Week 13: Contraindications For Samadhi | A Lesson For All Yoga Practitioners, But Particularly For Healers, Teachers, And Those Who Are In Service To Their Spirit, A Cause, Or To Others (Sutra 17)

“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.”

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Sutra (Thread) or Lesson 17: 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]


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 morals and values from practicing our Yamas and Niyamas, have obtained the skill of discernment to make the best choices in any given moment, and have already purified ourselves to the point where selfish interests no longer guide our work or our lives. 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 Patanjali reminds us that Samadhi should be performed from a place of selflessness, and is also why he lays out the proper stages, and uses, of Samadhi in Sutra 17 for us to get a solid foundation of what is required in order to be our best, and to do our best work, in the world.


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

Samprajnata Samadhi can be performed through the contemplation of the four different forms of Prakriti (elemental creative force/energy in it’s original “form” beyond perception). We must move from contemplation on the very tangible and concreate expressions of Prakriti, to the very subtle and elemental forms of it, in order to attain our goal of distinction and then move to no distinction (more on this in our next lesson).

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

Remember please that Patanjali is a scientist and that Yoga is the study of the body and mind that works in the realm of thinking, focus, concentration, and contemplation in order to understand and reflect upon the different states of existence, awareness, and consciousness 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.

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 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 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 backwards 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 wholeness through service, is the ultimate gift that we give to ourselves and to the world.



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 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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