“Samprajnata samadhi is accompanied by reasoning, reflecting, and pure I-am-ness.”

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Vitarka Vicaranandasmitanugamat samprajnatah

Vitarka: reasoning | Vicara: reflecting | Ananda: rejoicing | Asmita: pure I-am-ness | Anugamat: due to the following, from accompaniment | Samprajnatah: distinguishing, discerning; [samadhi: contemplation]

“There is a danger [when practicing Samadhi]…but we have to face the danger of it. That is why you have to prepare yourself with purity…[The danger is the selfishness of ego, itself, so] your new-found powers…should [, therefore,] not be used for selfish purposes.”

-Sri Swami Satchidananda

Going beyond practicing Yoga for personal attainment, to using our personal attainment to serve others by holding the space for their healing, growth, and transformation is, I feel, the highest honor, and goal, of our work. It is also, I would go on to suggest, the highest function of Samadhi when one has the ability, or “calling,” to be a healer, a teacher, or a person in service to a cause or to humanity.

First, we purify ourselves from our own attachment to pain and other ego-satisfying clingings, such as desires, and then we build our capacity to hold a safe transformative space for others to do the same, without running away from their sadness, pleasure-seeking behaviors, pain, and suffering in the same way that we did not run away for our own sufferings or desires, but instead gain mastery and control over them by facing them head-on.

When we are no longer running from our own pain, or clinging to our own desires for comfort, no longer hiding away in our illusory “oases” of avoidance, but simply creating more sacred space in and around us through our sheer presence, (because we are whole and strongly grounded in the truth of our pure- “I-am-ness”), we can then truly be of service to others, which is the highest honor for any healer or seeker on this path.

This journey requires exposing ourselves to a wide range of difficult witnessing, however, so in order to get to a point where we are of maximum service to our students, clients, and communities, we must first build the capacity to be non-attached, even to our understanding of the causes of suffering that we can observe clearly from our studies and work. We must have a strong foundation of personal ethics from practicing our Yamas and Niyamas, have obtained the skill of discernment to make the best choices in any given moment, and must have already purified ourselves to the point where selfish interests no longer guide our work or our lives (and please note that selflessness, which involves letting go of ego attachments, does not mean self-abandonment or martyrdom either, since being biological beings, we need to be honest about our own needs for wellness, and care for ourselves, in order to do our best work). This is the only way that we can then hold a truthful and pure space for the benefit and healing of those we serve.

This is also why Samadhi should be pursued and performed from a place of selflessness (again, not self-abandonment, but absence of a false sense of self tied to attachments to external objects or motives) in order to be our best and to do our best work, in the world. When we are selfless (having no attachment to an ego self), we can then fully experience the first stage of “pure I-am-ness” that makes us more impactful in our work and interactions with others.

According to Patanjali, there are two types of Samadhi that can be performed after concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana) on the True Self are achieved: Samprajnata Samadhi, which is Distinguished Samadhi, and Asamprajnata Samadhi, which is Undistinguished Samadhi.

Samprajnata Samadhi can be performed through contemplation on objects/the four different forms of Prakriti (elemental creative force/energy, even down to its original “form” beyond perception) and is distinguished by the observer reflecting on the object being observed so that knowledge of that which is observed becomes a part of the observer. Asamprajnata Samadhi (which we will discuss next week) is a state where no object of observation exists and one rests in the direct experience of simply being the pure Self. As we rise in consciousness, we must move from contemplation on the very tangible and concrete expressions of Prakriti, to the very subtle and elemental forms of it, in order to attain our goal of distinction (“pure I-am-ness”) and then move to no distinction which makes us one with/indistinguishable from the “object” of observation (more on this in our next lesson).

IMPORTANT NOTE! Please, as we move forward, remember, that these expressions are scientific, and experiential, not symbolic.

Remember please that Patanjali is a scientist and that Yoga is the study of the body-mind and consciousness that works in the realm of thinking, focus, concentration, and contemplation in order to understand and reflect upon the different states of existence, and awareness available to us. Our bodies and minds are literally our ground for understanding, so we will always be exploring different types, forms, ways, shapes, limits, and expressions of thought and understanding, as well as the different types, forms, ways, shapes, limits, and expressions of the body. None of these states are symbolic in any way.

With this in mind, the different focuses of Samprajnata Samadhi (or distinguished Samadhi) are on:

  • Gross object form: Savitarka Samadhi – Focused on gross objects (such as a candle, or even an atom).
  • Subtle elemental form/Tanmatras: Savicara Samadhi – Focused on subtler elements such as abstract form like symbolism, or concepts like beauty and love.
  • “Concrete” Joy manifested from emptiness: Sa-Ananda Samadhi (also called blissful Samadhi) – No reflection or reasoning, just contemplation on Joy that composes the Sattvic mind (“devoid of any objects” including citta vrittis or mind-modifications/distortions/thoughts).
  • Ego/individuality: Sa-Asmita (Ego-ism) Samadhi – Focused on awareness and the “I” feeling.

This list assumes that one will first work from contemplating and understanding the concrete expressions in existence before understanding the very subtle. It also assumes that this focused, single-minded contemplation from concrete to subtle understanding, will only come after internal purity has been obtained, allowing true and full knowledge to be revealed to the practitioner. In this way, we work from understanding nature to understanding ourselves and our place/connection in nature and can contribute to creating more harmony, joy, and balance from this place if we are inspired to do so.

Through totally absorbed contemplation or Samadhi, we study how Prakrti, or un-manifest primal potential, is manifested into physical form using prana (or force) that can be divided into Gunas (or the three constituents of this primal force distinguished by sattva [tranquility], rajas [activity] and tamas [inertia]). We observe how these Gunas create everything that we are, see, and interact with in the tangible world, and we come to understand the imbalanced expressions of our pure primal potential as we work our way back to their original form, and therefore, to our understanding of our True Self.

We, therefore, work with these four stages of Samadhi in order to gain understanding of our Prakrti, or our primal nature of existence, and this understanding empowers us to better serve within our tangible manifested world from a place of full awareness.

Selflessness, which most who serve already inherently possess, is the key to unlocking the boons of Samadhi.

By first taking care of the basic foundations of purity of our mind, we can rise higher and higher in our levels of understanding and empathy in order to do our work in the world at our greatest capacity. This, for those who serve and find joy through service, is the ultimate gift that we give to ourselves and to the world.

Journal Prompt

This week, truly look at your intentions.

What is your purpose for seeking enlightenment? Is it to be rich, better than other people, to become someone who is admired, to be at peace so that you can be peaceful in the world, to be informed so that you can educate others…

What is your true reason behind your why (as we have explored previously, in past weeks on our journey)?

Check to ensure that your practice is not for selfish (egoic) reasons, or you run the risk of creating more distortion in the world, and in yourself, as opposed to the balance that you claim to seek.

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