From Mind to No Mind - Samadhi (Nirvana)

Patanjali’s Guidelines
The scripture which expounds the system of mental  discipline and the technique to turn the mind away from the passing phenomenon  and to direct it towards the permanent reality is called the Yoga Sutras of the  great sage, Patanjali.  These Yoga Sutras  or aphorisms of Patanjali are the outstanding users’ manual for achieving the  reorientation of our thinking process. As the prime cause for all our problems is  the mind, its limitations and its reactions, unless and until we formulate a  method which will try to take us beyond the mind, there can not be any end to  the problems.

The Yoga of Patanjali formulated a means by which the sum  total of the very nature of the mind was checked. Mind in all its various  manifestations was mastered through a set of systematic disciplines by which he  arrived at a state of mind-transcendence or a state of ‘no mind’.

We notice duality in our day to day life, while  non-dualism, advaita, is our intrinsic nature. The Self, the indweller  in everybody, is the Supreme Subject and the Seer, and It is of the nature of  non-dual consciousness. But our Mind is ever going outside, ever objectifying  itself, thinking in terms of things and ever scattering itself amongst the  countless objects of this universe. Patanjali finds successful solutions to  this paradox of duality.

The constant objectifying tendency of the mind comes in  the way of our dwelling upon the Self, our original nature or our original state of Consciousness. The constant dispersal of  the mind amongst the many, the multifarious objects, was the contradiction of  Self-experience, because, the Self is of the nature of non-dual Universal  Principle. Fragmentation is the tendency of the mind. So, total reversal of the  mind-nature in its constant manifestation in the externalized modes of  activities such as objectification, assuming, dwelling and acting in terms of  names and forms, oscillation and fickleness, has to be totally overcome. The  mind has to be turned inward, and trained to remain as a subject, and also has  to be made to focus itself upon the ONE and not on the MANY. This is the task  before Yoga. As long as this state of Unity is not achieved, it is not possible  to experience the Self. Therefore, we have to find out the practices to achieve  this objective.

Tips for Mind Control
Patanjali defines such practice only in two words viz.  Dispassion and continuous practice of withdrawal (Vairagya and Abhyasa).  He says this re-orientation can be done firstly by developing dispassion  towards all things, seen or unseen, all experiences which we see before us, which  we have already undergone and which we might not have experienced but we have  heard about them from others. We have to give up completely the craving, the desire  and the thirst for all experiences, already seen and heard as well as those yet  to be seen and heard. Then we must constantly practise driving the mind inward,  turning it away from outer sense-perception, and making it fixed upon the one  inner objective.

So, this putting a stop to fresh experiences and  impressions is Vairagya or turning away from a passionate longing for  sense-experience. It is called dispassion. Simultaneously, there should be an  effort and practice to concentrate, turn the mind inward, at the same time,  withdraw the senses from the sense-objects, withdraw the mind from the senses  and withdraw oneself even from the mind. Refusing to link oneself with the mind  and going towards the senses and sense objects is withdrawing from the mind and  the senses.

In this way, Patanjali formulates a ceaseless turning  away from desire, turning away from sense-objects and sense-experience. A non-stop  practice with regularity, with persistence, with keen interest and intensity is  required to attain success.

This process of making the mind stable  is called concentration. The spontaneous concentration of the mind on an  object is Meditation. In the initial stages of meditation one has to decide  some target upon which one can concentrate. He has to concentrate with the help  of his sense organs like ' Eyes, Nose, Ears, Mouth and Touch'.

Sri Ramakrishna compared the mind  with a pond, the bottom of which cannot be seen if its surface is covered with  moss and ripples. To see clearly the bottom, the moss must be cleared, the  ripples must subside and the water is calm. If the water is muddy or agitated all  the time, the bottom cannot be seen at all. He compared the bottom as our Self,  the pond as our mind (chitta), and the ripples as vrittis (thought  waves).  To attain peace and self  realization, a quiet mind is an essential prelude.

Patanjali terms this  state of  intense inner concentration as  Samadhi—trance. He explains the state of  Samadhi in the following Key Sutras.
(vitarka  vichara ananda asmita rupa anugamat samprajnatah) 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 (concentration  upon an object).

Building upon  practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya)), the meditator  systematically moves inward, through four levels or stages of concentration on  an object and then progresses to the stage of ‘objectless concentration’.  Virtually all types, styles, methods, or objects of meditation are included in  one or the other of these four stages, levels, or categories.

Four Stages in Meditation:
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.

It is by concentrating on one object, cognizing one object and  concentrating upon it, various inner experiences are brought about. As an  object presents itself to your mind, you concentrate upon it and gain an  intense state of unified thought focused upon that object. All other thoughts  are kept away. So, you get absorbed in the focusing and that intense state of  absorption in concentrating upon an object as it presents itself to you, is the  first state where you try to gain knowledge of all aspects of that thing

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.

Then, this same concentration can now start focusing upon  the inner implications of that object, the very essence of the object, instead  of the object as it presents itself to you to the senses, the object as you are  understanding. You go deeper into the very essence, the very nature of the  object. What it is useful for? How it came into being? What is its place in the  universe, in what way you are related to it and in what way it is related to  you—concentration on an object in depth, the subtler and inner aspect of it,  the essence of the thing, not in its appearance. Here, there is discrimination  between the outer appearance of the object and the subtle inner nature of the  object. This concentration, this state is accompanied by discrimination,  Vichara. Vichara is subtler and inner. It is more meditative in its nature.

3. Sananda/Bliss:  relates to 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. The concentration which you thus carry on moves now from  the object to the very process of perceiving and concentrating upon the object.  So, now the concentration actually moves into the area of the mind itself.
  Who is doing this perception? Who is doing this focusing? Who is doing this  concentration or examination of the object? The mind. This mind-process, perceptual  process of the mind, becomes now the object of your concentration. You now  begin to focus the attention upon the process of being focused upon the object,  upon the process of being absorbed in the object. So the mental process becomes  the object of your concentration. More subtle, more inward.

Concentration is much deeper and your being is freed from  the bondage of the object. This concentration frees you from the impact of the  object or your reaction to it, your feelings towards it. Therefore, this sense  of being forced from the objective world to the Cognitive Perception gives you  a sense of elation, a sense of joy.

Every kind of freedom, every step you move towards a  liberated state, is always characterized by enhanced joy. So, in this state of  concentration where the mind is taken away from the shackles of an object for  its support and moves into the area of activity itself, the object of  attention, it is accompanied by a subtler feeling of joy. This concentration is  accompanied not by examination of the details of an object, not even by an  entering into discrimination or enquiry into the real nature of an object, but  by a feeling of joy.

4. Sasmita/I-ness:  relates to I-ness, which is even subtler, as it relates to the I that is behind, or witness to all of the other experiences.

The fourth form of the intense inner concentration takes you inward from  even the observation of the mental perception, and focuses your attention on  yourself, as distinct from the mental perceptional process, from the inner  essence of the object to which it was directed to, and even from the appearance  of the object itself.

So, the object is given up and even the essential nature, subtle nature of  the object is given up and even the concentration or focusing yourself upon the  perceptual process is given up.

You focus your attention merely upon you who are the seer of those things,  you who are the subject, who are carrying on this process. You remain aware as  the subject, as distinct from even the perceptual process and the object  originally concentrated upon.

Here, it is the innermost state, you are aware of yourself only as the  seeing subject, the meditator.But then this ‘I’ upon which the mind is now  focused, is not yet the universal Consciousness. It is not the pure  Consciousness. Yet it is the individualized consciousness.

These are the four ways or the four aspects which concentration upon an  object can take. All these four stages have an object to which attention  is directed (samprajnata).

Beyond these  four is objectless concentration, where all four categories of objects have  been released from attention (asamprajnata). This is explained in the  next Sutra.
(virama  pratyaya abhyasa purvah samskara shesha anyah) 1.18

The other kind  of samadhi is asamprajnata samadhi, and has no object in which attention  can be absorbed, wherein only latent impressions remain, which are like burnt  seeds; this state is attained by constantly checking the thought waves through  the practice of non-attachment.

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