Tag Archives: Pratyahara

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)Samadhi is a Sanskrit word which is the state of consciousness induced by complete meditation, derived from the verbal roots “samā” (the state of total equilibrium) and “dhi” (of a detached intellect).

Samadhi is the eighth and final of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga). Patanjali’s commentary on Samadhi (Yoga-Sutras 1.41): “Just as the naturally pure crystal assumes shapes and colors of objects placed near it, so the Yogi’s mind, with its totally weakened modifications, becomes clear and balanced and attains the state devoid of differentiation between knower, knowable and knowledge. This culmination of meditation is Samadhi.”

Samādhi is the primary focus of part one (Samādhi-pada) of the Yoga Sūtras. Patanjali intended for the last three steps in his eightfold path (Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi) to be studied and practiced together because there is no clear dividing line between any of these three stages. Collectively they are called “Samyama” (Control). When practiced progressively, concentration (Dharana) merges into meditation (Dhyana) and then into non-dual union with the Divine (Samadhi).

A general definition of Samadhi is a super conscious state in which an individual experiences his identity with the ultimate Divine Reality (Brahman).  However, there are a number of technical variations (stages or states) of Samadhi depending upon whether it is in Vedanta philosophy or in Yoga philosophy. Some of the most commonly recognized variations are…

  • Savikalpa Samadhi: In Vedanta philosophy this is the first stage of transcendental consciousness and is where the distinction between subject and object persists.  The spiritual aspirant in this state may have mystic visions, either with or without form.
  • Nirvikalpa Samadhi: Literally means, “changeless Samadhi,” and in Vedanta philosophy refers to the transcendental state of consciousness where the spiritual aspirant becomes completely absorbed in union with the Divine, so that all sense of duality is erased.
  • Savichara Samadhi: According to Yoga philosophy this Samadhi refers to the state in which the mind achieves identity with an object of concentration (either internal or external), this object will have a name, a quality, and can be known as such.
  • Nirvichara Samadhi: This is a term in Yoga philosophy referring to the state in which the mind achieves identity with a subtle object of concentration; something beyond name, quality, and knowledge, where knowledge, knower and the known become one.
  • Nirbija Samadhi: Translated literally as, “Seedless Samadhi.” In Yoga philosophy this is the non-dual state of consciousness which is unconditional because all projected conditions have been transcended. Nirbija-Samadhi has no conditioning cause since all causes have all been transcended, and all conditional activity has been surrendered. The mind is now a radiant formlessness empty of both specific and generalized impressions, including the seer and the seen.

In conclusion: The mind is a bundle of mental “patterns” of awareness. When all these patterns of awareness have been rejected and annihilated, what remains is an ultimate form of consciousness – Samadhi.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)

Mental “patterns” of awareness

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana)

Check back soon for an elaboration on each of the five “Yamas”.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana, W/Video)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana)Dhyana is a Sanskrit word which means to meditate, derived from the verbal root dhyai, Dhyana  it is the most common designation for both the meditative state of consciousness and the yogic techniques by which it is attained.

Dhyana is the seventh of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga). Patanjali describes Dhyana as the repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus (Dharana) is called absorption in meditation (dhyana), and is the seventh of the eight steps (Yoga-Sutras 3.2).

There are two distinct stages that precede the practice of Dhyana. The first leads to sense withdrawal (Pratyahara), the second to concentration (Dharana), and finally, after these first two stages have been achieved, the yogi or student is prepared for the practice of true meditation (Dhyana).

Without such prior preparation, the efforts to concentrate the mind, often leads only to an inner and frustrating battle. The vrittis of chitta (fluctuations of the “mind stuff” or constant chatter of the mind) leads people to say they cannot meditate, and they intend to learn to meditate later. But the key is not to merely put off meditation practice until some future time, which never seems to come. Rather, the truth of the matter is that preparation is needed. With preparation, concentration and meditation arise naturally. Without the preparation, little or nothing of value happens.

The student is instructed to always to begin with concentration (Dharana), and then proceed to meditation (Dhyana), which finds fruition in Samadhi. This triple process is called samyama. During this process the yogi (or student) may become aware of higher powers (Siddhis) and become captivated by them, but Patanjali warns they are obstacles to the full or higher samādhi. Only by non-attachment to even these things, however great they may seem, may the seeds of bondage be destroyed, and independence or freedom attained.

In summary: Dhyana is the unbroken stream of concentration, where little to no “sense of self” remains. At this stage, it becomes increasingly more difficult to use words and reasoning (thoughts), or the conscious mind to describe these inner experiences of yoga. After all, the state of meditation, by its very nature transcends our material human experience and everything that is related to it. Meditation (Dhyana), is concentration (Dharana) taken to “perfection”; in other words, the meditative state is the natural consequence of “perfect concentration”. So it is by prolonged concentration, that produces this “spontaneous”, “free-flowing” meditative state, where nothing except the object of concentration fills the mind’s space; and where the observer and the observed merge into one.

If you are unfamiliar with meditation the following video (Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes) may be helpful…

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 – Dharana)

Check back soon for “The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)”

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)Dharana is a Sanskrit word which means immovable concentration of the mind (or that which gives stability”) from the root Dhar, which means to “bind together”, “to make stable”. Dharanais  the willful act of concentration of the mind.

Dharana is the sixth of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga). Patanjali describes Dharana thusly: “When the pure mind is kept focused in the desired desa (region) by the seeker, it is called Dharana.”

Patanjali considered Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi to be the last three steps in his eightfold path and that all three aspects considered together are collectively termed “Samyama” (Control). We should also keep in mind, that Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are progressively advancing stages of concentration. The highest stage of mental concentration described by the Western psychologists is similar to the description of Dharana which Patanjali designated as the initial or primary stage of concentration, with Dhyana as the intermediate and Samadhi as the final or highest stage.

Characteristically there is no dividing line in between any of these three stages. When certain progress is made in the practice of Dharana, Dhyana stage is automatically entered into and so on with the progress through Dharana stage, the student or yogi automatically enters in the Samadhi stage. The three stages are said to mingle into each other as easily as three colors are mixed together on an artists palate.

In this article we will consider only the first stage; Dharana, (Dhyana and Samadhi to be considered in upcoming articles).

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)

In practicing Dharana, the student creates a condition conducive for the mind to focus its attention in one direction or on one object rather than of radiating out in a multitude of different directions. As concentration deepens, the focus on a single chosen point becomes more intense and the other preoccupations of the mind cease to exist.

The objective in Dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention efficiently on one subject or point of experience. Concentrate on any object (within the body or outside) that is appealing, selecting any object that’s pleasant and brings in concentration of the mind easily. Now if the student chooses to focus on their inner energy flow, they can directly experience the physical and mental blocks and imbalances that remain in their system, in other words, the obstacles to their progress becomes obvious.

Once established, this ability to withdraw the mind from all its “fluctuations” (or modifications), and concentrate on a single point produces psychological health and personal integration and should not be considered an escape from reality, but instead, a positive movement towards the realization of the true nature of the Self. This prepares the student for the next stage (Dhyana), where concentration becomes meditation and the one meditating becomes one with the object of meditation.

In summary: The practice of Pratyahara creates the setting for Dharana or concentration. When one is relieved of outside distractions, they can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself. In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, a student can learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object. The goal is to become aware of nothing except the object of concentration, it can be a candle flame, a flower, a mantra you repeat to yourself, a specific energetic center in the body, a picture of a guru or an image of a deity, any of the chakras can also be used as a focal point for concentration. The ultimate purpose of Dharana is to train the mind over time by eliminating all the extra, unnecessary superfluous thought. Extended periods of concentration will naturally lead to meditation (Dhyana).

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 5 – Pratyahara)

Check back soon for “The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 –Dhyana)”

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 5 –Pratyahara)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 5 –Pratyahara)Pratyahara is derived from two Sanskrit words: prati and ahara, with ahara meaning anything taken into ourselves, and prati, a preposition meaning away or against. Pratyahara means literally “control of ahara,” or “gaining mastery over external influences.” It is compared to a turtle withdrawing its limbs into its shell; the turtle’s shell is the mind and the senses are the limbs. The term is usually translated as “withdrawal from the senses,” but much more is implied.

Pratyahara is the fifth of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga).

In yogic philosophy there are three levels of ahara, or food. The first is physical food that brings in the five elements necessary to nourish the body. The second is impressions, which bring in the subtle substances necessary to nourish the mind; the sensations of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell. The third level of ahara is our associations, the people we hold at heart level who serve to nourish the soul and affect us with the gunas of sattva, rajas, and tamas.

Pratyahara is twofold. It involves withdrawal from wrong food, wrong impressions and wrong associations, while simultaneously opening up to right food, right impressions and right associations. We cannot control our mental impressions without right diet and right relationship, but pratyahara’s primary importance lies in control of sensory impressions which frees the mind to move within, preparing the student for the next stage in the Eight Limbs, “Dharana” (Concentration).

When we withdraw our awareness from negative impressions, pratyahara strengthens our mind’s powers of immunity. Just like a healthy body resists toxins and pathogens, a healthy mind can ward off the negative sensory influences around it. If you are easily disturbed by noise and/or turmoil in the environment around you; practice pratyahara, for without it, you will not be able to concentrate or meditate properly.

Pratyahara and the prevention of disease: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 5 –Pratyahara)

Ayurveda recognizes that the inappropriate use of the senses is one of the main causes of disease. Mental disease is directly connected with the intake of unwholesome impressions. Therefore pratyahara is an effective practice for treating all mental disorders. Additionally, it is very helpful in treating nervous system disorders, especially those that arise through hyperactivity. Most of the time we overly express our emotions and this drains us of tremendous amounts of energy. Pratyahara teaches us to hold our energy within us and not disperse it unnecessarily. When conserved this energy can be drawn upon for creative, spiritual or healing purposes as needed and can provide the extra power we may need to accomplish the things that are really important to us.

Physical (bodily) disease mainly arises from taking in unwholesome food. Pratyahara affords us control of the senses so that we do not crave wrong food. When the senses are controlled, everything is controlled and no wrong or artificial cravings can arise. This is why Ayurveda emphasizes proper use of the senses as one of the most important factors for wholesome living, disease prevention and maintaining optimal health.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 5 –Pratyahara)

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 4 – Pranayama)

Check back soon for “The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)”