Yoga Sutra 1.48

Translation and Commentary

April 25, 2013    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait


Therein resides intuitive wisdom laden with rtam, the self-propelled law of sustainability.

tabharā = tam + bharā
tam eternal law; law of nature; the fundamental law that governs and guides the dynamics of matter and energy and the world composed by them; the ultimate principle of sustainability; the fundamental principle of reality that assigns an entity its nature and maintains that nature in all circumstances; the most basic principle of existence, which can never be distorted, violated, or altered; the basic principle of existence that defines truth; more clearly, tam gives meaning and definition to “truth” (this word tam occurs mainly in Vedic literature)
bharā filled with; laden with
together, the state of consciousness which is saturated with tam

tatra that; there; therein; within
prajñā intuitive knowledge; the knowledge that transcends the limitations of time and space

The Dawn of Intuitive Wisdom

Patanjali describes the entire range of samadhi in two main categories: sabija and nirbija, samadhi with seeds and samadhi without seeds (lower samadhi and higher samadhi in layman’s language). Patanjali dedicates nine sutras (1.42–50) to explaining sabija samadhi (lower samadhi) and only one sutra to explaining the highest form, nirbija samadhi. Unless it were absolutely necessary to go into such depth, he would not have assigned so much space in the text to lower samadhi, for a disproportionate description of any concept violates the basic principle of a sutra text—the writer must be so precise and to the point that not even an extra syllable is used.

You cultivate this inner purity by actively practicing compassion, kindness, dispassion, and selfless service.

So why does Patanjali place so much emphasis on sabija samadhi? Because each sutra introduces the sutra that follows, the answer lies in the preceding sutra. In sutra 1.47, Patanjali warns us of what can go wrong if we become careless during meditation that falls within the range of sabija samadhi. This stage of samadhi culminates in mental clarity and spiritual joy. Mental clarity comes when we transcend the world of thoughts and allow the mind to become completely still. This is a crucial stage in our inner journey. If we are not careful, as the mind becomes increasingly still during this stage of meditation, sloth and inertia sneak in. Due to its long-cherished and often well-hidden attribute of tamas (inertia), the mind can interpret sluggishness as tranquility and denseness as dispassion. While sitting in meditation, you may fall asleep and upon awakening tell yourself that you have just emerged from samadhi. However, a mind devoid of thoughts due to sleepiness doesn’t reach samadhi—it simply sinks into inertia. Just as upon awakening from a long sleep we do not find ourselves any wiser, this kind of thought-free meditation does not grant a spiritual awakening.

The experience of sabija samadhi demands that you are vigilant and committed to infusing your mind with inner purity. You cultivate this inner purity by actively practicing compassion, kindness, dispassion, and selfless service. Refinement in the practice of sabija samadhi comes not only from how you conduct your daily life but also from balancing the practice of meditation with contemplation and self-reflection. As far as the technique-oriented aspect of meditation is concerned, make sure you discipline your mind, let it rise above all disturbances and distractions, and make it one-pointed. Most important, don’t let your one-pointed mind fall into the trap of stupefaction. Mental stupor is very hard to detect, which is why Patanjali advises us to remove tamas (inertia and heaviness) from the mind and replace it with sattva (the vibrant virtue of illumination), for once stupor sets in, the mind has no awareness that it has become stupefied. In other words, to emerge as an enlightened soul you need more than a one-pointed mind—you also need a mind that is clear, calm, and vigilant. You need a mind that has attained the purity required to contain the force of revelation that accompanies sabija samadhi.

Samadhi and intuitive wisdom (prajna) go hand in hand. As you progress in your meditation you become spontaneous and quick to distinguish right from wrong and good from bad. Your judgment becomes sharper and your decisions are free from doubt. As a result, you gain confidence in yourself and that strengthens your power of will and determination. You are no longer afraid of the unknown. This is how you find yourself walking on the path of self-mastery effortlessly. If after practicing yoga and meditation for a prolonged period you do not see these changes occurring, you must question your practice. This is why Patanjali tells us here in sutra 1.48 that “intuitive wisdom laden with rtam, the self-propelled law of sustainability, resides in sabija samadhi.”

The light of intuitive wisdom that dawns during this stage of samadhi is so bright that we begin to see the bija (seeds) of our samskaras (the subtle impressions of our past actions). In other words, we begin to see our karmic deeds. Some of those karmic deeds may be noble and delightful and others may be dishonorable and painful. The mere act of seeing the seeds of your karmic deeds brings them to life. The power of discrimination enables you to decide which particular seed is to be nurtured and which is to be discarded, and the power of dispassion (vairagya) enables you to put your power of discrimination into action.

Sabija samadhi is the most productive phase in our inner journey. At no other time is the mind as active and productive as during this stage of meditation. The mind is fully focused and is free from all distractions. All of its potentials are fully awakened and at its disposal. Furthermore, due to the fact that at this moment your intuitive wisdom is laden with rtam, the self-propelled law of sustainability, no force can stand in its way. The mind has become invincible, for it is accompanied by the unrestricted power of will and determination. Absolute clarity has become its nature—it is no longer ignorant of its abilities, duties, and responsibilities. The mind knows that it has been given a body to serve the purpose of the soul and that all bodily forces are at its command. This enlightened mind also knows to what extent the craving of the senses are to be fulfilled and at what point they are to be disciplined and withdrawn from the external world. Having attained such an elevated state of mind, a yogi is neither pulled by the charms and temptations of the world nor repelled by the pain that is mingled with every worldly experience. Such a yogi lives in the world and yet remains above it.

The revelation of higher truth is the hallmark of sabija samadhi. For many seekers, this gives rise to a crucial question: How can I be sure that the knowledge that descended in my mindfield during meditation is a revelation from the realm of intuition and not a figment of my imagination? Patanjali addresses this question in the next sutra.

Stages of Sabija Samadhi

Sutra 1.42
When the mind focuses on an object in association with the word and its meaning, there arises savitarka samapatti, a narrow field of concentration that contains the word, its meaning, and the object denoted.

Sutra 1.43
Upon the complete transformation of memory, there arises nirvitarka samadhi, a mental state in which the meaning alone is illumined and which appears to be devoid of its own form.

Sutra 1.44
Accordingly, savichara samadhi and nirvichara samadhi, which have extremely subtle objects as their focal points, can be explained.

Sutra 1.45
Meditation on the most subtle object culminates in meditation on prakriti, the building blocks of our life and the life of the universe.

Sutra 1.46
Those [samadhis] are indeed the samadhi with seeds.

Sutra 1.47
From further purification of nirvichara samadhi (meditation that transcends the realm of thought altogether) spiritual illumination ensues.

Sutra 1.48
Therein resides intuitive wisdom laden with rtam, the self-propelled law of sustainability.

Sutra 1.49
The content of intuitive wisdom is totally different from that which can be derived from scriptural sources and inference, for both its source and its intent are unique and extraordinary.

Sutra 1.50
The subtle impressions born of that intuitive wisdom cancel all other samskaras.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than a quarter of a century, he is the author of fourteen books, including his recently-released The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and his autobiography Touched by Fire: The Ongoing Journey of a Spiritual Seeker. Pandit Tigunait holds two doctorates: one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad in India, and another in Oriental Studies from the... Read more>>