tatra śabdārtha-jñāna-vikalpaiḥ saṅkīrṇā savitarkā samāpattiḥ
tatra śabda-artha-jñāna-vikalpaiḥ saṅkīrṇā savitarkā samāpattiḥ
“There, savitarka samāpatti is [the saturation which is] mixed with word, meaning, knowledge, and conceptualization. It is samāpatti ‘with thought.'”
Tatra (“there”), links back to I.41, where Patañjali has introduced the idea of samāpatti. He defines samāpatti (which literally means “fall together”) as the ability to stay focused on an object and “be saturated” by it. He also suggests in I.41 that a growing awareness of “the seer, what is seen, and the act of seeing” is integral to this process. That is, as we practice nirodha, as we move toward samāpatti, we gain insight into the mechanism of seeing itself. We gain perspective on the limit of what we see.
In today’s sūtra, Patañjali begins a discussion of the different stages of samāpatti. Savitarka means “with thought,” and in savitarka samāpatti, word and sound (śabda), object (artha), knowledge (jñāna), and conceptualization (vikalpa*) mix together to support the renewal of the mind–undoing fixed ideas, directing the attention, opening up possibility.
Language is central to how we teach and how we learn. And it is central to Patañjali’s yoga. The sūtras are, of course, themselves language. However, they map out a journey that takes us somewhere beyond language.
Language, for all its power, contains its own constraints. In some sense, it always fails. In the Jewish tradition, one does not call God by name. When Moses stands before the burning bush, he asks, “What do I call you?” The answer: “I am that I am” (Genesis III.13). It is as though God says, You can’t name what is unnameable, what is before language and beyond creation.
In yoga, as we seek to come into better knowledge of what is, a step in the process is coming to see how we are influenced by language and conceptualization, how our perceptions are “mixed” with words. Studying other languages reveals this. Sanskrit in its beautiful unfolding and building of ideas expresses things differently than English. It carries with it a sense of its own transitoriness. Bharati Devi, of Ānanda Ashram, says that in Sanskrit, nouns are crystallized verbs. It is as though the verb, pure energy, has taken temporary form as object. Every language carries its own meanings, its own version of things.
Perhaps no one has as acute a sense of the limit of language as the writer–the beingness of something more than words, the vibration of words overpowering concept, the usefulness and frustration of speech.
I wonder what it is that I will accomplish today
If anything can be called that marvelous word.
It won’t be
My kind of work, which is only putting words on a page,
Haltingly calling up
The light of the world,
Yet nothing appearing on paper half as bright
As the mockingbird’s verbal hilarity
In the still unleafed shrub in the churchyard-
Or the white heron rising over the swamp and the darkness,
His yellow eyes and broad wings wearing
The light of the world in the light of the world-
Ah yes, I see him.
He is exactly the poem I wanted to write.
–Mary Oliver, “White Heron Rises Over Blackwater”
*(Vikalpa means imagination or conceptualization. Earlier in the chapter, Patanjali defines it as one of the five vṛttis. He describes it as following śabda-jñāna, the knowledge of word or sound. See I.9.)
“Savitarkā samāpatti is the samādhi in which one apprehends physical objects of the universe by means of the mixture of word or sound (śabda), meaning (artha) and direct feeling vibration, knowledge (jñāna), together.” Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p.22
“Kant maintained, quite rightly, that the ‘thing-in-itself’ cannot possibly be known by the senses or the reasoning mind, since the senses and the reason can only present us with their own subjective reactions. ‘It remains completely unknown to us,’ he wrote…. Patañjali tells us that there is a higher kind of knowledge, beyond sense perception, by which the ‘thing-in-itself’ can be known. And this is, of course, the fundamental claim made by the practicing mystic of every religion.” – Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, p. 81
“There is the external reality of a cow, the word ‘cow’ that we use to think about matters bovine, and ideas about cows—that they moo, give milk and chew their cud. We are not normally aware of the three distinct factors. We just ‘see’ a cow, and all sorts of related ideas appear in the mind. In savitarka samādhi, the mind gradually learns to isolate and focus on the object itself, leaving behind the relativities of our knowledge of it and its name. This prepares the mind for the next step in samādhi nirvitarka.” –Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, p. 87
• Has yoga practice helped you see the apparatus of your mind? Are you aware of distortions that your mind introduces?
• What kind of learner are you–auditory, kinesthetic, or visual? What role does sound or vibration play in your practice? Touch? Visual observation?
• In your experience, what is the interplay between language and direct observation?
• Are you more comfortable with analysis or synthesis?
|masculine noun in compound
masculine noun in compound
neuter noun in compound
knowledge (from jña, “to know”)
masculine noun, 3rd case plural, “with”
conceptualization, imagination (from vi-, “apart, distinct” + kḷp, “to fit, serve”)
feminine adjective (past passive participle), 1st case singular
mixed (from sam, “together,” + kṛī, “to scatter”)
feminine adjective, 1st case singular
with thought or reason (from sa-, “with,” + vi-, “distinct,” + tark, “to think”)
|feminine noun, 1st case singular
coming together, assuming an original form (from sam, “all,” + ā, an intensifier, + pat, “to fall”)
4 thoughts on “I.42 तत्र शब्दार्थज्ञानविकल्पै: संकीर्णा सवितर्का समापत्ति:”
Thanks so much for the clear weaving of both the sanskrit text and the contemplative content that is at the heart of yoga. In my ongoing exploration of the senses, I find on a relative level of navigating through life, it is very important to discern where the processes of naming and reasoning applies to sense contact as a practical matter of survival. If I’m crossing a busy street with cars, I need to rely on that conditioned knowledge for my own safety and anyone I may be responsible for. In terms of the ultimate truths that can lead to psychological freedom, I find that when the senses are understood clearly with and without patterns of constructing reality via thoughts and feelings; they are portals to immeasurable freedom towards emptiness. Conceptualizations of knower and known loose their distinction and only the known is reveal as an ongoing play of creation and dissolution…the freedom here is through the senses, a vast matrix of belonging awaits.
With appreciation for your blog and reflections,
Thank you for your feedback and thank you for exploring processes of naming and reasoning vs. sense contact. You encourage me to comment on above commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. They write that Patañjali posits a “higher knowledge” that is beyond sense perception. I would not use this language to describe my own experience of yoga practice. There is tremendous benefit to be gained–in my experience–from awakening the senses, from improving my day-to-day use of sight, sound, smell, touch. Indeed, one of the benefits of becoming aware of the power of language AND its limit is to use direct perception more effectively. This, to me, means the use of the senses. What you have shared is beautiful: “through the senses, a vast matrix of belong awaits.”
And that it falls together, and again apart, I’m constantly reminded that life doesn’t keep to static, is always instead asking me to adjust to the change. I’m always encouraged by the fact that I keep reaching out, to make sense of those many qualities/characteristics I’m regularly puzzled by. So many ways to organize (another way I aim to make sense of).
The fact that it remains unknown to us, as Kant observed, remarkably prods me at least, actually many of us, to try to know, anyway. It’s a nice reminder I get from drawing back to my currently more active mind a pithy Kant sentence I studied in college with my middle brother for all of a semester. The sentence:
“An object is that in the concept of which the manifold of a given intuition is united”
It’s another way of pointing out to us the constant temptation to make sense of. Of course I interpreted it differently then in my teachers office. And though the effort to do so, to make sense of, is worthy, I’m grateful for having grown more accepting of the idea of taking in what is now before me, like a Mary Oliver view, the perfect imperfection of a cloud shaped before another miles away but feeling within my reach, and accepting it as organized for this moment only, useful by that, its value later still a question, like the distance of that cloud, or the very effort to show talent to suggest objectivity (Kant’s goal).
And still I keep on reaching, to make sense of, organize, listen to, carry in open hands.
I love your questions Julia! This above is in a way my partial answer
Your Kant quote has blown my mind. Thank you for sharing. Yes, I think I will do some cloud watching, too!