Imagine a map without a legend.

वितर्क -विचारानन्दास्मिता – रूपानुगमात् संप्रज्ञातः

वितर्क = vitarka = reasoning, opinion, purpose, conjecture.

विचारानन्दास्मिता = vicārānandāsmitā =

vicāra = discussion, reflection, verdict.

ānanda = joy, happiness, bliss. (the end of the drama)

āsmitā =  sense of “I”, I-ness.

रूपानुगमात् = rūpānugamāt =

rūpa = form.

anugamāt = followed by, attended by, accompanying.

संप्रज्ञातः = samprajñātaḥ = state of Samadhi in which there is still an object for the mind to focus on.

In the previous 16 sutras Patanjali has described what yoga is and what the mind is. We have a foundation for trying to still the vṛttis through this information. Essentially, and to simplify, we are trying to encourage the mind to get out of the way of our true nature.

In Patanjalian thought the mind is as much matter, physical stuff, as the body, more subtle matter but matter non the less. The only thing that isn’t matter is the consciousness of the universe. Puruṣa. In order to access Puruṣa we need to practice the focusing of the mind and adopt an attitude of dispassion.

For the next section of the first chapter Patanjali describes how the mind can focus to ever more subtle levels, each level moving our awareness through the prakṛti (matter) and towards Puruṣa.

This first chapter is called Samadhi Pada as it is giving information about Samadhi, interestingly though, it isn’t until almost halfway the chapter Patanjali specifically mentions Samadhi, everything is alluding towards this state, this clarity of mind, but the word is not stated unambiguously until sutra 20.  Possibly this is due to the understanding that the teachings were not linear, this is a collection of aphorisms about the state and process of yoga. Patanjali is beginning with definitions of terms rather than practical advice. We start by learning about the state of the mind as it is and then move to some processes of how the mind may begin to quiet, before looking at a more detailed map of which route to follow.

Imagine a map without a legend. If we are looking for a church but don’t know the symbol for a church and we had never seen a church before we could be standing next to one and never realise it.

Patanjali is giving us the legend for yoga, before suggesting the best route.

To continue the route analogy (indulging in a bit of vikalpa here, do excuse me), climbing routes vary in difficulty and grade so to reach the summit there may be many paths, one which is suitable for any level of climber, just as Patanjali will offer us a range of techniques. But just as before we attempt to climb we need to know where we are going Patanjali offers us markers and check points, and an idea of where we may end up.

It is also significant that Patanjali is expecting us to practice, we are given waystones for where we are in our practice and what further stages of focus we can develop.

This sutra is the first which describes different states of clarity the mind can find. All of these states are samprajñātaḥ they are states in which the citta still requires a form (of some kind), to focus on.

Vitarka, the most concreate form. The mind becomes absorbed in something physical, for example the colours or shape of an idol, or a flower. There is something tangible the mind is focusing on.

Vicāra, more subtle, the essence of the form becomes the focus. So rather than the shape or colour of the flower the mind rests on the essential nature of the object – note an object is still present.

ānanda, from contemplation on the essential nature of the flower the mind rests in a state of deep bliss. Take the beauty and majesty of a sunset, we begin by admiring the physical form of the sunset, the oranges and purples, and the mind becomes cleared from the thoughts of the day, the anxieties and the triumphs, absorbing the beauty until the mind rests in that beauty, from this a sense of deep peace, bliss, or joy arises. It started with an object – the sunset.

I hope we have all experienced this at some time, I believe it is the experiential nature of the sutras which make them accessible. Patanjali is giving word and clarity to the mystical experiences we may have encountered.

The last state of clarity is āsmitā in this context it could be likened to the third sutra with the seer seeing it’s self. āsmi means ‘I am’. tā denotes ‘ness’. So this ‘I am – ness’ could be interpreted the deep sense of ‘everything will be alright’ which arises out of the bliss of absorption. We feel we belong, the yearning of the soul desists and we dwell fully in our own being. It is the sense of well being after savasana, the sense of lightness that comes in the heart when we allow the mind to clear and focus, when expectation and judgement cease and we can fully inhabit our essence. āsmitā begins with prakṛti (from the bliss that came because the mind became absorbed in an object) but ends in puruṣa.

“This is the dawn we were waiting for,

the first day whole and pure,

when we emerge from night and silence,

to fully inhabit the substance of time.”

Sophia de Mello Breyner.



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