“The fate of all of us here has been to know that we are prisoners of power. No one knows why us in particular, but what a great fortune!”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Religiousness in Yoga Part 13: Antaraṅga Sādhana, Saṃyama, Kaivalya


Excerpts from “Religiousness in Yoga” by TKV Desikachar

Part1: Antaraṅga Sādhana

… We are not consciously aiming for or striving to do dhyāna. We are really striving to remove the obstacles to dhyāna. We always have a potential for the state of samādhi but somehow something comes between us and that state. This veiling we have discussed as avidyā and its “children.” … Anything that aids in removing these obstacles is often understood as dhyāna itself. That is why we have temples, recite mantras, do prāṇāyāma, etc. Therefore, “I am doing dhyāna” really means “I am trying to prepare myself for the state that is called dhyāna.” to say that we are “doing dhyāna” corrupts the words dhyāna itself. So we use the word dhyāna also to mean that which prepares the mind so that the state of dhyāna can happen.

Dhyeya means “the object of meditation.” Dhyāta means “that which meditates.” This is the same as puruṣa. Dhyāna is meditation itself. These words … come from the root dhyai, “to think.”

Question: In samādhi, does the object retain its distinct identity?
Response: Of course. The object is not in meditation, we are. The object might change, as all things change, but not as a consequence of samādhi. What we experience in relation to the object will often be different … Our understanding of the object is different because our minds are clearer so we can see something that we did not see before. The object does not necessarily change; the change is in us.

For example, what is the difference between a state of samādhi and a state of anger? There are said to be four stages in the intensity of the children of avidyā. The first, prasupta, “dormant potentiality,” is when they exist as only potential, like a seed. The next stage, tanū, is when they have been extended towards an object, though still mild, like a seed that has sprouted. The third stage is vicchinna; here one aspect of avidyā is apparent and others not. The last stage, udāra, occurs when one aspect of avidyā is manifest and has taken over our reason completely. If we are completely covered with anger it is as if we are not there … Is this samādhi?

… The answer given in the Yoga Sūtra is very clear. To investigate the nature of anger is a dhyāna. But to be in a state of anger where we have “lost our heads” is not dhyāna … The state of samādhi is really a state of prajñā … “clear understanding.” … ṛta prajñā means “what is seen is true.” … we see what is anger, how it originates, what are its effects. In a peak of anger, however, we lose ourselves. In such a state the mind is completely covered with avidyā … the true test of samādhi is not when we sit cross legged, close our eyes, and show a lot of nice things on our faces. It is what happens to us, when we see what we have not seen before.

… As in anything else, a little guidance is helpful. In theory this seems simple, but there are practical difficulties … The Yoga Sūtra … makes no direct reference about going to a teacher, because, at that time, it was taken for granted. Originally the teaching of Yoga was passed on by word of mouth before it was finally written. Students would live with their teachers until they got to know them very well. Therefore, I feel it is better to have some personal guidance.

Part2: Saṃyama

Question: Is a state of samādhi possible in āsana? Wouldn’t it interrupt movement?

Response: In āsana don’t we have all of the necessary elements: the mind, the object and communication between them? So what is the problem … In āsana the object of dhyāna is variable. It could be the entire concept of āsana, it could be some detail or special focus … Depending on what we use, what we see in dhyāna will be different … the object influences the understanding … Saṃyama is when one pursues continuously over a period of time a particular object … Saṃyama is dhāraṇā, dhyāna, samādhi, on a particular goal or object over a period of time. Rather than on Monday choosing one object and on Tuesday choosing another, we try to understand completely one particular object without changing our interest.

… Are the states of dhāraṇā, dhyāna, samādhi permanent? It is said very clearly that when a person is in a state of samādhi, there is no other state in him. It is almost as if at that moment he does not remember that he ever had a distracted mind. When a person is distracted, of course, he has only a memory of samādhi … in this way it alternates. As a person gets more and more involved the time for samādhi is more, and confusion less.

… The ultimate goal in Yoga is that we always observe correctly and therefore, we never act regrettably.

Part3: Kaivalya

… The word kaivalya comes from the word kevala, “to be aloof.” It is often translated as “isolation”. The state of kaivalya is one in which a person is able to understand this world so well that he rather aloof, in the sense that he is not influenced by the world though he may influence the world … He lives in the world but he is free from the world. But he is not free from the perception of the senses or the body … Kaivalya is the effect upon the whole person the more and more he achieves samādhi.

… According to Yoga, the purpose of creation where puruṣa and prakṛti come together is to provide us with a context for an understanding of what we are and what we are not. When we understand this, there is kaivalya and prakṛti has served its purpose. To such a person, prakṛti is simply where it is and it has no more purpose.

If we do āsanas, gradually we become supple. If we do prāṇāyāma, we [gradually] gain control over the breath. So, too, with kaivalya, gradually something happens that we do not control. There is always a gap between our effort and these states. There is always this spontaneous thing, something happens in us. I will illustrate with a graph

We cannot discover the moment of dhyāna just as we cannot find the moment we fall asleep. We either miss the moment or we never sleep. In dhyāna we may prepare ourselves but when the moment comes, it is almost a gap or a break, and we are in dhyāna. With the final kaivalya, there is no more oscillation. A person is always in that state.

… While we are trying to do something like prāṇāyāma, there is also something that inhibits us … something mental. One force is inclined to practice and the other, old habits, pulls us back. This means that there is necessarily en effort. When the moment comes in which there is no need for effort or trying, at that moment dhyāna occurs. That is why the first chapter of the Yoga Sūtra says we must have abhyāsa … “to go on in a particular direction.” The more we go in one direction, the less we will concern ourselves with other directions …

In the next lecture on theory I will mention the things that really prevent the normal state of dhyāna … what are the obstacles, and what might help to remove them?

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