Today happens to be the second anniversary of writing these essays. While I move further, I wish to thank many volunteers and readers who have come together through the auspices of Sai’s blessings to assist me on this path. I am thankful to my students at Frog Pond Yoga Center who have enabled me to analyze some of this material for them. We will devote the next several essays on the practical aspects of yoga and try to learn from real life. We have dealt with many thinkers in this series, they appear mythical. We know that individuals like Sai of Shirdi are real; they lived normal life like other human beings and they carried insight. How such insight can come to people is the principle of yoga, enunciated by another saint who appeared more than two thousand years ago. This saint was Patanjali.


Patanjali lived in 3rd century BC and taught in the old school at Takshasila, a center for learning over in the northwest India. Takshsila was not a degree-granting school; each teacher was responsible for his or her courses and his or her students. The students came from all around the world to learn from a teacher and the teacher made his or her own curriculum. All teachers had a place; success depended on students’ appreciation. Patanjali was a success. Two other predecessors from the school are also known: Panini, the grammarian; Pingala, the musician.


Patanjali defined a new quantity called chitta. (People who have not fully in tune with the philosophical background at the time should review the articles on sAnkhya in this series.) sAnkhya did create a model to help us understand our daily life. That we live because of the “desire” of a purusha and we act according to our in-built prakRti , was methodical and analytic. Sri Krishna’s teaching that we cannot change our prakRti, but can try to excel in what we do was a powerful and self-evident instruction. He coined the word yoga and connected excellence as an attribute to it. It was Patanjali’s task to define yoga. Through experimentation he declared that yoga happens when we clear our chitta, a layer in our mind that is responsible for our thinking.


The idea in sAnkhya was that we suffer because of our biases in our mind. We see less, we hear less, we operate in a reduced manner because our mind closes in. sAnkhya taught that we would be more happy by accepting more. We need to throw away our egotism to accept others as our own. However the trouble is not that we do not reach out, but we “think” about the objects and realize that they are not really us. So our touch, feel, heart remain less pronounced for others than they are for our own. Patanajli hypothesized that there is a thinking apparatus chitta in the mind. In order that our biases do not act up, we must keep the chitta secluded from any mental processes that can trigger our prakRti.

The concept of chitta and its pristine nature assume that we can make our mind transparent if we try. We accept that such a transparent state exists in us but remains hidden. Most likely, Patanjali with the help of his students did mind experiment to check if such transparency can be revealed. It is possible that such experiments were started by Goutama Buddha and his disciples in the earlier time and they culminated with Patanjali and his students. The problem that the experiment explores is to check how our mind thinks and if we can divorce all thoughts from our mind. Does such a state exist when we have no thinking? What happens to us in that state? How do we reach such a state?


Sri Krishna used the Sanskrit word samAdhi to define the state when the mind is fully occupied with a single thought or no thought. samAdhi is variously translated as “concentration” or “one-pointed-ness” or “transcendence”. People who have tried dance, music, writing, chanting, parenting, serving or worship might realize that a full absorption makes the task simpler and easier. We seem to feel like being carried than struggling to do the task. The notes show up in our voice, the rhythm dances up in our steps, words generate at our tongues, energy shows up in our body. We enter a state of trance and we may not feel the presence of the environment other than our action. Patanjali wanted to discover if samAdhi could be our endowed state of existence.


Patanjali’s tools and methods of discovery have not been fully reconstructed, but his enunciations are emphatic, convincing and appear fully scientific. Leaning on his predecessors he prescribes methods in which we can help clean our minds leading us to enter a samAdhi state.  Unlike Sri Krishna’s action-based samAdhi, Patanjali’s samAdhi is based on meditation, a method to make the mind transparent. As a scientific exercise, he would describe the milestones in the journey as we immerse ourselves in the exploration. The ultimate result is rajayoga as enunciated by Sri Krishna as one of his many paths of realizing the Absolute.


Patanjali noticed that the first effect in the mind for any thought is argumentation, in Sanskrit tarka. We operate in an object world and we perceive everything as objects. When we think of an object, we ascertain its validity, we make arbitrary impressions on it, we romanticize, we try to forget or we try to recollect; each of this is a wandering of our mind and we are in an endless stream of argumentation. Argumentation becomes confusing when the objects overlap and we don’t have any clear idea how to react. The state of fixing our mind such that we understand all objects clearly has been called savitarka samAdhi “meditation with argumentation” by Patanjali.


Through the argumentation process which can be lengthy, we eventually make up our mind on our particular liking such that we do not wander. Here we become a good Hindu, or a good Muslim, or a good Christian, or a good Sufi and we love to be what we are. We can also become good singers, dancers, writers, caregivers or parents; all we need is immersion. We love what we do, we do not argue. To stay immersed in an object needs sacrifice and mental discipline. When we do accomplish such immersion, we enter nirvitarka samAdhi “meditation without argumentation.” In this state, we have love in our heart and our work is our love. Most mothers possibly possess this by default. Many devotees in Temples excel in this.


After operating on an object with love, there would be a state when we might understand the nature of love than the nature of the object. This is a state of utter discrimination; the mind transcends from the object world to the “attribute” bhAva world. We think of the bhAva of the object than the object itself; we think of the dignity of the human being than the human being, we think of the sweetness of the flower than the flower, we think of the majesty of the worship than the worship. When the object disappears and we are engulfed in the attribute we enter the state savichAra samAdhi “meditation with discrimination.” All saints possibly operate in this state in their daily life.


In the state of discrimination, we are occupied with love, our natural state of existence. We are liked and respected by all because we are not conditioned by any object. Once we attempt to go beyond the state of discrimination, we enter the state of utter blissfulness, the state of nirvichAra samAdhi , “meditation of nondiscrimination.” When the person attains this state, he or she manifests supernatural skills to foresee future, cure ills; do humanly difficult tasks. We hear many stories in the scriptures of unusual attainments, where such nirvichAra samAdhi state could be in play. In yoga literature it is a state of Ananda.


Ananda state is supremely blissful and the person discovers his or her own true self. It is believed that we can see through our origin of life in this trance. How much of the universe we see and how clear we see would be a function of our attainment. Each of us is different; hence the path that we would see that led us to the present life would be different for different people. This is the state of chitta, what we see is pure knowledge; no bias, no varnish, we see inside of us. It is a state of illumination, attributed to Goutama Buddha.


Patanjali says that there is a state beyond the state of Ananda of nirvichAra samadhi , where the visions of the universe accumulated in us also can disappear. We enter a state of physical non-being and timelessness, when the chitta has stopped functioning. It has become still; all processes stay in suspension. He calls this state nirbIja samAdhi , “meditation without a seed (thought).” Life processes may or may not continue, it is a state of pure consciousness. It is believed that Ramakrishna Paramahansa entered the nirbIja samAdhi naturally. All saints also could be gaining confidence through such attainments.


We will discuss further on these steps and the processes as we proceed. Patanjali gave a scientific basis to Sri Krishna’s yoga. Anyone can try.

Let Sai bless all.

Bijoy Misra

February 14, 2013