Last time we discussed pratiprasava, the return of consciousness to its source by absorbing the effects into the causes. We now discuss how this works. Pratiprasava occurs when the yogi uses samadhi to descend through the layers of the mind. The bindu is the “doorway” connecting the layers.
Contents for The Yogic View of Consciousness:
|Intro||Ch 1||Ch 2||Ch 3||Ch 4||Ch 5||Ch 6||Ch7||Ch 8|
|Ch 9||Ch 10||Ch 11||Ch 12||Ch 13||Ch 14||Ch 15||Ch 16||Ch 17|
|Ch 18||Ch 19||Ch 20||Ch 21||Ch 22||Ch 23||Ch 24||Ch 25||Ch 26|
|Ch 27||Ch 28||Ch 29||Ch 30||Ch 31||Ch 32||Ch 33|
Scientism is Bad, M’kay
Via yoga methods, the ancient Indians discovered what I am calling “yogic cosmology”. It is possible to describe yogic cosmology in the abstract without reference to the methods. I did this in the previous chapter, which I justified as an introduction to the concepts. However, in general, it is a bad approach to describe things independent of their origins.
To make my point, consider a different example: the Big Bang. We can describe the Big Bang as a creation story and omit the underlying details of the telescope technologies, observations, and math that led to this picture in the first place. We can also tell simplified stories for things like biological evolution, atomic physics, and so on.
We can reduce what are otherwise complicated technical issues into qualitative stories. It may be pedagogically expedient to tell a watered-down story. We have to start somewhere, right? However, once the basic concepts have been conveyed, the story must be revised to include the details, qualifiers, and points of uncertainty.
In Part 3, I mentioned scientism, where people make something akin to a religion out of the stories of science. Scientism can flourish when we abstract a story from the technical details. Scientism is bad for the following reasons.
Reducing complicated technical matters to simple stories reduces a composite thing to a false unity. The Big Bang is not a single story. It is a composite of many little stories, some of which are solid while others are weaker. When told as a unified story, the underlying pieces are blurred out and all the shades of grey eliminated. This leads to the misconception that the story as a whole is either true or false. This is bad because new knowledge grows out of the uncertainties in current knowledge. When these are covered over by simplifications, it hinders progress.
When the simple story is construed to be either true or false, this generates false controversies. Taking the Big Bang as a unified creation story pits it against the Biblical story in Genesis. This is an apples-to-oranges comparison disguised as an apples-to-apples comparison. Such thinking is just a circus sideshow and contributes nothing to the matter on either side of the argument. A story abstracted from its natural context becomes a stage of false premises on which the mind can roam freely in philosophical speculation, unanchored from reality.
The result looks like a fried egg on the mental plane. At the center of the thought-form is the original complicated technical matter, the composite of many little stories, understood as such by those who deal with it in those terms. Surrounding this solid core is an artificial penumbra of ideas, like a layer of unnecessary fat, or a big fluffy cloud, which has nothing to do with the original, other than stemming from oversimplifications and misinterpretations of the original. It all makes a big confusing mess.
Watered-down science stories get us scientism. If we water-down yoga stories, we’ll get “yogatism”. We can’t speak of the Absolute, the bindu, the cave of consciousness, or the screen of consciousness without reference to yogic methods. If we do, our “yogatism” will become just another religion. We might as well just believe in the Easter Bunny.
In fact, the West is already permeated by a type of “yogatism” where people think yoga is merely another form of exercise designed for stress reduction. This is a huge thing and gives yoga the same “fried egg” appearance on the mental plane as scientism does for science.
To avoid all this nonsense, I will not tell Taimni’s bindu story as a form of “yogatism”. We will go right to the source. The bindu stems from experiences in altered states of consciousness induced by yoga methods. The details are stated in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras so we begin there.
I now retell Taimni’s interpretation of the Yoga Sutras, given in his Science of Yoga. I will pepper original insights based on my altered states experiences where I can. The following has a lot of overlap with my previous post on the 10 types of samadhi. That is okay. It doesn’t hurt to hear these ideas more than once. The previous post described the 10 types of samadhi but did not emphasize their proper context in yoga practice. Here I emphasize that context, which is the descent through consciousness. When this is understood, we get a get a first look at a fuller concept of the bindu.
Patanjali’s yoga methods can be broadly divided into two stages:
- Learn samadhi.
- Apply samadhi to dive into the depths of the mind with the aim to experience Kaivalya.
The first stage, (explained in Chapter 6 of What is Science?) consists of the eight-fold limbs: yama, niyama, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dhyana, dharana, and samadhi. Stage 1 culminates in learning how to perform samadhi. Recall that samadhi is the fusion of the observer and the observed, where the object in the mind and the first person self-awareness become the same. Let’s spend a moment reviewing samadhi.
There is nothing equivalent to samadhi in Western cultures. Even in Eastern cultures, a person who can do samadhi is rare. This is because samadhi is hard to do. It takes inordinate practice. One must be able to silence all the levels of the mind before samadhi is possible. One must commit and dedicate their entire life to the practice. It’s not something one can do for an hour after work every day. This is why Ashrams exist. People committed to yoga need a cocoon to support their efforts.
Once mastered, samadhi is a way to use the mind that is different from normal thinking. In normal thinking there is a dichotomy between the observer and the observed. Samadhi is a mental technique that causes the fusion of the observer and the observed in what has been called “knowing by being”. Similar to normal thinking, any thought can serve as the subject of meditation.
The object of meditation is called a pratyaya. The pratyaya is a memory in the mind of the yogi. It is not like a normal memory that we bring before our “mind’s eye”. In samadhi, the yogi’s mind has been highly purified (remember sabda, jnana and artha?), and there is no mental awareness of externals (i.e. stage 1 above has been mastered).
Most important, the consciousness of the yogi fuses with the consciousness of the pratyaya. In normal thinking, “you”, as the observer, “see” a memory as distinct from yourself, as an image in your mind. There is a clear observer/observed dualism in normal thinking, even when we recall a memory. Not so in samadhi. In samadhi, there is no “you” and no observed memory. They fuse into one mental activity where observer and observed become indelibly one.
Samadhi and Saddle-Node Bifurcations
This section is a tangent. It is a mathematical analogy for understanding samadhi. We can make an analogy with samadhi and a saddle node bifurcation. First, consider this excerpt from section 3.1 of Strogatz’ well-known text on nonlinear dynamics:
The idea of the analogy is simple. Consider the left fixed point to be the observer (the yogi’s self-awareness) and the right fixed point to be the observed (the pratyaya) in the mind of the yogi. Notice how the two fixed points approach each other, and then fuse into the same thing at the bifurcation at r = 0.
This analogy shows the dynamics of two seeming opposites fusing into one entity. In the math, the opposites are the attractor on the left and repeller on the right. In samadhi, the opposites are the observer, (the yogi’s self-awareness) and observed (the pratyaya) in the yogi’s mind.
The analogy suggests samadhi is a bifurcation in the mind. The vrittis of the yogi that constitute self-awareness and the vrittis that constitute the pratyaya are initially separate in the mind. The mental method of samadhi causes them to bifurcate and become the same thing.
Also, notice Strogatz’ comment about the fixed point at the bifurcation being “extremely delicate”, indicating that it is in a state of perfect balance, like being on a razor’s edge. Samadhi, the holding of the state of fusion of the observer/observed, is also likely to be a similarly delicate balancing act.
I have some intuition to make these statements because a similar phenomenon occurs in lucid dreams. In DO_OBE I call it my “lockmold”, which is a sense of how stable or unstable I “feel” during a lucid dream. The same analogy can apply to maintaining lucidity in the dream state. Here the opposite states are (1) the nonlucid state of dreaming, as against (2) being awake. Lucid dreaming seems to be a fusion of these two states into a composite state that is “extremely delicate” to use Strogatz term. I give a technical discussion of lucid dream stability in my global workspace and dreaming paper.
To get really abstract, notice for r > 0, the system has an attractor at +∞. Of course people don’t normally think of it this way, but as the flow diagram indicates, everything converges to +∞. This would correspond to Kaivalya, the Absolute, where there is no observer or observed. Such thinking mixes the mainstream Western math thinking with the Hindu understanding explained in Part 5.
Tangent’s done; let’s get back to the main discussion.
Into The Depths
The following discussion is based on Taimni’s commentary to Yoga Sutra aphorism 1.17 in The Science of Yoga. This is the clearest expressions I have read of how the decent into consciousness works. It is also one of the best explanations of the 10 types of samadhi. I strongly recommend that you read the original. In fact, here is the ten-page excerpt from The Science of Yoga. You can read this in conjunction with my description. You will see I am only repeating in my own words what Taimni said there.
Learning samadhi is not the end of yoga, but the beginning. Samadhi is the main tool used to dive into the depths of consciousness in search of Kaivalya. One “sinks into the cool dark waters” as van der Leeuw put it. The fusion of self-awareness (observer) and the pratyaya (observed) functions as a metaphorical rope, allowing descent into the depths of consciousness. The descent into the depths is exactly the process of pratiprasava, the resolving of effects into causes, discussed last time.
We now discuss how samadhi causes pratiprasava and thereby allows the yogi to descend to progressively deeper levels of the mind. In Chapter 6 of What is Science? I discussed the power (artha) releasing function of samadhi. I don’t repeat myself here and the interested Reader may want to consult the aforementioned.
Samadhi causes pratiprasava, by the release of artha, which causes the pratyaya to break apart into its constituents. Then, samadhi is applied to the constituents, then to the constituents of the constituents, and so on, until there is nothing left of the pratyaya. Between the dissolving of the pratyaya at one level and its reappearance in more basic form at the next higher level, there is an intervening transition where the bindu functions.
Here is a picture to make the process clearer:
Figure 2 shows the stages of the descent into consciousness and the process of pratiprasava. The underlying table brings together a variety of information dispersed throughout the Yoga Sutras. This is my diagrammatic equivalent to the following figure from Taimni, taken from his commentary to aphorism 1.17.
There are thus four types of samadhi in which there is a pratyaya present. When the pratyaya is present it is called samprajnata samadhi. In samprajnata samadhi, the pratyaya is present either at the visesa, avisesa, linga, or alinga phase of the gunas. The corresponding name of samadhi at each level is “savitarka”, “savicara”, “saananda” and “sasmita”. A given form of samadhi is named after the type of consciousness corresponding to a given state of the gunas.
There are four corresponding transition states collectively called asamprajnata samadhi. The four specific forms of asamprajnata samadhi are: (1) visesa to avisesa, (2) avisesa to linga, and (3) linga to alinga, and (4) alinga to nirbija.
The above account for 8 of the 10 types of samadhi described in the Yoga Sutras. Nirbija samadhi is the 9th, and dharma mega samadhi is the 10th. The last two were described in the quote from van der Leeuw at the end of Part 1.
Nirbija is analogous to the forms of samprajnata samadhi except there is no pratyaya. Van der Leeuw described nirbija samadhi like this:
“…we come to a state in which nothing seems to be any more, in which we ourselves seem to have lost name and form and all characteristics. We come to the great Void.”
“When we reach the Void within, the state in which nothing more seems to be, it would appear as if we were surrounded on all sides by a blank wall and as if it were impossible to proceed any further.”
Dharma mega samadhi, like the four types of asamprajnata samadhi, is a transitional state. van der Leeuw described it thus:
“We have to move in a dimension we did not know before…”
“The first part of our journey towards reality is the surrendering of our world-image and the turning inwards until we reach the center of consciousness, the second is to pierce through that center and find the reality which, acting on that center produces the world-image in the cave of our consciousness.”
“The experience of going through the center of consciousness and emerging, as it were, on the other side is very much one of turning inside out.”
Dharma mega samadhi is the transition out of the relative and into the Absolute, and is the very last stage of pratiprasava. The effect has been fully absorbed into the cause, and consciousness now rests in the ultimate cause, the Absolute, the experience of which we have already discussed.
Asamprajnata Samadhi, Pratyak Cetana and the Bindu
The idea of the bindu derives from the experience of asamprajnata samadhi. First I repeat the Taimni quote from Part 1:
“The … ordinary mind is…constantly and completely turned outwards. It is used to taking interest only in the objects of the outer world and this habit has become so strong that any effort to reverse the direction of consciousness and to make the mind withdraw from the periphery to the centre is accompanied by a mental struggle…”
“… These two tendencies which make the mind inward-turned or outward-turned correspond to Pratyak and Paranga Cetana” (Figure 4)
In Part 1 the ideas of pratyak and paranga cetana were used to describe our ordinary minds. The ideas also apply to samadhi. You can see that pratiprasava is an alternation of consciousness directed outward to the pratyaya (paranga cetana), followed by the inward directing of consciousness (pratyak cetana) during asamprajnata samadhi. This is how Taimni says it:
“It will be seen, therefore, that in the progressive recession of consciousness from the lower mental plane to its origin, Samprajnata Samadhi with its characteristic Pratyaya and Asamprajnata Samadhi with its void follow each other in succession…”
“The recession of consciousness towards its centre is thus not a steady and uninterrupted sinking into greater and greater depths but consists in this alternate outward and inward movement of consciousness at each barrier separating the two planes.”
Thus, pratiprasava, the descent through consciousness is the alternation of paranga and pratyak cetana. It is more like breathing, in a sense, than diving.
Let us consider what happens at the transition of asamprajnata samadhi:
“Now, in Samprajnata Samadhi there is a Pratyaya (which is called a ‘seed’) in the field of consciousness and the consciousness is fully directed to it. So the direction of consciousness is from the centre outwards.”
“In Asamprajnata Samadhi there is no Pratyaya and therefore there is nothing to draw the consciousness outwards and hold it there. So as soon as the Pratyaya (P) is dropped or suppressed the consciousness begins to recede automatically to its centre O and after passing momentarily through this Laya centre, tends to emerge into the next subtler vehicle. When this process has been completed the Pratyaya (P’) of the next higher plane appears and the direction of consciousness again becomes from the centre outwards.”
And there we go: the bindu. Taimni illustrates the transition process as shown in Figure 5. The very center, the “o” with a dot over it is meant to represent the bindu, which he calls a “Laya centre” in the quote above.
Taimni then describes what is in the awareness of the yogi during the transition of asamprajnata samadhi:
“From the time the Pratyaya P is suppressed to the time when the Pratyaya P’ of the next plane appears the Yogi is in the stage of Asamprajnata Samadhi. During all this time he is fully conscious and his will is directing this delicate mental operation in a very subtle manner. The mind is no doubt blank but it is the blankness of Samadhi and not the blankness of an ordinary kind such as is present in deep sleep or coma.”
“The void of Asamprajnata Samadhi is sometimes called a ‘cloud’ in Yogic terminology and the experience may be compared to that of a pilot whose aeroplane passes through a cloud bank….When the consciousness of the Yogi leaves one plane and the Pratyaya of that plane disappears he finds himself in a void and must remain in that void until his consciousness automatically emerges into the next plane with its new and characteristic Pratyaya.”
Here he is describing the traditional understanding of the transition between the phases of the gunas as passing through a “cloud”. This idea is explicit in the name “dharma megha samadhi” because “megha” means “cloud”.
These references to a “cloud” in the yogic literature are confusing, as are the distinctions between the 10 types of samadhi. As I said in the 10 types of samadhi post, Patanjali’s whole scheme is incomprehensible unless interpreted in the framework of the planes of nature. This framework is wholly lacking in the Western “yogatism” of exercise, and also lacking in the academic study of the Yoga Sutras in Western academia. Even in Eastern literature grounded in real yoga, the concepts are confused. In the Yoga Sutras, the planes of nature are described as states of the gunas. “Planes of nature” and “gunas” refer to exactly the same thing.
This then is Taimni’s concept of the descent of consciousness and pratiprasava. We can see that the bindu serves as the link connecting the different states of consciousness. It manifests during the transition state of asamprajnata samadhi.
The Bindu Is Real
I told you this was all quite abstract. And we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet! In his later writings, Taimni refined his understanding of the bindu into something wholly abstract. But we get to that next time. For the moment I wrap up the above discussion.
We can see that the concept of the bindu comes from experiences in altered states induced by practicing yoga. It is not that one sees a little “hole” and somehow jumps through it. No, the idea stems from the alternation in the forms of samadhi, and specifically in the transitions of asamprajnata samadhi.
The experience of the bindu is described above as like momentarily passing through a dark cloud, where nothing seems to be for the moment. This is one way it can manifest, but not the only way. But the main generalization is that there is a dynamic transition state, and it is this that is referred to as the bindu.
I do not say any of this as mere intellectualizing. I have experienced the transition through the bindu many times in my projection experiences. In DO_OBE, Chapter 2, there is a section entitled “On The Border Between Waking And Projecting”. This describes some of the experiences I have had of moving through the bindu. It is quite real, Folks. You can learn to take your mind through it. I am not going to repeat what I said in DO_OBE here, and you are of course free to go read it.
A First Model of the Bindu
I want to wrap up with an even more general picture than given in Figure 2. We can abstract what is described in the Yoga Sutras, as interpreted by Taimni. What we seem to be dealing with, at least in part, is like a transition between harmonics.
A good physical example of a harmonic transition is feedback with an electric guitar. If you don’t know what I am talking about, see here. Guitar feedback is aptly named because what happens is you get a positive feedback loop between the tone held on the guitar and the amplifier system. This puts additional energy into the guitar and causes a transition from the fundamental tone to one of its higher harmonics. As the feedback scientist in the linked video indicates, one can control and manipulate the system and control to some extent the harmonic that is amplified by the feedback cycle.
I will assert that the transition from one level of consciousness to another operates by a similar type of feedback mechanism, which in turn causes a transition to a higher harmonic of the system. In this case, the system is the mind itself. So, the higher harmonics of the mind are the inner planes, or, in yoga terms, the different states of the gunas.
In this way, the transition effected by asamprajnata samadhi is akin to a “quantum jump” from one tone to another. For the Reader educated in Eastern thinking, you see how this moves us towards Nāda yoga. It also begins to bridge the ancient Eastern understanding to our modern understanding of vibrations. There is nothing particularly original about what I am saying. Cymatics, the link between vibration and form, is a normal science. Cymatics is one small step the West is taking towards nāda yoga.
If I am making a small contribution, it is to point out that we can interpret Taimni’s interpretation of Patanjali to indicate that the bindu is a harmonic transition. It’s not a doorway, but, as a harmonic transition, a quantum jump. As such, it has the same functional effect as a doorway by causing something to move from one state to another.
Here’s a picture for the right side of your brain (for you left-handers out there) that illustrates the various types of samadhi as harmonics (samprajnata samadhi) and harmonic transitions (asamprajnata samadhi). This diagram makes very clear that we can consider global states of the mind to be analogous to harmonic modes, and can therefore speak of “modes of the mind”. From this view, our normal waking state is only one of the possible modes the mind can be in.
In What is Science? (very end, chapter 10) I spoke of how dissolving the pratyaya in samadhi releases power, artha, and how this power was used to propel the yogi into the deeper levels of consciousness:
“Artha released in samadhi is used only to move deeper into consciousness, to climb back up the potential well, to return to the state of equilibrium.”
(I don’t know, can I quote myself?)
We can see from the above diagram that the power released in the dissolution of the pratyaya acts like a quantum of energy and facilitates a “quantum jump” from one level of the gunas to the next higher level. In this fashion, through the progressive dissolution of the pratyaya, the yogi “bootstraps” himself up to the highest level of the mind – the state of nirbija samadhi – and from there makes the final transformation to Kaivalya.
Please be aware Figure 6 is presented in the spirit of what I described in Part 8 about how math concepts can help us understand relative relationships as a map of inner realities. Figure 6 is not meant to be taken literally. As if it is even possible to measure such energy relationships of the mind in altered states of consciousness. Maybe one day, but not today.
So, we get two different views here of relative relationships. The onset of samadhi can be framed as a bifurcation, a fusion of two fixed points into one fixed point. And we can loosely envision the bindu as a type of harmonic transition or quantum jump.
Again, the content of these experiences is completely omitted. But the patterns help give some insight to otherwise abstract things being described in the Yoga Sutras.
‘Being is Awareness’ is a Tautology
Ugh, we’re not done yet. This is the last section…promise! I want to close talking about the implication of samadhi, then we’re done…for the moment. Having said all the above, I want to comment about the pratyaya and the resolving process of pratiprasava.
In Part 7 of What is Science? I discussed how the pratyaya has consciousness. Based on the above description, the pratyaya seems to be “only” a memory in the mind of the yogi. We reconcile this in the next post. For the moment, let’s stick to the idea that the pratyaya is a special form of memory in the yogi’s mind. Then, one can easily recognize that the yogi has only fused his consciousness with itself. Seen in this fashion, samadhi is a type of tautology where one comes to know oneself. However, this occurs in a way unlike any normal form of thinking.
Because samadhi is consciousness knowing consciousness, one should not think this is somehow less objective than when we perceive the external world via our eyes, ears and other senses. The eye and the ear, and the things perceived with them are also only forms of your consciousness. The difference between you and a yogi is you are deluded into believing that the ear and eye and the things perceived are somehow different from your consciousness. In this respect, the “normal” operation of the mind, waking paranga cetana, outward directed consciousness, is decidedly inferior to samadhi. Such delusion is not present or possible in samadhi.
In other words, the tautology that consciousness knows only itself exists in so-called “normal” perception and thinking, but it is masked, covered, confused, and cloudy. This condition is called “avidya”, the ignorance of not realizing that consciousness only knows itself. It is called “vikshepa”, distracted. Consciousness is distracted by the vrittis, the patterns, within it, and thus cannot know itself. Avidya and vikshepa are states of being caught up in the variety of patterns resonating and vibrating in consciousness, as the entire book Experience is dedicated to explaining. These are precisely the vrittis that yoga is meant to silence (chitta vritti nirodhah).
A main point of this whole excursion into the yogic view of consciousness is to explain how it is that there is no external world. It is a projection, an illusion, it is avidya. What you think is the “real world” outside of you, the “gay spectacle of time and space with all its qualities”, as van der Leeuw calls it, is just your consciousness. The real “real world” is the Absolute, and it exists at the center of your consciousness, and the center of my consciousness, and the center of everything’s consciousness. This foreshadows what we discuss next time.
The methods of yoga expose the tautology of consciousness and thereby allow one to directly experience this tautology. When the tautology of consciousness is experienced in its pristine purity, this is Kaivalya. There is only consciousness, alone; nothing else.
When the units of consciousness, i.e. you and me and everything else, come to be experienced in these terms, the fabric of All That Is becomes revealed to Itself. The fabric is full of bindus connecting everything to everything else.
That is where we go next in Part 11.