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 20th sutra of Chapter 1 in which Patanjali further elaborates on asamprajnata samadhi. We should pay close attention to the inclusion of the word “śraddhā—a state resulting from “a heart filled with light or wisdom”—as Rev. Jaganath notes in his unpacking of this sutra.
Sutra 1.20: śraddhā-vīrya-smṛti-samādhi-prajñā-pūrvaka itareṣām
For the others, this asamprajnata samadhi could come through faith, vigor, memory, contemplation and/or by discernment (Swami Satchidananda translation). Others, aware of how attachments hinder progress, continue to strive to attain (the highest) samadhi (Rev. Jaganath translation).
This state of samadhi is preceded by:
- Courage to face obstacles and the persistence to carry on
- Remembrance of life’s lessons and repeated recollection of the truths of sacred wisdom traditions
- (lower) States of contemplative absorption (samadhi), a clear, tranquil, one-pointed mind
- Intuitive insights which remove ignorance
We can understand this sutra not only as a list of separate practices and observances that help bring the intuitive insight, asamprajnata, but as an interconnected series in which each item engenders and/or supports the others.
śraddhā = faith
from su = bright, pure, clean + hṛd = heart + dhā = to hold or place
Shraddha literally means, to hold or rest in a pure heart. It is the state of being that results from a heart filled with light or wisdom. Duhkha—persistent pervasive anxiety, dissatisfaction, and suffering—would not find a hospitable home in such a heart. Since it is a convention in Hindu philosophy to place the most important item on a list first, the central importance of faith in Patanjali’s Yoga is emphasized.
Reflecting on matters of faith often bring up questions about free will. Is it possible to reconcile free will with the surrendering of our will to God, “Thy will be done?” Our will is always a matter of choice. We can give over our will to an individual, group, organization, or faith tradition out of fear, greed, or when we seek stability, comfort, prosperity, or other limited desires. Our will then molds to the requirements of the situation. In these cases, the motive for the giving over of our will is based on self-interest. A strong sense of the limited ego remains.
In spirituality, will is wedded to faith and faith is wedded to things eternal and timeless. Such faith is natural and ever-renewing like love. It is like lover and beloved naturally and joyfully giving themselves to each other. In a loving, giving relationship your will, your freedom, is never lost. Paradoxically, you find and enrich yourself. It is the same in a relationship with God and Guru. There is never a sense of loss, only gain, only finding oneself by losing oneself. It is a theme which we have all heard in some form: we have to lose our limited self to find our ultimate freedom in the Self or God. “Thy will be done,” may not feel like a decision, but it is. It is not a one-time decision book-ended by external circumstances, but a loving gift we freely give—out of clear understanding, faith, love and in a quiet, nurturing joy.
vīrya = courage, persistence
manliness, valor, strength, power, energy, heroism, virility, splendor, luster, dignity, consequence
For a better understanding of virya, we turn to Ayurveda, the ancient healing system of India, which describes virya as the intrinsic factor in an herb or other remedy that gives it its healing power. It is the factor that makes things happen, proceeding from potential to realization.
In Buddhism, virya = exertion, energy, will power, untiring pursuit in transforming the impure to pure. It is one of the seven factors of attaining enlightenment:
- mindfulness (smriti)
- distinguishing right from wrong according to the teachings
- energy and exertion in the practice
- joy concerning the teachings
- overcoming passions
- freedom from discrimination
smṛti = remembrance, recollection; authoritative tradition, thinking of, calling to mind, awareness, mindfulness, wish
from smṛ = to remember
Memory, properly used, keeps us from living in the past, repeating mistakes, and caught in guilt, regrets, and fears. Memory of painful events can also sensitize us to pain and suffering and can thus awaken and deepen compassion. To remember is not simply to relive the past. It involves extracting lessons from them and storing them as an inner reference library of important beneficial lessons learned.
Hatred finds a comfortable home in unexamined or improperly used memories. Living firmly planted in the present, but with lessons learned and remembered, we build toward a future that can be a valuable inheritance we leave for family, friends, and community.
samādhi = left untranslated
bringing into harmony, settlement, joining with, intense absorption, attention, joining or combining with, whole, accomplishment, conclusion, concentration of mind, union, concentration of thoughts, profound meditation, bringing into harmony, intense application of the mind on, attention, completion (See 1.20, 1.46, 1.51, 2.2, 2.29, 2.45, 3.3, 3.11, 3.38, 4.1, 4.29)
There are three possible derivations for samadhi:
- sam = entirely, wholly, perfectly, absolutely, with, together + adhi = eagerness, longing, care: Complete longing for union.
- sam = wholly, entirely, perfectly, together + a = near, toward, up to + dhi = receptacle: To progress toward a perfect receptacle.
- sam = together + dha = to put, place, or hold (dhi is the feminine form) + a = into joining or combining together, union, whole, bringing into harmony, intense application or fixing the mind on, attention, completion, profound meditation: To bring together in perfect union.
In samadhi, there is a merging of subject (the individual) and the object of attention. Samadhi naturally arises when the mind is made peaceful, clear, and one-pointed. A nonattached attitude greatly facilitates, accelerates, and deepens the experiences of samadhi.
The Yoga Sutras identify a number of samadhis that fall into four categories. They are, from most gross to most subtle:
- Samprajnata (cognitive samadhi)
- Savitarka (with examination)
- Nirvitarka (beyond examination)
- Savichara (with insight)
- Nirvichara (beyond insight)
- Ananda (joy)
- Asmita (pure I-am-ness)
2. Asamprajnata (noncognitive samadhi)
3. Dharmamegha samadhi (considered as a subcategory of asamprajnata)
4. Nirbija samadhi (seedless samadhi; the highest state that brings liberation)
It is perhaps more practical and beneficial to think of these samadhis as means for the exploration of subtle realities rather than static states. The insights gained from samadhi enable yogis to perceive the subtlest of principles and realities. This capacity is called yogi pratyaksha: yogic vision.
To attain the higher samadhis, we need to let go of craving for advancement (see 3.51). Instead, there is joy in, and fervor for, the practice itself, an inner environment of stillness, acceptance, and openheartedness that allows samadhi to arise.
prajñā = intuitive insight
judgment, intelligence, knowing, true wisdom, awareness, to find out, discover, learn, clever, a wise or learned person, a person worthy of being revered, intelligence dependent on individuality, one who can correctly discern, intuitive knowledge conducive to attaining liberation, wisdom attained by intuitive means beyond normal cognition (See 1.20, 1.48, 1.49, 2.27, 3.5)
Prajna is wisdom gained in states of samadhi, from deep inspired study, profound and tranquil introspection, devotional practices, and the forgetting of personal desires in selfless service. These are all ways of acquiring spontaneous insights that are not dependent on the usual routes of sense contact or rationality. In Western religious terms, we could equate prajna with revelations. Essential scriptural principles are derived from prajna. The wisdom insights gained from prajna are considered true and are capable of advancing one’s progress toward liberation.
pūrvaka = preceded or accompanied by; earlier, former, previous, prior, first, connected with, consisting in
from pūrva = being before or in front, first, eastern, to the east, former, prior, preceding, previous to, earlier than, accompanied by, attended with, mentioned before
itareṣām = of the others
from itara = low, vile, expelled, rejected, the other, the rest, this-that, another, remaining one of the two, different from
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.