Yoga Sutra 1.18: The Undifferentiated Mind

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VIRĀMA PRATYAYĀBHYĀSA PŪRVAH SAMSKĀRAŚESO’NYAH.
The highest state of samadhi (spiritual absorption) is that where, due to the practice, all modifications of mind, including subtle impressions of all previous actions, have come to an end. (Translation from Pandit Rajmani Tigunait)

This week’s sutra is relatively straightforward, even if the concept it’s describing is  beyond the grasp of most of us. In the previous sutras, we’ve learned how even experienced meditators still deal with the fluctuations of the mind thanks to the gunas and the ever-changing world around us. In the state of higher samadhi, “the mind stands so still that even subtle impressions of the past lying dormant in the unconscious mind no longer influence the mindfield.” (See Panditji’s translation linked above.)

Can you even imagine what that would be like? I’d like to think I can, but I can’t. It would mean no longer identifying with the body I live in, for one thing, no longer defining myself as someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, someone’s friend, someone’s yoga teacher. I guess I’d still be able to recall my actions of the past, but I would no longer identify with them. I wouldn’t be hit with that haunting sense of embarrassment upon remembering stupid things I said or did years ago. I would not be worried about desires or aspirations of any kind. Instead of being aware of myself as an individual performing the action of meditation, I would be aware of myself as pure awareness or consciousness. This is called asamprajnata samadhi or “non-distinguished absorption.” It is absorption so complete that we no longer believe in the illusion of our separateness.

People who meditate regularly may occasionally get a glimpse of this level of consciousness, however most of us immediately think, “OH COOL! I just reached a whole new level! This is neat! What can I see from here?” And on having those thoughts, we re-introduce the ahamkara or I-consciousness — that part of us that sees us as individuals with things to accomplish and a universe to conquer. After a great deal of practice, we learn to rest for longer periods of time in undifferentiated awareness.

Or at least that’s what I’m told. I don’t know for sure. I’m not there yet.

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