What is Meditation According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?

Patanjali's Ashtanga yoga path integrates meditation into its transformative journey. In the final stages – Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (enlightenment) – we explore meditation's essence.

Dharana is unwavering concentration on a chosen focal point, like a steady drop of water. Interruptions may occur.

Transitioning to Dhyana, we achieve ceaseless focus on the chosen object. Interruptions dissolve, resembling a continuous stream of honey – profound concentration.

At the summit, Samadhi or enlightenment transcends self-awareness. Meditating on the divine, we become one with it. Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi make 'samyama,' the core of meditation. Patanjali explores objects of meditation and supernatural abilities, cautioning against their allure on the path to Samadhi.

In essence, samyama guides us through the sutras, forming the practice of 'meditation' as we journey toward Samadhi.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a foundational text in classical yoga philosophy, provide insights into the practice of meditation. Patanjali's approach to meditation is outlined in the second book of the sutras, known as the "Sadhanapada" or the Book of Practice. Here are key concepts related to meditation according to the Yoga Sutras:

  1. Definition of Yoga:

    • Patanjali defines yoga as "Yogas citta vritti nirodha," which can be translated as "Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind." This succinctly captures the essence of meditation in the context of Patanjali's teachings.
  2. Purpose of Meditation:

    • The primary goal of meditation, according to the Yoga Sutras, is to quiet the mind and achieve a state of inner stillness. By doing so, one can transcend the distractions and fluctuations of the mind and experience a deeper sense of self-awareness and connection.
  3. Types of Yoga and Meditation:

    • Patanjali outlines different paths (or limbs) of yoga, and meditation is an integral part of several of these paths. The path of Raja Yoga, often referred to as the path of meditation, includes practices such as concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana) as essential components.
  4. Dharana (Concentration):

    • Before meditation, Patanjali emphasizes the importance of Dharana, which is the practice of concentration. This involves focusing the mind on a single point, object, or thought. The ability to concentrate is seen as a precursor to deeper meditative states.
  5. Dhyana (Meditation):

    • Dhyana, or meditation proper, is the state of sustained concentration where the mind is absorbed in the chosen point of focus. It is the uninterrupted flow of awareness toward the object of meditation. Through Dhyana, one moves beyond the fluctuations of the mind towards a more profound state of inner stillness.
  6. Samadhi (Union):

    • The ultimate goal of meditation, as outlined in the Yoga Sutras, is Samadhi, a state of profound absorption and union. Samadhi is described as a state where the meditator and the object of meditation merge, leading to a transcendent experience of oneness.
  7. Obstacles and Solutions:

    • Patanjali acknowledges that there are obstacles (antarakṣaya) on the path of meditation. These obstacles include distractions, doubt, and restlessness. The practitioner is advised to cultivate qualities like patience, perseverance, and faith to overcome these obstacles.
  8. Mind Management:

    • The Yoga Sutras provide a comprehensive framework for managing the mind. Through meditation, practitioners learn to observe and understand the nature of the mind, creating a foundation for cultivating a more balanced and harmonious mental state.
  9. Non-Attachment (Vairagya):

    • Meditation in the context of the Yoga Sutras is also linked to the concept of Vairagya, or non-attachment. Practitioners are encouraged to develop a sense of detachment from the fluctuations of the mind and external influences.
  10. Ethical Foundation:

    • The Yoga Sutras emphasize the importance of ethical conduct (Yamas and Niyamas) as a foundation for successful meditation. Cultivating virtues such as compassion, truthfulness, and self-discipline creates a conducive environment for meditation.

In summary, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, meditation is a systematic practice that involves concentration, sustained meditation, and ultimately leads to a state of profound union and transcendence. It is a path toward understanding the nature of the mind, achieving self-realization, and experiencing a state of inner peace and harmony.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a classical text that provides a systematic and philosophical guide to the practice of yoga. It consists of 196 aphorisms (sutras) that outline the principles of yoga, including meditation. According to the Yoga Sutras, meditation is an integral part of the yogic path, and it is described in the context of the eightfold path known as Ashtanga Yoga. The relevant aspects of meditation in the Yoga Sutras are primarily found in the second and third chapters.

Key Concepts of Meditation in the Yoga Sutras:

  1. Dharana (Concentration):
  • The Yoga Sutras introduce the concept of Dharana, which is the practice of concentration. This involves focusing the mind on a single point or object. Concentration is considered a preparatory stage for meditation, helping to quiet the mind and bring about mental steadiness.
  1. Dhyana (Meditation):
  • Dhyana is the stage of meditation itself. It follows Dharana and is characterized by sustained concentration on an object or the flow of awareness without distraction. In this state, the practitioner experiences a continuous flow of attention toward the chosen focal point.
  1. Samadhi (Union):
  • Samadhi is the ultimate goal of meditation in the Yoga Sutras. It represents a state of deep absorption and union with the object of meditation. There are different stages of Samadhi, culminating in the highest form where the meditator experiences a sense of oneness with the universe. To know about more you can take online meditation courses from yoga gurus.

Patanjali's Approach to Meditation:

  1. Control of Chitta (Mind Stuff):
  • Patanjali emphasizes the need to control the fluctuations of the mind (chitta). Meditation is seen as a means to still the mind and achieve a state of inner quietude.
  1. Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha (Yoga is the Cessation of the Fluctuations of the Mind):
  • This is a fundamental principle in the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali suggests that the purpose of yoga, including meditation, is to bring about the cessation of mental modifications or fluctuations, leading to a state of inner stillness.
  1. Observation of the Mind:
  • The practitioner is encouraged to observe the activities of the mind without attachment or aversion. Through consistent practice, one gains insight into the nature of the mind and its tendencies.
  1. Eight Limbs of Yoga:
  • Meditation is part of the eightfold path (Ashtanga Yoga), where Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are considered the sixth, seventh, and eighth limbs, respectively. The preceding limbs include ethical guidelines, physical postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), and withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara).