Rev. Jaganath, Integral Yoga Minister and Raja Yoga master teacher, has spent a lifetime delving into the deepest layers of meaning in Patanjali’s words within the Yoga Sutras. Our series continues with the 18th and 19th sutras of Chapter 1 in which Patanjali now discusses asamprajnata samadhi, as distinguished from samprajnata samadhi that he introduced in the 17th sutra. Rev. Jaganath breaks down the meaning of some key terms in these two sutras, including abhyasa, samskara, and prakriti—recurring terms in Yoga philosophy.
Sutra 1.18: virāma-pratyaya-abhyāsa-pūrvah saṃskāra-śeṣo’ nyah
By the cessation of the mental modification existing from the previous practice, only their impression remains. This is the other samadhi [asamprajnata or non-distinguishing, non-discerning] (Swami Satchidananda translation). Another, deeper insight manifests with the sustained practice of quieting all conscious thoughts, intentions, and expectations until only subconscious impressions (samskaras) remain. Since there are no objects in the conscious mind to investigate and therefore, no insights to be had, this experience is referred to as asamprajnata samadhi, beyond insights (or beyond discerning) (Rev. Jaganath translation).
abhyāsa = sustained practice. It refers to repeated exercise, discipline, study (See sutra 1.12)
from abhi = to, unto, toward + āsa = seat, from ās = to sit quietly
Attaining asamprajnata samadhi takes time and practice. Since it is beyond the highest samprajnata insight, asmita (ego sense), it includes even going beyond the ego-based desire to still the mind. That means that the asamprajnata state is beyond effort. The mind is effortlessly still and clear and nonattachment has reached higher levels.
Note that enlightenment is a process of moving from doing to being.
saṃskāra = subconscious impressions
from sam = with, together, wholly + kṛ = to do, make, or cause
No thought, word, or action disappears completely. The mental modifications associated with them sink to the bottom of our mental lake (the subconscious), where they become like sandbars that cause ripples on the lake’s surface (the conscious mind).
Most of what we call mind is on the subconscious level. That is why we find ourselves sometimes compelled to act in ways we know are not beneficial. Yet, we feel driven to continue with our bad habits. These “invisible” activators to action are samskaras, subconscious impressions.
Acts that produce strong impressions or evoke strong emotions, or acts that are repeated, create most of the samskaras that affect our conscious mindset and choices. The implication for yogis is evident: repeated practice, especially when engaged in wholeheartedly, produce strong yogic samskaras, accelerating progress in Yoga.
Sutra 1.19: bhava-pratyayo videha-prakṛti-layānām
Those who merely leave their physical bodies and attain the state of celestial deities, or those who get merged in Nature, have rebirth (Swami Satchidananda translation). Unresolved or unexpressed feelings and intentions can cause the individual to become melded with prakriti (through thoughts of continued existence) and subject to rebirth. This can be true even for celestial beings who are without gross physical bodies (Rev. Jaganath translation).
bhava = continued existence, unresolved or unexpressed feelings and intentions being, becoming, coming into existence, spirit, emotion, nature, manner, mindset, inclination, tendency, disposition of mind, sentiment, birth, nature, existing, well-being, contemplation, origin, thing or substance
from bhū = to become, exist, be, to come into being, be found, live, stay, abide, occur, to be on the side of, assist, serve, devote oneself to, thrive or prosper, be of consequence or useful, attain to, be successful or fortunate, place of being, space, world, universe, the planet earth, ground
In this sutra, bhava refers to an ingrained mindset marked and driven by attachment to continued existence, the continued desire for physical life and the sensations and experiences it offers.
Bhava has many other meanings in Hindu philosophy, especially in Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion to a name and form of the Divine that one is drawn to.
In general, bhava can be thought of as a mindset, or mental environment that influences reactions, responses, and perceptions of events.
In Buddhism, bhava refers to continuity of life and death and the spiritual maturation that ultimately results from these experiences. It is also the clinging desire for further life and sense experiences. In Buddhism, bhava can also mean a mood or feeling that is unexpressed. If we apply this understanding to this sutra, we can see how unexpressed or unresolved subconscious impressions—desires, fears, etc.—can lead to rebirth.
videha = without bodies; to be separated from the covering that is the body, incorporeal, deceased, dead, form, shape, mass, bulk, person, individual, appearance, manifestation, of a country
from deha, from dih = to plaster, mold, fashion, smear, anoint
The beings who are without physical bodies (videha) are comprised of two categories. The first category is the devas. They are celestial beings (deva = being of light) something like angels. Many are thought to be evolved yogis who have left their bodies. The term is also applied to any of the higher or lower class of gods.
The second meaning of videha includes those whose self-identity is not based on the physical body, but instead identify with subtler aspects of prakriti: subtle elements, ego, or buddhi (pure intellect), for example.
prakṛiti = left untranslated
making or placing before or at first, the original or natural form or condition of anything, original or primary substance, origin, nature, character, disposition, pattern, model, the material world (consisting of the three gunas), nature, fundamental form, the personified will of the Supreme in the creation, the organ of generation, a woman or womankind
from pra = before, forth, forward, in front, away + kṛ = to do, create, make, accomplish, cause, effect, prepare, undertake, to do anything for the benefit or injury of another, to manufacture, work at, elaborate, build, to make one thing out of another, to make use of, to cultivate, to bring to completion, bring, lead, to direct the mind towards any object
Prakriti is the active, creative aspect of reality as opposed to the Purusha. It is composed of, and inseparable from, the three gunas. In Sankhya philosophy, it is regarded as the original producer of all things and the power to create. It is eternally coexistent with Purusha, the unchanging Seer, Self, Pure Consciousness.
About the Author:
Reverend Jaganath Carrera is and Integral Yoga Minister and the founder/spiritual head of Yoga Life Society. He is a direct disciple of world renowned Yoga master and leader in the interfaith movement, Sri Swami Satchidananda—the founder and spiritual guide of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and Integral Yoga International. Rev. Jaganath has taught at universities, prisons, Yoga centers, and interfaith programs both in the USA and abroad. He was a principal instructor of both Hatha and Raja Yoga for the Integral Yoga Teacher Training Certification Programs for over twenty years and co-wrote the training manual used for that course. He established the Integral Yoga Ministry and developed the highly regarded Integral Yoga Meditation and Raja Yoga Teacher Training Certification programs. He served for eight years as chief administrator of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and founded the Integral Yoga Institute of New Brunswick, NJ. He is also a spiritual advisor and visiting lecturer on Hinduism for the One Spirit Seminary in New York City. Reverend Jaganath is the author of Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Sourcebook for the Study and Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, published by Integral Yoga Publications. His latest book, Patanjali’s Words, is a work-in-progress.