Stages: Building upon practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya) (1.12-1.16), the meditator systematically moves inward, through four levels or stages of concentration on an object (1.17), and then progresses to the stage of objectless concentration (1.18).
All objects are in one of four stages: Virtually all types, styles, methods, or objects of meditation are included in one of these four stages, levels, or categories (1.17). The specific objects within those four stages are discussed in later sutras. (See also the articles, Five Stages of Meditation and Types Versus Stages of Meditation.)
Objectless concentration: The four stages (above) all have an object to which attention is directed (samprajnata). Beyond these four is objectless concentration (1.18), where all four categories of objects have been released from attention (asamprajnata).
The deep absorption of attention on an object is of four kinds, 1) gross (vitarka),
2) subtle (vichara), 3) bliss accompanied (ananda), and 4) with I-ness (asmita),
and is called samprajnata samadhi.
Stages of attention: Attention develops in stages:
Think of attention: Since it may be difficult to conceptualize samadhi, it might be useful to think of this sutra and the four stages (below) in terms of attention or concentration. By thinking in terms of attention, it is easier to grasp the practicality of the principles, while the depth of experience can be allowed to come over time.
All objects are in one of four stages: Virtually all types, styles, methods, or objects of meditation are included in one of the four stages or levels described in this sutra. At this point in the Yoga Sutras, specific objects are not being suggested. Rather, the four categories of which any and all possible objects of meditation is being introduced.
Related articles: See also the sections from the following articles, which also deal with these stages or levels of concentration (scroll up and down after clicking on the link):
See also these articles
Meditation on the subtle: It is very important to reflect on the principle of meditation on the subtle elements. Meditation at this stage means that you are dealing with the very building blocks of all of the objects on which you might meditate in their gross form. You are focusing not only with objects normally seen to be external (the things of the world stored as memories in the mind), but also the very instruments (such as senses and mind) by which those objects are experienced. In this way it becomes increasingly possible to attain non-attachment to the whole realm of gross matter, along with their subtle counterparts and the mind itself.
Like driving through cities on a highway: When you are driving your car in a rural area it may seem quiet and peaceful. As you approach a city, there is an ever increasing activity, with more and more people. In the heart of the city, it is thriving with sights and sounds, people and objects of this or that kind. When you pass through the center of the city the process reverses, as the activity seems to gradually recede behind you, as you move through the city. On your journey down the highway, towards your destination, you approach cities, experience them, and drive through them.
The inner journey is like that too, as you approach a level of inner activity, experience it, and then move through to the next. The goal is realization, direct experience of the absolute reality, the objectless center of consciousness, whose nature is of peace, happiness, and bliss, though truly indescribable. On that journey inward, few are able to go directly to that realization, and must move into, experience, and then transcend the levels of inner reality or mind, that are along the way. This is the process being described in this sutra.
Whole process is in 18 sutras: Sutras 1.17 and 1.18 describe the process of samadhi, the higher tool of meditation. Thus, the whole process of Yoga is summarized in the first 18 sutras. The remaining sutras give more expanded explanations, including the process of stabilizing the mind (1.33-1.39), more specific ways to attain samadhi (2.26-2.29), and how to then use samadhi as the finer tool (3.4-3.6) for Self-realization.
Simplicity, like a ball point pen:
Yoga Sutras has a beautiful simplicity to it,
including these four stages of sutra 1.17. Attention can absorb in gross
objects or subtle objects. Like clicking on a ball point pen, one can come
outward, like the little container of ink. When attention is outward, the
subtler levels are still there, underneath or interior, doing their work
to provide consciousness itself with experience of the gross. With another
click, the pen part retracts back into the body of the pen. When attention
retracts from the gross, there is no gross experienced. Then, the subtle
is experienced. When attention retracts again, that subtle experience
falls away. Then, there is the experience of joy or bliss, as none of the
activity, distractions, attractions or aversions (whether gross or subtle)
are experienced. Yet, there is still an I-ness doing something called
experiencing. There is an experiencer experiencing an "other."
With one more click of the pen, attention retracts past even that bliss,
so that all there is, is the I-ness itself. Consciousness is still
operating through that individuation, but that's another story.
Beautifully simple. Not scholarly, but practical. Oral tradition says that
the "study" of Yoga Sutras is oral, not only textual. The
simplicity of the outline of the Yoga Sutras necessitates elucidation,
whether in written or, preferably, oral form. For some, this brevity in
the Yoga Sutras is a sign of being incomplete. For others, it is a sign of
being succinct. For the latter, the Yoga Sutras is a breath of fresh air
in the midst of tomes of debate.
The other kind of samadhi is asamprajnata samadhi, and has no object in
which attention is absorbed, wherein only latent impressions remain;
attainment of this state is preceded by the constant practice of allowing
all of the gross and subtle fluctuations of mind to recede back into the
field from which they arose.
Object and objectless: The four stages of concentration described in the previous sutra (1.17) were all concentration with object, which is called samprajnata samadhi. In the current sutra, concentration without any object is being described, and this is called asamprajnata samadhi. In this state not only the gross and subtle thoughts, but also the senses and thinking instruments of mind are in a latent state. It is a very high state of knowing, and is of the kind that is often described as not describable in words.
Samskaras are in latent form:
Samskaras are the deep impressions that are the driving force behind karma
(actions). In objectless samadhi, all of the samskaras are in their latent
form, although you are fully conscious. This means they are not active in
the dreaming, unconscious level of mind, nor in the active, conscious
level of mind. By reflecting on the nature of the objectless samadhi, it
is somewhat easy to see why the foundation of practice and non-attachment (1.12-1.16)
is so important in relation to uncoloring those deep impressions (1.5,
(See also the article:
Intentionality of letting go: There is a paradox in the practices leading to objectless concentration. In letting go of all of the impressions, even the intentionality is surrendered. However, to do that, there first needs to be will power to do the letting go of the other deep impressions. By being aware of this paradoxical balancing act, it is easier to gently practice the intentionality of letting go, without either suppressing impressions or overly exerting the will power. Then, seemingly in a moment, the letting go can come. Although the objectless samadhi is a deep state, this gentle balance of intentionality and letting go can be practiced at the earlier stages of meditation as well. Then, when the time comes to do so at the deeper levels, it is a familiar thing to do.
This is not just quietness: It is important to understand that the objectlessness being addressed here is far deeper than simply quieting the noisy conscious mind as in beginning meditation. Allowing that noisy mind to gradually still itself is an important step, however, it is only a stepping stone to opening the veil to the unconscious. Then the many impressions that are normally not seen are allowed to come forward, along with awareness of the sensing and thinking instruments, the subtle energies, and the subtle building blocks of mind and matter. All of these, not only the surface level thoughts, are the subject of objectlessness.
------- This site is devoted to
presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of
the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and
beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of
our sadhana or practices is the highest
Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the
center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is
one and the same with the Absolute Reality.
This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga
Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the
intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which
complement one another like fingers on a hand.
We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti
Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha,
and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer
finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final
stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the
This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.