1.42 What's in a Name?
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 42 | COMMENTARY
Tatra shabda-artha-jnaana-vikalpaiha samkeernaa savitarkaa samaapattih
तत्र शब्दार्थज्ञानविकल्पैः संकीर्णा सवितर्का समापत्तिः॥१.४२॥
Tatra śabda̅rthajña̅navikalpiaḥ saṁki̅rṇa̅ savitarka̅ sama̅pattiḥ||1.42||
"The samadhi state in which the object, its word, and its knowledge alternate in mind is known as Savitarka samapatti."
“Mind is Space, Thinking is Time.”
- Ashwini Aggarwal, Conversations with Space
What is your imagination like? Humans took over the Earth primarily due to three reasons: extensive imagination, ability to communicate the imagination, and ability to get a large number to believe in that imagination and turn a lot of it into reality. Paper money works because everyone believes the paper means something; if one day, everyone decided that the printed dollar is trash, it will literally become trash. Thousands of people work for a company – an imaginary, non-living entity that exists only as a name on paper (even people exist on paper now-a-days: there was a case in India in which a man went to court for more than a decade to prove he is alive because some official document said he was dead) – and profess loyalty for it and its vision and mission. The imaginative identity goes as far as to have a name, its own money, land, and other assets. Talk about “talking about reality”. No other animal has the ability to create such 2-dimensional entities, ascribe qualities to them, and get hundreds and thousands of people to believe in them.
The act of communicating the imagination and ideas requires a language. Conversely, for a thought to arise, a language is needed to think.
Language is a collection of symbols with a form, and an object. Spoken languages, have a third element that is sound. When you read the word CHAIR, what happens? Try reading the word a few times slowly and observe how the three dimensions of the symbol– form, sound, and object – are revealed. If you sit with the word a little longer, your mind will start generating knowledge regarding the object like weight, height, and color. Therefore, for a thought to arise, a language is critical. Research shows people with a greater vocabulary, or those who are multilingual, have a clearer and more refined internal dialogue than others, and even happen to have a better hold on their emotional state.
When you read the word CHAIR, you are reciting a sound in your head which you learned in primary school – che-air. That is what reading the word means – make the combination of sounds che-air for the combination of symbols c-h-a-i-r. The form of the symbol are the Roman Alphabet and the name is che-air. We also learnt that the object of the symbol is a seat generally with 4 legs and a back rest. Now, we are unable to look at this word without making the sound in our head, and generating the picture of the object on the mental screen. It is so because we have become conditioned.
Let’s approach this from another direction. Look at a chair. Do not look back to your screen so soon. Look at the chair for a few seconds and do not think of anything else. Simply stare at the chair as if you have a crush on it. I will wait.
Well, what happened? If you stare at the chair without any intention, your mind might have given you the name of the object without you asking for it, but after some time, all that you saw was the object. The name vanished. The object does not contain the name, but, as we experimented earlier, the name has the object. Any object has a name, form, and its attributes (knowledge).
When one starts to sit for meditation, we get a lot of thoughts. In meditation, we do not suppress the thoughts, we observe them and let them flow. In Savitarka Samadhi, the name of the object, the form of the object, and the sound are not separate. These attributes of the object keep on intermingling. The intellect is at play, but the contemplation on the single object is effortless. There is no other object in the mind, but the name, form and knowledge of the object are yet to be separated. In this Samadhi, a lot of ideas may be generated about the object which may not have been generated before. Many problems can be solved here. S. Ramanujan, one of the greatest mathematicians, had once said that he saw solutions to mathematical problems in his sleep. He was completely and wholly engrossed in mathematical research and his intellect produced results even passively.
This form of Samadhi is the first step to Samadhi and need the mind to be emptied of distractions. Only then the object assimilates with the mind fully, and greater knowledge of the object is revealed to the intellect of the mind.