The Yoga-Sutras On MeditationIn this section I have organized all the Yoga-Sutra's instructions regarding meditation, of which there are many. Meditation is the central work of yoga and the basic subject of the Yoga-Sutra. Then the Sutra content on Aum appears like the the cake of the Yoga-Sutra feast. This section gets into the superlative and penultimate topic of ideal meditation objects. The meditation object called Aum is broached, but the material on Aum, because extensive, is broken out into a different section.
Meditation has already been introduced, because japa has been introduced. But because meditation is the central subject of the Yoga-Sutra (and meditation's goal, samadhi) it is natural that meditation is well-analyzed and explicated in the text. In the following verses the Sutra will turn to discussing meditation in more technical terms of dharana (concentration) and dhyana, or meditation proper, and samyama.
"But he who has not first turned away from his wickedness, who is not tranquil, and subdued, or whose mind is not at rest, he can never obtain the Self (even) by knowledge."
First Katha Upanishad, Chapter II, Verse 24, "The Upanishads," Translated by Max Muller
This is one of the many references to meditation in the Upanishads. Gambhirananda gives "...whose mind is not concentrated..." Nikhilananda gives "...whose mind is not at peace." Radhakrishnan gives "...he who has not a concentrated mind...whose mind is not composed..." The word used above for "wickedness" is duscaritat. Sankara gives that as "sinful works either prohibited or not sanctioned by the Vedas." Sir Monier Monier-Williams' A Sanskrit Dictionary gives duscaritat as: "misbehavior, misdoing, ill-conduct, wickedness" and notes that Buddha used the word to denote the "Ten Chief Sins" which include murder, adultery, lewdness." Duscaritat is a handy cover-all euphemism for sexual sin or failure in brahmacharya. When you hear "wickedness" think: Wanking, looking at porn. That's what will best keep sat-chit-ananda a far cry and keep you in hell-realms, far from samadhi, i.e. religious knowledge. The word used for "knowledge" above is prajna which means real, direct knowledge of God. The scripture may be saying that even prajna itself will not let the aspirant obtain Purusa (God) without moral rectitude and concentration of mind. Or, it may be saying that both the Self and prajna are a unavailable without them. Notice that this Verse from the Katha refers two of the three basic activities: japa (concentration of mind) and austerities (moral rectitude and brahmacharya.)
The assumption of the Yoga-Sutra is that the purpose of meditation is to attain samadhi, at which time the devotee disports with Saguna Brahman (in the case of savikalpa samadhi), or abides with Nirguna Brahman (in the case of nirvikalpa samadhi). Now, where is meditation in the verse about the three actions of yoga? Has it already brought meditation out for us? Indeed it has. Meditation was already right there in tapas, in svadhyaya, and right there already in bhakti.
Tapas is Meditation
Meditation is the highest kind of tapas, as the very mind, root of all sensory experience, is renounced in meditation! Many translations of the Upanishads even use the word tapas to mean concentration. For example, it is stated that the God as the Creator (Brahma) created the world by tapas, meaning by concentration. By thinking about it steady and intensely it came into being. Meanwhile, tapas in the sense of asceticism (fasting, holding a posture) increase the power of meditation. So meditation has been mentioned in tapas.
Svadhyaya is Meditation
It also fits the svadhyaya definitions of chanting and repetition of mantra. (Chanting and mantra repetition are certainly meditation techniques.)
Bhakti For the Lord is Meditation
Meditation also lives right inside devotion-to-the-Lord or Isvara-pranidhana. Anybody devoted to anything will think of it all the time and be meditating on it. Intense longing and attention bring both dharana and dhyana, explained below. Meditation powered by feeling and devotion is the most effective. If one can get an intense longing for God, whether from attraction or for help with problems, his meditation will become empowered and that longing is itself meditation.
Dea-bandhas cittasya dharana.
Fixing the mind on one thing is dharana.
Dharana is concentration. Concentration is the most basic aspect of meditation. Yet it's the part most difficult, what all struggle with as soon as they begin the work of meditating, or giving the mind back to God.
Truly, people think meditation is supposed to be easy. As soon as they find out it's difficult, they think there is something wrong with them. They say: "This is hard. My mind moves around. It won't stay on the mantra. Maybe I'm just not very good at meditation. Maybe meditation's not for me." Then they quit. Yet the sages say that controlling the mind is the most difficult of all human achievements; more difficult than creating empires, controlling armies, and conquering the world. This last verse "And the fitness of the mind for concentration" finally arriving at 2:53 after so many steps and instructions (in Patanjali's original order!) should spell delusions that meditation is easy. Why should getting God be so easy after our lifetimes of neglect, disloyalty, and piling up so much karmic obstruction between ourselves and Him?
This brings to mind Krsna instructing Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita. Krsna had laid out some of the ways that an aspirant may meditate. Arjuna answers him with all our typical doubts, saying:
"I hear you speak of this yoga which is attained by stillness of mind, Lord.
But I see no foundation for it. For the mind is verily restless.
I deem it as hard to control as the wind."
I am paraphrasing this in my own way. Krsna answers him back:
"Yes, my devotee, the mind is indeed restless, but by vairagya (dispassion)
and by right technique, it can indeed be controlled."
Arjuna was already a bhakta and a yogi. Yet even he complained that he couldn't get his mind to sit still. So why do you think it should be so easy for you? And having done no preparations?
Tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam
Continuous concentration on the object is dhyana.
When the meditator gets true realization of the meditation object, penetrating and knowing the object's real nature, unconscious of himself as mind or knowledge, it is samadhi.
The three taken together are called samyama.
The term samyama is brought out here. It will later have more application in the section on siddhis or occult powers, most of which are effected by samyama on various meditation objects.
The suppression of distracting vrittis is attained by abhyasa and non-attachment.
All the techniques given here for the stilling of the mind and attainment of samadhi are now called abhyasa. The importance of detachment is repeated. The verse seems to be encouraging us that practice brings results, and reminding us of the baseline importance of non-attachment to worldly things and experiences for attaining yoga.
Vyutthāna-nirodha-samskārayor abhibhava-prādurbhāvau nirodha-ksana-cittānvayo nirodha-parināmah.
The mind is said to be in the inhibited or intercepted state when moment-by-moment the mind is continuously inhibited (by the meditation object) and a samskara of inhibition is created.
Because this verse seems difficult, it will be useful to include another translation. Half of Dvivedi's translation:
"Interception is the transformation of the mind at the moments of interception..."
M.N. Dvivedi, "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali"
In other words, when one keeps returning the mind to its meditation object moment-by-moment, constantly, the mind is transformed into this other state that Patanjali is calling "intercepted."
This verse 3:9 may seem highly technical and can confuse you. It gives the appearance of listing one more attainment of mind called "interception" (while other translators refer to it as successful "suppression"). However, this is just a new treatment of dhyana vis, "Continuous concentration on the object is dhyana." In short, this verse is an amplification of Verse 3:2. Know it!
This is, in my view, another of the rare cases where the Yoga-Sutra contains some redundancy. Thus I changed the verse's location to nearer and following the verse on dhyana. The yogi or yogess does not need to confuse themselves with the idea of "attaining both interception, then dhyana." They are one and the same. It would be like saying, "I have to light the bush on fire plus also set it aflame."
The verse does broach the role of samskaras, which is important, and this is asserted more in the next verse:
Tasya prasānta-vāhitā samskārat.
The mind's flow becomes steady by samsakaras.
Both of the verses above bring up the principle in which the usual samskaras (impressions) of extravertiveness, or the samskaras that cause the mind to jump around in thoughts, are over-written by another different samskara that the yogi produces in himself, a samkara of inhibition-of-thoughts; a samskara of focus, control, and constant direction of the mind to the meditation object. Samskaras can help us stay world-distracted and keep the samsara ball rolling, but samskaras (conditioning) can also assist us to attain samadhi. The yogic samskara of concentration overwrites the dualistic samkaras of world-experience and stupidity.
The distraction-afflictions are ignorant illusion, the sense of "I," attraction, aversion, and attachment.
The Yoga-Sutra spends a great deal of time analyzing the modifications of the mind that are to be reduced by meditation then eliminated by samadhi. At the beginning of the text it calls them vrittis or modifications of the mind. By Chapter Two it begins to refer to the modifications as klesas, a more complex word implying affliction and distraction. This change of terminology, plus the compound nature of the word klesa, is one of features making the Sutra difficult to follow in clear threads. I have sought to keep the thread more intact here by combining statements about suppression of vrittis with statements about the suppression of klesas. A happy religious fellow, i.e. the fellow practicing yoga, is suppressing them all.
They are to be suppressed by meditation (dhyana).
Abhyasa is the effort towards becoming established in that state (of suppression).
Abhyasa becomes firmly-grounded when continued a long time without interruption and with reverence.
Samadhi comes soonest to those who desire it intensely.
Even among the ardent, there is the distinction of mild, medium, or intense means.