1.42 तत्र शब्दर्थज्ञानविकल्पैः संकीर्ण सवितर्का समापत्तिः

tatra śabdārtha-jñāna-vikalpaiḥ saṅkīrṇā sa-vitarkā samāpattiḥ

tatra – in that; śabda – sound, word; artha – object; jñāna – knowledge; vikalpaiḥ – conception; saṅkīrṇā – mixed; sa-vitarkā – with gross thought; samāpattiḥ – (to become) engrossed

When the mind’s engrossment in something arises from meditation upon the mixture of a word, its meaning, and the knowledge of that object, this is known as savitarkā samāpatti.

1.42 tatra śabdārtha-jñāna-vikalpaiḥ saṅkīrṇā sa-vitarkā samāpattiḥ

When the mind’s engrossment in something arises from meditation upon the mixture of a word, its meaning, and the knowledge of that object, this is known as savitarkā samāpatti.

Patañjali now begins to actually reveal the depth to which the ancient rishis and sages explored the workings of the mind, and the nature of consciousness itself. So what is being referenced here, is that in normal cognition, the average person experiences what is often a conflation of different and distinct functions of the knowledge-acquiring senses that one is using, the memory of associated thoughts, and of sound. Now to illustrate this reality, Vyāsa uses the example of a cow. He points out that there are in fact three associated features of this word, or rather, of this object.

So the first is the sound (śabda) of the word ‘cow’. So I’ll just make a side point here which will also help in understanding – that words which are used as labels or names of objects, we have to understand that they are socially agreed constructs, meaning that within a particular community where there is a shared language, people have an agreement that certain syllables or certain sounds represent certain objects. And of course, that does not apply universally, and so the sound that is often being made, is actually not the same as the object that it’s being used to identify. And I’ll give you an example, using the example that Vyāsa has used – the cow.

In India and in Sanskrit, the word that is used for cow is ‘gó’. So when a person from that region hears that sound, they immediately… the image, or the recollection of a cow springs to mind. But in English, if somebody says ‘go’ then a person thinks that they are referencing a verb; an activity, which means ‘to go’ – literally meaning to proceed on some course; go to, etcetera. And so even though the same sound is being used, the meaning is not the same – that these are socially agreed meanings.

And so, once again therefore, the object is not inherently and universally represented by any particular sound, yet for most people, a sound is considered inseparable from the object. Like if we’re going to use the English word ‘cow’, anybody that speaks English, when you say ‘cow’, there is an image that immediately springs to mind, and that image cannot be separated from that sound. Every time that sound is used, that’s what springs to mind. What’s happening, is that there is a stored memory – that when we were taught this sound, it was connected with a particular object; this becomes stored in the memory, and every time this sound is heard, then our tendency is to recall from memory the object. So the sound that’s been uttered is inseparable from the object itself.

So this was the first, and going back to the bigger picture here, Vyāsa using the sound, says there are three associated features of this word. One is the sound that’s been made, and the second is the object or ártha, the object being the actual cow itself – a quadruped, and it has visual characteristics that we’re all extremely familiar with.

So along with this name, there is also associated various knowledge of the animal that an observer may have received over time. The idea of different colors, like a Jersey cow, a Friesian, a Holstein…appearing brown, or reddish, or black and white. Also, its different physical features, like the nature of the enlarged, soft eyes of the cow, the ears, the tongue. Not only what it looks like…if one has ever been licked on the hand by a raspy cow’s tongue – that sensational feeling. The nature of the tail, the coat or the hair of the animal, the smell of the animal, its dung, the smell of its tongue and urine, the milk that is produced along with the associated aromas. And we may even think of the natural aging of the cow, from a calf to a mature animal.

So these are all various types of knowledge (jñāna), which are also stored within the mind. So Vyāsa says that within the mind of the yogi, there will be a mingling (as there is with everybody)… mingling of an object, the word that names it, and the variety of knowledge or experience of that object. When a yogi enters into a state of engrossment upon a gross object, and these characteristics; these three components are present, then that state of engrossment is called savitarkā samāpatti.

So this is not considered a pure awareness of the object being spoken of; this is not a pure awareness alone, because there is the very subtle mixing of the sound that we hear, the memories or ideas related to the object itself, and the object. These things are all mingled together, and we are generally unaware that this is occurring; that this is what is taking place.

So it should be remembered here, that we are speaking of a state of meditative engrossment. We’re not speaking about a thought process, or the conventional thinking about an object which occurs in an uncontrolled mind. The experience being referred to here, is savitarkā samāpatti. It is a form of samādhi, or deep meditative absorption, and how, even in that state, one is not free from the conditioning and the contamination of our original pure consciousness – that we are being very much affected and influenced, by the workings of the mind.

So the yogis awareness of this conditioned state, is meant to help bring them step-by-step towards the experience of pure and unadulterated consciousness, and the awakening of our true spiritual identity as ātman, by observing in a very detailed way; in a very deeply focused way, the role that the mind; that the buddhi; the ahaṇkāra, is playing in our perception of things, gradually leads the sādhaka back to the actual seer, who is the actual perceiver.

So again, this is a process of stripping away of the material coverings to actually reveal the pure and eternal spiritual being. Careful contemplation upon this verse – in particular the phrase ‘śabdārtha-jñāna- vikalpaiḥ’ is very important. It clearly references the mixing – the saṅkīrṇā, the mixing of sound, and object, and knowledge, to produce a conceptualization. And this conceptualization is called a vikalpa.

As we’ve previously mentioned, vikalpa is one of the vṛttis which the yogi is seeking to try and corral and to stop, and to become free from, in order to have perfect and pure perception. So the mixing of this sound, the object, and the knowledge, it does produce this conceptualization – this vikalpa, which we understand to factually be different from the object itself.

So if you think about that for a moment or so, you know, you’ll come to appreciate what it is that we’ve just stated. You know – this idea of trying to understand an object, simply as it is, free from all of the memories, all of the conditioning, that is placed upon us by the mind.

So the commentator, Swami Hariharananda, he reminds us that the yogis do not direct their contemplation towards acquiring knowledge of ordinary objects, such as a cow – the example used here by Vyāsa; it is only an example. He says that the main purpose of engrossment (samāpatti), is to gain knowledge of the Tattvas, for the purpose of gaining detachment from material entanglement, leading to the gradual attainment of self-realization.

So what will in effect happen, is that when one begins to journey down this path, and to experiment with this form of meditation, or other forms that have been proposed by Patañjali, one begins to recognize and realize the dreamlike state of material existence – how the living being, caught up and covered by the material energy, the consciousness becoming polluted, one lives out what is considered a life. The period between a birth and a death, we reference this to being ‘our life’, when in fact it is not; it is simply a series of events. The life is what we brought to that experience, and the life is what will leave it and continue, but during that time period, all of these things that we take to be important and real, are actually very fleeting and temporary, and therefore considered illusory. And the need for us to discover our actual real spiritual identity and reconnect that, instead of living in the dream state of material life and existence, is of topmost importance to the sincere aspirant on the path of yoga. Thank you very much.