Light of the Spirit Blog

What Happens to the Yogi in Samadhi?

dawning of the spiritual lightSutras 49 through 51 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

  • Sutra 49. The knowledge based on inference or testimony is different from direct knowledge obtained in the higher states of consciousness (I-48) because it is confined to a particular object (or aspect).

That is, such knowledge is only relative and limited to one object at a time, whereas the knowing in samadhi is absolute, unlimited, and all-inclusive, for Brahman is described as “That which when known, all becomes known.”

  • Sutra 50. The impression produced by it (Sabija Samadhi) stands in the way of other impressions.

Vyasa explains this perfectly, saying: “The samskara produced by truth-bearing knowledge removes the accumulated deposit of samskaras of extraversion. When the extravertive samskaras are overcome, no ideas arising from them appear. With inhibition of extravertive ideas, samadhi becomes habitual. Then there is knowledge from that samadhi; from that, more samskaras are laid down of knowledge, and so a fresh deposit of samskaras is built up. From that again knowledge, and from that more samskaras of it.” Shankara expands on this, commenting: ”Knowledge must set up a samskara. Each time the knowledge is renewed, its special samskara is reinforced. But the renewal of the knowledge is from again taking up meditation on the object, different from itself. It can do this because it is produced by a different object, namely the thing as it really is [yathartha].”

The samskaras produced by sabija samadhi erase the samskaras of ignorance. Vyasa explains this, continuing: “Why would not this new accumulation of samskaras draw the mind into involvement with it? It is because samskaras of knowledge cause the destruction of the taints [kleshas], and so do not constitute anything that would involve the mind. In fact they make the mind cease its activity, for the exertions of mind come to an end in knowledge [khyati].”

This may seem technical, but it is an absolutely practical analysis, for Patanjali intends for us to compare what he says with our meditation experiences and thereby know whether or not we are truly progressing toward enlightenment. In the same way the Bhagavad Gita describes the state of mind of a liberated person in such a way that only the yogi can know whether or not he is in that state. No one can cite the Gita to prove to others that he is liberated–he alone can know the truth of the matter. Both the Gita and the Yoga Darshan are practical manuals of higher consciousness.

  • Sutra 51. On suppression of even that owing to suppression of all (modifications of the mind) ‘Seedless’ [nirbija] Samadhi (is attained).

From sabija samadhi the yogi passes on to nirbija samadhi, the final step in the liberation of his consciousness. This produces no samskaras and dissolves the samskaras accumulated from sabija samadhi. Vyasa: “Thus the samskaras do not cause the mind to continue to exist, but prevent its involvement with anything. The mind, no longer involved, ceased to exists, along with the samskaras which have promoted release. When mind ceases, Purusha abides in his own nature alone, and is therefore called pure, alone, and released.”

The section on samadhi (samadhi pada) is now completed.

Next Wednesday we will post the last of three podcasts by Abbot George Burke about his memories of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, founder of the Divine Life Society and Sivanandashram. Stay tuned! In this podcast, Abbot George tells some stories about disciples of Sivananda and other devotees whom he saw become utterly transformed — testimonies both to the power of satsang and the power of yoga.

Click here to listen to the podcasts Remembering Sivananda, Part 1, and Remembering Sivananda, Part 2

Remembering Sivananda, Podcast Part 2

Sivananda laughingDuring his first trip to India in 1962 Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri) was blessed to spend time with the great Swami Sivananda at his ashram in Rishikesh. In this three-part podcast Abbot George shares his memories of this saint with visitors to our ashram.

Among the many saints that Abbot George met in India, he described Sivananda as “beyond description or classification. He loved and we loved in return.” In this second podcast Abbot George relates how Sivananda shared this love through his wisdom and humor, and tells Sivananda’s one prescription for successful sadhana.

Episode length: 10 minutes, 30 seconds.

(If you don’t see an audio player, click this link to listen to Remembering Sivananda, Part 2.)

Click here to listen to the podcast Remembering Sivananda, Part 1.

The Mystical Outlook of Original Christianity

Virgin OransA Commentary on the Odes of Solomon. The Odes are the earliest known Christian mystical hymns and poetry (discover more).

Behold! the Lord is our mirror. Open (your) eyes and see them in Him.
And learn the manner of your face, and declare praises to His Spirit.
And wipe off the filth from your face, and love His holiness and clothe yourselves therewith.
And you will be without stain at all times with Him.
(Ode of Solomon 13)

  • Behold! the Lord is our mirror. Open (your) eyes and see them in Him.

Here we see how incredibly far contemporary Christianity has drifted from Original Christianity, which was a firmly non-dual philosophy rooted in the enlightened consciousness of the Indian sages with whom Jesus lived for over half of his life. It would seem that today the more “Christian” a person is, the less they have to do with the real Christ and his teachings.

Normally we think that the illumined mystic sees through or into the world around him and sees God. But the Isha Upanishad opens with the words: “All this–whatever exists in this changing universe–should be covered by the Lord.” That is, we should be seeing God first and the world only secondarily. Instead of God being seen inside the world of matter, we should be seeing God as pervading the world and filling all space. Further, since we are eternally one with God, in him we see our true Self. We reflect him and he reflects us in perfect unity. If we see anything outside God it is unreal. Only when we open our spiritual eyes in God will we see things as they are.

  • And learn the manner of your face, and declare praises to His Spirit.

When we see divinity we see the reality of humanity, and see that our face is Brahmamayi–formed of God. Then we can really praise God–not as some mighty universal potentate, but as Infinite Consciousness, Infinite Spirit of which we are an integral and inseparable part.

  • And wipe off the filth from your face, and love His holiness and clothe yourselves therewith.

We must remove all vestiges of relative, illusory existence from the face of our mind and clothe ourselves with the holiness that is God. Saint Paul was referring to this mystical reality when he wrote: “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

  • And you will be without stain at all times with Him.

Awake in God we will be perpetually pure with his purity. Saint John therefore said: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:2,3). There is no place here for the “poor miserable sinner” attitude of corrupted Christianity. “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalms 82:6), is the true Gospel of Christ–of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Find out more about the Odes of Solomon.

This Wednesday we will post the second of three audio podcasts by Abbot George Burke on his memories of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh during his visit to India in 1962. In this second podcast Abbot George relates how Sivananda shared this love through his wisdom and humor, and tells Sivananda’s one prescription for successful sadhana.

Those who have not listened to the first podcast can listen to Remembering Sivananda, Part 1 here.

Podcast: Remembering Sivananda, Part 1

With this post, we begin our new Podcast section, which will be added to on a regular basis.

These will be talks on meditation, practical aspects of spiritual life, memories of remarkable spiritual figures Abbot George has met, and much more.


Abbot George BurkeSwami SivanandaDuring his first trip to India in 1962 Abbot George Burke was blessed to spend time with the great Swami Sivananda at his ashram in Rishikesh. In this three-part podcast Abbot George shares his memories of this saint with visitors to our ashram.

In this first podcast, Abbot George recalls his first meetings with Swami Sivananda, and the saint’s invitation to dine with him on a lunch of “plain boiled rice.”

Episode length: 12 minutes, 18 seconds.

(If you don’t see an audio player, click this link to listen to Remembering Sivananda, Part 1.

Listen to the second podcast in this series, Remembering Sivananda, Part 2.

Dawning of the Spiritual Light

dawning of the spiritual lightSutras 47 and 48 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

  • 47. On attaining the utmost purity of the Nirvichara stage (of Samadhi) there is the dawning of the spiritual light [adhyatma prasadah].

In contrast to the samadhi spoken of in the prior sutra, nirvichara samadha is nirbija: “without seed,” without attributes and without the production of samskaras or subtle karmas. Nirbija samadhi is nirvikalpa samadhi wherein the seeds of samskaras or karmas are destroyed (“fried” or “roasted”) by Jnana, and which produces no samskaras or karmas.

When the utmost purity (shuddha sattwa) of the buddhi is attained, then even pradhana in its highest form is transcended and the light of the Self is perceived.

  • 48. There, the consciousness [prajna] is Truth-and Right-bearing [ritambhara].

According to A Brief Sanskrit Glossary, Ritam is “Truth; Law; Right; Order. The natural order of things, or Cosmic Order/Law. Its root is ri, which means ‘to rise, to tend upward.’”

When a yogi reaches the nirvichara stage his consciousness henceforward reflects the divine order and is oriented solely toward ultimate Reality. Therefore Vyasa comments:

“The knowledge which appears in that clearness of the mind in samadhi has the special name of Truth-bearing in the literal sense that it brings truth alone, and there is no trace of erroneous knowledge in it. So it is said: ‘By scriptural authority, by inference, and by enthusiasm for meditation practice–in thee three ways perfecting his knowledge, he attains the highest yoga.’”

Shankara says that the consciousness spoken of in this sutra is born from viveka (discrimination between reality and unreality).

Patanjali’s standards must be applied to us first of all, but also to any who claim to have realization of the Truth (Sat).

Previously: What Happens to the Yogi in Samadhi?
Next: The Final Stages of Samadhi

Coming Next Week:

Next week we will initiate Podcasts at OCOY.org. We will begin with a series of three podcasts by Abbot George Burke about his memories of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, founder of the Divine Life Society and Sivanandashram. Stay tuned!

Distinction Without Difference: The Nature of the Atman

the nature of the Atman

from the National Geographic Channel

Q: What is the difference between atman and jiva? Also do you believe that we are all one soul, or many living entities?

The atman and the jiva are the same thing, though since atman is derived from the root at, which means “I breathe,” you could say that atman is the jiva in relative existence and experience, and the jiva is the pure spirit-Self. Still, they are the same.

There is only One Reality: Satchidananda Brahman, the Paramatman. Yet in a way beyond our comprehension there are a virtually infinite number of individual spirits or jivatmans existing within Brahman, absolutely one with Brahman. They are not separate from Brahman, but there is a very real distinction between them and Brahman–distinction, but not difference. Only those yogis who have attained Brahmajnana (Atmajnana) comprehend this.

Forgotten Gems:

Is Meditation Dumbo’s Magic Feather?

dumbo's magic featherQ: Will meditation alone improve ones moral sensibility? Will one naturally move toward the good as one meditates?

If meditation alone would improve one’s moral sense or automatically move us toward the good, Patanjali would not have outlined the ten principles of yama and niyama for us:

  1. Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
  2. Satya: truthfulness, honesty
  3. Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
  4. Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
  5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
  6. Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
  7. Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
  8. Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
  9. Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
  10. Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God

Although these are presented as prerequisites for meditation practice by Patanjali, it has always been considered that meditation can be practiced at the same time the aspirant is striving to embody these observances and non-observances.

However, if these are not developed early on to a goodly degree, the yogi will fail to attain any significant realization. This is why after more than a century of yoga meditation being practiced in the West very few have attained complete realization. Many started well, cooled off and fell away, and others simply started and fell into a worse condition than they had before starting. The reason for all these failures is the same: non-establishment in yama and niyama.

Worthwhile meditation, worthwhile meditator

Of course, many if not most of the practices of these people were worthless and even inherently harmful. Also, many of them simply did not have the capacity for perseverance, so they wandered into the byways of the world for another life. And some of them did not really want the goal of yoga, but some ego-centered result that could not be gained through authentic yoga practice.

Meditation is not Dumbo’s magic feather that he thought enabled him to fly. Nor is initiation or devotion to a guru. There must be right teaching, right method, right practice and a right person to learn and practice.

“Who cares to seek for that perfect freedom? One man, perhaps, in many thousands. Then tell me how many of those who seek freedom shall know the total truth of my being? Perhaps one only” (Bhagavad Gita 7:3).

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2015 Brings New Articles, New Books, Improved Website, and Introduces Podcasts

In this new year we will bring you much that is new at OCOY.org, and we have already begun the process.

New articles

Swami ChidanandaThe first of several new articles which we have posted on spiritual life is an extensive interview with Swami Chidananda, the late president of the Divine Life Society, on the subject of Brahmacharya (celibacy) as it applies to those who seek to live a serious life of meditation. Read The Role of Celibacy in Spiritual Life.

The next is an excerpt from the book The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism by Min Zhen Shakya. In this article is found an interesting delineation of various types of meditators according to their evolutionary level. For serious meditators this contains valuable information: first, so they can determine what class they fall into and work to get out of it, and second, to understand the truth about their fellow-yogis and respond to them accordingly. Read The Yogis of Samsara.

The ongoing series of commentaries on the The Aquarian Gospel, the Tao Teh King, and the The Gospel of Thomas will be updated with new chapters in the coming weeks.

New Books

Yellow Marblish OmWe will be adding new books, both in print and in digital format for ebook reading devices of various types. The first is The Word That Is God: Scriptures and Masters on Om, which is available as a PDF on our E-Library page. Abbot George says about the book in its Preface,

“As I compiled the material on Om from the scriptures and the Masters of Wisdom I was astounded at the amount I discovered, and even more astounded at how little of it is known to any but the most scholarly. The panorama of these texts provided me with a vista regarding Om that awed and inspired me.”

“Consequently I wrote Om Yoga to share with others what I had learned from both my own experience in meditation and my researches in the age-old lore of Om. However, it seemed to me that serious students of yoga would benefit from having access to the entire range of material on which it was based. And so this book was put into shape for your study along with some brief comments of my own.”

The next book in the works is The Gospel of Thomas for Awakening, the print version of the commentary on the Gospel of Thomas which is already being posted on our site. We hope to have this book printed in the next month or so.

Website improvements

In the coming weeks we will begin working on a behind-the-scenes reworking of the structure of OCOY.org to increase the speed with which pages load, and making slight tweaks in the appearance and functionality of the site which should make it a more pleasant experience for our readers.

Podcasts

Swami Sivananda faceLastly, we hope soon to introduce a series of podcasts by Abbot George Burke on various aspects of spiritual life, beginning with recordings of Abbot George’s memories of his time with the great Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.

We hope that the coming year will be a time of renewed spiritual growth for all, and that we may be a help in that effort.

When the Mind and the Self Are One

Mind and the Self Are OneQ: What is “chitta”? What is the meaning of “when the mind and Self are one”?

A Brief Sanskrit Glossary defines chitta in this way: “The subtle energy that is the substance of the mind, and therefore the mind itself; mind in all its aspects; the field of the mind; the field of consciousness; consciousness itself; the mind-stuff.” This covers a lot of territory, but that is because in Sanskrit all the aspects of a thing are considered and included.

The meaning of the mind and Self being or becoming one is impossible to determine unless we know the word used for “mind.” For example, it could be chitta, manas or buddhi. Certainly whatever word is used, it is based on the conviction that vibrating energy (shakti) is really one with consciousness (chaitanya), with spirit (atman), that it is an emanation from the atman even if only in the sense of a temporary illusion–not a reality but an idea or concept.

In that case, when the Self is revealed the sadhaka realizes that everything is the Self and in that sense everything, not just the mind, “becomes” the Self. Another view is that the mind is truly an emanation of the Self, and that the Self withdraws the mind-thought into itself.

Translations

There is certainly a difference in saying that the mind and the Self are one or that the mind becomes the Self. I have read both, but they were English translations of Indian languages. So we must be very careful before we attribute a particular meaning to a teacher, even if we are quoting a translation of his words. Naturally, translations are done according to the level of the translator’s understanding and experience (which is often nil).

So what is the solution? To find out for ourselves by practicing meditation and experiencing the results.

And even then, we may find that there are no words to accurately express our experience, and we will remain silent.

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Question: Who Sows and Who Reaps Karma?

Questions and AnswersQ: It is said that reincarnation is due to our own karma and we alone who are responsible for the past, present, and future life. But what part within every individual living entity actually can create words, thoughts, and deeds either good or evil? Is it the atma (soul), mind, or particular organ of the body?

Someone said that life is suffering. This means that every birth is accompanied by suffering. But what or who really suffers, the soul or atma by getting rebirth (taking a new body after death), or what?

Presently we are functioning in and as a duality. Our atma (self) is encased in various bodies or koshas that are formed of vibrating energies of various frequencies. The atma never acts, but only experiences. All action is done by the bodies; they alone create good and evil. But the atma experiences the effects of the actions. That is why the Mundaka Upanishad says:

“Like two birds of golden plumage, inseparable companions, the individual self and the immortal Self are perched on the branches of the selfsame tree. The former tastes of the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree; the latter, tasting of neither, calmly observes. The individual self, deluded by forgetfulness of his identity with the divine Self, bewildered by his ego, grieves and is sad. But when he recognizes the worshipful Lord as his own true Self, and beholds his glory, he grieves no more. When the seer beholds the Effulgent One, the Lord, the Supreme Being, then, transcending both good and evil, and freed from impurities, he unites himself with him. This Effulgent Self is to be realized within the lotus of the heart by continence, by steadfastness in truth, by meditation, and by superconscious vision. Their impurities washed away, the seers realize him” (Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1-3, 5).

Q: I have come across the word “prana.” what is the relation between atma and prana?

“Prana” means “life,” and is the vital energy, life-breath and life-force. One of the bodies in which the atma is encased is the pranamaya kosha, the pranic body. It consists of vital forces and the subtle energy system that is the power behind the physical nervous system.

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