by Jeff Carreira
Join us for BPY’s First in-studio Retreat, December 16th + December 17th
Somewhere between 2000 and 2500 years ago, 195 [or 196, depending on the version you are reading] short phrases (sutras) were gathered together into a book by the great Indian sage known as Patanjali. The book is called The Yoga Sutras and describes the philosophy and practices of what is commonly known as yoga today.
As I said, the yoga sutras are short phrases, not even complete sentences. They were written in this form to contain as much wisdom as possible in the smallest number of words. This was typical in oral traditions, where information needed to be heard and remembered. It also makes the phrases hard to translate and decode, and so over the centuries, a series of great realizers have written commentaries explaining them. These commentaries allow us to understand Patanjali’s original meaning.
One of the things described in the Yoga Sutras are the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which explain how yoga is practiced. The first four of these limbs involve practices of: right action, right attitude, physical posture, and breath work.
With the fifth limb yoga turns inward, and it is important to understand that inward does not mean in towards the mind and psyche; it means in towards the source of awareness. The fifth limb explains that we must withdraw our attention from both the physical and mental worlds that we are familiar with in order to start the true inner journey of yoga.
The final three limbs – dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption), will be the focus of my upcoming retreat at Balanced Planet Yoga.
The final limb, samadhi, is considered to be the purpose and goal of yoga because it results in union with the higher self. Samadhi is explained as occurring through a series of four distinct levels of stages. During the upcoming retreat we will work with each of the four levels of samadhi described by Patanjali.
The first level of samadhi is vitarka-samadhi, which occurs when we become completely absorbed in the contemplation of an object of meditation. As vitarka-samadhi deepens, we lose touch with all conceptual understanding of the object and merge directly with the experience of it. This is the first level of meditative absorption.
The second level of samadhi is vicara-samadhi, which occurs when we experience an object beyond its superficial physical appearance and see into the subtle essences that create it. At the deepest levels of vicara-samadhi we discover that the essence of everything exists throughout all of time and space. We might see an object at one time and in a single location, but if we look deeply enough we find that the essence of it spreads always and everywhere as part of the fabric of reality.
Ananda-samadhi, is the next level of samadhi and it occurs when awareness is completely overtaken and immersed in the inherent sense of bliss at the core of being.
The first three levels of meditative absorption are levels of sabija (with seed) because they involve some object of contemplation. The next level of samadhi is s level of nirbijah (without seed) because it does not involve concentration on any object.
The final level of samadhi is asmita-samadhi, and it occurs when all that remains is the sense of being, the I-ness, and there is not even anyone present to have that experience. At this level all separation vanishes and there is only the consciousness of being. This is considered to be the final goal of yoga.
On retreat, December 16th and 17th [10A to 5P each day], we will explore ways of practicing meditation that can lead us through these miraculous states of higher awareness. But we will not stop there. We will also explore how it is possible to return from the emptiness of asmita-samadhi in order to share the fruits of wisdom with the world. More information to register for the retreat can be found by clicking here.
One of the classical commentators, Hariharananda Aranya, explains that it is possible to plant seeds of return that trigger us back from the depths of samadhi for the benefit of the world. My teaching work has always emphasized the importance of returning to the world in order to transform it and during the retreat we will explore how this can be accomplished.
Jeff Carreira is an author, mystical philosopher, artist, and meditation teacher. Thirty years ago he dedicated himself entirely to the focused pursuit of spiritual awakening. He began teaching meditation and awakening fifteen years ago, and today, he supports people from around the world to share the fruits and blessings of their own spiritual path. He is aware that many people today have established their own deep connection to the spiritual source of life and the unlimited creative potential it holds. He calls these people Artists of Possibility because they have so much to share with the world. He remains completely committed to teaching meditation and awakening, and in addition, has dedicated himself to helping others gather their own tribe and share their own deepest realization. He wants to support you in creating a platform to share from. That means deepening your awakening, learning to articulate it effectively, and setting up the means to reach people all over the world.