The Study and Practice of Yoga
An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda
PART I: THE SAMADHI PADA
Chapter 50: The States of Sanada and Sasmita
When a profound state of concentration is reached, a joy ensues within oneself, and the mind gets absorbed in this experience of joy. This is a delight, which is not merely imagined by the mind, but directly grasped in concrete experience. It is quite a different type of joy from what we are acquainted with in sense contact. The sensation of happiness or pleasure that we experience in contact with objects is utterly different from the positivity of experience that we are speaking of as an emanation of the character of Being as such. This is the great ananda of which Patanjali speaks as the third stage of experience in meditation. Here, the rooted-ness of oneself in happiness does not get shaken up by any other experience whatsoever. The winds of the world cannot shake it anymore. Not even the worst sorrow can shake a person when one is fixed in this joy that automatically, spontaneously, manifests from the nature of Being itself.
The sensations of happiness in the world have to be distinguished from bliss that is divine, because sensations have a beginning and, therefore, they have an end. Not only that, they are not endowed with any type of positivity in them – they are mere reactions. A reaction is a temporary phase or condition which is roused into experience due to the collocation of various factors involved in that experience, and when those factors get dismembered, when they are dissociated, the experience also comes down and vanishes. Therefore, there is no permanent happiness in the world, since happiness is caused by certain conditions, and these conditions cannot always prevail. Inasmuch as the causative factors are passing, the effect, which is joy, is also passing, and no one is perpetually happy.
But here in this condition of sananda experience, which is experience attended with joy of a spiritual nature, there is no vanishing of causes and therefore no cessation of the effect, because the cause is the essential nature of the object of meditation, and the essential nature of an object cannot vanish. The conditions may vanish, the form may change, circumstances may vary, but the essential nature cannot change. Inasmuch as one contacts the essential nature of things here, the bliss that emanates therefrom is permanent, because the essential nature is permanent. This experience is sananda, as Patanjali puts it.
This ananda is unthinkable – most ecstatic and rapturous in its structure. It is here that saints burst into songs, dance in ecstasy and exclaim in a manner which a mortal mind cannot understand, because their visions are supernatural, super- sensual and super-contactual. This is a stage which is precedent to the total absorption of the essence of the object into one's own being, wherein in this condition of absorption there is an experience of a superior type of comprehensive existence which one enjoys, which is quite different from the individual existence that one is supposed to enjoy in empirical life. Individual existence is not comprehensive – rather, it is exclusive – whereas here we are referring to a state of existence which is inclusive. Inclusive of what? It is inclusive of the object of knowledge, whereas in individual existence there is an exclusion of the object of knowledge.
This is the reason why there is restlessness of mind and an intense urge for activity for the purpose of the acquisition of things which are desired or felt as needful. But in this condition which is referred to as sasmita, there is a feeling of 'I-ness' in respect of the object, and not merely in respect of oneself. No one feels a sense of 'I' in respect of another person. We always refer to another as 'you', 'he', 'she', and 'it', etc. Now here, the object does not any longer remain as a 'you', or a 'he', or a 'she', or an 'it'. The object remains as an 'I', and that is why this condition is designated as sasmita. Asmita is Self-consciousness. The self-consciousness, which is usually the character of individuality, isolated personality of egoism, is overcome, and a new type of 'I-ness' manifests itself in respect of the object of knowledge.
That which appeared as something outside the process of knowing, that which was the object that was desired, that towards which the mind moved for the purpose of possessing and enjoying it, becomes a part of the desirer himself, so that the attitude of consciousness in respect of the object here is the same as the attitude that the desirer has towards its own self. Then, the movement of the mind ceases, because one cannot move toward one's own self. Even when we look at an object, we will not move towards it, because there is no looking at an object here - there is an insight into the nature of the object. Here the sensory observation does not work anymore, nor is it felt anymore as being necessary. We need not open our eyes to see things, or hear through the ears, because the objects of these sensations become commensurate with the structure and substance of our own being, with which we have identified the 'I'.
The 'I' or the pure Selfhood, which is wrongly limited to the bodily encasement, is now made to enlarge its gamut and comprehend more things than it could. It is released from the prison of the body. It does not remain inside like a lion, tied into the iron bars of imprisonment. It comes out and finds its comrades in the world outside, and lives a really friendly life with the forces, persons and things which it ordinarily regarded as enemies and as distinct from its own self. Here is an experience which surpasses human comprehension totally, because with all of our imagination we cannot understand what it could be to feel ourself in another - not merely to feel, but to be another, to exist as another.
In this sasmita condition, one does not merely imagine one's friendship with another or experience ideationally the relationship that one has with other things in the world. It is not a psychological function in the sense of thinking, feeling, and willing, etc. – it is an absorption. The object is no longer an object that is sought but that which is experienced, and this is complete mastery over the object, just as one has complete mastery over one's own limbs. We can tell our legs to walk in any direction; they will walk in that direction. The legs will not tell us, "We will not listen to you." No such fear need be had from the limbs of our own body. There is a complete mastery over everything in the world at this stage, because of the organic connectedness of all objects with experience.
This experience, as we noted previously in studying one of the sutras of Patanjali, is an insight, an experience, an intuition – and not a sensation, a perception, cognition, or understanding. In this sasmita state, the world ceases to be an external atmosphere or an environment that is outside us. It becomes an emanating force of our own personality. We do not live in a world anymore; we live in our own Self. We do not walk on the streets; we enjoy the bliss of our infinity, and the things of the world cease to be things inanimate. The inanimate character of the objects ceases. It is not matter that we are looking at, but vital force – energy that is living, as much alive as the living consciousness which is experiencing this. This is supposed to be the penultimate condition of total isolation, which is kaivalya.
All of these stages are cryptically stated in a single sutra of Patanjali: vitarka vicāra ānanda asmitārūpa anugamāt saṁprajñātaḥ (I.17). The term 'samprajnatah' is used as an epithet to explain or to characterise these experiences, by which is meant that there is a peculiar, inexpressible consciousness of a state of Being. We can identify this with God-consciousness itself. This is what practically amounts to the Realisation of God, where the feeling of the 'I' is not anymore a mental state, but a character of Being – satta. It is not the mind thinking an object, but consciousness becoming the object, which is the state of Divinity. One cannot ordinarily explain or express, in any language, these states which are supernatural, because they are not objects of any kind of knowledge with which we are acquainted, be it either perception, or inference, verbal testimony, or comparison, or whatever it be.
All the ways of knowing in this world are inapplicable here, in the same way as these processes of knowing are inapplicable in our knowledge of our own self. I know that I exist, but not because I perceive myself with the eyes; nor do I infer the existence of myself by logical reasoning. I have a correct grasp of what I am, even if I close all my senses. I can know that I am, due to a faculty that is working in me that is different from seeing, hearing, or touching, etc., different from even logical reasoning; and this is what is known as direct intuition. You cannot ask me to prove that I am; it does not require any proof, because all proofs proceed from this experience that I am. The proofs are subsequent to this experience, so they cannot be applied to the experience itself. Likewise, the intuitive grasp of one's being gets extended to all things, which are apparently recognised as external in ordinary sensory experience.
The condition of a person here is really unthinkable. The person ceases to be a person anymore; there is only a faint sensation of one's being, and not a concrete experience of a bodily existence of oneself. There is only an impression, as it were, left of one's existence. One begins to feel that one's 'being' itself is vanishing. There is a little memory, if it can be called a memory at all, for want of a better word, which indicates that one perhaps exists. It cannot be called existence in ordinary terms because, to us, existence is a solid physical existence. Other than physical existence, we know nothing. By physical existence we mean bodily existence as isolated from the bodily existence of other things. We are used to diversity of experience – avidya, kama, karma – ignorance of the universality of things, desire for external objects, and activity towards that; such is our essential character. But all of this vanishes at once, in one stroke, and the peculiar sensation of 'being' that one experiences here is also regarded as a precedent condition to absorption.
It is not that we pass through only six or seven stages as mentioned here. There will be infinite, minute details which one would be experiencing when one passes through these stages. Just as if we have to go to Badrinath, and we ask a tourist officer, "What are the things that I will see on the way when I move from Rishikesh to Badri?", he will tell us, "Well, the first thing that you will see would be Deoprayag; then you will see Karnaprayag, etc.", but he will not tell us what we will see between Rishikesh and Deoprayag. He is not interested in that, though we will see many things between these two. The guides tell us only the important signposts on the way, but do not tell us the details which we as pilgrims will see when we actually pass through the road, because every step, though a little step it be, is a distinctive experience. At every stage one will have a new type of experience. It is not that there are only eight types of meditation, etc. There will be infinite stages for the person who actually experiences them. Every minute will look like a new world has opened up before one's eyes, and every experience may look startling, though sometimes there are indications that a certain type of experience will ensue.
There are premonitions of what will come in front of us, but this is not always the case. There can be a sudden burst, like a whirlwind that blows without our knowing one day earlier that it will take place subsequently. The experiences vary from person to person, according to the various types of karma which one is passing through or experiencing. We cannot generalise experiences for all persons in the world, but one thing can be said in a general manner – that the experiences are mostly startling. They are not experienced gradually, with previous notice. We will find that all great things in the world happen suddenly – whether it is a sudden promotion, or it is an earthquake. It can be anything – we will not know it one day before. Rather, we will get a notice that such a thing has happened. It may be a birth, or it may be a death; even these cannot be known earlier.
Likewise, revelations from the bosom of nature, which are the experiences in meditation, will suddenly come like surprises, shaking the very foundation of our earlier thoughts and ways of thinking. Every new experience will be a new world that we enter into, and not merely a way of thinking or a refashioning of the way of living. Infinite worlds are there, say the scriptures. It is not that we have only fourteen worlds, as the Puranas sometimes tell us. The fourteen worlds are like the so many chettis (halting places along a pilgrimage route) that we find on the way to Badri. But, as I said, they are not the only things that one will pass through – there are many other, smaller things. Likewise, though tentatively, for gross classification, we may say that there are fourteen worlds or fourteen realms, etc., the experiences will be much more, and every minute will be a new world for the advanced yogin.
Then, what happens? The sensations of the presence of things outside, let alone the desire for things, gradually get transmuted into the direct awareness of their being part and parcel of one's own self. The Yoga Vasishtha has a detailed essay on these stages of knowledge. There are four stages of knowledge, as Patanjali also mentions in his own language, where, in the beginning or the earliest stage, we are supposed to have only a flash, like lightning. It is not like a brilliant sun that is perpetually hanging in front of us, but a flash which comes and goes. This is referred to as sattvapatti, the manifestation of sattva in us in its uncontaminated purity, which is what the Yoga Vasishtha tells us. We have flashes – sometimes they can be daily flashes. It does not mean that these flashes will come every minute. They may come every day, or they may come after one year. So many complain that they had some experience of a light, etc., and they have not recurred. Well, as I mentioned, we cannot generalise the rules of the way in which these experiences manifest themselves. Sometimes they will not be there for years together. Sometimes they can recur again and again, as the case may be. The flashes can become frequent as time passes, and inasmuch as these flashes are nothing but the sudden spots of the light of consciousness itself, and not merely the light that comes from an external source like that of the sun or the moon, every flash will shake the whole personality. It will rebuild every part of one's body and mind, so that there will be an experience of strength, of confidence and happiness – all coming together at once. It will look as if there is nothing impossible for us. Though we may not be doing anything, we will have a feeling that nothing is impossible, because the difficulty in achieving anything arises on account of the isolation of the object from the process of knowing.
When the process of knowing has become one with the object, in substance, we have no doubts as to the possibility of achievement, even as we have no doubts as to whether we will be able to lift our hands. We know that we can lift our hands if we want to. All doubts cease forever, because we have become a 'master' in the real sense of the term. Not a master as a boss is in an office, but a master due to the identity of being that has been established between the knower and the known. Here, the Yoga Vasishtha tells us that one experiences asamsakti, a total detachment from all externality of sensation. We will not even perceive externality at this stage, inasmuch as objects in the world appear to be hanging from our own body, as it were. It will look as if the huge structure that constitutes the cosmos, and maybe even the planets and the solar system, are hanging from our own body, and we will be wondering what has happened to us. There are stages where we get puzzled and perplexed and need direct guidance from competent masters. We can be startled so vehemently that it may be difficult to experience this stage and to predict what we would do at this stage.
Lastly, the Yoga Vasishtha points out that there will be padarthabhavana – non-perception of the materiality of things. What we call matter will look like spirit. Walls will begin to shine like transcendent, transparent crystal. Opaque objects will cease to be opaque – they become translucent and the light of knowledge will pierce through any object, because they are no longer objects. The objects which looked impervious and impregnable become transparent and allow the passing of any light, because they have become part of the knowing process. The object of knowledge has become knowledge itself, or rather, the other way around – we may say 'knowledge' has become the 'object'. Jñānaṁ jñeyaṁ jnagamyaṁ hṛdi sarvasya viṣṭhitam (B.G. XIII.17), says the Bhagavadgita. That which is situated in our heart as the light of consciousness is the knowledge which knows objects, and it is also the objects that are known by that knowledge.
Here, therefore, the materiality of things does not arise. Matter is no more. There is only spirit. It was spirit that appeared as matter when the senses projected themselves outwardly and transmuted spirit into matter. When there is an externalisation of spirit, it looks like matter, and when there is a universalisation of matter, it looks like spirit. So, one and the same thing appears as two things. But when this condition is reached in deep meditation, materiality gets transformed into spirituality. This is called padarthabhavana, where padartha is nothing but the ultimate substance which is the Reality, the Absolute, directly cognised in experience.
All of the scriptures point to the same stages of experience and the same passage through which one has to pass. As we are concerned here more with Patanjali, we shall restrict ourselves to what he says as regards to the aims of life, which are gradually realised by the methods he prescribes. He points out that a sensation remains of Being, that is all. Nothing else will remain there. We will not see the world, we will not see persons and things – we will only feel that we exist. But we may ask, "Even now I feel that I am existing. What is the difference?" There is all the difference in the content of the sensation of Being. The content of individual being is body and anything that is restricted only to the body and bodily relations, and this sensation of individual physical being is automatically bifurcated from the physical existence of other things known as objects, due to which there is desire, action, etc.
In this pure sense of Being that we are referring to in yoga, there is no objectivity in consciousness, because all that was to be the content of consciousness has been merged into consciousness in its menstruum. Virāmapratyaya abhyāsa-pūrvaḥ saṁskāraśeṣaḥ anyaḥ (I.18), is a sutra which points out that there is a state of experience where meditation practically ceases, and there is no longer any effort. There is no activity of the mind, even in the slightest degree. There is only a subsidence of all activity, a cessation of movement and a delight that surpasses knowledge, on account of the satisfaction, the conviction that everything that was expected, everything that was needed, everything that was desired, has become one's own self. This experience is what is indicated in this sutra: virāmapratyaya abhyāsa-pūrvaḥ saṁskāraśeṣaḥ anyaḥ. Samskara shesha is the name of this experience, which means to say, there is only a slight trace of the impression of one's Being – not the being of the body, or the individuality, or the local personality, but the Being of all things grouped together in a blend ofexperience. This again, as I mentioned, is God-consciousness.
Blessed are those who can even think of these things, let alone experience them. In one place, the great Madhusudana Saraswati points out in his exposition of the Bhagavadgita that even a moment's thought along these lines – we are not talking of actual realisation – even a moment's contemplation of these ideas will burn up all the sins of past lives. This is equal to all pilgrimages that are conceivable; and all charities that we can think of, and any good deed in this world is not equal to a fraction of this deep contemplation, says Madhusudana Saraswati.