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The Great System of Yoga Propounded by Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 14: The Stages of Samapatti, or Samadhi

The all-pervading force, the tanmatra, is the inherent substance, we may say, behind the physical forms of things.

Now, things as they are in themselves, the thing in itself, the Reality standing on its own legs independent of any kind of association with perceiving consciousness, Reality unconditioned – not Reality as you think it, but as it is in itself – is not in space and not in time because the pervasive character of Reality, the omnipresence of it, precludes any interference in the form of space-time associations. To be in space and time is to be located somewhere and at some time, but Reality is not somewhere, and some when. It is everywhere and at all times.

We cannot imagine what it is to be everywhere and at all times because our imagination can conceive this everywhereness only as a kind of existence inside space, though it is everywhere in space. ‘At all times' means to exist for a lengthened period of time, for an indefinite period; and yet, the idea of time does not leave us. Even when you think of an indefinite, endless period of time, you are thinking of time only, but Reality is timeless, not an endless duration. Even if you are to conceive of an infinitude of durational existences of something, you are thinking in terms of space and time only. But the absorption then becomes so intense that the ideas of space and time drop. Anything ceases to be a thing by itself. Neither are you somewhere, nor is the thing somewhere. The idea of ‘where' and ‘when' does not arise.

This is, again, an unintelligible experience for the beginner. No human being ever born can imagine this state where space and time are not there, because even the idea of there being no space and time is in space and time. It is very strange because when you abolish the idea of space and time, you have done it in space and time only, so you cannot escape this difficulty. Hence, I repeat that this is not a matter for discussion or even for teaching; it is an experience which each one will pass through and know for one's own self.

This is a stage where you become a super-human force. You become a super-man, as the great Masters used to say. No more is the humanness present there. You are taken possession of by the powers of the universe. You become a part and parcel of the entire nature in its vast expanse. You are not a national of a country; you are not a man or a woman; you are not a human being at all. You are not anything, for the matter of that. Nothing can be adequate to describe your presence there, because you are not there at all. The idea of ‘you' and ‘I' ceases. This is the penultimate state of the divine merger of the individual in the Supreme Reality. The merger has not taken place, but it is as if you have touched the ocean of Reality and have been enchanted by its very contact, and gotten transformed in it through every fibre of your being; the iron ore that you are has become the gold, the philosopher's stone, of that great Reality.

This stage where the space-time idea drops is called the stage of nirvichara samapatti. The earlier stages were savitarka, nirvitarka, then we came to savichara, and now we are in nirvichara. The soul reveals itself in its pristine purity, says Patanjali. Adhyatma prasada, the peace that passeth understanding, the joy of the soul reveals itself here and you are happy merely because you are, not because you have anything. Your very being becomes a source of inexpressible and immeasurable satisfaction as you then exist not as a person but as a super-person, a super-individual, an immortal existence. This joy itself is an object of experience. There is no object anymore in the sense of objects we speak of. We have been thinking of objects on which we have to meditate, or do samyama, and now there is no longer any object. The gross form of the object has gone, and the subtle form has been transcended. You are in possession of an infinite joy of a cosmic comprehensiveness. This joy is an experience. Inasmuch as consciousness experiences this joy, this joy itself is regarded as an object of consciousness, though for all practical purposes you cannot regard it as an object in the ordinary sense of the term. It does not anymore remain outside consciousness, yet there is a kind of self-consciousness of a universal character, though not the self-consciousness that you have within – the I and the you, etc. It is an indescribable, pure, subtle awareness of being which remains at the time of this experience of a joy which does not come from things or objects, because they are not anymore there; it is a joy that is the very characteristic inherent of the Self, the soul, the consciousness.

This is super-physical in every sense of the term, and can even be called super-psychic. It is not the mind that experiences a pleasure, not the intellect or anything that is psychological. The spiritual root in you effloresces and reveals its own nature to its own self. The revelation is not to somebody else. It is not like sunlight falling on anyone's face. It is like the sun shining on himself, as it were, and becoming aware that he is shining upon himself, and he feels an immense satisfaction borne of his very luminosity, his resplendence.

There is a universal self-awareness at this stage of a satisfaction that arises from Consciousness in its essentiality. This is sananda samapatti, which is inseparable from what is regarded as the next higher stage, known by the term sasmita. These are all terms of Patanjali, again. A stage where asmita, or self-consciousness, remains is called sasmita samapatti. Here the efforts of the individual do not continue any more. You need not have to struggle to meditate. There is no effort on the part of any person because there is no person at all. You are carried by the current of the world, of the universe, of God Himself, if you want to call it so. You are possessed by a power that is super-individual. You are no more yourself, and therefore, you have no responsibility over yourself. Hence, there is nothing that you can do. The question of doing ceases. As you are not there as a person, where is the question of doing anything? How can there be effort? There is no agency in action. There is no doership. There is no individual performer of actions of any kind. There is just a pure sense of being that is sometimes referred to as the condition of ‘I am' – ‘I am what I am' or ‘I am that I am'. What can you say? Words fail you. You start saying something which conveys no meaning, because whatever you say is poor, fragile, and your descriptions are poor apologies for that grand and magnificent experience.

This is the ultimate union of the soul with Reality, and this is practically the final stage of samapatti, where the river has entered the ocean and does not any more exist as the river. You do not know which is ocean, which is the Ganga, which is the Yamuna, which is the Amazon, which is the Volga. No one knows what is where. Everything is everywhere, and you are in the hearts of everyone. You do not exist here in Rishikesh, or in any place. You become the centre of the being of all things, not merely human beings. You become the imminent principle of the cosmos. This is called God-experience in religious language. This is the realisation of the Absolute, Brahma sakshatkara. Here the consciousness reverts to itself and stands in its own status. It does not become aware of something. It is aware only of itself. As the sutra of Patanjali says in this connection, tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe'vasthānam (Y.S. 1.3): The drashta, or the seer, becomes himself.

As you proceed higher and higher through these samyamas, or samapattis, you become more and more yourself. Now you are not yourself. You are somebody else, because you are that which you are thinking in your mind. You may imagine that you are some person, but you are not that person. You are that which you are contemplating in your mind because you have transferred your personality by way of the movement of your consciousness to that which you are deeply contemplating as your dear object.

But when the samapattis grow intense and rise higher and higher, you become less and less the object that you are today and more and more the subject that you have to become, so that in the sananda and the sasmita stages, you become the pure indeterminate Subject, without even the least trace of the objectivity in it. This pure subjectivity of experience cannot be designated even as subjectivity because the human mind has a prejudice, on account of which it regards subjectivity as something counterpoised to objectivity. But this is not the logical subjectivity that we are speaking of. It is the metaphysical Subject, the spiritual Being in itself. It is a subject, no doubt, because of the fact that it is aware, but of what is it aware? Therefore, it is not a subject of the ordinary type. It is a subject which has no object in front of it, and therefore, it cannot be called a subject at all. In that condition where even universal subjectivity ceases to be a real subject, there is a complete melting away of even this cosmicality of consciousness. You do not have any such idea of the universe or the cosmos. You do not speak of universality or cosmicality. Let alone speaking, you cannot even think it, because to think is to objectify things, and that stage has been transcended.

When all ideas melt into Pure Being, the very seed of self-consciousness ceases to be. It is called a seedless samadhi. What you call the seed here is the potentiality to revert to individuality. The seed of phenomenal experience is burnt up completely. The tree of samsara will not grow anymore from this seed which has been fried up in the fire of wisdom. When there can no longer be any seed of reverting to the phenomenal or the temporal experience, it is called seedless, nirbija. There is no longer bondage in the form of entanglement of any kind. This is called moksha, the thing that you have been hearing of in various scriptures, conferences and lectures, and from teachers, saints and sages, etc.

It is not a future attainment because, again, to think of the future is to think of time. You have already decided that the notion of time has to go, so you cannot say that this is something that will come afterwards, because the idea of ‘afterwards' is the idea of time. It is eternity, and we cannot think what eternity is. We can only use some word, and it cannot convey any proper sense to us at present. Eternity is not endless duration; it is absence of time itself. It is durationless existence. This is the state of the purusha, according to the Sankhya and Patanjali's yoga. It is a state of Brahman, according to the Vedantin metaphysics and philosophy. This is the state of the Absolute the philosophers speak of. This is the liberation of the Spirit, the nirvana that you hear of. This is the goal of life.

And when this stage is reached, it does not remain as a stage anymore. It is not one of the stages of experience, it is all experience melted into one massive being. All that you have seen earlier also will be found there; it is not that you have forgotten all the earlier stages and have gone to some new thing afterwards. You may be wondering where are these physical objects, these trees and mountains, these friends and relatives, this money and status; all these wonderful, beautiful things in this world, where are they? Have they all been left somewhere down below? No, it is not like that. They have all been transformed into the reality that they are, and you will see them as they are, not as they appeared earlier. This is a great solacing message to all doubting Thomases who imagine that they perhaps lose something when they go to moksha. Friend, you do not lose anything. You gain everything, and even that which you have apparently left will be found there in its true form. As great thinkers like Plato never tired of saying, the ideas are the realities. The archetypes are there; the shadows are not the reality. These things you see here are the shadows cast by the eternal ideas, the archetypes which will be found there in the cosmic realm. You yourself are a shadow. The so-called you or me here are shadows cast by realities which are in a supernal realm, so when you look at yourself, you are not looking at yourself. You are looking at only a shadow of yourself. Your reality is in the heavens. You are there as an angel in your true form. The form that you experience in dream is not your true form, and the things that you see in the dream world are not the true things. The true things are those which you see in waking. The shadow is cast, as it were, in the dream world. So is this world a shadow which you are pursuing unnecessarily, under the impression that something will come out of it. It cannot be pursued with advantage. It will keep you always on tenterhooks because you cannot pursue a shadow. It will run again and again ahead of you, as the horizon moves away when you move towards it. The original is somewhere, and the reflection is somewhere else.

We are under the wrong impression that we are in the reflection seen in the mirror. This is what the great teacher Acharyasankara mentioned as an image, a description, an analogy. When you see yourself in a mirror, you see your image, of course, but do you really see yourself there? Suppose you want to put a beautiful mark on your forehead by looking at your face in the mirror. Do you put it on the mirror? If you want to dress yourself, do you dress the mirror? You can say, “Well, why not? I am there in the mirror.” No, you dress the original. When the original is decorated, the reflection is automatically decorated. You need not worry about the reflection at all. You have to concern yourself with the original, rather than with the reflection. But unfortunately, we are after the reflection, the shadow. We are trying to satisfy, decorate and beautify the reflections that we are, and that things are, and we forget the originals; therefore, we are in the mire of sorrow. The ugliness of your face is not going to be removed merely because you are decorating the reflection in the mirror. So is your condition in this world. Whatever be your effort in this world you are not going to be happy, because you are pursuing a shadow, and the reality is somewhere else. This is a message which all great philosophers, metaphysicians, saints and sages have given us, and Patanjali tells us, and Vedantin philosophy proclaims.

Now, the original, the archetype, is not somewhere far away. This is another misconception that has to be removed from the mind. The original is not even as much removed from the reflection as your face is from the mirror. They are juxtaposed. The reality, the archetype, is spatially and temporally inseparable from the reflection so that God is here, and not merely in the heavens. The Absolute is just here under your very nose, and so this eternity that you are going to experience, the moksha that you are going to realise, is not merely an original archetype that is removed in space. Again the idea of space comes, and again the idea of time persists in our minds: Moksha is somewhere else, and at some other time. But it is not outside in space, and not tomorrow in the future of time experience.

All this is difficult for the human mind to understand. You become giddy if you think deeply about it, but God loves you more than you love Him, as great adepts have told us. With the grace of the Absolute, you are bound to achieve this goal.