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Background To The Yoga Sutras Philosophy Essay

The Sutras are built on a foundation of Samkhya philosophy. The division into the Eight Limbs (Sanskrit Ashtanga) of Yoga is reminiscent of Buddhas Noble Eightfold Path; inclusion of Brahmaviharas (Yoga Sutra 1:33) also shows Buddhisms influence on parts of the Sutras.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali prescribes adherence to eight "limbs" or steps (the sum of which constitute "Ashtanga Yoga", the title of the second chapter) to quiet ones mind and achieve kaivalya. The Yoga Sutras form the theoretical and philosophical basis of Raja Yoga, and are considered to be the most organized and complete definition of that discipline.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a book of 195/6 separate phrases that are designed to be easy to memorize. Because it is a work that is every bit as much a part of modern yoga as it was a part of the birth of yoga, this particular book is held in very high esteem in the yoga world.

Philosophical Background

There are several philosophical concepts, which were pondered over by various schools of thought around 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. in eastern region of the world. The school of Samkhya is one of those philosophical systems.

Samkhya, marks the shifting of idea from Vedic 'monism' to the concept of dualism as the primary cause of the universe.

In Samkhya philosophy it distinguishing between Self (Spirit/Consciousness Purusha) and Matter/Nature (Prakrti) is of central importance to Samkhya Philosophy. Samkhya Philosophy elaborates a fundamental dualism between such aware Selves and all the phenomena that is presented to such Selves by Matter/Nature. Such phenomena of Matter/Nature includes reflections of the intellect, the faculty that makes things personal (the I-Maker/Ahamkara), the instinctual mind (manas), the capacities to perceive sense data, the capacities to act, the principles of the elements of sense perception, and the gross elements. These arise when Prakriti is in the presence of a Purusha, and they become enmeshed and entangled when there is mis-identification between Prakriti and Purusha. False confusion between the Self and what is not the Self is considered the fundamental ignorance that perpetuates bondage in this world. Liberation is sought by becoming aware of such distinctions on a very deep level of personal knowledge, so that one may eventually use the great faculty of the mind -- intellectual reflection (Buddhi/Mahat) -- without mistakenly identifying it with the Purusha, and then the effects of such entanglement will unravel and one will no longer be bound by incarnations or confused by Prakriti

In Samkhya philosophy a guna is one of Prakriti’s three "tendencies": tamas, sattva, and rajas. Guna is the tendency of the mind and not the state. For instance, sattva guna is that force which tends to bring the mind to purity but is not purity itself. Similarly rajas guna is that force which tends to bring the mind to perform some action but is not action itself.

Sattva (originally "being, existence, entity") has been translated to mean balance, order, or purity. This typically implies that a person with more of Sattva has a positive or even orderly state of mind. Such a person is psychologically kind, calm, alert and thoughtful.

Rajas leads one to activity. This type of activity is explained by the term Yogakshem. Yogakshem is composed of two words: Yoga and Kshem. Yoga in the present context is acquiring something that one does not have. Kshem means losing something that one already has. Rajas is the force that creates desires for acquiring new things and fears for losing something that one has. These desires and fears lead one to activity.

Tamas has been translated to mean "too inactive", negative, lethargic, dull, or slow. It is the quality of inertia which provides coherence for all things. Mentally, it is associated with darkness, delusion, or ignorance. A tamas quality also can imply that a person has a self-destructive or entropic state of mind. That person is constantly pursuing destructive activities.

Vedanta maintains that Brahman is the only Immaterial Sentient Existence; and being non-material and simple, It has to be all pervading and the only One Reality.

Before everything there exists Reality as Absolute Consciousness. The 'Will' to become many is the beginning of manifest universe. The Will evolves as Illusion: the Maya. 'Absolute Consciousness, Brahman, willed to become many', this is Maya. Maya is the cosmic illusion that creates ignorance and veils the vision of the Only Reality. Due to the power of Maya, the Same Oneness is perceived as manifold universe. Absolute Consciousness was never modified, is not modified, and will not be modified. This is the basis of Advaita Vedanta. Based on their experiences the 'seers' or 'rishis' of ancient ages came to the conclusion that the entire manifest universe is the illusory expression of One Substance -the Absolute Universal Consciousness. Samkhya with it’s dual philosophy is said to be the foundation of The Yogasutras and Purusa and Prakriti are a fundamental part of the text.

The origin of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is the topic of some debate among both historians and practitioners. For instance, there are some people who credit the writing of this set of sutras to a grammarian named Patanjali. Later, though, a timeline was constructed that showed that to be unlikely. Within the yoga community, though, many say that Patanjali was actually just a compiler and that before the work was written, the Sutras were simply memorized and passed down between teacher and student. Timelines do, though, suggest this text was constructed in about the second century B.C.

An objective study might well suggest that Patanjali lived within even a more tight range of 200 BC to 200 AD (or around the time of Jesus), than some common suppositions (as if he were the 2nd century BCE grammarian by the same name) or even the second or third centuries CE based on the dates of the first extant commentary (by Vyasa).

ATHA YOGANUSASANAM

Atha = now, Yoga = Of Yoga, Anusasanam = exposition or instruction.

Now the exposition of Yoga is being made.

(Patanjali Ch-1, Vs-1)

“The name of this text is named using Sanskrit words: yoga, is a mindset wherein you are able to gain mastery of feelings and thoughts alike. Sutra literally means "thread." This thread is basically the connection between the sutras in the work. These Sutras are just combinations of words threaded together – sometimes not even well formed sentences with subjects, predicates and so on. Within the space of these 196 short Sutras, the entire science of Yoga is clearly delineated: its aim, the necessary practices, the obstacles one may meet along the path, their removal, and precise descriptions of the results that will be obtained from such practices.” (Sri Swami Satchidananda – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Ch-1, Pg-1).

(b) Give a brief summary of the four chapters

The sutras in the text are divided into four books (chapters). Fifty one of the sutras are contained in the book called Samadhi Pada, fifty five of them are in Sadhana Pada, fifty six are also in Vibhuti Pada, and thirty four of the sutras can be found in Kaivalya Pada.

Yoga Sutras Chapter 1 – Concentration Samadhi Pada

The book Samadhi Pada contains sutras that are most considered fundamental to yoga. It emphasizes that yoga is about discipline and that it is the ability to master your feelings and thoughts. Many of the most famous yoga sutras come from this particular book

Concentration: Chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutras is entitled Samadhi Pada, which means the chapter on concentration. Chapter 1 describes yoga, witnessing five kinds of thoughts, uncoloring thoughts, the twin principles of practice and non-attachment, the stages of concentration, efforts and commitments, obstacles and solutions, and means and results of stabilizing the mind.

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Yoga Sutras Chapter 2 – Practice Sadhana Pada

In the Sadhana Pada, there is much about practice since the Sanskrit word "sadhana" actually does mean practice. This chapter is where Kriya Yoga and the eight limbs of yoga first appear. These aspects reflect the idea that yoga is both selfless and spiritual.

Practices: Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras is entitled Sadhana Pada, which means the chapter on practices. Chapter 2 outlines specific tools of attention that are used to systematically carve out, or cut away the obstacles of the inner mental shield that is blocking the light of the Self within. This includes the first 5 of the 8 rungs of yoga, known as ashtanga yoga.

Yoga in the form of action (kriya yoga) has three parts:

1) Training and purifying the senses (tapas),

2) Self-study in the context of teachings (svadhyaya),

3) Devotion and letting go into the creative source from which we emerged (iswara pranidhana).

(tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana kriya-yogah)

Tapah = literally ‘heat’ accepting the purifying aspects of painful experience, purifying action, training the senses

Svadhyaya = lit ‘one’s own’ or self-study in the context of teachings, remembrance of sacred word or mantra

Iswara = creative source, causal field, supreme Guru or teacher. Omniscient

But not Omnipotent

pranidhana = practicing the presence, dedication, devotion, surrender of fruits of practice, or contemplation.

Kriya-yogah = yoga of practice, action, mental purification

Kriya Yoga: When thinking about life and spiritual practices, it is easy then to remind yourself of this foundation by internally saying such words as, "I need to train my senses, explore within, and let go of these attachments and aversions." Contained in a simple sentence like this is the outline of Kriya Yoga (that simple sentence contains tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvara pranidhana).

Iswara pranidhana: The emphasis of iswara pranidhana practice is the release or surrender that is done in a sincere, dedicated, or devotional attitude. It is easy to get caught up in debates over the nature of God, Guru, creative source, and teacher. Yoga is very broad and non-sectarian, leaving it open to each individual how to perceive these realities. The more important part is that of letting go rather than holding on to the images and desires of the senses (tapas) and the personal characteristics and makeup uncovered through introspection (svadhyaya).

Iswara: In the Upanishads, the word Īśwara is used to denote a state of collective consciousness. Thus, The Lord is not a being that sits on a high pedestal beyond the sun, moon, and stars; Iswara is actually the state of Ultimate Reality. But due to the lack of direct experience, The God has been personified and given various names and forms by religions throughout the ages. When one expands one's individual consciousness to the Universal Consciousness, it is called Self-realization, for the individual self has realized the unity of diversity, the very underlying principle, or Universal Self, beneath all forms and names. This is the fundamental difference between monism and dualism, one is essentially theistic and the other is not.

Yoga Sutras Chapter 3 – Progressing Vibhuti Pada

The Vibhuti Pada can be translated "power." The roles of the sutras in this particular book are to describe and help the yogi to achieve full awareness through yoga. It is essentially about attaining higher levels of awareness of one's self.

Progressing: Chapter 3 of the Yoga Sutras is entitled Vibhuti Pada, which means the chapter on progressing. Chapter 3 starts by presenting the last 3 of the 8 rungs of yoga, which are concentration, meditation, and samadhi, collectively known as samyama. The rest of the chapter explains how samyama is used as the finer tool to remove the subtler veils of ignorance.

The last three rungs of Yoga: Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi are the final three rungs of Yoga.

Dharana: Concentration is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place.

Dhyana: Meditation is sustained concentration, whereby the attention continues to hold or repeat the same object or place.

Samadhi: Samadhi is the deep absorption, wherein only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if the mind were devoid even of its own form.

Stages of attention: It is attention itself, which is progressively moving inward through these few stages: 

Attention leads to concentration (dharana).

Concentration leads to meditation (dhyana).

Meditation leads to absorption (samadhi).

Yoga Sutras Chapter 4 – Liberation Kaivalya Pada

Meaning of Kaivalya: The fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras is entitled "Kaivalya Pada." The word "Kaivalya" literally translates as "isolation." It is usually taken to mean liberation or enlightenment. However, the way in which "isolation" is a quite effective term is that pure consciousness or purusha is now standing alone, separate from all of the manifestations of prakriti, including literally all of the manifestations or swirlings of all levels of the mind field. In Sutra 1.16 supreme non-attachment is mentioned as a stage beyond the many other levels of attachment. Sutra 4.32 explains how the primary elements called gunas have finished their purpose and recede in perfect equilibrium into that from which they arose. These are aspects or byproducts of the process of the isolation (kaivalya) of pure consciousness (purusha). Purusa is literally liberated from its attachment to Prakriti.

The purpose of the whole of creation is to give us a context for understanding what we are and what we are not. When we understand that, then there is kaivalya, and prakrti has fulfilled its purpose. A person who experiences kaivalya sees prakrti, the material world, simply as it is, with no meaning beyond that.

Kaivalya describes the effect on the personality of being in a continuous state of samadhi. This is the state of inner freedom that yoga strives for. A person in the state of kaivalya understands the world so well that he stands apart from it in the sense that he is not influenced by it, although he may well be in a position to influence the world. People in kaivalya behave like normal people, but they do not carry the burden of the world on their shoulders. They live in the world, but they are not subject to it. They are not free from sensual perception or free of the body, they have a “foot” in both “worlds”. Wherever they happen to be, they are sure of themselves. That is kaivalya. External forces have no power over a person like this, though he knows the external world very well.

(c) Choose two of the following topics:

Yogic concept of the mind

The Kleshas

Kriya Yoga

Significance of Iswara

The Siddhis

The Yogic concept of the mind

YOGAS CITTA VRTTI NIRODHAH

Yogas = Yoga, Chitta = of the mind stuff, Vritti = modifications, Nirodhah = restraint.

The restraint of the modifications of the mind stuff is Yoga

(Patanjali Ch-1, Vs-2)

In this Sutra Patanjali gives the goal of Yoga. For a keen student this one Sutra would be enough because the rest of them only explain this one. If the restraint of the mental modifications is achieved one has reached the goal of Yoga. The entire science of Yoga is based on this. Patanjali has given the definition of Yoga and at the same time the practice. “If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga” (Sri Swami Satchidananda – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Ch-1, Pg-3,4).

“Normally, the word Yoga is translated as “union”, but for a union there should be two things to unite. In this case, what is to unite with what? So here we take Yoga to mean the Yogic experience. The extraordinary experience gained by controlling the modifications of the mind itself is called Yoga” (Sri Swami Satchidananda – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Ch-1, Pg-4).

There is a Sanskrit saying; “Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho.” “As the mind, so the man; bondage; or liberation are in your mind.” If you feel bound, you are bound. If you feel liberated you are liberated. Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude toward them does that.

These vrittis, or mental activities/modifications, are said to be either painful, or not painful. They are five-fold :-

PRAMANA VIPARYAYA VIKALPA NIDRA SMRTAYAH

Pramana = right knowledge; Viparyaya = misconception, Vikalpa = verbal delusions, Nidra = sleep, Smritayah = memory

The are right knowledge, misconception, verbal delusion, sleep and memory

(Patanjali Ch-I, Vs-6 )

Patanjali explains that right-knowledge can be acquired by direct perception, inference, or testimony. In other words, one can sail the ocean personally and bring back direct knowledge, or one can hear of the travels undertaken by another sailor explorer, or one can read the book written by the sailor on his return. Even right-knowledge is however limited as the original sailor still cannot know everything there is to know about the ocean he is exploring.

Wrong-knowledge is likened to the delusion we experience when we see something and believe it to be something else, such as a snake in the dark which proves to be nothing but a rope when seen in daylight.

Imagination is perception which is coloured by fanciful thoughts or dreams. The dreaming phase of sleep known as the REM phase is littered with random thought patterns, but even the deep-sleep stage, which leaves no conscious trace in the mind, is actually a stage of thought. The sleeper knows nothing, but knows that he knew nothing on waking. All extraneous thought is temporarily suspended and only the thought of emptiness remains to leave an impression on waking.

Memory is the process of remembering past experience. Each memory is first processed to make it palatable, and then filed for future reference, leaving an impression in the mind. These impressions can either remain on the surface of the mind and be recalled at will, or sink to the bottom where they take root.

Patanjali describes the restless mind as outgoing (paranga cetana) and the quiet inward-turned mind as (pratyak cetana) I.29. When the mind focuses on external influences the Self appears to assume the forms and images projected by the mind. When the vritti activities are quietened through sensory withdrawal, concentration, and meditation, man is said to rest in his true nature.

Patanjali gives us two tools which will help us control the mind - abhyasa or regular, sustained practice, and vairagya, a process of detachment from objects of desire, which is attained as a direct result of abhyasa. Patanjali likens both states of mind to a mirror. When the mirror is dusty or smeared, it reflects a distorted image of whatever it reflects. When the mirror is cleaned the image is reflected without distortion, shining in its own essence - samadhi. Patanjali concludes by saying that success in Yoga depends on the strength of our desire for enlightenment, and the amount of effort we are prepared to put into our practice.

The Siddhis

KAYEDRIYA SIDDHIR ASUDDHI KSAYAT TAPASAH

Kaya = body, Indriya = senses, Siddhi = occult powers, Asuddhi = impurities, kshayat = due to destruction, Tapasah = austerities.

By austerity, impurities of the body and senses are destroyed and occult powers gained.

(Patanjali Ch-2, Vs-43)

Siddhi is a Sanskrit word that literally means "accomplishment", "attainment", or "success". It is also used as a term for spiritual power (or psychic ability). The term is used in that sense in Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism. These spiritual powers supposedly vary from relatively simple forms of clairvoyance to being able to levitate, to be present at various places at once, to become as small as an atom, to materialize objects, to have access to memories from past lives, and more.

There are many perspectives of attaining Siddhis. One school of thought states that they are a normal set of occurrences that should not be focused upon because they will pull one from the path. Other perspectives hold that each siddhi should be pursued because it will allow one to understand the power of the Godhead. Siddhis may occur in many ways: naturally though the agency of karma, as a result of extended practice (sadhana), through rigorous austerities (tapasya) or by grace. They are often mentioned in conjunction with Riddhi (pl Riddhis), which means material or worldly wealth, power, luxurious lifestyles, etc.

TRAYAM EKATRA SAMYAMAH

Trayam = the three; Ekatra = upon one object; samyama = the practice of dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

The practice of these three (dharana, dhyana and samadhi)upon one object is called samyama.

(Patanjali Ch-3, Vs-4)

From the practice of samyama, come the siddhis. You dive deeply into an object or idea, and it releases its secrets. In a way, scientists have done samyama on the atomic particles. The particles released their energy, and the scientists got the knowledge of them. They accomplished the truth behind the particles. Samyama is usually done on objects or ideas connected with results. When the results come, you call them siddhis or vibhuti. (Patanjali Ch-3, Pg-177).

TAD VAIRAGYAD API DOSA BIJA KSAYE KAIVALYAM

Tad = that; Vairagyat = by non attachment; Api = even; Dosha bija = seed of bondage; Kshaye = destroyed; Kaivalyam = independence.

By non attachment even to that (all these siddhis), the seed of bondage is destroyed and thus follows Kaivalya (Independence)

(Patanjali Ch-3, Vs-51)

“This means that all those siddhis are beautiful, but they will bind us, because siddhis are the outcome of the mind. The mind wants something. It wants to achieve this or that. What for? To be proud of itself, It develops ego, It makes your “I” and “mine” bigger, Selfish desires are still there.“

“So are the siddhis bad? If so why are they there? I say they are not bad. They are beautiful; they are good. When? They come to you. When you run after them they are bad. That’s all the difference. Let the siddhis come and beg.” Don’t become a slave or attached to siddhis let them come to you and be used as tools (Sri Swami Satchidananda – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Ch-3, Pg-199,200).

Nine main Siddhis

Parkaya Pravesha: Parkaya Pravesh means one’s soul entering into the body of some other person. Through this knowledge even a dead body can be brought to life.

Haadi Vidya: This Vidya or knowledge has been mentioned in several ancient texts. On acquiring this Vidya, a person feels neither hunger nor thirst, and can remain without eating food or drinking water for several days at a stretch.

Kaadi Vidya: Just as one does not feel hungry or thirsty in Haadi Vidya, similarly in Kaadi Vidya a person is not affected by change of seasons, i.e. by summer, winter, rain, etc. After accomplishing this Vidya, a person shall not feel cold even if he sits in the snow-laden mountains, and shall not feel hot even if he sits in the fire.

Vayu Gaman Siddhi: Through this Siddhi a person can become capable of flying in the skies and traveling from one place to another in just a few seconds.

Madalasa Vidya: On accomplishing this Vidya, a person becomes capable of increasing or decreasing the size of his body according to his wish. Lord Hanuman had miniaturized his body through this Vidya while entering the city of Lanka.

Kanakdhara Siddhi: One can acquire immense and unlimited wealth through this Siddhi.

Prakya Sadhana: Through this Sadhana a Yogi can direct his disciple to take birth from the womb of a woman who is childless or cannot bear children.

Surya Vigyan: This solar science is one of the most significant sciences of ancient India. This science has been known only to the Indian Yogis; using it, one substance can be transformed into another through the medium of sun rays.

Mrit Sanjeevani Vidya: This Vidya was created by Guru Shukracharya. Through it, even a dead person can be brought back to life.

I recognise some of these Siddhis from the Shaman rituals that are carried out, for example the native americans used rituals/dances and trances to empthise and take on the characteristics and power of wolves and eagles, wearing feathers and or wolf hide etc. to help invoke the powers.

(d) List the yamas and niyamas and give a brief translation of their names. Do you feel they are rules to be observed? Or are they the result of sustained practice of yoga?

Yamas:

There are many interpretations of and opinions about the yamas and niyamas. While the ancient Indian text, the Bhagavata Purana assigns 12 yogic restraints the Parashar Smriti, another text, puts forward ten. But the yamas as described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras there are only five, which are also known as the great universal vows or the sarvabhauma maha vratas, because they are not limited by either class, creed, time or circumstances. They are the guidelines for how we interact with the outer world, the social disciplines to guide us in our relationships with others. These five are:

• Ahimsa (non-violence),

• Satya (truthfulness),

• Asteya (non-stealing),

• Brahmacharya (celibacy) and

• Aparigraha (non-covetousness)

Niyamas:

The niyamas are the second constituents of Ashtanga Yoga. How we interact with ourselves, our internal world. The niyamas are about self-regulation—helping us maintain a positive environment in which to grow. Their practice harnesses the energy generated from the cultivation of the earlier yamas. According to sage Yajnavalkya, there are ten niyamas and the Bhagavad Gita lists 11 constituents. But Patanjali names only five:

• Shaucha or purity,

• Santosha or contentment,

• Tapa or austerity,

• Swadhyaya or self-education and

• Ishwar-Pranidhan or meditation on the Divine

The Benefits of Practicing Yamas and Niyamas:

The yamas and niyamas help in managing our energy in an integrative manner, complementing our outer life to our inner development. They help us view ourselves with compassion and awareness. They help in respecting the values of this life, in balancing our inner growth with outer restraint. In short they help us to lead a conscious-life.

Yamas and niyamas are not about right and wrong. They are about being honest with the true Self. Living according to these principles are about living our lives in a better way, about moving towards an understanding, about making it possible to 'connect' with the Divine.

(e) Define the terms dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Briefly summarise the differences between them.

The last three rungs of Yoga: Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi are the final three rungs of Yoga.

Dharana: Concentration is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place.

DESABANDHAS CITTASYA DHARANA

Desabandhah = binding to one place; chittasya = of the mind ; dharana = concentration.

Dharana is the binding of the mind to one place, object or idea.

(Patanjali Ch-3, Vs-1).

Dhyana: Meditation is sustained concentration, whereby the attention continues to hold or repeat the same object or place.

TATRA PRATYAYAIKATANATA DHYANAM

Tatra = therein; Pratyaya = flow of cognition; Ekatanata = continued; Dhyanam = meditation.

Dhyana is the continuous flow of cognition toward that object.

(Patanjali Ch-3, Vs-2).

Samadhi: Samadhi is the deep absorption, wherein only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if the mind were devoid even of its own form.

TAD EVARTHMATRA NIRBHASAM SVARUPA SUNYAM IVA SAMADHIH

Tad eva = that (meditation) itself; Arthamatra = the object alone; Nirbhasam = shining; Svarupa = of its own form; Sunyam = devoid of; Iva = as if samadhih = contemplation.

Samadhih is the same meditation when there is the shinig of the object alone, as if devoid of form.

(Patanjali Ch-3, Vs-3).

The differences between Dharana, Meditation and Samadhi are subtle but profound, in my view they are more complimentary than different, they are like a two dimensional jigsaw, when joined up becomes three-dimensional.

In Dharana you are training the mind. It is the beginning of meditation. Concentration is the beginning of meditation. Normally, we see our mind running here and there. When we try to fix it on one thing, within a fraction of a second we see it somewhere else, keeping it fixed on one thing is concentration.

Meditation is the culmination of concentration, continuous flow; it is like pouring oil from one pot into another. The mind is fixed; communication between meditator and object is steady.

Time and space has no meaning in meditation; when you feel five minutes as an hour, you are not meditating; you are still concentrating, whereas when an hour feels like five minutes that is meditation.

Meditation culminates in the state of Samadhih. One can’t consciously practice Samadhih. In Samadhih there is neither the object nor the meditator. There is no feeling of “I am meditating on that”.


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