The Yoga-Sutras On Meditation Objects
By svadhyaya is produced communion with the deity in the form favored by the devotee.
I have used this verse twice because it fits both into the section on Meditation itself, and on Meditation Objects. Also, because it is a verse so complete in itself and representative of yoga and should be repeated. Finally, because this section will refer so much to meditation on God.
We find that there are many names and conceptions for God. In practical life each God-seeker get attracted to a particular conception of God and directs his mind to that. This verse is typically translated "communion with the desired deity." Leggett uses "the deity of his devotion." Some commentators, and this includes Dvivedi, think this means chasing after various lower gods or devas.
The "chosen deity" means the form of God that the devotee is attached to, whether the guru, Krsna, Vishnu, Jesus Christ, Shiva, or some other conception.
Note: The whole universe is conceptions made gross. Thought is the only reality.
This verse acknowledges that in practice individuals latch onto a particular form or conception of God. In real practice that deity chooses you. You get a felt sense of connection and, in 1960s hippie parlance, you get a "groove" with that particular conception.
Behind that conception stands the God who transcends all forms. Krsna speaking as the Godhead referred to this situation in the Bhagavad-Gita:
'Some worship the ancestors, some the ghandarvas,
and some the devas — but I alone receive their worship."
Often the form that gives us the most attraction is the sat-guru. He or she is right there, human, to see, with personality and humor, yet divine qualities that give us faith that he or she is a representative or embodiment of God. Jesus has been a very attractive and engaging satguru for the White Europeans for centuries, although most churches do not teach the laity the ways of meditation uncovered by many saints, which needs to be corrected. We realize God through the guru, who is really only a projection of our own satva and highest wisdom. He always says, in all his forms and names and times (can God be limited to one place and time?) —- "I am the way." We get to God through the guru and it's the surest way. Aum, Amen.
This verse exposes the universality of yoga. The applications of yogic meditation transcend belief systems. It can be applied in any religious system. In fact, one can find many elements of the Yoga-Sutra present in the traditions of varied religions, especially on the monastic side. One can find the techniques of Yoga evident in Sufism, all branches of Buddhism, and both Catholic and Orthodox versions of Christianity. The special value of the Yoga-Sutra is that the real essences of religious technique are are assayed out — out of multifarious religion — and presented.to us.
By bhakti for the Lord (samadhi is attained).
This is like the verse above, but generalized toward "the Lord" and it brings in bhakti or the devotional attitude which is a fertilizer and enlivener of mere meditation or svadhyaya. These two verses, taken together in this order (2:44 then 1:23) give you pretty much everything. Say the two to yourself a few times! —-
"By svadhyaya is produced communion with the deity
in the form favored by the devotee.
By bhakti for the Lord samadhi is attained."
Feel the faith? These two verses tell us: "Meditate on God in your chosen form, with bhakti."
This verse 1:23 acknowledges that behind our various conceptions of God sits the one Original Person and creator, who the Sutras name Isvara. It also is stating that the beatitude of samadhi is effected, in reality, by directing our mind to Him.
It is significant that the Yoga-Sutra brings in Verse 1:27, about "special devotion to the Lord," at the start of a list of meditation techniques. The likely implication is that the devotional attitude, itself, is the best of all meditation techniques. It also appears to list bhakti as sufficient yoga in itself which would tally with the statements of yogic saints including Christian saints. Further, it may imply that the subsequent techniques listed are not as effective without it; that this first makes other techniques bear more fruit. That would be my judgment. Following the verse on mild, medium, or intense means (1:22), immediately the very strongest yogic technique is given (1:23): Devotion to the Lord.
Perfection of samadhi is attained by God-devotion.
Now another rare but obvious repetition in the Yoga-Sutra, these two similar verses taken from two different chapters. Again, I am putting them together because they are so much alike thus best discussed at the same time, but also to demonstrate the importance of the content. I have rendered the verse straightforwardly You can see both verses have the term "Isvara-pranidhana" which most translators render as "special devotion to the Lord" or "resignation to the Lord." Because the words repeated, and because Isvara-pranidhana is a big concept, I put one as "bhakti" and the other as God-devotion to spread out the flavor of Isvara-pranidhana. In general I feel the best all-purpose translation of Isvara-pranidhana is, for these times "bhakti" or devotion. The reason many translators like "special devotion" is that it refers to an intense variety of devotion. That kind of devotion is culturally understood, in India, as bhakti. The great Christian saints were nothing but bhaktas. Learn from them. Translators render Isvara a "the Lord" and "God." I have used both terms in my versions. This should make it clear that yoga is religion indeed. As with the verses that repeat the admonition to celibacy, here are two verses that are almost exactly alike, both saying that samadhi — the goal of yoga — attained by devotion to God!
Beautiful how bhakti — the attitude of piety, reverence, and devotion — toward the God-idea, is cited at least three times in the sparse Yoga-Sutra verses. Would't you agree?
Or meditation on the mind of one who is free of desire.
Here the Yoga-Sutra includes the guru and the guru-principle. An Indian religious maxim is: "You use a horse to catch another horse, a fish to catch another fish, and God uses a human being to catch human beings." There is a mystery in the sat-guru that is beyond the ken of law or logic. God reaches us through him or her. The Christian saints knew this. Jesus Christ was their satguru and through devotion (bhakti-yoga) they attained the Kingdom of Heaven within, which is samadhi.
Some translations use "a mind" (that is free from raga), or "enlightened sage" or "a great soul's mind" where I have used "the mind of one." The word used in the Sanskrit is raga, which is usually defined as lust or greed.
The external guru in this world, whether alive or passed away, is just one more part of your own karmic projection. That is, he/she is yourself, one of your more satvic karmic deposits. Thus it can be understood that whenever you meditate on any guru, you are really meditating on your own inner guru, because the externally seen guru is your own karmic projection in the first place. However, this does not make him/her less of of a powerful item for meditation, or less of a channel for guidance and shaktipat. Your human mind and conditioning do not connect with a fish or a stone for shaktipat, uplift, or guidance generally.
Shankara Deconstruct: It is interesting to note that Sankara, in his commentary, makes no reference at all to the guru idea in his response to this verse. In his commentary he seems in a hurry to depart from the very idea of meditating on a person and wants to talk about other things instead. This is strange considering elsewhere in his writings, such as in "Crest Jewel," he makes colorful presentations of guru-devotion. This gives the impression that Sankara was evolving during the years that he made his many writings. Perhaps at the time when he commented on Verse 1:37 he was averse to the guru principle. Or perhaps he wanted to broach the guru principle only in a context in which it was understood that it directed readers to him?
The Lord God, Isvara, is a particular purusha (individual soul) in His own category, untouched by afflictions, works, the results of actions, or samskaras.
He is omniscient.
Unconditioned by time. All greatness is His.
Pracchardana-vidharanabhyam va pranasya
The mind is brought to stillness by pranayama.
I placed this verse suddenly here because pranayama should be started at the beginning of the religious quest. More about pranayama comes below. The practice of the "4th pranayama," laid out further on in the text, is one of the religious techniques that reveals the divine inner sound of Aum.
Tasya vacakah pranavah.
His evidence is the pranava, Aum.
The aspirant can know he is coming into contact with Saguna Brahman, the Lord, when he hears the pranava. More below.
(Samadhi is attained) by meditation on the richness of the pranava.
The divine sound is the most powerfully attractive meditation object and is sure to lead to samadhi. Most authors mistranslate this verse into an intellectual "meditation on the meaning" of Aum as in ratiocination about the word Aum. However, the verse is literally saying to meditate on the richness (artha) of Aum, and getting into a bhava with it.
To maintain the flow of the Sutra verses at this point, because of the great deal to be said about the pranava, my extended commentary on these two verses is a separate section:
The Yoga-Sutras On Aum
By mergence in pranava obstacles are destroyed, the consciousness turns inward.
In general on the dawning of transcendental perceptions the mind can be brought to stillness by fixing the mind on one of those.
This refers to inner sound (nada) already brought out,and the pranava in particular; inner divine light or "bindu," and other transcendental perceptions such as divine smell, taste, and touch. When even one of these arises, meditation becomes easy as these can finally powerfully attract the mind. Here in the Chidakasha Gita the wandering saddhu Nityananda speaks of the transcendental yogic perceptions of divine sound and light:
"When the mind is merged in bindu and nada, nirvikalpa samadhi is attained.
Our attention is then entirely towards ananda (eternal joy)."
Nityananda, Chidakasha Gita
As the religious person focuses on these, ananda, increases. That is, God's infinite causeless joy. God is Sat-Chit-Ananda, or pure being, pure consciousness, and pure bliss. The inner divine sound (nada) and light (jyoti) is the purest essence of God perceivable in the human body. Thus by contacting these and seeking to merge with them, bliss increases inexorably. This bliss, further, can manifest in many auspicious forms in the internal and external.
Such as meditation on a radiant perception beyond sorrow.
In addition to the development of heard divine sound through yoga, mentioned above and discussed below, the religious person also develops the perception of inner light. This Sutra verse refers to that. The Upanishads also speak of this development of yoga:
"When yoga is practiced, the forms which appear first and which gradually manifest Brahman are those of snow-flakes, smoke, sun, wind, fire, fire-flies, lightning, crystal, and the moon."
Svetasvatara Upanishad 2:11, Translation of Swami Nikhilananda,
"The Upanishads, Volume II"
Many aspirants, having even a little chastity and a little bhakti, will see the inner lights even upon just starting out in meditation. Yogic terminology for these perceptions include bindu (spot), jyoti (light), also the blue pearl.
Most individuals will only experience the inner sorrowless light at death; in the death experience between lives, in particular soon after expiring. However, the religious person (the yogi, yogess, or church devotee) seeks to know God's light here-and-now. This is a divine thing! Then by doing so, he becomes a boon to himself, his loved ones, and the world. Om. He or she practices morality, the devotional attitude, and meditation to find the divine light of God here-now. The Upanishads make it clear that this light is Brahman.
There is much that can be said about the radiant perceptions of verse 1:36 for the faith of the brahmacharins and religious people. As with Aum, to keep the flow of the verses intact the inner light of yoga is discussed on a separate page: The Yoga Sutras On Inner Divine Light
One can meditate on the knowledge of dream or dreamless sleep.
Or even on what appeals to him.
Meditation on akasa.
Akasa means space and refers to the infinite space, which is the 3rd evolute of the Lord after 1-Faith and 2-Prana. This is my own insertion into the Sutra verses, thus why it's in blue, for the benefit of the decent. It should be here. It is possible and accessible for most of the minds to meditate on infinite space, and one of the more powerful meditation objects (alambras). The lack of inclusion of akasa in the Sutra's list of meditation objects is a flaw. White Europeans built their churches in such a way as to evoke akasa precisely because they knew intuitively that space itself was close to God and such is the case. Sitting in an old Christian church, akasa is evoked by the very structure itself. This often includes very high ceilings decorated with sky, firmament, or heaven motifs. The stone materials of the better Christian churchs, as well as their acoustical design, are designed to be reverberant. Thus if you are sitting at the back of an empty Christian church (all of the churches in my neighborhood were open 24 hours back in my White European past and I loved to visit them), and if one drops a small object like a penny or pencil, you can easily hear it. The phenomenon of reverb or echo conveys space; space is the psycho-mental message of reverb. The mind, on hearing reverb, thinks "I am hearing to a distance." That, in turn, puts the mind in touch with the thought of the Infinite in the form of the infinite akasa. Thus reverb awakens the imagination for space and stimulates spiritual knowledge.
For this reason recording engineers love to put a reverb effect on the vocals of singers; it evoke a spiritual response in the listener and takes the vocal out of the everyday and into some larger knowledge-expanse. Because akasa is connected to Time, reverb also evokes timelessness. The Lord, Isvara, is beyond time and Lord of past, present, and future. Because space and time are primal creations of the Lord, reverberant spaces put the mind into an inclination to Saguna Brahman, the Lord of Creation. For this reason the Christian churches were built to invoke space and to be naturally reverberant. For like reason the monks and nuns of 20 centuries' Christian culture sang their chants in these reverberant spaces. It is easy to hear recordings of Christian monks and nuns singing their devotional (bhakti) chants in these reverberant spaces. Listening to them raises up the shakti (kundalini) and puts one in mind of God, even if subconsciously by contact with akasa and time. The Christian church organ, too, makes a sound that, in itself, is reminiscent of reverb as well as the pranava. The nature of the deep, long pipes that produce the sound is such that one feels "space" in the very sound itself. The church organ sound, combined with reverberant architecture of the churches, combined with the singing of choirs in these spaces, creates a vast feeling of akasa. There is no doubt about this.
God is hard to picture and imagine, but it is possible for us to visualize infinite space. Thus Christian churches themselves, by their very nature, put the devotee in contact with primary evolutes of the Lord and effective meditation objects. At least one of the Upanishads states that God and akasa are synonymous. Isn't anything possible in your mere passing thought of eternally expanding space?
Later in my life I became able to meditate on akasa and it became one of my favorite meditation alambras. I believe it is only because of my time spent in my Catholic church at 42nd and Grand Avenue that I was able to come into the technique of meditation on akasa. For that I thank my father, who deliberately and caringly located his sons one block away from a beautiful church that was always open. It is highly likely that the architectural ideal of akasa-evoking reverb, used in all the European churches, was learned from the temples of the east; the places of origin for this very yoga that Jesus Christ carried. Yes, akasa is an excellent meditation object and should be listed in the Yoga-Sutra.
Pranayama is to sit and cut off the flow of inbreath and outbreath.
The inbreathing, outbreathing, and held operations, in terms of place, length, and number become progressively longer and more subtle.
The fourth kind of pranayama is beyond the sphere of internal and external, and comes when the essential acts of puraka and rechaka have been comprehended.
This is a very obscure YS verse. It deals with an advanced attainment of yogis related to pranayama and breathing.
It's useful to note that the verse comes out in highly varied forms under different translators. Leggett and Dvivedi, both of whom strive for spare and accurate translations, end up with such different translations you'd not even know it was the same sutra. The super compressed nature of the sutras, combined with the fact that it refers to a phenomenon few people will ever experience – combine to make the verse a conundrum for anybody but a yogic adept. One of the most illuminating translations I have seen was done by a Frank Bazl occultist, who lived in Los Angeles in the 1940s. (His and other translations are presented in the special section on kumbhaka.)Though many "comment" on it in the publications out there, without a very specific personal occult development relative to your breathing and your mantra, it is absurd to do so and most should acknowledge that they don't really know what it refers to, and remain silent.
The fourth pranayama is a breathless state. The air stops needing to move out, or move in. Both stop. It starts with longer and longer states of comfortable kumbhaka, with breath both held in and out. In fact, the breath held out, with empty lungs, is the most pleasant phase of it and even the easiest. This is beyond the normal living experience of worldlings and non-religious persons. It is completely contrary to their assumptions and against their crass limits.
"Beyond the sphere of internal and external" means -- beyond the sphere of "breath inside the body" or "breath outside the body."
Pranayama done right, especially with shaktipat/kundalini activation and spontaneous yogic kriyas, evolves into perception of an inner breath and the ability to dispense with gross breath, i.e. the passage of air in and out of the body. This is the 4th activity of pranayama is referenced by Krsna in the Bhagavad-Gita when he speaks of the yogi:
"sacrificing the inbreath into the outbreath."
It is one of the yogic techniques that brings the sound of the pranava, the inner heard sound of Aum. The "4th pranayama" is the state of kevali kumbhaka, or the natural cessation of the need to breathe.
Most Yoga-Sutra translations I have seen provide a hopless translation of the above verse that will lead most aspirants to confusion and consternation. Meanwhile, I have never read a commentary yet in which the commentor understood verse 2:51 such as to shed light on it.
I do comment at length on the three verses above, including the Fourth Pranayama of Verse 2:51, in separate sections:
The Fourth Pranayama: The Yoga-Sutra on Pranayama, Kumbhaka, and the Breathless State
Commentary on the Chidakasha Gita of Nityananda
I am not planning on making all of these sections available as a free online book because that would not be right. A clever religous fellow could learn a lot, however, from the Chidakasha Gita Commentary.
From that is dissolved the covering over light.
With pranayama, and especially from attaining the Fourth kind, the religious fellow or woman will begin to see the divine light both inside and outside. This is the second of the two ideal and best meditation objects, the other which is the divine sound Aum. This subject of inner light, being profound as well as advanced, is covered in its own section and not publicly available on the internet version of this Yoga-Sutra commentary.
And fitness of the mind for dharana.
Now, you see how much was necessary to make your mind fit to even concentrate? You had to come to the conclusion that the world is not what it's hyped up to be. Then do some restraints, even developing chastity, if serious.
You had to develop some vairagya for worldly things (dispassion, detachment.) You had to have a favorite form of the Lord (favored deity), start doing japa, get a mantra, probably get a satguru unless you are a yogabrashta (a cultivated yogi/yogess already in past lives), cultivate a little devotion, practice pranayama, and ever get some transcendental perceptions —- all before Patanjali would say in verse 2:53 that your mind was "fit for dharana," i.e. fit to manage some concentration. Not even meditation (dhyana, successful dharana) is mentioned here, but simple concentration! It's like the Sutra is saying "After you have delved into all these amazing and rarefied things you now might be able to simply concentrate a bit." Yea, verily, it is not easy to concentrate the world-ridden mind on anything. You'll need a lot of help! And you'll need to concentrate it finally on something sufficiently attractive.
Since simple concentration or dharana is the basic and the starting point, and this dawning of the inner light is more advanced and the fruit of the highest pranayama, it would perhaps be better if the verse stated "the fitness of the mind for dharana and dhyana" or in this computer age we could write: dharana>dhyana. That is, dhyana, which is a more advanced element succeeding from dharana, ought to be included in saying what we're getting our minds fit for. Indeed, it is the inner lights (and Aum) that are so superbly attractive so as to make even dyhana easy.
Then pratyahara, in which the senses finally imitate and follow the mind, likewise withdrawing themselves from their objects.
When the 4th pranyama is perfected the heart naturally and happily stops. The life-force, prana, which is normally coursing powerfully down our spine and out our sense, illumining a "world," immediately reverses course and the world dissolves. At that time pratyahara occurs. When pratyahara occurs immediately comes savikalpa samadhi.
This reverse occurs nightly as we go to sleep. But this is yoga and is done in the conscious state. Pratyahara will occur through two processes: 1) The infusion into the body of a surfeit of prana. This will be felt as flaming hot heat all through the body. This surfeit of prana is why the heart no longer needs to beat, as the prana suspends decay of the cells and the need of the heart to remove waste. The heart is delighted by this situation and should the yogi reach this stage, periods in this state add longevity. 2) Successful concentration in which the mind is steadily focused away from the world, that is to say, dhyana. This means absorption in a transcendental meditation object such as Aum or Jyoti. This sutra reveals the law that the senses are dependent on the mind and follow it. When the mind is successfully focused away from the world by vairagya and successful meditation, the senses must follow the mind. One Upanishad speak of the mind as the queen bee and the senses the other bees. The mass of bees always follows their queen and the senses must follow the mind.
When pratyahara is attained, the first level of samadhi, the blissful sabija samadhi, must occur.
When the power-of-knowing is disconnected with the senses through any significant reversal of attention back up the spine — what happens is that the world becomes a hellish bedlam. In that process, by itself, the mind becomes unable to project order or story into the externals and the world becomes incomprehensible and frightening. That new chaotic aspect itself, though transitional, makes the jiva feel isolated and frightened. In the same way that the male sexual loss makes him suddenly say, about his wife, "What did I see in her?" — the development of pratyahara makes him feel very mordantly: "What did I see in this world? What value does any of it have." This pratyahara or reversal of both attention and world-enlivening life force away from the projected world is part of the dark valley that all dying people pass through.
One finds during a full experience of pratyahara— in itself — that the samsara he has created through thought, conditioning and incarnations — is a mere ungodly phantasmagorical pointless mess. More critically, he can no longer comprehend any aspect of it and he cannot — in the real state of pratyahara — even function in that new bedlam world in a sane manner since he cannot make any sense of what is around him.
Normally we are able to live with this ungodly mess without suicidal inclinations precisely because our strong outward projecting mind "projects story" into the mess and more critically, holds it all erect and in place. (Holds the world and all externals in place — all the way out to the far-away galaxies etc.)
First, like a story-writer, in the fully outward-turned state the mind makes sense of what it sees using various story-explanations and histories. Because he can perceive "story" in it, it becomes comprehensible. During the development of pratyahara the ability to "project story" onto the samsara wanes and all the world becomes meaningless, ugly, and frightening.
More profoundly, during the development of pratyahara the jiva is in fact disassembling the world just as the crew at a carnival removes various tent stakes and the tent begins to collapse in a billowing mess. So while his ability to project story into the samsara wanes, the samsara or world-projection itself becomes more chaotic in aspect..
The jiva is frightened in this in-between state; that is, by that sheer disconnection alone that Vasistha points to. If not willing to merge with sat-chit-ananda to relieve him of this state, the jiva will claw his way back to "the world" and outwardness. It is like a man setting out across a wild river in a small bark hoping to get to the other side. Just upon starting he finds himself in an overwhelming, unknown and frightening situation (on the wild river) and says: "I don't know if I can make it all the way or what I'll be on the other side. I'd rather turn back." He fears ego-death and the radical alteration of his state as he truly enters into pratyahara (sets out on the wild river). Most will turn back, for many lives, to the security of his body and karma whether from sheer fear or for another reason. At some point the jiva will have a "bodhisattva" moment in which he tells himself: "Gee, I think I'll not end it all and merge with this Atman. After all there are so many souls back in that samsara to save." This is really a delusion, since all those "unsaved souls" were just his own karmic projections and would be burned up in the sat-chit-ananda. But it is a way for him to craft his response, perhaps because of standing before the throne of the luminous Lord — that he can live with and find acceptable upon turning away.
Another separate Yoga-Sutra verse speaks of this fact and lists how even sages fear making this final sacrifice as a bird fears freedom from its cage.
The technical point has been made in this verse that the dissolution of asmita or sense of I-ness — which the sutra regards as a "distraction" — comes from disconnecting one's inner Seer from the senses. But that this state is in actuality the process called pratyahara, and that pratyahara itself is not a happy process though the state of samadhi is. One must indeed pass through the frightening state of conscious pratyahara in order to enter savikalpa samadhi. Often it is a fleeting state when going into sleep or even for most who experience samadhi and is not much remarked upon in these texts. I was graced (or burdened) to experience slowed-down and extended versions of pratyahara in which I could observe the state clearly.
One who has samadhi has left the conventional human field. As Ramakrisna stated, in the child's came of "tag" he is already "out" or disqualified and only watches the other samsara-players from the sidelines.
Pratyahara can develop in the yogi in particular discreet sessions, such as a particular meditation sit-down during in which his extremities become numb then recover. This scenario is described by the Sikhs as a part of their practices. It can also develop in continuous degrees, such as the feet becoming numb all or most of the time.
Sages such as Nityananda develop a strange way of walking because of their developing, abiding pratyahara and the numbness of their feet. Muktananda, disciple of Nityananda, described his guru as swaying like an elephant when he walked. This referred to his arms, which he allowed to move a lot and which became the "trunk" of the elephant in Muktananda's fancy. The reason Nityananda walked this way was the pratyahara which gave to his feet a degree of numbness. In order to walk successfully in this state without stumbling or falling over, a fellow increases his movement generally, letting all of his limbs move more, because this increases the amount of information that his brain is getting about his bodily location in space and time (on the sidewalk, over the curb, etc.)
Pratyahara is a transitional process. It can be experienced either rapidly, almost unnoticeably, or it can be experienced in a slower stat that allows observation. If pratyahara is experienced slowly, or develops as an abiding state of partial development, the external world will begin to look more and more nonsensical and undecorous to the sage, also frightening.
However, there is a counter process to this as his body becomes to be more steeped in bliss and the cleansing fire of prana: His projected world also begins to go through purification and upgrade. In this case he begins to experience more and more of the satvic grace-tinged world and less of his grosss karmic projections once based in his body. In this way the religious man (yogi) gradually enters more and more into Heaven here-now in his embodied state. This is the truth.
Pratyahara is the final doorway after years of sadhana, devotional religious attitude, and continence — to the religious state called samadhi.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Julian Lee. All Rights Reserved.