This high state of meditation is beyond knowledge (prajna) that is heard (sruta) or based on memory or inference (anumana). It is an extraordinary (visesa) knowledge, where the essence (arthavat) of the object (visaya) is perceived.
PRACTICAL LIVING The first chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali has described several different states of mind. Yoga is therefore a journey, and each one of us falls somewhere on this complex spectrum from extreme mental agitation to profound peace. This sutra describes the latter end of the spectrum: one where the individual has the ability to understand intuitively, without the use of the senses.
Sutra I.7 described how we can obtain correct perception, or seeing things accurately:
(1) direct experience through the senses (pratyakṣa)
(2) inference or deduction (anumāna)
(3) reliable sources (āgamāḥ)
This current sutra says that in a state of nirvicara samadhi (a very deep state of meditation), the senses no longer have a role in understanding – the individual simply knows. I suggest we do not focus too much attention on this state of meditation – it is an ideal and ultimate goal, but most of us are not there or even close to it. Instead, let us focus on the tools that Patanjali offers us and walk this beautiful path one day at a time.
IN THE YOGA WORLD The sutras teach us that we need to see our spiritual path in steps. Trying to skip ahead to experience nirvicara samadhi is probably not a good idea. Instead, let us begin where we can. Studying from ancient texts, practicing self-reflection, practicing self-awareness and all the other tools that Patanjali has given us so far (see Sutras I.32-39) allows us to gradually walk the path of clarity one step at a time. There is no way of practicing this level of understanding described in nirvicara samadhi. Like it is stated in an ancient text called the Mandukya Upanisad: “Nantah-prajnyam, na bahis prajnyam, nobhayatah-prajnyam, na prajnyana-ghanam, na prajnyam, naprajnyam.” Meaning: “Not inside knowledge, not outside knowledge, not knowledge itself, not ignorance.” It’s all expressed in the negative: you can’t grasp it, you can’t think of it, you can’t mark it with a symbol, it has no name or form, and you can’t explain it (from Karembalkar).
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Though I have never personally met this person, he teaches me a lot anyway. Ram Dass, an spiritual seeker, psychologist, explorer and teacher has inspired many people throughout his life. He ‘sneaked’ into my life during a moment of transition. His teachings have reached me through books, talks, podcasts and documentaries. His words, manner of being and the twinkle in his eyes speak to me. His spiritual journey has mostly been with a Guru whom many describe as enlightened, in other words, one who is in a state of nirvicara samadhi. The stories that Ram Dass tells of his Guru help me learn, evolve and slowly move along the spectrum of ‘understanding’. Ram Dass, I am profoundly grateful for your lessons on “Loving Awareness” – they have been rich and have fed my soul throughout the past several months!