Meditation in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

What would have happened if we had at least meditated for a moment on our own Self? Here we turn to the classical yogic treatise The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. According to this text, in the moment when you begin to meditate on your Self, you will reach the highest ecstasy, the higher samadhi, the higher concentration, or the state of enlightenment. You do not know how to feel the Self. I meditate on my own Self, because it is inside of me. In terms of the axioms, the Self is everywhere. So, do I need to meditate on the entire universe at the same time? We have no idea of our Self. Therefore, before you come to this meditation on the Self, it is given a meditation on the thoughts, ideas and feelings of Self that is gradually becoming more subtle and abstract. For example, first, I focus, "My Self, my Self, my Self. And starts to approach it. To begin, I think, "Here it is, in my hand." Then some of my thoughts, ideas, feelings of my Self become thinner. As thinning, I’m getting closer to it and, sooner or later, I reach it after passing the series of meditations.

Another approach is described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. I meditate on anything, on any object or phenomenon, e.g., on a sheet of paper. I have a thousand thoughts in my head. Only one of them is about this sheet of paper. Others are God knows what about. I cut them off, and I have a hundred thoughts left and one of them is about that sheet of paper. I cut again, I concentrate, and I have a few thoughts left. One of them is about the sheet of paper; the other is about the itching feeling behind my ear, and the third is about the things I must buy in a store tomorrow. However, the degree of my concentration is growing, and eventually, I have only one thought in my head about the sheet of paper. There is nothing else. How can you describe this state? I look at the paper and do not see anything, do not hear anything, do not remember anything and do not think about anything. I am entirely in this sheet of paper. I do not see a fly flying, a beetle creeping. I even do not see and hear someone come in and start to shoot from a rifle over my ear. I am in the state of concentration. I have no more thoughts about anything. I am all in this sheet. Then on the surface of my mind, there is only one thought-form about this sheet of paper. And I clean it off as well. I have a pure mind; there is not a single thought. Moreover, at this point in the smooth surface of my mind can be reflected my own Higher Self. This method is described by Patanjali. It is like a high road, from point A (here and now) to point B (the final step in yoga). However, you cannot get to your own Higher Self without preparation.

We just cannot think about that. More precisely, all thoughts about this are not thoughts of our Higher Self, but thoughts about how our Higher Self manifests through us.

The associative link between our Higher Self and our body in Patanjali's Sutras is narrowed down to the link with our mind. Therefore, if we start working with our thoughts and impressions, then we will work with the whole spectrum of links. All yogic work according to Patanjali boils down to working with mind. In addition, meditation comes down to manipulating thoughts in our mind.

The final goal of meditation is to look at the world from the position of our Higher Self. We use all concentrations and other techniques in order to separate from our manifestations and reach the state of observer from our Higher Self. The task is very complex, but it is the ultimate goal in yoga.

All kinds of yoga are aimed at getting to the position of our Higher Self. If you have been practicing yoga for a long time, you know that hatha yoga has an element of meditation too. The same is true for kriya yoga, mantra yoga and other types of yoga. In all types of yoga, we are engaged in meditation, i.e. we separate from our manifestations and go to the position of our Higher Self. We work with vritti, the ideas about ourselves. We try to get rid of them and to look at the world from the position of our Higher Self. E.g., while practicing mantra yoga, the pronunciation of certain sounds or mantras, we simultaneously practice meditation, concentrate on sound, on vibration. This concentration is very strong because we work with our thoughts and states. Through numerous states, we go into a kind of grandiose state and we really begin to look at the world from a higher position. When we are engaged in pranayama yoga, the same effect occurs: through breathing, we exit into some higher, transcendental state. When we are engaged in hatha yoga, we separate from our physical body and eventually enter this higher state. When we practice kriya yoga, the same effect is observed. Therefore, if you think that you have never meditated, think again. Everyone was engaged in meditation but not each of us noticed that he or she was doing it.

In variety types of yoga, meditation occurs by means of physical body, voice or breathing, but there are methods, which work directly with our thoughts and our concentration.

Usually these methods are called “meditation practices” and they are performed by the method of Consciousness or by the method of Energy.

There are two approaches to any meditation: the method of Consciousness and the method of Energy.

Everything in this world consists of the Energy and the Consciousness. We can redirect associative bonds by using the method of energy or the method of consciousness. You can find some book about meditation and read about different practices, which quite often seem contradictive. However, there is no contradiction: the fact is that some books describe meditation by the method of energy and others describe meditations by the method of consciousness. For you to understand just imagine two different meditating persons. One sitting in a beautiful place and just watching and absorbing the beautiful view around. There are no thoughts in one’s head; one is just enjoying the view. Usually if a person is sitting like this for a long time, with an unwinking stare and barely breathing or is breathing naturally without even noticing it or thinking about it. The person remains in this set of mind for some time. It is not the same as the state of blunt burnout, when we are so exhausted, that we sit and stare in front of us, without any thoughts and barely breathing. This is a completely different condition: when we are extremely passive and at the same time extremely active. Another example is when the person is sitting with eyes closed or opened, but totally focused on one thought, basically living in this thought. This person is still relaxed, but at the same time there is internal tension, focusing on one thought: it could be some object, some memories, it could be a dream. But it is not a dream, which usually spins around in our head passively and drowsily, when one image is replacing another one and then with the next one, and so on in a circle. This is a completely different situation, when we are not carried away by our thoughts, but we control our thoughts. We merge; we choose some object or a thought and get involved by it. As soon as we start forgetting it and thinking of something else, we return to it again and again. For example, the person is sitting and concentrating on some object so hard, that he or she is streaming with sweat. It happens when we are trying to resolve some difficult task in a limited period – during the exam or in some other challenging situation. We are extremely concentrated and focused. Please note that in the first example, when we are relaxed as it seems to us, and just absorbing the view, we are not tense, but there is a process of meditation. In the second example we are extremely concentrated on one thing and intercept all other thoughts in our mind, and we are also meditating. These are two different methods, but both are meditations. Both methods will lead you to your goal.

The first method is the method of Energy, the second is the method of Consciousness. Imagine that you take your yoga mat and go to the nearest park. You sit down and see the beautiful nature around. You can just enjoy this view and slowly get absorbed by it. It will take some time and finally it will take all your attention. Sometimes it happens as soon as you put down you mat and sit on it – you “switch off” immediately. These are two different approaches, and they can be varied. You could put down your mat and choose another method for meditation – choose some object or a fact and start concentrating on it. What kind of object could it be? It could be anything – a tree in front of you, a sun above you in the sky. It could even be some abstract thing, say, a theorem of Pythagoras. You will start concentrating your mind and as your mind does not like to be in one place, it will jump away. You will make your mind to get back to the rule of Pythagoras and your mind will fight you and think of something else. It will be distracted, and you return it back to the subject several times. Every time it will be more stable. It takes effort. You will suddenly notice: your muscles subconsciously become tense. While you focus your mind on one thought, your breath is changing. Sometimes you even start sweating if you concentrate too hard on the same thing, because this is how your body reacts to this mental activity. So, if it looks like you are always tense in the second method of consciousness, then what kind of rest is it? As you remember, after meditation you should always feel rested. This is the irony of this method – sometimes to relax, we need to tense up. Some structures inside us are not able to relax until we tighten them hard. You all experienced meditation by consciousness. Think about your school or university studies, when you had an exam on mathematics. You had to solve many problems in a short period of time. If you didn’t pass this exam, it would be really bad for you, you would be expelled, or you would not enter the university. So, during the exam you usually start concentrating on your tasks. You have thousands of thoughts and feelings: i.e. your ear is itching, mobile phone is ringing, cars beeping outside the window, but you constantly return you mind to the problem solving. Your mind wants to switch to other things around, such as a fly struggling to get out of the window, but you need to solve the problems.

The problems are highlighted, and you don’t notice anything else. For some time, you forget about your surroundings, your feelings, your body, about everything. You concentrate on solving the problem. This is called meditation by consciousness, when we don’t allow our mind to wander.

Do you want to control your thoughts and feelings? If you learn how to control them, you will start controlling your mind and the bond, which is associating you with your mind. What do you need to do? Practice concentration. Choose any object or thing, no matter simple or complicated. It could be anything, even a piece of paper. Then say to yourself that you will be meditating on this piece of paper for the next five minutes. And do it by the method of consciousness, i.e. concentrate your thoughts, emotions and feelings only on this piece of paper and ignore any other thoughts which spontaneously appear in your mind. You can look at this piece of paper or close your eyes and see it in your imagination.

It is certainly easier at the beginning to meditate when you can see the object. Later you will start meditating spiritually, without an object in front of your eyes, just by memory. Meditation by consciousness is a strong, quick method of deployment of your will, developing your mind, discovering your intellectual abilities. Imagine a mountain which is slightly sloping from one side and upright on the other side. Our task is to get to the top. Meditation by consciousness is when we clime the upright side. It is really hard. It is much easier to go around and walk up the easy slope. This is the method of Energy. When you face your thoughts, you suddenly get the idea, that meditating only for five minutes per day is a very heavy load for your body. Moreover, your physical body is also working hard. If you have a goal to develop your mind and your will in a short period of time, it is recommended to practice the method of Consciousness. When we think that something is interesting, or when we feel that we like or dislike it, really it depends on our ability to concentrate. There is no such thing in the world which is not interesting, there are no dull professions or uninteresting situations; they just don’t exist. If something is not interesting to you, it means that you do not concentrate on this process, object or situation enough and you do not meditate on them by the method of consciousness. Believe me, if you learn how to concentrate, any science, any work, anything you come to in your life, will become very interesting for you!

Moreover, you will suddenly receive a flow of information about this object or event, which will be so spectacular, that all puzzles in your head will be put together and the whole picture will become clear and obvious. At the beginning it will be at the level of common sense and later it will get to the level of superpower. Do you remember Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson? Holmes used to look at some object and he knew who it belongs to. You will do the same and even by looking at the crumpled piece of paper, you will know what happened to it. Why not so many people use the method of consciousness? The reason is that an average person is not able to hold his/her attention on one object for a few minutes or even a few seconds. It is a known fact that in 1960s an average advert video clip lasted for 20-30 seconds. In modern days, an average clip lasts no longer than 10 seconds. It is much less time. The researches show that an average person cannot concentrate attention on the advert for more than 10 seconds. The long adverts don’t work. So why pay more for the same effect, when you can do it for less money? Nowadays advertisement clips flicker on TV. We quickly lose interest and keep surfing the channels. Our consciousness is buzzing around, and we become not interested. Choose a random object for your meditation. It could be a dull object. One yogi of the 1960s told a story how he used to take an encyclopedia from the shelf, put his finger on the page and spontaneously chose the object for meditation. For example, it could be some person named Antipkin, who was a famous Communist party member. This is a very serious abstract meditation. Well if it’s Antipkin, let it be Antipkin. The yogi was sitting for a week meditating on Antipkin, and at some point Antipkin would become the most interesting character. If the subject is interesting for you, it will be certainly easier to meditate on it. But you have to learn how to choose a random subject and concentrate on it.

You can do it only in one case – if you express the will to do it. Your previous karma, your previous life experience, the opinion of other people will tell you that the object is not interesting. But you say to yourself, «I am using the freedom of my own will. I will meditate, no matter if it’s interesting or not».

It is not worth to change the object of meditation too often, spend at least one month on one object. By changing objects too often, it is impossible to feel and to understand the meaning of meditation. However, if meditating on one object you start enjoying it, you will be able to reach the same level of concentration with any other object in much less time. That is why in the beginning you should concentrate on one object for a long time. Then you can take a book and choose a new object each time. Some people prefer the method of Consciousness; others prefer the method of Energy. I sit at the river bank, on the top of a beautiful cliff, enjoying an amazing view, the river, the birds singing, and the sun. I am just sitting and as it seems to me, I have no thoughts. I am just absorbing the view around me, without concentrating on anything. My Consciousness is not focused. I perceive the pleasant feelings in my body, such as the warmth from the sun, the smell from the flowers and the grass, the sounds of birds singing and the beauty of the scenery. I am deeply lost in my feelings and start forgetting that I am a little object, and conceiving myself as part of the Universe, as if I am melted in it. There is no tense, there is no hard thinking process. The method is completely opposite – no thoughts, just perceiving. Another example is the following. Imagine you are a Japanese samurai. You strictly follow the sacramental burshido code. You fight for your master. But as you are a super moral samurai, you fight with dignity and you compose a tiercet, “The moon has risen over Fujiyama. Where am I?” It happens as one process - you fight and risk your life, but you look at it as if it’s none of your business. You see yourself as part of the game. This is the state of meditation. It is also called “dynamic meditation”. But after some time, samurai won his enemies and sat in the garden of five stones to enjoy the view of Fujiyama in early spring. Just a minute ago he was fighting and was involved in action and now he is sitting quietly in meditation. He is not doing anything, just perceiving the beauty. Both methods of Energy and Consciousness are called meditation. They are completely opposite in their own way. Indeed, what could be in common between frenzied efforts to solve a problem and sitting in a botanical garden, enjoying the view of the beautiful flowers. These are completely different approaches. But they are different only at the first sight. It seems they have nothing in common, but both are called meditation. Why? The reason is both actions, either by the method of energy or by the method of consciousness weaken associations with your mind and your body and re-direct this association to a different object or event. In one case you use energy and in another case, you use consciousness. As soon as the consciousness is directed and focused, the energy follows it. As soon as the energy is involved, as during the fight in samurai’s case, the consciousness follows it. As soon as both the energy and the consciousness are re-directed, they form a new associative bond. The old associative bond becomes weaker.

If the new associative bond becomes stronger, it starts competing with the old one. So, we have two methods for meditation: the Energy and the Consciousness. Each of us, depending on our natural preferences chooses one of the methods. But it is important to understand that neither the method of Consciousness, nor the method of Energy exists by itself. We can say about one dominant method, but in any case, there should be some activity, which absorbs your attention completely. It absorbs you so much, that you forget about yourself, and you perform this action periodically. This is called meditation. Method of Consciousness is a very strong and a very quick method. It can be called the method of set teeth. It will let you develop very quickly. But there is also a method of Energy, when we use our will to redirect our associative bond by the Energy, and the Consciousness will follow. The main point here is manifestation of the energy from the position of our free will. I sit at the river bank and deliberately meditate to the beauty around me. My mind is not focused on anything, it is rather unfocused. But I become part of this picture with all my senses involved. I fit into the image; I am part of the Universe. It does not matter if I have any thoughts or not; my thoughts are more like feelings. I control my thoughts through my feelings. If in the method of Consciousness by enhancing one thought I delete all other thoughts, in this case I use different method: through feelings and being involved in some energy process I start controlling my thoughts. Meditation by the Energy method is very often spontaneous. In all ancient text, it is compared to the fisherman sitting with his rod at the lake. The water is smooth and quiet but suddenly a huge fish appears. There was no object and suddenly it appeared, and you can see it in all smallest details.

Similar to that the object of meditation can appear, be hold and disappear in the same unexpected way. Meditation by the method of Energy takes more time than meditation by the method of Consciousness, starting from 15 minutes and up to several hours. That is why you should not force yourself, just let it go. If it is not happening, then wait. It is important in meditation by the Energy to find the starting moment. Sometimes it starts, and you can feel it. But sometimes you keep trying and it is not happening. The method of Energy is also working with hatha yoga. We do exercise without any tension and totally surrender to the feelings in our body performing asana. Thoughts disappear thanks to senses. We can close our eyes and imagine that the whole world has disappeared, and we shall be completely inside our feelings and meditation. All unnecessary thoughts and associative bonds are pushed away from our head due to the feelings and the method of Energy. The same thing happens to samurai, when he is fighting with his enemy. The same thing happens to you when you do kriya yoga. The same condition you have, when you stay at the beautiful river bank and appreciate the nature, without any thoughts in your head. You conceive. You dont evaluate, dont praise, dont criticize, just perceive. You become a part of it. If you stay in this condition for quite a long time, you will get a supply of prana, energy, and calmness. The more you meditate the more energy you have. You become stronger and start to get control. Even though in the process of meditation, we use brainwork and senses, the meditation itself is much more than that.

That is why there could be actions during the meditation, or no action, there could be thoughts or no thoughts. There could be feelings or no feelings. The only thing which should always be present is your will.

Last modified: Saturday, 25 July 2020, 10:37 AM