1.17 वितर्कविचारानन्दास्मितारूपानुगमात् संप्रज्ञातः


vitarka – reasoning, deliberation (of gross objects); vicāra – discrimination, reflection (on subtle objects); ānanda – bliss; asmitā – awareness of individuality; rūpa – form, essential nature; anugamāt – following; samprajñātḥ – (is called) Samprajñāta Samādhi:

When concentration (samādhi) is reached gradually with the help of deliberation on gross forms, then reflection on subtle objects, then a state of blissfulness and finally awareness of one’s true individuality, which is called Samprajñāta samadhi.

1.17  vitarka-vicār-ānandāsmitā-rūpānugamāt-samprajñātḥ

When concentration (samādhi) is reached gradually with the help of deliberation on gross forms, then reflection on subtle objects, then a state of blissfulness and finally awareness of one’s true individuality, which is called Samprajñāta samādhi.

So, in this new sutra number seventeen, there are a number of really important words that have been used here. So just take a little time to look at the words and their English synonyms. Here in this sutra, Patañjali lays out the four stages of the development of concentration that culminate in Samprajñāta samādhi, and that is vitarka, vicāra, ānanda and asmitā. When we examine the things that we’re going to talk about here… and this is probably going to get a little bit detailed… the whole goal in this process of yoga being laid out by Patañjali, is a process of self-realization – coming to know who I actually am as a spiritual being, a spiritual individual.

It is really important to understand the nature of the body and the subtle body in the material world. We have for so long identified with this as being our self – who we are – and being able to examine these things very carefully will help us to understand what we are not – this process of elimination. So this process is tied to the realization of the nature of prakṛti – the material energy. The material energy is composed of what has been described as 24 tattvas. These 24 truths, or 24 realities, are found in the Saṅkya yoga teachings and also throughout the Vedas.

And these 24 elements of material nature consist of the following: the first are what is called the pañca- mahābhūta – the five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. So, we’re going to be talking about this in a little bit of detail. And be patient with yourself, because some of these ideas and things are going to be quite new. When we talk about a material element here, for instance with earth, water, fire, etc, we have some experience and we have some capacity to identify and to sort of understand these things. But we should understand that, as elements, they existed prior to their being manifest. For instance, the earth on this particular planet – before that even manifested, the element existed as part of prakṛti.

For each one of these five elements, there is a concomitant what’s called, ‘sense object’ that is tied to each of them. So, the five sense objects known as the pañca-tanmatra are aroma, taste, form, touch, and sound. When we speak about these things, we’re speaking about something that’s not very familiar to us – or those who have not been trained in Vedic spirituality, or Indian or yogic philosophy, or of the dharmic religions…or dharmic paths, rather.

The next set of items that we’re going to talk about are what’s known as the ten sense organs. Of the ten sense organs, there are five that are considered knowledge-gathering senses, and five working senses. So the pañca- jñānendriya: jñāna means knowledge and indriya is the senses, pañca meaning five – so the five knowledge-gathering senses. They are, of course, the nose, the tongue, the eyes, the skin, and the ears. Now what is quite interesting is that there is a correlation between these three groups of five things that I mentioned previously. You have the five gross elements – each of them is tied to one of the… what is called the ‘tanmatra’. For instance, aroma is smell, and that emanates from one of the five gross elements – earth. Earth is responsible for the generation of aroma, but aroma itself is considered a sense object, and that sense object plays a role in the development or manifestation of the sense organ of the nose. So, we’ve got the earth, the aroma that’s produced, and then the sense organ itself – the nose. And similarly, with each one of these, if you look down this list you will see that there is a correlation or a connection between these three groups of five.

Then the next five items are the five working senses, and this is called iii. pañca-karmendriya, karma meaning action, and indriya is senses of action. So, they are constituted of the voice, the legs, the hands, the anus, and the genitals. Now in addition to these 20 items we’ve already mentioned, we add the ‘mana’ or the mind, the ‘citta’ or the contaminated or material consciousness, the ‘buddhi’ – the intelligence, and ‘ahaṅkāra’ – the false ego. Thus, we have a total of 24 elements in all.

Now traditionally they were divided into two groups – 16 gross elements, of which the mind is included. And you might ask, well why is the mind, when it seems to be way more subtle? It is more subtle than those other elements in that part of the grouping, but it is also still considered one of the gross elements. And then you have eight subtle elements. So, the reference that’s been made to gross and subtle is going to be somewhat connected to this – what I’m pointing out to you now. And of course, apart from these 24 tattvas, the living being – the individual jīva, was considered the twenty-fifth principle, and the Paramātmā, or Īśvara was considered the twenty-sixth principle.

So in the verse that we’ve read from earlier, if you take another look at that: “When concentration (samādhi) is reached gradually with the help of deliberation on gross forms, then reflection on subtle objects in a state of blissfulness and finally awareness of one’s true individuality, this is called Samprajñāta samādhi” So in relation to that verse, Vyāsa, in his analysis of this, talks about four different types of samādhi. The samādhi here is not total transcendental absorption. It is more connected to concentration leading to transcendental absorption. And so the first is called vitarka samādhi or sa-vitarka samādhi, which was a deliberation on gross form.

So, what are we talking about here? The yogi’s, in their exploration or their endeavor, to try and find what is the truth and the reality of things, they would explore things like sound. They would explore how my body and mind and senses react to different types of stimuli; how that affects my mind; how it leaves these deep imprints on the consciousness. And they would really explore how the puruṣa – the living being, is being incredibly overwhelmed by these types of experiences. So there will be a number of these different explanations and sutras that are coming up in a couple of other pādas, where they look at in some detail about the nature of the reflections.

But I will just give you one example to try and help things along. Sound…the yogis would really try to meditate upon and learn to distinguish the difference between the sound of syllables in a word – what that represents, and associated experience that is attached to that. For most of us if we say ‘cow’ and if we’ve been anywhere near a cow or around a cow,  then when we say cow, when we hear the word everything becomes just one big jumble; meaning, when we say ‘cow’, we think of a form, we think of something that we have seen. We may think of a smell that is associated with a cow, we may think of what it feels like to touch it or to be licked by its really rough tongue on you, on your hand. There may be an enormous amount of different experiences that we’ve had in relation to the animal, and when we say the word ‘cow’ all of these things have sort of like all jumbled up together, and we just have one sort of like overall or overriding impression.

The yogis would seek to understand how we are living out this dream; this dream state of material existence, where the living being is trapped in this vehicle and utterly absorbed in the experience. And this vehicle is pretty much out of control. We have used the example before of the chariot – which was commonly used – where you’ve got the five horses pulling a chariot. The five horses been the different senses, the reins being the mind, the chariot driver being the buddhi or the intelligence, and the chariot itself being like the body, and then the passenger in the chariot is the living being. And if the buddhi is not really firmly holding the reins, then the senses tend to be running wildly out of control, and the mind is just like going along with it. And for most people, the journey of their life is just this whole series of experiences and events that just take us on this emotional roller coaster, and stimulate us to desire and to act in different ways which all then binds us to this perpetual experience of birth and death. And so part of this meditative reflection was upon the nature of how we have been bound to the material world, and by meditating upon some of these grosser elements, and the different types of sensual experience, and the consciousness that arises from the experience of these different things, the yogis sought to more clearly be able to identify themselves as being separate from these experiences.

So after often meditating upon the gross forms – the gross material elements and things – the yogi would desire to look at things at an even finer level. But I’ll give you one more example of meditation upon or being really focused on the nature of the material energy. There was the understanding that ultimately there is like a unit … a small unit, a building block of matter. I think what we could relate to within the field of science as we learn it in the Western world, if we look at three of the atomic particles…  I know that there are some subatomic particles… but look at just protons, neutrons, and electrons. There is only fundamentally one kind of electron, one kind of proton, one kind of neutron. These same three elements, when they are arranged in a certain manner, they appear to us to be something that is desirable. Like a lump of chocolate – we look at that chocolate and we go, “Wow, yeah I’d really like to eat that!” and I can smell an aroma that is coming from it. Those exact same protons, neutrons, and electrons can be rearranged into something that is incredibly undesirable…excuse the grossness…dog shit. And if I put them side by side, from the point of view of atomic particles there is no difference. The atomic particles have just formed into different types of molecular structures; they are perceived by my senses differently; there are different associations with them.

And so, for the yogis, it was really you know… just astonishing…like, “What’s going on?” And how this dream state that we’re living in and known as ‘material life’, is manifesting and existing. If I take something like a glass of water in my hand, and… if I had one here… and it was half-full of water, if we were to look at that – go down to it on a molecular atomic level, it’s actually not really possible to distinguish between where the air above the water stops, and the water begins. On an atomic level, that would pretty much merge together, and then where the glass meets the water there is no clear and really super distinct barrier on the atomic level, nor the glass sitting upon my hand. And yet we are seeing and experiencing things in this certain way that we’ve become accustomed to, and it utterly overwhelms us, and we become utterly lost to our own spiritual existence – the reality of who we are.

They refer to the material world in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as being ‘the world of names,’ and that’s a really profound idea. And what they mean by that is, ultimately the material creation is all the same stuff. When you break it down to its smallest components it’s all just the same stuff, but it’s appearing and collecting together in different ways, and we give the collection of these same particles different names, and we relate to those names as being desirable or undesirable, and this is considered actually just a monumental illusion. So, what happens…  when the yogis would go through these you know… real deep meditative considerations of the nature of the gross and subtle forms or elements that constitute the material world, they would be able to increasingly then understand, “Well that’s not me, and that’s not me, then who am I?” Because most of the time in my life I have come to accept all of these material elements as being me.

So when a person becomes more absorbed in these meditative states and their practice, there is a condition of peacefulness that begins to come over them, and in that peacefulness, one experiences a newfound type of joy – of deep blissfulness – it is called ‘ānanda’. This is not yet the highest spiritual experience of blissfulness. This is just the beginning, where one has been relieved of all the burden of material consciousness and material experience, and all the burden that comes with that. What happens, is that the person is increasingly placing themself, or situating themself more firmly in what’s called the mode of goodness – the sattva-guṇa. Raja-guṇa stimulates passion – the desire to create, build, for activity and all of this kind of thing, but carries with it also tremendous distress. And they are inescapable these things.

Sattva-guṇa, by nature, brings the state of more peacefulness and a withdrawal from the kinetic or frantic activity of material life, and with that comes an experience of great happiness. And, as one becomes more absorbed in that experience, it becomes deeper and deeper, and this is considered a form of samādhi – of blissful immersion, and then it leads to what’s called ‘sasmīta’. This is the awareness of one’s true spiritual individuality. As one begins to experience…that is it begins to awaken…there is this overwhelming sense of utter relief from this great journey through many countless lifetimes of incredible suffering and difficulty.

So this process was one of the key processes – this reflection or deliberation upon gross forms, and their reflection upon the subtle material objects, the blissfulness that came from an immersion into a more sattvic state, and then the growing awareness of my spiritual being. And these were considered the four main steps towards what was called Samprajñāta Samādhi.

The Bhāgavat Pūraṇa and many of the other Vedic texts, also present the other ways of understanding it, and if we look at the early commentators – the four principal commentators on the Yoga Sutra – they each shared different types of appreciation of what this actually means, and how it can be understood, or how it can be appreciated. Vyāsa is not limiting how somebody should or should not appreciate – they are all valid. But in the Bhāgavat  Pūraṇa there was…a meditation upon the gross and subtle forms was looked at a little bit differently, and quite detailed information was given that a person beginning this path should meditate in certain ways upon the material energy in its sum total and in its parts. This was called the ‘virat-rupa’ – the universal form – if I can and put it that way. And what it did was help people to grow in the appreciation of themselves as being completely separate from the material energy. But then they would also encourage beyond that, a meditation upon more subtle forms. And this was generally upon the transcendental form of Īśvara, which we will be speaking about in a few verses from here, so I won’t go into that, but I will read one verse from the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa that speaks about this:

“One who is interested in liberation, who accepts the path of liberation and is not attracted to the path of conditional life, is called a ‘yati’, or a renounced devotee. Such a person should first control his mind by thinking of the virāṭ-rūpa, the gigantic universal form of the Lord, and then gradually think of the spiritual form of Bhagavān, after hearing of both forms. Thus, one’s mind is fixed in samādhi.”

And so, with this reference you can see how the same principle could be explored, understood and appreciated, in not entirely different ways, but with some of them taking things a little bit further.