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Yoga Philosophy

Samadhi (enlightenment)

All of the techniques, exercises and trainings in our yoga practice thus far, including the first 5 stages of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara have been systematically designed to condition the body, the emotions and the mind for ‘yoga’, or the more subtle, inner practices of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (mystic absorption), the 6th, 7th and 8th limbs of yoga.

The 8th and ultimate stage is Samadhi or Bliss.  Building upon Dhyana,  the transcendence of the self through meditation. The merging of the self with the universe. Sometimes translated as enlightenment.  It is characterized by the state of ecstasy and the feeling that you and the universe are one. It is a state of peace and completion, awareness and compassion with detachment.

Samadhi means “to bring together, to merge.” In the state of samadhi the body and senses are at rest, as if asleep, yet the faculty of mind and reason are alert, as if awake; one goes beyond consciousness. During samadhi, we realize what it is to be an identity without differences, and how a liberated soul can enjoy pure awareness of this pure identity. The conscious mind drops back into that unconscious oblivion from which it first emerged.

Thus, samadhi refers to union or true Yoga. There is an ending to the separation that is created by the “I” and “mine” of our illusory perceptions of reality. The mind does not distinguish between self and non-self, or between the object contemplated and the process of contemplation. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of consciousness, truth and unutterable joy.

The achievement of samadhi is a difficult task. For this reason the Yoga Sutra suggests the practice of asanas and pranayama as preparation for dharana, because these influence mental activities and create space in the crowded schedule of the mind. Once dharana has occurred, dhyana and samadhi can follow.

These eight steps of yoga indicate a logical pathway that leads to the attainment of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga does not seek to change the individual; rather, it allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.

http://www.expressionsofspirit.com/yoga/eight-limbs.htm

Dhyana

Dhyana (meditation)

The final 3 stages of Patanjali’s 8-limbed Ashtanga Yoga are Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

All of the techniques, exercises and trainings in our yoga practice thus far, including the first 5 stages of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara have been systematically designed to condition the body, the emotions and the mind for ‘yoga’, or the more subtle, inner practices of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (mystic absorption), the 6th, 7th and 8th limbs of yoga.
Dhyana is the stage of high concentration of the mind.

In dharana (the 6th stage), the mind is put through various rigors of trainings to restrain its waywardness and to refine its awareness to the ultimate degree of ‘one-pointedness’. Achieving this state is an ‘active process’ that requires much effort.

When this ‘one-pointedness’ of mind ceases to be an ‘active effort’ and then just ‘happens naturally’, without any effort, then we have achieved dhyana, the state of meditation.
Dhyana is an unbroken stream of concentration, whereby very little ‘sense of self’ remains. At this level, it becomes increasingly more difficult to use words and the reasoning, conscious mind to describe the experiences of yoga. After all, the state of meditation, by its very nature transcends our material human experience and everything that is related to it.
Meditation (dhyana), is concentration (dharana) taken to ‘perfection’- In other words, a meditative state is the natural result of ‘perfect concentration’.

So it is prolonged concentration, then, that leads into this ‘spontaneous’ and ‘free-flowing’ meditative state, whereby nothing but the object of concentration fills the mental space; and whereby the observer and the observed merge into one.

We could also say that it is the occasional appearance of ‘distractions in the mind’ that constitutes the essential difference between dharana and dhyana.

Because much preparation is needed before one is capable of experiencing this powerful, yet very subtle state of meditation. That sage Patanjali places dhyana as the 7th of 8 steps of yoga speaks volumes for the amount of preparatory work that is essential before the meditative state can be achieved. As Swami Gitananda explains:

“Meditation is an exalted state of being which is produced by a moral and ethical, pure lifestyle; control of the body and breath through Asana and Pranayama; transcendence of and freedom from the imprisonment of the senses in Pratyahara. Practices of Dharana, exercises in concentrating and focusing the mind must be perfected. Only then is one able to even speak of meditation, let alone experience it.”

Dharana (concentration)

The final 3 stages of Patanjali’s 8-limbed Ashtanga Yoga are Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
All of the techniques, exercises and trainings in our yoga practice thus far, including the first 5 stages of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara have been systematically designed to condition the body, the emotions and the mind for ‘yoga’, or the more subtle, inner practices of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (mystic absorption), the 6th, 7th and 8th limbs of yoga.
Dharana is the stage of high concentration of the mind.
Dharana affects and reduces the occupied mind. Hence, the disadvantages of such occupied mind also get reduced. The mind is kept firm at one place instead of letting it wander here and there. This reduces strain on the mind. The mental strength increases. With such habitual concentration, the work is done effectively and efficiently. The daily practice of dharana reduces the wavering attitude of mind and a different kind of peace can be observed throughout the day.

Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)

Pratyahara is the 5th stage of sage Patanjali’s 8-limbed Ashtanga Yoga, which we could refer to as “withdrawing the senses away from the external surroundings and distractions.”
It can also be thought of as the point of transition from the ‘external’ aspects of yoga, to the ‘internal’ yoga. In a deeper sense, we could even say that it is with this ‘controlled withdrawing of the senses’ that ‘Real Yoga’ begins.
All of the techniques, exercises and trainings in our yoga practice thus far, including the first 4 stages of yama, niyama, asana and pranayama, have been systematically designed to condition the body, the emotions and the mind for ‘yoga’, or the more subtle, inner practices of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (mystic absorption), the 6th, 7th and 8th limbs of yoga.
The senses are our conduits to the external world. They allow the world around us to come into our minds, which obviously is important, especially if we want to make a sandwich, cross the street without getting run over, or otherwise successfully negotiate our way through our day-to-day lives.
But in this day and age, the onslaught of sensory input can be a dangerous affair too. We’re all absorbing a startling amount of images and inputs at a relentless pace these days – many of which are projecting messages into our subconsciousness that are far from wholesome and nurturing.
The senses are like a mirror – turned outward they reflect the outside world; turned inward they reflect the purity and peace of the ‘Higher Mind’.
Use pratyahara to control the senses, withdraw them from the often relentlessly negative influences of our external environment, and turn them ‘inward’ toward ‘Higher Consciousness’.