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Yoga Sutras 1.17: Four types of concentration on an object

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Yoga Sutras: Sutra 1.17: Four types of concentration on an object http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-11718.htm#1.17 See also these articles: Types Versus Stages
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 13, 2005
      Yoga Sutras: Sutra 1.17:
      Four types of concentration on an object

      See also these articles:
      Types Versus Stages of Meditation:

      Five Universal Stages of Meditation:

      YOGA SUTRA 1.17: The deep absorption of attention on an object is of
      four kinds, 1) gross (vitarka), 2) subtle (vichara), 3) bliss
      accompanied (ananda), and 4) with I-ness (asmita), and is called
      samprajnata samadhi.
      (vitarka vichara ananda asmita rupa anugamat samprajnatah)

      VITARKA = gross thought or reasoning

      VICHARA = subtle thought

      ANANDA = bliss, ecstasy

      ASMITA = I-ness, individuality

      RUPA = appearances, nature, form

      ANUGAMAT = accompanied by, associated with

      SAMPRAJNATA = cognitive absorption, lower samadhi

      STAGES OF ATTENTION: Attention develops in stages:

      1) ATTENTION may wander here and there, whether externally observing
      through the senses, or internally observing the stuff of the mind.
      There are seemingly countless objects that can be observed by "me" as
      the observer (That "me" is actually a false identity, which is
      systematically being explored so as to uncover the true Self).

      2) CONCENTRATION (3.1) comes from attention and means that the
      attention is focused on one object, though the concentration may be
      interrupted, and is thus temporary. There is still an observer, who
      is doing the process of observing, and an object that is being

      3) MEDITATION (3.2) is a state of constant attention, wherein the
      concentration is not broken by those other distractions. There
      continues to be an observer observing an observed object. (There is
      no specific time limit that discriminates between concentration and

      4) SAMADHI (3.3) is absorption, which occurs when the observer, the
      process of observing, and the observer all three seem to collapse
      into one, wherein there seems to be only the object in existence.

      THINK OF ATTENTION: Since it may be difficult to conceptualize
      samadhi, it might be useful to think of this sutra and the four
      stages (below) in terms of attention or concentration. By thinking in
      terms of attention, it is easier to grasp the practicality of the
      principles, while the depth of experience can be allowed to come over

      ALL OBJECTS ARE IN ONE OF FOUR STAGES: Virtually all types, styles,
      methods, or objects of meditation are included in one of the four
      stages or levels described in this sutra. At this point in the Yoga
      Sutras, specific objects are not being suggested. Rather, the four
      categories of which any and all possible objects of meditation is
      being introduced.

      1) SAVITARKA/GROSS: relates to concentration on a gross object while
      still accompanied with other activities of the mind. This includes
      meditation on worldly objects, the body, sensory awareness,
      visualized objects, the gross level of breath, attitudes, the
      syllables of mantra, or streams of conscious thought.

      2) SAVICHARA/SUBTLE: relates to subtle objects, after the gross have
      been left behind, including the subtleties of matter the subtleties
      of the ten senses, and the subtleties of mind as objects of
      meditation, inquiry, and non-attachment.

      3) SANANDA/BLISS: emphasizes the still subtler state of bliss in
      meditation. In this state, the concentration is free from the gross
      and subtle impressions that were at the previous levels.

      4) SASMITA/I-NESS: focuses on I-ness, which is even subtler, as it
      relates to the I that is behind, or witness to all of the other

      RELATED ARTICLES: See also the sections from the following articles,
      which also deal with these stages or levels of concentration (scroll
      up and down after clicking on the link):

      Types versus Stages of Meditation:

      50+ Methods of Meditation:

      Five Universal Stages of Meditation

      MEDITATION ON THE SUBTLE: It is very important to reflect on the
      principle of meditation on the subtle elements. Meditation at this
      stage means that you are dealing with the very building blocks of all
      of the objects on which you might meditate in their gross form. You
      are focusing not only with objects normally seen to be external (the
      things of the world stored as memories in the mind), but also the
      very instruments (such as senses and mind) by which those objects are
      experienced. In this way it becomes increasingly possible to attain
      non-attachment to the whole realm of gross matter, along with their
      subtle counterparts and the mind itself.

      LIKE DRIVING THROUGH CITIES ON A HIGHWAY: When you are driving your
      car in a rural area it may seem quiet and peaceful. As you approach a
      city, there is an ever increasing activity, with more and more
      people. In the heart of the city, it is thriving with sights and
      sounds, people and objects of this or that kind. When you pass
      through the center of the city the process reverses, as the activity
      seems to gradually recede behind you, as you move through the city.
      On your journey down the highway, towards your destination, you
      approach cities, experience them, and drive through them.

      The inner journey is like that too, as you approach a level of inner
      activity, experience it, and then move through to the next. The goal
      is realization, direct experience of the absolute reality, the
      objectless center of consciousness, whose nature is of peace,
      happiness, and bliss, though truly indescribable. On that journey
      inward, few are able to go directly to that realization, and must
      move into, experience, and then transcend the levels of inner reality
      or mind, that are along the way. This is the process being described
      in this sutra.

      WHOLE PROCESS IS IN 18 SUTRAS: Sutras 1.17 and 1.18 describe the
      process of samadhi, the higher tool of meditation. Thus, the whole
      process of Yoga is summarized in the first 18 sutras. The remaining
      sutras give more expanded explanations, including the process of
      stabilizing the mind (1.33-1.39), more specific ways to attain
      samadhi (2.26-2.29), and how to then use samadhi as the finer tool
      (3.4-3.6) for Self-realization.

      SIMPLICITY, LIKE A BALL POINT PEN: Yoga Sutras has a beautiful
      simplicity to it, including these four stages of sutra 1.17.
      Attention can absorb in gross objects or subtle objects.

      Like clicking on a ball point pen, one can come outward, like the
      little container of ink. When attention is outward, the subtler
      levels are still there, underneath or interior, doing their work to
      provide consciousness itself with experience of the gross.

      With another click, the pen part retracts back into the body of the
      pen. When attention retracts from the gross, there is no gross
      experienced. Then, the subtle is experienced.

      When attention retracts again, that subtle experience falls away.
      Then, there is the experience of joy or bliss, as none of the
      activity, distractions, attractions or aversions (whether gross or
      subtle) are experienced. Yet, there is still an I-ness doing
      something called experiencing. There is an experiencer experiencing
      an "other."

      With one more click of the pen, attention retracts past even that
      bliss, so that all there is, is the I-ness itself. Consciousness is
      still operating through that individuation, but that's another story.

      Beautifully simple. Not scholarly, but practical. Oral tradition says
      that the "study" of Yoga Sutras is oral, not only textual. The
      simplicity of the outline of the Yoga Sutras necessitates
      elucidation, whether in written or, preferably, oral form. For some,
      this brevity in the Yoga Sutras is a sign of being incomplete. For
      others, it is a sign of being succinct. For the latter, the Yoga
      Sutras is a breath of fresh air in the midst of tomes of debate.
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