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The Value of Samyama

Book III Sutra 4 – When the three (last 3 limbs of yoga*) are performed together, it is called Samyama.
*Concentration, meditation, integration

When riding the skytrain in Bangkok, Thailand the loudspeaker announces at every stop to “mind the gap between train and platform”. One day, with a smile, my inner voice said, “mind the gap between brain and thoughtform”.

Dharana, Limb 6 of the 8 limbs of Patanjali’s yoga is concentration, binding or fixing the mind in one place. What is unique about the yoga reference to concentration is that relaxation is an implied prerequisite to concentration. One has learned to calm both body and breath in the previous limbs of asana and pranayama so that the mind is freed of the distractions that come from tension. In this way one begins to be mindful of the gaps and settle in to a restful inner state.

Patanjali then says that Dhyana, limb 7 or meditation is a continuous steady flow of attention on “Tatra” (“tat or that”). Paramahansa Yogananda makes the distinction that concentration can be on any object, but meditation is only on “Tat” or God, the divinity of our nature. It answers the question, “Who or What am I?”

Samadhi, limb 8, is, the integration of that which asks the question and becoming one with the answer. As Iyengar defines it, “when ‘that’ shines forth as the object alone and the mind is devoid of its own reflective nature”. In other words, there is no separation between who is asking and who we know we are. All doubts and fears are relinquished as we no longer are separate from the Divine source.

Samyama is a term that implies a level of mastery over what we choose to bring the focus of our minds upon and the effects of such a focus.  Although it seems that the choices we have are infinite, the primary choice is always between what is of value and what is not.  For a yogi, value is choosing that which brings about the transformation of mind from a divided, separate, chaotic state to a unified, peaceful and benevolent state.  Chitta prasadanam is one term for this benevolent state of mind.  It requires awareness but is not difficult.  In fact when done with ease, the whole process is relaxing and enjoyable, and with practice and committment leads to the profound state of adhyatma prasadanam, manifestation of the light of divinity.  Here fear and division melt away and we recognize our shared nature as indivisible mind and the ever extending spirit of love.

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