YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 17 | COMMENTARY
Vitarkavicaranandasmitarupanugamat samprajnatah ||1.17||
Samprajnatah is achieved by reasoning (vitarka), reflection(vichara), bliss (Ananda) and oneness-with-object (asmita-rup-anugamat).
These impressions, according to the dominant guna (Sattva, Rajas, or Tamas) come up and affect thoughts, emotions, and consequently decisions and actions. The method to clean the mind is meditation which culminates into Samadhi – a state in which the physical and the pranic plane is transcended, and the mental plane is explored and healed and finally even that is dropped. The state of Samadhi is not akin to sleeping - one is at rest but alert. It is said to be even more restful than deep sleep.
According to the science of Yoga, there are five planes of existence that a human being can experience. These are called the Panchakoshas – The Five Sheaths which envelope the atman – the soul.
The plane that we all can experience is Annamaya Kosha – the physical plane. Anna literally means food – the body that is composed of food that we eat and drink is the Annamaya Kosha. Bones, organs, muscles, blood, semen, lymphatic fluid, and plasma all fall under the Annamaya Kosha.
The next plane is the Pranamaya Kosha - the vital energy (vital energy is a very rough translation of the word Prana – for a detailed description, check the post on Prana) which courses through the body in psychic channels and transforms in Chakras which are psychic centers. Asanas, Pranayamas and other techniques of Prana Vidya (The science of Prana) can help a person to perceive Prana and over time, with regular practice, manipulate it.
Manomaya Kosha is the next plane – the mental plane. All thoughts and many kinds of impressions lie in this plane. While we all can agree that we have thoughts (I have more than I would care for), very few of us can disassociate from them. Even modern science has no other technique to validate the existence of human consciousness except the admission of the individual that it has a consciousness.
Vijnanamaya Kosha – The intellectual body is the plane of analysis and awareness. Forming judgements, making decisions, weighing pros and cons, and being aware of oneself within and without are the activities of Vijnanamaya Kosha.
The last and the subtlest Kosha is the Anandamaya Kosha – the plane of bliss and joy. We all have at different times in our life have experienced ecstasy. For that few minutes, one experiences the the Anandamaya Kosha.
Prana, or the vital energy pervades all the sheaths. If it did not, life is not possible. It is just the level of awareness that is developed by the Yogic techniques.
It is not easy to slip into meditation for most of the people. Here Maharishi Patanjali gives the method of meditation that can take the practitioner into Samadhi– Samprajnatah – the meditation with the support of an object. There are four stages of this samadhi: Reasoning (vitarka), Reflection (vichara), bliss/inspiration (Ananda) and Oneness with object (asmita-rupa). One supports the mind with an object of choice – it begins with careful examination of the object during which all thoughts except the object disappear, followed by mental contemplation in which the effort is no longer needed to examine the object. Regular practice of these two states results in a stage where there is burst of joy. In the end the practitioner become one with the object of meditation. Each stage is a progression - layer-by-layer the impressions are destroyed and the next layer of impressions take the practitioner into the next stage of Samprajnatah Samadhi.
Meditation is easier to learn from a spiritual Master and is recommended. The grace of the Guru can take us very easily into Samadhi.
One must proceed with caution with this knowledge. All the information these sutras give can become obstacles in our path of attaining Samadhi as we may start analyzing the type of Samadhi we are in, rendering us unable to meditate.