by Swami Krishnananda
Before we touch upon this magnificent point that is going to be unravelled, we may consider one of the Sutras which has an intimate connection with samapatti, or samadhi. In the state of absorption, the modifications of the mind are thinned out. They are not robust as during contemplation of objects externalised. A psychosis of the mind in respect of an object is called a vritti. The more the intensity of the idea of the existence of an external object, the stouter is the vritti, and the stronger is the ego attached to it. A vritti, or a psychosis, is supposed to become thin when the idea of the externality of the object is worn out, gradually, in deep concentration.
An object, philosophically, is nothing but the externality attached to being. A thing goes by the name of an object, because of the externality, the spatio-temporality, the isolatedness, the distinction, which is foisted on that thing. Anything that is totally outside you, external to your consciousness, is an object and the form, the shape or the modification which the mind undergoes in respect of this externality of a thing is called the vritti. This is what is called a psychosis. And it gets thinned out in deep concentration, when it moves towards the ideal or the goal of the abolition of the distinction between the subject and the object. It gets thinned out because the idea of externality gets diminished in intensity during concentration. The object comes nearer and nearer to you as it were, or, the other way round, you go nearer to it. To such an extent does this phenomenon manifest itself that at an advanced stage, the subject gets reflected in the object, and the object gets reflected in the subject, in a mutual coalescence of characters, wherein the specific identities of the two are overcome in an essential uniformity, not only of function but even of being itself.
You see yourself in me, and I see myself in you, as if we both are mirrors reflecting one in the other. We do not remain as things cut off one from the other with no apparent connection between ourselves. This is the example of two mirrors facing each other. One is reflected in the other; one is seen in the other; one is the other. When a pure crystal reflects an object, you will find the two commingling, one being seen in the other, so that you cannot know which is the object and which is the crystal. A red flower, a lotus, or a rose that is brought into the proximity of a crystal gets so much reflected in the crystal that the crystal assumes wholly the colour of that object. It appears as if it has become the object itself. Grahitr, grahana, grahya: These three terms used in the Sutra refer to the perceiver, the perception and the perceived; the seer, the seeing and the seen; consciousness, the process of the movement of consciousness, and the object itself. These three, the grasper which is the subject, the grasping which is the process, and the grasped or the object, reflect one in the other. This is a highly advanced stage of meditation. A student in the earlier stages will not have this experience. When you begin to feel a throbbing sensation of the presence of the object in your own self, and it looks as if you have become the object or the object has become you, you do not know which is the side that can be called the Subject or the Object. Great mystics, saints and sages who are in this condition are supposed to have lost the consciousness of even the environment around them and do not distinguish between themselves and the things that they see as the objects around them. They remain in a kind of inundated condition; a flood overtakes them.
Samapatti is the attainment which is characterised by the whole-souled absorption of the subject into the object, and, vice versa, a total immersion of the object into the subject. These things are very important to remember. You become completed in your being and do not remain as a partial personality as you are now, when you are conscious of an external object in respect of which the mind forms a judgement of its own, positively or negatively in the form of love or hatred, and the like. But here you raise yourself to the status of spiritual apprehension in an atmosphere of totality of experience, and you are not conscious of an object. You are conscious of a completeness, and it is the completeness that is the joy. It is all happiness, all satisfaction, all pleasure. Even the temporal pleasures of this world are an outcome finally of a filled-ness or a completeness that takes possession of you at the time of that experience. A loss of the distinction between you and the object possessed is the reason behind your feeling of satisfaction. While in ordinary contacts with objects of sense it takes place artificially and it leads you to suffering later on, in this union, the joy takes place spiritually.
And, now, what is this samapatti, and what is this attainment, and what are you expected to concentrate, meditate upon? The yoga system of Patanjali is based on the system of the Samkhya, as its metaphysics. The Samkhya philosophy, in its cosmological enunciations, gives us a gradation of the categories or evolutes; and the objects of meditation in the system of Patanjali are nothing but the categories of the Samkhya. And what are these categories?
The highest reality is the purusha, which is pure consciousness, infinite in its nature. The purusha does not mean a man or a male, as you will read it in its dictionary meaning. It is a metaphysical principle and not a personality or an individual. The Samkhya considers the purusha as the Ultimate Reality, and the attainment of its consciousness is the goal of all life. The highest meditation, therefore, is absorption in the purusha. Next, in importance, comes prakriti, which is the matrix of all phenomena we call creation. By prakriti what the Samkhya means is the barest minimum of objectivity, while the purusha cannot be an object in any sense of the term. The purusha is infinite subjectivity; prakriti is all objectivity. Creation is impossible unless there is a tendency to externalisation, which is what prakriti does at all times. Prakriti is defined as a blend of three properties, or gunas, known as sattva, rajas and tamas, usually translated as Equilibrium, Distraction, and Inertia. These three constitute the condition of prakriti and are the very substance of prakriti, not merely attributes external to or inhering in it. We may say in a sense that the prakriti is a condition, rather than a substance or thing in itself. It is a state of affairs, and this is a point very important to remember. This prakriti which is constituted of the three properties is the cause of this whole creation, the phenomena, this universe. The Samkhya tells us that the reflection of the purusha in prakriti in a cosmical sense is the seed of creation. This is the first function of prakriti, to reflect the purusha in cosmic sattva or the equilibrated condition of itself. The Samkhya has its own technical terms for all these stages. The first stage of this universal reflection is called mahat. We may call it the Cosmic Intellect, or, the Universal Intelligence. This Intelligence is the bare, impersonal, featureless transparency of awareness at the root of and precedent to all objectivity. This mahat which is cosmic awareness further concretises itself, in a cosmic manner of course, and becomes Self-conscious in a cosmic connotation, again, of Self-consciousness. When it attains this state, it is called ahamkara. This is not the ego that we are speaking of in ordinary sense, but a metaphysical principle, cosmical in its nature, the universe becoming aware that it is.
There are variations in the description of what takes place further on. The mostly accepted form of the Samkhya proceeds along the following line. After the manifestation of ahamkara, there is a split, as it were, in a tripartite manner, or in a dualistic way, or, we may say, into the objective universe, and the subjective individualities. The Tamasika ahamkara becomes the cause of the five subtle principles, known as tanmatras – sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, and gandha – meaning respectively the objects of hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling. It is these that, by a process of permutation and combination, become the five gross elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. This is the physical world that we see with our eyes. On the other side there is the subject: myself, yourself, everybody, all individuals. All beings and all levels, right from plants onwards up to the angels, are the individuals forming the subjective side of prakriti.
Now, all this detail is intended only to give us an idea as to what Patanjali expects us to think in our minds when we move towards samyama or samapatti, the highest kind of meditation. These samapattis, or samadhis, as they are sometimes called, are practised and experienced by stages. One does not suddenly get identified with the highest reality. Patanjali is highly systematic and scientific in his processes. He takes us, psychologically, gradually, from one stage to the other. The samapattis are the samadhis technically known. You must have heard of the names: savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvichara, sananda, sasmita, and nirbija. These are the stages of samapatti, or samadhi, or union, which is effected, stage by stage, by profound attention of consciousness on these categories of the Samkhya, enumerated above. The process aims, finally, at Universal Self-consciousness, the establishment of consciousness in its own Self. Consciousness becoming Being, chit becoming sat, as they say, is the goal of the yoga's samapatti, samadhi or samyama. These are all affiliated terms, fraternal in their nature, and commingle at the point of a total dissociation of Self from the universe at every level, ultimately from prakriti, the very principle of objectivity.