I.46 ता एव सबीज: समाधि:

tā eva sabījaḥ samādhiḥ
tāḥ eva sa-bījaḥ samādhiḥ

“These [samāpatti], indeed, are samādhi with seed.”

 

Sūtras I.41-45 have described a transformation of citta, a process in which old patterns fall away, and more direct, more accurate observation begins. The citta becomes “saturated” by the object that it views, as though there were just “the object alone.” (Sūtras I.43, III.3.) This is samādhi (from sam + ā + dhā, placing together). Patañjali here says that what he has so far described is “with seed” (sa-bīja).

Vyāsa defined “with seed” as meaning “with an object”; that is, this samādhi depends upon, is supported by, the focus on an object (Patañjali sometimes uses the word artha for object, sometimes viṣaya). Edwin Bryant explains that by “object,” Vyāsa means an external object. The movement toward “seedless” samādhi, then, is a turning toward inner perception,  a cognition that is apart from externals, an experience of the Divine, beyond–or perhaps, before–the natural world; this perception is not a representation of the Divine, not a picture, image, symbol or word–it is the Divine.

A strong traditional view has been that any external object ultimately distracts the spiritual aspirant from the goal (B.K.S. Iyengar’s commentary on this sūtra reflects this view: “if the sādhaka falls back, he is caught in pleasures and pains”). An external object  sparks interest and begins again a cycle of involvement, attachment, or desire.

I have some trouble seeing external objects as distraction. I have been drawn to the language of the modern commentator Rohit Mehta, who describes “without seed” differently. He writes not so much about externals and internals, but about a kind of break with one’s sense of identity, with the psychological imperative of casting forward one’s identity. Citta becomes willing to be “nameless,” he says.

What is a seed? It is the storehouse of life, the beginning of the next generation, the carrier of DNA. The samādhi that is “with seed” has the pattern of the old life in it. One’s past experiences, even if processed, released, long gone, still influence us, can still pop up—at surprising times. I find, as I grow older, that my childhood becomes more vivid to me. I can see how patterns, adaptations, ways to cope that were formed then carry through to my life today. Yoga practice has helped me see these better. It has helped me loosen their bonds, lighten their load, and even—sometimes—do a new thing.

That breakthrough moment is generated by samādhi, when the citta is absorbed in, is saturated by, the object it observes. It puts aside its own predilections. It sees almost as that thing, animal, person—the other. It is a moment of love.

Love and Samādhi are not two different things.”
—Rohit Mehta

—–

“The ‘seeds’ are the subconscious impressions remaining in the mind. They can sprout at any time, given the proper time, place, circumstance and karma. When they do sprout, they can deprive the mind of the intuitive knowledge of samādhi and reopen the door to the influence of ignorance and egoism.” – Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.46

“Identity is a consciousness of separation, and this feeling of separation is indeed the I-ness. When this enters the sphere of goodness or virtue then there enters a distortion of a very subtle and therefore of a dangerous nature. That is why we stated earlier that it is not enough that the mind’s effort at psychological becoming should cease. The effort may cease, but so long as the maker of the effort remains so long the stress and strain of psychological becoming must persist….There still remains the seed which may sprout any day putting forth roots and branches and leaves. There has to be a Nirbīja Samādhi, an experience in which there is no seed and is therefore completely free from the functioning centre of identity.”  –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on I.46

Questions:
•  Have you experienced a kind of disconnect in your practice, losing a sense of time or place or self? What does that feel like, for you?
•  How does yoga practice affect your sense of connection to others?
•  How has yoga practice affected your sense of identity?
• Do you feel yoga has helped you change some of your past patterns of behaviors? Have you experienced a sudden return of behaviors or reactions you thought were gone?

tāḥ

feminine pronoun, 1st person plural

these

eva

indeclinable particle

indeed (adds emphasis)

sa-bījaḥ

masculine adjective, 1st case singular

with seed (sa-, “with,” + bījaḥ, “seed”)

samādhiḥ

masculine noun, 1st case singular

absorption (from sam-, “with,” + ā, “towards,” + dhā, “to place, to hold”)

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