We saw the first limb of Ashtanga Yoga, i.e., Yamas-the principles, second limb of Ashtanga Yog, Niyamas– the rules, third limb Asanas-the postures, fourth limb Pranayama-breathing exercises and Pratyahara in our articles, Lifestyle management through Raja Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga, part 1, 2 ,3 ,4 & 5.
In this article we will study the next 3 steps of the Ashtanga Yoga, “Dharana, Dhyana & Samadhi.”
While describing the eight limbs of Ashtang Yoga, Patanjali has termed Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi collectively as ” Sanyam” (Control). This implies that all the three aspects should be considered together.
He makes a point that Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are progressively advanced stages of concentration. The highest stage of mental concentration described by the modern psychologists is similar to the description of Dharana i.e. the primary stage of concentration as described by Patanjali. This indicates the foresight and deeper understanding about human psychology of Sage Patanjali while describing the three stages.
Another characteristic of these three stages is that the boundary line in these three stages is very faint. When certain progress is made in the studies of Dharana, Dhyana stage is automatically entered into and with the progress in Dharana stage, Sadhaka -aspirant automatically enters in the Samadhi stage. The three stages mingle into each other as easily as three colours are mixed into each other on the canvass of an artist.
Sage Patanjali states following three verses to define & explain Dharana, Dhyana & Samadhi.
Dharana-concentration is the fixing of the mind in one place
Dharana is about fixing the mind to one specific point. This could be something internal, like part of the body or a chakra, or something external like a picture, statue or another object. It’s not so important what this object is that we are focusing on; the purpose is to quiet the mind with this total concentration.
तत्र प्रत्ययैकतानता ध्यानम्॥
Dhyana-meditation is the one-pointedness of the mind on one image.
Once you’re steady with Dharana, it’s time for meditation. This is meditation with no object or specific focus. Dhyana is more about letting go of the object focus and becoming completely immersed in the present state of mind & soul.
तदेवार्थमात्रनिर्भासं स्वरूपशून्यमिव समाधिः॥
Samadhi is when the meditation becomes independent state of the aspirant and the mind is devoid of its own reflective nature.
It is the ultimate result of practice and sometimes with some people it can occur spontaneously also. The body, the senses, the mind—they are at peace. It is a space of simply being your own-self, experiencing the ultimate truth of our existence and connection with the supreme/universe.
Samadhi is the beautiful fabric woven together from the threads of all the limbs. It is a complete understanding about the self & presence. It’s a bliss that can be only experienced and not explained.
Let us we all complete this beautiful journey of Ashtanga Yoga and may Lord Yogeshwar bless you all with the ultimate peace and happiness.
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