Becoming UnStuck

Becoming UnStuck

Ramaswami recently posted the following: 

“In the matter of meditation (dhyana/samyama) there are three aspects to be considered. 1. Proper preparation for meditation 2. The methodology of meditation and 3. what is to be meditated upon. All the three are succinctly and meticulously explained by sage Patanjali“


The preparation

The proper preparation for meditation has been covered somewhat extensively. Yama and Niyama help to temper the effects of Rajas and Tamas from the outside world, Asana reduces rajas in the musculoskeletal system, Pranayama (especially with bandha) reduces effects of internal tamas. All of this allows for the mind to become more illuminated by sattva guna so that the aspirant can actually sit.

So then what comes next?

The methodology/The “how”

The lower preparatory limbs (bahrianga) are preparation for the upper limbs (antaranga). The upper limbs of ashtanga yoga consist of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Let’s review…


Dharana is the last anga that can actually be “done” defined by Patanjali as 

  • desa- place, at a particular spot
  • bandhah- bind
  • cittasya- of the mind
  • dharana: (dhr- to support) (dre- to hold onto) to support or sustain an idea or thought 

Dharana is the binding of the mind to one point either within or outside of the body. 

In the practice of dharana we settle on one place inside the body (a thought, idea, mantra, or a place like the heart, nose, forehead center etc) or outside the body (sun, moon, candle flame, smoke etc) to bring our attention back to. This spot serves as a support (dhr) to hold (dre) our attention. In Dharana we are moving from the viksiptah (waivering mind) to ekagrah (single pointed focus) and this requires an active direction of the mind back again and again. This practice when established leads to the next limb. 


Dhyana is continued attention. Dhyana is the result of the cultivated practice of Dharana…

  • tatra: in that object (of dharana)
  • pratyaya: attention (citta vrtti)
  • eka: one 
  • tanata: to flow
  • dhyanam: meditation

When the citta has one continuous and undisturbed stream of attention it is called meditation.

Therefore meditation is not something we can just sit down and decide to “do.” Meditation is a result of well attended preperation – yama+niyama+asana+pranayama+pratyahara+dharana —> dhyana.  


Dhyana is not the end. Dhyana is the result of staying power…but really in Dhyana we again are beginners in uncharted territory. Once we have arrived here we must remain. In the remaining a new state arrives- Samadhi.

  • tadeva: in the same object (citta vrtti)
  • artha: object
  • matra: alone
  • nirbhasam: shines in your mind
  • svarupa: the observer (true form)
  • sunyam: zero, you are absent
  • eva: as if

Samadhi is when the object alone shines in the mind, even as the observer appears to be absent. 

This is absorption. In this state we are so absorbed in the object of our meditaiton that we forget our (lower) self (citta). This process alone is the only way to truly “see” something without the preconceived notions, layers of opinions, individual perspectives etc that the mind typically places between observer and the observed. In Dhyana and Samadhi we are moving from Ekagrah (one pointedness) towards Nirodhah (highest samadhi- mastery over the mind). In between these two stages of mind there is a vast universe from form to formless.

The combined antaranga of dharana+dhyana+samadhi is coined as Samyama. Sam “total” +yama “control”. Samyama is total control of the citta and it’s vrttis.

The Aim/ The “what”

Now let’s return to the beginning. 

“In the matter of meditation (dhyana/samyama) there are three aspects to be considered. 1. Proper preparation for meditation 2. The methodology of meditation and 3. what is to be meditated upon. All the three are succinctly and meticulously explained by sage Patanjali“


We’ve defined the preparation (#1), and we’ve defined the methodology (#2) now let’s talk about the “what” (#3)

The entire third chapter of Patanjali’s yoga sutras discussings potential objects of meditation and the boons that come as a result. For example…

  • maitri: friendliness
  • adisu: and so on
  • balani: exceptional strenght (of mind)

by samyama on the positive qualities of friendliness and the other attitudes (maitri, karuna, mudita, upeksa described in 1.33) a yogi attains exceptional strength of mind.

Here the practice of pratipaksa bhavanam is done in samadhi. This highest contemplation of the opposite gives us exceptional strength of mind so that we are not reactive and therefore drawn outside of ourselves and away from the aim. Still strength of mind is not enough. A strong mind must still navigate the sea of suffering….don’t get stuck.

  • Pravrtti: source
  • aloka: inner light
  • nyasat: by directing
  • suksma: subtle
  • vyavahita: hidden
  • viprakrsta: remote
  • jnanam: knowledge

by samyama on the inner light within (visoka va jyotismati 1.36) the yogi is able to gain knowledge of subtle or concealed objects.

This sutra expounds the result of meditation on the inner light. The result being that we are able to (through the sattva guna) make the buddhi clear and more aware of not only the gross objects and sensory experience therein, but also the subtle elements and their hidden impact on our antakarana (intellect, ego and organizational mind). A helpful practice to establish insight. Still insight into the world is not enough. An insightful mind anchored in prakriti must swim through the sea of suffering…don’t get stuck.

  • hrdaye: heart
  • citta: mind
  • samvit:total

by samyama on one’s own heart (anahata) the yogi becomes the knower of his own mind.

This sutra points to that which can only be known by the heart. This means we come to know the inner nature of the mind. This is extremely valuable and yet is only the start. Knowing the inner working of the mind we should use that to know the self otherwise there is still samsara. The heart is the place we begin not end…don’t get stuck.

Reading this and the dozens more (some a bit more esoteric pointing to gaining powers of levitation and mind reading through meditation) we can see that samyama on so many things has reward. However, these boons exist in relation to prakriti and the gunas… therefore if we stop there we will keep on swimming with Samsara…staying stuck. The point Patanjali really makes is at the end of this chapter.

The “Why”

  • ksana: moment
  • tat: it
  • kramayoh: sequence
  • samyamat: staying in samyama
  • vivekajam: arising from discrimination
  • jnanam: knowledge

the yogi should continually keep their samyama capability on the discrimination between the Self (purusha/atman) and the Buddhi (lower self/intellect). From that arises knowledge of the Self.

The boons are nice but the aim is liberation even from the rewards. This is only possible in nirodhah. Through samyama on the ephemeral in relation to the eternal we slowly shed the bondage of the citta vrtti. If the object of meditation for example is the mantra OM we must not just carelessly chant the mantra but also contemplate its meaning. If the object of meditation is the heart contemplate the abode of the atman/purusha within. Eventually that contemplation will lead to direct observation and experience. Once absolute peace is attained stay there. In the staying kaivalya (liberation becomes engrained as the new and only pattern (samskara). Sutra 54 offers a beautiful methaphor …

  • tarakam: boat
  • sarvavisayam: all objects
  • akramam: beyond time
  • ca: and
  • iti: thus
  • vivekajam: arising from viveka
  • jnanam: knowledge

The knowledge arising from this distinction between prakriti and purusha is like a boat that navigates (through samsara)  providing safe passage towards the true self. 

WIth this knowledge you are carried through life but no longer affected by it’s sorrows. Absolute peace; the ultimate boon.

When the eternal reveals to us stay there. Be always with the Self. Otherwise Samayama too can become an obstacle. The mind that previously (in the lower states of ksipta/mudha and viksipta) gravitated towards the bright and shiny objects of desire can also turn that desire towards subtle aims. Be mindful of where you apply your mind even as it becomes more refined…don’t get stuck, even in sattva.

See you Monday,



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