Feb 24, 2020

Samadhi in the Text of Patanjali


If we take a closer look at the Yoga Sutras text we’ll see at least three different contexts that the given term is used in there. Moreover, it is not one but three heterogeneous definitions of samadhi that we can find in the Sutras. The said situation might have happened due to the text initial inconsistency that according to my theory resulted from successive “seaming” together of at least five heterogeneous texts, as well as “insertion” of lines that have been either borrowed from Buddhism or argue with its philosophy. The traditions incorporated within the Sutras varied in their definition of samadhi, and this conceptual inhomogeneity can be traced down throughout the entire text.    

The term samadhi is used in the YS text 13 times only. Of which 2 are the chapter title and ending that was added later by commentators; 2 references in the chapter 4 which authenticity is still questioned, and one more in the section that does not fit in the text general line. Thus we get 6-9 actual cases remaining. Which is not a big deal for a term treated as a cornerstone. Moreover, in the section one that with a helping hand of Vyasa was named “samadhipada”, i.e. the chapter on samadhi, the term “samadhi” is used only three times. One of the cases is the already mentioned borrowed line, and the two remaining are parts of definitions. And I would advance an idea that the chapter got its title due to the fact that “samadhi” is the last word mentioned in this chapter. Not because it is dedicated to samadhi as its main object – the way the European tradition would have it.
In the second chapter Patanjali draws a list of eight “angas” – the limbs of yoga, that in many recent translations are erroneously rendered as “stairs”. In the scope of this translation a new allusion immediately arises: if there is a staircase, there must be a top step which is probably the goal. This fallacy underlies a popular (or should I say “cheesy”) view of yoga. It can hardly affect serious practice since most of today’s practitioners anyway fail to understand what “samadhi” actually means. Still it fosters other misconceptions, for instance the idea that pranayamas must be practiced only after asanas, etc.
So let us draw on the text of YS to understand the essence of Patanjali’s samadhi. If we skip the “occasional” cases of the term usage, we’ll find 4 out of 9 remaining cases to be definitions of the term.

Cognitive samadhi


In the first chapter the author gives vague, recapitulative definitions of sabija and nirbija samadhi by juxtaposing samadhi with another state he had previously defined – the samāpattiḥ. Summing up the matter of the sutras from 1.41 to 1.45 that describe different variants of samāpattiḥ he concludes that:

tā eva sabījaḥ samāpattiḥ
These [all above mentioned variants of samapattih] are sabija samadhi proper.
It is plain to see that this way of defining a category is not immaculate from the points of both logic and methodology. In fact, the pattern of the “definition” is “A is B; and by the way, B equals C”. The B in the middle is obviously an extra element. I guess this “clumsy” definition that falls out of the traditional old Hindu manner also resulted from the text inconsistency and tending to its expansion in compliance with current polemic tasks. For instance, the need to “cover” by the basic discourse the ideas of then springing Buddhism in that samāpattiḥ was a truly significant notion.
Note that morphological structure of the word samāpattiḥ resembles the one of samādhi: sam+ā+pat+tiḥ. The same very prefixes sam- and aa- attached to the root pat, that is though not equivalent to dhaa- “to place”, is still rather close in its meaning. The word samāpattiḥ can be also rendered as “collectedness” and “concentration”. Though the translation here is not very important since Patanjali defines the term.
Kṣīṇavṛtter abhijātasyeva maṇer grahītṛ-grahaṇa-grāhyeṣu
tatsthatadañjanatā samāpattiḥ
41. Samapattih is the state of [mind] “coloring” that occurs due to elimination of vritti by the [object] that the mind rests upon, just like a gem stone [that acquires the color of its underlay] in the process of cognition, the subject and the object of cognition.
This line is a metaphor, but its meaning is quite obvious. If vrttis are “reduced” (kṣīṇa), the mind gets preoccupied with the object and the process of cognition and does not look aside at some minor stuff. Besides, the image of a gem stone offers another metaphoric clue. If a gem is not pure, if it contains flaws and cracks (vrttis), it shall not be able to reflect the light properly without distorting the picture. In this way samāpattiḥ is a deep concentration on the process of cognition when nothing (vrttis) distorts the process and distracts from it. Actually, this could be a good definition of the samadhi category as well.
And as we can see from the line 48 that follows the definition of sabija-samadhi, samadhi brings new knowledge, i.e. is referred to as a purely cognitive process.
ṛtambharā tatra prajñā 48
48. Wisdom [acquired] here [in samadhi] [is called] “bearing the truth”.

Still, there is one more attribute of samadhi described in the line 47: it fosters peaceful mind:
nirvicāravaiśāradye'dhyātmaprasādaḥ 47
47. If [there is] skillfulness in nirvichara [samadhi] – self-collection (inner peace).
A rigorous, canonical definition of samadhi is given at the beginning of the chapter 3. Both the definition that Patanjali offers in the third chapter and his explanations in the sutras that follow tell us he treats samadhi as a process of cognitive nature.
Tadevārthamātra-nirbhāsaṃ svarūpa-śūnyam iva samādhiḥ 3
3.  The [dhyana] that reveals the object only [and] is as if empty it its own form is samadhi.
Thus samadhi in this sutra is represented as the pinnacle of dhyana: the process of the object perception is absolutely explicit, it is net of prejudices, distractions and so on. By the way, in terms of Patanjali’s terminology prejudices can be correlated with pramana vrtti, the unverified patterns – with viparyaya, while incorrect words used in the process of learning are close to vikalpa. As to distractions, they are nidra and smrti.
Now, the first variant of Patanjali’s samadhi is cognitive samadhi, the cognitive process that culminates dhyana and begets knew knowledge that pacifies the mind. 

Samadhi as ekagrata


The lines 5 to 16 in the YS chapter 3 are definitely an insertion that does not fit into the text basic line. It lays out a succession of interrelated ideas yet goes off the treatise general course. Indeed, the sutras that precede the line 5 define the category of “samyama”, and those after the line 16 describe the goals that can be attained with the help of samyama. But the lines between them are dedicated to another object. Moreover, they implicitly describe a drastically different model of the human mind. In particular, different states of mind are perceived as chitta-parinama, i.e. “modifications” of chitta, of which there are parinamas of nirodha, ekagrata and, finally, of samadhi nature. Let me note this to be a conceptual difference from the basic idea of the YS opening chapters as it puts all states of mind on a par. The sutra 11 also gives a new definition of samadhi.
sarvārthataikāgratayoḥ kṣayodayau cittasya samādhipariṇāmaḥ 11
11.  (3) Samadhi parinama is cessation of mind multi-directedness and inception of its one-pointedness.
That is, samadhi is now deprived of its cognitive constituent and is identified with ekagrata. This insertion obviously has Buddhism at its core and is an evident simplification if compared to the ideas in the chapter one.

Late Buddhist insertions


I have already mentioned that the term “samadhi” in the YS text is used both in the basic contexts suggested by the treatise proper and in the lines borrowed from other systems in which this word has different meanings and exists in the scope of alternative philosophical milieus. This leads to confusions in the text perception by readers who don’t know about this point. So here is another remark on this subject.
 The line 20 of the first pada reads as follows:
Śraddhā-vīrya-smṛti-samādhi-prajñā-pūrvaka itareṣām 1-20
20. In other [ordinary practitioners] [the considered state] is preceded by faith, vigor, recollection, samadhi and wisdom [
рядовых практиков].
As we can see, this sutra falls out of the text general logic in many aspects. First, the word smriti here is used in the sense different from smriti of the previous lines that was referred to the category of vritti - something that should be taken under control. While here smriti is a positive notion, a method of practice. This understanding it inherent in the Buddhist tradition in which this term stood for recollection as a type of awareness. As to samadhi, its role in this line is much more “modest” if compared to the rest of the basic text: it is simply placed in line with other methods and prerequisites. This line is a borrowing that’s been inserted into the basic text tissue and has thus “drawn” it apart. The specification of the given elements in the same order can be found in Pali’s Vibhagasutra where it looks quite smooth and seamless.
219. bāvīsatindriyāni — cakkhundriyaṃ, sotindriyaṃ, ghānindriyaṃ, jivhindriyaṃ, kāyindriyaṃ, manindriyaṃ, itthindriyaṃ, purisindriyaṃ, jīvitindriyaṃ, sukhindriyaṃ, dukkhindriyaṃ, somanassindriyaṃ, domanassindriyaṃ, upekkhindriyaṃ, saddhindriyaṃ, vīriyindriyaṃ [viriyindriyaṃ (sī syā)], satindriyaṃ, samādhindriyaṃ, paññindriyaṃ, anaññātaññassāmītindriyaṃ, aññindriyaṃ, aññātāvindriyaṃ
In a similar way we see the incoherence of the chapter 4 first line.
Janmauṣadhi-mantra-tapaḥ-samādhi-jāḥ siddhayaḥ 4-1
4-1. Siddhis [arise] by birth, due to medical herbs, [recitation of] mantras, practicing tapas [and] samadhi.
Here we see violation of the specification hierarchy – one list encapsulates categories of different hierarchy levels. Samadhi is one of yoga angas, while tapas is just a sub-anga of niyama. Moreover, this line is excessive since after chapter 3, the Vibhutipada that is mostly dedicated to acquisition of siddhis, another “one-line” recourse to this subject seems inconsequential. We can thus suggest this line to be a borrowing, and the meaning of these terms may differ from those basic that have been introduced before. And in fact, thats how the things really are. The original line that quite harmoniously abides in its source text can be found in Abhidharmakosha.

avyākṛtaṃ bhāvanājaṃ trividhaṃ tūpapattijam|
Ṛddhir mantrauṣadhābhyāṃ ca karmajā ceti pañcadhā||53||

Though there is some difference in terms used here - upapatti for birth, the practice of karma instead of tapas and Ṛddhi instead of siddhi – the line is still recognizable.

Summing up the post, I would remind that due to the text heterogeneous nature the YS views of samadhi are not congeneric and even contradictive. The YS “native” idea is the concept of cognitive samadhi, while representation of samadhi as ekegrata has been borrowed from Buddhism.

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