I, 17 Vitarka vichara ananda asmita rupa anugamat samprnatah
is accompanied by inquiry
into its four forms
analytical thinking about an object,
meditative insights on thoughts,
reflections into the nature of bliss,
and inquiry into one’s essential purity.
Up until this sutra, Swami Satchindananda explains that Patanjali describes the theory of Yoga. But now, he begins to describe the highest practice of yoga, samadhi. Thus, he addresses and guides the advanced student.
This student has practiced the external limbs of yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pratayahara, pranayama. And has progressed through the internal limbs of yoga: dharana (one pointed concentration), dhyana (the evolution of dharana into a continuous flow of awareness = meditation), samadhi (the merging of dhyana with the object of meditation; absorption in the spirit).
This sutra describes the practice of samprajnata or distinguished samadhi. Samprajnata leads into the asamprajnata or undistinguished samadhi which is described in sutra I, 18. The practice of samprajnata samadhi requires an understanding of nature or Prakriti because samprajnata is an involutionary practice. The evolution of prakriti from the unmanifest (or avyakta) to manifest begins with the ego, then mind, then the subtle elements (tanmatras), to finally the gross elements. Understanding Prakriti allows one to go beyond prakriti.
Swami Shyam divides samprajnata samadhi into four types:
1. Savitarka samadhi. In this type, the mind is focused on a concrete object or a gross form of the object. (analytical thinking). For example, Physicists studying the atom discovered atomic energy (Sw. Satchindananda)
2. Nivitarka samadhi. In this type, the mind “no longer holds its idea of what the name, form and knowledge of the object are.” (page 13)
3. Savichara samadhi. In this type, the mind is focused on the subtle elements or tanmatras of an object; (meditative insights on thoughts). For example, the contemplation of color or concepts of love (Sw. Satchidananda)
4. Nivichara samadhi. In this type, the mind “no longer holds its idea of the name, form and knowledge of that thought.” (page 13) Nivichara samadhi can be further divided into
a. sa-ananda samadhi = inquiry into bliss during which there is
i. an awareness of peace and joy
ii. a lack of awareness of words, meanings, time, space
b. sa-asmita samadhi = inquiry into the state of “I” during which there is
i. an awareness of the vritti of asmi, the source of ahamkara (beyond the ego)
ii. a lack of awareness of peace and joy
Sw. Satchindananda cautions that the practice of samprajnata samadhi must be pure and selfless or else the practioner or sadhaka will abuse their new found powers and abilities.
Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publications India. 1993
Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications. 2004
Swami Shyam, Patanjali Yog Darshan, India: International Meditation Institute, 2001, 3rd. edition.
Stiles, M., Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Boston, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. 2002