Chapter I: Theory of the Mind (Samadhi Pada)

Table of Contents

1.1 – 4    What is yoga?

1.5 – 11  Types of mental movements (Vrittis)

1.12 – 16   Effort and detachment (Abhyasa and Vairagya)

1.17 – 18   Two types of super-consciousness (samadhi)

1.19 – 22  Types of Yogis

1.23 – 26  Devotion to the Divine

1.27 – 29  The primal sound Om

1.30 – 32  Obstacles on the way and how to overcome them

1.33   Attitude towards others

1.34 – 39   Methods of Concentration

1.40 – 41   Mental power and clarity

1.42 – 46   Super-consciousness in connection with objects

1.47 – 51   Super-consciousness beyond imprints

Yoga Sutra 1.1-4 – What is Yoga?

These four verses are considered a summary of the 196 verses and are certainly the most famous verses from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. They provide an initial answer to the question, “What is yoga?”

1.1. “Now the experience of unity (yoga) is explained.” or “Oneness is explained in the now.” or “Yoga (the 'uniting') takes place in the now.”   

1.2. “Yoga is the stilling of the thought waves (movements) in the mind.”

1.3. “Then the seer rests in his true self.” or “Then the true self abides in the knowledge of its own nature.”

1.4. “Otherwise thoughts distort perception.” or “In other states, the mind is identified with its movements.”

Yoga Sutra 1.5-11 – Types of Mental Movements (Vrittis)

In the 2nd part of the first chapter, “Samadhi Pada,” of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains the 5 types of mind waves called Vrittis. Here, he differentiates between five different movements of the mind. Knowing these helps to calm them down. Vrittis are distortions, filters, or veils that obscure one's view of the truth. Vrittis cause karma (actions), and karma then binds the being to material existence. You have to reincarnate again and again until your karma is balanced. This repeated reincarnation due to karma is called 'Samsara'.

1.5. “The five kinds of mental movements can be painful or not.”

1.6. “Correct knowledge, incorrect knowledge, imagination, deep sleep, memory”

So here, Patanjali mentions the five types of thought movements. If we learn to distinguish between the types of movements of the mind, we will take away the power they have over us through the obfuscation of the mind. In the following verses, the 5 Vrittis are discussed in detail.

1.7. “Knowledge is based on what appears before the senses, what arises from thinking, and from what is told.” or “Direct perception (=perception with the senses), one's own conclusions, and competent witness statements (=also knowledge from the scriptures) lead to correct knowledge."

Here, Patanjali mentions the three ways that can lead us to correct knowledge. Direct perception should not be confused with the truth! For example, our observation says that the world is flat unless we have seen it from above. However, from observing the sky and the movements of the celestial bodies, we can conclude that the world has a spherical shape. But our conclusions can also be wrong or deviate from the prevailing truth. Even correct knowledge must ultimately be let go of.

1.8. “Incorrect knowledge confuses something with something else.”

“To err is human” and a natural consequence of perception colored by the Vrittis. Our programs, conditioning, ways of thinking, and ideas are filters or blinders that change perception. Only when we have completely detached ourselves from the movements of the mind can we see what the world is really like.

1.9. “Imagination (imagining something in the mind) or fantasy is a pattern of thought that has verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no such object or reality.”

1.10. “The sluggish state of mind without movements in the mind is called sleep.” or “Deep sleep is the absence of all impressions based on cloudiness.”

Sleep is also considered a thought wave. If this were not the case, we would be in Nirodha, in the thoughtless state of self-realization, while sleeping. Through sleep itself, we achieve no liberation, no salvation. Therefore, sleep is also a vritti, a mental state in which there is no other thought in the mind.

1.11. “Memory arises from past experiences when they have not yet faded.” or “Not being completely deprived of the object of sensation is memory.”

Our subconscious, or what is referred to as chitta in the Antahkarana model (a model that describes the four parts of the mind), sends impulses to the conscious mind almost continuously. It is the job of the subconscious to have memories and associations with the present. The memories are like a constantly running film of chains of associations and colorful images from the past. The mind tends to get lost in these Vrittis. Of course, these memories and experiences are important for functioning well in the world, but here too, it is important to learn to observe.

Yoga Sutra 1.12-16 – Effort and Detachment (Abhyasa and Vairagya)

These two poles of the spiritual path should be integrated into the practice in order to control the mind respectively to observe the movements of the mind.

1.12. “The mind is controlled in the balance of effort and dispassion.” or “The control of thoughts in the mind is achieved through practice and detachment.”

Here, Patanjali gives concrete instructions on how one can learn to control the unstable mind. After explaining what yoga is and what the different mental movements are, he becomes very specific at this point. The same model is also described by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. After Arjuna said the mind is as difficult to control as the wind is to stop with the hands, he gave this exact instruction for controlling the mind:

Krishna said: Undoubtedly, o mighty armed Arjuna, the mind is difficult to control and restless. But through Abhyasa and through Vairagya, it can be tamed." BhG 6.35

Not just practicing to fully grasp the present moment, but also making an effort to control the mind and doing exercises to advance on the spiritual path.

1.13. “Effort (Abhyasa) is the constant endeavor to pacify the movements of the mind.”

1.14. “Surely success comes when appropriate spiritual practices are carried out over a long period, consistently, earnestly, and thoughtfully.” or “The practice becomes firmly established when it is continued over a long period of time without interruption and with sincere devotion.”

1.15. “Detachment (Vairagya) is the balance in consciousness when the desire for all things is extinguished.” or “Unattachment is the state of consciousness in which the thirst for visible and invisible things is appeased through mastery of the will.”

Our minds are used to getting lost in visible and invisible objects. We want satisfaction of our desires. Vairagya is detachment from any object. In this sense, everything we can perceive is an object. We identify or define ourselves through our bodies, our feelings, our thoughts, our worldview, our beliefs, our possessions, our dreams, our desires, our social connections, etc.; in short, with what we perceive. When we manage to withdraw completely from any object, we merge with the consciousness of who we are.

The problem is that we have desires, expectations, and prejudices that are stubbornly linked to the world of objects. We cannot simply ignore these, and so it is a long process to experience this pure being, this detachment from the objects. Swami Sivananda has said something significant about this: “You should continue to enjoy the scent of flowers!”. So we shouldn't completely detach ourselves from the world, but rather remain active in it. After all, we have our Dharma, our life's mission, and we want to live up to it!

1.16. “The highest serenity comes through experience of the true self, then the active forces of nature lose their power.”

Yoga Sutra 1.17-18 – Two types of super-consciousness (samadhi)

In this part of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali briefly explains the two basic types of samadhi, i.e., the two levels of super-consciousness.

1.17. “Samadhi with consciousness is accompanied by anticipation, reflection, joy, and the awareness of individuality.” or “This perfect but conditioned knowledge arises gradually from anticipation, knowledge, joy, and fusion.”

The first Pada, the first chapter of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, is called Samadhi Pada. Here, Patanjali now describes the two most important types of Samadhi, super-conscious states. Samprajnata-Samadhi is super-consciousness with knowledge and is accompanied by four activities. The super-conscious is already being experienced, but not all activities in the prakriti (=the creation, matter) have yet been resolved.

Experiencing the state of super-consciousness does not mean that you have “made it.” Super-consciousness is still achieved with aids, and there is still the possibility of identification with it. The four aids are a support, a cane, which you then have to let go of when super-consciousness has been achieved. In various yoga writings, the super-conscious state is differentiated very precisely, so the practitioner can determine relatively precisely what experience he is currently going through. Provided that he is not deceived by his ego, which usually remains unrecognized by the practitioner.

1.18. “When all perception disappears and only unmanifest imprints remain, the other state of knowledge arises. It is based on persistent practice." or "Asamprajnata Samadhi is achieved when all mental activities cease and only unmanifested impressions remain in the mind."

So here not only the superconscious is achieved but also self-realization. The practitioner has become able to fully experience the state of yoga described in verse 2. The movements of the mind have completely ceased, it has merged completely with the experience of the divine, or the self. The impressions you have in this state are completely unmanifest. So unfortunately, you can no longer put it into words. Masters like Ramana Maharshi and Ananadamayi Ma have also had periods of intense practice. Although for them, samadhi happened almost by itself, they still had to work on completely detaching themselves in order to fully merge into the highest consciousness.

Yoga Sutra 1.19-22 – Types of yogis

The following verses of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras are controversial among yoga practitioners and indologists and are a wonderful example of how differently Sanskrit can be translated and interpreted.

1.19. “Asamprajnata Samadhi by birth can be attained by those who have previously attained disembodiment or fusion with Prakriti.” (Swami Vishnu-Devananda) or “Some come to true knowledge from birth, others through a gifted body, still others through closeness to nature.”

Patanjali's work can be interpreted that differently today! Completely different meanings emerge, depending on the translation.

1.20. “Others achieve inner silence through faith, energy, remembering, and clear consciousness.” or “For still others, faith, will, memory, objective observation, and wisdom precede.”

Most people have to prepare for a long journey to the highest goal. Patanjali mentions four or five points that are important on the way to the goal, whereby the focus on the way should always be on the path itself, not on the goal. It is good to keep reminding yourself of these points and see if they are realized in life. They are also related to the eight limbs of Raja Yoga (Ashtanga), which Patanjali later introduces. In the interpretation I follow, it means that you either reach samadhi “by itself” (through preparatory work in other lives), as in verse 19, or you get there through the points in verse 20. These individual points are:

Faith: firm belief, trust in the goal to be achieved. Without having a master that you trust or without clearly believing in a teaching that you follow, it is difficult to achieve your goal. It takes direction and conviction to get there.

Will: only through a strong will can one complete the path. There are many traps on the way and many dead ends that you get into, and it's constantly an up and down. Only through an iron will can you always align yourself on the path and take one step at a time.

Memory: We have to keep remembering and reflecting. So many temptations along the way distract us and invite us to linger.

Clear Consciousness: We need an idea of the super-conscious state, an idea of what it means to free ourselves. Like a carrot held in front of the donkey's nose to spur him on, we need a sense of the ultimate goal.

1.21. “It is quickly achieved when the desire is intense.” or “Through intensive practice, one comes close to the goal.”

1.22. “Therefore, the desire for liberation can be moderate, mediocre, or intense.” or “This practice can therefore be mild, moderate, or powerful.”

Yoga Sutra 1.23-26 – Devotion to the Divine

Devotion to God is an essential aspect of Patanjali's teachings, even though he does not further define God. In the following verses of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali emphasizes the importance of devotion to God, a higher power, or to a personal concept of God. So here he conveys another way to calm the mental contents, which is the goal of Raja Yoga.

1.23. “Or through devotion to God (the movements of the mind come to rest).” or "Also, through devotion to an ideally conceived being (the goal can be achieved).”

In yoga philosophy (and in Advaita Vedanta in particular), a distinction is generally made between Brahman and Ishvara. Brahman is the all-pervading cosmic consciousness beyond forms, properties, and describability, i.e., the divine, the absolute, which we cannot describe with any words. Ishvara then means the divine from the perspective of our limited consciousness. So God with attributes, or a personal form of the divine.

So here, Patanjali brings the Bhakti aspect into the Yoga Sutras. Bhakti means devotion to God or humility towards the divine. It is considered the easiest path to God or the self and requires no special skills other than the desire to completely surrender to the divine. "Thy will be done!"

1.24. “Ishvara is individually experienced divine consciousness, untouched by suffering, actions, results of actions, or desires.” or “Ishvara is supreme consciousness with form, untouched by the obstacles of the spiritual aspirant, the conditioned actions and consequences, or memories and desires.”

We can only experience the divine in its true formless essence when we have completely detached ourselves from the world of appearances. Brahman, or the attributeless Divine, is beyond the experiences of our ordinary consciousness. On the other hand, we can experience Ishvara when we have overcome our suffering, dissolved our karma, and live without desire.

1.25. “In him lies the seed of omniscience.” or “He is unsurpassed and the source of all knowledge.”

From a yogic perspective, we can use many ways to reach the highest wisdom, roughly, there are two: either go completely inward and experience the self in silence in deep meditation, or open ourselves to the divine and express it through us through devotion to God. We can choose one or practice both in a holistic, integral sense.

1.26. “Unlimited by time, he is, primordially, the teacher of all teachers.”

So God is the first, original, and supreme teacher.

Yoga Sutra 1.27–29: The Primal Sound Om

Here, Patanjali writes in his Yoga Sutras about the importance of the sacred primal sound 'Om', which can connect us to the origins of our soul.

1.27. “He manifests himself in the sound Om.”

1.28. “Repetition full of humility and awareness of the meaning of Om leads to Ishvara.”

1.29. “Through this, the knower reveals himself, and obstacles dissolve.”

So if we repeat the sound "Om”, as Patanjali recommended, with devotion and awareness of its meaning, we will evolve towards God within us.

Yoga Sutra 1.30-32 – Obstacles on the Way and How to Overcome Them

In the following three verses, Patanjali gives a wonderful tool for self-analysis in his Yoga Sutras.

Through the four symptoms, we recognize when we are stuck and can then see, on the basis of the nine obstacles, where we are stuck. He then gives the solution to overcome the obstacles. This is a very helpful section for meditation.

1.30. “The obstacles that cloud the mind are: physical limitation, sloth, doubt, apathy, laziness, distraction (desire for pleasure), delusion, lack of determination, and inconsistency.”

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali lists nine obstacles that slow us down on the spiritual path. When we decide to turn away from the worldly and focus on self-knowledge, diametrical forces work within us. We strive upward toward the light, but there are also forces within us that strive downward toward darkness. These forces create friction and, therefore, obstacles. I will explain the obstacles in detail again, using meditation as an example:

Physical limitations: such as back pain, knee problems, itching, or similar, do not leave our mind alone and continually divert our focus away from the object of meditation. Over time, however, the body gets used to the sitting position, and we develop a different body awareness.

Sloth: Apathy and disinterest tend to spread in the mind during meditation. Although we know how good the practice is for us and would like to work on clearing the mind, we often fall into this state of mind.

Doubt: It is in the nature of our mind to constantly produce new ideas and impulses. If we don't detach ourselves from it, our thoughts will have power over us. We get involved in unproductive thoughts and doubt the purpose of the exercise.

Apathy: the equanimity that needs to be developed can quickly turn into apathy. We lose interest in meditation and become distracted. Over time, when we become more established in practice, we might become sloppy; it is important to maintain the so-called “beginner’s spirit”.

Laziness: our mind tends to be sluggish and lazy; we often lack enthusiasm to focus because it seems boring. Over time, we free ourselves from inertia and develop the energy needed to fully immerse ourselves in the silence within.

Distraction: we are used to focusing our attention on sense objects. We identify with the things we perceive. In meditation, the mind also strives outward and is therefore distracted.

Delusion: when we get caught up in our ideas and our beliefs, we become narrow-minded, and we lose the openness and expectationlessness that meditation requires. Self-realization goes hand in hand with letting go of all concepts!

Lack of determination: Meditation is ultimately an attitude toward life, a way of life. The goal is essentially secondary; what matters is to focus on the path. When we have high expectations, they block our openness, and we become frustrated because we don't achieve them.

Inconsistency: we progress only if we practice constantly. Irregularity always throws us back and diminishes the depth of our experience. Meditation only leads deeper if we practice it daily and remain mindful in meditation.

1.31. “Pain, despair, restlessness, and irregular breathing are the symptoms of this confused mental state.” or “Suffering, depression, nervousness, and restless breathing result from this distraction.”

1.32. “To eliminate the nine obstacles and their four symptoms, one should focus on one goal.” or “To reduce these, the practice of one aspect of the truth is sufficient.”

Yoga Sutra 1.33 – Attitude towards Others

1.33. “The mind field is cleared through the cultivation of empathy, helpfulness, cheerfulness, and equanimity in situations of joy and suffering, success and failure.”

Swami Vivekananda says this in his Yoga Sutra commentary:

“We must feel friendship for everyone; we must be compassionate to the unfortunate, happy with the happy, and equanimous with the bad. This is how we treat all objects that present themselves to us.”

Empathy: listening lovingly and kindly and accepting benevolently what the other person is and what he says.

Helpfulness: compassionately and emphatically perceive what is and what message is being sent. Develop sensitivity in communication and read messages between the lines. The main thing here is to cultivate compassion towards the suffering of others and to provide helpful support.

Cheerfulness: rejoicing with others and sharing the beautiful moments of life with others. We are inspired by the enthusiasm of others. Compassion is always emphasized in spirituality, but this needs to be developed not only in suffering but also in joy.

Equanimity: insight-based equanimity toward what is happening. So don't become indifferent, but observe neutrally and benevolently and accept what is.

We develop a calm and peaceful mind and can go deeper in meditation.

These four points are also a wonderful antidote to adverse states of mind, or the “mind poisons” and “enemies of the yogi.”

Empathy: against malice, hatred, and resistance to what is

Helpfulness: against painful conditions, frustration, and emotional coldness

Cheerfulness: against suffering, envy, jealousy, and a lack of joy in life

Equanimity: against fear, rejection, attachment to sensual pleasures, and false identifications

Yoga Sutra 1.34-39 – Methods of Concentration

In this section of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali names various techniques to calm the mind. When practiced, as stated in verses 12–16, with persistent effort and detached non-identification, we experience the state of yoga.

1.34. “It (clarity of mind, as stated in verse 33) is also achieved by expelling and holding the breath still.” or “It can also be achieved with breathing exercises with exhaling and holding of the breath.”

In my opinion, this is not a guide to pranayama (yoga breathing exercises), as some commentators think, but it's about a focus for meditation. Because breath is always present and occurs naturally, it provides an ideal object for alignment in meditation. It takes a lot of mindfulness to observe the supposedly boring breath over a longer period without wandering off. When we focus our attention on exhaling slowly and observing the gaps between breaths, we come into stillness. When we exhale, we let go and release used energy to the outside. By observing the silence between breaths, we build a high level of concentration. The deeper we immerse ourselves in meditation, the slower the exhalation gets.

The more our body switches to rest mode, the larger the gaps between breaths become. The observation of the breath alone can lead us to the super-conscious state, as the Yoga Sutras suggest here. In verse 31, Patanjali mentioned the four symptoms of being stuck in the obstacles. He also described restless breathing as an indication that progress is being blocked. By observing the breath one-pointedly, we calm it, overcome the obstacles, and thereby clear the mind.

1.35. “Mental stability is achieved when the movements of the senses towards objects are observed.” or “Contemplation of objects and impressions brings about stability and concentration of the mind.” or “Intensive preoccupation with an object also leads to firmness of the mind.”

If we focus our mind on any object of meditation, we will increasingly grasp and understand the mental process of concentration. This is how our senses and our perception are brought to a higher level. We perceive the process of perception, we observe the observation. By meditating on an object, we eventually reach a meta-level and experience how the mind works.

1.36. “Or by concentrating on inner light that is beyond suffering.” or “Also by concentrating on the inner light without suffering.”

Inside us, there is silence and light. A place that is beyond all suffering and to which we can always relate. Through mindfulness, we will find this place within and can then focus our attention entirely on this radiance.

1.37. “Or by fixating the mind on someone who has transcended identification and attachments.”

1.38. “Or through (meditation on the) knowledge that arises from a dream while sleeping.”

Conscious dreaming and the interpretation of dreams is an independent path. There is the possibility of training your consciousness in dreams and having deep experiences there. In yoga, we talk about the four states of consciousness: being awake, dreaming, deep sleep, and turya, “the fourth”. Turya is the super-consciousness that is beyond the other three states. It includes, so to speak, superconsciously the other types of consciousness. The more the moving mental field comes to rest, the closer we come to the superconscious state.

1.39. “Also by meditating on what you love.” or “Also by immersing yourself in love.”

Yoga Sutra 1.40-41 – Mental Power and Clarity

1.40. “The mastery (of a realized one) encompasses everything from the atom to the cosmos.” or “The awakened yogi controls everything, from the smallest to the infinite.”

So when we reach the highest consciousness, we are beyond all that is manifest.

1.41. “With a calm mind, the yogi realizes the unity of subject, object, and perception process, and like a perfect diamond, he takes on the color of the surroundings.” or “Once the thought waves are calmed, the mind, like a crystal, takes on the color of the object, and the perceiver, the perception, and the perceived merge into super-consciousness.”

Yoga Sutra 1.42-46 – Super-consciousness in connection with objects

In the following verses, Patanjali begins to describe the super-conscious states. Previously, in verses 17 and 18, he had distinguished between two types of samadhi: super-consciousness with and without conditioned knowledge. Now the Patanjali Yoga Sutras divide the lower states in more detail into four types, which I would like to introduce here again in a different way, like Sukadev interprets them:

Savitarkā: identification with the physical universe in space and time

Nirvitarkā: identification with the physical universe as an organic whole, beyond space and time

Savicārā: identification with the cosmic mind and its changes

Nirvicārā: beyond all changes, the cosmic mind as a whole

Ultimately, every meditation on an object can be divided into one of the four categories. The first two have to do with gross objects, the other two with subtle ones.

1.42. “This state, with added knowledge from hearsay, knowledge from conclusion, or imagination, is realization accompanied by reflection.”

Savitarkā-samāpattiḥ is considered one of the lower states of super-consciousness. This samadhi is associated with objects and ideas. Although consciousness detaches itself from objects and enters the superconscious, it is still connected to the phenomena of the world. It still belongs to the states of saṁprajñāta, i.e., super-consciousness with conditional knowledge, as explained by Patanjali in verse 17. In this state, we are still connected to the objects without completely merging, as explained in verse 41.

A word or name is associated with the object, a meaning or identity is assigned, or knowledge or ideas relating to the object are retrieved. In this state, the practitioner immerses himself in the superconscious but is still connected to gross objects. Strictly speaking, this is not yet samadhi but rather a preliminary stage of it. What Patanjali describes as samāpattiḥ means “meeting together”, i.e., everyday consciousness meets super-consciousness and merges through the four stages. Savitarkā in this verse is therefore the crudest stage and, in short, accompanied by thoughts.

1.43. "When all pre-imprinting is purified, one's own nature is clear, then only the object being viewed shines itself. This is Nirvitarka-Samapatih." or "In the higher super-consciousness, the mind is free from subject-centeredness and previous impressions and thus reflects reality without influence.”

This is also a saṁprajñāta state. One merges gradually with pure consciousness and does not suddenly go into asaṁprajñāta, the highest state, as already explained. Reality, i.e., the object of meditation, now appears completely clear and without coloring. As with savitarkā, impressions from word, form, meaning, and ideas are not mixed in. When we have stopped thinking and evaluating, we experience the direct reality of the objects and can meditate on them.

It is the nature of the unawakened mind to color and classify all perceptions. If we want to delve into deeper levels of consciousness and directly perceive the world as it is, we have to break away from this habit of the mind. Every “idea” is something that we “put before ourselves” and therefore do not see what is real. In this samāpattiḥ state, which is called nirvitarkā, we have released ourselves from the limitations of savitarkā, we see the objects as they are.

1.44. “If the subject looks at a subtle object, there are two different states, with and without reflection.” or “This also makes the next two states clear, which are directed towards something subtle by themselves or through considerations.”

Here, Patanjali makes the same division again, only that the state refers to a subtle object instead of a gross one as before. Savicārā is with deliberation, consideration, examination, and investigation, and nirvicārā without. So in verses 42 and 43, we have come to detachment from the identification and evaluation of the gross objects of perception in order to now turn to more subtle objects. These terms of the four types of samāpattiḥ are to be understood on the one hand as states of deep meditation and, on the other hand, as instructions for contemplation inward.

We gradually detach ourselves from the gross and then fine objects of perception by dissolving all evaluation and identification. The meditator in savicārā is at a stage in which the mind is based on knowledge based on sense perception and thought. If this dissolves, one comes to Nirvicārā. Or, to follow Sukadev's above-mentioned classification, these two stages are initially about "identification with the cosmic mind and its changes" in savicārā.

We identify with the universal spirit, the all-pervasive plane of universal thoughts and feelings, beyond individual experiences, but first with an analysis of what we have experienced. In the next stage, called nirvicārā, we transcend this limitation and experience “the cosmic mind as a whole, beyond all change.” So we immerse ourselves in the experience of the subtlest without judging it (which is a lower stage) or merging with it (which would be the higher stage).

1.45. “An object of contemplation can be subtle to the indefinable.” or “Samadhi focused on the subtlest extends to the unmanifest.”

If we focus on the subtlest, we will approach the otherworldly. Here it is time to introduce the foundation of Samkhya philosophy on which the teachings of Patanjali are built. Samkhya is one of the classical Darshanas, the philosophy systems of Hinduism. It is a dualistic philosophical concept that separates Purusha and Prakriti.

Purusha: the absolute consciousness, the primordial soul, the eternal, the metaphysical world spirit, which is unchanging, the cosmic self, subject.

Prakriti: the nature, the nameable, the manifest, the perceivable, the causal arising, the origin of matter, the object

And so the experience of Purusha is, at the same time, the achievement of the highest consciousness. All the previous stages still have to do with involvement in Prakriti. The more we focus on ever-more subtle objects in meditation, the closer we come to the unmanifest. We then realize that there is only one and that the world previously only appeared to us as dualistic or separate. Through the four stages of samāpattiḥ, we become more and more detached from prakriti to focus on Purusha from the subtlest point of view.

Sriram said:

The unnameable is the limit for this and can also be the object of observation.”

1.46. “All these four states of consciousness are causal or seeded.” or “These four types of samāpattiḥ are super-consciousness related to a subject.”

These states are always about focusing on objects, i.e., experiences with Prakriti. These stages of development all still have connections with the world of appearances, but the self is essentially detached from perceptions. Only when we completely detach ourselves from Prakriti, including the most subtle, can we fully experience Purusha. And no matter how subtle the experience or perception, objects are always Prakriti. The highest, absolute Purusha is the subject, the perceiver, or the perception itself.

Although the states mentioned are already very, very deep experiences that remain unexplored by most people due to a lack of willingness to discipline, Patanjali wants more. He wants to offer a map to get to the highest consciousness. And so these verses, however abstract they may seem to the reader, can be a very concrete help to the spiritual aspirant on the path. It is important to always check exactly where you are and what happens next. And so these verses are worth their weight in gold for the highly developed yogi! It is important to know that as long as you are still focused on an object in meditation, no matter how subtle it is, you have to go deeper!

Yoga Sutra 1.47-51 – Super-consciousness beyond imprints

Having previously described the stages of meditation, which can already be described as incipient super-consciousness, Patanjali now begins to explain the higher stages. Exactly where the boundaries lie between very deep meditation and experiencing Samadhi is difficult to understand intellectually.

Ultimately, these verses (and those in the last section) serve as guidance for the one experiencing them. The individual stages and tasks are shown very clearly, which seems very abstract to someone who does not stay in these states. When one overcomes the plane of Prakriti as described in verse 45, one reaches the higher stages of super-consciousness, which will now be explained in more detail.

1.47. “When Nirvichara-Samapatih is experienced regularly, the experience of the Self stands clearly before one.” or “When experiencing knowledge without questioning, the clear experience of the Self is the result.”

So as one goes through the stages of meditation, focusing on the subtlest possible, the experience of self is inevitable. And only when one overcomes these (as they say, very blissful) states will one achieve realization. Because, as already explained, even the most subtle thing possible or the most subtle thing that we are focused on is still an object of perception. The highest goal is to experience the unity of subject and object. Just as Patanjali explained in verse 41, the perceiver, the process of perception, and the object of perception merge into one. Prakriti, the level of the perishable appearances of this world, is then overcome, and one enters into the experience of Purusha.

The realized masters say that only then do we see the world as it actually is. And this cannot be described except through negation. In Vedanta, this way of approaching reality is called “neti-neti”: “not this, not that.” So every idea of reality is denied, every idea about the nature of the ego is negated, and every concept is rejected until all that is left is the direct experience of the indescribable.

This wonderful quote about the experience of super-consciousness comes from Paramahansa Yogananda: “Centre everywhere, periphery nowhere.”

1.48. “Only then will consciousness be filled with absolute truth.” or “In this state, we experience true knowledge.”

Everything that came before is not like what you experience when you fully immerse yourself in the experience of Self. Any experience one has in which one experiences oneself as separate from the object of perception is not unity consciousness. So even if we could burst with joy in meditation, as long as we can still observe it, we are not merged with it and not in nonduality. According to Patanjali and other masters, experiences of angels, lights, harp sounds, or the like are not yet the highest consciousness.

1.49. “This awareness goes beyond heard and inferred knowledge and has a special relationship to the object.” or “Knowledge arises that does not come from conclusions or what is heard about the object.”

A higher intuition awakens within. The source of one's own knowledge is no longer just a conclusion or something heard, but consciousness itself. By merging with the object of perception, we can grasp the deeper meaning. A new quality of viewing the world has awakened, one that is beyond concepts and ideas. Insight into things arises, we no longer follow what we have learned or heard, nor do we follow conclusions or our minds. We experience things directly as they are. In the 7th verse, Patanjali says, “Perception, reasoning, and traditional teaching are means to correct knowledge.” Sure, as long as we have not achieved realization, because then we directly experience reality as it is. We then merge with reality.

1.50. “From this experience, a new impression emerges, which replaces the old ones.” or “The impressions from this consciousness replace all others.”

So we detach ourselves from all the “Saṁskāras” by which our being was previously influenced and get used to the new way of experiencing immediate being. New habits of thinking replace the old ones, so a healthier way of dealing with our minds is cultivated. Our mind always follow the instructions we give it very precisely. Every conscious thought is an affirmation that determines our way of thinking in the future. And so it is important to always be vigilant and learn to observe the mind. Then we can create the habit of being awake, present, and mindful. The old habits are superseded by the new way of using the mind.

1.51. “When even these imprints have come to rest, when everything has come to rest, then Nirbija Samadhi has been achieved.” or “When this type of programming also comes to rest, the super-consciousness becomes unbound.”

The experiences we have in states of samadhi also leave new imprints that need to be dissolved. The new saṁskāras mentioned in the previous verse are much more useful than the old unconscious ones, but these also have to be dissolved. The Saṁskāras that we accumulate in the course of our unconscious life and which have become stubborn furrows in the mind must first be replaced by beneficial Saṁskāras in order to ultimately dissolve these too.

The original version is in German language by Narada: