Sample from the Spring 2011 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.
Inside the Yoga Sutras: The Subtle Mechanics of Meditation
An Interview with Reverend Jaganath Carrera
In this interview, Reverend Jaganath, an Integral Yoga master teacher and author of Inside the Yoga Sutras, explains how the heart of meditation can be understood through an unlocking of the term “nirodha,” which Patanjali uses in the second sutra of the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali prescribes a holistic system to help cultivate an environment in which nirodha can thrive and the fruits of meditation can blossom.
Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): What do you mean by the subtle mechanics of meditation?
JC: The subtle mechanics of meditation refers to movement, to flow. The essence of the Yoga Sutras is contained in sutra 1.2: “Yogas chitta vritti nirodha.” Meditation is really about nirodha. When Patanjali defines nirodha, he talks about it as vahita: a calm flow and not something rigid and static. If you look at the words dharana and dhyana, dharana, has the root meaning of, “to hold something.” There are several other meanings that have to do with bearing and conveying. So it’s not just holding, but it also bears and conveys. The idea is that you are trying to cultivate a movement of mind toward something and, Patanjali says, that something should be uplifting and something that you like. The root of dhyana, dhi, is always related to reflection and spiritual ideas—any kind of meditation, spiritual ideas or thought. So, we have this movement from dharana to dhyana. In dharana you are cultivating a vehicle that takes you to an introspective state where spirit unfolds for you over time. So, the subtle mechanics of meditation always involve movement, meditation’s not static.
IYM: Most people associate meditation with stillness—no movement at all.
JC: I think one of the reasons people have difficulty with meditation is precisely because they have the idea that they have to restrict the attention rather than direct the attention. It could be kind of a subtle point but, in practice, it’s a tremendous difference. If you think, “I have to bolt my awareness to the object of meditation,” that creates a kind of closed space. It’s hard to create movement and depth in your practice. I try to teach the idea of a focused, tranquil flow of attention, without the mind wandering all over the place. So, it’s not holding or stopping the mind but it’s also not letting the mind run all over. It’s a subtle feeling of not being restricted or bound and, at the same time, your attention isn’t all over the place; it’s more of a matter of the attitude that you bring. It’s not whether it wanders or not, it’s the attitude. With this approach, there’s a dropping of the tension that you have to perform to achieve something. You want the mind to be in love with the object of meditation so it will flow toward it and be absorbed by it. Patanjali is talking about moving awareness toward something. Samadhi is a constant flow of cognition toward the object. In that movement there’s a natural transcendence of the ego sense into samadhi rather than holding still and waiting for a lightning bolt to hit. [Laughs]
IYM: What is samadhi?
JC: In 1.17, Patanjali gives four levels of samadhi. It’s like a beautiful travel guide as to what happens in every meditation: an evolution from gross object to subtle object to a sattvic mind, a mind which is not grasping for outside stimulation anymore. Even with gross and subtle samadhis, there is still some grasping, some vyutthana (external grasping). As the mind goes deeper, it gets to the sattvic (sananda) samadhi. It’s a blissful state because you are not grasping anymore. In sutra 1.41, Patanjali says: “Just as the naturally pure crystal assumes shapes and colors of objects placed near it, so the yogi’s mind, with its totally weakened modifications, becomes clear and balanced and attains the state devoid of differentiation between knower, knowable and knowledge. This culmination of meditation is samadhi…”
Read the rest of this article in the Spring 2011 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.