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Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 3.1-3.3 Dharana, Dhyana & Samadhi

Posted by on Dec 4, 2012

Samadhi – Bliss

The final steps of yoga, after asana, pranayama, mantra, and mudra are dharana, dhyana and finally samadhi (videya mukti), or the state of eternal bliss, also called Satori in the Zen tradition. Before these advanced yogic practices can be undertaken with any success, it can take years of practicing the more elementary levels of physical postures, breathing exercises, mudra, and mantra. The payoff is great, though, because you are no longer relegated to seeing through mud-colored glasses.

“Samadhi is an experience of such depth, such joy, such indifference and such love, that nothing else is really like it or worthwhile in comparison, yet it gives shape, color and meaning to everything.Swami Rama

Pratyahara, or the 5th limb of yoga is concerned with taking our attention away from the outside world, or the illusory projections of the ego, to the inside world, where conscious gives rise to all that we see. Many of us see this backwards. We think that the world is created and then we sense and observe it, but from a yogic perspective this is upside down. What really happens, is that we have consciousness, and then the world is created outside of us to match whatever our consciousness is. Our outside reality will always bend to our internal reality. It is only when we stop trying to judge the things outside of us, and to calm or inner world that we can truly experience dharana.

Dharana is the process of fixing the mind on one thought, place or internal awareness, such as the breath. When it rests here without wavering, we can start to experience Dhyana which means to meditate. Every other form of thought is just an attempt at meditation. It is not truly meditation. when the mind finally is singular in its focus, we can claim that we are meditating. This is true if we are able to hold our attention still for seconds, minutes, or hours. Meditation culminates in Samadhi – or complete control of the mind. Instead of being led here and there by our thoughts like a dog on a leash, we can direct them at will, including stopping them altogether

Samadhi is actually divided into three different stages. They are Savikalpa, which means holding on to ‘reality’ without any effort, Asamprajnata which means there is an absence of gross awareness and only the knowing of a the subtle consciousness, wherein one does not associate with the physical at all any longer, and Nirvikalpa samadhi, wherein there is no longer a mind at all, and no subject-object, no I-you, it-them, mine-yours, here-there, etc. experience whatsoever. This is considered the pure perfection of the mind.

 “After you have practised Pratyahara for a time, take the next step, the Dhâranâ, holding the mind to certain points. What is meant by holding the mind to certain points? Forcing the mind to feel certain parts of the body to the exclusion of others. For instance, try to feel only the hand, to the exclusion of other parts of the body. When the Chitta, or mind-stuff, is confined and limited to a certain place it is Dharana. This Dharana is of various sorts, and along with it, it is better to have a little play of the imagination. For instance, the mind should be made to think of one point in the heart. That is very difficult; an easier way is to imagine a lotus there. That lotus is full of light, effulgent light. Put the mind there. Or think of the lotus in the brain as full of light, or of the different center in the Sushumna mentioned before.” – Swami Vivekananda

“On the other hand, however, to consider satipaṭṭhāna purely as a concentration exercise goes too far and misses the important difference between what can become a basis for the development of concentration and what belongs to the realm of calmness meditation proper. In fact, the characteristic functions of sati and concentration (samādhi) are quite distinct. While concentration corresponds to an enhancement of the selective function of the mind, by way of restricting the breadth of attention, sati on its own represents an enhancement of the recollective function, by way of expanding the breadth of attention. These two modes of mental functioning correspond to two different cortical control mechanisms in the brain. This difference, however, does not imply that the two are incompatible, since during absorption attainment both are present. But during absorption sati becomes mainly presence of the mind, when it to some extent loses its natural breadth owing to the strong focusing power of concentration.”Anālayo, Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization

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