka Samadhis (engrossments) are similar the two previous Samadhis, except they are more subtle. The objects can be so subtle that they are undefinable by words. All these Samadhis are with seed, which means that they are not yet completely free from conditioned thoughts and cannot be sustained indefinitely.
On to the sutras …
Yoga Sutra (1.44) – etaya eva savichara nirvichara cha sukshma-vishaya vyakhyata. Etaya means by this or by these. Eva is also. savichara means investigation accompanied by subtle thoughts (sa = with, vichara = subtle thoughts). Nirvichara is investigation devoid of subtle thoughts (nir = without, vichara = subtle thoughts). Chais and. Sukshma means subtle. Vishaya is objects. Vyakhyata means explained, described or defined.
Translated this means – In the same way, these adsorptions (engrossments) are characterized by gross objects (savitarka samapattih), and by subtle objects (nirvichara samapattih), and are known as savichara and nirvichara samapattih (Samadhi).
In this sutra, Patanjali refers to his discussion of savitarka and nirvitarka samadhi described in the two previous sutras (1.42 – 1.43) as he distinguishes the deeper types of concentration (savichara and nirvichara samadhi). To understand the distinction between these, we must think about the differences between “gross objects” and “subtle objects” of concentration as defined through traditional yoga philosophy.
When practicing this sutra, each of the subtle objects is to be encountered, examined, and understood, with an attitude of non-attachment. They are to be considered “not-self.” As these obstacles are removed, the student advances closer to the goal, which is the realization of the Higher Self.
Yoga Sutra (1.45) – sukshma vishayatvam cha alinga paryavasanam. Sukshma is subtle. Vishayatvam means object or having as objects. Cha is and. Alinga means without characteristics, undefined or unmanifest. Paryavasanam is extending up to or ending at.
Translated this becomes – Having such subtle objects extends all the way up to un-manifest prakriti.
Swami Satchidananda says of this sutra “… the mind has the power to go to the very root of the un-manifested nature.” Which begs the question – what is this “un-manifested nature?” Christopher Isherwood describes it as “Prakriti…the elemental, undifferentiated stuff of matter; the energy by which all phenomena are projected,” and he says that “as the meditative mind turns inward, it probes through the gross outer coverings of things to their subtle essences …”
Yoga Sutra (1.46) – tah eva sabijah samadhih. Tah is these, those or they. Eva means only. Sabijah means with seed, seeded. Samadhih (from Samadhi) deep absorption in meditation, ecstasy.
This sutra is translated to mean – These four previously mentioned varieties of absorption (engrossment) are the only types of Samadhis (concentrations) which are objective, and have a seed for an object.
These represent the only four types of meditation on an object regardless of the school/system of meditation that is practiced. This sutra summarizes the previous four:
- Savitarka samapattih with gross thoughts (sutra 1.42)
- Nirvitarka samapattih without gross thoughts (sutra 1.43)
- Savitarka samapattih with subtle thoughts (sutra 1.44)
- Nirvitarka samapattih without subtle thoughts (sutra 1.45)
Patanjali insists that most people are unaware of things such as desire and aversion constantly shaping their subconscious minds, affecting every thought and action. Those who are dedicated and have seriously committed to yoga practice may become aware of these inner stumbling blocks. Thus, gaining an opportunity to check these forces before they arise into action or sustaining belief in them.
With meditation, these underlying “seeds” may constantly pull us back from both the process and object of our focus. Plus, this may continue until we reach a level of contemplation that allows our most basic inner nature (the “Self”) to become fully realized.
Until we reach that level, Patanjali says that we will only reach a temporary union with anything nearing the truth. Our ego-based self-identity will constantly draw us back into the whirlwind of thoughts springing up from our subconscious conditioning. To overcome this “sliding back,” persistence, practice, and patience are all necessary.
Next in this series, Part 17, “Gaining Knowledge – Higher Truths” – Yoga Sutras (1.47-1.48)