vitarka vicaranandasmita rupa nugamat samprajnatah
The object is gradually understood fully. At first it at a more superficial level. In time, comprehension becomes deeper. And finally it is total. There is pure joy in reaching such a depth of understanding. For then the individual is so much at one with the object that he his totally oblivious to his surroundings.
This next commentary is a love story. You may recognize the symptoms. If it is not familiar I hope someday it is.
Have you ever been on a blind date? I've been on ONE and it was against my will. Two very sweet yoga students insisted that I meet their friend David. They showed me a picture of him. He was wearing teeny tiny Daisy Duke style cut-offs, no shirt and had what appeared to be a beard growing on his back.
"Uh...he's not my type," I said.
"You said you didn't have a type," Kelli retorted.
"He's perfect for you," Jason insisted.
"I'm not looking for a friend," I politely declined. They both looked at the picture.
"You know he's wearing a costume, don't you?"
They did not relent and after being thrown together in a few very awkward social situations, David and I finally went out on a date.
"How'd it go?" my Mom called me the next morning.
"He's the guy I'm going to marry and have children with," I replied calmly.
"Oh!" My Mom is not a doubter. She had the same feelings about my Dad and they've been married over 50 years.
Two weeks later David and I were engaged. That was ten years ago.
How does this relate to the subject of contemplation that Patanjali is now introducing? The story sounds as though there was an instant realization about David, but in fact it had taken 33 years to arrive at that moment. My first understanding of love was through the complexities of family life. Then I discovered romantic love and lived with different people and tried out different arrangements. Gradually I began to understand the deeper nature of relationship. My understanding grew deeper and more subtle and therefore the relationships matured. Slowly.
There was a period of time where I was alone before I married David and that served as a valuable period to reflect on what I'd learned about love. And then along came irresistible Mr. Clifford in his Daisy Dukes. Because of my previous experiences and contemplation on love and partnership, I was able to recognize him as my soul mate and this recognition was fearless and limitless. It was so complete and instantaneous that there was boundless joy at finding him. It is an enduring feature of our relationship because he too experienced it. It's the bedrock of our family life. Plus when he said "Say it, don't spray it," at dinner on our first date, our fate was sealed.
Patanjali is not really referencing love as we typically experience it, but I am referencing it because it is the closest I've come to what he's talking about. In the state of contemplation as taught in yoga, one object, (eka graha-single pointed) is selected and concentrated upon until the understanding of that object exceeds it's form. It's like when you're a kid and you realize that if you repeat a word long enough it no longer sounds like the word and somehow this is fascinating. I think that's because we're resonating with a greater truth in that moment. When we cultivate contemplation, the object or word is no longer a statue or an idea or a candle flame—it is the very essence of the object. Our understanding goes beyond what is called the tanmatras-or five elements that are often related to the senses. This hyper-awareness leads us to ananda which is bliss and then even beyond bliss to a state of pure asmita- or I-amness. Just pure being unqualified by personality, senses or form.
At the moment when I realized that David and I were just one person, that he was me, and I he, we were in pure I-amness. No planning was required, no clock or rule or sense of propriety was necessary. We entered a unified state and agreed to honor it.
One of the amazing and endlessly fascinating features of the lessons in the Yoga Sutras is that "the object" is never really qualified or quantified. It is left open for the practitioner. How would one select such "an object?" Some traditions select that deity, image, or idea for you. Some people inherit the object of their meditation from their family. Some teachers assign the deity or mantra according to the student's temperament. But mostly, I feel that the authentic object of your contemplation is something you already know about and resonate with. I believe that it comes to you naturally. As stated in Sutra 1.16 that object is unfolding toward you as you move toward it. So if it hasn't fully revealed itself to you, don't fear. Keep walking. It will make itself known if you continue to practice without attachment to the result. (abhyasa and vairagya)
The amazing and unexpected miracle was that David and I got to re-experience this soul-mated joy when we met our daughters upon their birth—the human result of this intangible but very authentic love. And when Lucy or Misha occasionally wipe their faces and say to me: "Say it don't spray it, Mama!" I know we're walking the righteous path.
Do you have a singular object of focus and concentration, and perhaps even devotion? What is it and why?
If not, how does the idea of selecting one object of contemplation feel to you?
Do you reject or accept the inherited traditions of your upbringing? Why? Why not?
What are the steps you can take to cultivating more clarity about the object of your contemplation?