Monthly Archives: March 2016

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.20


Others follow a five-fold systematic path of

  1. 1) faithful certainty in the path

  2. 2) directing energy towards the practices

  3. 3) repeated memory of the path and the process of stilling the mind

  4. 4) training in deep concentration

  5. 5) the pursuit of real knowledge, by which the higher samadhi (asamprajnata samadhi) is attained.

Those who have not yet freed themselves from attachment to body and mind will meet with success when they imbue their practice with five virtues.Others [those who are not born with the extraordinary abilities] too attain the highest level of samadhi, provided their practice is accompanied by conviction, inner strength, retentive power, all-consuming focus, and clear understanding.

For others,the path is faith, energy, mindfulness, meditation and wisdom.

Thankfully, for those who have not attained full detachment from body and mind, Patanjali sets out five ways in which we can still attain the higher samadhi (self realisation). The word ‘faith’ in one of the translations above makes me a bit twitchy – I personally am uncomfortable with ‘blind faith’, or believing in something you have no experience of. However, reassurance is found here:

it is suggested that one test the ideas in one’s own inner laboratory, with the “faith” of Yoga thus being based on direct experience.

‘Conviction’ is a good alternative to ‘faith’.

The ‘inner energy’ in step two is outlined here:

preserving the energy of your body, senses, and mind through all possible means— eat well, sleep well, exercise well, relax, and do not abuse your body and senses through overeating, oversleeping, and unwholesome sense pleasures.

Bit of a no-brainer – look after yourself and you will reap the benefits.

The third step is smriti, the power to recollect, or mindfulness of being on the yogic path, and also being mindful in the meditative sense (a bit of a current buzz-word).

The fourth step is focus or concentration, and can also be thought of as formal meditation. I wonder if steps three and four are similar to the Zen Buddhist practices of samu (mindfulness in the physical tasks of daily life) and zazen (formal sitting meditation).

The fifth step is given as ‘wisdom’, which is quite hard to attain. One commentary describes it as ‘clear understanding’, which feels more achievable –

knowing that everything in the world, including our own body and mind, are the means for gaining self-understanding .



Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.19



In this state one may experience bodilessness, or become merged in nature. This may lead to isolation or to a state of loneliness.

Other translations:

Some who have attained higher levels (videhas) or know unmanifest nature (prakritilayas), are drawn into birth in this world by their remaining latent impressions of ignorance, and more naturally come to these states of samadhi.

People belonging to the category of videha and prakṛtilaya are born with the capacity to attain the highest level of samadhi.

The ‘category of videha‘ mentioned in the third translation above refers to someone who has transcended the body (which could also include the mind). ‘Prakṛtilaya’ means absorbed in ‘prakriti‘ – the nature of intelligence by which the universe exists, the ‘primal motive force‘ in the Bhagavad Gita. Before creation, this nature, this prakriti, was the perfect balance of Sattva (light, bliss, goodness), Rajas (passion, motion) and Tamas (inertia, darkness)(the 3 gunas, the primary qualities of nature). A disturbance in this equilibrium gave rise to the physical world.

So this sutra is saying that when one has transcended the physical body, and when one is absorbed in the primary qualities of nature, one has the capacity to reach the highest level of samadhi (meditative consciousness).

Iyengar seems to go further by saying that ‘this may lead to isolation or loneliness’, which the other two translations do no mention. Loneliness has many negative connotations, I wonder whether ‘solitude’ is more what is meant here, but perhaps this will be elaborated on as we read further through the sutras.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.18


Iyengar translation:

The void arising in these experiences is another samādhi. Hidden impressions lie dormant but spring up during moments of awareness, creating fluctuations and disturbing the purity of the consciousness.

Other translations:

The other kind of samadhi is asamprajnata samadhi, and has no object in which attention is absorbed, wherein only latent impressions remain; attainment of this state is preceded by the constant practice of allowing all of the gross and subtle fluctuations of mind to recede back into the field from which they arose.

The highest state of samadhi (spiritual absorption) is that where, due to the practice, all modifications of mind, including subtle impressions of all previous actions, have come to an end.

The previous sutra described the ‘lower level of samadhi, this sutra describes the higher level. This sutra describes the highest form of samadhi, rather than focussed attention with an object, it is concentration without any object. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait describes it as the perfect stillness of the mind. Even the senses are still.

Swamiji in his blog, says that to attain this ‘objectless’ samadhi, there is a balance between intentionality and letting go. This is very reminiscent of the Zen buddhist practice of zazen – just sitting, seeing what arises, observing it, and letting it go. The intention to meditate must be there, otherwise the ‘monkey mind’ becomes noisy. With a light touch, we can remind ourselves that we have noticed we are thinking, and let the thoughts go. Iyengar’s use of the word ‘void’ gels very well with my understanding of zazen:

The void is about the way we reconstruct the world, we are continually what we see and experience. In meditation we start to break through that reconstruction to what could be called the void, because it is beyond or behind the reconstruction, it is not possible to name this because once it is named it is no longer the void. This void is not empty but full of life, intelligence and meaning.

Quote from Ray Menezes

This sunyata, this void, is therefore the end result of our spiritual practice.