Transcending the Tanmatras Through Samapatti
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on January 12, 1990.)

Today I am dilating upon certain very important essentials concerning the final reaches in meditation, especially according to the Yoga System of Patanjali. This culminating point which meditation reaches in its intensity and profundity is designated by Patanjali as samapatti or samadhi. I shall use the word samapatti instead of the word samadhi because the word samadhi has somehow or other, due to popular usage, acquired certain frightening characteristics and may not be properly defined in our minds. Therefore, I am using a little milder word, samapatti, which means virtually the same thing.

Yesterday we covered the first step in samapatti, known as savitarka, in which experience the object of meditation is intelligently dissociated from all the characteristics foisted upon it, such as the idea about it and the nomenclature associated with it. When we think of anything, any object, we always connect it with some notion that we already have about it. We observe that a tree is called by that name, and we cannot call it by any other name. We cannot call a tree as a stone, for instance. Though there is nothing wrong in changing the name of a particular object, the common usage of special nomenclature gets associated with a particular object. This association becomes so intense, vital and part of the object, as it were, that we cannot think of the object except in terms of that name or definition.

Apart from that, we have also an idea about it. Patanjali says this is caused by a mix-up taking place in the process of the perception or cognition of the object. The mix-up is the unnecessary conception into which mould we try to cast that object which stands independently by itself, and also we cast it into the mould of a name that we give it. We give a name to the object, though the object itself has no name and it is free from any kind of idea that another may have about it. Whatever idea you have about me, that is your business, but I am independent of the idea you have about me. Similar is the name. I am that which need not necessarily be defined by that particular name, as I can be associated with any other name. Therefore, divest the object of its associations in terms of name and ideation.

Is it possible for the consciousness of the meditator to get united with the substance of the object of meditation as such in its pristine purity? Hard indeed is this achievement, but if this is practicable, you have achieved something wonderful, ordinarily not possible. You become a totally unselfish person, entirely impersonal in your envisagement of the object of meditation, so that you do not think it as you would like to think it, but you think it as it ought to be thought from its point of view, rather than from your point of view. Also, you would think it, as far as possible, in terms of a freedom that it has from any kind of nomenclature. The tree itself may not be aware that it is called tree. It is just what it is, and what it is by itself we cannot know, inasmuch as we have never tried to probe into the substance of an object independent of nomenclature and ideation. Now, Patanjali expects us to perform this Herculean acrobatic feat by going out of ourselves in some mysterious manner in order that we may become the object rather than our own selves. To be the object is the samapatti spoken of. Samapatti is the equilibrium that is established between the essential nature of the object, independent of external associations, with our own essential nature.

Now, you will realise and appreciate that you will not be able to commune yourself with the essential nature of the object independent of idea and name unless you yourself as the meditating principle free yourself from such an association in which you are also caught, namely, an idea about yourself and the name that you seem to be having. You are Mr. so-and-so, you are Rama, you are Krishna, you are Mohanty; you are only that, that particular person. You are not another person. “My name is Gopal. I am not Ramakrishna.” You will say that, and you are convinced about it. Apart from that, you have a name and form complex in which the consciousness is shrouded, and this is the idea spoken of.

So in order that your consciousness may unite itself with the essential nature of the object of meditation, you must try to contact it through your essential nature. Only equals can meet each other. Unequals cannot contact each other. This is a principle that is applicable in society as well as in spiritual meditation. Equals can contact and commune with each other; unequals cannot. Now, you cannot expect the object to stand by itself independently of all association, and you yourself will not be prepared to undergo this discipline of the similar freedom from associations. So internally, in your own personality, you must be free from associations of every kind. You have to shed the covering of your personality in order that the outer cloak of the object may also be shed.

The cloak of the object is, as we have mentioned, the name and the idea about it, and your cloak actually consists of what are known as the sheaths: the physical, the subtle and the causal. These three sheaths, these koshas, these coverings give you the wrong impression that you are located in some place, that you belong to some particular condition, and that you are such and such a thing and not another thing. This is to briefly explain the nature of the savitarka samapatti .

Mostly this is not easy for beginners; therefore, Patanjali says that in the earlier stages, the object is to be contemplated upon in the manner it is envisioned in common usage. In your level as it stands at present, try to commune yourself with that object which is parallel to your present condition. In the beginning, therefore, it is an attempt on the part of the meditating consciousness to commune itself with the object as invested with the idea about it and the name associated with it; later on, you take the second step of shedding this covering, and go deeper into the essence of the object. When the covering is completely shed, it becomes free from vitarka. Savitarka is that which is associated with an augmentation in respect of the associations of the object, and nirvitarka is the very same object conceived of as free from such associations.

What is the object of meditation which is spoken of as associated or not associated? The object in the earlier stages is anything and everything. Yathābhimata dhyānāt vā (Y.S. I.39). In this sutra, Patanjali says: Choose whatever object you like. Your beloved object, your Ishta-devata, is left to your choice. But this is only a preliminary instruction. Later on Patanjali will not permit you to just think what you like. He is specifically interested in your assuming an ability to commune yourself with the cosmic substance in its lowest level of the pancha mahabhutas, the lowest level of the manifestation of prakriti – earth, water, fire, air and ether – conceived as a total material continuum associated with idea and name, or not associated with idea and name. The associated state is savitarka; the dissociated state is nirvitarka.

But prakriti’s evolutes are not exhausted merely by the presentation of the five gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Yesterday I mentioned briefly the categories of the Sankhya, on which is based also the Yoga System of Patanjali. Higher than the physical universe is the subtle universe consisting of the rudimentary principles which become dense in the form of the five gross elements known as earth, water, fire, air and ether – prithiviapputejovayu, akasa. These subtle elements are known as shabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, gandha. They are the electrical phases, as it were. We may call them electrical components for the purpose of our understanding, but they are not electrical forces. They are finer, subtler, than what we can consider as electrical energy. They are something like prana-shakti, the vitality of the cosmos animating the physical universe of earth, water, fire, air and ether. These are the tanmatras, the potentials or the seed forms of these five gross elements mentioned.

When you deeply probe into a physical object through scientific apparatus, for instance, you will see the electrons inside rather than the molecules constituting the physical object. Basically, electrical stuff is said to be the nucleus of physical objects, which looks rotund, square, or some such shape when you see it merely with naked eyes. In a similar manner, you will find on a probe inwardly conducted through the process of meditation that the object will reveal that its inner component is not physical earth, water, fire, air and ether, but is something which is pervasive in its nature. It is something like solid ice melting into liquid water and water evaporating into gas and assuming a kind of pervasive character, not being in one place only as a solid mass.

The physical universe of five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether – are located in space and time as substances tangible to the senses, but these tanmatras are super-sensible. You can see the five elements, but you cannot see the tanmatras. They are inward. But by an inwardisation of your mind and going deep into the tanmatra principles constituting your own personality, you will be able to come in contact with the tanmatra principles at the back of the five gross elements.

Now comes the next stage of samapatti: unite yourself with the subtle potentials of the physical cosmos. All these things that I am telling you look like theory only. They mean practically nothing for people who are not accustomed to such in-depth meditations. Yesterday I mentioned that there is no use talking about this subject in greater detail because it is not intended to merely be heard, read about or just appreciated from the point of view of the dictionary meaning. It will make no sense. These are stages of experience. Anyway, you would do well to have some idea as to what this experience could be which you have to expect in the future processes of your meditation, provided you take to it seriously and not merely in an academic or armchair fashion.

The tanmatras are difficult to apprehend through the sense organs. They are inwardised forces, and therefore, by an introversion of consciousness it is possible to come in contact with these subtle principles behind the physical cosmos, but these subtle principles, namely, the tanmatras, also are conditioned in some way. Just as an object is conditioned by the idea about it and the name associated with it, the tanmatras are conditioned by space and time. They are spatiotemporal. In the large expanse of space and in the process of time, these tanmatras operate. With a stretch of imagination you will be able to make some sense out of how or what this circumstance could be. Can you imagine a pervasive electrical force spreading itself everywhere in space and constituting the basic element of everything that is called physicality or materiality? That would be the world we are thinking of now in the stage of meditation on tanmatras located in space and conditioned by time.

Whatever be the effort that you put forth through your imaginative process to free an object from association with space and time, you will find that this is not practicable. Everything, whatever it is, is somewhere and not everywhere, and it is at some time and not at all times. You cannot imagine something existing at all times because it must have been in the past and now it is not there, or it may come in the future, etc. A suggestion into the perpetual existence of anything through all the processes of time – past, present and future – is beyond the expectation of any imagination. Also, a thing can be in some place, but it cannot be in no place. That is not possible. To be in some place is to be in space, and if you lift the character of spatiality associated with the object, it ceases to be located, and then the object becomes non-located.

What is the meaning of a non-located object? The human mind cannot think it. Even modern science has come to this great conclusion which is staggering to the human mind: Finally, things are not located. They are not somewhere. Events in the world do not take place in space and they do not take place in time. The whole history of humanity is not a process taking place in this world. Do you like to hear this? Human history is not taking place in this world; it is not taking place in space and time because it is an event, and events do not take place in space and time. This is the theory of relativity, which is worth considering. That is the state in which you will find yourself. A cosmos of relativity will be presented before your consciousness.

We rise above the concept of the physical materiality of the five elements associated with idea and name, and enter into the tanmatras. In the beginning the tanmatras are conceived as located in space and time, but later we have to divest them of even association with space and time. Tanmatras associated with space and time become the object of experience in the state known as savichara. These are all technical words in Sanskrit, and we need not go into the etymology. Suffice it to say, savichara simply suggests that state of experience where the universal potentials behind the physical cosmos are presented as conditioned by space and time, but when they are not conditioned – if you can feel and appreciate and identify yourself with that non-located circumstance where even space and time would not be conditioning the tanmatras – you would be in the next higher state of samapatti, known as nirvichara.

When you reach this state, space will reveal itself. Nirvicāra vaiśāradye adhyātmaprasādaḥ (Y.S. 1.47): The self will rise up into intense activity of direct perception and you will find God dancing before you, as it were, to put it in the language of devotees. Your own self will be dancing in ecstasy as if it has attained freedom from the bondage of samsara. Righteousness, called dharma, will rain as if dropping from clouds from heaven, and that condition is called dharma megha samapatti. The cloud of virtue will pour abundant rain of goodness and righteousness, charitableness and affection upon you, and you will become a centre of attraction not merely from one corner but from all corners. “All the quarters of the universe will pay tribute to you,” says the Upanishad. Sarvā diśo balim asmai haranti (Chhand. Up. 2.22.3): As vassals of a large, distant emperor offer tribute to the emperor, the quarters of heaven will start offering tribute to this great person who is no more a person. The heavenly virtues will descend upon you. Righteousness will be the substance of your personality. Can you imagine? The substance of your personality is not bone, flesh and marrow; it is righteousness.

In the Valmiki Ramayana there is a description of Rama as being the embodiment, the solidified form of righteousness itself. Mano-nigraha dharma is the word of Valmiki: Righteousness has assumed a form, a shape and a concreteness, as it were, in Rama, the paragon of virtue. That is what Valmiki tells us about Rama. Some such thing may be the description of the blessed one who attains to this experience of savichara and nirvichara samapatti. He contacts the heavens directly. What will happen to you at that time? What you will see at that time, you cannot imagine now. Angels descend, says Vyasa, commentating on one of the sutras of Patanjali. Angels from heaven descend, and they invite you from all directions. “Great one, we have been waiting for you since a long time. Come on. There is the golden couch. There is the velvet bed. Here is the stream of milk. Here is the pond of honey. Here are the heavenly maidens to serve you. Here is the meadow, the garden, the palace.” It is not the palace and the garden that you see in this world, which are all material in their nature. An untarnished, uncontaminated, ever-enduring empire will be presented before you.

“But entangle yourself not in these perceptions,” says Patanjali in a simple sutra: sthānyupanimantraṇe saṅgasmayākaraṇaṁ (Y.S. 3.52). This is because you will be once again bound by the golden chain of these attractions for a heavenly empire instead of being bound by the iron chain of an earthly empire. What good is it for you if you are arrested and handcuffed with diamond chains instead of iron chains? Are you happy because it is diamond and gold? You are bound to a pillar of sapphire and jewels with a chain made of gold and diamond. Would you like to be in that condition of glory of material prosperity because you are in contact with such riches? No, it is no good. So be not attracted to these wondrous temptations.

But these temptations will not be a problem for you if you have already prepared yourself basically in the earlier stages of yoga practice through the yamas and niyamas. If there is some remnant of discipline not covered but bypassed for some reason or the other, feeling you are freed of disciplines of yamas, etc., they will be lingering there as little potentials to pull you down to the earth. “Why not have it, if possible?” Anyway, this is to give you a picture of the glory of the experience that you may expect in both the samapattis, savichara and nirvichara. Nirvicharanirvicāra vaiśāradye adhyātmaprasādaḥ (Y.S. 1.47): The Self manifests itself. The whole point is that. You will be embracing yourself, dancing with yourself. You bathe in yourself. You rejoice in yourself. You play football and cricket with your own self, as it were. You do not require any other person to play with, and you do not want anything for your satisfaction.

You may wonder, “Is my Self now not with me? Why should it be there afterwards? Will it come only later on so that I may enjoy it?” It is true that even now it is you and you are not going to be another afterwards, but now the Self is dead, as it were. We are in the darkness of the ignorance of a complete oblivion of the existence of our own Self. Though there is the sun shining in the sky, in this broad daylight and dazzle we are really in darkness as far as our own Self is concerned. We know nothing about our own selves. We know everything about the solar radiance and everything in the world outside, but nothing about our own selves. You have lost yourself and gained the whole world. What is the use of that? Gain the entire world, and lose your own self. Wonderful! Now you are going to gain yourself, and in gaining yourself you are not going to lose the world. You are gaining the entire thing, including the world, because yourself includes the whole world. Such an experience will be the experience of nirvichara – the rain of nectar, the pot of honey. What words can we use to tell you what kind of experience you will be having at that time? Music and dance are insufficient descriptions. It is much more than that. Deliciousness of diet is not an adequate description; emperorship is not an adequate description; possession of the whole cosmos, having it under your control, is not an adequate description. All these descriptions are inadequate. They fall short of what it is that you will be seeing and experiencing there.

So is this sufficient for you, or do you want to hear something more? If this is itself a flood that is drowning you with an inability even to comprehend what it means, why do you expect another flood? The flood of Ganga itself is sufficient to drown us completely to death, and would you like the whole Arabian Sea or the Atlantic to come and swallow you? This is what will happen to you if you go further.

Anyway, these samapattis are, to repeat once again, an ascent of consciousness of the purusha through the evolutes of prakriti, the most rudimentary level of prakriti being the pancha mahabhutas through which you have risen up, which you have pierced through to enter into the tanmatras in their association with space and time, and now also in their dissociation of space and time. Great joy ensues. This is all inconceivable. The deeper you go, the more difficult it becomes to explain what it is. In the earlier stages a lot of explanation is possible. You can go on giving lectures on the earlier stages, but as you go deeper and deeper, you become mum. When you are drowned in water, you will not open your mouth. Only when you are on the surface do you go on chattering and saying all kinds of things. Now you are going to be drowned completely. Where are you going to be drowned? In your own Self.

The tanmatras have been transcended by their dissociation with even the connection of space and time. You go to the pure ‘I am what I am’, the ahamkara-tattva described cosmically in the Sankhya doctrine. I am what I am. You have heard this said many a time, but it is only a linguistic sentence with a subject, a predicate and a verb. The meaning of it is not clear.

Moses seems to have said to the Almighty, “Lord, what can I say that You are? What can I tell people that I have seen?”

“Tell people you have seen I am what I am.” Well, Moses might have understood what this statement meant, but many of us will not make any sense of it. It is the Cosmic I speaking, not this I or that I, my I or your I. It is the All I. That is the Universal Self becoming conscious of its existence, asserting its sole unitariness, the Self manifesting itself as a Self-conscious universality. This is the bliss that is spoken of in the highest state of samapatti, known as sananda. Sananda means associated with ananda, bliss, but not the bliss that you can think of in this world.

We also have moments of happiness in this world. Many times we are immensely happy for some reason or the other. When we are possessed of some great value and worthwhileness, we become very happy, but this happiness is nothing. It is a shadow cast by the real happiness of the Self. When this shadow can attract us to such an extent, what will the original do? All this knowledge of the world is darkness before the wisdom of the Self, and all this joy that we are apparently feeling in this world by contact of sense objects is actually pain, scratching an itch, a nervous titillation. It cannot be called happiness.

The real Self will manifest itself only when the Universal I reveals itself as I am what I am. There is no space, no time; they all came afterwards. God created the heaven and the earth, but this is the state of God prior to the creation of the heaven and the earth. There is no space, no time, no “Let there be light”. It is much before that. What was God doing before He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light? Before heaven and earth were created, before He brooded on the waters of the cosmos, what was He? Can you imagine? He was not somewhere, He was not something, He was not all-pervading, He was not omniscient, and He was not all-powerful. These words should not be attributed to God in that state where heaven and earth were not there. All-pervasiveness is not possible because there is no space, no time. Oh! That tremendous eternity reigned supreme in its own pristine grandeur, majesty. What can I say? This is ananda, the bursting joy of the inner core of the cosmos that reveals itself to itself. It cannot reveal itself to you. You are no more there because yourself has gone together with the going of space and time. This is the penultimate reach of consciousness in its ecstatic attempt to unite itself with itself – sananda.

Still something is left over. What is left over? That I shall not say today.