तत्र शब्दार्थज्ञानविकल्पैः संकीर्णा सवितर्का समापत्तिः॥४२॥
tatra sabda-artha-jnana-vikalpaih sankirna savitarka samapattih
Reflection (savitarka), followed by complete union (samapattih) occurs when we meditate on one object and there is a blend (sankirna) of the object’s name (sabda), its meaning (artha), the knowledge of this object (jnana) and what the mind imagines when thinking of this object (vikalpaih).
PRACTICAL LIVING Usually, our mind processes information automatically without us paying much attention. For example, if I said to you “ostrich”, your understanding of “ostrich” would be processed in 3 different steps that seem as one: (1) your perception of the object in the moment; (2) the word is then associated with the object; and (3) the comprehension you have of the object based on your past experiences. In this sutra however, Patanjali says that we can reach a level of awareness where those 3 steps can occur separately and with clear awareness.
Here, Patanjali begins to describe the different levels of meditation or union with an object. This object may be another person, a symbol like Om, an image of a deity or anything you connect with. In this sutra Patanjali explains the first level of meditation: savitarka samapatti. This state can be achieved when we decide to devote all of our attention to one particular object (ex: cooking). Last night I cooked sweet potato soup. For a moment, I was completely absorbed with the process of chopping, heating and blending the soup. This state involved a few activities of the mind (see Sutra I.5): knowing the words of the ingredients (sabda), their meanings (artha), associating the words in the recipe to certain actions (jnana), and imagination (vikalpaih) – replacing red curry paste with curry powder. Since there were different movements happening in the mind, this can be described as a superficial form of union. I was completely absorbed with my cooking, but there were several things going on in my mind about the ingredients and the steps I had to take in order to make the soup*.
* In reality, the situation I just described is not a state of union (samapattih) but more a state of concentration (dharana). The difference between the two is that union does not require effort, whereas concentration requires a continuous amount of effort to stay with the object (I had a baby and phone calls distracting me throughout the cooking process as well).
IN THE YOGA WORLD All the tools we learn from our yoga teachers and in the yoga texts are aiming towards awareness. So every time we perform an asana with the breath, we go through the 3 steps above – associating a word to a specific movement and the understanding that comes from that association leads us to perform the pose. With practice, commitment and time (see Sutra I.14), we have the potential to begin experiencing union with our objects of meditation, whether it’s a pose, the breath, a mantra or a devotional image.
This sutra is simply describing what we are capable of if we commit ourselves to our practices 🙂
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON A best friend since Kindergarden (which we both did twice), Elo is one of those people you thank life over and over again for being so close to you. I will define her as “union with friendship”. This woman has a devotion to her friends that is admirable and awing. She moved to the other side of the planet when we were eleven years old and since then we have lived in different countries. However, this has not distanced our connection, our friendship, our union at all. I must admit that the reason for not distancing ourselves is mainly because of her. She makes me laugh, she makes me reflect, she makes me celebrate life. Elo, thank you for your friendship: it’s one of the best gifts life has given me. Te amo amiga!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will look at the next level of meditation!