Yoga Philosophy 101: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
The Eighth Limb of Yoga–Transcendence or Samadhi
Continuing our discussion of the eight limbs of Yoga set forth by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras, we finally turn to the eighth and last limb, Transcendence or Samadhi. To review discussions of the first seven limbs of yoga, please visit our website — www.yogalife.net/yogaphilosophy101.html
In our last issue, we discussed meditation, the seventh limb, as the act of entering the stillness of Being Awareness behind the mind. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras tell us that the purpose of Yoga is meditation. And the purpose of meditation is to access Divine inner splendor. When you are no longer aware of yourself meditating, you have merged with that Divine splendor in serene, sacred stillness.
You are no longer aware of yourself as a separate being who is doing the meditating. You have transcended your mind and merged with your Divine consciousness. Your awareness flows from deliberate mental focus of concentration to a consciousness in which you are no longer present but have merged with what you were meditating upon. This is called Transcendence or Samadhi.
Let’s look at the way three Yoga scholars and a Yoga poet describe Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra on Transcendence from Book III, Sutra #3.
TKV Desikachar writes about the shift from meditation to transcendence, noting: “Soon, the individual is so involved in the object, that nothing except its comprehension is evident. It is as if the individual has lost his own identity. This is complete integration wtih the object of understanding (samadhi)” (p. 79)
Nischala Joy Devi translates sutra III, 3, stating– “When individual consciousness unites with the Divine Consciousness, the illusion of separateness dissolves; this is Samadhi.” She acknowledges that words are inadequate to describe this state of merging with the Divine and notes that — “The world that we visit during Samadhi (Union with Divine Consciousness) has no tangible language. It is a state beyond description . It can only be experienced. (p. 261)
Translating this sutra, BKS Iyengar, writes — “When the object of meditation engulfs the meditator, appearing as the subject, self-awareness is lost. This is samadhi.” (p. 170) Mr. Iyengar continutes to note that: “When the object of contemplation shines forth without the intervention of one’s own consciousness, dhyana (meditation) flows into samadhi (transcendence).” (p. 170) He likens this kind of absorption to when musicians or artists get lost in their music or painting and are carried away, feeling one with their composition. Mr. Iyengar describes the process — “Uninterrupted flow of attention dissolves the split between the object seen and the seer who sees it. Consciousness appears to have ceased, and to have reached a state of silence. It is devoid of “I,” and merges into the core of the being in a profound state of serenity. In samadhi, awareness of place vanishes and one ceases to experience space and time.” (p. 170)
And, finally, I would like to share what Alberto Villoldo writes in his poetic rendering of the Yoga sutras that I very highly recommend, Yoga, Power and Spirit: Patanjali the Shaman. Dr. Villoldo captivates the spirit of the first three sutras in Book III, giving us the following poems on Concentration, Meditation, and Transcendence, the last three limbs and highest expression of Yoga– (From pp. 94-96)
Awareness rests on an object,
Awareness fixes gently on an object or a breath,
unmoved by thoughts that wander by.
Conscious only of this.
Immersed in concentration and meditation,
all thoughts and distractions far away.
Your focus steady,
you achieve samadhi.
All that exists is the heart of the experience.
There is no one meditating,
no one concentrating,
There is no yogi,
only the yoga.
TKV Desikachar: Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. India: Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, 1987, 2003.
Nischala Joy Devi: The Secret Power of Yoga. New York: Crown Publishing, Random House, 2007.
BKS Iyengar: Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. California: Harper Collins Thorsons, 1993.
Alberto Villoldo, PhD: Yoga, Power, and Spirit: Patanjali the Shaman. California: Hay House, Inc., 2007.