(Last Updated on : 20/03/2010)
Hidden impressions lie dormant, but spring up during moments of awareness, creating fluctuations and disturbing the purity of the consciousness. This is the main idea of the eighteenth yoga sutra of the Patanjali yoga.
rest, repose, pause
going towards, firm conviction, reliance, confidence,
usage, practice, a cause, instrument, means, device
before, old, previous, foregoing
balance of subliminal impressions
other, another, different
The void arising in these experiences is another samadhi. Hidden impressions lie dormant, but spring up during moments of awareness, creating fluctuations and disturbing the purity of the consciousness.
As mentioned previously, Patanjali suggests another state of samadhi in between sabija samadhi and nirbija samadhi, but does not name it. It is experienced with the termination of all functions of the brain, leaving behind only the residual merits, or samskaras, of good practices. In this state one is liberated from passions, wants and appetites.
The word used for this state is 'virama pratyaya'. In it, the sadhaka rests in a highly evolved state in which the intelligence is silent. The nearest one comes to virama pratyaya in ordinary experience are those rare moments before falling asleep, when the intellect relaxes its hold on thoughts and objects and the mind becomes silent - a state resonant of manolaya. Like a river joining the sea, the mind is dissolving into the self. One is given a fleeting glimpse of the seer, abiding in the self. The moment one loses the feeling of 'I', one is in this state of virama pratyaya, which is neither negative nor positive. It is a state of suspended animation in the consciousness. Patanjali refers to this state as a different type of samadhi (anyah). It is not deliberate but natural.
In deliberate or samprajnata samadhi, the intelligence dissolves, but the sense of self stays on. The samskaras of good practices remain and all other fluctuations terminate. This state becomes a plateau, from which the aspirer may climb further up the spiritual ladder. As it is only a passing state, one must take care that stagnation does not set in - it should not be taken as the ultimate. One should then, in fact, step up one's sadhana to attain the state of the absolute, nirbija samadhi.
In the next sutra, it is alleged that those who remain in virama pratyaya not only conquer the elements of nature, but merge in them, while others live without a physical body like angels or devatas. One can look towards the instances of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Ramana Maharsi and Sri Aurobindo, who remained in that state for a long period without the awareness of their bodies, but emerged later to reach nirbija samadhi. Such sadhakas are called prakrtilayas (laya = merged in nature) or videhins (existing without a body). Other yogis who have attained a certain level of evolution in their search are caught in the crossroads, feeling that this is the culmination of their journey. If they stay there and do not attempt to go further in the practice of yoga, they plummet from the refinement of yoga. Lord Krishna refers to such aspirants as yoga bhratfas. In Bhagavad Gita (vi.41-43), he says that 'those yogis who have fallen deliberately from the grace of yoga are reborn in the houses of the pure and prosperous, where they live a contented life in a righteous way for many years; while the others, who have undeliberately fallen, are reborn into the families of poor yogis who are endowed with wisdom. Then they strive again for perfection, beginning from the state which they had reached in the previous life'.
Virama pratyaya is a perilous state. It may bind the sadhaka forever, or it may uplift him. Patanjali advises in 1.20 that those who have reached virama pratyaya should not stop there, but should escalate their efforts with faith and courage, memory and contemplative awareness.
Sri Vyasa, the first commentator on Patanjali, calls this escalated effort upaya pratyaya (upaya is the means by which one reaches one's aim, a stratagem). Through upaya pratyaya the evolved souls mentioned above accomplishes nirbija samadhi.
Patanjali distinctly makes use of the word samprajnata for the state of samadhi that is reached through vitarka, vicara, ananda, and asmita. In this sutra, he explains the premeditated maintenance of a thought-free state of consciousness. Thus, here he has not stated a specific term, but uses the expression any ah, meaning 'another', or a different type of samadhi and not asamprajnata samadhi, as expressed by many commentators.