We have reached the pinnacle of our journey through the eight limbs of yoga according to Patanjali—the author of The Yoga Sutras. The final limb on our journey is samadhi, and the literal definition of this Sanskrit word is “to bring everything together.” It is at this point that the individual soul and the infinite spirit come into a place of perfected union. This is the culmination of the practice of yoga: to move into a place where the subject and the object merge into one. There are no words, concepts, or thoughts, as this state of being is beyond form. All the applications of discipline, practice, and internal excavation bring us to a place of oneness.
The individual soul comes to realize that it is not the body nor the mind, and it becomes one with the cosmic consciousness. I know that is a lot to take in. Just sit back and let that marinate for a bit.
Moving Beyond the Mind
The journey to this point is called samyama which means flowing together seamlessly. This is complete control of the mind. The mind has been harnessed and brought into one pointedness. It has turned into a steady stream and then absorbed into what was its initial point of focus. The yogi has moved beyond the mind to merge with what is being meditated on. She or he has accomplished the very definition of yoga which is calming the fluctuations of the mind.
In the first chapter of The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali speaks of lower levels of understanding samadhi. At this novice level, one can temporarily move into the state but has not matured to the point of maintaining residency. There can be several things hindering the practitioner: clinging to the form or name of the object being meditated on, attachment to bliss, or gripping the ego. In this state of samadhi, transcendence has not been reached, and the mind will still seek these desires. We are still serving ourselves and are only able to move into the final state of samadhi when transcendence has happened.
Four Qualities for Attaining Enlightenment
A wise teacher classifies spiritual seekers as three types—those who are incompetent or dull, those who are average, and the few who are highly motivated. For these excellent and energetic seekers, it is said that reaching the state of samadhi comes much easier. Patanjali speaks of four very important qualities that a seeker should embody to attain spiritual success:
- Embodiment of the quality of faithful devotion.
- Strength of both body and mind.
- The ability to learn from past mistakes.
- The skill of discernment and mental competence.
Surrendering to Divine Consciousness
There is a fast-track to samadhi that the great sage Patanjali speaks of, and it is called isvara pranidhana. Isvara can be translated as Lord, personal God, or One that is omniscient. Pranidhana means to surrender, dedicate, to be devoted to, or be in a state of humility. It is self-surrender to the supreme consciousness. Patranjali described this as “the one who is unaffected by afflictions, actions, the fruit of actions, and has no desires.” The sutras continue to describe isvara as “the seed of omniscience or all-knowing and unconditioned by time, and represents eternal truth and teachings.” This is the devotional path where one lays everything down and surrenders all. The I-ness falls away. If this “fast-track” exists, why are we not all self-realized?
The analogy that comes to my mind is the Zen teaching, “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” When our practice brings us to the point of bringing it all together, or samadhi, we feel great—we feel alive. At the same time, we are still living in this very real world. This peculiar state means being in the world but not of the world. We do not need to move to a cave high in the mountains. In fact, it is very important that we carry the torch of illumination in order to shed the light of consciousness. As we continue the practices of all eight limbs, we live in the place of the observer.
In the third verse of the first chapter of the sutras, Patanjali states that once the fluctuations of the mind cease, our true nature will sit in its own abode. That’s it. The mind becomes still and our true nature is revealed. We are conscious, and we are blissful. We are in perfect existence and look for the same in all beings.
With a full heart, Namaste.