April 18, 2020

Sutra 1.17: List It and Flow

Times I've experienced flow.

Samadhi Pada: Yoga of Being in the Now

    1.17 Vitarka vicharanandasmitarupanugamat samprajnatah
    • vitarka = gross thought
    • vicara = subtle thought
    • ananda = bliss
    • asmita = feeling of oneness / I-ness
    • rupa = form / appearance
    • anugamat = accompanied by / associated with
    • samprajnata = absolute knowing

I'm a list girl. I don't always necessarily get around to checking all things off my lists, but I do like coming up with them. Maybe that's part of the reason why I am finding the yoga sutras so interesting. The yoga sutras also like to work with lists with sutra 1.17 involving a samadhi list.

According to the sutras, the goal of yoga is to reach samadhi. Samadhi (in a general elementary explanation) being about connecting to something greater than ourselves here in this moment. Alan Finger describes samadhi as "not something that we strive for in the future but something that we can experience in the Now. Samadhi is as natural as breathing and available to all, because it is our true nature." The path to samadhi, according to the yoga sutras, is through meditation as the way to samadhi is to journey inwards.

The yoga sutras describes different types of samadhi. This specific sutra talks about the samprajnata samadhi which it describes as absolute knowing and gives a list of the stages to get there. First, there is gross thought or vitarka. This is how to direct the mind to have a one pointed focus by drawing attention to a tangible or easily understood object. It would include meditation techniques such as focusing on the breath, a mantra, staring at a candle, etc. From gross thought, the meditator would move to vicara or subtle thought. This would involve feeling things such as the more understated sensations or energies in and around the body. Subtle thought is followed by ananda or bliss which would be feeling joy, contentment or happiness in just being still with yourself. Finally, you would come to asmita where the object of meditation and the meditator become one. Samprajnata samadhi would be this absolute knowing and experiencing that all is one.

Now the thing with this list is you can't think yourself there. So, how to get to this state? An interpretation that resonated for me was seeing this process related to the state of flow. Have you ever done an activity where you completely lost track of time because you became so engrossed with what you were doing? Some people have experienced this while running or painting or practicing yoga or meditating or driving or. . . . I can think of specific times where I've experienced flow while driving, floating in the ocean, watching a sunset, working with mandalas, and times on my mat. What about you? When was a time you experienced flow?        

Sutra 1.17 Absolute knowing (samprajnata samadhi) comes to form when 
accompanied by gross thought, subtle thought, bliss and feeling of oneness. 

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