The Study and Practice of Yoga
An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 49: The Rise to Savichara and Nirvichara

After the mind has been habituated for a protracted period to the object of meditation, the very constitution of the object appears to undergo an inward transformation, so that the mind begins to gain a sort of insight into the subtle character of the object rather than merely its outer gross form. In this stage of meditation where the gross form of the object is stepped over and its subtle nature is grasped directly by the mind, independent of the senses, there is a new type of perception altogether of the world as a whole. The world does not look like a conglomeration of solid things, but as a web, as it were, knit out of subtler forces which are more affiliated to one another than they would appear to be on the surface, merely from the point of view of their gross bodies.

This subtlety, which is the essence behind the gross forms of objects, is known in Yoga and Samkhya terminology as tanmatra. The vibrations which are at the background of all the gross forms are the tanmatras. These vibrations are not merely some functions or activities proceeding from the objects, but they are the very stuff of the objects themselves. The forces or the energies which emanate from the objects are not something extraneous to the essential nature of the objects. They are not attributes or qualities, which inhere in substances called the objects, but they are the inner essences of the objects. To give an instance as to what it means: the electrical forces that are inside a solid object, such as a piece of granite or a stone, are not attributes of the stone but are the substance out of which the stone is made – the atoms, the molecules, the electrons, etc. They are not qualities that emanate from the object of perception, but they are inherent principles, which can be made visible only to a microscopic vision. The physical perception cannot be adequate to the purpose.

When we go deeper into the structure of an object, we also begin to realise that there is a new feature present in the object. That is, it is more friendly towards others than it appeared to be on the surface. To give another example, we have waves in the ocean. If we concentrate the mind only on the waves – the crests of water - naturally we would conclude that each wave is different from the other wave. There is a vast difference between one and the other in formation, as well as distance of one from the other, etc. But the constitution of the waves is the substance of the ocean, and the vision that can go deep into the body of the ocean can visualise the affiliation of one wave with the other, notwithstanding that one wave may dash against another as if they are enemies, as if one has nothing to do with the other and they are absolutely distinct from each other. &nbsp.

In a similar manner, objects look distinct in the world; one is cut off from the other in every manner – in shape, in contour, and even in the intention, purpose, etc., of one's behaviour. But all these differentiations that are visible outside from the standpoint of grossness of bodies enter into a new realm of a greater unity and a coordination of forces when insight into the background of these bodies is gained. This step in meditation is, for the common audience, only a theory. It is of no use for practise because one cannot enter into the subtle nature of things by any amount of effort. This is a stage of experience, and not merely of understanding. When we gain mastery over the object in its relation to the subject which we are, the subtle nature of the object automatically reveals itself in direct experience, and it is not merely an object of academic consideration. We can only imagine what our experiences could be up to the level of the grossness of forms, though we may conceive of them in their interrelatedness. But beyond that the mind cannot go, because what the eyes cannot see or the ears cannot hear, the senses cannot sense and the mind also cannot think. These subtle elements, the tanmatras, are imperceptible things; they are like the electrons in a stone. We can only imagine, theoretically, that there are electrons inside, but we cannot see them with any amount of stretching the imagination. But they can be seen with a new type of apparatus, and perhaps a greater type of concentration of mind.

However, Patanjali is concerned with giving us techniques of concentration and meditation, and he takes for granted that these are stages of experience rather than merely of instruction, because yoga is not instruction – it is practice and direct experience. Every stage is one of experience, and any stage that is divested of experience is merely a theory which will be of no use in one's practical life. So, the higher step cannot be known unless the lower step is mastered and overcome. In one of the sutras, it is pointed out that the extent of mastery that one gains over the lower stage indicates what the next step would be. A person who is in the first stage cannot know what the third stage would be because a second stage is intervening, and unless the second stage is also stepped over in direct experience, the third stage cannot be known.

Hence, the process of yoga meditation is very graduated, and not one link in this chain can be completely ignored. Every step is a necessary step. When all the steps relevant to the grossness of forms are taken in their completeness, and every aspect of the gross form of the object is considered analytically and experienced, the inner nature of the object is revealed. This apperception of the subtle nature of the object is a more advanced state of meditation than the earlier states described; and this condition is described by Patanjali as savichara – far above the savitarka and the nirvitarka states. Here again a distinction is drawn between the subtle condition in its related state and the subtle condition in its unrelated state, so that a distinction between what is known as savichara and nirvichara is drawn.

In this condition where the absorption of the mind into the object becomes almost complete, the mind ceases to be merely an instrument of cognition as something extraneous to the nature of the object. It does not remain there merely as an apparatus with the help of which we come into an artificial contact with the object outside, but it becomes, again in its essential nature, something which is akin to the object itself in its essential nature. There is some basic similarity of character between the structure of the mind and the structure of the object, the absence of the knowledge of which is the reason behind the attachment of the mind to objects. Any kind of running of the mind towards external objects is due to the inability of the mind to perceive the consubstantiation of its own nature with the nature of the object. If there is, inherent in the mind itself, the characters of that towards which it is moving, the motion itself will cease.

This is what happens in these stages of meditation known as savichara and nirvichara. Not only that – even the meditating principle, the subjectivity there, becomes one with the nature of the object, and as it was described in an earlier sutra which we have discussed, it becomes impossible to distinguish between the meditator, the object that is meditated upon, and the process intervening. This was the condition described in sutra forty-one – ksinavrtteh, etc., which we have studied earlier.

Nirvicāra vaiśāradye adhyātmaprasādaḥ (I.47), says the sutra. In the state of nirvichara where deliberate argumentation, analysis, etc. cease, the logical function of the mind comes to an end and there is no deduction or induction process any longer – there is only direct visualisation. Here, the peace of the Self manifests itself. Where does it manifest itself? In the luminous condition attained through the meditation known as nirvichara. Nirvicāra vaiśāradye adhyātmaprasādaḥ. Prasadah is peace, serenity, tranquillity – complete self-absorption free from all distractions and rajasic agitation.

Here, again, a novel experience supervenes, which was unexpected and unknown to the mind in its ordinary cognitions. The mind gets filled to the brim with the truths of things.Ṛtaṁbhara tatra prajñā (I.48) – rita is 'truth', bhara is 'filled with', tatra means 'there', prajna is 'consciousness'. Consciousness, or mind there, is filled to overflowing with the nature of truth. What is truth? It is the nature of things as they stand in themselves, unrelated through space, time, or causality. In this experience of the truth of things, the mind rests in its own nature like the profound ocean whose depths cannot be fathomed, like the deep Pacific whose bottom no one knows. The steadiness of the mind, which is attained here, is comparable only with the magnificence of the Infinite. Here again, theoretical discussions will not work, because we are now stepping beyond the realm of ordinary perception and intellectual analysis. The means of knowledge known as rationality, intellection, logic, perception, sensation, etc. cease, and we are here in realms of immediacy of knowledge – aparokshata, and not merely parokshajnana or indirect knowledge.

The truth with which the mind is filled here is not merely a condition of things, is not a truth about which we are speaking in ordinary life, but it is the very being of all things. When we say 'speak the truth', we refer to a state of affairs where our idea corresponds to a fact. When the notion that is in the mind is consonant with what is already there, we call this notion a truthful notion. And when we express in language this notion that is in consonance with the facts as they are sensorily perceived, we say, "The person is speaking the truth." But this is not the truth that we are speaking of here when we are studying this sutra of Patanjali, where we are told that the mind is filled with truth. The mind is filled with being – this is what he means, because truth is the same as being. It is not merely a way of expression and not a correspondence of idea to fact, because here the ideas themselves cease in the stages of savitarka and nirvitarka, which we have discussed already.

The apparent distinction that is there between the idea of an object and the object as such has been properly understood and mastered. Ideas were known to be merely descriptions of the nature of an object; and the object is not the same as the idea of the object. Hence, the question of the correspondence of the idea with the object does not arise where the object has become a part and parcel of one's own being. So, this truth is something different from the ordinary empirical truth that we are speaking of, or with which we are acquainted.

It is not humanly possible to know what this truth is or to know what is this condition known as ritambhara. If the stuff of the whole universe is pressed into your mind, and you are laden heavily with the substance of the whole universe, and you are carrying that weight in your mind – the weight of the whole cosmos, the substantiality of all things in the whole universe, the entire magnitude and substance of the universe is pressed into your mind, is stuffed into your consciousness, and you are moving with it heavily laden in yourself – what would be that condition? That is, perhaps, the state called ritambhara, where you become a vehicle of the universe. You become the universe itself. When you walk, it looks like the universe is walking. The entire substantiality of things is injected into every cell of the body of this meditating consciousness. This is not a human condition. Here, human nature is completely transcended, and divinity takes possession of humanity. In the perception which is ritambhara, the ordinary means of cognition get absorbed into a new type of means altogether. It is not the eyes that see, or the ears that hear – it is not even the mind that thinks here. It is that superior principle within us, of which these are the manifestations, that becomes the instrument of direct awareness of all things in their simultaneity, and not in succession.

We cannot have a simultaneous knowledge of anything in this world – everything is known one after the other. If we enjoy a sunset or a scene in nature, we enjoy the discrete objects, one after another in succession, and not at one stroke, in their totality or completeness. We cannot enjoy everything at once, simultaneously. Even if we take our lunch, we cannot stuff everything into our mouths at one stroke; the food goes in item by item. Even when we think thoughts, ideas come one after another, in succession. Everything that is known to man is a processional activity and not a simultaneous grasp of being. But here, in this condition of ritambhara, the state where the mind is filled with truth, there is no successive procession of ideas and no necessity for the senses to function. We need not open our eyes to see objects, or keep our ears open to hear sounds – nor is there a necessity for the functional activity of the mind, as we are acquainted with usually.

There is a direct grasp due to the entry of the mind into everything, at one stroke, in its pervasiveness. Even in this pervasiveness, it does not remain as an instrument of knowledge, but becomes the very substance of that which is to be known – jñānaṁ jñeyaṁ jnagamyaṁ (B.G. XIII.17), as the Bhagavadgita puts it. It is the jnana as well as the jneya. Vettāsi vedyaṁ ca (B.G. XI.38) is also a statement of the Bhagavadgita, which means we are the known as well as the knower. It is the knower that becomes conscious of one's own self in the cognition of an object. Very strange indeed is this knowledge, that in the awareness of an object one becomes aware of one's own self, and vice versa; in the knowledge of one's own self one becomes aware of the object, so that to possess oneself is to possess things, and to possess things is to possess oneself.

This is the nature of the mind where it is filled with truth, ritambhara. Here, the processes of knowledge known as perception, inference, and verbal testimony, etc., cease, because these empirical processes are valid only as long as the objects lie outside in space and in time, and are causally related, while this is not the case here. The means adopted under those conditions become inadequate. Śruta anumāna prajñābhyām anyaviṣayā viśeṣārthatvāt (I.49), is a sutra which describes the nature of the knowledge which comprehends objects here. Sruta is what is heard – verbal testimony; anumana is induction, deduction, logic, inference. The knowledge that we gain by inferential activity of the mind and by verbal testimony, as well as by sensory cognition and perception, is different from the intuitive grasp of things, into which we enter here in this state of filledness with truth – ṛtaṁbhara tatra prajñā (I.48). Vishesharthatvat – the reason is given here: the object of knowledge here is completely different from the object in ordinary knowledge. The objects in ordinary knowledge stand outside as strangers to the means of perception, never allowing themselves to be absorbed into the means but always standing outside, requiring a communication by means of extraneous apparatus through the mind and the senses.

Whatever be the hospitality that we show to a foreigner or to a stranger, whatever be the love that we may have towards an object which does not really belong to us, whatever be the feeling that we have towards the most valuable of things in this world – if it is not ours, we will know the inadequacy of our affections and the futility of our efforts in that direction merely because we stand outside that which we are seeking, perceiving, loving, etc. So there is a sense of insecurity and unhappiness present in all processes of knowledge and activity in the world, for obvious reasons. But this insecurity and unhappiness vanishes immediately here, in this state where the object of knowledge is not an object at all, but it is the subject itself that enjoys itself. Ātma-krīḍa ātma-mithura ātmānandaḥ, sa svarāḍ bhavati (C.U. VII.25.2), says the Chhandogya Upanishad. Here, in this state, one enjoys one's own self, and not an object outside. The question of enjoying an object does not arise, because the self has assumed such a magnitude that it has comprehended all of the objects which it desired earlier through the senses.

The activity of a person who has attained this state is not a movement of the limbs of the body, but a movement of self within itself. It is the rumbling of the ocean of consciousness within its own bosom. As the Chhandogya Upanishad beautifully puts it in this passage, one keeps the company of one's own Self; one is the friend of one's own Self; one rejoices with one's own Self; one plays with one's own Self, and one enjoys, in every way, the Self that is there. Such a person has a passport into all worlds, says the Upanishad – sarveṣu lokeṣv akāma-cāro bhavati (C.U. VII.25.2). We can enter into any place without any permission. Who is to give us permission? One is the master of every house, one is the owner of every piece of land anywhere in the universe, and one is the lord of the realms through which the universe manifests itself. He enjoys through every mouth, sees through every eye, and becomes the soul of all things. Not all the gods put together can obstruct him in his activity, says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

All this is because the object of his knowledge and experience are identical, whereas in our ordinary life, the objects of mere knowledge are different from the objects of experience. We may be professors of knowledge of many things in this world over which we have no control and which we do not possess. Therefore, this professorial knowledge is emptiness, because we have no knowledge of the essential nature of the objects of which we have information. We have an informative acquaintance with the location of the objects in space and time in their relatedness causally, but we have no possession of them. So a professor of knowledge is not the owner of that knowledge, because he owns only an informative description of the outer character of the object as it stands outside him.

But here, visheshartha, the object is special. What is the specialty of that object? It is no more an object. The word 'object' is inapplicable here because it becomes merely a manifestation of what one's own self is. This condition is called intuition or insight – a direct entry into the being of things by not merely becoming, but by being those things. The self becomes all.

The purusha overcomes the clutches of prakriti, and stands in its own pristine purity. Here is the borderland of kaivalya or moksha, towards which the yoga practice is directed. These are some of the peculiar technicalities Patanjali has mentioned in the higher stages of meditation.