Jul 8, 2013

Sutras 1.17 - 1.18. The Legend of Asamprajna Samadhi (continuation)

Let us proceed with analysis of the line 1.18.

विरामप्रत्ययाभ्यासपूर्वः संस्कारशेषोऽन्यः ॥ १८॥
1.18 virāma-pratyayābhyāsa-pūrvaḥ saṃskāra-śeṣo'nyaḥ

I shall draw several classical variants of its translation for the reader to get a better picture of what the legend is, as well as to see the difference in interpreting this sloka:

1.18 There is another Samadhi which is attained by the constant practice of cessation of all mental activity, in which the Chitta retains only the unmanifested impressions (Vivekananda).
1.18 The practice of intellection cessation, (when) only the fullness with residual impressions (Samskaras) (remains), is the other (Asamprajna Samadhi) (Rigin).
1.18 There is another possibility, when the complete cessation of any intellectual activity is used (Falkov).
1.18 The initial practice involves elimination of the available contents of consciousness; the following one [involves the elimination] of residual impressions (Danchenko).
18. The other type of Samadhi is preceded by a constant exercise of the idea-impulse (pratyaya) of Chitta’s activity suspension; in this [exercise] only samskaras remain (Zagumenov).


Summing up the afore-mentioned translation versions (and another 2 dozens of those that I’ve looked through) we shall once again state that it’s all as clear as the mud-spattered windscreen. The translators (followed by commentators) differ much on the issue of interpreting this sloka. Moreover, they have to add the words that are absent in the original text in order to fill the line with some sense - see how many additions are given in brackets. As for the gist, it is totally different in various translation versions. Yet almost all commentators habitually “dance” around the concept of intellection cessation as some kind of positive practice. Some of them correlate this practice with the already mentioned myth of Asamprajna-Samadhi that, as we can see from the given transliteration, is never mentioned in the text. Others omit the term but still treat the line 1.18 as some practice that is superior to the one from the line 1.17. However I will try to prove this to be wrong and the habitual understanding of the issue (if something of the drawn can be referred to as understanding) to be false.

The said line is indeed difficult for translation since it contains psycho-technical terms, but let us try to single out its meaning basing upon the context that we have already started to outline.

So, in line 1.18 we can distinguish between 3 conceptual blocks:
1. virāma-pratyayābhyāsa;
2. saṃskāra-śeṣo;
3. and the last word anyaḥ.

Let us start from the end. The word anya that means “different”, “the other”, despite it being simple has appeared to be a stumbling block while interpreting this sloka. The majority of authors follow the logic that if there is Samprajna Samadhi than “the other” should be the Asamprajna. However we keep in mind the fact that there is no word ‘Samadhi’ in the line 1.17. That is why we shall refer the word “the other” to Samprajna, i.e., comprehension. In this case we can suppose that “the other” is “non-comprehension” or the state of non-consciousness, unawareness that is obviously “different” if compared to consciousness. Let us so far fix upon this hypothesis and proceed to the word group saṃskāra-śeṣo, it been a psycho-technical term that does not provide for any obvious translation variant.

We have already analyzed the word saṃskāra in respective article of the blog and have correlated it with desires and emotions suppressed into the unconscious mind that affect person’s decisions and behaviour.

śeṣa is translated as “trace”, “residue”, and it matches the context: the effect of samskara fades upon comprehension of its contents and essence, and vice versa – when been unaware of, it remains.

The word pūrvaḥ that links together the first and the second block is translated as “precedes”, that is, the contents of the first block precedes that of the second one.

And finally, the virama-pratyaya-abhyasa. As we have already mentioned in the previous article, virama is “cessation”, pratyaya are mental processes (so far – generally). Yet the word abhyasa comes as another stumbling block. Let us remember the group of articles dedicated to the categories of abhyasa and vairagya. The majority of translators interprets abhyasa as “exercise” and apply this variant both to lines 1.13 and 1.18. As a result we receive some mysterious “exercise on cessation of mental activity” or something of the kind. We have translated the line 1.13 that defines this word in the following manner: 

1.13 Here abhyasa is the effort of being stable.

However let us remember that the verbatim translation of the word abhyasa is “repeated practice” or even “habit”. Then it explains the problematic word tatra – “here” at the beginning of the line 1.13. We can suppose that in this line – and only in this – Patanjali has used this word as a specific term, and not in its usual meaning. While in the line 1.18 he means it in its central meaning – “reiteration”. Then the line shall be translated as:

1.18 In the other state saṃskāra remain after reiterated cessations of mental activity.

The idea is clear. A person is trying to comprehend some problem (for instance, the subject matter of a Vritti or a saṃskāra), while the idea “rushes away”. As a result, comprehension fails and the Samskara proceeds to affect the person’s behaviour. In psychology they refer to such phenomenon as defense mechanisms, or, to be more precise, one of such mechanisms.

Thus I believe that the cumulative idea of the lines 1.17 – 1.18 should be interpreted antithetically to the generally accepted variant. The author does not exalt the lack of intellection yet considers it to be a problem that precedes the whole rest of the problems.

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