The Yogic View of Consciousness 32: Reflections on Samadhi


YVC 32 COVER-1Here we tie up loose ends.  The samadhi recipe is capped off by a discussion of how sabda, jnana, and artha fit in.  Leibniz was right that we perceive everything all the time. I throw in some snakes eating their tails for colorful effect.


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


We are now at the penultimate chapter of the book. I wish here to tie up loose ends. The first part of the book discussed the Absolute and the mystery of the One and the Many. The middle part of the book discussed memory. How do these topics link to the methods of yoga summarized in the last part of this book?

I will say up-front that addressing these issues puts me at the edge of my understanding. I will present a rough sketch of an answer. Please don’t expect my wrap-up to look like a perfect Christmas present. Instead, it will look more like a shoddily wrapped one. But it’s the thought that counts, right?


Critique of the Samadhi Recipe
There are many possible critiques of the samadhi recipe presented last chapter. I wish to focus only on one here, which was my invocation of cogtransperation as an ingredient of samadhi. To briefly recap: cogtransperation is the transformation of the pratyaya from a thought in the mind of the yogi to an externalized hypnagogic perception. Cogtransperation, I contend, is part of the shift from dhyana to samadhi. I posited cogtransperation as a part of antaranga because you can’t fuse an observer and observed unless the observer is observing something.

However, we can get a similar effect without invoking hypnagogia. Perhaps the observer merely fuses with the thought in the yogi’s mind. Why invoke hypnagogia? I mentioned in passing last chapter that it was related to sabda, jnana, and artha. We get into this by way of an example that will make it easier to understand my position.

Kekulé and Benzene
It is generally well-known how, in the 1860s, August Kekulé realized the circular structure of benzene in a “vision”. Mavromatis’ book Hypnagogia is where I read Kekulé’s first-hand account:

“I was sitting writing at my textbook but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gambolling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the rest of the hypothesis. Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, then perhaps we shall find the truth… But let us beware of publishing our dreams till they have been tested by waking understanding.”




Here is a comic book version by Rick Veitch for the visualization-impaired among you:

Benzene Snake

Benzene Snake2









Although Kekulé advises us to dream, he was a chemist, not a psychologist. Mavromatis makes the case that Kekulé was not dreaming but was having a hypnagogic experience. We get from Kekulé’s quote that he dozed in his chair, not that he went to bed and fell asleep for an extended duration. I previously stated we are in NREM for the first 45-50 minutes upon falling asleep, and hypnagogia is associated with stage 2 NREM. If Kekulé’s visions appeared soon after dozing, then he was certainly experiencing hypnagogia. Further, his description is more consistent with hypnagogia. He was watching the perceptions as if from outside them. The perceptions were not embedded in any kind of environment. These are characteristics of hypnagogia, not nonlucid dreams. This is Mavromatis’ argument and I agree with it.

Kekulé as Cogtransperation
We see in Kekulé an example of cogtransperation. Kekulé was obsessed with solving the structure of benzene. The thought of it filled his mind, not in a superficial manner, but deeply. He worked day-in and day-out on this problem over an extended period. In this, his extreme mental focus was analogous to a pratyaya in yoga.

The intellectual conundrum he was faced with was this: Everyone knew that carbon atoms make four bonds. But in benzene, the proportion of carbon to hydrogen indicated that carbon was only making three bonds. The question was: what possible structure could have these proportions? The answer that came from his vision is shown in the images above: a ring with what today are called conjugated double bonds.

We see in Kekulé’s example: (1) extreme focus on a thought in the mind, (2) a cogtransperative event, where the thought transforms into an externalized perception, in this case hypnagogia, and (3) an advance in the mental understanding, commonly called a “solution” of the problem. Or stated succinctly: thought → perception → refined thought. Other examples of successful “problem solving” in sleep mental states are also known. We can understand all this in terms of the yogic theory of knowledge.

Sabda, Jnana, and Artha
Patanjali gives a simple but highly effective theory of knowledge in the Yoga Sutras. Aphorism 1.42 defines sabda, jnana, and artha as categories of knowledge (discussed in Part 4 of What is Science?). He then applies this theory to explain the aim of samadhi in aphorism 1.43.

aphorism 1.42


aphorism 1.43

For a bunch of translations, as usual, see the Yoga Sutra Study web site. Instead of listing translations, let’s cut to the chase of what’s being said. 1.42 says that the state of being (“sa”) vitarka is characterized by the indiscriminate mixing of sabda, jnana, and artha. Let’s review these terms.

Sabda means “sound” and refers to the words and symbols we use to label things. Sabda is, even in everyday life, expendable. We can call a cat a cat, a tac, a goveybrooker, whatever. Things are what they are no matter what words we associate with them. Sabda is arbitrary symbolic representation and is fundamentally unrelated to the true nature of things.

Jnana is our sensory-based perception of things. Jnana requires the mind as a middle man to interpret our sensory perceptions, and so Kant’s dilemma comes into play. What guarantee do we have that our perceptions reflect the truth of the perceived? We know that a thing and our perception of it are not identical. For example, we have no senses to perceive the infrared radiation emitted by all things. This is just one example. I’m sure you can think of a million more. Jnana, as I’ll define below, is an encoding of the artha of things.

Artha is the essence, the true meaning of a thing. The artha of a thing is its svarupa. Sva is a very important word in yoga and Hinduism, but there is no direct English translation. Different phrases capture facets of the meaning of sva: “self-willed”, “self-determined”, “self-contained”, “not caused by an outside influence”, “internally caused”, “self-caused”.  “Rupa” means form, shape, body.  Thus, svarupa means something like “the intrinsic truth of a thing”. The closest term in Western culture (note I did not say “English language”) that translates svarupa is Kant’s term “das ding an sich” or in English, the thing-in-itself.

Kant asserted that the thing-in-itself is inaccessible to our understanding. We can only know what is in our mind, so how can we know what a thing is outside of our mind? The case seems cut and dry in Kant’s favor.  However, Patanjali tells us we can access the svarupa, the artha, the “thing-in-itself”. Aphorism 1.43 tells us how. The method is called smriti-parishuddhau. This translates as “purification of memory”. But what does this mean? How can purifying memory allow us to see the true nature of things?

As a first pass, we already saw how with the Kekulé example above. Let’s apply the yogic theory of knowledge to the Kekulé example to illustrate what I mean.

Kekulé Interpreted from the Yogic Standpoint
We already outlined the essentials. The problem of benzene is analogous to a pratyaya. Intense focus on the problem led to a cogtransperation event: the hypnagogic perception of the ennie weenies forming a circle. Thereby new truth, artha, was released. We see here a natural and spontaneous case of cogtransperation. Using the logic of Chapter 30, this natural phenomenon can serve as an ingredient exploited in samadhi. Let’s dissect it further.

We have this transformation:

sabda (thought) → jnana (the hypnagogia) → artha (new truth).

What caused this transformation? Smriti-parishuddhau; purified memory. The intense focus on the problem by Kekulé is the act of clarifying memory. All other considerations took backseat in Kekulé’s mind. Of course, he was not doing yoga, and so the process is nowhere near a complete purification of memory. But I am suggesting that Kekulé’s state of mind begins to approximate smriti-parishuddhau.

Then, with memory “cleaned out”, so to speak, the stage was set to allow the spontaneous appearance in the mind of an externalized hypnagogic perception, of artha. What’s happening behind the scene at this stage is complicated and we tackle it in the next section.

Kekulé obviously did not fuse with the perceptions. That is, the Kekulé example is not true samadhi parinama. But he was able to advance his insight about the true nature (svarupa) of the object of concentration. In Kekulé’s case, artha fed back to sabda and led to a scientific advance in our understanding of how carbon bonds work. Kekulé did not get the whole picture. His sabda framework went as far as was possible at the time (inventing the idea that each atoms could form a fixed number of bonds), but could not accommodate all the possible implications.

However, in the ensuing 75 years, it was realized how amazingly deep and fruitful the insight was. A conjugated double bond is an example of a pi-orbital, which is a construct from quantum mechanics that reflects the harmonic (i.e. spectral, harkening back to Chapter 16) structure of atoms. Thus, quantum mechanics was implied in Kekulé’s discovery.

This is how artha works. It is generative; it has consequences. Scientists naively think of it in terms that a theory should make “predictions”. But this is the wrong way to think about it. What is happening is that the artha of one thing bleeds into everything else. Thereby, real artha should be generative and lead to additional truths that branch off from the starting point. It is not prediction. It is revelation of how all things are interconnected in Manifestation.

We can understand this best by returning to Leibniz’ insight about “confused feelings.” His idea explains what is going on here.

Jnana is an Encoding of Artha
In Chapter 21 I asserted that Leibniz gave us the ultimate definition of the unconscious mind.   Let me remind you:

“We can also see that the perceptions of our senses, even when they are vivid, must necessarily contain some confused feeling. For since all the bodies in the universe are in sympathy, our body receives the impressions of all the others, and although our senses are related to everything, our soul cannot possibly attend to each particular thing. Thus our confused feelings result from a downright infinite jumble of perceptions.”

He is clearly discussing the link between our conscious sensory perceptions, and the meaning or understanding in our mind. The meaning is the artha. It does not matter how we symbolically dress it (e.g. the sabda is arbitrary): the truth is what it is irrespective of how we represent it.

Recall we linked Leibniz’ idea to the yogic idea that all of Manifestation is one vast interconnected network (Chapter 18). Thereby, every manifest thing is related to all other manifest things. Therefore, it follows that any relative perception must somehow encode all the rest of Manifestation.

If you have a hard time with this idea, let’s do a metaphor that gives a sense of how this might work. Look at how a hologram is stored in a holographic plate:

gabor holographThis was the first-ever holographic recording from Gabor, the inventor of holography. The original object is (A). The holographic recording (B) is an encoding of the original object. Decoding the holographic recording gives us (C). The main point is that the holographic recording appears totally different from the object.

Here is the analogy. (B) is our perception of externals. (A) is the thing-in-itself, the artha. (C) is what we strive to achieve, which is to understand the true nature (artha) of what we perceive.

Our perceptions correspond to the encoding. Until Kant, people just assumed that what we perceived (B) is the thing-in-itself (A). Kant disabused us of this falsehood. In general, we have no idea what (A) is. Given that the mind is always interposed between perception and understanding, Kant made abundantly clear that we cannot assume that our understanding (C), based on perception [(B) the phenomena] is identical to the truth of the thing-in-itself [(A), the artha or noumena].

This is where Weyl comes in.

Mathematics and Artha
There is another aspect of the holograph analogy that is important. The relationship between (A) and (B) is neither arbitrary nor random. There is a strict mathematical relationship between the holographic recording and the original object. The forward application of the math converts the object (A) to the encoding (B). The backward application of the math recreates the original (C) from the encoding (B). This brings us back to Wyle’s definition of mathematics as a way to probe the noumena. Please recall his words:

“The real world is not a thing founded in itself, that can in a significant manner be established as an independent existence. Recognition of the world…cannot, as metaphysics and theology have repeatedly attempted, be achieved by cognitions crystallizing into separate judgments that have an independent meaning and assert definite facts. It can be gained only by symbolical construction.”

The hologram metaphor illustrates his point quite nicely. Let’s translate his quote into yogic terms. He is saying that sabda, mere words and their meanings (the stock of metaphysicians and theologians), cannot capture the noumena, the artha. But for some reason, mathematical constructions can. Why?

Mathematics revels necessities that transcend arbitrary associations. This necessity we may associate with artha, the true nature of things. Necessity means: how could it be otherwise? 1 + 1 is 2. The diagonal of a square is an irrational number. There is no alternative. The symbols we use to depict these truths are arbitrary, but the truths represented by the symbols are not.

Alister Crowley said “Truth is only possible in mathematics, but mathematics is a matter of arbitrary convention”. His insinuation is simply wrong. 1+1 = 2 appears arbitrary if one focuses only on the symbolic expression but ignores the meaning. My point is clearer if we consider a statement like eπi = -1. This statement is simply true, regardless of the symbols we use to express it. Of course, some symbol systems facilitate expression of truth better than others (hence the notations of math that have accumulated over the centuries). But this is secondary to my main point.

The point is, as Weyl often said, mathematics is the “construction of the possible”. What is possible is artha, truth. Further, Weyl often defined math as (I paraphrase) “freedom and necessity at the juncture of the finite and the infinite”. The link between finite and infinite we tackle in the next section. Here we are focused on the necessity aspect.

Sitting between sabda and artha is jnana, the world as it appears to us. Jnana appears to be a strange mix of contingency and necessity, a dualism identified long ago in Western philosophy. Why are some things more or less obviously true while others seem random and arbitrary? We saw how Weyl bottomed out at this dualism:

“…the luminous ego…which here asks in despair for an answer, with the dark, erring human being that is cast out into an individual fate.”

It is beyond me why Weyl did not see that Leibniz answered this cry of despair. I repeat:

“We can also see that the perceptions of our senses, even when they are vivid, must necessarily contain some confused feeling. For since all the bodies in the universe are in sympathy, our body receives the impressions of all the others, and although our senses are related to everything, our soul cannot possibly attend to each particular thing. Thus our confused feelings result from a downright infinite jumble of perceptions.”

The contingent is Leibniz’ “confused feelings”.  They are confused precisely because we do not see the necessity.

Puzzle Pieces
The yogic view of consciousness reconciles Leibniz’ “confused feelings” with Weyl’s melodramatic expression of the classical problem of contingency and necessity, and in doing so even provides us with a new definition of “random”. We get a twofer for our efforts.

We have seen how the yogic view of consciousness portrays our minds as a balloon which only has an inside. The balloon is filled with the light of consciousness via the bindu. The balloon is also filled with strange exotic stuff, most of which we are too primitive to describe with words and symbols (e.g. go back to Chapters 26 and 27 to review the unnamed stuff underneath our surface minds). Although we can’t name specifics, we can generically call all this stuff gunas: movement.

This can be understood with a stupidly simple metaphor: puzzle pieces. Each mind is a puzzle piece. When one is trapped on the surface of consciousness, one sees only their own puzzle piece. All the other minds, all the other puzzle pieces, are represented incompletely, not only because jnana is an incomplete representation of artha, but because the sabda most people use to describe their jnana has no factual relationship to the artha encoded in the jnana (if you get that, you are really following along!).

It’s an important point, so I will translate that last sentence. We see only the screen of our own consciousness. The sensory things we see there (jnana) are encodings of the true nature of things (artha). But we established above (the infrared example) that sensory encodings only partially reveal or represent the truth (artha) of a thing. Further, we give names (sabda) to the things we sense.  But these names mostly have nothing to do with the true nature (artha) of the things (cat tac example).  Therefore, our view of the world, our own individual puzzle piece, shows us the whole rest of the puzzle exactly as Leibniz specified: confusedly.

So, even though all minds are hooked in a single network (i.e. the puzzle as a whole), this is mostly inaccessible to a single mind (puzzle piece). When seen from the point of view of an individual mind, the remainder of the puzzle is “a downright infinite jumble of perceptions”. The inability to comprehend the meaning of what is not-self leads us to conclude the not-self is random, that it is an arbitrary jumble of stuff, or in other words, is contingent.

But if one could somehow see the whole puzzle, it would be seen that it is all necessary. Contingency, ultimately, is due to our misperceptions and misconstruals of the whole. The inability to see the whole is contingency. Contingency, ultimately, is just another word for randomness. That’s our twofer: randomness is the interpretation of the not-self from within an individual mind. Take that, you mathematicians!

We perceive this randomness as spontaneity. Some consider it creativity. Others call it unpredictability. Think radioactive decay. Related here is the ungraspable nature of the Movement, the bottom-out perception of paranga cetana. What the Movement reveals is our inability to grasp the whole when trapped within our relative minds. The Movement is the effect of the whole as it impacts an individual puzzle piece. It seems random, creative, spontaneous, unpredictable, contingent. We see our own ignorance. Paranga cetana, being in an individual mind, is, in this sense, the opposite of Kaivalya. The Hindu Rishis, including Patanjali, called this condition avidya.

puzzle 1We see the World incompletely when trapped in surface consciousness. Therefore the World mostly appears contingent and random, spontaneous and unpredictable to us.

Taking it back to Smriti-Parishuddhau

So let’s see if I can wrap this up into an at least shoddily-wrapped gift. I talked above about how smriti-parishuddhau is a “clearing of the stage”. By this I mean that the screen of consciousness, the conscious mind, is emptied of everything except the pratyaya. That is what happens between bahiranga and dhyana. Also, don’t forget yama and niyama. They play, at this stage, a critical role in cleansing the unconscious patterns, the kleshas. These are minimized, if not actually eliminated, by processes many commentators liken to burning seeds to kill their generative power (e.g. aphorism 2.10).

Thus, “purification of memory” can be likened to the single puzzle piece becoming empty but for the pratyaya. Thereby, the remainder of the puzzle (e.g. all the rest of Manifestation) is focused into that single puzzle piece (e.g. the individual mind absorbed in the pratyaya) and is not distorted by the contents in the Cave of Consciousness. The mind can cleanly reflect the remainder.

The mind of the yogi in samadhi becomes like a clean, sharp lens that can focus the remainder of the whole puzzle. The entirety of Manifestation, which seemed random and contingent, now becomes the net force shaping the mind of the yogi in samadhi. There is but the single thought, the pratyaya, serving as a lens or a sieve for the remainder of Manifestation.

Now here’s the punch-line I’ve been building to: When cogtransperation occurs, the external that forms is not a result of the will of the yogi. It is a result of the spontaneous manner in which the remainder, the entire rest of Manifestation, focuses through the pratyaya. The external that appears is the “answer”, the “solution”, but more precisely, it is the inverse of the pratyaya. Since Manifestation is a network of relativity, each thing is defined only in terms of what it is not. Then, the “not” channels through the pratyaya, shaping it into an externalized form. This is how samadhi allows access to the artha of the pratyaya. The pratyaya has no independent “svarupa”. Its intrinsic meaning is how all the rest of Manifestation converges through it.

Swami Krishnananda said it like this:

“…in a world of relativity…everything is determined by everything else, so that nothing can be known absolutely. We are caught up in a peculiar difficulty in the understanding of the essential nature of any object in this world on account of the relatedness of this object to everything else in this world, so that we cannot know anything unless we know all things.”

Thus, the artha of the pratyaya is, in this sense, everything that it is not.



In the World of the Relative, a things is defined by what it is not. A puzzle piece makes sense only in relation to the remainder. The remainder of Manifestation converges to “mold” each thing. Outside of samadhi, each thing has a svarupa, a self-determined individuality (ahamkara), pushing on the whole. The yogi’s ahamkara is eliminated in samadhi, allowing the remainder to come through. This is also one way to read what Leibniz was trying to say in his Monadology.


The Kekulé example is a feeble instance of this “inverted focusing”. Kekulé’s memory was not fully “purified”. But it was cleaned off enough that the external imagery that formed was at least a partial “solution” to the pratyaya on which Kekulé was focused. He “brought through” enough of the inverted image of all the rest of manifestation to extend the scope of conscious understanding.

Separating jnana from artha is not a one-shot deal. Patanjali describes four levels of it: vitarka, vicara, ananda, and asmita. It is a sequential peeling back of the layers until there is nothing left. When nothing is left, this is nirbija. Successfully peeling back all the layers is the process of both dropping and climbing down the ladder to the bottom of the cave of consciousness. This is pratiprasava, the recession of the effects into the causes.

The pratyaya at all its levels must be dissolved (nirodhah parinama) before the magnetic attraction of paranga cetana is fully eliminated. Eliminating it at vitarka grants access to vicara. Eliminating it at vicara grants access to ananda. Eliminating it at ananda grants access to asmita. After eliminating the pratyaya at asmita consciousness, only then is the doorway to Kaivalya accessible.  Only then does consciousness go all black hole and collapse to the Absolute, to Kaivalya.

“… As this happened the whole concept of my existence as a particular person seemed quite ludicrous and artificial. With this perception it seemed as though the universe had collapsed and turned inside out. And the concept that I had an identity as a particular human being, or even that “I” existed, was entirely pulled out from beneath my feet…”


The Gunas
I’d like to generalize a little beyond “puzzle pieces”. What I am about to say constitutes another rough sketch of ideas. The “stuff” of Manifestation is the gunas, patterns and flows of energy that, broadly speaking, can all be construed as memories.

The West is at an impasse today as to what constitutes the World. Idealism claims it is mind, physicalism claims it is something outside of, yet not independent of the mind. Samkhya offers a third alternative in the notion of gunas. The gunas are what both mind and the World are made of. Western authors (mostly on the Humanities side of the two-culture divide) have tried to shoehorn the gunas into either idealism or physicalism, but in doing so fail to recognize that the gunas idea is broader in scope than either.

We have repeatedly used Weyl’s notion that the world described by science is not made of stuff, but is made of mathematical patterns. But what are mathematical patterns? They seem to be purely mental constructs, yet they describe non-mental things. We can transcend this apparent dualism by recognizing that math too is a form of the gunas. Thus, the world is made of gunas, the mind is made of gunas, and math is made of gunas. Therefore it is no surprise that mathematics can link the mind to the World.

But then this begs the question: what are the gunas?

The gunas are patterns of change. They have no substance. In a sense, no reality. They are dynamics. They are the embodiment of constant change. They are the flow of a river, the passing of the clouds. The wind blowing the grass. The falling rain. The growing flowers. The flow of the planets in their trajectories. The spiraling of galaxies. The flow of words and ideas in the mind. Our birth, growth, and decay. They are the flow of our life and experience. They are the flow of dreams, of actions, of will. They are the relentless flow of the illustrious inner worlds that we have no words at the moment to describe. The gunas are movement. Energy is motion. No body, no substance, only form, pattern, always moving, ever-changing.

These patterns we can capture, at least to some extent, in our language of mathematics. Math formulas are little programs or algorithms that encode in a very efficient manner, a domain or realm of infinity. Our hologram example above, coupled with Leibniz’ very deep insight, construes our perceptions as encodings of Kant’s noumena. The West has certainly not yet learned the algorithms for efficiently decoding perception. Science is our best answer to date, but it runs on trial and error. Patanjali’s Raja yoga offers another means of decoding perception. All of this comes back to the gunas: patterns of flow. The patterns are encoded, or they are decoded, or they are manifest, or they are latent.

In some sense I am not able to fully articulate yet, the gunas, as encodings and decodings, are memories.  It is a key insight because it reconciles the dualism of idealism and physicalism/materialism.  Both are concerned with memories, just at different levels of Manifestation.

Idealism is the focus on the flows in the mind. Any such pattern is a memory, a template for interpretation, perception, thought, action, and so on. Physicalism focuses on flows presented to the senses. But physicalism relies exclusively on mathematics to provide a template for interpreting the flows perceptible via the senses. This was Galileo’s gift to the world (sciences not yet up to the task of applying this approach are not yet real sciences. They are just encyclopedists pretending to be scientists…Hello, sabda-biology.).

But mathematics are just flows in the mind. How? They look like static formulas. But they are not.  As Weyl liked to point out, even the simple act of counting is generative. The finite formula is a machine to generate a little seeming infinity. Generative in the sense above: it spills out necessity in some limited domain. In turn, the limited domain branches out to other such islands, mimicking in “the parallel cerebral process in symbols” what the noumena does in the unified network of manifestation.

Counting is the memory of all possible numbers.  y = mx + b is the memory of all possible lines. They are not static, but generative. In this way, physicalism is as much in the mind as is idealism. The idealists dropped the ball when they conceded to the young usurper science.  At least Weyl straddled both worlds and could see the connections I am discussing here.

In short, physicalism and idealism are not so different after all. As I said way back in Chapter 3, each merely focuses on and emphasizes different shadows on the Plato’s cave wall, on the Screen of Consciousness.

Samkhya, yoga, and Hinduism have already solved this problem with the concept of gunas. The concept helps us focus what we already intimately know, because it is the stuff of both the mind and the world. This is a place where sabda matters. The framework of symbolic expression can aid or hinder the expression of artha. The scope of the idealistic and physicalist frameworks hinder the flow of artha. The Samkhya vocabulary facilitates it at an intellectual level. Yoga facilitates it as a living reality.

Yoga answers the riddle of idealism/physicalism far more effectively than our confused Western sciences and philosophies. The objective world is Kaivalya. But it does not exist outside of us. It is at the very center of our individual minds. Our individual minds, indeed, all of Manifestation is a projection of The Absolute. Deep inside all of our minds, we are the exact same thing.

What is this thing that we are all instances of? Hinduism has come to call it sat-chit-ananda. Being, consciousness, and bliss.  Eventually the West will figure out that the Hindus are pretty smart and pretty much nailed it.

The way the West will figure this out is to go beyond words and ideas and learn yoga.  Yoga is not a mere philosophy. Yoga teaches us the means to escape the mind, to enter and be the Absolute.

Only then does everything makes sense.

The End of the Gunas
Entering Kaivalya is the “end” of the gunas, as indicated in aphorism 4.34, the last aphorism of the Yoga Sutras:

aphorism 4.34There is confusion, particularly in the academic study of yoga, as to what it means when the yogi finally achieves Kaivalya. Taimni asks: “Does Kaivalya mean complete annihilation of the individuality and the merging of the Yogi’s consciousness in the Divine Consciousness?” What happens to the rest of the world when a yogi dissolves in Kaivalya? Is the yogi gone for good?

The answer is ‘no’. The yogi does not permanently disappear and Manifestation continues as it always has.

The skills provided by yoga allow one to go in and out of Kaivalya at will.

We see this clearly in van der Leeuw’s account in In Conquest of Illusion. He voluntarily entered Kaivalya to discern the true nature (artha) of some aspect of manifestation, and then came out of trance and expressed his experience into understanding that is meaningful in our relative world-image.

Mastery of yoga allow the yogi to transfer at will between the Absolute and relative Manifestation. The master yogi becomes an embodiment of the Rhythm of Creation, the veiling of the Absolute as the Relative and the revealing of the Relative as the Absolute.

“…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.”

The ultimate purpose of yoga is not to run away from “reality”, not to disappear permanently into the oblivion of nirvana (extinction), but to learn how to, at will, become one with the reality of our being. For a time, the yogi must leave this world behind to master the skills of yoga. But it is only a phase.  One cannot leave Manifestation. It is Eternal. It is the Absolute but seen from a relative vantage point. Mastering yoga is like a worm transforming into a butterfly.

TransformationButterflies-copyA nice metaphor to understand what yoga is

Without yoga, we are trapped in our relative world-image, where no problem can ever be solved completely, no meaning can ever capture the totality of our being. With yoga, we become the answer.

We become all things. We know by being the eternal truth of all being. I repeat van der Leeuw’s quote from Chapter 4, which hopefully now, 28 chapters later, resonates with you at a much deeper level:

“When from the experience of Reality we return to the dream of our world-image we no longer identify ourselves with it, thinking it to be the only reality, neither do we shrink from it as from a world of evil, or ignore it as a mere glamour of illusion. We can now see it all the time as that which it is-the image produced in our consciousness by eternal Reality, our interpretation of things as they are. Such an attitude is neither world-denial nor world-affirmation, it is the contemplation of our world-image in the light of the Eternal.”


See you in Chapter 33 to conclude our yogic view of consciousness, at least for the moment.

3 thoughts on “The Yogic View of Consciousness 32: Reflections on Samadhi

  1. kashyap vasavada

    Great article Don! I am gradually trying to digest what you are saying. But one thing struck me right away as a physicist. This is the question of perplexing problem of reality. As you know physicists think that everything is made out of particles. But particles are just dynamical probability waves ,mathematical ideas in our mind!! So the concept of gunas may be similar to the concept of particles. You know the quantum puzzle of particles not being real!
    While we are on this topic, let me raise a question also. Many people ask if what we perceive is not reality why there is a consensus of our picture of the world. All of us agree on what a human being, a cat, a dog and a rock look like. My guess is that this is conspiracy, brain washing we have been undergoing since we were babies. We learnt to believe how each object should look like. What do you think?

    • Hi Kashyap! Great to hear from you! I hope you have been well!

      Haha, the perplexing problem of reality. Boy, if that doesn’t hit the nail on the head! There are some authors in the academic yoga literature who have tried to link the gunas to physical particles, but the ideas are not well-informed by the technical understanding that you have, and that I have a small appreciation of. I think generally, you are on the right track because the “particles” are indeed mathematical objects. But they map to very specific phenomena in our sensory experience.

      I like the more general idea to associate the gunas with dynamics in general. The standard model is one expression of dynamics, but there are so many more. I think that condensed matter physics could almost be taken as synonymous with the gunas idea. The physics approach is infinitely more clear in how it is expressed, but it is the same general ideas at work. The gunas idea is ancient and expressed qualitatively. But if you are to ask, “what does the gunas idea mean?” I would be inclined to answer: dynamics in general. Relativity (both special and general) are specific instances of gunas. Quantum mechanics is another instance. The extremely large variety of condensed matter phenomena are probably most obviously related to the gunas idea.

      As to your second question, again, Patanjali offers an answer in his tripartite theory of knowledge: sabda, jnana, and artha. Sabda is the level of social conditioning, or brain washing, as you call it. Jnana is captured strongly under this level too insofar as culture gives us words and meanings to describe sensory experience. Science is kind of a controlled way to go beyond our common language meanings of sensory experience, and get closer to the artha, the true thing in itself.

      Ultimately, however, and this is one of the major points of the Yogic View of Consciousness book, is that there IS an objective reality. Yoga calls it Kaivalya. Most Hindus call it Brahman. It is the truth of things. Each thing has a truth, an artha, as a piece of the puzzle. This is true and objective independent of our human perspective. Mostly we get the artha of things like the blind men feeling the elephant. In yoga, the methods appear to allow one to go very much beyond this.

      So, to sum, there is both a socially-conditioned level of looking at things, but there is also the objective truth of things. Post-modernists hate the idea that there is an objective truth. But science finds it here and there, and yoga describes it in no uncertain terms. So, two against one, so objective truth wins! (I joke, kind of!)

      Again, so great to hear from you Kashyap! Thanks for leaving a comment and letting me know how the book is striking you. I am only a couple weeks away from releasing the full book.

      Very best wishes,


  2. PeterJ

    “Eventually the West will figure out that the Hindus are pretty smart and pretty much nailed it.”

    Holding my breath…

    “In some sense I am not able to fully articulate yet, the gunas, as encodings and decodings, are memories. ”

    I’m trying to sort out the relationship between the gunas and Maya. Would the gunas be the instruments of Maya? Or would they be the raw materials on which Maya operates? Or is it neither of the above?

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