Self-Realization through Yoga Meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra

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Yoga Sutras 1.33-1.39: 
Stabilizing and Clearing the Mind
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Click here to return to the main page of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.Preparing for subtler practices: Stability and clarity of mind are necessary before being able to experience the subtler meditations or samadhi (1.40-1.51, 2.12-2.25, 3.4-3.6). 

One-pointedness brings fitness for meditation: The specialized training of an olympic athlete rests on a solid foundation of generalized physical fitness. Similarly, generalized training in one-pointedness is necessary so that meditation practices can advance. The particular methods suggested in these Sutras relate to the removal of obstacles through one-pointedness, as suggested in the previous sutras (1.30-1.32). Here are suggestions of Sutras 1.33-1.39: 

  • Four attitudes with people: The first method deals with meditation on four types of attitudes towards people, including friendliness or lovingness, compassion or support, happiness or goodwill, and neutrality or acceptance (1.33).
  • Five suggestions for focus: Five specific suggestions of objects for focus of attention are given, including breath awareness, sensation, inner luminosity, contemplation on a stable mind, and focusing on the stream of the mind (1.34-1.38).
  • Whatever you choose: Lastly, you might practice one-pointedness on whatever you find pleasing and useful (1.39).

Don't skip the basics: Skipping such basic training of the mind is tempting, but is a serious mistake for a student of meditation, and might result in meditation becoming nothing but a fight with your mind.

Few will go beyond these: Many schools of meditation emphasize only one method, such as meditation on kindness (1.33), breath (1.34), or some other object (1.39), failing to note that, while extremely useful, these are only preparatory practices for the subtler meditations and samadhi, as described in later chapters (Ch 2, Ch 3, Ch 4). Most people will settle for the calming benefits of the preparation, and will not pursue the subtler meditations that lead to Self-realization.

Stabilizing versus discriminative knowledge: It is very important to note that these contemplations are used to stabilize and clear the mind. The later practices are used for discriminative knowledge (2.26-2.29. 3.4-3.6). For example, if you are contemplating on friendliness (1.33), this is not being done to discriminate that it is a part of avidya or ignorance (2.5), and thus, set aside. In the later practices, you are discriminating and setting aside (3.4-3.6) what is due to avidya or ignorance (2.5).

Meditation Practice: There is a meditation practice described in the Bindu article, which draws upon the nine practices outlined in Yoga Sutras 1.33-1.39:
Meditation Practice from Bindu article 

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1.33 In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.
(maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam) 

  • maitri = friendliness, pleasantness, lovingness
  • karuna = compassion, mercy
  • mudita = gladness, goodwill
  • upekshanam = acceptance, equanimity, indifference, disregard, neutrality
  • sukha = happy, comfortable, joyous
  • duhka = pain, misery, suffering, sorrow
  • punya = virtuous, meritorious, benevolent 
  • apunya = non-virtuous, vice, bad, wicked, evil, bad, demerit, non-meritorious, 
  • vishayanam = regarding those subjects, in relation to those objects
  • bhavanatah = by cultivating habits, by constant reflection, developing attitude, cultivating, impressing on oneself
  • chitta = mind field, consciousness
  • prasadanam = purified, clear, serene, pleasant, pacified, undisturbed, peaceful, calm

Each attitude is a type of meditation: Each of these four attitudes (friendliness, compassion, goodwill, and neutrality) is, in a sense, a meditation unto itself. While it is actually a preparation practice, it has become popular to use the word meditation in a very broad way, rather than as the specific state of dhyana (3.2), as normally used by the yogis. Some schools of meditation base their entire approach on one or more of these four attitudes. However, to the seeker of the absolute reality (1.3), these are practiced as valuable steps along the journey, but not the end itself.

Getting free from negativity with other people: In sutra 2.33-2.34, the question is posed as to what to do when one does not act or think in accordance with yogic values such as non-violence, but rather, has negative emotions. What is one to do with such strong negative thought patterns? The suggestion is made in those sutras, that we cultivate an opposite attitude by reminding ourselves (through internal dialogue) that holding onto this negative attitude is going to do nothing but bring unending pain and misery (2.34). It also points out that, in terms of the inner reaction and effects, there is really no difference between three kinds of actions: 

  1. We, ourselves carrying out such a negative act 
  2. Soliciting another person to do it for us, or 
  3. Approving of the act when it happens, but without our effort. 

To work with these four attitudes of friendliness, compassion, goodwill, and neutrality specifically, we can make much easier progress with the practices of the yamas (2.30) and the instructions to cultivate the opposite when we become negative (2.34).

Four perceptions of other people to cultivate: Here, in this practice, four specific types of people are mentioned (happy, suffering, virtuous, non-virtuous), how we perceive them, and what attitudes we might cultivate to stabilize, purify, or calm our own mind (attitudes of friendliness, compassion, goodwill, and neutrality). 

These four encompass most of our relationships: By memorizing these four, and actively observing them in daily life, and during daily quiet time, it is much easier to see the vagaries of the mind, and to regulate them. Having a short list of four makes the process pretty easy to do. Many, if not most or all, of our relationship challenges with people encompass one or more of these four. 

Have a specific antidote for each: Having a specific attitude to cultivate for each of the four also makes cultivating change much easier to do. It does not mean that you replace all of your other fine ideas about how to have good people relationships, but these four sure do make a useful practice. 

     
Towards those who are happy or joyful
We might feel: Better to cultivate:
Resistance/distance: Remember how it is that sometimes when you are not having such a good day, you might resist being around other people who are feeling happy or joyful. It is very easy to unintentionally have a negative attitude towards them at such a time, even if they are your friends or family members. This is not to say that your mind is being 100% negative, but it is the tendency, however small, that we want to be mindful of. It is not about setting ourselves up for an over expectation of perfection, but a gradual process of clearing the clouded mind so that meditation can deepen. 
 
Friendliness/kindness: If you are mindful about this normal tendency of the mind, then you can consciously cultivate an attitude of friendliness and kindness when you are around these happy people, or when you think about them. This conscious act of being mindful of the negative tendency of mind, and actively promoting the positive and useful has a stabilizing effect and brings inner peace and calm. It is being mindful that the mind often holds both sides of the attraction and aversion, positive and negative. Here, we want to be aware of both, but cultivate the positive and useful. 
 
     
Towards those who are in pain or suffering
We might feel: Better to cultivate:
Imposition/frustration: You might normally think of yourself as being a loving, caring, compassionate person. Yet, notice how easy it is to feel the opposite when someone around you is sick. You have other plans and suddenly some family member gets sick, or there is an extended illness in the family. Surely you care for them, but it is also a habit of the mind to feel somewhat imposed upon. Again, we are not talking about some 100% negativity or psychopathology. These are normal actions of mind that we are systematically trying to balance and make serene. 
 
Compassion/support: It is good to observe that inclination of the mind, however small. It just means to be mindful of it, while at the same time consciously cultivating compassion and support for others who are suffering. It does not mean acting, or suppressing the contrary thoughts and emotions. It does mean being aware, and lovingly choosing to act out of love. Again, we want to be mindful of the habits of mind. Unawareness leaves disturbances in the unconscious that will disturb meditation. Awareness allows freedom and peace of mind. 
 
     
Towards those who are virtuous or benevolent
We might feel: Better to cultivate:
Inadequate/jealous: We all want to be useful, to be of service to our families, friends, and other people, whether in our local community or across the world. Often we privately may feel there is more we could do, but that we are just not doing it. Jealousy and other negative emotions can easily creep in when somebody else is sincerely acting in virtuous or benevolent ways. We can unconsciously push against such people, whether we know them, or they are publicly known people. 
 
Happiness/goodwill: Better that we cultivate attitudes of happiness and goodwill towards such people. It is not always easy to cultivate such positive attitudes when, inside, we are feeling negative. But something very interesting happens as we become a neutral, non-attached witness to our inner process. That is, humor comes; the mind is seen to be a really funny instrument to watch, in all of its many antics. Then the happiness and goodwill seems to come naturally. 
 
     
Towards those who we see as bad or wicked
We might feel: Better to cultivate:
Anger/aversion: Most of us have some limits of what we find as acceptable behavior. We might sincerely hold the belief that all people are pure at their deepest level. Yet, are there not some individuals you think to be dishonest, cruel, mean, or even wicked, or evil? Are there not some behaviors that you consider so outside of acceptable conduct that it strongly causes you to feel anger and frustration? Even if you really feel strongly about some other person in this way, is it not also true that you, yourself, carry the burden of this? How to be free from that is the question. 
 
Neutrality/acceptance: To counterbalance the negative feelings toward someone you feel is bad, wicked, or lacking in virtue, the antidote is to cultivate an attitude of neutrality, indifference, acceptance, or equanimity. It can be difficult to cultivate this attitude, since it might make us think we are approving of their bad behavior. We seek the neutrality of inner balance and equanimity, which does not mean approving of the person's actions. In fact, cultivating attitudes of neutrality might go a long way in being able to cause change. It surely helps to stabilize and clear the mind for meditation.
 

Intentional meditation on these four attitudes: During daily meditation time, it can be very useful to spend some time reflecting on these four attitudes. You might do them all, or you might practice with only one of them for an extended period of time. Simply choose one of the four attitudes and allow some person or persons to arise in the mind field. You will notice your reactions, the coloring mentioned earlier (1.5). As your attention rests on that inner impression of that person, allow yourself to cultivate the positive or useful attitude. Gradually, the negativity or coloring weakens or attenuates (2.4). This is part of the preparation for meditation.

Talk to yourself: When you notice any of the negative attitudes above, it is very useful to literally remind yourself that this is not useful (2.33). You might literally say to yourself, "Mind, this is not useful. This attitude is going to bring nothing but pain. You need to let go of this." It is also good to remind yourself, "I need to cultivate friendliness with this person" (compassion, goodwill, or neutrality).

What to do with really "bad" people: It is common for meditators to question these four attitude meditations in relation to really "bad" people such as certain political or religious leaders, present or historical. How can I feel friendliness, compassion, goodwill, or acceptance towards someone like "him?" I'll not mention any names here, but you can easily think of some of them yourself. It can sound like Yoga is suggesting that we agree with, or validate the behavior of such people, which is not the case. The questions of approving of behavior and dealing with our own internal states are very different issues.

Sometimes I find that shallow understanding is a good tool for deeper understanding. Without using examples of known historical or present public figures, instead ask yourself how useful it would be to continue to hold animosity towards some childhood friend who did something to hurt you. That person is far in your distant past, yet here is the mind continuing to hold on to that coloring of aversion. We each get to decide whether holding on to this kind of mind impression is serving us, or whether we would prefer that the coloring drift away, leaving the mere memory to be neutral. Choice rests with each of us. The uncoloring approach is a part of yoga. (For more info on the uncoloring, see sutras 1.5 and 2.1-2.9, as well as the article on Uncoloring Your Thoughts.)

How these attitudes are mastered: While these four practices are used from the very beginning to stabilize and clear the clouded mind, the practice becomes far more subtle in later stages of meditation. Once there is an ability to perform samyama (3.4-3.6), then each of these four become objects themselves for examination with the razor-sharp focus and absorption of samadhi. This later practice, done with this subtler, finer intensity brings the perfection of that attitude. This process is described in sutra 3.24.

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1.34 The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice.
(prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama)

  • prachchhardana = gentle exhalation through the nostrils 
  • vidharanabhyam = expansion or regulation, control
  • va = or (or other practices in 1.34-1.39)
  • pranasya = of prana

Awareness of breath: One of the finest methods there is to stabilize and calm the mind is breath awareness. First, be aware of the transitions between the breaths, and allow them to be smooth, without an abrupt transition, and without pausing between breaths. Consciously practice seeing how delicately smooth you can make the transitions. Allow the breath to be quiet, and to have no jerkiness.

Elongation of exhalation: Second, after establishing sound and steady awareness of the breath, allow the exhalation to gradually elongate, such that the amount of time spent exhaling is longer than the amount of time inhaling. The air will move outward more slowly with exhalation than with inhalation. Gradually allow the ratio to be two to one, where the exhalation is approximately twice as long as the inhalation. Pranayama is often translated as breath control. The root ayama actually means lengthening. Thus, pranayama more specifically means lengthening the life force

Not rechaka, puraka, and kumbhaka: There are other breathing practices that include rechaka (exhalation), puraka (inhalation) and kumbhaka (intentional holding of the breath). These practices are not the intent here in this sutra, particularly not the practice of breath retention. Though these may be useful practices at some stage of practice, they are not the subject of this sutra in relation to stabilizing the mind and making it tranquil.

See also:

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1.35 The inner concentration on the process of sensory experiencing, done in a way that leads towards higher, subtle sense perception; this also leads to stability and tranquility of the mind.
(vishayavati va pravritti utpanna manasah sthiti nibandhani)

  • vishayavati = of the sensing experience
  • va = or (or other practices in 1.34-1.39)
  • pravritti = higher perception, activity, inclinations
  • utpanna = arising, appearing, manifesting
  • manasah = mind, mental, manas
  • sthiti = stability, steadiness, stable tranquility, undisturbed calmness  
  • nibandhani = firmly establishes, causes, seals, holds

Meditation on the means of sensing: This practice is on becoming aware of the inner process of sensation (not merely the objects), using the five cognitive senses (indriyas) of smelling, tasting, seeing, touching, and hearing. It does not mean pursuing the object that you are experiencing, such as the sound you are hearing or the image you are seeing. Rather, it means trying to become aware of sensing itself. Initially, the sensing is at a more surface or gross level. Ultimately, the intent of the practice is to witness the higher or subtler inner senses.

See also the paper on the senses:
The Ten Senses or Indriyas 

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1.36 Or concentration on a painless inner state of lucidness and luminosity also brings stability and tranquility.
(vishoka va jyotishmati)

  • vishoka = state free from pain, grief, sorrow, or suffering
  • va = or (or other practices in 1.34-1.39)
  • jyotishmati = the bright effulgence, lucidity, luminosity, inner light, supreme or divine light

Concentration on painless inner luminosity: The easiest way to practice this is to place your attention in the space between the breasts, the heart center. Simply imagine that there is a glowing luminosity there, about the size of the palm of your hand. Whether or not you literally see with your inner eye is not important; the practice works either way. Maintain an inner attitude that it does not matter what other thoughts, images, impressions or memories might arise in the mind field; you will hold that stance that these will not disturb or distract you. Stay only with that glowing inner luminosity in the heart.

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1.37 Or contemplating on having a mind that is free from desires, the mind gets stabilized and tranquil.
(vita raga vishayam va chittam)

  • vita = without, devoid of
  • raga = attachment, desires, attraction
  • vishayam = objects of the senses
  • va = or (or other practices in 1.34-1.39)
  • chittam = of the consciousness of the mind-field

Imagine a mind free from desire: One way to do this practice is to think of some great sage, yogi, or spiritual person you respect. Simply imagine what their mind would be like if they were sitting quietly for meditation. Then, pretend that your own mind is as quiet as you think his or hers would be. It is a trick of your own mind to imagine in this way, but it is an extremely useful practice for stabilizing your own mind.

Imagine your own mind free from desire: Another method is to imagine what your own mind would be like if it were temporarily free from any desires, wants, wishes, attractions, aversions, or expectations. It is like a game you are playing with yourself, wherein you see if you can pretend that your mind is in this tranquil state. With a little practice, this works amazingly well.

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1.38 Or by focusing on the nature of the stream in the dream state or the nature of the state of dreamless sleep, the mind becomes stabilized and tranquil.
(svapna nidra jnana alambanam va)

  • svapna = dream (focusing on the nature of the state of dreaming itself, not the content of dreams)
  • nidra = sleep (focusing on the state itself, as an object)
  • jnana = knowledge, study, investigation, awareness, observation
  • alambanam = having as support for attention, object of concentration
  • va = or (or other practices in 1.34-1.39)

Meditation on the states of the unconscious: Focusing on the stream of the dream state or the nature of dreamless sleep will stabilize the mind and make it stable. It is extremely important to note that this is not meaning dreaming or dream analysis. To learn to allow these streams to flow, and to witness that stream is very calming. To witness the stream is a stabilizing influence, not a deep meditation or samadhi beyond the mind.

For more information about the dream state in relation to the waking state and the deep sleep state, see these articles:

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1.39 Or by contemplating or concentrating on whatever object or principle one may like, or towards which one has a predisposition, the mind becomes stable and tranquil.
(yatha abhimata dhyanat va)

  • yatha = as, according to
  • abhimata = one's own predisposition, choice, desire, want, like, familiarity, agreeableness
  • dhyanat = meditate on
  • va = or (or other practices above in sutras 1.34-1.39)

Meditate on the object of your predisposition: This sutra is making it very clear that the key principle in the stabilizing of the mind and the removal of obstacles is one-pointedness. Obviously, saying that one may focus on any object or principle that one feels predisposed towards is a broad statement. Wisdom should guide the choice of object for concentration.

We already know this: Virtually everybody already knows this principle of focusing on something enjoyable as a means of stabilizing the mind. However, the relative usefulness of the object chosen is a very different matter. Watching television, playing a game, listening to music, having a conversation, or many other activities may concentrate the mind enough to partially let go of the mental chatter from the activities of the day. While the principle of one-pointedness is in all of these, and may have some benefit, the meditator will learn to choose more refined objects to stabilize the mind for meditation. Remember, in this section and sutra we are talking about stabilizing and clearing the mind, not about deep meditation itself. This level of one-pointedness provides the stable foundation for the subtler meditation practices.

Mantra: One of the finest means of focusing, training and stabilizing the mind is through mantra. See the articles listed on the Index of Mantra Articles.

Online practices: There are several online practices that are beneficial for one-pointedness. Particularly useful from the standpoint of experimenting with online practices are the Soham Mantra and the Gazing practices. See the Index of Interactive/Online Practices.

Meditation Practice: There is a meditation practice described in the Bindu article, which draws upon the nine practices outlined in Yoga Sutras 1.33-1.39:
Meditation Practice from Bindu article 

 

The next sutra is 1.40 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Yoga Nidra Meditation CD by Swami Jnaneshvara
Yoga Nidra CD
Swami Jnaneshvara