The Yogic View of Consciousness 31: A Recipe for Samadhi

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YVC 31 cover-3We use our ingredients list to construct an at least plausible recipe for samadhi. The recipe is not complete. There are missing ingredients. But in attempting to make a recipe, at least some holes in the recipe are revealed.

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

 

Introduction
Why propose a recipe for samadhi? First, the Yoga Sutras does not give step-by-step instructions on how to achieve samadhi. Second, the concrete details that are provided are coded in the language of Samkhya philosophy. It would be nice to link our modern knowledge to these ancient concepts. Therefore, I’ll present a step-by-step recipe that tries to link ancient Samkhya concepts to modern ideas where possible.

Again I emphasize that there will be no final or definitive conclusions. The point of the exercise is to construct a plausible recipe for samadhi. Ultimately, the validity of any such scheme will rest on its functional utility. Can a given recipe actually cause someone to achieve the things described in the Yoga Sutras? I make no such claim here. My smaller goal is to try to move things in that general direction. Although…I’m no slouch at altered states. Hopefully the discussion will bring at least a few new and useful things to the table. But it’s always best to start with low expectations.

We begin by summarizing the ingredients for our recipe from last chapter. Then, after some preliminaries, I’ll present the recipe.

Summary of Last Chapter
Chapter 30 presented a list of the characteristics of samadhi. We then searched human psychology for phenomena that could serve as natural skills underlying those characteristics. The following table summarizes, in no specific order, how the natural human abilities (ingredients) identified in the last chapter line up against characteristics of samadhi.

YVC 31 Table 1Table 1: Experiences that may underlie known characteristics of samadhi.

I suggested that the end goal of the bahiranga techniques (yama, niyama, asanas, pranayama, and pratyahara) is to assume a state of lucid NREM mentation to serve as the platform for performing samyama (dharana, dhyana, and samadhi).

The characteristic of total absorption in samadhi was suggested to have a natural counterpart in nonlucid dreaming, based on Rechtschaffen’s famous conception of “the single-mindedness and isolation of dreams”.

Two potential ingredients for the fusion of observer and observed were: (1) identification, in which the other is included, merely in thought, as part of the self, and (2) the opposite-of-depersonalization (termed “anti-depersonalization” in Table 1, and called as such from here on out), where things not usually taken as self are perceived to be part of the self (e.g. the Salvia reports).

Finally, examples of diverse sleep perceptual environments provide a modern interpretation of the four phases of the gunas described in the Yoga Sutras (which is not to imply the states of gunas are merely forms of sleep mentation. Linking the gunas to sleep mentation opens a whole new scope to understanding sleep mentation).

My premise is these natural abilities provide key ingredients for advanced yoga methods. It may involve direct voluntary control of an otherwise spontaneously natural ability, or it may involve an intentional modification of an ingredient.

My Basis
My recipe for samadhi is grounded in Taimni’s interpretation of the Yoga Sutras from his book The Science of Yoga. I’ve prepared two PDF files that explain essential background. “Samadhi sutras from Taimni.pdf” collects all the aphorisms from the Yoga Sutras that pertain to samadhi, as organized by Taimni. The file “Three Parinamas Taimni The Science of Yoga.pdf” collects his passages from The Science of Yoga that discuss the three parinamas used in samadhi (samadhi, ekagrata, and nirodhah parinamas).  The parinamas are critical for understanding what happens inside the state of samadhi. The Reader is invited to compare this background information to my treatment below.

Preliminary Considerations
There are two preliminary considerations: (1) recognizing that samadhi is a learned skill, and (2) having a general understanding of what samadhi accomplishes.

Samadhi is a form of voluntarily-induced trance and its execution, like any voluntary skill, is a function of learning, practice, and experience. Thus, skill level and experience must be taken into account. This is no different from discussing any skill, be it playing piano or basketball. What is easy for an experienced and skilled person may be difficult or impossible for a beginner. In The Science of Yoga, Taimni stress this point:

“The time taken for passage through the different planes and the intervening voids depends upon the advancement of the Yogi. While the beginner may remain entangled on the lower planes for a considerable time extending to years, the advanced Yogi can transfer his consciousness from one plane to another with lightning rapidity, and in the case of the Adept who has attained Kaivalya all the planes really merge into one because the passage up or down is so swift and easy that it is merely a question of focusing consciousness in one vehicle or another.”

Taimni’s quote also nicely capture the essence of samadhi. Samadhi is, in the final analysis, a technique that allows voluntary control over altered states of consciousness. This was variously described as “sinking”, “transferring”, “harmonic transitions”, “quantum jumps”, or otherwise moving between different states of consciousness (see Chapter 10).  The desired end result is analogous to how we shift focus in our vision: focus on the foreground causes the background to become blurry, and focus on the background causes the foreground to become blurry. Samadhi allows one to focus not vision, but the mind as a whole, from one state of consciousness to another. The names we give to the states of consciousness vary. We may call them “planes of nature”, “states of the gunas”, or “altered states of consciousness”. It doesn’t matter so much what we call them. What matters is how you do it. How do you voluntarily move amongst the inner states?

A Plausible Recipe for Samadhi
The recipe consists of the following eight steps which are illustrated by the accompanying diagram.

  1. Go from being awake to a lucid state of NREM mentation.
  2. Intentionally go from lucid NREM mentation to lucid hypnagogia.
  3. Intentional control of hypnagogic imagery = externalizing the pratyaya (cogtransper).
  4. Fuse with (become totally absorbed in) the pratyaya = samadhi parinama.
  5. Repetition of the pratyaya = ekagrata parinama.­­­
  6. Dissolve the pratyaya = nirodhah parinama.
  7. Disappearance of the pratyaya = the “nir-” states of asamprajnata samadhi.
  8. Transferring consciousness to the next deeper level (pratyak cetana).

Slide3

Figure 1: The recipe for samadhi. Dark gray indicates the observer.  White represents the observed. Light gray is the state where observer and observed are fused. The corresponding steps of the recipe are shown by the red numbers and red brackets. Yogic terms are placed where appropriate.

It is complicated at first glance. It is easier to understand in parts. The eight steps naturally break into two major processes. Steps 1-4 are the recipe to get into the state of samadhi. Steps 5-8 are what happens inside the state of samadhi. Let’s discuss each in turn.

Entering Samadhi
Let’s look at just the steps for entering samadhi.

  1. Go from being awake to a lucid state of NREM mentation.
  2. Intentionally go from lucid NREM mentation to lucid hypnagogia.
  3. Intentional control of hypnagogic imagery = externalizing the pratyaya (cogtransper).
  4. Fuse with (become totally absorbed in) the pratyaya = samadhi parinama.

 

Slide4
Figure 2: The steps for entering samadhi.

First, I’ll summarize, then elaborate below. The transition from being awake to entering samadhi invokes modifications of natural sleep mentation. Next comes into play a phenomena I explain below called “cogtransperation”. After this, the fusion of the observer and observed is based on identification and anti-depersonalization. Finally, the state of complete fusion of observer and observed shares the “single-mindedness and isolation” property we experience in nonlucid dreams. Let’s look in more detail at each step.

Step 1. Voluntary Induction of NREM Mentation
Again, I will assert that the net result of the bahiranga methods (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara) is to achieve a lucid state of NREM mentation. When we fall asleep naturally, we go into NREM states for the first 40-50 minutes (if you don’t know the sleep cycle, see here). Samadhi is a voluntary, self-induced trance that resembles sleep. The natural course for exiting waking is to enter NREM, so it is natural that the yogi should enter the NREM state.

However, yoga is not natural sleep. The bahiranga methods culminate in pratyahara, which is the voluntary shutting off of the senses. Pratyahara is the yogi carrying his or her lucidity intact across the sleep-wake border. It is falling asleep while keeping the mind lucid and self-aware. This transition is what Stephen LaBerge calls a “wake induced lucid dream” except the yogi does not proceed all the way into a fully-formed dream, but halts the natural processes before a dream can form.

Remember, we are talking about voluntarily-induced trance, not natural sleep. Natural sleep provides substrates (ingredients) that are molded by the yogic methods. First, mastery of yama and niyama are expected to suppress natural tendencies towards nonlucid dreaming by minimizing externalized desires (e.g. Freudian-type impulses for dream formation are minimized). Next, dharana and dhyana involve concentration on the pratyaya. The yogi holds a fixed thought, the pratyaya (depicted as the single puzzle piece inside the observer in Figures 1 and 2). No other thoughts enter conscious thinking. These factors I suggest, serve at least in part, to suppress the normal sleep cycle. Thus the yogi intentionally maintains a state of lucid NREM mentation.

Step 2: Cogtranspering from Lucid NREM Mentation to Lucid Hypnagogia
To explain step 2, I have invented a new word: cogtransper. What this means is the following:

It is possible when in the NREM mentation state to think a thought and to have this thought transform into an externalized perception that takes the form of a hypnagogic hallucination.

 

Note of clarification: We are now exclusively discussing sleep-based states, so the word “perception” never means a sensory perception. It means something like hypnagogic imagery, or dream environments which, nonetheless, appear as externals to the observing consciousness.

 

Cogtransper is pronounced like “cog transfer” but substitute “f” with “p”. The word comes from the phrase “cognition transforming into a perception”: cog + trans + per = cogtransper. Here “cognition” specially means thought or thinking. Cogtranspering does not occur during normal waking.

Before you think I am an absolute lunatic, please be aware I got the general idea from the following scientific paper: Okuma, T. (1992). On the psychophysiology of dreaming: A sensory image–free association hypothesis of the dream process. Japanese Journal of Psychiatry and Neurology 46, 7-22. Please read the abstract.

I am not invoking this as merely an intellectual idea, as Okuma does. The idea is based on my personal experience. I have cogtranspered several times, spontaneously and unintentionally, while lucid dreaming. The way it works is that, while lucid in NREM mentation (the state of being in the “void”; see DO_OBE), one thinks of something in one’s imagination. This is just a thought, not a perception. But it is possible for the thought to abruptly become a hypnagogic image. When this happens, it is potentially startling and there is a chance of abruptly waking up. One must learn to remain calm if this occurs. The spontaneous occurrence of cogtransperation suggests it should be possible to voluntarily control it. I am hypothesizing that voluntary control of cogtransperation is possible and is a missing ingredient of samadhi.

In samyama, the yogi must first learn dharana, which is the act of holding the same thought over and over in the mind. When one can hold a single thought for an extended period of time, one is now practicing dhyana.  Cogtranspering is part of the transition from dhyana to samadhi. I am suggesting that part of this transition involves a change from NREM mentation to a controlled state of hypnagogia. The pratyaya that begins as a thought in the yogi’s mind transforms (cogtranspers) to an externalized perception as a hypnagogic image.

In terms of the Yoga Sutras, cogtranpering is related to separating sabda, jnana, and artha in the pratyaya. The short of it is that controlling the appearance of the pratyaya as a hypnagogic perception relates to discovering the artha of the pratyaya. I won’t go into detail here because it will dilute the description of the recipe. However, it’s an important topic and we will return to it in Chapter 32.

What’s the point of adding a step where the pratyaya becomes a hypnagogic image? Because it provides a possible method to allow for the fusion of the observer and the observed that is a core characteristic of samadhi.

Step 3: Lucid Hypnagogia
Recall that the pratyaya is, by intention, something the yogi wishes to be more than anything else. In early stages of practice, the pratyaya begins as a thought in one’s imagination. In the advanced practice of samadhi, the yogi must become the pratyaya, not just in the imagination, but in actual fact. The yogi seeks to intentionally accomplish what sometimes occurs spontaneously to people who take Salvia and became walls, basketballs, and blankets, not in thought and imagination, but in perception. The yogi seeks to become the pratyaya in perception as well as in thought. Thus, the pratyaya must become more than just a thought in the imagination. It must first become a perceived external before the yogi can fuse with it.

Via dhyana, the pratyaya is the only object of thought in the yogi’s mind. Via cogtransperation, the pratyaya fills the yogi’s externalized perception. The yogi is now in a state of lucid hypnagogia, experiencing the perception of the pratyaya as an externalized hypnagogic image. At which point, the internalized thought and externalized environment are the same thing. The observer is the same as the observed. The yogi’s self-reflective awareness is minimized by the identification, both in thought and perception, with the pratyaya.   But it is still a state of dichotomy: there is still both thought and perception, as illustrated in Figure 3.

Slide5Figure 3: The dualistic state of lucid hypnagogia precedes the fusion of observer and observed.

What is the point of this?  The entire conscious mind is now directed towards the same target. Thought is focused on the pratyaya, and so is perception. I would submit that this is the necessary precondition for the fusion of observer and observed.

Step 4: Fusing with the Pratyaya
Remember way back in Chapter 10 when I discussed samadhi metaphorically as a bifurcation? We want to revisit this concept, but now treat it literally.  I’ve set up a plausible scenario analogous to two fixed points on a bifurcation diagram moving towards a state of fusion. The thought of the pratyaya and the externalized hypnagogic perception of the pratyaya become the two fixed point states that will fuse into a single fixed point. To remind you of the concept, here is an animation:

For those who don’t know what I am talking about, all I can say is read up on the mathematics of fixed points and bifurcations (a nice layman’s video introduction is here). It’s a prerequisite to understand what I am discussing.

My contention is that, in samadhi, thought and perception fuse in exactly the same manner that two fixed points fuse into a single fixed point. There is a bifurcation in the mind that moves it from a state of duality to a state of unity. In the Yoga Sutras, this transformation is called samadhi parinama. Samadhi parinama is a dynamical bifurcation, a phase change in the condition of the mind from a biphasic state of duality (perception and thought) to a monophasic state of unity.

How does samadhi parinama occur? It just does. That’s what bifurcations do. It is an emergent property of the system, like any bifurcation. It is a phase transition in consciousness. Of course there must be some underlying mechanism, some control parameter that is being varied. But I don’t know what that is. Positing samadhi as a bifurcation opens the door to trying to understand the underlying mechanisms. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.

This bifurcation of the mind is called “samadhi parinama” in the Yoga Sutras.  It cannot occur spontaneously. The fixed point where fusion occurs is at some extreme region of the bifurcation/phase diagram of the mind and is not accessible from the normal, unperturbed waking state. A perturbation is required to move the mind into this condition. Some drugs (like Salvia or DMT) can kick the mind into this regime (in a completely haphazard and unpredictable manner), as we saw with the Salvia examples or Alex Grey’s experience. I am saying, again in no uncertain terms, that samadhi is a method that provides voluntary access to this regime of the mind’s bifurcation diagram without using drugs.

Samadhi is Unlike any other State of Mind
From a first-person viewpoint, this fused state would be one of total absorption, analogous to a nonlucid dream. But it would not be a dream because there is no observer/observed dichotomy. Nonetheless, this fused state will share the property of “single-mindedness and isolation” with nonlucid dreams.

Portrayed in this fashion, samadhi is a perfect state of mental balance in which thought and perception fuse into one indelible whole. Then the yogi truly becomes the pratyaya. Patanjali graphically describes this state in aphorism 1.41 where the mind is compared to placing a transparent jewel on a colored surface:

aphorism 1.41Samadhi is unlike any other state of mind. The entire conscious mind is held in its entirety in a state of undivided wholeness, engaged on a single task. This is why I claim it is the ultimate use of the mind. There is obviously no equivalent to this in waking consciousness where the mind is divided into thought, perception, emotion, etc. (i.e. is viksepa, distracted). There is nothing like samadhi in our normal first-person waking experience. It is only possible to envision the recipe after one has had substantial experience with altered states of consciousness.

Segue to Part 2 of the Recipe
The state of fusion is not static. It is dynamic, like being poised on a razor’s edge. It’s a tug of war between thinking and perception, between internal and external, between subjective and objective, between observer and observed, and so on. The yogi holds the mind in a fragile dynamic balance. At each step it is possible to lose balance and fall out of trance. Thus, constant practice is necessary to master holding each step in balance. The fused state can either: (1) collapse, lose balance, and go back to the dualistic observer/observed consciousness, or (2) it can go forward into new mental states that can only be accessed from this perch.

Part 2 of the recipe posits that, once the dynamic state of balance of samadhi parinama is achieved, then it is possible for other phenomena to come into play that would be otherwise impossible to access.  These states are called ekagrata and nirodhah parinama in the Yoga Sutras.

What Happens Inside the State of Samadhi
Part 2 of the recipe is designed to explain what happens inside the state of samadhi. In the terms of the Yoga Sutras, samprajnata samadhi converts to asamprajnata samadhi by the sequential application of ekagrata and nirodhah parinamas. Here are the steps and the relevant part of the diagram:

5. Repetition of the pratyaya = ekagrata parinama.­­­
6. Dissolve the pratyaya = nirodhah parinama.
7. Disappearance of the pratyaya = the “nir-” states of asamprajnata samadhi.
8. Transferring consciousness to the next deeper level (pratyak cetana).

 

Slide6Figure 4: Part 2 of the recipe of samadhi. This covers the samprajnata/asamprajnata transition leading to pratyak cetana and the recession of consciousness though the bindu into deeper layers of consciousness.

 

Tangent on Recipe Part 2 Preliminaries
Since Part 2 of the samadhi recipe is based almost exclusively on Taimni’s concept of samadhi let’s review his ideas. Figure 4 is my version of the left half of Taimni’s diagram in Figure 5.

 

Fig 31.5Figure 5: Taimni’s depiction of the transfer of consciousness between adjacent “planes” (or phases of the gunas) during samadhi.

 

Taimni posited that the pratyaya “P” exerts a “magnetic attraction” and holds consciousness in the outward-directed state of paranga cetana. Just to be clear, the pratyaya is not a magnet and the notion is a metaphor. However, we can understand the attractive force and the outward-­directedness of paranga cetana by considering ideas put forth by Swami Krishnananda in his magnum opus The Study and Practice of Yoga. Here is an extended version of his quote I used in Experience:

“When the ultimate cause of a particular experience is discovered, it will be found that the cause lies in the recognition of the Self in the not-Self. This was the definition of avidya given by Patanjali. The atman is seen in the anatman, and then asmita arises. Then there is love for things, and wild impulses arise. So, the rise of an impulse in respect of a pleasurable experience in the world is rooted in an urge towards it, which is raga – which again is rooted in the self-sense or asmita, which again is rooted in the recognition or the vision of the Self in the not-Self. Now, is this a great virtue to see the Self in the not-Self? Is this wisdom? Is this a course of rightful action that has been taken by the mind? Can anyone say that to see the Self in the not-Self is a correct course, a proper course?”

He is clearly referencing the kleshas. But he is also stating the heart of the yogic view of consciousness. What causes the mind, the Cave of Consciousness, to arise from the bindu? Avidya. The Fall From Grace. Avidya is the act of consciousness projecting its property of being (sat of sat-chit-ananda), its property of “is-ness”, into its own images.  We referenced this idea way back in Chapter 2 when discussing the Screen of Consciousness. Consciousness projects its “is-ness” into images appearing in consciousness, and then chases after them as if they have their own independent being. It is called chasing after mirages: maya. I will not go into further detail here other than to say this is the root of the magnetic-like attraction that the images in consciousness exert to cause consciousness to assume the outwardly-directed state of paranga cetana (My entire book Experience is a commentary on this topic).

This binding force needs to be broken, dissipated, and the 2nd part of the recipe of samadhi achieves this effect.

 

[Sidebar: It needs to be pointed out that what I am about to describe is completely dependent on prior success in yama and niyama. Mastery of yama and niyama have led the yogi to a mature state of vairagya, dispassion. Vairagya, at this high level, severely weakens the pull of the pratyaya on consciousness, increasing the effectiveness of the ensuing techniques.]

 

There is a second factor we need account for to understand the 2nd part of the samadhi recipe. Chapters 25-28 discussed altered states of consciousness. These discussions culminated in the idea of the Movement. This is the ultimate level of perception when in the state of paranga cetana. We see that the very fabric of the cave wall, of the Screen of Consciousness, is but a pulsating something-or-another that we cannot grasp in thought or perception. We concluded that the Movement is the very nature of the mind itself. The mind is Proteus: ever-changing, ever-transforming. The advanced yoga techniques exploit this property of the mind for the yogi’s own purpose.

Let’s now bring all this together in a description of the 2nd part of the samadhi recipe

What Happens Inside the State of Samadhi?
We begin at step 4: the entire mind is totally absorbed in samadhi. What happens at this point? The yogi takes advantage of the inherent pulsatile nature of the mind. Instead of allowing it to run willy-nilly and be Proteus and keep transforming into whatever it wants, the yogi holds the entire mind in the form of the pratyaya. The mind pulses only to this pattern. This continuous pulsing of the mind, repeating the pattern of the pratyaya over and over is ekagrata parinama. From aphorisms 3.12:

aphorism 3.12 Ekagrata Parinama.Which Taimni translates as:

“Then, again, the condition of the mind in which the ‘object’ (in the mind) which subsides is always exactly similar to the ‘object’ which rises (in the next moment) is called Ekagrata Parinama.”

It is necessary for the yogi to be in the state of ekagrata parinama to discover that the pratyaya arises and dissolves in rapid succession. The image is not present in the mind continuously, but appears, fades, appears, fades, appears, fades, and so on.

Normally we don’t see the mind doing this. First we are too preoccupied with the various waves—vrittis—rising and subsiding in the mind. Second, even if we stop to introspect, the transitions from one vritti to the next is too subtle to perceive. In the waking state, the transformations appear continuous to us. However, in the unified state of samadhi, it is possible to see the pratyaya go up and down like a wave on the water, so to speak. To see the mind go round and round and keep reforming the same pattern over and over.  The wave like motion of the mind is illustrated further below in Figure 6.

In passing I note the relevance of the 40 Hz gamma oscillations of the brain that are currently much studied in the neurosciences. The gamma oscillations detected by EEG may be biological correlates of what yogis identified millennia ago as ekagrata parinama. Or they may not.  I’m just throwing this out there.

Nirodhah Parinama
The state of ekagrata parinama provides the path to the next, and critical stage. The yogi realizes that there are two things going on with the pratyaya in ekagrata parinama.  The pratyaya cycles through two phases: it arises and appears, then it fades.  Like waves on the water: appear, fade, appear, fade, and so on. It is realized there is a moment between the fading of the previous image, and the appearance of the next. This moment of disappearance is called nirodha-ksana in aphorism 3.9:

aphorism 3.9 nirodha parinamaTaimni’s translation is:

“Nirodha Parinama is that transformation of the mind in which it becomes progressively permeated by that condition of Nirodha which intervenes momentarily between an impression which is disappearing and the impression which is taking its place.”

Strange as this sounds, I have experienced this pulsating phenomena when inebriated with psychedelics. This was described in excruciating detail in Chapter 13 of Beyond The Physical, where there it was called a “lock-mold”. All I will say here is that what I experienced I think was a much cruder version of what Patanjali is describing in aphorism 3.9.

Aphorism 3.9 instructs the yogi to shift focus from the “appear” phase to the “fade” phase. Taimni’s description of nirodha parinama explains perfectly well:

“We have seen that Nirodha is that momentary unmodified state of the mind which intervenes when one impression which holds the field of consciousness is replaced by another impression. The impression which holds the field of consciousness is called Vyutthana Samskara and the impression which opposes or tries to replace the Vyutthana Samskara is called Nirodha samskara in this Sutra. Between two successive impressions there must be a momentary state in which the mind has no impression at all or is present in an unmodified condition. The object of Nirodha Parinama is to produce at will this momentary state and gradually extend it, so that the mind can exist for a considerable duration in this unmodified state.”

Thus is nirodhah parinama. It is the key to the whole enterprise. To repeat Taimni:

“The object of nirodhah parinama is to produce at will this momentary unmodified state of the mind and gradually extend it, so that the mind can exist for a considerable duration in this unmodified state.”

What is the definition of yoga? Chitta vritti nirodhah. Patanjali wasn’t kidding. The culmination of the yogic techniques it to cause the mind to exist in an unmodified state. Like a perfectly calm body of water with no waves in it. No vrittis. Success with nirodhah parinama extends the duration the mind is in the unmodified state, until this becomes the sustained state.

It is like a phase shift. Instead of 99% of the time having the pratyaya appear, and 1% of the time having it fade then reappear, the phase is shifted so that 99% of the time is the in-between state, and 1% of the time the pratyaya is present. Then, the duration of the pratyaya phase is minimized as far as possible so that there is only a (seemingly) continuous presence of the mind in an  unmodified state. Chitta vritti nirodhah indeed!

Ekagrata and nirodhah parinamas are key advanced yoga techniques.  To help clarify what is being said, I illustrated the concepts in Figure 6. Samadhi parinama “traps” the Protean nature of the mind and holds it in a cycle where only the same pratyaya is allowed to arise in consciousness. When the yogi can hold this state for an arbitrary duration, it becomes ekagrata parinama.  Ekagrata parinama is the state where the mind cycles again and again through the same pratyaya.  I illustrated this with the green sine wave (far left of each panel).  The troughs of the green sine wave are colored red to represent nirodhah-ksana, the duration over which the pratyaya fades and then re-emerges.

Figure 6 also illustrates the transition from ekagrata to nirodhah parinama, and the final state of nirodhah parinama. The sine waves from left to right show a progressive decrease in the green portion of the wave, which is the duration of the pratyaya, and a progressive increase in the red portion, which is the duration of nirodhah-ksana.  This illustrates precisely what the Taimni quote above describes about how the yogi extends the duration of nirodhah-ksana and shortens the duration the pratyaya fills consciousness.  When the duration of nirodhah-ksana dominates the cycle, the yogi is now performing nirodhah parinama. (The change in the amplitude of the waves is artistic license, and I do not know if it corresponds to anything in yoga, but it does make the image less cluttered).

Nirodah parinama labeled2Figure 6: Illustration of ekagrata and nirodhah parinamas and how the yogi transitions from ekagrata to nirodhah parinama by phase shifting from one to the other.

 

The Consequence of the Nirodhah State: Pratyak Cetana
The culmination of nirodhah parinama is to cause the mind to exist in an unmodified state. At  this point, the pratyaya has dissolved. It is, for all practical purposes, gone. Then also the person dissolves because the person had fully identified with the pratyaya. Then the outward magnetic attraction is gone, dissipated. Sat, the being of consciousness, no longer sees itself in the mirror image of the pratyaya.  There is nothing to hold consciousness in an expansive condition. This is the “nir-” version of samadhi: nirvitarka, nirvicara, and so on. This is asamprajnata samadhi. There is no “seed”, no pratyaya. It is a dynamic, unstable state because the tendency now is for consciousness to collapses in on itself. Inwardly-directed consciousness: pratyak cetana. This is the state of the “cloud” the megha state described in yoga.

This is the bindu phenomena: consciousness collapsing in on itself. Like a black hole. Just as described by van der Leeuw and D.M. Turner. The mind becomes a singularity: the bindu. The collapse draws consciousness through the singularity, and it finds itself somewhere else. This is the “quantum jump” effected by the bindu, what Patanjali called asamprajnata samadhi.

This is when the Möbius strip-like property of consciousness comes into play. Consciousness seems to have two sides: subjective and objective; externalized and internal. But it only has one side: being. The polarization of being into these two aspects is so stark because the forces of viksepa maintain the mind in the puffed up, expansive state of paranga cetana. These “forces” become momentarily suspended during nirodhah parinama, allowing consciousness to “slip” or “sink” in the other seeming-direction. It goes inward: pratyak cetana.

Summary
There you go, a possible recipe for samadhi. It’s not easy to understand (what? did you think it would be?!). It draws on math concepts, yoga concepts, and concepts about human psychology that are not common knowledge. Most important, the recipe draws on experiences of altered states which are also not common knowledge. But the altered states aspect is crucial. Samadhi is an altered state of consciousness. The main supposition of the above recipe is that samadhi utilizes several “fringe” natural abilities of our mind, refines them, trains them, and generates something along the lines described above. But yoga goes far beyond the natural ingredients. Yoga developed mental disciplines and additional methods that result in emergent phenomena that are inaccessible from outside of samadhi.

To summarize, the whole point of samadhi is to be able to move voluntarily through different states of consciousness. I previously said samadhi was like a general purpose computer that can run any program. Specifically this means that samadhi is a general purpose method to achieve any possible state of consciousness. Samadhi is a “meta” state of consciousness that allows access to any other state of consciousness. We did not above discuss where samadhi can take us. Nonetheless, we’ve spent the previous 30 chapters giving some indication of where samadhi can take us. The states of consciousness accessible via samadhi far transcend what we, in our barbarian outlook, consider to be individual minds.

In the next chapter, we discuss how the pratyaya contains information, called “artha” in the Yoga Sutras. This is intimately related to the word I made up: cogtransper. The main goal will be to put a bow tie around the main themes of this book and wrap things up.

See you for that in Chapter 32.

5 thoughts on “The Yogic View of Consciousness 31: A Recipe for Samadhi

    • Hi Peter! Thank you! Your Zen statement nailed the difference between the Earthy, straight-forward Chinese approach, and the meta-cosmic, hyper-complex Indian approach! 🙂

      Don

  1. Something just seems way too complicated about this explanation.

    I am not saying samadhi is easy to obtain or easy to describe. It probably requires a unique combination of personal characteristics and perseverance for an individual to achieve.

    However, the recipe should be more simple.

    1- Live a moral life.
    2- Read the sacred documents.
    3- Practice consistently.
    4- Hope you are blessed.

    • I think you should compare it to say, building a rocket, or a car, the large hadron collider, or some other technical feat. Technical things do not happen spontaneously. They require following complicated formulas and plans. If it was so easy as you suggest, everybody would be able to do it. Or you could assume it’s all bunk and samadhi does not exist. I prefer to take the Yoga Sutras at face value as a technical manual. I have learned from many lab books in the past. Technical information is what it is, and it always lets us achieve specific ends. I think this is the right way to approach samadhi, as a technical matter, and my recipe reflects that. Furthermore, getting into altered states is also a technical thing. Rare spontaneous events may occasionally occur, but, for example, with lucid dreaming, there are specific steps that lead to a repeatable result. Again, my samadhi recipe is informed by such things.

      Of course, there is always bhakti, which I fully acknowledge, as does Patanjali.

      When you say “practice”, what specifically do you mean? Practice is always technical, like practicing piano, for example.

      As usual, James, it is very nice to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!

      Best wishes,

      Don

      • I don’t mean any particular form of “practice” but there are many forms. All of them have much in common.

        1- Reduction of sensory input.
        2- Slowing metabolism.
        3- Focusing the mind on something or distracting it from the continual free flow of thoughts.

        Of course, there are many variations on how to do this but fundamentally these are techniques for self-modifying the body and neural system.

        As an aside and in regard to #1 above, have you done flotation?

        I wrote about my own experiences here:

        http://broadspeculations.com/2012/10/21/floating/

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