Self-Realization through Yoga Meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra

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Yoga Sutras 3.9-3.16: 
Witnessing Subtle Transitions
with Samyama
(Previous Next Main)

Click here to return to the main page of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.What is an object?: We normally think of an object as something you can touch, or hold in your hand. However, an object need not necessarily be material in that sense.

Transition is an object: Think of a car, which is a material object. When it is driving down the road, there is the kinetic energy of motion. That motion itself is also an object of sorts; it is some-thing, though having no molecules of its own. Now, imagine that your car either accelerates or decelerates. The change, shift, or transition is, itself, a separate object, though quite related to both the car as object, and the motion as object.

Thoughts have transition: Similar to the car above, thoughts are also objects. However, the thoughts in the mind field not only interact with one another; they also come and go. Just imagine for a moment that you had mastery over that process of the coming and going of the thoughts, the transitions. With mastery over the transition process itself, you would gain tremendous insight and mastery over the thoughts themselves, as well as the subtlest inner transitions of mental process. Those subtle transitions are also objects themselves, subject to exploration and witnessing, as well as to setting aside through non-attachment (1.15).

Three subtle transitions are witnessed: You become witness not only to thoughts as we normally think of thoughts, but also to the transition process of how they are coming, being, and going.

  • Nirodhah: You become witness to the process of transitioning into mastery over thought patterns (nirodhah-parinamah, 3.9, 1.2), since that transition is an object.
  • Samadhi: You become witness to the process of transitioning into the higher state of meditation (samadhi-parinamah, 3.11), since that transition is an object.
  • Ekagra: You become witness to the process of transitioning into one-pointedness of mind (ekagra-parinamah, 3.12), since that transition is an object. 

Mastery of transition brings mastery of thoughts: By mastering these three types of transition process, mastery can be gained over all of the particular thought patterns subject to these processes. It brings mastery over the life cycle process of the countless objects of the mind field. Samyama was introduced as the finer tool (3.4-3.6), and this process of dealing with transitions is a finer use of that tool. In this way, we come to see that purifying the mind does not mean a detailed psychological analysis of each thought, but rather, gaining mastery over the life cycle of those thoughts.

The transitions are later transcended: The inner journey of Yoga systematically encounters and then moves through layer after layer of experience, each time moving past another level of ignorance or avidya (2.5). While the mastery of the subtle transitions described in this section brings such a new level, it too is only a stage to experience. In the most subtle stages of practice, even these transitions are transcended through dharma-meghah samadhi. (4.32)

Transitions: New Years and New Moments in Life and Meditation
The transition from one year to the next year happens in an infinitely short moment that is actually non-existent in time. So too, there are transitions in the moments of life and the moments of meditation. Mindfulness of transitions in daily life and during meditation time is extremely useful on the spiritual journey to enlightenment. The recording ends with a 15-minute guided contemplative meditation on Transitions, which begins at 54:42.
Podcast Date: Dec 30, 2006 Length 1:09:25

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3.9 That high level of mastery called nirodhah-parinamah occurs in the moment of transition when there is a convergence of the rising tendency of deep impressions, the subsiding tendency, and the attention of the mind field itself.
(vyutthana nirodhah samskara abhibhava pradurbhavau nirodhah ksana chitta anvayah nirodhah-parinamah)

  • vyutthana = emergence, coming out, rising
  • nirodhah = mastery, coordination, control, regulation, setting aside of
  • samskara = subtle impressions, imprints in the unconscious, deepest habits
  • abhibhava = disappearance, subsiding 
  • pradurbhavau = manifesting, appearance
  • nirodhah = mastery, coordination, control, regulation, setting aside of
  • ksana = with the moment, instant, infinitesimal time (3.53)
  • chitta = of the consciousness of the mind-field
  • anvayah = connection with, conjunction
  • nirodhah-parinamah = transition to nirodhah (nirodhah = mastery, coordination, control, regulation, setting aside of (1.2); parinamah = transition, transformation, of change, result, consequence, mutative effect, alteration) (2.15)

Letting go of the audience: Imagine that you are in a lecture hall several minutes before the speaker has come to give his or her talk. All of the people are standing around the lecture hall, and the room is filled with a loud rumble of the collective voices of many conversations. You are watching this, taking it all in, with your mind pulling your senses here and there. Then, the speaker enters the hall, walks to the podium, and begins to speak. Two things happen simultaneously: your attention moves away from all of the other people, while at the same time, your attention becomes directed towards the speaker.

Mastery over transitions: The transition away from the people in the audience is somewhat like nirodhah parinima (the transition of suspension), and the companion transition of attention moving towards the speaker is somewhat like samadhi parinima (the transition to absorption, 3.11). When the attention repeatedly remains with the speaker, this is somewhat like ekagra parinima (the transition where the same absorption repeatedly arises and subsides, 3.12). It is the mastery over that process of transition itself that the Yogi is seeking. If you have mastery over these processes of transition, then you have mastery over all of the thought patterns, which might otherwise control your mind, thoughts, actions, and speech.

There is a convergence with the transitions: The samskaras or deep impressions naturally arise through a transition phase between inactive and active. Those samskaras also naturally return from the active phase to the inactive. When there is a convergence (anyaya) of the attention with the rising and falling transitions, a high degree of mastery comes. This is an extremely subtle process of samyama (3.4-3.6).

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3.10 The steady flow of this state (nirodhah-parinamah) continues by the creation of deep impressions (samskaras) from doing the practice.
(tasya prashanta vahita samskarat)

  • tasya = its (referring to the mind in the state of nirodhah-parinamah, in the last sutra)
  • prashanta = undisturbed, steady, continuous, peaceful, calm, tranquil
  • vahita = flow
  • samskara = subtle impressions, imprints in the unconscious, deepest habits

Creating subtle grooves in the mind field: More surface level, or worldly habits often control our actions, speech, and thoughts. Here, at even this extremely subtle level of practice, new habit patterns are intentionally formed as a result of repeated practice. However, in this case we are intentionally forming extremely deep habit patterns of how to stay in such a deeply tranquil state whenever we want. That deep tranquility is the new habit pattern. Recall that one of the two foundation practices (abhyasa and vairagya, 1.12-1.16) has to do with seeking stable tranquility (1.13).

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3.11 The mastery called samadhi-parinamah is the transition whereby the tendency to all-pointedness subsides, while the tendency to one-pointedness arises.
(sarvarathata ekagrata ksaya udaya chittasya samadhi-parinamah)

  • sarvarathata = many pointedness, all pointedness, experiencing all points
  • ekagrata = one-pointedness
  • ksaya = dwindling, destruction, decay
  • udaya = rising, uprising 
  • chittasya = of the consciousness of the mind-field
  • samadhi-parinamah = transition to samadhi (samadhi = meditation in its higher state, deep absorption of meditation, the state of perfected concentration; parinamah = transition, transformation, of change, result, consequence, mutative effect, alteration)

All pointedness: The state of all-pointedness refers to the tendency of the mind to be drawn in countless different directions. In the state of samadhi-parinamah being described, this tendency towards all-pointedness subsides. It does not mean that those countless objects themselves go away, as they are not destroyed. What it does mean is that the inclination of the mind towards this stance of all-pointedness subsides. In other words, it is only one thing that is subsiding, and that is the tendency towards the endless diversity presented to the mind. 

One-pointedness: The state of one-pointedness refers to the tendency of the mind to concentrate or focus on a single point. If you observe your own mental functioning, you can easily see both tendencies. The mind tends both to the diversity of all-pointedness, as well as to one -pointedness. We all experience both of these tendencies in daily life. Here in this sutra, it is this one-pointedness that is arising. 

One rises, while the other falls: Here, in the high state of samadhi-parinamah, there is witnessing of this transition into samadhi, whereby the all-pointedness subsides, and the one-pointedness arises.  

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3.12 The mastery called ekagrata-parinamah is the transition whereby the same one-pointedness arises and subsides sequentially.
(tatah punah shanta-uditau tulya-pratyayau chittasya ekagrata-parinimah)

  • tatah = then
  • punah = again, sequentially
  • shanta-uditau = the subsiding and arising, past and present
  • tulya-pratyayau = having similar 
  • chittasya = of the consciousness of the mind-field
  • ekagrata-parinimah = transition of one-pointedness (ekagrata = one-pointedness; parinamah = transition, transformation, of change, result, consequence, mutative effect, alteration)

Rising and subsiding of the same one-pointedness: In the last sutra, it was described that all-pointedness subsided and one-pointedness arose. Now, in this sutra, the subject is where that one-pointedness subsides, only to arise again. The many-pointedness is not there, only the cycling and recycling of the one-pointedness. It is this transition that is being witnessed.

Three transitions: Thus, we are referring to three forms of transition in sutras 3.9-3.12. The first one related to the transition of the mastery of thought patterns itself. The second related to the transitioning rise of one-pointedness of mind, along with the subsiding of the many-pointedness. The third (in the current sutra) relates to the transition of the repeated rising and subsiding of the same one-pointedness.

Mastery over transitions: Once again, this witnessing and mastery over transitions themselves gives mastery over the underlying thought patterns and processes themselves. In other words, master the transitions, and you master the thought process; master the thought process, and you can go beyond, ultimately to experience the center of consciousness (1.3). 

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3.13 These three transition processes also explain the three transformations of form, time, and characteristics, and how these relate to the material elements and senses. 
(etena bhuta indriyasau dharma laksana avastha parinamah vyakhyatah)

  • etena = by this, by these
  • bhuta = elements
  • indriyasau = mental organs of actions and senses (indriyas)
  • dharma = form, quality
  • laksana = time characteristics
  • avastha = state of old or new, condition
  • parinamah = transition, transformation, of change, result, consequence, mutative effect, alteration
  • vyakhyatah = are described

The transitions determine the more external: Three extremely subtle transitions have been explained in the preceding sutras. This current sutra is emphasizing the fact that those subtle transitions, in turn, directly impact the perception of the slightly less subtle, or less internal processes of form, time, and condition. 

Mastery over the elements and senses: While this sutra describes, in part, how the transition process relate to the elements and the senses, the mastery of the elements (bhutas) is explained in sutra 3.45, and the mastery of the senses (indriyas) is explained in sutra 3.48.

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3.14 There is an unmanifest, indescribable substratum or existence that is common or contained within all of the other forms or qualities.
(shanta udita avyapadeshya dharma anupati dharmi)

  • shanta = latent past
  • udita = arising
  • avyapadeshya = indescribable, unpredictable, unmanifest
  • dharma = form, quality, characteristics 
  • anupati = closely following, common, conforming with all, contained in
  • dharmi = the object containing the characteristics, substratum, existence

What is underneath all of this?: Three transitions have been described in the sutras above, as well as three subsequent transformations, along with the fact that these affect the elements and the senses. There is surely something in common, within, a part of, or underneath all of them. 

Find the substratum: The point of witnessing all of those subtle processes is to find that substratum, the object underneath, that is common to all, is continuously existent within them all, and unchanging in any of them. This is a further refinement of the process described throughout Yoga of witnessing and setting aside that which is not the eternal, indivisible reality of our true nature that we are seeking. After everything else is eliminated (1.2), we experience the true Self (1.3). 

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3.15 Change in the sequence of the characteristics is the cause for the different appearances of results, consequences, or effects.
(krama anyatvam parinamah anyatve hetu)

  • krama = sequence, succession, order
  • anyatvam = distinctness, different phases
  • parinamah = transition, transformation, of change, result, consequence, mutative effect, alteration, natural laws or functions of nature
  • anyatve = for the distinctness, differentiation
  • hetu = the reason

Natural order: There is a natural flow or transformation in all levels of nature, whether in gross or subtle planes of reality. These transitions are the foundations of the principle of cause yielding effect. Some of these are known at the surface level by all of us. The subtler transitions are known to the Yogis.

Remember non-attachment: Recall that one of the foundation principles of Yoga is non-attachment (1.12-1.16). Also, recall that this is a process that evolves in stages, and that here, in this section we are talking about extremely subtle processes. Though the processes are subtle, the principles are the same. You witness, notice an underlying reality, and let go of the more surface attachment.

A particular form comes from the sequence of states: Imagine that you are able to meditate so quietly that you recognize that all of the objects of your attachment were simply a result of a change of sequence in states. For example, clay turns into pot (while remaining clay), and then, eventually turns back into clay. So it is with all of the objects, whether objects in the external world, or object in the mind. It is all a matter of changing form, or the sequence in which those forms are seen. Gradually, the unchanging truth is revealed, underneath all of the apparent change in successions of transformations of that uniform oneness. 

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3.16 By samyama on the three-fold changes in form, time, and characteristics, there comes knowledge of the past and future.
(parinimah traya samyama atita anagata jnana)

  • parinimah = transition, transformation, of change, result, consequence, mutative effect, alteration
  • traya = three
  • samyama = dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi taken together
  • atita = past
  • anagata = future
  • jnana = knowledge

Witnessing transitions tells the past and future: If you know the current state of the transformations related to form, time, and characteristics (3.13), then you also have an understanding of the past from which they evolved, and the future towards which they are evolving. The question is the degree to which you have clarity about the current moment of these three. 

Imagine a pot of boiling water: Imagine that you put a pot of cold water on a stove, and you wondered how long it would take to come to a boil. If you knew the nature of the current form, the time factors, and the characteristics you were dealing with, you could calculate an answer (Of course, the principle of samyama is much subtler). If you knew the exact temperature of the water, the BTU's of heat from the fire, the barometric pressure, the heat conductivity of the pot, and other such factors, you'd be able to calculate when the water would boil (presuming you understood the formulas). 

Letting go of the subtle abilities: This sutra is the first of many in Chapter 3 that describe attainments, abilities, or powers that come with practices. The wise yogi does not seek out such powers, but recognizes that they come along the way. Where they are encountered, their value is in uncovering the potential colorings of attraction and aversion (2.3), and the avidyas (2.5), so that these can be set aside in non-attachment (1.15-1.16). Sutra 3.38 clearly points out the principle of renouncing such powers. 

 

The next sutra is 3.17 

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Yoga Nidra Meditation CD by Swami Jnaneshvara
Yoga Nidra CD
Swami Jnaneshvara